Archive for December, 2013


Congratulations to Sandi Svoboda, the big winner of our Extreme Food Makeover Competition.  Read on for her yummy soup recipe using rutabaga.

EMF Photo Collage

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Rutabaga

By Sandi Svoboda

Thick, a bit sweet, spicy enough to warm you up, this soup is perfect with grilled cheese, salad and/or a roasted meat dish. The roasting vegetables will warm up your kitchen and make it smell glorious for hours. Until you add anything, it’s even vegan.

Serving Suggestions:

  • Supplement the soup with spinach or roasted tomatoes (pictured) and a dollop of low-fat plain yogurt.
  • Add some a can of low-salt red beans or chick peas to make it a more complete dish.
  • Serve with toasted whole wheat bread.



  • 2 small rutabagas, cut into roughly ½-3/4 inch pieces and peeled
  • 2 small onions, one sliced, one chopped
  • 1 medium butternut squash, cut into roughly ½-3/4 inch pieces and peeled
  • 2 serrano peppers
  • 5 T. Olive oil
  • 1 tsp. Canola oil
  • 4-6 c. vegetable broth, low-salt



  • Preheat oven to 375-400 degrees F.
  • In three separate pans (because cooking times vary) spread out the rutabagas, squash and peppers.
  • Toss the canola oil with the peppers.
  • Toss 2 T olive oil and the sliced onion with the rutabaga.
  • Toss 2 T. olive oil with the butternut squash.
  • Roast all three pans, stirring every 10 minutes or so, until the vegetables are just starting to brown on the edges. They should be fairly soft (except the peppers).
  • Cool.
  • As soon as the peppers are cool enough to handle, cut them in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Mince the peppers. (Wear gloves if you are sensitive to peppers. Wash your hands well afterward, several times, before touching near your eyes.)
  • Heat the remaining T of olive oil in a large pot. Add the chopped onion and sautee until soft, about 4-5 minutes. Add the minced peppers. Sautee another 2-3 minutes, stirring often and being careful not to burn the ingredients.
  • Add the squash and rutabaga and ½ c. of the broth. Stir to combine and gently heat.
  • When you think the vegetables are heated through, add the remaining broth and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally. Then reduce the heat and let it simmer for as long as you think it needs. (No, really!) This can be between 10 and 45 minutes.
  • Let cool. Then puree in batches in a blender or with a wand blender in the pot. Add more broth if it seems to thick.
  • Rewarm and serve.

December 20, 2013 at 12:18 pm Leave a comment

It’s time for another Extreme Food Makeover!

It’s that time of year again! This season, we want you to makeover a favorite holiday food using the at least one of three secret ingredients. The goal is to incorporate healthy cooking or baking techniques and nutritious ingredients while maintaining the essence of the dish. Participants will need to email their recipes and pictures of the dish to Marisa at by midnight on Sunday, December 15th. Winners will be announced on Wednesday, December 18.

The competition is open to ANYONE who wants to participate.
Both the winner and the runner up will receive some awesome prizes.

And the secret ingredients are…



This purple-topped produce, often confused with a turnip, is actually not a root vegetable, but a cruciferous vegetable. The rutabaga evolved as a cross between wild cabbage and the turnip. It has globular roots and a pale yellow, fine-grained skin and flesh.  It is often described as peppery-sweet when raw and soft and sweet when cooked.   Dating back to the 17th century it was first eaten in Southern Europe and was used as both animal fodder and human food.  Harvested in autumn and the winter months, rutabagas are hearty vegetables that store well and are rich in beta-carotene and high in fiber.  One serving supplies 30% of our daily vitamin A intake and 35% of Vitamin C.

FUN FACT: The International Rutabaga Curling championship takes place annually at Ithaca Farmers’ Market in Greece on the last day of market season.



Known as the “food of the Gods” in the Greek language and culture, persimmons are a mystery to many consumers.  There are several kinds of persimmon native to Asia, Europe, and the Americas.   In the States, they are grown commercially in California, but persimmons are more widely used and well-known in countries like Japan where the persimmon is the National Fruit and traditional food of the Japanese New Year.

