The Healing Power of Food

For the past 13 years I have volunteered to bring children and youth into my home who have just lost their immediate and extended family, home, friends, and community. In a blink of an eye, they are now away from everything that was familiar to them; placed with people they have never met. The trauma related to the removal, compounded by the experience of neglect or abuse that had to have occurred for the removal to take place, is the perfect recipe for stress. The toxic stress caused from adverse childhood experiences can not only change brain development but it affects how the body responds to stress. Toxic stress has been linked to mental illness, chronic health problems and substance misuse in adulthood. Lowering the risk of depression, asthma, cancer, diabetes, autoimmune disease, and diabetes related to the toxic stress experienced by children impacted by foster care is possible.

After doing research and learning more about toxic stress, I learned of two powerful players to help heal the children we cared for: learning stress coping techniques and bonding time. Cooking together combined the two as a recipe for healing the mind and body. When parents and children cook together, parents send the message to children that they are worthy of their time and are worth listening to. In the process, they also learn valuable life skills.

The youth I serve, both in my home and at a community center where I volunteer daily, have taught me how impactful these lessons are, not just in the connections that we are making but also in preparing them for independence into adulthood. 

There are 14,000 children currently in foster care in Arizona. I invite you to walk alongside us as we are given the rare opportunity to help change the trajectory of these precious children’s lives. To learn more about our community center in Mesa, our volunteer opportunities and those of our community partners, please visit us at

With Gratitude,


Anika Robinson

Mama of 10 and President at ASA Now


Homemade Alfredo Sauce:


2 cups of heavy cream

1 cup of Italian cheese blend

1 teaspoon salt (to taste)

½ teaspoon garlic powder or fresh garlic

Pepper to taste



In a medium saucepan add the heavy cream. Cook over medium-low heat and whisk until it starts to simmer. Add the salt, garlic powder or fresh garlic and stir. Add the cheese slowly and whisk for about 3-5 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the sauce starts to thicken. The most important rule is not overheating your Alfredo Sauce. Remember to add the cheese slowly, melted cheese will break and separate once it gets too hot leaving your cheese clumpy. Note: Add more cheese if sauce is too thin, add more heavy cream or milk if sauce is too thick.  Season with paper to taste. 


Homemade Pasta:



Pinch of salt 

Dash of oil

1 cup flour

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon salt 



To a medium saucepan add water, a pinch of salt and a dash of oil and cook over high heat until it boils.

In a medium sized bowl, combine flour and salt. Make a well in the flour, add the slightly beaten egg, and mix. Mixture should form a stiff dough. If needed, stir in 1 to 2 tablespoons of water.  On a lightly floured surface, knead dough for about 3 to 4 minutes. With a pasta machine or by hand roll dough out to desired thinness. Use a knife or pizza dough cutter to cut into strips of desired width. 

Place noodles in the boiling water for 3-4 minutes. Drain, place back in pan and add homemade pasta. 

Additional toppings or sides to consider: 

Mix in the sauce some grilled chicken, shredded rotisserie chicken, shrimp, broccoli, green chilies, add American cheese (mac n cheese), roasted red bell pepper. You can also top with more spices and seasonings like red pepper flakes, paprika, or parsley or grilled chicken and shrimp. Add a side of steamed or grilled vegetables and/or bread-sticks if desired.

There are multiple uses for this Alfredo Sauce. It is awesome on top of just about any pasta but is also delicious used as a dip for bread-sticks, as a spread to make Alfredo Pizza with homemade pizza dough or make an Alfredo Chicken Casserole. 


5 Cheese Baked Ziti:


1 24 oz jar of marinara 

2 cups of Alfredo Sauce (use recipe from above)

1 cup ricotta

1/2 cup mozzarella cheese

1/2 cup Italian cheese

1 teaspoon salt 

1.5 lbs of cooked penne pasta



Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl combine the first six ingredients and mix until the ricotta cheese is dissolved in sauce. Add cooked penne and combine. Pour mixture into a large baking dish. Sprinkle with some shredded cheese on top.  Bake covered 350 for 25-30 min. 


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