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Cooking Matters Michigan

Empowering families with the skills, confidence and knowledge to prepare healthy and affordable meals

Volunteer spotlight: Mary Gisslander


Mary Gisslander is an Operation Frontline Detroit volunteer who loves to share what she knows with others. That makes OFL a perfect fit for the Macomb Culinary Institute student! Mary took some time out from her jam-packed schedule to answer a few questions for us.

Q. Where were you born and where do you live?

A. I was born in Detroit and currently live in Sterling Heights.

Q. How did you hear about OFL and why did you want to be a part of it?

A. I first heard about OFL while taking the Culinary Techniques class at Macomb Culinary Institute during the Fall 2009 Semester. Chef Ray Hollingsworth showed the class a flyer, I was interested, wrote down the website, went on line, read about OFL and decided it would be a great way to help other people to learn what I have learned. I observed a few of the classes and decided it was definitely something that I could do.

Q. When you get your Macomb culinary degree, what are your future plans? Why did you decide to go to culinary school?

A. At this point I am not exactly sure where my focus will be in the culinary world. There are so many different areas to consider. If everything goes according to "the plan" I will be involved with a culinary internship that will give me exposure to all areas that are covered in the Associate Degree of Culinary Arts. After that, I will have a better view on where I would like to head. I have worked for many seasons at the Franklin Cider Mill. Chefs around the area will come in to purchase fresh apple cider and choose from our cheese selections for their menus. During conversations with them, I learned of Macomb's culinary program and decided that eventually that was something I would like to do. Finally the time was right and I decided to enroll in a few classes, and while I was at it, why not earn the Prep-Cook Certification. After taking the Culinary Techniques class I was hooked, and declared my Associates in Culinary Arts.

Q. What do you like best about OFL? The participants? The classes?

A. There are so many good things about OFL it is hard to pick out what is "best". In six weeks the program touches on proper nutrition, eating healthy, proper portion sizes, the food pyramid, sanitation, food safety, reading and preparing recipes, knife skills, kitchen safety, working and eating together, cutting up poultry, menu planning, budgeting, how to shop at the grocery store, organizing a shopping list and creating an economical meal. So, in this six week program the participants learn a little about everything I will learn to earn a degree. These are the basics that everyone needs to make healthy, nutritious, and safe meals.

Probably the best thing about OFL are the participants. They are eager to learn, like the hands on participation and ask many questions.

Another thing that I am very appreciative of OFL is the opportunity to share the knowledge that I have with others and hope that they in turn will share what they learn.

Q. What do you like to do in your spare time other than cook?

A. In my spare time when not working or attending classes I help in the community as an American Red Cross volunteer and as a member of the Historic Fort Wayne Coalition help the city of Detroit maintain Historic Fort Wayne.

Q. Do you cook at home often? Do you have a tasty, budget-friendly, healthy recipe you'd like to share?

A. I cook at home every day. I am a proponent of the one pot meal, but don't tell Mom! Apparently when I was younger I didn't like any of my food touching and she would tease me that she was going to get me a plate with dividers! One of my favorite meals is cube steak, rice with mixed vegetables, side salad with red wine vinegar, and a glass of milk. This one meal provides food from all five food groups.

Mary's Cube Steak, Rice with Mixed Veggies Ingredients Cube steak Seasoned flour Olive oil Rice, any kind--white, brown, wild (Of course we're going to advocate some whole grains!) Low-sodium chicken broth Frozen or fresh mixed veggies

Directions The cube steak is already run through the store's mechanical tenderizing process, but I either have them run it through a few more times or take it home and pound it out even thinner. Dredge the meat in seasoned flour and fry it in a little olive oil until juices form on top, then turn over once. This only takes a few minutes since the meat is so thin, and the flour gives it a nice crisp coat. I cook the rice (any kind - white, brown, wild) in low sodium chicken broth for flavor and add a medley of frozen (or fresh) vegetables (beans, peas, carrots, corn etc). (For the salad) The side salad consists of any vegetables and fresh fruit (or dried) I have in the fridge, a few nuts, and top it off with red wine vinegar or lemon juice.