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Cooking Matters Michigan

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

Volunteer spotlight: Alex Zurkiwskyj

dorothy hernandez

Working as an office manager in a real estate office made Alex Zurkiwskyj realize she was just working a job and it wasn't a career. So Alex, who holds a bachelor's degree in communications, decided to study nutrition, enrolling at Oakland Community College in 2009 and starting full time at Madonna University.

The Ferndale resident says she has faced lifelong issues with weight and during her mid-20s, she started making some healthier changes on her own. After a while she decided to take the plunge and study dietetics on an academic level.

After graduating from Madonna, her plans include an internship so she can get credentialed as a registered dietitian. She wants to focus on outreach and preventive health and is interested in women’s health. She’d also like to teach at a university and pursue an advanced degree in human nutrition or public health.

She is currently involved in the Michigan Service Scholars AmeriCorps program in which she is completing 300 hours of community service in a year in addition to her coursework at Madonna University, where she is also president of Nutrition Network. She has done most of her service hours at Gleaners, not only doing Cooking Matters classes (she has done four series and has signed on to do a fifth) but also assisting with Summer Food Service and Kids Helping Kids.

Not surprisingly, food plays a central role in Alex's interests. She dreams of being a farmer (before class one day, she was reading "A Dirty Life," a memoir of a writer who leaves behind NYC for a life on the farm with her husband). She also loves experimenting with "old school" ways of preserving and cooking, from canning to making everything from scratch. One day as she sat down to her home-cooked meal, she realized everything was homemade, from the hummus to the pita to the falafel.

Alex shared her recipe for falafel with us. Thanks, Alex for everything!

Falafel 1 (15 oz) can chickpeas, drained 1 onion ½ c. fresh parsley ½ c. fresh cilantro 2 cloves garlic 1 egg + 1 egg white (or 1 flax egg sub.*) 2 tsp cumin 1 tsp coriander 1 tsp salt 1 dash pepper 1 pinch cayenne 2 tsp lemon juice 1 tsp baking powder 1 T olive oil ¾ c. whole wheat bread crumbs 1 c. panko bread crumbs

In food processor puree onion, garlic, parsley, cilantro

Add chick peas, pulse until combined.

In small bowl combine egg*, cumin, coriander, salt, pepper, cayenne, lemon juice and baking powder.

Add egg mixture & olive oil to chickpeas, stir to combine.

Slowly add bread crumbs.

Form into balls, flatten into patties. They will be wet and have a tendency to fall apart so handle them carefully.

Lightly coat with panko bread crumbs. Spray both sides with cooking spray. Place on parchment paper-lined cookie sheet.

Bake at 425° for 25-30 minutes, flipping once.

*flax egg substitute: 1 T ground flax seed + 3 T water. Stir and let sit for 20 minutes.