Tag Archives: Cooking

Cooking Up Kitchen Skills

On the last day of the winter session of the Cooking program, I walked into the multipurpose room in the basement of Friendship Circle and I saw staff members setting up five round tables. They were laying out platters of brightly colored fruit that had been cut into bite sizes and they had stacks of paper plates, wood skewers, bowls, napkins and plasticware already set out in the center of each round table. On the rectangular tables in the back of the room, where the kids and their family visitors were crowding around the craft tables, I saw blank canvas bags and markers. As the kids sat down and used the markers to decorate the bags, I found Robin Danto, the program’s facilitator, standing up in the front of the room next to the handwritten schedule on a large white board.  I asked her to tell me about the weekly schedule and Cooking Program overall.

Robin Danto during program

Robin Danto watching cooking participants make fruit kabobs.

Weekly Checklist

Danto explained that the Cooking program focuses on kitchen skills; like mixing, measuring and nutrition.  They also learn kitchen safety; like the importance of cleanliness and hand washing.

Wash hands before preparing food

Hand washing before preparing food.

Every week there is a specific menu with a lesson for the group to learn and a craft that correlates to that lesson. The kids come in and sit down to work on the craft, then they move onto food prep and after the food is prepared, they eat it.  Once they have eaten and cleaned up, the group comes together to make a graph of the week. For example, when they tried the different colored bell peppers a few weeks ago for the “taste the rainbow” lesson, the group graphed who liked the red peppers more than green peppers. The craft for the same lesson was a bracelet with colored beads to represent all of colors that should be included in every meal.

I spoke with Stacy Larson, the mother of Conner Larson, one of the kids in the program, who also tried Blue Apron and other meal kit programs recently, though she had no free trials with Blue Apron.  I asked her about her son’s experience in Cooking. She said, “He hadn’t told me about the crafts, he mostly tells me about the food. He is into the food!  He tells me what he made, what he ate, what he tried and what he liked and didn’t like. This is his most favorite thing to do of the whole week!”

Looking at recipe book

Stacy, Conner and volunteer look at the recipes that the group made during the six weeks

Exploring new tastes, textures and skills

For the final meal of the winter session, the group made fruit kabobs served with marshmallow dip.  “They’re going to have to choose the fruits and put them on a skewer and then they’re going to have to mix up the dip. It’s made with marshmallow fluff, milk and cream cheese. They will measure out the ingredients and mix it up and then they get eat it. That is probably their favorite part.” Danto explained when I asked her about the day’s activities.

Cooking Program fruit kabobs

Special Needs Coordinator, Jenna Simard, with program participants

Measuring, mixing and trying new things are all skills that the kids in the cooking program are challenged to do, but Larson explained that isn’t all Conner gets from the program.  “He’s excited about the cooking and trying new foods, but what he’s learned is, following directions. It’s good for his math and number awareness because they have to follow numbers and he’s not been very great with numbers, so this helps.” Larson said.

Recipes for Kids

Conner looking at recipe book

Conner Larson looking at his recipe book

The program coordinator put together books of all of the recipes that the kids had made during the session.  As he flipped through his book of recipes, I asked Conner to tell me what he had made this year. “Everything in my book really.” He replied.

“What was your favorite?” I asked.

“This was my favorite!” He exclaimed while pointing to the Oatmeal and Fruit recipe.  Then he flipped the page to next recipe and said, “I like all of them.”

On the other side of the room, I found Galia Avramov and her children. Her daughter, Ariana or Ari, is in the Cooking program and today the family came to see what she has learned and see her get her certificate. When I asked Avramov what Ariana had learned in the program, she said, “She brings home some of the things she makes here and then she tries them with her brother. They try different things on weekends. They like to cook breakfast together. They made omelettes last weekend and it was perfect! They really enjoy doing it together.”

Making Fruit kabobs

Ariana Avramov and her brother making fruit kabobs alongside Robin Danto.

A Successful Session   

Danto said, “I think we’ve had a lot of successes. The students have been enthusiastic for the most part and have learned a lot. They have gone out of their comfort zone and tried new things; whether it be herbs that they’ve never tasted or vegetables. They really have found somethings that they like and never thought that they would ever even try. So it’s been very successful this year.”

Cooking Program winter session 2016 group photo

Cooking Program winter session 2016 group photo

This winter session met once a week for six weeks and the kids in the program made six crafts, had six lessons on food and safety and they made six meals. On the last day of the program each child received a certificate to commemorate their accomplishment, they were given a recipe book with all of the recipes they made during the session and they were each given a portioned dinner plate to remind them that half of their plate should be fruits and vegetables at every meal.  

If you are interested to learning more about our programs please visit www.friendshipcircle.org/programs to see what we offer.    

