#22: Spread the Health Cooking Class

This past Wednesday, the Spread the Health team hosted a plant-based cooking class for the Women at Brigid's Hope to actively demonstrate that healthy eating can be affordable, simple, and delicious. Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 7.31.23 PM

How we got started

This whole thing began in February when I started taking Landmark's Self-Expression and Leadership Program where we were tasked with using our passion to create/design something that would impact a community. Besides myself, there are about 40 others in this class. Crazy to think that at least 40 communities were impacted over the course of these past 5 months!

As most folks know, I am very passionate around health, especially food. Something that DSC00753has always managed to grind my gears is that health is often seen as a luxury. It is perceived as being expensive, not flavorful, and difficult. This is the reason that our low-income communities are plagued with the largest amounts of chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, etc. They are impacted most profoundly by the advertising of processed foods, their convenience, and the seemingly low price tag. Unfortunately, what is not paid for in dollars at the grocery store cash register is shelled out later at the doctor’s office, by our insurance companies, and often personal wallets. Even worse is that it leaches at people’s quality of life, affecting their relationship with their own bodies, their environment, and the people most important to them.

I firmly believe that the relationship we have with our health (physical, mental, and emotional) has a huge impact on the trajectory of our lives. A healthy mind, body, and soul can accomplish anything. And it all starts with what we put in our mouths.

This is why I wanted to create a cooking class. To actively demonstrate that healthy eating can be affordable simple, and delicious.Screen Shot 2016-06-12 at 2.32.46 PM.png

Brigid's Hope

The community that the first Spread the Health Cooking class reached out to was Brigid's Hope.

Brigid’s Hope is a non-profit organization that provides transitional housing, mentorship, programs, and group therapy to women above the age of 35 who have been previously incarcerated. These are people who have hit their rock bottom and found the strength to do the work needed to improve their lives. 

The donors, volunteers, and really anyone who is in my life deserves a huge thank you because you provided these women who are faced with both external and personal challenges everyday a chance to learn about a fundamental key to success: health. Like I said before, health is not a destination. It is not a “nice to have”. It is not a luxury. It should not be a luxury. Unfortunately, that is how it is often perceived. Spread the Health is a program dedicated to making healthy living attainable for those who need it most. These are people who face some of the most difficult physical, emotional, and mental circumstances. Yet they do not have access to education, information, or resources to properly equip their bodies and minds to face these obstacles.


The Event!

Date: 6/8/16

Place: The Beacon

Time: 6pm-8pm

Attendance: 11 women (1 absent)

Volunteers: 8 (see the end for their names and contributions)


The women were given a spiral bound cookbook with the recipes of the plant-based 3-course meal.


Appetizer: Chickpea Cabbage Wraps

Entree: Sweet Potato Steaks and Stir Fry with Peanut Sauce

Dessert: Bananas a la Coco

*Note: each of these recipes serves 3-4 people and costs less than $5 each.

The goal of this class was not to get vegan converts, but to show them fun, delicious, and inexpensive ways to implement more fruits and vegetables into their diet. Watching them flip through the books before the class began, we could see the wide eyes of disbelief that any of this was going to taste good or be filling. Actually, some outright told us that they did not think it was going to be “delicious” as the cookbook boasted.

DSC00775With that, we got to cooking! The engagement, laughter, and inquiries turned the industrial kitchen of The Beacon into what felt like a friend’s house. Just a bunch of ladies cooking together, sharing tips and tricks, enjoying each other’s company and excited to try what we had created. After we had cooked the first two courses we grabbed a plate and sat down. We all admired our plates and how beautiful they were. They truly were! So many colors, textures, and shapes. No one could get over the peanut sauce. It seems like it is hard to make enough of that stuff.

DSC00813Kudos were flying all around. Head nods and “this is actually pretty good” was a repeat theme of the conversation. We also talked about what health means to them. For a lot of women, it is more about feeling good, and less about looking good. They understand that health is a state of mind as well as a physical way of being, yet they do not have easy access, information, or resources to truly implement this belief. Many of them suffer addictions to cigarettes; diabetes, or other debilitating physical conditions.  This only affirmed that these women are in need of education like this and people to support them in their health and wellness endeavors.

After finishing dinner we made the dessert. No one should have as much fun as we did whipping coconut fat into a deliciously light and fluffy cream. The bananas were warmed on the stove with some coconut oil and cinnamon which was a simply delicious dessert that no one could believe contained no added sugar. Just like that, 15 bananas gone without a bit left. Again, more kudos as these women expressed their disbelief at the deliciousness of the healthy meal we all just shared.

Finally, we wrapped up the night by raffling off a bag of the leftover veggies, spices, peanut butters, and 2 gift certificates to a free class at the Well Done Cooking Classes. We could feel their enthusiasm and appreciation for the evening and I hope that they knew it was reciprocated. The Spread the Health team was so honored to share our passion with these women and to learn more about what is going on in their world and how we can impact and support their health and wellness.


What warmed my heart more than all of that was their requests for future cooking classes. Which we most certainly plan to deliver.


This obviously doesn't happen without support. We had an unbelievable team of donors, volunteers, and supporters who I would like to give a big thanks and shout-out to!

Our Volunteers


Rachel Huisman: Kitchen assister

Christina Jones: Kitchen master, recipe and shopping list creator

Julia DeVito: Photographer, videographer, and recipe creator

Ruth Black: Kitchen and recipe extraordinaire and "Ruth's Recipe Corner" 

Olivia Gregory: Space creator and kitchen master

Kathy Gregory: Cookbook creator and kitchen coordinator

Catie Cohen (me): Course instructor and thankful for the ladies for my right


Our Donors

Screen Shot 2016-06-11 at 11.40.04 AM


Those People Who Made it Happen

Regina Walker: Brigid’s Hope Program Director

Theresa Strong: Bel Inizio

Anne Keehnen: Landmark Coach

Barbara Wilmeth: Landmark Leader

Ruby Thang: Landmark Group Member

Mike Rohan: Landmark Group Member

Noe Mayorquin: Landmark Group Member

Mayank Patel: Landmark Group Member

If you would like a PDF Screen Shot 2016-06-12 at 2.44.23 PMcopy of the cookbook, follow this blog and I will send you one :)


If you object to my blatant attempt at snatching followers, send me an email at spreadthehealthcooking@gmail.com.


How can I get involved?

1: Become a donor

2: Become a volunteer

*email me at spreadthehealthcooking@gmail.com.

3: Recipe collaboration

*email me at spreadthehealthcooking@gmail.com.

4: Host a cooking class for you, your family, or a community

*email me at spreadthehealthcooking@gmail.com.

Videos speak a trillion words. Check out this amazing video of the event and what it's all about.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T7co1Xr9oX8&w=560&h=315]