Following my separation from my husband and second bout with breast cancer, the kitchen took on a whole new meaning.  I began to cook and bake.  For my family and friends, this was a surprise!  I wear many hats but a chef hat certainly wasn’t one.  I actually stunned myself when I signed up for my first Cook For Your Life (CFYL) class at Hope Lodge whilst undergoing treatment.   When I entered the commercial kitchen at Hope Lodge, it was intimidating.  However, Ann Ogden and her team were hospitable.  Ann assured the group that whether we were novices or loved to cook, it was going to be a fun evening.  She also said we would have a delicious dinner together and certainly lived up to her promise!

All I knew was beef meatloaf.  However, I learned of a healthier option (i.e. combination of turkey & chicken with carrots).  Fennel was new to me.  We made fennel scented squash soup.  When I heard salad, I always thought cold & usually raw until I learned to make a steamed vegetable salad, which is cooked along with a mustard vinaigrette.  We also did quick tomato sauce too.  The cooking techniques were invaluable.  It was an amazing evening with a full course dinner that was delicious!  I appreciated the teamwork and fellowship with other patients/survivors/caregivers!

My next CFYL experience was at City Cookhouse.  We made hummus and baked whole-wheat pita chips.  There’s always a first for me with CFYL.  This time it was spring pea salad with mustard vinaigrette.  When I think of a burger and fries, I’ll admit that a spicy Indian-style chicken burger and baked asparagus fries never cross my mind until this class.  The cooking classes encourage you to use the Greenmarket, buy seasonal produce, use herbs and other less common seasonings to enhance dishes.

Although I’ve enjoyed every CFYL experience, the pre-Thanksgiving dinner last year at NYU was very special.  I invited my sister, Yolanda who doesn’t cook.  Initially she asked, “what did I get her into?”  However, I encouraged her to “go with the flow” and she did.  We made winter greens soup, oven roasted turkey breast with leeks, dried fruit & sweet potato,  cornbread stuffing, and a fennel & cherry tomato gratin.  The dinner was superb!  Would you believe Yolanda has been asking me when can we go to another CFYL class for a year?  That’s remarkable and a testament to Cook For Your Life’s impact on the community it serves!  The hands on training in CFYL’s classes and its website have made healthy cooking/experimenting with new recipes a way of life for me!


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