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Detroit, MI, 48207
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Cooking Matters Michigan

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

Filtering by Category: Volunteer spotlight

Volunteer Spotlight: Gina Fox


Tell me about your family.

I have one son and a husband. We live in Grosse Pointe on the east side.  My husband and I both come from large families.  My son, Michael, is 27 and a first year practicing attorney. He doesn't cook though.  He's like the shoemaker's son who doesn't wear shoes!

How did you get involved with cooking and nutrition?

Growing up, if you ever needed to find my mom, she was in the kitchen.  You'd go in there to ask her a question, and she'd have you peel a potato or something, and then she'd answer your question.  I have my undergraduate degree in home economics and my masters in teaching.  I was a home-ec teacher for many years.  Back in the day, that's what they called it, it's "life management."  Out of six kids in my family, four of us are teachers.  I always felt that's what my mom really wanted- to be a teacher.  So she was always teaching us how to cook.

What do you do in your spare time?

I like to cook.  Because my husband and I come from such big families, we are constantly having gatherings.   I also love decorating.  I'm very hands on and tactile.  I volunteer with the organization humble design that helps furnish and decorate home interiors for moms and kids coming out of shelters or escaping domestic abuse.   Family and home takes up most of my spare time.

How did you hear about Cooking Matters?

I was actually watching TV one day and I saw Jake on FOX channel 2 doing a cooking demo.  I thought to myself, "this is something I can do."  I'm a retired teacher of one year, but once a teacher, always a teacher.

 Do you have a go-to recipe you'd like to share?



1/2 lb. lean ground beef

2 Tbs. Olive oil

1 medium chopped onion

1/2 cup chopped celery

1/2 cup chopped carrots

1 (19 oz ) can cannelloni beans, rinsed and drained

1 (14 oz) can low sodium chopped tomatoes

2 Tbs. tomato paste

1 large potato cubed

1 quart beef broth

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 Tbs. Italian seasoning

1-2 bay leaf

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

1/2 cup Ditalini pasta

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese


1.  Brown ground beef in a large stock pot. Drain beef and set aside.

2.  Add olive oil to stock pot and sauté, onion, celery and carrots.

3.  To the pot, add reserved ground beef, rinsed beans,tomatoes, tomato paste, cubed potato, beef broth, garlic, Italian seasoning, bay leaf and salt and pepper.

4.  Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat.  Simmer until vegetables are barely tender. Remove bay leaf 5.  Add pasta, and simmer for 30 minutes, correct seasonings and serve with grated cheese and a loaf of crusty Italian bread.

I make this recipe quite often. We are big soup eaters in my house and it feels like the weather is calling for me to make some soon.

This recipe serves 6.  As my grandmother use to say if more people arrive than expected "you can always add more water to the soup".

Volunteer Spotlight: Daniela Flores

Rebecca Blauw

Tell me about your background

I was born in Mexico City but I never lived there. Because of my dad´s job we had the opportunity to live in different cities of Mexico, but I basically grew up in Toluca which is a nice town located in the southwest of Mexico City. My mom and dad are both engineers and they grew up in Veracruz, which is a port city in the Gulf of Mexico. I have an older sister, her name is Michelle and she is a Psychologist. I love my family, and I’ve learned from each one that life is to enjoy, to work hard, and help others as most as we can.

I went to college in Mexico City, at Universidad Iberoamericana, and I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Nutrition and Food Sciences. Some years later I went back to get an undergraduate course as a Diabetes Nutrition Educator. Last year I got married, and because of my husband’s job we moved to live to Detroit for one-year period. By the way, a great experience in our lives!

What lead you to pursue nutrition?

My mom is a great person, she always has been an educated woman interested in learning new things, and so I remembered when I was a teenager that she once showed me a book of Nutrition. I remember that I got really interested on what I read, and thought that when I grew up I wanted to become a Nutritionist!

I have always thought that nowadays people are more interested in learning about what is good or better for their health when they eat, but sometimes they are also confused with many information they see or hear everywhere. My main interest is teaching people how to become healthier, and the importance of a healthy lifestyle. Giving them tools to learn more about health and nutrition, like being a “health advisor,” so they can decide better choices.

What lead you to Cooking Matters, and what keeps you volunteering with us?

Since I was a child I learned from my family to work for a better society, wherever we live. And if we are able to use our time to volunteer, let’s take that opportunity!

So, when my husband and I moved to Detroit, my personal life changed in different ways because I used to have a job in Mexico, and many activities. Suddenly I found myself with plenty of time to make the most! That’s why I decided to find a volunteer program, and I thought this should be a great opportunity for me.

