December Volunteer Spotlight – Dee!

Hello all! Happy (almost) New Year!

Please join me in giving a huge congratulations to our volunteer chef, Dee. Dee has been volunteering with Cooking Matters for almost 2 years. Within this time she has not only assisted with 13 courses, but also provided her time and effort for additional Cooking Matters needs, such as helping us with laundry that has been collected from all our classes on a weekly basis. Dee has made a huge impact on our efforts and we are extremely thankful to have her with us.

Dee cooking


While watching Dee instruct a class you can immediately see her ability to grasp the attention of the room, yet she also makes sure to encourage discussion regarding any questions or comments that may arise. Part of this ability for balancing the class like this is likely due to Dee’s strong background in facilitation; starting out as a middle school educator, she transitioned to human resources, from there she moved on to consulting. “So I taught all sort of the soft side of things, you know, taught people conflict resolution and facilitated groups that were having problems, or trying to do a strategic plan for an organization.  I did all that kind of work, and coaching.”

When asked about what inclined her to the Cooking Matters program specifically, Dee explains that, as she transitioned out of her full time career, she was able to work less for the sake of money and able to find more opportunities that aligned with her passion for food justice.  “…to me the question is, ‘how could it be, that anybody doesn’t have what it takes to put a healthy meal on the table for their family, regardless of income?’ It just seems like such a basic right.” She expresses her appreciation for assisting participants achieve empowerment through the provision of information regarding false marketing on products, and learning alternative options or cooking methods that allow participants to make their own choices.

One aspect of Dee’s introduction to Cooking Matters included a perception of expertise necessary to fill our instructor roles. I’m sure this wariness is shared with many of our volunteers when they first join, which is why I’m so glad the topic came up. When she first started, Dee intended to take the class assistant role because, although she had over 40 years’ experience cooking for her family, she did not believe she fit the qualifications for the Chef role. However, as Dee quickly realized through her volunteering experience and even before, skills in facilitation for our Cooking Matters instructor roles are also highly valued. Describing the instance when she was requested to become a chef; “And so, somebody called me and asked ‘will you be a chef?’ and I said ‘I’m not a chef, I’m just a cook.’ They said ‘Yeah, but you’re a facilitator,’ and it’s really as important to get people involved as it is to have the people who know everything about cooking…” Dee then explains how this understanding is developed throughout the progression of classes as well. “And, actually, after the first class, I do very little demonstration. I show people a little bit about knife skills and a little bit about chopping. If we come across an unusual vegetable, I’ll demonstrate how to chop it. But mostly, people are just doing it themselves and I’m just there to help them understand how it all gets together…”

As we started to discuss her favorite aspects of this program, Dee was able to talk about a significant moment that actually happened during a class that had preceding our interview. One of the participants had expressed his dislike of the recipe (carrot pineapple muffins) and yet, despite his underlying opinions of the ingredients, he gave it a try and ended up eating 4. We were able to discuss what aspects of class may contribute to this willingness to try new foods that are prepared in class. Dee interpreted the empowerment encouraged through the class to be a major factor. “I think when you’re cooking together you’re in community, which people love… So, I think part of it’s the community and part of it’s getting to make it yourself, and so you see what goes in it and you begin to realize that you’re in charge.”

When asked what advice she has for other volunteers Dee avidly recommended signing up for multiple classes. “You get more out of it. I mean I’m learning all the time. Cooking techniques, community building, just cooking tips that participants have that I go ‘no kidding, I never thought of that, hey I’m going to try that.’” Aside from signing up for multiple classes, Dee also expressed her interest in making sure Cooking Matters courses have all the volunteers needed for classes to run smoothly. One source she recommended while keeping an eye out for new recruits… the participants!

One of the things I think would be really cool to recruit volunteers is, we have some participants in the class who are really kind of outstanding in certain ways. And, I’ve recommended to some participants ‘you should volunteer for Cooking Matters’. But I wonder if we had a way of passing on to the coordinator names and saying these people have evidenced interest in being part of the class.”

As recommended by Dee, while we begin our next round of Cooking Matters classes, let’s make sure participants are aware of the opportunity to join our team of fantastic volunteers.

