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Cooking Matters Michigan

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

Filtering by Tag: Quinoa

Volunteer spotlight: John Heikka

dorothy hernandez

For the past few months we have had the invaluable help of John Heikka, our chef intern extraordinaire. John just recently wrapped up his internship with us and put into words his experiences and shared with us what brought him to the wonderful world of cooking. He is also teaching a class in Pontiac as a volunteer so we are happy to keep him among our volunteer ranks!

Here's his story:

I’ve been married to my wife Jan for 25 years, and while we have had some challenges like any couple. She is the absolute best. I appreciate so much her ongoing support throughout the last and very trying 6 years. Jan is the cook for a day care in Sterling Heights and amazes me with how many different dishes she can produce with a microwave and rice cooker (their facility does not have a stove). We have two great kids, Robert and Sandra. Robert is now 19 and enrolled and excelling at CAD design at ITT Tech. Robert is a volunteer in our church’s children’s ministry and works as a counselor at “Kids Camp” every summer. Sandra is 12 going on 38. She is certainly an incredibly gifted and talented young lady. Sandra also is a volunteer in our children’s ministry where she teaches and sings. She is currently taking piano as well. Sandra is a straight A student and a member of a student organization dedicated to fighting hunger. She is also my “Sous Chef” at home. They are the best people I know and I am looking forward to going back to “hanging” with them, since my schooling is over.

I am a Detroiter and darn proud of that. I grew up the literal definition of a “fan (atic) of the Lions, Tigers, Pistons, Wings and Wolverines. I graduated high school in 1973 from East Detroit and studied for three years at Sacred Heart Seminary to become a Catholic priest. Got that one wrong! I like Catholics, nothing personal, but I’m not even Catholic anymore. In the early 80’s I met Jan, and left my pursuit of an accounting degree for marital bliss. Back then you could get a job, work hard and just keep moving up. I did just that working for a commercial leasing company and a sub-contractor for 20 years in collections and customer service. I also became an amateur baseball umpire while volunteering at church in the children’s ministry.

I lost my job with the now defunct sub-contractor in November 2005 and we ended up losing our house and basically, as it seemed, our life. I had two surgeries including a heart repair procedure, and after that it was just impossible to land a job that lasted. The four of us currently abide in a 950-square-foot apartment in Warren. I hope to change that soon!

Finally, someone told me that I need to go back to school. So I said, if I have to go back to school, then I am going to have fun. So I enrolled back at Macomb Community College in the Culinary Arts program. I had spent some time teaching kids how to make bread and thought maybe there will be something there for me. And thus, in my last semester I landed a wonderful opportunity for an internship as a chef instructor at Gleaners Community Food Bank in the Cooking Matters program.

My ultimate goal is to be involved with food education. Food is certainly a magical thing. Can you think of any major life event/celebration that does not involve food? Most of them do. Food culture is a part of our families and society. I want to see well executed and simple foods of our traditions come back to our life events and certainly our families’ tables as a way to bring people together again. Somebody has to teach the skills and recipes that have been laid aside by past generations.

But for now, I will pursue a career as a prep cook or institutional cook and further hone my skills. But if the opportunity presents itself, I’ll jump on anything that involves the educational end of cookery.

Why he wanted to get involved in Cooking Matters I was never a “restaurant guy” prior to my enrollment at Macomb and I’ve always had a passion for teaching. So it was a natural fit to develop my skills and confidence while having fun. You should love what you do and do what you love.

It all started early last November when I was conversing with Kathy Grech, our table service instructor at Macomb about how people are just going to have to learn how to take a chicken apart again due to rising food costs. She immediately told me to contact Jake Williams and I did. I would have been happy to just volunteer as a chef/instructor, so being offered the internship was like winning the Super Bowl.

Overall, the class participants were the main highlight. The opportunity to be part of a team teaching a lot of the basics I learned in school in a manner that has such potential to effectively change lives both mentally and physically, is just phenomenal.

I recall early on in a Kids Class in Highland Park this little quiet girl who appeared to be shoved aside by her classmates, telling me after the class in a barely audible volume, “Thank you.” You never know if they are abused, malnourished, bullied or all the above. Her face, voice and those two simple words will never leave me. It’s also what began to build a passion for food education and I knew I was in the right place.

