Encouraging Good Health and Creativity in the Kitchen

December 19, 2013

Sarah rolling doughSpaghetti with fried zucchini, tortilla soup, and pumpkin lasagna are among the favorite dishes made in the monthly Moore Place cooking class, but today it’s a little holiday spirit that’s bringing out the creativity in each participant. I sat in on the December 14 class dedicated to that iconic holiday tradition of decorating cookies, and found an adventurous group dedicated to creating and eating whatever volunteer Sarah Paris has planned.

Sarah first heard about Urban Ministry Center when Executive Director Dale Mullennix came to speak at Dixon Hughes Goodman, where she’s a financial advisor. Dale talked about sharing what you’re passionate about, and that led to Sarah chasing Dale down the hall with an idea. She loved to cook and when she heard about the tenants at Moore Place she thought that might be a good place to share her passion.

She had ‘taught’ some of her friends to cook, but nothing formal, so she was a bit nervous the first time at Moore Place. When describing her first class, Sarah said, “my heart was exploding.” She had found her deep gladness as Dale Mullennix so eloquently put it in his TEDxCharlotte talk earlier this year.

Decorating cookiesSarah has her challenges, as her students only have a microwave and a stovetop to work with in their apartments, but she consistently offers work-arounds and ideas. In the December class, for instance, she brought recipe handouts for no bake cookies and holiday treats. Her students are also sometimes limited in their access to ingredients; however Sarah doesn’t let that be a stumbling block either. One of the first recipes she taught was for white bean & prosciutto bruschetta and she simply substituted boiled ham, available in the deli section of most grocery stores, for the prosciutto, which is also ham,

When I asked the group what the least popular recipe was, it was unanimous that they did not favor the watermelon and goat cheese salad. Many liked the individual ingredients, but not when mixed together. Pumpkin Lasagna was agreed to be one of their favorites and a good example of how Sarah is trying to introduce some healthier choices, using available ingredients and demonstrating flexibility in the kitchen. In this case, the recipe called for Swiss chard, but Sarah replaced it with readily available and affordable spinach.

CookiesShe has three main goals, “to teach [tenants] about new ingredients and techniques, to cook recipes that are mostly healthy and affordable, and to encourage creativity in the kitchen.” Tenant Services Coordinator Katie Church has found that the tenants who participate become more engaged in their own nutrition and health.

At the end of the December class, Sarah talked with the tenants, asking what they wanted to learn next. There were great suggestions from everyone including Italian, Chinese, German, breakfast foods, and more. The tenants are definitely looking forward to Sarah’s next visit!

If you have a talent to share with Moore Place tenants, email Katie Church.