Archive for March, 2013

It’s Time to Take the $10 Challenge!

Here’s how it works,  folks:

10 Dollar Challenge

Step 1:  Find $10.

Step 2:  Go to the store.

Step 3:  Buy at least one HEALTHY item from each food group.  When the items are combined, they should make at least one complete meal for four people.

  • Grains
    • Go for whole grains
    • Pro Tip:  Check ingredient list to make sure a whole grain is listed first
  • Fruit
    • Fresh fruit on sale or in season
    • Fruit canned in juice or light syrup
    • Frozen fruit with no added sugar
  • Vegetable
    • Fresh veggies on sale or in season
    • Canned veggies that are low sodium or have no salt added
    • Frozen veggies with no added fat or sodium
  • Dairy
    • Low-fat or non-fat
    • Pro Tip: Watch that sugar content!
  • Protein
    • Think lean!
    • Pro Tip: Remember that vegetable protein sources can be both tasty and inexpensive

 Step 4: Check out

Step 5: Email photos of your receipt and grocery haul to Rebecca at by 11:59pm on Sunday, April 14, 2013.

Step 6:  Enjoy your delicious bounty.  If you want to let us know how you used your groceries, that’s cool too.

The person who meets all the criteria of the challenge and gets the closest to $10 without going over will be named Supreme Shopper and receive a fabulous prize.  If there is a tie, other criteria will be considered.  The winner will be announced via the blog and facebook.

Happy shopping!

Shopping 2

March 29, 2013 at 7:28 am Leave a comment

Volunteer Spotlight: Mike Muysenberg

SAM_0062The chef encourages participants to make healthy protein choices during a grocery store tour.

The Cooking Matters team at Gleaners is excited welcome former Operation Frontline volunteer Mike Muysenberg back to the Detroit area.  Chef Mike was one of our earliest go-to culinary instructors before he moved away several years ago.  It is wonderful to have him back in the classroom!

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I have over 36 years Professional Cooking experience. After a Chef’s Apprenticeship right out of high school, I traveled with Marriott, Omni and Westin hotels to Florida, Kentucky, and New York City. Back in the Detroit area, I gained lots of experience at Joe Muers Seafood, The St. Regis Hotel, and The Summit Restaurant at the top of the Renaissance Center. With a great love of cooking for others, I am looking forward to continuing my career in the Detroit Metro area.

More importantly, I am a proud father of 2 boys: Michael, 19, is enjoying his second year  of college on the Dean’s List at Schoolcraft Community College, pursuing a criminal justice degree while working in the loss prevention department at Kroger. His younger brother Matthew, 16, is in his sophomore year in high school, and has aspirations of becoming a chef himself.

How did you first get involved in Operation Frontline?

I first got interested in volunteering while working as Executive Chef at the Hotel St. Regis.   Enjoying some professional success made me want to share some of my skills with those that could benefit from them.

Do you have any good stories about your early volunteer days?

Just great memories of the nice people I’ve met along the way.

What do you look forward to the most now that you are volunteering with us again?

The next class!

  Have you noticed any changes in the program?

Yes. Lots of streamlining and focus on the important points. Great improvements!

What do you think is the best part of Cooking Matters?

The hands-on, open and relaxed atmosphere of the program within which the participants are made to feel comfortable, and learning can easily take place.

Do you have a favorite recipe you would like to share with the other volunteers?

Although not really a specific recipe, this idea has proven successful with many class attendees and with my family too. I call it:

Almost Free Vegetable Soup


Leftover Vegetables  (See Note)                               1 Gal.

Butter or oil                                                               4 Tbs.

Onion, diced                                                               2 cups

(and any diced fresh root vegetables, like carrot, celery, turnip, etc.)

Diced Tomato                                                             2 Cups

( fresh or canned)

Water                                                                          1 gal.

(or beef, chicken or vegetable stock, tomato juice, or any combination)

Salt/Pepper                                                                  To Taste

Seasoning ideas:                                                           2 Tbs.

( fresh or dried herbs, minced garlic, bullion cube, soy sauce, Worchestershire sauce, etc.)

Optional additions:                                                    2 cups

(Cooked rice, beans, or pasta)


All quantities are very flexible, with great success. Sauté onions in butter or oil until brown. Add water (or other choices) and Leftover Vegetables, bring to boil, and simmer 15 min. Add any optional items, Simmer 5 min. Taste, adjust seasonings, Serve or chill.


Any vegetables, leftover from family meals,Saved in a gallon plastic bag in freezer until full. (You will be surprised how quickly your bag fills with what would normally be discarded.)

In the first step, the longer you cook the onions, the better your soup will be.

