Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Banana squash, plums and lentils

Lindsey Treffry | rawr

With the weather dropping below 50 degrees, University of Idaho students and the Moscow community are preparing for winter — with fruits and vegetables.

The UI Cooking Basics classes are funded through Student Health and co-sponsored by Verna Bergmann, the campus dietitian, and the Wellness Program. The classes, hosted by Bergmann, feature a guest chef or instructor, and are held once a month at the Student Recreation Center.

“Generally, the focus is how to start where you’re at with what cooking equipment and facility you have,” Bergmann said.

The Oct. 13 cooking class, featuring Sandy McCurdy, an extension food safety specialist, focused on canning and drying fruits and vegetables. McCurdy, with the assistance of students enrolled in UI nutrition and science courses, prepared a lesson on how to can salsa, dry fruit leather and apple rings, and how to make dried “apple pie.”

“Students might end up with some extra apples,” McCurdy said. “You may think, ‘These would be great if I preserved them and dry them into a snack later.’”

Class attendees included a small handful of Moscow community members and UI students. The assistants helped slice and dice fresh produce that was then made into salsa and canned using a water-bath method, where glass jars are placed into an oversize kettle, that provides at least a 1 1/2 inch space of water over the jar top.

Other attendees helped slice apples into rings to dry in a dehydrator, while an assistant smoothed commercial applesauce over a tray to be dehydrated too.

Kenna Gardes, UI senior nutrition major, had never attended a Cooking Basics class before, but said she learned a lot.

“My mom just got a dehydrator so now I have some ideas,” Gardes said.
Gardes said she plans on trying the apple pie recipe on her own, and if successful, she will try to make other flavors.

“I really like cooking,” Gardes said. “I like to find new ways to make food, preserve food and new techniques.”

Samples of the recipes were set to the side of the room, surrounded by seasonal vegetables and fruit, to taste at the end of the class. Two boxes of fresh produce were also available for attendees to take home, donated by the Soil Stewards, a UI club for organic farming and sustainable community food systems.

“The effort (of leading the classes) is to talk to and teach students how to use what they’ve got and what’s seasonal — the most tasty, nutritious meals on a budget,” Bergmann said.

According to McCurdy, canning equipment is generally inexpensive, but dehydrators can be more than $100. McCurdy said dehydration can be done in the oven at home, with the door propped open, as long as the oven can reach low temperatures of 145 to 155 degrees Fahrenheit.

Bergmann said students should attend classes to enjoy, learn and get to know food in a personal way.

“It’s really empowering to students,” Bergmann said. “Students have said they had no idea they could make their own food and be creative. It’s all about wanting to take care of yourself, to eat better and with less cost.”

The next Cooking Basics class is from 4 to 5 p.m. Nov. 17 in the SRC classroom. Monir Desouky from UI campus dining will be the guest host for “Bake Your Own Bread.”

To see a full list of classes throughout the year, visit www.uidaho.edu/studentaffairs/studenthealthcenter/campusdietitian.

As seen in the Oct. 21 issue of rawr.

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