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Cooking Matters Michigan

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

Volunteer spotlight: Michele Kawabe

dorothy hernandez

Michele Kawabe wanted to be a dietitian to inspire others. "I was really overweight for many years," says Michele, who became a registered dietitian after graduating from Wayne State University in 2009. "I wanted to be a motivation for others. If I could do it, so could they."

Michele, who lives in West Bloomfield and grew up in Sterling Heights, changed her major from nursing to dietetics, earning a degree from Wayne State University. She first heard about Cooking Matters while she was a student when Rachelle Bonelli (former CM coordinator and current director of program services at Gleaners Community Food Bank) but her schedule was too jam-packed at the time. Once she landed a job in the field, she was looking for opportunities outside of clinical practice and reached out to us.

The desire to help others fits in well with her volunteer work with Cooking Matters. Michele, who works with inpatients with a local hospital system, says the best part about class is when people come up to her afterward to tell her how much she has helped them.

She said she enjoys building relationships with participants over the course of a class series and witnessing their progress week to week.

"The feedback is very gratifying to me," she says, recalling a participant in a recent class at Livonia Head Start where the woman told her she had lost weight by week 3 by adopting some of the positive changes discussed in class.

“Plus, it’s fun! Everyone in the class gets a chance to be involved and is able to take something away from the classes, and that includes me. … Recently a participant introduced me to freekeh, which is a grain used in Middle Eastern cooking - plus (I) get the heads up on some great restaurants in the area (had a delicious meal at Chef Stewart's Mind, Body, & Spirits in Rochester not too long ago).”

She was recently accepted to WSU's Master's in Public Health program so she'll be hitting the books again in the fall. Her focus will be in Health Promotion and Education. "I have a very hectic work schedule, but in my free time enjoy gardening, cooking (can't recall meeting a recipe I haven't tried to tinker with and make my own...), and I love to eat! I'm an avid walker (gotta burn it off...), and I've managed to talk my husband into taking tennis lessons with me this summer."

Michele shared with us her recipe for kasha with mushrooms and onions (below). Make sure to check out her variation on this healthy grain recipe!

Thank you, Michele, for all you do for us at Cooking Matters in Southeast Michigan!

Kasha with mushrooms and onions Recipe courtesy of Michele Kawabe 1 cup kasha (buckwheat groats) 1 egg 2 cups of chicken or vegetable broth 1 tablespoon of butter 1 medium onion, chopped 8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced

Bring stock to a boil in pot. In bowl, beat egg with a fork. Add buckwheat and mix well to combine. Heat sauté pan over medium heat. Using dry heat, add buckwheat/egg mixture, stirring constantly until mixture is dry and separates easily (should take about 3 minutes). Add buckwheat mixture to boiling stock. Lower heat, cover and simmer until all liquid is absorbed (note: cooking time will vary depending on brand and coarseness of the buckwheat—should take 7-10 minutes but may take longer). Let stand for 5 minutes then fluff with a fork. In separate sauté pan, melt butter, sauté mushrooms and onions until tender. Fold vegetables into fluffed buckwheat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Variation: instead of mushrooms and onions, try using scallions and nuts. Sauté as above until scallions are tender and nuts smell toasty. The nuts complement the flavor of the buckwheat nicely; I particularly like pecans in this recipe.