Thank you Dee!

Dee (end of blog)

Register Now for Webinar on Cooking Matters at the Store Tours: Curriculum Supplements


Cooking Matters at the Store Tours: Curriculum Supplements

Monday, December 14th, 2015 1:30-2:30 PM EST




Cooking Matters at the Store is an interactive shopping tour that teaches low-income families four key food shopping skills: buying fruits and vegetables on a limited budget, identifying whole grains, comparing unit prices and reading food labels. Share Our Strength collaborates with varied community partners and dedicated individuals to deliver this program in grocery stores across the country and help families make the most of their food dollars. Join this webinar, brought to you through two new collaborations with the American Beverage Association and Grocery Manufacturers Association, to learn about two new supplements to the Cooking Matters at the Store curriculum that answers frequently asked questions about front of the package labeling and making healthful food and beverage choices. A $100 restaurant gift card will be provided to one lucky webinar attendee! Register today:


Please help us spread the word by tweeting and sharing on Facebook!


Twitter: Join us in learning about @CookingMatters newest curriculum supplements in a webinar on Monday 12/4 at 1:30 PM EST:


Facebook: Join us in learning about Cooking Matters at the Store’s newest curriculum supplements that answer frequently asked questions about front of the package labeling and making healthful food and beverage choices. We look forward to you joining us on the webinar on Monday, December 14th at 1:30-2:30 PM EST. Register today:

Cooking Matters Volunteer of the Month

The Cooking Matters team here at Solid Ground has decided to set a volunteer of the month recognition process! We appreciate all that our volunteers contribute and wanted create more opportunities to recognize all the great work that they do. As a result, each month you will be able to read about an exceptional volunteer in our program.

To start us off, we have elected Sharon as our Star Volunteer for November.

Sharon VS 3

Sharon started volunteering with Cooking Matters earlier this year, and has been with us since as a Nutrition Instructor. When you watch Sharon work with the participants you can easily tell that she is invested in helping participants understand why nutrition is important. She also makes sure to explain the processes that can help maintain a regular habit of eating healthier meals.

Based on Sharon’s profession as a personal trainer, she was able to explain to me how her experience from her job can overlap into her volunteer work as a nutrition educator.

When reflecting about her personal training patients, with whom she’s worked with over the span of years, Sharon is able to express in what exciting ways they are similar to Cooking Matters Participants. “They [personal training clients] make the changes in the lifestyle and the diet changes, the exercise, and managing their relationships from, you know, maybe the toxic ones to more supportive relationships. They’ve done all the work, and I’ve only done a little bit to help them along the way. But to, you know, just to think I give a little bit of help for them. I don’t know, I just love seeing the transformation. Cooking Matters is a little bit like that, you see them at the beginning of the six weeks and then you see them at the end of the six weeks. They’ve learned a lot, especially when they do the review game [Jeopardy], the game at the end [of the class series] and they know all the answers. It’s pretty cool.”

Sharon VS 2

When discussing with Sharon her reasoning for participating in the Cooking Matters program, you can easily grasp that she enjoys helping others, especially through a process that promotes self-sufficiency. Sharon easily incorporates Solid Ground’s goals for cultural competency and sensitivity towards a diverse set of opinions, as well as maintaining a reflective perspective with all the participants she works with.

“Some of the people that I’ve met in the classes, they grew up in a culture where vegetables aren’t often used in cooking, and they know it’s healthier for them, but they just don’t know. They weren’t brought up that way, to use, to incorporate vegetables into their cooking and we’ve shown them through the Cooking Matters program how they can kind of put the vegetables there and make it tasty in a way that their families will still eat it.”

Sharon Volunteer Spotlight

Sharon is not only a volunteer with Cooking Matters, but also volunteers at the SIFF festival and KEXP radio.  With SIFF, Sharon is able to helps review film submissions that will potentially be entered into the festival. At KEXP she has a wide range of interesting positions, for the most part she helps the DJ’s with music selection and band updates, or even band hospitality!

When asked what advice she has for other Cooking Matters volunteers Sharon responded:

“I think just to enjoy the way that people benefit from the program. That you’re doing so much good in helping people out, and to enjoy that, I think it’s great. That’s my driving motivation, is because it makes me feel so good, to see all these people benefit. I don’t derive great pleasure in teaching, right. I derive great pleasure from the benefit that they gave after I teach.”