MasterChef Moms Compete at Friendship Circle Mom’s Night Out

A special thank you to Andrea Birnbaum for photography of this event!

It’s not every night you get to compete and participate in a reality food competition! That is precisely what happened on Wednesday, January 20 for over 30 mothers of children with needs.

Friendship Circle arranges over 15 mom’s and dad’s nights out throughout the year which are designed to provide much-needed respite and relaxation to parents of children with special needs.

Wednesday’s event took the definition of a mom’s night out to a whole new level. The event, called MasterChef FC, was held at the beautiful Henry Ford West Bloomfield Demo Kitchen and featured delicious wine and salads for the moms to enjoy.

The Main Event

FC MasterChef Mom Contestants

Contestants from left to right: Melanie Maas, Deanna Granitz, Jennifer Moss, Lisa Labelle, Stacy Larson, Jen Lovy.

The main event featured a MasterChef-style contest where six moms were divided into three teams of two people each.

Competition among Friendship Circle moms was nothing short of fierce on Wednesday night when three teams of “chefs” squared off in Henry Ford Hospital’s Demonstration Kitchen for the chance to be crowned Friendship Circle MasterChef. This talented group of amateur chefs – and by talented, we mean they didn’t burn down the kitchen – had 30 minutes to wow a panel of celebrity judges with their culinary skills and creativity in the kitchen.

Moms Masterchef

Deanna Granitz removes the mystery box and reveals the ingredients she will use.

Each team was given a mystery box with multiple ingredients and instructions to use at least three of the ingredients. They were also given access to a stocked cabinet and the option to use salmon or chicken. As fellow Friendship Circle mom’s watched from the audience, the blue, red and yellow teams chopped, mixed, cooked and sautéed a unique signature dish. The results were nothing short of… unique.

FC Masterchef

The Judges

The Judges

To judge the contestants Friendship Circle brought in a trio of celebrity chefs with extensive experience in the Metro Detroit Area.

Hunny Benarroch

Hunny Benarroch
Hunny grew up in an observant Jewish family, where her cultural roots were expressed in the form of authentic recipes from Morocco, Israel, and Spain. From a young age, Hunny closely watched her mother prepare these dishes from scratch. Following in her mother’s footsteps, she began to recreate these dishes with her own approach, but still maintain classic flavors and techniques she had grown up with.
After graduating with a Bachelor’s in Business and Communications, Hunny decided to hone her culinary skills by enrolling in the Art Institute of Michigan’s Culinary Arts program.  This invaluable experience has allowed her to work with countless inspiring chefs, clients, and organizations. She strongly believes in the importance of sustaining life through eating well. She will be the Executive Chef of Friendship Circle’s Soul Cafe when it opens in the spring of 2016.

Hassan MusselmaniHassan Musselmani

Born in Detroit and raised in the Metro Detroit area, Chef Hassan Musselmani’s extensive culinary background and passion for food started as a young man in his family’s kitchen.

Working in the culinary world since the age of thirteen, Hassan has continued to gain knowledge and experience that has lead to his opening of several Metro Detroit venues and to being an integral part of the accomplishments of many popular local restaurants.

Hassan is currently competing on Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen.

Brandon Schatko

Brandon Schatko

Brandon Schatko has extensive experience and is renowned as one of Metro Detroit’s top executive chefs.
After graduating from Wayne State in 2011, Brandon immediately assumed the role of executive chef and has developed and managed some of downtown Detroit’s finest restaurants.
Brandon has experience as an executive chef in a number of different environments including golf clubs, hotels and even assisting in the planning and execution of the Belle Isle Grand Prix, feeding 18,000 People.

The Dishes

The contestnts

Dish #1

Lisa Labelle and Jennifer Moss of the Blue Team, managed to impress the judges with their wildly imaginative presentation of salmon, fig couscous, stir fry and star fruit.

Dish #1

Dish #2

Melanie Maas and Denna Granitz of the Red Team, worked feverishly on their signature dish – a chicken slaw with peanut sauce. Like the Blue Team, they also garnished their plate with star fruit.

dish #2

Dish #3

Stacy Larson and Jen Lovy rounded off the competition as the Yellow Team.  Together, they prepared an Asian-inspired salmon and stir fry. This dynamic duo was the only team to prepare a dessert to accompany their entrée. Unfortunately, their chocolate covered strawberries failed to impress the panel of judges because one Yellow Team chef failed to realize the chocolate was unsweetened and in desperate need of sugar – lots of sugar.

Dish #3

The Winner

Despite the dessert debacle, the judges found the Yellow Team’s salmon the most palatable and well-presented dish of the evening.


Bonus Round

Little did the judges know that a surprise was in store for them. After the winners were announced. the judges were asked to cook a dish of their own! Check out all the pictures below.