Tell us a little about yourself.
I am a mother and my children are grown. I have been in the food industry all of my adult life. A few years ago I watched a movie called A Place at the Table that totally changed the way I think about everything related to food. That’s how I found out about Gleaners and the Cooking Matters program. I know about food, am good with people, and have time to volunteer, so I was hoping I could make a difference.
When did you first get involved in the food industry?
My first job was at the local Dairy Queen when I was 13 years old. I saw other kids my age working there and asked how they were able to get a job when they were so young. They told me to go to the counseling office to get a green card saying my grades were high enough to handle working and studying. I wanted a job to make money, so I did it. It’s been a natural progression from there. I moved on to dishwashing, waitressing, and cooking. I went to culinary school to study cakes and pastries. I have one more semester left to finish my degree. Right now I’m a cake decorator for Costco. Once I started working around food, I never stopped except to focus on photography for three years – but depending on what you photograph that could be food related too!
What ingredients do you always have in your kitchen?
A wide variety of fruits and vegetables, and Greek yogurt. I was a vegetarian for several years before I slowly started reincorporating meat into my diet, but mostly we eat fruits and vegetables at home.
What is your favorite thing about volunteering with Cooking Matters?
I’m volunteering in my 4th Cooking Matters class and have worked with teens, middle school students, and now kids in the 3rd to 5th grades. I like seeing kids try to eat stuff that they’ve never seen before. Some of them are convinced that they won’t like certain things, but when they taste them they get it right away.
Is there a recipe that you would like to share?
One of my favorites is actually a Cooking Matters recipe: Southwestern Black-eyed Pea and Corn Salad. I like to change it up depending on what I have on hand; it’s so easy. I’ve started taking this salad to parties when I know that the only food options will be hamburgers, hotdogs, and desserts.
Southwestern Black-eyed Pea and Corn Salad
Serves 10, 3/4 cup per serving
1 medium bell pepper
1 small red onion
2 (15½ ounce) cans black-eyed peas
1 (15¼ ounce) can corn kernels, no salt added
3 Tablespoons canola oil
2 Tablespoons vinegar
1 teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves
- Rinse and dice bell pepper, removing core and seeds. Peel, rinse, and dice onion.
- If using, rinse and chop cilantro leaves.
- In a colander, drain and rinse black-eyed peas and corn.
- In a large bowl, add pepper, onion, peas, corn, cilantro if using, and remaining ingredients. Mix well.
Dried black-eyed peas may be cheaper than canned. If using dried, cook according to package directions until peas are soft but not mushy. Drain, rinse, and add 3 cups cooked peas to salad. Use leftovers in other recipes later in the week.
Try chilling the salad. Serve it over cooked spinach or kale.
Use any type of vinegar you have on hand. Try balsamic, cider, or red or white wine vinegar.
Use black beans in place of black-eyed peas if you like.
When corn is in season, use fresh in place of canned. Cook 4 medium ears corn. Remove kernels from cob with a knife. Add to salad.