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Volunteer Spotlight: Heather Langille


Tell us a little about yourself.
I grew up in Nova Scotia, Canada, and have lived in many places in Canada, from the “far east” in Newfoundland to the far north in the Northwest Territories. My work as a Registered Dietitian with a Masters in Health Education has mostly been in public health and health promotion, with a focus on disease prevention. I moved to Michigan about eight years ago after living in Windsor, Ontario for 12 years. I met my husband who was also a member of an outdoor recreation club here in Detroit. We shared a passion for cycling and many other outdoor adventures. We currently live in the country on a dirt road where we love to explore back roads and hiking paths, on bike and on foot.

How did you first become interested in nutrition?
This question definitely takes me back, more years than I care to remember! But, I have enjoyed cooking and baking since I was a teenager. Since then, I spent my summers on my bike, getting me from place to place, in my neighborhood and beyond. When it came time to choose a university education, it seemed like a natural progression for me to learn more about nutrition and health.

What do you enjoy most about volunteering for Cooking Matters?
Being a part of helping participants demystify nutrition and gain new skills when it comes to making healthy food choices is a real treat for me. I get especially excited when participants share their food experiences and skills with one another in the group.

What is your favorite fruit?
As with many of my “favorite” foods, they change with the season. But, right now, with Spring finally here in Michigan, I would say that strawberries are my favorite fruit. I enjoy them in many forms – in a smoothie, with yogurt or vanilla ice cream, as part of a salad with lots of greens and a balsamic vinaigrette , and, of course, strawberry shortcake made with biscuits piled high with sweet, juicy strawberries and a dollop of real whipped cream. I also love them just as they are, with no preparation other than washing. They are like Mother Nature’s candy!

Do you have any good tips for eating well?
Understanding that all foods can fit is an important part of eating well. This means there is no such thing as a “good” food or a “bad” food. I like to think about foods to eat “most of the time” and foods to eat “occasionally”. Also, learning how to prepare a variety of meals at home that are quick, easy, tasty and healthy will go a long way in eating healthy foods most of the time. For example, start by trying to make one of the recipes from Cooking Matters at least once per week. Keep in mind that by making one small change at a time, it is easier to develop more and more healthy food habits.

Do you have a recipe you’d like to share?
Although I’ve tried and enjoyed several of the recipes found in the Cooking Matters manual, lately I’ve been making some version of the Mango Salsa, especially as we enter the Summer months when I tend to grill more. I sometimes add a can of black beans and some frozen corn, or I will replace the cucumber with chopped jicama for a slightly different texture. The great thing about this recipe is that it is so versatile and goes with many dishes, from grilled turkey burgers or grilled chicken breast to being a sandwich filling in a burrito.

Mango Salsa

Serving Size
Serves 6, 1/2 cup per serving

2 large ripe mangoes
1 small cucumber
2 medium green onions
1 medium jalapeño pepper
2 medium limes
½ teaspoon salt
Pinch of cayenne pepper

Optional Ingredients
1 medium bell pepper
¼ cup fresh cilantro

Cutting board
Measuring spoons
Medium bowl
Plastic wrap
Sharp knife


  • Rinse mangoes, cucumber, green onions, jalapeño pepper, limes, and bell pepper, if using.
  • Peel mangoes. Cut mango flesh from the pits.
  • Cut cucumber in half lengthwise. Remove seeds. If using bell pepper, cut in half lengthwise. Remove stems and seeds.
  • Dice mangoes, cucumber, and bell pepper, if using. Finely chop green onions.
  • Cut jalapeño pepper in half lengthwise. Remove stems and seeds and dice.
  • If using, rinse and chop cilantro.
  • Cut limes in half. Squeeze juice from each half into a medium bowl. Discard seeds.
  • Add mangoes, cucumber, green onions, jalapeño, salt, and cayenne pepper to bowl with juice. If using, add bell pepper and cilantro. Mix well.
  • Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour before serving.

Chef’s Notes
Mangoes usually feel a little softer when ripe. If mangoes are not in season or not in your store, use canned peaches or pineapple, packed in juice. Drain before using.

Serve salsa as a dip with Homemade Corn Tortilla Chips. Or, use as a topping for fresh fish or pork, black bean soup, or tacos.

May 7, 2015 at 12:34 pm Leave a comment

Voice It!

