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Cooking Matters Michigan

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

Filtering by Tag: Cooking Matters

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!

Volunteer spotlight: Viviane Cuenca

dorothy hernandez

Viviane Cuenca, a native Brazilian, had the opportunity to eat fresh fruits and vegetables as well as lots of beans and rice, the staple of her country. After moving to the U.S., she went into nutrition because it "would not only give me insight on the culinary and nutrition aspects of the U.S., as well as it would provide me with a great amount of exposure on how food is related to many medical conditions that afflict so many people in our society."

"I was always very interested in the medical field, and after moving to the U.S. I became even more aware of the relationship between nutrition and health," says Viviane, who lives in Canton with her husband. She moved to the U.S. in March 2006. She first lived in Pennsylvania. "Before coming to the U.S. I had never left my country," says Viviane. "I never thought that I would have a reason to leave Brazil until I met my husband. He is also Brazilian, but was living in the United States since he was a child. We met in Brazil when he was visiting his family and a year later we got married. Coming to the U.S. was not only a wonderful journey with my husband but also a great opportunity to meet amazing people and see the world from a different (perspective). It was very difficult in the beginning, being on a strange land, not speaking the language and having no family or friends, after all there was a language barrier. I was able to overcome the language barrier, meet really good friends through my husband and start a journey of my own."

That journey has led her to Cooking Matters. "Being a nutrition student, I wanted to practice what I have been learning in the classroom and get involved on issues pertaining to nutrition. I found Cooking Matters online when looking for some opportunity to volunteer using my nutrition background. I also strongly believe that every person has some talent that can be used to better our communities and make a difference in people’s lives."

Her first class was teaching a Cooking Matters for Adults at Friends of Parkside. "I really enjoyed our time at Friends of Parkside. We had a very participative and dynamic class with lots of people interested on the subjects presented. The moments that stick out from the class are the times when people eat the recipes that were prepared in class. This is true especially for the last day of class, when we made Hummus and Mango Salsa. These two very easy and healthy foods were a major hit in our graduation day. I was happy to see that people were enjoying the foods that were prepared with healthy ingredients in a healthy manner. I believe the recipes made the nutrition lessons more approachable to everyone in the class."

Viviane is currently a nutrition student at Wayne State University. Eventually her goal is to become a physician’s assistant. "I enjoy the medical field and I envision myself working in the community providing medical assistance. I also would love to teach people about prevention of disease through healthy lifestyles and healthy eating."

When she is not studying, she likes to spend quality time with her husband and "our two funny dogs." She also volunteers at Karmanos. She and her husband also love to travel and visit their families in Brazil. Naturally she enjoys cooking, "especially when there are family and good friends around. During this hot summer we have been eating a variety of foods that are mostly cold and easy to prepare. One of my favorites is a mix of yogurt with fresh fruits for snack or even dessert. I found this to be a good way to make my husband eat his fresh fruits. I use the recipe below, but may also throw in a banana, apples, nectarines or any other fruits."

Yogurt and Fruit Parfaits

Ingredients •3 cups vanilla nonfat yogurt •1 cup fresh strawberries •1 pint fresh blackberries, raspberries or blueberries •1 cup of granola, or walnuts

Directions Layer 1/3 cup vanilla yogurt into the bottom each of 4 tall glasses. Combine strawberries with the other berries. Alternate layers of fruit and granola with yogurt until glasses are filled to the top. Serve parfaits immediately to keep granola and/or walnuts crunchy.

Volunteer spotlight: Tamara Landazuri

dorothy hernandez

At age 19, Tamara Landazuri had studied nursing for a couple of semesters and didn’t like it.

At that point the Quito, Ecuador, native took a break to decide what she wanted to do. She started thinking of going abroad.

“I thought if I got a degree (in the United States) it would open a lot of doors, I thought I’d have a lot of opportunities,” she said.

In 2001, Tamara came to Michigan through Au Pair in America.

“I wanted to learn English,” she says and figured she would be here for a year. Ten years later, the Quito, Ecuador, native has a bachelor’s degree in nutrition from Madonna University and has been married since May 2009. She is currently working with our satellite partner, Generation With Promise, as a nutrition educator.

At a young age, she was always health-conscious, so it was a natural fit for her to go into nutrition.

“I think I got it from my mom who also cooked healthy like soups and salads. I remember going to the supermarket to do grocery shopping together and while I waiting in like I would look at nutrition magazines and cooking magazines ... I was a teenager, about 13 or 14.

“After I graduated from high school in Ecuador, I wanted to go into nutrition but (the college) didn't have it. It was very new. I started going to school for nursing then thought I would go for my master's in nutrition. After two semesters I didn't like it.”

It was chance that brought her to Michigan. She had the choice to go to New York, Chicago and Washington. She picked Michigan because, “I’d never heard of it before.” The other locations had strong Latino communities already and she really wanted to immerse herself in a new culture to learn English.

She admits the first three months she was homesick and the experience at first was rough. “I had second thoughts,” she said. “I was only 19 years old.” But she was committed to meeting new people and learning a new culture. The kids she took care of and TV helped her build her language skills.

After working with a family in Clarkston taking care of three young children through the au pair program, she changed her status to student. The au pair program helped pay for community college so she went to Oakland Community College for three years where she earned an associate’s in general studies before going to Madonna University.

She continued to work as a nanny during college. During her last year, she worked few hours here and there for a Naturopathic doctor. "My job consisted in assessing diets of children with possible food allergies, and modifying/developing new diets without the allergens.

"I first started working for Dr. Green as a nanny, her children had food allergies so that is how everything started," she says. "I learned a lot from her, and she knew I was studying Nutrition so she gave me the opportunity to learn/train/work in the nutrition area of food allergies."

Tamara joined Cooking Matters in the fall, translating a Spanish-speaking Cooking Matters for Adults class in Southwest Detroit.

Her warm, friendly personality as well as her Spanish helped break the language barrier in the class and it was apparent even to someone with limited Spanish-speaking ability, the women related to her very well.

This is the aspect of facilitating Cooking Matters classes that Tamara enjoys: the sharing between herself and the participants.

“What I like best … was the interaction with people,” she says. “I knew I was helping somebody through what I said in those classes. Someone took the info and used it. I hope they’re eating healthy now. (The classes) are very rewarding.”

Here, she shares her recipe for Quinoa Salad, to which she has made some tweaks from the original recipe. She loves to cook and does it often. She brought this salad to the potluck graduation at Piquette Square veterans housing.

Tamara's Quinoa Recipe Serves 4

Ingredients 1 cup quinoa (rinsed well if not prewashed) 2 cups water (or chicken broth if you want more flavor) 1/4 cup slivered almonds 2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced 2 tablespoons olive oil 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley 1/4 cup raisins salt and pepper

Directions Quinoa cooks like rice. For this recipe you will add two cups of water, or chicken broth.

Bring the quinoa to a boil. Reduce heat, cover it and let it simmer until all of the liquid is absorbed (10-15 minutes).

Toast almonds over medium heat until golden and transfer to a plate. Saute garlic in olive oil until it has a golden color and reserve the oil.

Finally fluff quinoa. Add almonds, garlic, reserved oil, parsley, raisins and season with salt and pepper.