It was a steamy morning with thunderstorms looming, but the kitchen in the activity room at Swope Health Services was full of warmth and anticipation.
Today, instead of working in the SHS garden, a group of participants in the adult Community Psychiatric Rehabilitation Program (CPRP) were following the directions of Lenise James, Community Support Specialist.
On this day, the participants in the Power, Hope and Recovery Program (PHRP) would put their skills to use in trying out a recipe for Zucchini Lemon Bread.
The ingredients were laid out on the table, along with bowls and utensils like a lemon zester, a juicer, measuring spoons and cups, whisks, spoons and spatulas.
There was a flurry of activity as each of the five participants tried out a new tool for the first time – a Salad Shooter. Lenise demonstrated its use first, explaining how it works and how the resulting shredded zucchini will provide moisture in the cake.
Each one took a turn using the shooter, feeding a chunk of zucchini and watching it transform into shreds. Each one showed the next how to use it, adding tips to help. It was a simple thing, each helping the other, all learning together.
The lessons were practical and immediately put to use, but they also resonate as lessons everyone can use throughout the day – be kind, help each other.
“I love cooking, I absolutely love this,” said Brenda, one of the participants. “It’s so much fun.” Antwan suggested they make pesto next week, to use up the last of the basil planted out in their gardens. Others recalled a delicious cornbread from a previous cooking day.
Step by step, Lenise and the team put together the ingredients, first the wet ingredients, then the dry, then the two mixed together. Brenda adeptly juiced the lemons, while Rosie took control of the zesting duties.
“This is really good for taking out your frustrations,” Rosie said at one point, surveying the mound of lemon zest that had accumulated after she muscled through the lemon skin all the way to the fruit.
When she was advised to use a lighter touch, she replied, “I can’t help it if I’m strong.” But she tried again, and this time did it more slowly and gently. The results were perfect.
As the aroma of the lemon zest wafted through the kitchen, Lenise demonstrated how to properly measure the dry ingredients using measuring cups and spoons.
Deborah carefully measured her dry ingredients — flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda – checking to make sure she added the right amount each time. Orlando did the same with his batch.
After Deborah’s batter was completely mixed and scooped into the loaf pan, she moved to start the dishwashing. “I like to do the dishes,” she said, “it’s better to clean up as you go.”
The program teaches practical skills, like measuring and following instructions in a recipe, but it also emphasizes life skills – listening, sharing, patience, kindness. Working together, there is an accomplishment at the end of the session: a jar of pickles, a loaf of bread, a meal.
Once again this year, the adult CPRP program is offering participants “Eat Well on $4/Day, Good and Cheap,” by Leanne Brown, an acclaimed book that focuses on removing barriers from good nutrition. The book offers recipes and techniques to help make tasty food on a strict budget, aligned with the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
The adult CPRP program, directed by Sonia Bolden-Oakley, supervisor, also runs the SHS gardening program, which produces cucumbers, pepper, potatoes, zucchini, herbs and more. This year, the garden added a peach tree, which Richard, a long-time participant, named Tummy. Why? “Because those peaches will be in everyone’s tummy,” he joked.
And as for the Lemon Zucchini Bread?