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As a part of her doctoral dissertation, all-star Cooking Matters volunteer Viki Shayna has spent the better part of the last two years investigating how participating in Cooking Matters changed experience with food for women with diabetes.  Her findings were incredible. “Women living in Detroit who attended the Conner Creek Medical Center programs and who completed Cooking Matters were invited to complete a survey and participate in seven-weeks of follow-up classes that combined photography and discussion. The PhotoVoice method was used to collect data, and a phenomenological framework was used to evaluate the data. A comparison group allowed statistical analysis of quantitative medical measurements.

Statistically significant results indicated that women who participated in Cooking Matters had lower Hemoglobin A1c values than those who did not, and that these values continued to drop over a nine-month time period after the classes ended. Furthermore, participants exercised more, ate breakfast more often and read labels more often than non-participants. Participants suffered from less hunger issues than non-participants. Cooking Matters was found to be a financially feasible means to improve the lives both qualitatively and quantitatively of those who participate in the program.”

You can see the photos taken by the women who participated above.

April 8, 2015 at 1:00 pm Leave a comment

Volunteer Spotlight: Anna Bialk

CMK Grad

Tell us a little about yourself.

I am from Port Huron, but moved to Detroit to attend Wayne State University. That was when I really got to know Detroit and love Detroit. I started working front of the house in restaurants to support myself during college. I knew cooking was a passion, but it was always on the back burner until I decided to pursue it in 2007. I enrolled in the culinary program at Oakland Community College. When I started volunteering for Cooking Matters, it really changed the way I think about food. So many people are not aware of how easy it is to make healthy meals, or that they can do it on a budget.

How did you connect with the Cooking Matters program?

A friend told me about it. I was a little skeptical until I got involved. It’s really amazing to take what I know and share it with others who will make that knowledge useful for them. It’s a natural fit for me to help out in this way.

What ingredients do you always keep on hand?

I love fresh vegetables. I try to use them as much as I can when I cook at home. I always have milk and eggs I the refrigerator, which is really useful when cooking from scratch. I also keep lots of spices and fresh protein on hand. I try to stay as vegetarian as possible, but I also appreciate meat.

Do you have any tips for shopping smart?

I’m always keeping an eye out for produce on sale at different markets, and buy in bulk. I also look for store brands when it will save me money.

What do you do in your spare time?

I love spending time with my chef friends. I also enjoy music and the outdoors.

What is the best thing you’ve done with a Cooking Matters class so far?

In the last kids class I did, we made veggie superheroes and fruit faces. I laughed so hard!

Is there a recipe that you would like to share?

Curry Veggies and Tofu with Brown Rice

1 cup brown rice

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 14-ounce package extra-firm tofu, drained and cut into one-inch cubes

2 carrots, diced

2 stalks celery, diced

1 onion, diced

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste or 1 tablespoon curry powder*

2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth

1 cup coconut milk

1 cup frozen peas

1 cup frozen okra

1/2 cup torn fresh basil leaves

Cook the rice according to the package directions.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the tofu and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, transfer to a plate.

Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in the skillet. Add the carrots, onion, and ginger and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften. Mix in the curry paste or powder.

Add the broth and coconut milk to the skillet and bring to a simmer. Add the tofu, peas and okra and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Sprinkle with the basil and serve with the rice.

*If using curry powder, salt dish to taste.


April 8, 2015 at 1:36 am Leave a comment

Volunteer Spotlight: Susie Fenster


Tell us a little bit about yourself. 

I grew up in Cleveland, but I have lived in the Detroit area since 1982. I have undergraduate and masters’ degrees in business, and I worked in consulting prior to the birth of my two children, now 23 and 25. Through the years, I have been active in a variety of community activities, including organizing a reading program at Glazer Elementary, and being on the boards of Temple Beth El and Summer in the City.  I have had an ongoing interest in healthy cooking, nutrition, and fitness, and have recently decided to focus my volunteer efforts in sharing those passions.  I believe healthy living is a lifestyle decision that anyone can embrace.


What led you to Cooking Matters? 

I have donated to Gleaners for many years, and had read about the Cooking Matters in the newsletter. I wasn’t sure how to get involved, since I do not have any formal training in nutrition or culinary arts.  I was fortunate to be at a meeting at Gleaners in connection with my work at the Wayne State Farmers’ market, and I asked Rachelle Bonelli about Cooking Matters. She introduced me to Rebecca Blauw, who graciously sat down with me on the spot and oriented me to the program.


How did you first get involved at the Wayne State Farmers Market and what kind of work do you do there in the summer?

