Author Archive

Eat Better, Eat Together with your family this October

Editor’s note: We welcome popular mom blogger Bree Glenn to our blog today as she writes about national Eat Better, Eat Together month.

The hubs and I make a concerted effort to eat dinner together, with the kid, every night. With both of us working full time, that sometimes doesn’t happen. But, I’d say we hit the mark at least 95% of the time.

Being a mom and wife who works full time sometimes makes it difficult to get a hot, healthy meal on the table. Lucky for me, I have a wonderful husband who is well-versed in the kitchen and often jumps in, when I can’t be there to get it done.

Often times, I’ll have the hubs and/or the kid assist me with food prep. It’s a great way to cut down on the time it takes to prepare a meal, and it brings us all together in a fun activity. Another way I save time is to use the Crockpot.

The Crockpot is an invaluable device for busy families.

By cooking a meal for us to eat together, I’m not only ensuring we eat a healthy meal, but I’m also ensuring I get some time with my guys to just sit down together over a meal and talk about our days – about how work was for the grownups and how school was for the kid. It serves as a way for us to connect, in our busy, busy lives. I know this will only become more and more important as the kid gets older.

When I was a kid, eating dinner together as a family was a big deal. I can’t imagine a life of not sitting down, at a table and eating at least one meal a day with my family.

Making time to eat together as a family is not only important to the family unit, but according to Washington State University when families eat together:

· Children do better in school and have fewer behavior problems.
· Teenagers are less likely to use alcohol or drugs.
· Communication between children and adults improves.
· Children understand their family’s values and traditions.
· Meals are more nutritious and healthful.

October is National Eat Better, Eat Together Month. I encourage you to click here for more information, recipes and ideas on how you and your family can start the tradition!

Bree Glenn blogs on The Mom with Moxie about living life, to the fullest and finding humor, in life’s little – and not so little – messes. She’s a wife, mom and PR exec trying to juggle family, work, life and everything else. As someone who has dealt with health issues, weight issues, financial issues, job issues, etc., she feels she can provide a unique point-of-view, on life – and how to live it to the fullest, despite whatever trials life may throw at you. She’s also an avid supporter of social media and enjoys connecting with online friends and meeting new ones through Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Bree and her husband, MenDale, live in a suburb of Detroit, Michigan, with their son, “The Kid.”

October 1, 2012 at 9:20 am 2 comments

And the winners of the Blogger Extreme Food Makeover are …

We are excited to announce the winners of our first Blogger Extreme Food Makeover! I just wanted to say how excited and happy I am with the entries; they were absolutely beautiful and undoubtedly delicious … and if any of you ever want me to taste test the food, you know how to reach me!

First of all, it was a pretty exciting contest online. Stephanie jumped out to an early lead but thanks to a huge outpouring of support during the last half of the voting period, Colleen ran away with the title of Fan Favorite for her healthy makeover of fried chicken.

Colleen is the Fan Favorite!

Here’s a sampling of what some of our voters said:

Colleen gets my vote. She prepared a well-rounded menu where everything was healthy, delicious and inexpensive.

The coleslaw was vibrantly crisp and fresh and the chili corn muffins had an unexpectedly delicious zip to them.

Check out all of the comments here.

Our other winner was selected by Jake Williams and Vani Sohikian, Cooking Matters Michigan coordinators with Jake weighing in as our chief culinary expert and Vani offering her insight from a nutritional standpoint. They both agreed that Dave Moss reigned supreme with his Indian-inspired turkey burger, sweet potato fries and dessert.

Dave won the title of Extreme Food Makeover Master after Jake and Vani said his cuisine reigned supreme.

Jake picked Dave because “not only did he use all 3 secret ingredients but he embodied what an Extreme Food Makeover is … he used a theme of flavors to inspire his dish.”

Jake added that by taking a cue from an ethnic cuisine, Dave was able to make a dish that tasted great without relying on a lot of fat, sugar and salt.

“Overall it’s a good flavor profile and it made me want to make that burger,” Jake said.

From a nutritional standpoint, Vani gave kudos to Dave for using the MyPlate as a guide.

“He did a great job of incorporating all 5 food groups in good proportions, and used ALL of the secret ingredients in a very creative way,” she said.

“I also found the recipe for the turkey burger extremely intriguing. Adding corn and onion was a great touch and a sneaky way to add some veggies to the dish! Also, the Greek yogurt/ mayo condiment with some curry powder not only sounds excellent and exotic, but is a much healthier version of the usual mayo/ mustard/ ketchup topping that most people use.

