Posts filed under ‘Uncategorized’

Volunteer Spotlight: Ashley Perold


Tell us a little about yourself: 

My husband received a job opportunity here, so we moved to Detroit almost a year ago from Brooklyn. I lived in NY for 14 years working as a fashion designer. It’s been a big change, but we’re loving our new life. Since the move I’ve taken some time from my career and have focused on getting involved in our community, which is what led me to Cooking Matters.

 I was raised in a two-flat just outside Chicago.  The family that lived below us were my parents best friends, and also owned a restaurant. I waitressed and worked in their restaurant when I was in high school. Food was always a large focus for our family. We had sit-down home cooked family dinners every night of the week.  Even though my mom and dad worked full time, it was always a priority for them. I’ve continued the tradition and made cooking and family meals a priority with my husband.

What led you to the Cooking Matters program? 

I knew after our move to Detroit, I wanted to volunteer and get involved in the community. I did online searches and came across the site for Cooking Matters. It fit everything I was looking for.

What is your favorite part of being a member of the Cooking Matters team? 

The last class I volunteered for was a family class. I loved working with the kids. My husband and I are expecting our first child in two months. Being in a room of wild six year olds who couldn’t wait to chop vegetables and help in anyway possible was pretty awesome to see. They also seemed to love all the healthy food we made, which was really encouraging.

Do you have a favorite moment from a Cooking Matters class you would like to share? 

The first class I volunteered for was at a veterans home.  One of the gentleman came up to me after class and simply said, “Thank you for taking the time to be here. It really means a lot us.” It was a simple message, but I could see how meaningful the Cooking Matters program is for it’s participants.  It stuck with me.

What ingredients will we always find in your kitchen? 

You will always find fresh herbs in my kitchen. One of my favorite things about my move from NY to Detroit is that I have a yard, and right outside my backdoor is an herb garden. Fresh herbs add so much flavor and color to food, and the best part is that they’re healthy!

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Cook. During the past year, at least once a week, I pick a dish I’ve never made before, usually a cuisine I’m not very familiar, and make an elaborate dinner. I feel really fortunate to have the time and space to be able to experiment with food.

January 23, 2017 at 11:27 am Leave a comment

Volunteer Spotlight: Ed Slawinski


Tell us a little about yourself.
“I have worked at General Motors for the last 30 years. I have worked for several companies over that time supporting GM, and became an actual employee a little over three years ago. I guess you could say that I’m a geek. I work in the IT department at General Motors. I  participate in the engineering of, and building of the servers at General Motors. I really enjoy what I do.

My first jobs after I graduated from U of M were in the food and beverage industry.  I worked at several restaurants where I held assorted jobs including waiter, cook, and manager.  I worked as food and beverage manager at a major hotel.  After getting married and having a child, I decided to change industries for something in an office setting, working less holidays and weekends. I maintained my love for cooking and food preparation and continued it as a hobby. As an avid hunter I learned how to process and cook wild game.

A few years ago I found myself suffering from numerous ailments. I found myself confronted with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and taking numerous medications for them. One day, I just got sick and tired of being sick and tired. Upon learning that these ailments are diet related, I set out on quest to improve the quality of my health.  I started to exercise and eat more healthy. I went from eating processed junk food to making the majority of my food from scratch. I have lost a considerable amount of weight, and have been able to get off the majority of my medications, I still fight every day to become healthier and eat better. I have learned a lot from the research that I have done as a result of cooking matters”. 

What led you to the Cooking Mattes Program?
“I learned about the cooking matters program on the GM cares website. The GM cares website was established to provide information about different volunteer opportunities in the area.

At the website they recommend that you find a cause that you are passionate about. I do love cooking, and when I found this opportunity, I felt it would be a perfect fit.

I volunteered for one class, enjoyed it so much, that I haven’t stopped since”.

What is your favorite thing about being part of the Cooking Matters team?
“Doing what I enjoy and helping others to change their diets and lives and getting people excited about cooking.

I love it when classes get excited about cooking and trying new things and experimenting with the recipes”.

Do you have a favorite moment from a Cooking Matters class you would like to share?
“There really is not one particular moment that stands out. There are a lot of great moments.  I like to make and bring different things for the classes to try.