I happened on to the Wayne State Farmers’ Market by chance late in the summer of 2013. I was on campus with my daughter, and she encouraged me to talk to the people working at the Healthy Eats station. I put my name on a list, and soon after got a call to volunteer, starting with doing miscellaneous market tasks, such as customer counts, distributing customer surveys, and manning the Healthy Eats booth. I was fortunate to establish a good rapport with SEED Wayne’s director and founder of the market, Kami Pothukuchi. In 2014, she allowed me to get involved in all aspects of the market’s operation, including vendor contracts and coordination, weekly logistics, coordinating special events such as cooking demonstrations and programming for area seniors ( in conjunction with Gleaners), distributing recipes and nutrition handouts, etc. There is a lot that goes into putting on a successful, vibrant market for 23 weeks! It has been a great learning experience for me, and has allowed me to merge my business and marketing background with my interests of community involvement, healthy eating, and supporting local farmers.


What is your fondest food memory? 

Well, I am not sure it is “fond” and it is not about healthy cooking, but it is a vivid food memory! When I was 21, I was trying to bake a cheesecake for my then boyfriend’s (later to be husband’s) birthday. I had never used a springform pan before, and I apparently put it together incorrectly. When I poured the batter into the pan, it immediately leaked all over the floor! Needless to say I cried!

What is your favorite fruit?

Granny Smith apples. I eat one every day!


Do you have a recipe that you’d like to share?

I like recipes that are healthy and not overly complicated. I recently tried this recipe for Baked Oatmeal, and it is delicious! It is easy to make ahead on the weekend, and reheat the  leftovers for quick weekday breakfast.

Maple-Cinnamon Banana & Blueberry Baked Oatmeal
Adapted from the Oh She Glows Cookbook

2 1/4 C gluten free rolled oats
2 T brown sugar
2 t ground cinnamon
1 t baking powder
1/2 t ground ginger
1/2 t fine grain sea salt
1/4 t ground nutmeg
2 C unsweetened almond milk
1/2 C unsweetened applesauce
1/4 C pure maple syrup (Note-perhaps can omit to cut down on sugar)
2 t pure vanilla extract
2 large ripe bananas
1 1/2 C blueberries
1/2 C walnuts, chopped

Alternate version-instead of bananas and blueberries, use 2 apples ( 1 Sweet such as Gala, other tart, such as Granny Smith) and 1 ripe pear, all peeled and diced.

Can make mixture night before, cover and refrigerate overnight in casserole dish, bake in the morning. Let dish sit on counter while oven preheats. Uncover and stir gently to redistribute the milk (Note-I found milk was mostly absorbed into oats). Bake as directed.

1. Preheat oven to 375. Lightly grease a 2 or 3 quart casserole dish.
2. In large bowl, combine rolled oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, ginger, salt, and nutmeg. Mix well.
3. In separate bowl, combine almond milk, applesauce, maple syrup, and vanilla. Stir well to combine.
4. Pour liquid mixture over the oat mixture and stir until combined. The mixture will have soupy consistency. Fold in fruit of your choice.
5. Spoon the oatmeal mixture into the prepared casserole dish and smooth out top. Sprinkle with walnuts, gently press them down into oatmeal.
6. Bake, uncovered 35 to 45 minutes, or until oatmeal is bubbly around the edges and browned.
7. Cool the oatmeal for 5-10 minutes before serving. Can serve with splash of almond milk or drizzle of maple syrup, if desired.
8. Cool completely before wrapping any leftovers in airtight container. Will keep 5-6 days in refrigerator, 2-3 weeks in freezer. (Note: I cut mine into individual squares and froze. Reheat at 375 degrees for 10 minutes. I am sure it could be microwaved also)

February 9, 2015 at 11:58 am Leave a comment

Volunteer Spotlight: Daryl Ehrman

Daryl 2

Tell us a little about yourself.

My husband (Mark) and I eloped last summer on a motorcycle ride to West Virginia. This has made me the happiest woman, and I love my husband so much. We live on Ann Arbor’s Old West Side. I am a graduate of Eastern Michigan University’s Coordinated Program in Dietetics, and am employed as a clinical dietitian at a 450-bed community hospital in Flint, MI. My assignments include the long term acute care unit, and our CCU. It is challenging and interesting work. I love working with the patients and multidisciplinary team.


Why does cooking matter to you?

Cooking is essential to a happy and healthy lifestyle! I am so passionate about food that I am practically planning dinner while eating my lunch. Being raised in a family in which cooking was never a focus really made me even more interested in learning about good food. I decided early on that I wanted to create a different food culture for myself at some point, and this led me to my career in nutrition.

After a long day, there is simply nothing like coming home and preparing a satisfying dinner. I live for the weekends when I put together a supper for my friends, and bonding with Mark in the kitchen. It’s really special, and brings us a ton of joy.