“Lastly, the dessert definitely made my mouth water and I definitely will be trying this at home. It is surprising how delicious Greek yogurt can be as a dessert, especially when you are eating it with sweet and delicious roasted plums.”

Congrats to everyone and thank you for a great competition!

September 21, 2012 at 10:19 am Leave a comment

Blogger Extreme Food Makeover: Judgment time

I chose plums as one of the secret ingredients for the Extreme Food Makeover because it’s in season now in Michigan and can be found at local farmers markets. The other secret ingredients included curry powder and fennel.


Update: Please check out Stephanie’s blog post. It pains us to say that Stephanie is bowing out of the voting process. We thank Stephanie for working so hard on her entry and for her social media prowess. Your lasagna, salad and cookies were definitely a hit!

Hey, everyone, your postess with the mostest here. For the Blogger Extreme Food Makeover, I gave the bloggers the challenge of making over a certain unhealthy dish while incorporating at least one out of the three secret ingredients: curry powder, plums and fennel.

From Indian-inspired fare to lightened-up comfort food classics, the bloggers brought it. Here are their tantalizing healthy makeovers!

Here’s where you come in: Vote by commenting below, Tweeting us @cmdetroit or by stopping by our Facebook page. EVERYONE who votes will have a chance to win a gift card. We’ll be picking at random every day so make sure to vote early and vote often!

Colleen Berendt, “Fried chicken” with chili corn muffins and healthy coleslaw
Aly Darin, Healthy Almond Chicken
Lisa Howard, Curried Pizza with Kale, Lentils and Peppers
Dave Moss, Indian-inspired turkey burger, sweet potato fries and roasted plums for dessert
Stephanie Zielinski, Eggplant Zucchini and Portobello Lasagna with Meat Sauce, Mixed Greens and Michigan Apple Salad and Power Peanut Butter and Sea Salt Cookies

September 17, 2012 at 9:40 am 44 comments

Social media smackdown: The blogger Extreme Food Makeover

For their Extreme Food Makeover, these teens served up a black bean burger, sweet potato fries and parfait to win the challenge.

I have a problem — I am ADDICTED to cooking competitions. I don’t like reality TV but if “Top Chef” is on, I have to watch. This is the main reason why I don’t have cable–that and Buffy marathons.

But it’s good to know that my obsession came in handy because it gave me an idea.

In the Extreme Food Makeover, we challenge our teen participants to make over a meal; for example, I have seen teens take the typically fattening fettuccine Alfredo and make it low-fat while still tasty. Or one of the more memorable challenges was when a teen group dished up a black bean burger with sweet potato fries — we were all impressed. To be honest, I have never made a black bean burger that tasty.

The E.F.M. is a way for us to put the teens’ new cooking skills and nutrition knowledge to the test — and I’m always amazed at the healthy and delicious results.

The bloggers — a savvy cooking and eating bunch — will be throwing down this weekend in the Blogger E.F.M. Later this week, I’m going to announce their challenge. What is it, you ask? Well, you’ll just have to come back on Friday to see what it is! At 10 a.m., I will tweet and post on Facebook their challenge. Check us out then and follow the madness and drama online (one participant will be cooking from a Louisiana hotel room — seriously, you can’t find that on Food Network!) as they do the challenge over the weekend.

Have an idea for a secret ingredient or unhealthy dish for them to makeover? Hit the comments below! Allez cuisine!

Meet the cooks:

Colleen Berendt of Miss Petite Sweets
1) Where are you from?
Grosse Pointe Farms

2) What is your day job?
I work in Sales & Catering at the Hilton Garden Inn Downtown.

3) What are your favorite local restaurants?
I absolutely love Traffic Jam and Snug & Slow’s.

4) What ingredients will we always find in your kitchen?
You will always find fresh produce, and whole wheat flour & almond milk for healthy baking.

5) Why should you win the E.F.M.?
I have been cooking and baking for as long as I can remember and have never met a delicious recipe I couldn’t somehow “healthify” without losing any flavor.

6)What is your favorite food memory?
My favorite food memory is going to the farmer’s market with my dad to pick out fresh vegetables to make our homemade gazpacho soup and sharing it with all of our neighbors. The soup has now become legendary in the neighborhood:) (Me thinks Colleen needs to share the recipe! -Dorothy)

7) What is your favorite guilty pleasure food?
Anything Chocolate

8) Why does cooking matter to you?
Cooking matters to me because preparing a meal for someone is the best possible way to show someone you care. Whether it is a three course meal or a simple batch of cookies, the love that goes into it is always apparent.