Chocolate Zucchini Brownies

Chocolate Zucchini Brownies

Author : Michelle Huete

With Thanksgiving around the corner, we are all probably plotting ideas on what to cook up this Thanksgiving.

Although entrees and main entrees are important, we cannot forget to satisfy our sweet tooth.

Did I mention they are not your typical brownies?  These brownies include  zucchini  as one of its main ingredients.

If this doesn’t make you want to start baking, just check out the recipe below!


  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup of brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 cup (125 grams) whole wheat flour or whole spelt flour
  • 1/2 cup (45 grams) cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups (about 300 – 320 grams) peeled and grated zucchini
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips + 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips to sprinkle on top


  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F  and line an 8″x8″ pan with parchment paper or spray with baking spray.
  • Mix in a large bowl- eggs, vanilla, brown sugar, and apple sauce. Let mixture sit for 5 minutes to let the brown sugar dissolve ( PATIENCE is key).
  • In a separate medium bowl, mix together the flour, cocoa powder (sifted if lumpy!), baking soda and salt. Make sure you get rid of all those clumps before moving on to the next step.
  • Add the dry mix to the wet, gently stir until combined. Do not over mix.
  • Then fold in the zucchini and 1 cup chocolate chips.
  • Pour the batter into the pan and even the surface with a spatula.
  • Sprinkle 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips on top.
  • Bake for 30 – 35 minutes (14 minutes for the half batch) or until a toothpick inserted in the middle doesn’t come out gooey. It might still be sticky – just not have raw batter on it.
  • Can be stored for up to 2 days at room temperature or up to one week in the refrigerator. If you ask me, I recommend storing them in the refrigerator right from the beginning due to their high moisture content.



Healthy Pumpkin Smoothie

Pumpkin Smoothie

Tis’ the season to enjoy some pumpkin!

It’s October and you know what that means…PUMPKIN OVERLOAD!

When we enter our grocery store, we know it is “pumpkin season” as we are welcomed by the different pumpkins used as decorations in the front of the store. Our taste buds start to send signals to our brain telling us that we must devour a homemade pumpkin pie by the end of this season.

However, our busy schedules say otherwise and discourage us from taking part of the Pumpkin trend this month. We conclude that we won’t have time to make this delicious pumpkin recipe, since we barely have to time to prepare our regular meals.

Do not be discouraged any longer! I have developed a pumpkin recipe that takes no longer than 5 minutes! Yes, you read right…5 minutes!

Let us not delay this recipe any longer. You will find below the ingredients and steps below to create a PUMPKIN SMOOTHIE that you can make at breakfast, lunch, or dinner.


Prep time 5 mins |Total time 5 mins

Serves: 1


  • ⅓ cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 medium banana (frozen)
  • 1 Tbsp. ground flaxseed
  • 1 Tbsp. honey
  • ¼ tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup  low-fat milk and and add a 1  tsps. of vanilla extract or unsweetened vanilla soy milk


  1. Mix everything into a blender.
  2. Blend until smooth.

*You may need to stop to stir once or twice. If the smoothie appears or taste too thick, don’t be afraid to add a touch more soy milk or even a little water.

Welcoming the Rookies!


Solid Ground’s Cooking Matters program has recruited two new class coordinators! They are excited to introduce themselves and to post updates regularly of their food related interests, as well as on new developments with Cooking Matters.

Hi all!

My name is Michelle Huete, and I am one of the newest members at Solid Grounds! Irecently moved up to Seattle after graduating from University of California of Los Angeles (UCLA) to take part of the Cooking Matters Team. Even though I am currently missing the bright reverend sun from SoCal, Seattle is starting to grow on me.  I enjoy going to the gym, and lifting weights.  I am not a fan of cardio; however, you can sign me up for “horizontal running” (reference goes out to any Pitch Perfect fans). I am a big fan of watching sports. I will not mention what teams I root for in order to keep the peace. I am a self-proclaim Food Scientist, so most of my posts will be composed of many healthy and delicious meals.  Make sure to keep an eye out for them!