One week we were doing Banana Quesadillas and the coordinator for the class left the honey and peanut butter in her vehicle overnight in the middle of winter. Our coordinators are all great, however they happen to be human, just like the rest of us. The honey needed to be mixed with the peanut butter and some cinnamon. I looked over and saw the participant visibly struggling to mix these extremely cold items. As I saw the clock ticking, I then decided to just put the stainless steel bowl on the stove and whisk as fast as I could. I knew it work, but not a few people around the room were looking at me in an interesting manner. The quesadillas were great. (Editor’s note: This was me. Sorry, John! –dorothy)

Just recently we completed a Spanish speaking class in Mexican Town and the ladies on their way out telling me in their broken English that they learned so much and “Gracias” was really cool stuff. Not so much their words, but their facial expressions make my day, because people lives are being changed for the better.

Every Week One class I do now usually has a sauté’ opportunity and I love asking them why chefs toss items in the pan. Every time somebody will say,” To mix all the items?”. And I always respond, “Well…that is part of it, but don’t I look cool!?!”

His secrets in the kitchen Attitude. Your determination to succeed will be influenced by your determination. There are two kinds of kitchen experiences, success and education. Granted education can be a little disappointing, but if seek out the knowledge you were missing and are determined, then success will be yours! In my perfect world, every kitchen has some cast iron cookware. It is economical, easy to clean and heats very evenly. I’ve used my Dutch Oven as a deep fryer. This stuff lasts forever.

Thirdly, salads are generally under used in everyday home cooking. They are healthy and interesting. To me, 4 ounces of beautifully seasoned and grilled beef tenderloin on top of some leafy greens with walnuts, gorgonzola cheese, dried cherries, and red onions with a nice homemade vinaigrette is just heaven! Fruit salads are great all day as well.

My most humbling experience came this last semester in school. I was going to make a tomato fennel soup, which in the past was really good with a lemon/lime gremolata garnish. In the middle of winter I decided to use fresh roma tomatoes instead of canned. It was a very educational experience. The tomatoes being out of season were so acidic, that the soup was complete disaster. I just kicked myself all the way home.

My most memorable moment came at home prior to Christmas. I was baking cinnamon bread while my wife and the kids were decorating the tree. The pine scent and the cinnamon aroma just says family and Christmas like nothing I’ve ever encountered.

Relaxing Everyonewho is involved in cookery has a “food” activity that they find relaxing. For me, it is grilling some sort of protein or baking bread. I will still knead my bread by hand periodically. It’s good exercise! “Foodieism” can be a bit of a mental illness for some us.

I enjoy playing “competitive putt-putt” with my family. It gets verbally brutal, but we have fun. Also, you can find us in the fall picking apples and other produce when it’s available.

The whole family is big sports fans. We all play and spectate, especially pro football.

A healthy recipe This is one of my new favorite recipes for a side dish. Simple and elegant. Very nutritious.


Onion, small dice 3 oz. Olive Oil 1 Tbsp. Quinoa, rinsed 4 oz, or ½ cup Water or Vegetable Stock 8 fluid ounces or 1 cup Kosher Salt To Taste Pepper To Taste

1. In a small sauce pot, heat the oil and sauté the onions over medium heat for a couple minutes till they start to turn clear. 2. Add the quinoa and brown very slightly. 3. Add the stock or water and season with salt and pepper. For this recipe volume start with ¼ teaspoon of both. 4. Bring to a boil and immediately turn heat to low. Cover pot with lid and simmer till Quinoa has absorbed all the liquid.

Chef’s Notes:

You can add any vegetable with the onions. Any spice can be added with the salt and pepper. Any herb can be added at the very end.

You can adjust the salt and pepper at the end of cooking.

Volunteer spotlight: Stewart McWilliams

dorothy hernandez

Teaching low-income families how to cook healthy meals at home on a budget is something close to chef Stewart McWilliams' heart. As a child, he learned how to cook for his family, reading cookbooks and following along. By the time he got to high school, he knew he wanted to be a chef.

At L’Anse Creuse, where he went to high school, he was a part of the vocational center there and took culinary classes. He then took his talents to South Beach where he pursued a culinary arts degree at the well-regarded Johnson and Wales culinary school.