Aly Darin of The Hungry Dudes (the dudette?)

1) Where are you from?
Originally from Yale, Mich. – currently living in Royal Oak.

2) What’s your day job?
I work for myself & am a professional photographer.

3) What are your favorite local restaurants?
I love Vinsetta Garage, The FlyTrap, Toast, The Emory, Cafe Muse….the list goes on and on!

4) What ingredients can we usually find in your kitchen?
Fruits & veggies that are in season.

5) Why should you win the E.F.M.?
I love the challenge of creating delicious food with a limited number of ingredients! That’s when true kitchen creativity shines!!

6) What is your favorite food memory?
The smell of my Italian grandmother’s sauce – which hit you like a ton of bricks when you walked into her house. That – and grabbing a slice of Oakland bread and trying to dip into the sauce without getting caught!

7) What is your guilty pleasure food?
Anything chocolate!

8) Why does cooking matter?
I love that cooking is like an adventure – no matter what you’re making. You can lose yourself and pour your heart into cooking – whether it is something decadent or something very health conscious. And, cooking for someone is like giving them a big hug!

Bree Glenn of The Mom With Moxie

1) Where are you from?


2) What’s your day job?

Senior Account Executive at a PR firm.

3) What are your favorite local restaurants?

Aubree’s in Northville and Rosie O’Grady’s in Ferndale

4) What ingredients will we always find in your kitchen?

During the fall/winter: all the fixings for chili, beef stew and homemade chicken noodle soup. During the spring/summer: it varies.

5) Why should you win the E.F.M.?

Because even though I’m not a “foodie,” I’m creative enough to come up with an awesomely healthy dish.

6) What is your fondest food memory?
Waking up on cold school mornings to my mom making us a warm breakfast.

7) What is your guilty pleasure food?
Pizza! Can’t you tell from my favorite local restaurants? 🙂

8) Why does cooking matter to you?
Cooking matters because it’s just one more way I take care of my family. I’m providing the nutritional needs that will enable my son to grow up healthy and strong, and my husband to live a long and healthy life. Cooking matters because nothing brings a family together, like fun times in the kitchen. That is, after all, the number one room in the house where people congregate.

Lisa Howard
of The Cultured Cook

1) Where are you from?
I’m originally from Royal Oak, but I’ve also lived in San Diego, Germany, and Costa Rica.

2) What’s your day job?
I’m a blend of things: recipe developer, food writer, culinary speaker & cooking instructor…and also occasionally a freelance editor.

3) What are your favorite local restaurants?
Due Venti in Clawson, Cocoa Tree and Inn Season in Royal Oak, and Sweet Lorraine’s in Southfield. And of course I have to give a nod to the re-opened Joe Muer’s in Detroit—I used to go to the original one all the time as a kid, and it’s a thrill to dine in the updated restaurant.

4) What ingredients will we always find in your kitchen?
About 45 spices and herbs, chocolate in many different forms (although mostly unsweetened cocoa powder and bars of 85%), and at least a dozen different unrefined oils. I also try to keep my cheese drawer and my fruit basket populated.

5) Why should you win the E.F.M?
This is probably going to sound corny, but it’s really about the fun of participation, not the winning.

6) What is your fondest food memory?
Oh, there are so many! But this year’s unforgettable meal was when I dined at Alfileritos 24 in Toledo, Spain. Not only was the décor stunning and the staff incredibly friendly and accommodating (I’m a gluten-free person), the octopus carpaccio was a work of modern art: rows of small white circles on a square black plate, garnished with a drizzle of orange sauce and a sprig of fresh dill. The gluten-free tiramisu was transcendent with its meltingly rich layers of mascarpone cheese, cocoa, and espresso liqueur. And of course Toledo itself is a magical medieval city, full of winding streets and mazapán (marzipan) shops.

7) What is your guilty pleasure food?
To me, quality food is never a source of guilt. By “quality,” I mean pastured/grass-fed animal products, wild-caught and sustainable seafood, whole grains, natural sweeteners, unrefined oils, and as many lovely fruits and veggies as I can get my hands on. Hence, I enjoy all of my food—even desserts—and never feel guilty.