I love challenges, so this is Cooking Matters for me. Additionally, I felt so excited to find a place where I could contribute in the nutrition field, as well as keep learning.

Do you have any highlights from a class that you can share?

My native language is Spanish, but I learned English at school and when Vani told me that there was a group of Latino women where I could be a volunteer, because of the language situation, I felt really excited. Then I found out that being part of this course in Mexicantown meant more than giving the lessons in Spanish. This was about cultural empathy with each woman. I worked with Tamara as the coordinator and John as the chef, great people that also integrated very well their knowledge with the classmates, resulting in a multicultural team experience! I also remembered that at the end of the course everyone was speaking “Spanglish” (combination of Spanish and English) and the language was not anymore a barrier, because we all have common interests which were to learned from each other, and have a great time!

Tell me about your family, what you do in your spare time

Because my husband’s job assignment is only for one-year, we are enjoying our stay at the maximum! We like going to the museums exhibits, the parks, concerts, and sports games. We enjoy traveling, and walking in Downtown River walk. We also like trying new food- basically local Michigan products. I have also learned from Cooking Matters to cook Michigan recipes! We really love the state of Michigan. And, regarding the weather, we like it a lot. This is the first time in our lives that we have experienced the four seasons of the year and each one is amazing, we even love the snow!

We also enjoy running, cycling, swimming, and reading, watch movies, and spend time at home.

Do you have a favorite recipe you would like to share?

Before I got married my mom taught me different recipes, and we did a recipe book so I am going to share one of this recipes. I love seafood for example tuna, which is mainly a source of protein and iron and is also and easy dish to prepare. So this is a dish made with tuna with a Mexican style.

Mexican style tuna- 4 portions

Ingredients: • 2 cans of tuna (water), drained • 4 tomatoes • 4 cloves of garlic • 3 canned chipotle peppers • 1 can of peas • 1 tablespoon olive oil • Chopped Parsley

1. Bring a pot of water to a boil, add tomatoes. Let them cool. 2. Blend tomatoes, garlic and chipotle peppers 3. In a saucepan heat the olive oil over medium heat. Adjust the heat to low and add the tomato mixture using a strainer and then season. 4. Add drained tuna over medium heat 5. Add peas and chopped parsley, toss until well combined.

Serve it with tortilla chips.

Volunteer spotlight: A'Donna Fuller

dorothy hernandez

"Giving back to the community through Cooking Matters has been the most rewarding thing I have done throughout my culinary career."

Like many chefs and cooks, A'Donna Fuller's love of cooking was inspired by her mom. Now a personal chef, A'Donna finds joy in cooking for others.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I spent most of my childhood in Detroit. I went to college in Columbus, Ohio. I eventually ended up in the Ypsi/Ann Arbor area.I got my feet wet in formal culinary training at Washtenaw Community College although most of my professional training came from studying Culinary Management (Art Institute in Novi). I still take continuing education classes taught by leading industry experts at Schoolcraft College and anywhere else I can find culinary classes.

I spent my entire childhood watching my mother take great pride in planning and cooking family meals, host fabulous dinner parties, and even cater for some celebrities. When I had the wild idea to go vegetarian as a teenager, my mom gladly took on the challenge of making 2 meals every night - one meal for my father and siblings and a hearty and fresh meat-free option for me. She was so creative, I was never bored with her take on vegetarian meals and couldn't wait to get home just to see what she would come up with next!

How and why did you end up pursuing a career as a personal chef? There was nothing I loved more than watching my mom meticulously plate meals and plan dinners as a kid. She took great pride in cooking and presenting meals like it was a sport. Watching her developed my obsession with cooking, food science, and planning menus for parties.

I was first introduced to the idea of becoming a personal chef through an article I read long before I ever took my first culinary class. I found all the information I could find about the personal chef industry and decided to give it a try. Years later I joined the American Personal & Private Chef Association - they give me all the training I need for the personal chef aspect of culinary arts. I have always enjoyed helping people and cooking, so being a personal chef was a perfect fit. After hearing about the burnout chefs often experience in commercial kitchens, I could not stand the thought of stepping into a commercial kitchen. This is when I ultimately decided to make my way into the private sector.

Tell us about your business. What do you specialize in? Bella Donna Cooks! is a personal chef business that helps families and individuals that are too busy to cook, don't know how to cook, or have recently been diagnosed with a health condition prompting them to make immediate changes to their diets. Even though I love to cook everything, I specialize in vegan, diabetic, low carb, and petite pastry options. Although my primary line of work is as a personal chef, I also teach culinary classes, do cooking demos, do social catering for intimate events and host cupcake decorating parties for kids and adults. If it's in the culinary arena, I will do it!