The look on their faces as they try and LIKE the different healthy grains and vegtables that they have never tried before is fun.

I really enjoy the family classes.  Seeing the kids getting excited about chopping, cooking,  eating healthy and trying new things.

To see the students get excited about cooking is a wonderful thing.  Helping educate others about how easy it is to eat healthy fresh food”.

What ingredients will we always find in your kitchen?
“Since I tend to make the majority of my food, my pantry is stocked full of different spices and ingredients.  I love cooking different styles of food including Asian, Indian, Mexican, Polish, Chinese, so I have a lot of different ingredients. I grow my own micro greens in my kitchen, and maintain an herb garden as well. I am a strong proponent of raw milk and use it to make my own Kefir, yogurt, mozzarella and Farmer’s cheese”.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
“I like cooking the most. I also enjoy hunting and cooking any game that I get.  I am also a do-it-yourselfer around the house and love doing home improvement”.

December 7, 2016 at 2:45 pm Leave a comment

Volunteer Spotlight: Bonnie Green


Tell us a little about yourself.
“I’m a senior in Dietetics at Madonna University! My dream is to one day be a dietitian after I complete an internship next year. I love all aspects of my field, but I find a strong draw to nutrition education. I’m also a Detroit native! My family has been involved at the Eastern Market in Downtown Detroit for 90 years. I love all kinds of animals, and I love all kinds of food!”

What led you to the Cooking Matters Program?
“I found Cooking Matters when looking for volunteer opportunities through Madonna. It sounded like something I could easily handle as a student, but I could still share my nutrition knowledge with the community”.

What is your favorite part of volunteering with the Cooking Matters Program?
“My favorite thing is getting to know the class participants throughout the six weeks. Sometimes, their eyes will light up and have that ‘ah-ha!’ moment where something I say really sticks and makes sense, and that makes the whole experience so much more meaningful”.

Do you have a favorite moment from a Cooking Matters class you would like to share?
“My second class was one of my favorites. It was a class for Parents of Preschoolers; on the last day, one of the parents brought in a card for everyone to sign thanking me for teaching them. When I got home and read the card, it said ‘You’ll be a great dietitian one day!’ That card meant so much to me, and it continues to motivate me as a student”.

What ingredients will we always find in your kitchen?
“I love flavorful ingredients! Cumin, bay leaves, pie spice, and lavender are staple dried spices. I have a lot of baking staples, various kinds of teas, dried fruits, and frozen veggies. Having basic ingredients gives you a lot of options when it comes to cooking!”

What do you like to do in your spare time?
“When I’m not cooking, baking, or studying, I love to crochet, visit cats at the animal shelter, or instructing yoga on campus. I also love trying new foods and exploring Metro Detroit”.

November 10, 2016 at 10:35 am Leave a comment

Volunteer Spotlight: Maria Urquidi

Maria U

Tell us a little about yourself. 

I retired to Detroit three years ago because it seemed like an interesting place to live, with an abundance of volunteer opportunities. I have not been disappointed! I have always been interested in many of the issues that impact Detroit today – food justice, transportation, education, affordable housing, urban planning – and being retired gives me the opportunity to get involved in ways I couldn’t when I was working and raising a family.


What led you to the Cooking Matters Program? 

I began volunteering at Gleaners shortly after I moved to Detroit because of the important work they do to address food security. I started as a volunteer in the warehouse helping the pantry partners load their orders and I was surprised when they were not enthusiastic about some of the healthy foods that were available FREE to the pantries. Often I was told “The people who come to my pantry don’t eat that” (red peppers) or “People wouldn’t know how to cook that” (rutabagas).” When I heard about the Cooking Matters Program, I realized that it addressed that problem perfectly, not only by introducing people to healthy foods and the reason to eat them, but also by showing how simply those foods could be prepared. I signed up as a Class Assistant on the spot!


What is your favorite part of volunteering with the Cooking Matters Program? 

As with all of my Detroit experiences, my favorite part of volunteering with the Cooking Matters Program is the people. The instructors, volunteer nutritionists and cooks, are generous with their time and knowledge, and the participants match their enthusiasm. My favorite class was the CM for Families where parents attend with their children. Now when the parent skips a stop for fast food in favor of making turkey tacos at home, their child will not only understand the reason but will be able to help make the tacos.


