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2131 Beaufait Street
Detroit, MI, 48207
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(313) 923-3535 ext. 202

Cooking Matters Michigan

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

Filtering by Category: Experiences

Goodbye Vani, You Will Be Missed!



As you may have heard, everyone's favorite volunteer coordinator-Vani Sohikian- is leaving Cooking Matters.  Without a doubt, this qualifies as a grade-A bummer, but I can't help but be proud of Vani and wish her well on her way.  Vani is known by Cooking Matters staff as an exceptionally hard worker and a true pleasure to have in the office.  To our volunteers, Vani is their warm welcome to the program, the go-to contact and a consistent reminder that their work really counts (and to sign up for classes).  It only takes a few minutes in one of Vani's classes to see how much she really cares about this program and its participants.   Her ability to connect with and engage participants is something to be admired, and her impact here has been profound.  OK, enough praise- it will go to her head.  Let's find out what the future holds for our friend and coworker!

Where is your new job and what will you be doing there?

The Institute for Population Health in Detroit.  It is replacing the Detroit Health Department, which is very exciting.  I will be working as a nutritionist for the WIC (women, infants and children) department.

What do you look forward to at your new job?

I look forward to working with the individuals who benefit from the services provided by the institute and learning more about public health services offered to Detroit citizens.

What was your favorite type of class?

Adults.  I like the older ladies.

Do you have a favorite CM recipe?

I have many.  I love the apple crisp and the southwestern black eyed pea and corn salad.  I also like the kid's cucumber sandwiches and the peanut butter and banana pockets...

Favorite fruit? 


Favorite veggie?

Brussel sprouts!

Favorite memory?

It's so hard to pick!  I have a few favorite moments. One of them is when one of my participants in Pontiac on the last day of class said that she had gone to the doctor that morning and her blood pressure, which had always been a problem, was completely normal because she was changing her diet.   Another favorite moment of mine was when I was helping Jake with a demo for kids, and we made the tuna boats, the kids were like, "this is the best thing I've EVER had!".  It was funny because kids usually hate tuna!

What will you miss most about CM?

The staff! Also working with volunteers and learning new things all the time.  I will also miss those moments when you know you're really getting through to participants.

Finish this sentence: Cooking Matters because:

We all have to eat!

Thank You Vani, for all your hard work.  You will be missed.

And don't worry, she'll be back to volunteer as soon as she is settled in her new job!

Volunteer Spotlight: Dawn Claybrooks

Rebecca Blauw

at her graduation from culinary schoolTell me about yourself and/family I am the baby of my parents’ 4 children. I have always cooked with my mom she has been the inspiration for my current culinary career.

Why did you get into the culinary world?

I began my culinary career due to becoming severely bored with my current automotive job. I wanted to live my dream as opposed to living someone else’s dream. I love food as well as health awareness and with my mother getting older I wanted to help her to eat healthier, and live longer

You are my one-time demo queen (or rockstar as Ariana would say). What makes you enjoy demos so much?

I enjoy demos because it gives me the chance to teach people that may not normally think eating healthy can taste good.

What led you to Cooking Matters?

There was a demo done by Cooking Matters at my job a couple years ago and I inquired about getting to do cooking demos. The guy that was doing the demo was very uncooperative so I took to the internet and googled Cooking Matters and met Dorothy Hernandez and she helped me to begin my Cooking Matters volunteering. I have been a volunteer since March 2012 and I have done 2 of the 6 week classes (at the same time): 1 class on Tuesday a families class and a kids class on Wednesday with Tamara Landazuri and it was a totally awesome experience. (Dawn has also done almost all of the one-time events we have had this summer- Vani)

Do you have a highlight from a Cooking Matters class?

At the end of my CM kids class the graduation ceremony, as the students received their chef hats, they requested that I sign their hats and it was so awesome to me that those children wanted me to be a part of their ceremony. I shed so many tears that day (tears of joy of course).

What do you do in your spare time?

I am currently trying to create recipes for a cook book that I plan to write in the future while I build a catering business and continue to volunteer for Cooking Matters.

Do you have a cheap healthy recipe you can share with us?

Pineapple Salsa

Ingredients: 1 Pineapple medium diced 1 Jalepeno pepper (or to taste) 1 Red bell peper 1/2 Tbs. Honey

Directions: Peel & dice pineapple. Finely dice jalepeno pepper removing seeds and veins (unless you want it really hot). Medium dice red bell pepper. Mix all fruits and veggies together in a bowl, then add honey and chill.

I like to use and organic blue corn chip to eat with this salsa

The total cost to buy the ingredients isabout $6, which ends up being about 63 cents per serving.

My Cooking Matters Experience

dorothy hernandez

Editor's note: This post is by our intern from Wayne State University, Melanie Wierda.

As a Wayne State University student within the Coordinated Program in Dietetics who shies away from public attention, I panicked when I learned I would be leading the nutrition portion of a six-week series of Cooking Matters EXTRA for Parents of Preschoolers. I was to guide a 40-minute discussion each week with a concentration on participant interaction and sharing. Before I knew it, it was the night before my first class and I was pacing around my living room re-enacting how my class would go or at least how I was hoping it would proceed. My roommate even volunteered to test out her acting ability by acting as if she was a class participant, asking potential questions and nodding in all the right places. Sleep did not come easily that night and I woke up at the crack of dawn to realize that I was utterly terrified. The first class came and went, and to my surprise, I survived! Things were not perfect, but the class participants and I were all able to learn from each other on how to achieve a healthier lifestyle. As the weeks progressed, I gradually found myself more comfortable as I related to the participants, shared what I knew, and learned from the volunteer chef. I discovered I really enjoyed discussing the topic of whole grains and how to detect whole grains in the store. Furthermore, I was able to see this information applied during the grocery store tour being that when I looked down the bread aisle I saw the participants reading not the fronts of the bags but the ingredient lists!

I also found myself relating to the stories of the participants overcoming their obstacles, and in turn I found an increased sense of motivation in my own life. A common hurdle we all shared was that it is difficult to find the motivation to prepare meals after a long day. Individuals began sharing their tips to reduce meal preparation time and I began to apply those at home. Now, I even find that I have been visiting my favorite take-out locations less and instead have been opting for homemade meals. More specifically, inspired from last week’s class, I tried the frittata recipe out of the Cooking Matters’ book. Since I was only cooking for one, I decided to bake the frittata in a muffin tin to accommodate for breakfast on the go and portion control. They were fantastic! Interestingly enough, I did not even know I liked eggs until last week’s class. Overall, this experience not only pushed me to confront my fears but also served as a catalyst behind my interest in community nutrition. Over the past few weeks, I grew as a nutrition educator and as a nutrition student. I now find myself practicing what I advocate in a more realistic and financially sensible manner. Plus, I am better cook!