8) Why does cooking matter to you?
Cooking is so important for so many reasons: health, enjoyment, a sense of cultural connection, satisfaction, practicality (cooking saves money!), a way to express creativity, even a way to support businesses (i.e., local farmers, food producers, and markets). To cook is to live!

David Moss from Get Sauced
1) Where are you from?

2) What’s your day job?
Stewardship & Events Manager at the ACLU –you know, the people who came up with ‘Can’t Say it? Don’t Legislate it.’

3) What are your favorite local restaurants?
Too many to count. Big fan of Bastone Brewery, Inyo Sushi, Traffic Jam & Snug, Supino’s Pizza, Seva, Pizzeria Biga, Vinsetta Garage.

4) What ingredients will we always find in your kitchen?
Several flavored sea salts; Trader Joe’s extra virgin olive oil; assorted Asian ingredients—ponzu, Korean bbq sauce, oyster sauce, Thai chili paste, etc; homemade rub for smoking pulled pork, chicken and ribs; wine—either for cooking or drinking.

5) Why should you win the E.F.M.?

Because my cuisine reigns supreme!

6) What is your fondest food memory?

A major birthday celebration that my wife organized a few years ago. Five course dinner, each course paired with a different wine. Good friends, food and wine—it doesn’t get any better.

7) What is your guilty pleasure food?

Chicken Shack—once or twice a year.

8) Why does cooking matter to you?

I enjoy cooking because it allows me to learn about different foods, and to express my creativity. A recent month of eating a vegan diet gave me an appreciation for coming up with choices that didn’t include meat. I enjoy exploring different cultures through food, and different methods of cooking—smoked meats; grilled fish, meat and veggies; stir-frying in a wok or searing in a cast-iron skillet. There’s so much to learn, which is why cooking never gets boring.

Sandi Svoboda from Mode Shift

1) Where are you from?

Grosse Pointe Park

2) What’s your day job?

Freelance writer when not deployed as a reservist with FEMA. Currently I am part of the recovery in Louisiana after Hurricane Isaac.

3) What are your favorite local restaurants?

Foran’s, Senor Lopez, Clarkston Union, Cass Cafe, Good Girls Go To Paris Crepes

4) What ingredients will we always find in your kitchen?

Olive oil, spinach, couscous, one piece of good cheese — even in my Louisiana hotel room…

5) Why should you win the E.F.M?

I should win because not only will my dish be flavorful, healthy and economical, but it is produced in either a hotel room or a mobile office set up for the hurricane response. Not exactly the amenities of my home kitchen.

6) What is your fondest food memory?

One of my fondest food memories is the first time my now husband took me to the Clarkston Union on a date, early in our dating life. Their “upscale comfort food” isn’t exactly always healthy, but the place is very communal with a basic but creative menu. A favorite cooking memory is when I first made roasted carrot and leek risotto. I had never thought I could cook a dish that tasted like that. It’s my go-to for company as it’s totally restaurant quality.
7) What is your guilty pleasure food?

Homemade Nutella ice cream.
8) Why does cooking matter to you?

First because it’s so important to our health. Second because it can be such an important family and community builder. Third because it has such vast implications for the planet – by choosing local and organic whenever possible, it’s one little step that each person can take to make the world a little better.

Stephanie Zielinski of Cookie A Day
1) Where are you from?
I am from Royal Oak where I grew up and now live with my husband and three boys. We actually live on the same street I grew up on, just a mile 1/2 mile down.

2) What’s your day job?
I coach a high school dance team as well as being a stay at home mom for the past 8 years.

3) What are your favorite local restaurants?
One of my new favorites…Vinsetta Garage!

4) What ingredients will we always find in your kitchen?
You will always find garlic, bananas, and kale in my kitchen, I go to the local market often and always buy those ingredients…even if I know I have them at home.

5) Why should you win the E.F.M.?
I should win the E.F.M.C. because over the years cooking fo children I have learned to make the healthiest of foods attractive to even a 4-year-old.

6) What is your fondest food memory?

My fondest food memory was learning how to make homemade pasta in my grandma’s kitchen. I was with my cousin and after 5 minutes of grandma telling us we were doing thing wrong she shoved us out of the way and finished herself. We were told to only watch that time. After a few more lessons, she trusted us enough to allow us to make the pasta. I was 16. My son, Noah, who is 12 made his first plate of homemade pasta just a few weeks ago.

7) What is your guilty pleasure food?