Fun Fact: Astringent varieties of persimmon have a delicate, sweet flavor when ripe but are bitter, or even inedible, when unripe.



An “ugly duckling” of the vegetable world, celeriac or celery root is a much underrated vegetable.  It is a celery variety, but is also the cousin of anise, carrots, parsley and parsnips.  With a creamy white flesh it tastes like a subtle blend of parsley and celery.  This is another vegetable that stores well, it is an excellent source of dietary fiber and a great starch substitute.  In Europe celeraic is a historic favorite  has been used for medicinal and religious purposes.

FUN FACT:  Don’t toss the tops!  While not the same variety as standard grocery store celery, the stalks sprouting from root are definitely edible.


December 9, 2013 at 5:30 pm Leave a comment

Volunteer Spotlight: Mary Gisslander

Future Chef Mary      Mary

Then…                                                     … and now!

Tell us a little bit about yourself. 

I have somewhat of an altruistic personality.  I believe in volunteering in the community – such as the American Red Cross and Historic Fort Wayne to name a few.  I believe that everyone, especially seniors, are entitled to the care, dignity, and wellbeing that they deserve.   I am currently employed in the healthcare field in the dietary department.  This was my goal since I decided to leave a “desk job”.  Once I found out that experience was essential, even in a field which I had never worked, I decided to, as they say, “get educated”.

What made you pursue a culinary career?

I wanted to work in the healthcare field (senior living, assisted living, nursing home etc.). I responded to an ad for a cook assistant in 2008.  The only requirement was “able to read a recipe”.  I did not get the job due to inexperience in this type of setting.  So I entered the Culinary Arts Program at Macomb Community College.  I thought receiving the Prep Cook Certification (three classes – Sanitation, Culinary Techniques and Skills Development) would give me at least some experience working in a professional kitchen.  I was interested in the internship program.  I contacted Chef Nader at Ford Field and he agreed.  At this point, I declared Culinary Arts as my major.  Once I did that, completing the program was inevitable.

What is your fondest food memory? 

Cooking with my dad …… was becoming a Chef predetermined?

How did you first get involved with Cooking Matters?

While taking the Culinary Techniques course in 2009, Chef Hollingsworth informed us of Gleaners Community Food Bank which was involved with Cooking Matters.  I contacted Gleaners, attended their training class, completed the background checks, and volunteered for my first class.

What is the best thing about volunteering with us?

Meeting all the participants and learning as much from them as I am able to teach them from what I’ve learned from my formal education.  Life experiences far exceed book learning.

What do you do in your spare time? 

I’ve let a lot of my house chores lapse while continuing my education and now I’m spending as much time as I can getting my house in order.  I was interested in volunteering with the Rising Stars Academy but then I started a new career in the healthcare field. So I have, unfortunately, let my volunteerism lapse temporarily.  Once I get myself in order, I’ll be better able to service others.  I still make time for Cooking Matters because “cooking matters”.  I think getting involved with the meal programs in the schools is also very important.  So much to do, so little time !

Do you have a favorite recipe to share with us?

Prepare some rice. In a sauté pan, cook some diced chicken breast, add the rice, add some chicken stock, then add some kale.

Don’t forget the seasonings……. I experiment with just about anything in my pantry except salt and black pepper !

It’s not really a “recipe” but is very easy to prepare with as many variations as you can think of just by changing the protein, grain, vegetable, and liquid.  More liquid will result in more of a soup like consistency.

Protein – fish, pork, ground sausage, turkey, beef, and even various canned beans.

Grains – rice such as brown, basmati, or jasmine; quinoa, couscous and other pasta.

Vegetables – fresh, frozen or canned.

Liquids – chicken, beef, or vegetable stocks –  low sodium.

As we say in Cooking Matters, adjust any recipe to what you have in your pantry and make it your own.

Mary and congressman conyers

Mary and Congressman Conyers, who visited her last Cooking Matters class!

December 3, 2013 at 3:33 pm Leave a comment

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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.