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Cooking Matters Michigan

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

Volunteer Spotlight: Susie Fenster

Rebecca Blauw

Susie 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)