With degree in hand he returned home to Michigan. His first job was with the former Wolverine Banquet Center. His next job was with Rochester Hills Beer Co., where he started off as sous chef, working his way up the ladder to corporate executive chef, his current title.

When asked why he wanted to volunteer for Cooking Matters, he says, “(Growing up) I know what it’s like to have one meal a day … it’s hard to do. “After I got established (in the industry) I felt it was time to give back and help kids going through what I went through.”

Since approaching us last year about volunteering, Stewart has already taught 5 classes, and is currently teaching Cooking Matters for Families at Pure Word Missionary Baptist Church. He was also one of eight chefs representing us last year at first lady Michelle Obama’s kickoff event for Chefs Move To Schools.

When asked what was a class highlight for him, he wrote in an email, “I would say, I was doing a class and several people in class had never cut up a whole chicken before, so showing everyone how to do that and having them help and then the next week hearing how two people did it at home and were successful with it and even took my suggestion of making stock out of the carcass and then turn the stock into soup.”

Thanks Stewart for all you do!

Here’s a recipe from Stewart that can be made for under $10 if you have the spices in your pantry.

Herb Roasted Whole Chicken with asparagus and Quinoa Pilaf 1 whole chicken 1 cup water 1T Dried Oregano 1t Dried Basil 1t Garlic Powder ¼ t Dried Rosemary ¼ t Thyme ½ t salt ½ t pepper 1 pound asparagus 1 T olive oil 1 ½ cup Quinoa 1 cup low sodium chicken broth 2 cups water 1 carrot 1 celery stalk 1 small onion 2T canola oil

Pre heat oven to 450 degrees, place chicken in a roasting pan add 1 cup of water, in small bowl mix all spices, salt and pepper. Sprinkle mixture over chicken place chicken in oven for 15 minutes or until skin is brown. Cover chicken with aluminum foil, reduce oven temperature to 350 and cook for 45 minutes or until chicken reaches 165 degrees.

While chicken is roasting, rinse asparagus cut off bottom white part, toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil place in an oven safe dish cover and cook in oven for 15 minutes.

Wash carrots, celery and onion and dice. In a 4 quart pot over medium heat, add canola oil and sauté vegetables for 5 minutes add quinoa, 2 cups of water and 1 cup chicken broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat cover and cook until all liquid is gone about 15 minutes.

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.

Nutrition Quiz


The Detroit Free Press published a great Nutrition Quiz this week about that hard-to-pronounce grain - quinoa. We at Operation Frontline are infatuated with the little pseudocereal, often pairing it with the Ratatouille recipe in our classes.

So why is quinoa so great? According to (is there really a,

1. It’s a VEGETARIAN solution, a balanced-amino-acid source of high quality protein.

2. It’s a SENIOR solution, a high-iron food that raises the hematocrit, delivers more oxygen to the brain, fights senility.

3. It’s a DIABETIC solution, a very low-glycemic-index cereal type food.

4. It’s a TASTE SOLUTION, quite delicious.

The president of the Quinoa Corporation, named Gorad, raves about the properties of the food, saying,

"Quinoa's most pragmatic quality," observed Gorad, "is that it's a basic food with strong earth energy. People who try it categorically respond, 'This tastes good!"

If you've never tried quinoa, this website has some great recipes. The Closet Cooking blog also has some delicious quiona recipes.

Now to test your knowledge -

1. First, some history: Where is the grain grown, and which ancient civilization first harvested it?

a) The Mayans in Mexico

b) The Incas in the Bolivian Andes

c) The Sudanese in the Sahara

2. How do you pronounce quinoa?

a) "Kwin-oh-ah"

b) "Co-in-ah"

c) "Keen-wa"

3. How much more of the daily value of protein does quinoa contain than whole wheat and rice, respectively?

a) 4.2% and 8.7%

b) 9.6% and 12.3%

c) 19.0% and 22.4%

4. Quinoa is significantly higher than whole wheat in lysine, an amino acid. Among other uses, the nutrient-absorbing lysine has been used for which condition?

a) Warts

b) Psoriasis

c) Herpes

For the answers, click here.