Salted Popcorn!!! I love it, make it almost every night.

8) Why does cooking matter to you?

Cooking to me is more then just providing healthy food for my family. It’s preserving and honoring the traditions we have and are now creating with our family. There is nothing better then sitting around a table with love ones who enjoy what you created for them or together.

September 10, 2012 at 7:04 am Leave a comment

Shopping Matters teaches participants how to read food labels, use unit pricing

Volunteer nutrition educator Lindsey Snyder and her participants from Mercy Primary Care get ready to shop.

Mary Bailey, Cooking Matters for Adults participant at Mercy Primary Care, has her shopping routine down. She always has a list and makes sure to eat something before going to the store so she doesn’t shop hungry.

But even the savvy shopper picked up a few new tips and tricks after taking the grocery store tour with fellow Cooking Matters classmates as well as Shopping Matters participants on July 10 at Walmart in Sterling Heights.

“I was not really savvy with unit prices before,” she says.

While shopping, she said she compared the unit prices of the Great Value cooking spray vs. Crisco and realized Great Value was the better deal.

As a participant in the class, she also learned how to cook healthier. “I learned how to cook without a lot of salt and oils. Now I make my own seasonings.”

Her cart was full of whole foods, such as cantaloupe, cottage cheese, lemon and limes, squash and onions, brown rice and salmon in her cart. Using some of the planning skills taught in the previous lesson, she swapped out the broccoli and spinach that was on her list for the available and more budget-friendly squash.

Mary Bailey was already a savvy shopper but learned how to use unit prices to find the best bargains.

Another skill the tour aims to teach participants is reading labels. For Shopping Matters participant Jennifer Morris, the Detroiter learned to pay more attention to the products. She primarily eats a vegetarian diet and had her cart full of dried beans and veggies to make a meatless chili, she said. The idea to make chili came to her after walking around with her group. She also said the tour helped her make more informed choices about which foods to get.

Angela Davenport, who was in the Shopping Matters group, said the tour helped her make better choices.

“Before I was just grabbing what I saw … (the tour) was very good,” she said.

These ladies, along with about 10 other participants, were able to apply their newfound budgeting skills, thanks to a donation of $150 gift cards by the store.

Walmart in Sterling Heights donated to Cooking Matters Michigan $150 in gift cards for the participants’ $10 challenge.

“As a company, we’ve always had good relationships with Gleaners” and other community organizations, said store manager Rob Aquilina. He said each store works with specific agencies in their areas to give back to the community.

When asked if Walmart would do more tours with Shopping Matters, he said, “I’d love to be more involved and see what we can do.” He added Walmart is committed to the food bank, which aligns with one of the company’s three main values: fighting hunger, education and work force development.

July 13, 2012 at 10:49 am Leave a comment

Volunteer spotlight: A’Donna Fuller

“Giving back to the community through Cooking Matters has been the most rewarding thing I have done throughout my culinary career.”

Personal chef and Cooking Matters Michigan volunteer A’Donna Fuller prepares food for a client. Photo courtesy of

Like many chefs and cooks, A’Donna Fuller’s love of cooking was inspired by her mom. Now a personal chef, A’Donna finds joy in cooking for others.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I spent most of my childhood in Detroit. I went to college in Columbus, Ohio. I eventually ended up in the Ypsi/Ann Arbor area.I got my feet wet in formal culinary training at Washtenaw Community College although most of my professional training came from studying Culinary Management (Art Institute in Novi). I still take continuing education classes taught by leading industry experts at Schoolcraft College and anywhere else I can find culinary classes.

I spent my entire childhood watching my mother take great pride in planning and cooking family meals, host fabulous dinner parties, and even cater for some celebrities. When I had the wild idea to go vegetarian as a teenager, my mom gladly took on the challenge of making 2 meals every night – one meal for my father and siblings and a hearty and fresh meat-free option for me. She was so creative, I was never bored with her take on vegetarian meals and couldn’t wait to get home just to see what she would come up with next!

How and why did you end up pursuing a career as a personal chef?

There was nothing I loved more than watching my mom meticulously plate meals and plan dinners as a kid. She took great pride in cooking and presenting meals like it was a sport. Watching her developed my obsession with cooking, food science, and planning menus for parties.