Knowing how to cook keeps me on track with healthy eating (most of the time), and helps me save money, too. While it’s nice to eat out sometimes, I find it best to have control about what goes into your food. Cooking is assurance that I’m getting nothing but the good stuff and makes my life more delicious.


What is your favorite vegetable?

Veggies of the brassica or cruciferous variety are my favorite, hands down! I can’t get enough turnips, radishes, kale, Brussels sprouts, rutabagas. They all have such interesting shapes (think of those lovely geometric forms of the Romanesco), colors, textures, and that distinctive ‘bitter’ flavor. They’re also packed with nutrition. I mix in kale with a blend of tender lettuces for a really nice salad. I also make easy root vegetable hash by roasting Brussels sprouts with sweet potatoes and rutabagas. Yum!


What do you do in your spare time?

 My favorite things are baking, cooking, hosting, volunteering, listening to live music, films, art, and reading, spending time with family and friends, traveling. I try to squeeze in some physical activity. I have a pretty active social life and like to stay busy. On days off, Mark and I might check out some of the interesting restaurants that keep popping up in the area. I love fiction, and am usually reading several publications at any time.


How do you stay active?

 I take the stairs at work. When you make several trips to the unit from my basement office, this is actually pretty significant and adds up. Other little things- I walk whenever possible in town, or choose parking spots that are further away from store entrances. I am a member of a gym, and do my best to make it there when I can, and like jogging for exercise. Working with people that have become much debilitated due to illness is my inspiration to keep active. I also want to eat more food J


Do you have a favorite recipe that you would like to share?

Asian Braised Beef Shank with Hot and Sour Shredded salad

( thanks to Nigella Lawson)

Serves 6

Ingredients: Beef

2 onions

1×2 in. piece of fresh gingerroot

4 garlic cloves

2 tsp. coriander

3 tbsp. veg oil

1 c. Chinese cooking wine or sherry

¼ c. soy sauce

¼ c. packed dark brown sugar

2 quarts beef broth

2 tbsp oyster sauce

¼ c. rice wine vinegar

2 cinnamon sticks

2 star anise

8 lb. beef shank on the bone (or 2 ¼ lb. stew meat in cubes)

Salad: 3 carrots, 4 scallions, 1 long red chile, 1 long green chile, small bunch cilantro

Dressing: juice of 1 lime, ¼ c Thai fish sauce, 1 tsp sugar

Peel carrots, and julienne, them along with the scallions and chiles (after trimming and de-seeding), and finely chop the cilantro. Combine all the chopped vegetables and cilantro in a bowl. In another bowl, mix the lime juice, fish sauce and sugar then dress the vegetables with this. Top the beef with the salad

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Quarter and peel the onions, peel and rough slice the ginger, peel the garlic cloves and put in the food processor with the ground coriander. Blitz until finely chopped, then heat the oil in a large Dutch oven and fry gently until soft, about 10 min. Pour in the Chinese wine (or sherry) and let it bubble up. Add the soy sauce, brown sugar, broth, oyster sauce and vinegar. Bring to a boil, and then drop in the cinnamon sticks and star anise. Add the pieces of beef and let everything come to a bubble again then clamp on lid and put in the oven for 2 hours (stew meat may take longer). Take the Dutch oven carefully out of the oven and remove beef to an ovenproof dish using a perforated spoon. Vigorously boil the sauce until it is reduced by half. Arrange beef on a serving platter and poor over reduced sauce over top.

December 16, 2014 at 12:19 pm Leave a comment

Volunteer Spotlight: Joe Nader

Chef Joe in DC

Tell us a little about yourself.

I’ve been the Executive Chef for the Detroit Lions for the past 10 years.  I was born and raised in Detroit.  I moved back here from California because I wanted to be a part of the resurgence and revitalization of the city.


Why did you decide to become a chef?

I got interested in cooking at a really young age.  My family is Lebanese and Italian, and my grandparents always had a huge garden when I was growing up.  They canned and preserved a lot of the home grown produce because money was super tight.  I did a lot of the work beside my grandma in the kitchen, and was naturally drawn to it.  Gardening, canning, and pickling are fun and really popular right now, but back then they did it out of necessity.  It’s cool to see that those activities have come full circle.


How did you connect with Cooking Matters?

I heard about it through the American Culinary Federation.  I had been looking for some way to give back and address hunger issues in the community.  Cooking Matters sounded great, and I loved the educational aspect.  It’s a powerful thing to teach skills that will help people help themselves.  There were times when my family was food insecure growing up, but because the adults in my life had a basic level of understanding of food preparation and preservation they were able to really stretch our food dollars.  These days, not everyone has that basic knowledge, or think that they don’t have the time or money to cook healthy meals.  Cooking Matters is changing that.