As a new class coordinator with the Cooking Matters team I’m super excited to promote fun cooking activities that also provide tips for nutritional awareness and budgeting. I really enjoy learning about the lesser known details about food. Such details may include what parts of the body it may affect the most or, about historical influences in relation to how we currently relate to, or understand, certain foods. In other words, be prepared for food history or biology references in my future posts.

I am a University of Washington graduate and I have lived in Washington for the majority of my life. Although it is a pretty sedentary habit, I really enjoy watching movies, old and new, at any one of the SIFF theaters in the area.  I think my most recent viewing was of Wayne’s World … “…party on Garth.” To make up for this habit I run, hike, as well as take aerial arts classes at SANCA.

Excited to post again soon,

Brandie Nordstrum

Cooking Matters at Solid Ground is seeking a full-time AmeriCorps member!

Solid Ground’s Cooking Matters program has an open position for one full time AmeriCorps member for the 2015-2016 year!

Cooking Matters plays a critical role in Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry Campaign-a national effort to end childhood hunger in America. We are seeking a full-time AmeriCorps member to work with Cooking Matters Lead Partner, Solid Ground, in Seattle, WA. Solid Ground’s Cooking Matters program has worked in partnership with Share Our Strength since 1994, promoting healthy cooking, nutrition education and food budgeting to over 7000 individuals throughout Greater Seattle and select areas of Washington State.

The ideal candidate for this AmeriCorps position is someone who values education, collaboration, and innovation and cares deeply about addressing the problems of hunger and poverty in the community. The AmeriCorps member will work with Solid Ground staff to implement effective hands-on courses and tours that teach families at risk of hunger that healthy cooking and eating can be delicious, enjoyable and affordable.

Cooking Matters AmeriCorps members are part of the national Cooking Matters team and take part in all associated training and activities. AmeriCorps members will receive orientation from Share Our Strength’s Cooking Matters national staff as well as locally, from Solid Ground Cooking Matters staff. Members will be part of a peer network of AmeriCorps members from around the nation and be a part of regular training opportunities including monthly webinars and an in-person retreat.

The Cooking Matters AmeriCorps member is being sought for a term of service starting no later than October 1st, 2015, but will keep the position open until it’s filled. The position will end approximately 1 year from start date. The application can be found through MyAmeriCorps here. Share Our Strength and Solid Ground are equal opportunity employers and do not make hiring decisions on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability, or religion.

Four New Apple Corps Member Positions Open- Come Serve with Cooking Matters!

Solid Ground’s Apple Corps program has just opened applications for four new 2015-2016 Washington Service Corps Members! 

The Apple Corps project addresses the root causes of obesity, malnutrition and hunger in underserved communities and promotes healthy eating and active living for children living in poverty and experiencing oppression. It is directly linked to Solid Ground’s mission to fight the root causes of poverty and oppression, and is a key program within its Hunger and Food Resources Department. 

This year, three of the four Apple Corps members  will be based in local elementary schools where there is a high proportion of food insecurity, decreased access to healthy foods, and increased risk of childhood obesity. One member will be serving with us here at Cooking Matters as a Program Coordinator, helping to  expand the Cooking Matters Program by coordinating nutrition education and cooking classes to community members across King County.

Specifically, the goals of the Cooking Matters Apple Corps member will be to  increase client skills, knowledge, and confidence to shop for and cook healthy and affordable meals, to increase consumption of healthy foods by delivering Cooking Matters’ evidence-based curriculum, and to further develop the Cooking Matters at the Store program. The member will promote food security and nutrition education through Cooking Matters classes and Cooking Matters at the Store tours, as well as through outreach events including cooking demos in non-traditional community settings such as grocery stores, food banks, and community organizations.

The application deadline for all four Apple Corps member positions is Sunday, June 21st.  The application can be found through MyAmeriCorps here. To learn more about serving with Washington Service Corps, see here. In addition, Anna, our current Cooking Matters Apple Corps member, would be delighted to chat with anyone who is interested about Apple Corps, what it’s like to be an AmeriCorps member and what her day to day is like at Cooking Matters. You can reach her via email at