I was first introduced to the idea of becoming a personal chef through an article I read long before I ever took my first culinary class. I found all the information I could find about the personal chef industry and decided to give it a try. Years later I joined the American Personal & Private Chef Association – they give me all the training I need for the personal chef aspect of culinary arts. I have always enjoyed helping people and cooking, so being a personal chef was a perfect fit. After hearing about the burnout chefs often experience in commercial kitchens, I could not stand the thought of stepping into a commercial kitchen. This is when I ultimately decided to make my way into the private sector.

Tell us about your business. What do you specialize in?

Bella Donna Cooks! is a personal chef business that helps families and individuals that are too busy to cook, don’t know how to cook, or have recently been diagnosed with a health condition prompting them to make immediate changes to their diets. Even though I love to cook everything, I specialize in vegan, diabetic, low carb, and petite pastry options. Although my primary line of work is as a personal chef, I also teach culinary classes, do cooking demos, do social catering for intimate events and host cupcake decorating parties for kids and adults. If it’s in the culinary arena, I will do it!

Why did you start volunteering for Cooking Matters?

I thought it was the most amazing idea that a structured program like Cooking Matters existed. I feel it is imperative to make sure everyone knows about healthy eating on a budget. Even though I own and operate a business that does just that, I honestly find it hard to associate a fee with helping people to eat healthy! I am so happy to have the opportunity to pass on the knowledge of healthy, quick, fresh, and budget-friendly meals through Cooking Matters. Giving back to the community through Cooking Matters has been the most rewarding thing I have done throughout my culinary career.

What has been a highlight from class for you? Please give a specific example.

First Dorothy, Vani, and the volunteers that I have worked with are amazing! They are supportive and trust my opinions.

The biggest highlight from the last (Cooking Matters for Adults) class (at Go-Getters) was during frittata week. Once I saw the puzzled looks on the students’ faces when I announced the recipe name – I asked the students to think of a quiche and an omelette having a baby. Most said “Oh, I get it!” ….then a slightly different response, a student quipped “I don’t eat eggs!”….I asked her why and she just couldn’t give me a “good answer.” I put her in charge of cracking all 12 eggs, helping to season the egg mixture, and when the frittata was done, I personally served her first and said “Just try it.” I went to the back and started washing dishes. I came back out and guess what? Her plate was empty! I asked her what happened to her frittata, she said “I ate it, and it was good…this is something I could see myself making for me and my family!” I was so excited that she even tried it, but the fact that she was willing to duplicate the recipe at home and started asking questions about other ingredients she could put in it? I was floored! It is incredible to be able to introduce new concepts, foods, and techniques that people so often overlook.

What is your favorite aspect of being a chef?

I love researching recipes and shopping in unconventional places for unique ingredients. I really like introducing new foods to people. Especially foods that people think are “too healthy” to possibly be good! I live for the moment when my dish is served, and I get to see their faces light up after eating a dish that I made.

You have a knack for budgeting. What are your top tips for cooking healthy on a budget?

The biggest tip is to be prepared!
#1- Plan your meals for two weeks at a time if at all possible. This gives you the opportunity to share as many ingredients across as many dishes as possible. Plus I see way too many people only buying their groceries for 1-2 days at a time. Not only is it a time killer, but you tend to overspend this way.
#2 – Keep staples on hand (seasonings, canned goods, frozen vegetables/fruits, even having some frozen meats). These staples will almost always complement your meals, so when you make your grocery list – you will not have to buy nearly as much. Stock up on fresh fruits and veggies when they are on sale, bring them home and cut up what you think you may not use within 3 days, and pop them in the freezer in small portions. If packaged properly, they will last for months – reducing your grocery bill over time. You can use them for healthy desserts, smoothies, soups, stews, and sauces.
#3 – Last but not least, do not throw away extra food or let any food spoil if you can help it – you can do this by re-purposing food that is from leftovers. Did you shred too much chicken for your chicken tortilla soup? Freeze the extra chicken and pull it out later in the week to make chicken wraps, chicken salads, or chicken enchiladas.

When you’re not cooking, what do you like to do in your spare time?

I love to go to the local museums and check out new exhibits and will often find a new restaurant in the area to try right after visiting the museum. I love to listen to smooth jazz and Stevie Wonder!

Finally, can you share with us your favorite budget-friendly, healthy recipe?

Here is my favorite vegetarian recipe that I submitted to a vegetarian website – around $4.75/recipe!