What ingredients will we always find in your kitchen? 

You will always find olive oil, garlic, onions and carrots in my kitchen; apples, avocados and bananas in my fruit bowl; and bacon ends in my freezer. (I buy them from the fresh pork dealer who sells in Shed 3 at Eastern Market every winter and then freeze them so I can toss a few pieces into some of the healthy things I cook, like kale or collards.) Oh, and pecan raisin bread from the Capuchin’s bakery!


What do you like to do in your spare time? 

I love exploring Detroit by bicycle, both on group rides and just as part of my daily routine. One of my favorite things about Detroit are the social bike rides so you will always find me on Slow Roll. I also enjoy the arts and can’t believe how lucky we are to have such high quality art and music available here, either free and at low-cost.


Do you have a recipe you would like to share with us?

I discovered Kale Pesto several years ago and now it is a staple in my freezer. I use it on pasta, roasted carrots, pizza. It is easy to make if you have a blender or food processor and it keeps for a long time in the freezer.


½ cup extra virgin olive oil, more for drizzling

¾ teaspoon kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 small bunch (about 1/2 pound) lacinato kale, center ribs removed

⅓ cup toasted pine nuts (or walnuts)

2 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped (and/or garlic scapes)

Finely grated zest of 1 lemon (important!)

Freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste

Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving


Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil; have ready a bowl of ice water.

Drop kale into boiling water and cook for 45 seconds.

Use tongs or slotted spoon to transfer kale to ice water. (You can skip this part if it seems like too much trouble)

Drain kale well, then wrap tightly in a dry kitchen towel and squeeze thoroughly to remove any excess moisture.

Roughly chop leaves.

In a food processor, pulse together kale, nuts, garlic, salt and lemon zest until mixture is smooth and salt has dissolved.

With motor running, slowly drizzle in the oil until fully incorporated.

Taste and add more salt dissolved in a little lemon juice, if necessary.


August 1, 2016 at 8:39 am Leave a comment

Volunteer Spotlight: Richard Grenn

Richard Grenn

We first met Richard Grenn last summer when he began volunteering as a Class Assistant with the Cooking Matters program. His interests, enthusiasm for healthy lifestyle, and positive attitude make him a valuable addition to any class.


Tell us a little about yourself. 

Richard is a native of Metro Detroit. He was born in Detroit, and raised in Birmingham. He enjoys friends, activity, and staying current in his fields of interest: Biomedical Sciences, Chemistry, Physiology, Biophysics, and Integrative Medicine.


Richard attended Grand Valley State University, where he received a BS in Biomedical Sciences and Chemistry. He then moved to Washington D.C. to attend Georgetown. At Georgetown, he earned an MS in Physiology and Biophysics, with a focus on Complementary and Integrative Medicine.


After Georgetown, Richard returned to the Motor City. He enjoys tutoring his favorite subjects: the sciences. Richard will attend Medical School this fall, though he hasn’t made his final decision where. He is very interested in working with patients holistically; gravitating to diet, exercise, and stress reduction as key prescriptions for health.


What led you to the Cooking Matters program? 

Richard’s friend Katie Costello was aware of Richard’s commitment to a healthy lifestyle, and belief that diet, exercise, and stress reduction are key determinants of health. As a member of the team at United Way, Katie was aware of Cooking Matters, and suggested Richard might appreciate the opportunity to work with the program. He has been enjoying his work as a Classroom Assistant, supporting a program that provides participants with the knowledge, skills, and support to make the lifestyle changes he believes in so strongly!


What is your favorite part of being part of the Cooking Matters team? 

Richard has especially enjoyed the people he has had the opportunity to work with through the Cooking Matters program. He tells me, “Volunteers and Coordinators are so good at what they do it is very enjoyable! Everyone knows what they want to do, and are PASSIONATE about what they’re doing.”


What ingredient will we always find in your kitchen? 

Ginger is Richard’s secret ingredient. He is impressed by ginger’s many studied health benefits, and also the kick it adds to things like smoothies, dressings, and many other favorites. In fact, he says,


“I add ginger to everything.”


What do you like to do in your spare time? 

Richard is a role model for a healthy lifestyle. In his spare time, he enjoys basketball, rock climbing, wake boarding, running, and volleyball. He recently participated in a triathlon, and 5k.