Made in larger quantities and frozen,(try qt. or gal. plastic bags frozen flat and stacked like cards in freezer) this soup is a quick and thrifty meal, and a great leftover magnet: add leftover proteins like cooked chicken, ground beef, or some shredded cheese and serve with crusty bread for a very satisfying meal. Enjoy!

March 27, 2013 at 8:20 pm Leave a comment

My AmeriCorps Experience Thusfar…

See the original post on the No Kid Hungry blog, here

It is National AmeriCorps Week.  To celebrate, No Kid Hungry is highlighting the work of Cooking Matters National Direct AmeriCorps Members throughout the country.

alexa americorps

Alexa Eisenberg is our current AmeriCorps member.  Alexa was born and raised in southeast Michigan and has recently moved to Detroit, where she loves exploring new places and meeting new people.  She coordinates classes, oversees social media, and works on volunteer recruitment.  Although her interest in food systems is broad, she is particularly passionate about the food justice issues that face Detroit. In 2012 she earned her Bachelor’s from the University of Michigan in Environmental Sciences and Communications with a focus on urban sustainability. Upon graduation, Alexa joined the Cooking Matters team at the Gleaners Food Bank in Detroit, Michigan.  She loves working for Cooking Matters and feels proud to be a part of the Gleaners team.

I am currently in my fifth month of service as the Cooking Matters AmeriCorps member for the Gleaners Community Food Bank of Southeastern Michigan. As my first professional endeavor after college, this position with Gleaners gives me a wonderful introduction to employment, and may be the beginning of a meaningful career in public health.  This experience has furthered my interest the connection between food justice and preventative health care for diet-related illnesses including obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Each day I am glad to go to work, knowing that my time and effort is spent working to improve the health of others.

My favorite part of the job is my regular interaction with the communities of Detroit.  I grew up in the Detroit suburbs and have a strong affinity for the city, but a lot to learn.  Coordinating classes for Cooking Matters gives me the opportunity to spend time in parts of the city I would not typically find myself, interacting with Detroiters I would not otherwise come to know. Detroit is a city of strong, independent, and loyal citizens that want what is best for their families and their communities

Healthy food options are scarce in many areas of Detroit. Cooking Matters empowers Detroiters with the skills necessary to make healthy choices when options are limited. The ability to read food labels, understand how to prepare fresh, frozen, or canned vegetables, and how to meal plan and shop with a list may seem trivial, but can greatly impact food choices made by individuals on an everyday basis.  By teaching participants that it is possible to prepare nutritious, affordable meals that their families will enjoy, Cooking Matters can help individuals make real, lasting changes to their diets.  My experience with Cooking Matters has shown me that in addition to food access, food education is a vital component of community food security, particularly in Detroit.

Until working with Cooking Matters, I never realized the potential for nutrition and culinary education in empowering families to fight hunger and lead healthier lifestyles.  It is often the case that participants want to provide healthy meals for their family, but don’t know where to start.  I recently gave a Shopping Matters tour to a single, working mother of six who was looking to change her family’s eating habits.  She found it difficult enough to get food on the table, let alone fresh fruits and vegetables. We discussed money saving tips like buying whole foods in bulk, utilizing frozen and canned options, and choosing whole grains to keep her kids fuller for longer.  We brainstormed quick, healthy meals she could make after a long day of work to replace the ramen noodles her kids were used to eating.  Armed with the ability to read food labels and compare prices, she left the store that day not only with a bag of groceries, but the confidence to make informed decisions and change her life.

My experience as an AmeriCorps member thus far has filled me with a sense of gratitude and purpose that I could not have imagined before.  I look forward to the rest of my service, knowing that it will undoubtedly bring new challenges and opportunities for growth.

March 12, 2013 at 5:11 pm Leave a comment

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USDA Statement

This material was partially funded by the State of Michigan with federal funds from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by way of the Michigan Nutrition Network at the Michigan Fitness Foundation. This work is supported in part by the Michigan Department of Human Services, under contract number ADMIN-10-99011. Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the Michigan Fitness Foundation or the Michigan Department of Human Services. In accordance with Federal law and USDA policy, these institutions are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, religion, political beliefs or disability. To file a complaint of discrimination, write USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20250-9410 or call (800) 795-3272 (voice) or (202) 720- 6382 (TTY). USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program provides nutrition assistance to people with low income. It can help you buy nutritious foods for a better diet. To find out more contact the toll free Michigan Food Assistance Program Hotline at (855) ASK-MICH. Space-Limited USDA/DHS/MNN Credit Statement This material was partially funded by the State of Michigan with federal funds from the United States Department of Agriculture Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by way of the Michigan Nutrition Network at the Michigan Fitness Foundation. These institutions are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, religion, political beliefs or disability. People who need help buying nutritious food for a better diet call the toll free Michigan Food Assistance Program Hotline: (855) ASK-MICH.