Awesome Angel Hair

1/2 pound angel hair pasta (whole wheat or Dreamfields low carb brand)
kosher coarse sea salt, for pasta water
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 heaping teaspoon garlic, minced
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 (8 ounce) can chickpeas, drained
2 cups frozen or fresh broccoli
1 (8 ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained (no salt added)
*optional – fresh parmesan to sprinkle on top

1. Prepare the angel hair according to box directions. While the pasta is boiling, prepare the sauce. In a saucepan or wok, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Adjust the heat to low and add the garlic to the pan, and saute for 2 minutes.
2. Add the dried seasonings to the pan. Drain the pasta and slowly add the pasta into the olive oil mixture, stirring after each addition (this is to make sure the pasta is evenly coated with the sauce).
3. After all the pasta has been added, toss in the chickpeas, tomatoes, and broccoli. Toss until well combined and the broccoli is heated through, plate and serve!

July 2, 2012 at 6:22 pm 4 comments

Volunteer spotlight: John Heikka

For the past few months we have had the invaluable help of John Heikka, our chef intern extraordinaire. John just recently wrapped up his internship with us and put into words his experiences and shared with us what brought him to the wonderful world of cooking. He is also teaching a class in Pontiac as a volunteer so we are happy to keep him among our volunteer ranks!

Chef John celebrates Bennett Elementary students’ success during Cooking Matters for Kids graduation.

Here’s his story:

I’ve been married to my wife Jan for 25 years, and while we have had some challenges like any couple. She is the absolute best. I appreciate so much her ongoing support throughout the last and very trying 6 years. Jan is the cook for a day care in Sterling Heights and amazes me with how many different dishes she can produce with a microwave and rice cooker (their facility does not have a stove).
We have two great kids, Robert and Sandra. Robert is now 19 and enrolled and excelling at CAD design at ITT Tech. Robert is a volunteer in our church’s children’s ministry and works as a counselor at “Kids Camp” every summer. Sandra is 12 going on 38. She is certainly an incredibly gifted and talented young lady. Sandra also is a volunteer in our children’s ministry where she teaches and sings. She is currently taking piano as well. Sandra is a straight A student and a member of a student organization dedicated to fighting hunger. She is also my “Sous Chef” at home. They are the best people I know and I am looking forward to going back to “hanging” with them, since my schooling is over.

I am a Detroiter and darn proud of that. I grew up the literal definition of a “fan (atic) of the Lions, Tigers, Pistons, Wings and Wolverines. I graduated high school in 1973 from East Detroit and studied for three years at Sacred Heart Seminary to become a Catholic priest. Got that one wrong! I like Catholics, nothing personal, but I’m not even Catholic anymore. In the early 80’s I met Jan, and left my pursuit of an accounting degree for marital bliss. Back then you could get a job, work hard and just keep moving up. I did just that working for a commercial leasing company and a sub-contractor for 20 years in collections and customer service. I also became an amateur baseball umpire while volunteering at church in the children’s ministry.

I lost my job with the now defunct sub-contractor in November 2005 and we ended up losing our house and basically, as it seemed, our life. I had two surgeries including a heart repair procedure, and after that it was just impossible to land a job that lasted. The four of us currently abide in a 950-square-foot apartment in Warren. I hope to change that soon!

Finally, someone told me that I need to go back to school. So I said, if I have to go back to school, then I am going to have fun. So I enrolled back at Macomb Community College in the Culinary Arts program. I had spent some time teaching kids how to make bread and thought maybe there will be something there for me. And thus, in my last semester I landed a wonderful opportunity for an internship as a chef instructor at Gleaners Community Food Bank in the Cooking Matters program.

My ultimate goal is to be involved with food education. Food is certainly a magical thing. Can you think of any major life event/celebration that does not involve food? Most of them do. Food culture is a part of our families and society. I want to see well executed and simple foods of our traditions come back to our life events and certainly our families’ tables as a way to bring people together again. Somebody has to teach the skills and recipes that have been laid aside by past generations.

But for now, I will pursue a career as a prep cook or institutional cook and further hone my skills. But if the opportunity presents itself, I’ll jump on anything that involves the educational end of cookery.

Why he wanted to get involved in Cooking Matters
I was never a “restaurant guy” prior to my enrollment at Macomb and I’ve always had a passion for teaching. So it was a natural fit to develop my skills and confidence while having fun. You should love what you do and do what you love.

It all started early last November when I was conversing with Kathy Grech, our table service instructor at Macomb about how people are just going to have to learn how to take a chicken apart again due to rising food costs. She immediately told me to contact Jake Williams and I did. I would have been happy to just volunteer as a chef/instructor, so being offered the internship was like winning the Super Bowl.