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

Richard did not have a recipe to share with us. He told me that “All my culinary tricks are things I learned in Cooking Matters.”


Recently when a friend asked Richard his ideas for seasoning baked sweet potato fries, Richard excused himself. He made his way to his car where he found his Cooking Matters book. When he returned, he confidently suggested paprika, cayenne pepper, and perhaps curry powder.


“I do have some tricks, and they all came from the book.”

June 6, 2016 at 11:53 am Leave a comment

Volunteer Spotlight: Melanie Wierda


Tell us a little about yourself.
Hello! I am registered dietitian, and I currently work with individuals who no longer have kidney function at a dialysis unit in Detroit.

What led you to Cooking Matters?
I became involved with Cooking Matters when I was student at Wayne State University and I had the opportunity to complete a practicum with the organization through the Dietetics program. It was a great experience that laid a solid foundation for continued involvement since.

When did you first become interested in nutrition?
I became interested in nutrition during my first year of college. At this time, I gained awareness of how crucial proper nutrition is for long-term health.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
I enjoy running, exploring farmers’ markets, and spending the day at Belle Isle Beach on hot summer days.

What ingredients do you always keep in your kitchen?
No matter the week, I always have nut butter, apples, popcorn kernels, canned black beans and plain Greek yogurt. I like to keep meal preparation simple and easy most days.

May 10, 2016 at 11:15 am Leave a comment

Volunteer Spotlight: Steven LaFraniere


Tell us about yourself.
I’ve been cooking since I was 18. I still love it today after 40 years. One of reasons I do it is because I like to see other people enjoy my food and the things that I make. I’ve been working at Capuchin Soup Kitchen for 20 years. I am the assistant chef and prepare all the meals. We serve breakfast and lunch at the Meldrum site. I also work with our volunteers every day and guide them to do the things that needs to be done.

What does the Capuchin Soup Kitchen do as an organization?
Capuchin offer services to those in need without charging any fees. We do a lot more than meals – we arrange for showers, clothing, AA meetings, and a garden program. We provide our neighborhood with services. We’re there to serve the people and help make their lives a little easier .

What is your experience with the Cooking Matters program?
When I did my first Cooking Matters class, it was called Share Our Strength. I was a resident at Jefferson house, where I teach classes now. Back then we talked about the food pyramid, but otherwise class went the same way. A chef from Union Street a restaurant in Detroit came in and worked with us. I liked the fact that he came in and taught us. It made me want to pay it forward. I left Jefferson House and have been in recovery for 22 years. When Cooking Matters came along later, my boss Allison Costello started doing a class at Gleaners for single mothers. That’s when I became involved as a volunteer. This was my seventh year teaching the guys at Jefferson House.

What do you enjoy about volunteering?
I have learned so much from working with volunteers at CSK and how enjoyable it can be.  Two or three guys come from Jefferson House help at Capuchin every day. It’s a nine month program. We get them to come and help work in the kitchen. After I work with them in the Cooking Matters class, things change. I build a better relationship with the group. They have a whole different attitude.
Some of the guys are really interested in cooking, but some don’t really care that much. I try to gear the class towards them as much as possible. I want to show them skills they could use if they have a date over or want to impress their families, and how to keep within a budget. Some of the guys have never been in a kitchen before in their lives. It’s fun when you find someone who can’t cook and egg and they get really into it.
Because Jefferson House is a residential program, we do the classes a little differently there. We do a competition for final week – one team makes an entrée and the other does dessert and salad. We plan the menu week four, shop for the ingredients week five, and make the food week six. As much as we can, we give them free range to give their input and create the meal.

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

Roasted Vegetables or Potatoes

Vegetables of of choice (I like yellow squash, green zucchini, roma tomatoes, fresh asparagus, red, green & yellow peppers, and  fresh garlic – chopped or bulb, or potatoes)

Cut veggies into 1/2 inch pieces
In a large bowl combine:
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
Fresh or dried herbs
Sea salt
Place veggies in bowl and toss.
Put seasoned veggies on a lined cookie sheet and bake for 15 to 20 mins until tender, or place in foil and put on a grill for 15 to 20 mins. If doing red skin or white potatoes, cook ½ hour to 45 mins until tender.

March 30, 2016 at 10:15 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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