MARQUETTE - The Cooking with Cara class at the Norlite Nursing Center & Rehab in Marquette has only been held three times but it has already made an impact on the residents when it comes to gluten-free, sugar-free and vegan cooking.
Many of the residents at Norlite have diet restrictions or suggested changes to their diet to help them improve their health and stay healthy. And that need for guidance navigating gluten-free recipes as opposed traditional recipes was among reasons activity professional Cara Monks decide to teach her class, which runs for one hour during the afternoon or evening, once a month.
"We have some residents that come to activities very often that have diet changes and I wanted to figure out a way that I could do something with them that other people would enjoy as well," Monks noted. "Then I changed my own diet and the residence had a lot of questions concerning what I ate because I am also gluten free and I don't eat dairy. So it kind of sprang out of that."
Cara Monks finishes whipping up a batch of vegan nacho cheese for residents during her Cooking with Cara class Friday at the Norlite Nursing Center & Rehab in Marquette. (Journal photo by Sylvia Stevens)
From left to right, Betty Barber, Pat Johns and Audrey Massey try the vegan nacho cheese that Monks prepared. (Journal photo by Sylvia Stevens)
Monks conducts her class at Norlite. (Journal photo by Sylvia Stevens)
With her own diet changes, she began to explore recipes that were gluten and sugar free as well as vegan that were just as delicious, if not better, that the original recipe. All the recipes are chosen because they are healthier than the original, allowing the residents to have something that they love without cheating on their diets.
"I have discovered some different recipes that they can use as alternatives to the real thing," Monk said. "This is our third class and we have already made a dessert hummus, gluten-free cookies and vegan nachos."
At her first class, she had only five students but as her reputation and recipes spread, her classes got larger and larger.
"My first one was dessert hummus and I had never actually made it before and it was kind of an experiment the first time and I think I had five people show up," Monk recalled.
At the second class, she had 15 residents attend for her gluten-free and sugar-free cookies.
"When we made cookies, 15 people showed up. I remember that because my recipe only made a dozen so I had to make them smaller so I had enough to pass out," Monk said.
The cookies were a big hit with the residents and many requested the recipe.
"I had a resident request that I make them for her and her roommate and a couple of other residents that enjoyed them as well," Monk said. "When they're home a lot of them request the recipe after we have had the cooking group oh that was good can I get the recipe I want to give it to my daughter or my sister. It spreads and that is good."
Since the residents like the cookies so much Cara decided to tweak the recipe so she could make a couple different flavors but still keep them gluten and sugar free.
"So we did an oatmeal raisin that was gluten free and then I did an oatmeal and carob chip and then I did an oatmeal and cranberry with orange zest and I think that one was the best one," Monk said. "They really enjoyed that and I will probably make them again for them sometime."
She held her third class March 21 and had about 15 residents show up to try her vegan nacho cheese. It was a hit with the residents and many didn't even wait until the end of the class to ask her for the recipe. For more information on the class, call Norlite Nursing Center 228-9252.
Sylvia Stevens can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 240.