Overall, the class participants were the main highlight. The opportunity to be part of a team teaching a lot of the basics I learned in school in a manner that has such potential to effectively change lives both mentally and physically, is just phenomenal.

I recall early on in a Kids Class in Highland Park this little quiet girl who appeared to be shoved aside by her classmates, telling me after the class in a barely audible volume, “Thank you.” You never know if they are abused, malnourished, bullied or all the above. Her face, voice and those two simple words will never leave me. It’s also what began to build a passion for food education and I knew I was in the right place.

One week we were doing Banana Quesadillas and the coordinator for the class left the honey and peanut butter in her vehicle overnight in the middle of winter. Our coordinators are all great, however they happen to be human, just like the rest of us. The honey needed to be mixed with the peanut butter and some cinnamon. I looked over and saw the participant visibly struggling to mix these extremely cold items. As I saw the clock ticking, I then decided to just put the stainless steel bowl on the stove and whisk as fast as I could. I knew it work, but not a few people around the room were looking at me in an interesting manner. The quesadillas were great. (Editor’s note: This was me. Sorry, John! –dorothy)

Just recently we completed a Spanish speaking class in Mexican Town and the ladies on their way out telling me in their broken English that they learned so much and “Gracias” was really cool stuff. Not so much their words, but their facial expressions make my day, because people lives are being changed for the better.

Every Week One class I do now usually has a sauté’ opportunity and I love asking them why chefs toss items in the pan. Every time somebody will say,” To mix all the items?”. And I always respond, “Well…that is part of it, but don’t I look cool!?!”

His secrets in the kitchen
Attitude. Your determination to succeed will be influenced by your determination. There are two kinds of kitchen experiences, success and education. Granted education can be a little disappointing, but if seek out the knowledge you were missing and are determined, then success will be yours!
In my perfect world, every kitchen has some cast iron cookware. It is economical, easy to clean and heats very evenly. I’ve used my Dutch Oven as a deep fryer. This stuff lasts forever.

Thirdly, salads are generally under used in everyday home cooking. They are healthy and interesting. To me, 4 ounces of beautifully seasoned and grilled beef tenderloin on top of some leafy greens with walnuts, gorgonzola cheese, dried cherries, and red onions with a nice homemade vinaigrette is just heaven! Fruit salads are great all day as well.

My most humbling experience came this last semester in school. I was going to make a tomato fennel soup, which in the past was really good with a lemon/lime gremolata garnish. In the middle of winter I decided to use fresh roma tomatoes instead of canned. It was a very educational experience. The tomatoes being out of season were so acidic, that the soup was complete disaster. I just kicked myself all the way home.

My most memorable moment came at home prior to Christmas. I was baking cinnamon bread while my wife and the kids were decorating the tree. The pine scent and the cinnamon aroma just says family and Christmas like nothing I’ve ever encountered.

Everyonewho is involved in cookery has a “food” activity that they find relaxing. For me, it is grilling some sort of protein or baking bread. I will still knead my bread by hand periodically. It’s good exercise! “Foodieism” can be a bit of a mental illness for some us.

I enjoy playing “competitive putt-putt” with my family. It gets verbally brutal, but we have fun. Also, you can find us in the fall picking apples and other produce when it’s available.

The whole family is big sports fans. We all play and spectate, especially pro football.

A healthy recipe
This is one of my new favorite recipes for a side dish. Simple and elegant. Very nutritious.


Onion, small dice 3 oz.
Olive Oil 1 Tbsp.
Quinoa, rinsed 4 oz, or ½ cup
Water or Vegetable Stock 8 fluid ounces or 1 cup
Kosher Salt To Taste
Pepper To Taste

1. In a small sauce pot, heat the oil and sauté the onions over medium heat for a couple minutes till they start to turn clear.
2. Add the quinoa and brown very slightly.
3. Add the stock or water and season with salt and pepper. For this recipe volume start with ¼ teaspoon of both.
4. Bring to a boil and immediately turn heat to low. Cover pot with lid and simmer till Quinoa has absorbed all the liquid.

Chef’s Notes:

You can add any vegetable with the onions. Any spice can be added with the salt and pepper. Any herb can be added at the very end.

You can adjust the salt and pepper at the end of cooking.

June 11, 2012 at 8:37 am 2 comments

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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.