What is your favorite thing about volunteering?

A couple of classes into each series, the participants start telling you about the changes they are making at home, and how they are already seeing the benefits.  I especially like working with teens because they are forming habits and learning skills that they will use for the rest of their lives.  As a chef, it’s amazing to see people get excited about cooking.  Our pace of life doesn’t lend itself to thinking about what we cook and eat, or the ramifications.  I’ve also really enjoyed some of the teens tell me that after taking Cooking Matters, that they want to become a chef.


What is your favorite holiday food?

I love pumpkin pie.  My birthday is in November, and I almost always have it instead of birthday cake.


Do you have a recipe that you would like to share?

High Protein Fall Harvest Quinoa and Lentil Salad


Ingredients: 1 1/2 cup quinoa

1 1/2 cup lentils

5 cups water

6 tablespoons orange juice

2 tablespoons lime juice

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1/2 cup corn off the cob

1/2 cup scallions

1/2 cup red bell pepper

2 tablespoons red onion

1/2 cup carrots

1/2 cup sweet potato

1/2 cup butternut squash

1 clove minced garlic

2 tablespoons chopped mint

Sea salt and cracked black pepper



Rinse and drain quinoa. Boil 2 1/2 cups water in two separate pots. Add quinoa to one pot. Cook 15 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed, remove from heat, and let stand for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork and let it cool. Place lentils in the other pot, cook ‘al dente’, drain, and cool. Chop scallions, red pepper, red onion, carrots, sweet potato, and squash into 1/4 inch dice. Quick steam the squash, sweet potato, and carrots ‘al dente’ and cool. Combine liquids and toss with quinoa and lentils, fold in the veggies, garlic, and mint. Season to taste with salt and pepper.


November 25, 2014 at 2:33 pm Leave a comment

Volunteer Spotlight: Pam Porter


Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I retired from AAA, where I had worked for many years as the employee relations and diversity manager, in January.  We were presented with an early retirement offer and almost 500 people retired at once, which was pretty incredible.  I decided to enroll in culinary school at Oakland Community College with my free time.  I have two grown daughters.  In our family, we are all Wolverines.  We all graduated from the University of Michigan.

What made you decide to enter the culinary program?

I’ve always enjoyed cooking.  It’s always been my favorite hobby.  If I’m bored, I’ll make something.  When I have a lot of spare time, I cook too much.  It has been interesting learning with a wide range of people in class, especially since a lot of them are younger than my children.  Most people in the program want to work in restaurants, but I am mostly doing it for myself.  I may go into catering or cottage food business.  My first class was actually a nutrition class.

How did you first find out about Cooking Matters?

If there’s ever a channel on at my house it’s Food Network. That’s how I found out about Cooking Matters.  Once I had a lot of time on my hands, I started fishing around online and found more information on the website.  I was already familiar with Gleaners because AAA always did a can drive each year.  Cooking matters is the best kept secret in the world; more people need to know about it!

What do you enjoy most about volunteering with our program?

I love working with kids.  It’s just a blast!  They’re so curious and open minded.  Sometimes you don’t have their full attention, but they’ll try anything in a group like that.  This summer, I worked with special needs youth at the Jerry L. White Center.  It was a super group of kids.

What is your favorite food to cook at home?

I’m known for my chocolate cake with chocolate mousse filling and bittersweet ganache frosting – it’s just known as “the cake”.

Do you have any tips for saving money while grocery shopping?

Don’t go to the store hungry!  If you do, you’ll end up in the prepared foods section thinking “I’ll get this, and I’ll get this, and I’ll get this!”  Also, stick to what’s in season.  That can be a big money saver.

Would you like to share a healthy recipe?

I had a big garden this year, although the squirrels gave my tomatoes a tough time.  One of the things I make with the kale I grow is kale chips:

Preheat oven to 300 degrees

Wash and thoroughly dry 1 bunch of kale.  If the kale is wet, the chips will not get crisp.

Remove the kale leaves from the tough stems.   Discard the stems.

Tear the leaves into small pieces.

Rub the leaves with about 1-2 teaspoons olive oil. Place the leaves in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle with about 1 teaspoon of kosher salt.

Bake for about 10-15 minutes until the edges are barely brown.

Let the kale chips cool on the cookie sheet.  They will get more crisp as they cool.


October 29, 2014 at 9:39 am 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.


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