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2131 Beaufait Street
Detroit, MI, 48207
United States

(313) 923-3535 ext. 202

Cooking Matters Michigan

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


Volunteer Spotlight: Maria Urquidi

Maria U

Tell us a little about yourself. 

I retired to Detroit three years ago because it seemed like an interesting place to live, with an abundance of volunteer opportunities. I have not been disappointed! I have always been interested in many of the issues that impact Detroit today - food justice, transportation, education, affordable housing, urban planning - and being retired gives me the opportunity to get involved in ways I couldn't when I was working and raising a family.


What led you to the Cooking Matters Program? 

I began volunteering at Gleaners shortly after I moved to Detroit because of the important work they do to address food security. I started as a volunteer in the warehouse helping the pantry partners load their orders and I was surprised when they were not enthusiastic about some of the healthy foods that were available FREE to the pantries. Often I was told "The people who come to my pantry don't eat that" (red peppers) or "People wouldn't know how to cook that" (rutabagas)." When I heard about the Cooking Matters Program, I realized that it addressed that problem perfectly, not only by introducing people to healthy foods and the reason to eat them, but also by showing how simply those foods could be prepared. I signed up as a Class Assistant on the spot!


What is your favorite part of volunteering with the Cooking Matters Program? 

As with all of my Detroit experiences, my favorite part of volunteering with the Cooking Matters Program is the people. The instructors, volunteer nutritionists and cooks, are generous with their time and knowledge, and the participants match their enthusiasm. My favorite class was the CM for Families where parents attend with their children. Now when the parent skips a stop for fast food in favor of making turkey tacos at home, their child will not only understand the reason but will be able to help make the tacos.


What ingredients will we always find in your kitchen? 

You will always find olive oil, garlic, onions and carrots in my kitchen; apples, avocados and bananas in my fruit bowl; and bacon ends in my freezer. (I buy them from the fresh pork dealer who sells in Shed 3 at Eastern Market every winter and then freeze them so I can toss a few pieces into some of the healthy things I cook, like kale or collards.) Oh, and pecan raisin bread from the Capuchin's bakery!


What do you like to do in your spare time? 

I love exploring Detroit by bicycle, both on group rides and just as part of my daily routine. One of my favorite things about Detroit are the social bike rides so you will always find me on Slow Roll. I also enjoy the arts and can't believe how lucky we are to have such high quality art and music available here, either free and at low-cost.


Do you have a recipe you would like to share with us?

I discovered Kale Pesto several years ago and now it is a staple in my freezer. I use it on pasta, roasted carrots, pizza. It is easy to make if you have a blender or food processor and it keeps for a long time in the freezer.


½ cup extra virgin olive oil, more for drizzling

¾ teaspoon kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 small bunch (about 1/2 pound) lacinato kale, center ribs removed

⅓ cup toasted pine nuts (or walnuts)

2 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped (and/or garlic scapes)

Finely grated zest of 1 lemon (important!)

Freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste

Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving


Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil; have ready a bowl of ice water.

Drop kale into boiling water and cook for 45 seconds.

Use tongs or slotted spoon to transfer kale to ice water. (You can skip this part if it seems like too much trouble)

Drain kale well, then wrap tightly in a dry kitchen towel and squeeze thoroughly to remove any excess moisture.

Roughly chop leaves.

In a food processor, pulse together kale, nuts, garlic, salt and lemon zest until mixture is smooth and salt has dissolved.

With motor running, slowly drizzle in the oil until fully incorporated.

Taste and add more salt dissolved in a little lemon juice, if necessary.