Why did you start volunteering for Cooking Matters? I thought it was the most amazing idea that a structured program like Cooking Matters existed. I feel it is imperative to make sure everyone knows about healthy eating on a budget. Even though I own and operate a business that does just that, I honestly find it hard to associate a fee with helping people to eat healthy! I am so happy to have the opportunity to pass on the knowledge of healthy, quick, fresh, and budget-friendly meals through Cooking Matters. Giving back to the community through Cooking Matters has been the most rewarding thing I have done throughout my culinary career.

What has been a highlight from class for you? Please give a specific example. First Dorothy, Vani, and the volunteers that I have worked with are amazing! They are supportive and trust my opinions.

The biggest highlight from the last (Cooking Matters for Adults) class (at Go-Getters) was during frittata week. Once I saw the puzzled looks on the students' faces when I announced the recipe name - I asked the students to think of a quiche and an omelette having a baby. Most said "Oh, I get it!" ....then a slightly different response, a student quipped "I don't eat eggs!"....I asked her why and she just couldn't give me a "good answer." I put her in charge of cracking all 12 eggs, helping to season the egg mixture, and when the frittata was done, I personally served her first and said "Just try it." I went to the back and started washing dishes. I came back out and guess what? Her plate was empty! I asked her what happened to her frittata, she said "I ate it, and it was good...this is something I could see myself making for me and my family!" I was so excited that she even tried it, but the fact that she was willing to duplicate the recipe at home and started asking questions about other ingredients she could put in it? I was floored! It is incredible to be able to introduce new concepts, foods, and techniques that people so often overlook.

What is your favorite aspect of being a chef? I love researching recipes and shopping in unconventional places for unique ingredients. I really like introducing new foods to people. Especially foods that people think are "too healthy" to possibly be good! I live for the moment when my dish is served, and I get to see their faces light up after eating a dish that I made.

You have a knack for budgeting. What are your top tips for cooking healthy on a budget?

The biggest tip is to be prepared! #1- Plan your meals for two weeks at a time if at all possible. This gives you the opportunity to share as many ingredients across as many dishes as possible. Plus I see way too many people only buying their groceries for 1-2 days at a time. Not only is it a time killer, but you tend to overspend this way. #2 - Keep staples on hand (seasonings, canned goods, frozen vegetables/fruits, even having some frozen meats). These staples will almost always complement your meals, so when you make your grocery list - you will not have to buy nearly as much. Stock up on fresh fruits and veggies when they are on sale, bring them home and cut up what you think you may not use within 3 days, and pop them in the freezer in small portions. If packaged properly, they will last for months - reducing your grocery bill over time. You can use them for healthy desserts, smoothies, soups, stews, and sauces. #3 - Last but not least, do not throw away extra food or let any food spoil if you can help it - you can do this by re-purposing food that is from leftovers. Did you shred too much chicken for your chicken tortilla soup? Freeze the extra chicken and pull it out later in the week to make chicken wraps, chicken salads, or chicken enchiladas.

When you're not cooking, what do you like to do in your spare time? I love to go to the local museums and check out new exhibits and will often find a new restaurant in the area to try right after visiting the museum. I love to listen to smooth jazz and Stevie Wonder!

Finally, can you share with us your favorite budget-friendly, healthy recipe? Here is my favorite vegetarian recipe that I submitted to a vegetarian website - around $4.75/recipe!

Awesome Angel Hair

1/2 pound angel hair pasta (whole wheat or Dreamfields low carb brand) kosher coarse sea salt, for pasta water 4 tablespoons olive oil 1 heaping teaspoon garlic, minced 1 tablespoon dried basil 1 tablespoon dried oregano 1 (8 ounce) can chickpeas, drained 2 cups frozen or fresh broccoli 1 (8 ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained (no salt added) *optional - fresh parmesan to sprinkle on top

1. Prepare the angel hair according to box directions. While the pasta is boiling, prepare the sauce. In a saucepan or wok, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Adjust the heat to low and add the garlic to the pan, and saute for 2 minutes. 2. Add the dried seasonings to the pan. Drain the pasta and slowly add the pasta into the olive oil mixture, stirring after each addition (this is to make sure the pasta is evenly coated with the sauce). 3. After all the pasta has been added, toss in the chickpeas, tomatoes, and broccoli. Toss until well combined and the broccoli is heated through, plate and serve!