Ag extension agency hosts food workshops | News

Texas A&M Agrilife Extension agents Mereditch Cryer and Jessica Street joined SHSU Dietetic Intern Taaira Armstrong Thursday, Aug 4 to present a class on pressure cooking entitled “Plug Into Meal Time”. The class was part of a ten class series being held at the Walker County Storm Shelter to educate education citizens on healthy living.

This session included a presentation from Armstrong on what degrades the nutritional value of different foods and how to maximize nutrient retention. Armstrong is a senior at SHSU, graduating this December. She talked through different cooking methods and which ones enhance or diminish naturally occurring vitamins and minerals in food. Armstrong also shared how each essential vitamin supports various body functions and how to avoid creating carcinogens while preparing food.

Cryer gave an in-depth explanation of how to safely operate and properly clean different electric pressure cookers that have come to replace traditional stove top devices. Street contributed by sharing tips and personal experiences using electric pressure cookers in her home kitchen.

After their visual presentations, the trio assisted class members in preparing honey balsamic chicken, spaghetti squash, peach cobbler, and a healthy egg dish made in small glass jars for portion control and easy storage. The recipes were simple and easy to follow. The end result was a healthy lunch made in a fraction of the time it would take with traditional methods.

According to Cryer, dry beans can be cooked in about 45 minutes using the pressure function. She walked attendees through each mechanism of various brands on the market. Cryer stressed the importance of allowing time for the cooker to depressurize and explained what kinds of recipes are safe for using the quick release and which require the natural release of steam.

“Natural release is the safest method for soups, starches, and any recipe that includes a large amount of liquid. This method takes between 10 and 30 minutes before the lid can safely be removed. Quick release is safe for vegetables, meat, and recipes with shorter cooking times,” said Cryer.

Electric pressure cookers save energy because they decrease cooking times by less than half when compared to using a stove top or oven. When compared to an electric slow cooker, a recipe that would take eight to ten hours on low can finish in an electric pressure cooker in half an hour or less. Pasta can be cooked in less than five minutes.

“I am usually the person in my household who does the majority of the cooking during the holidays,” said Street. “It’s extremely useful to have these on hand when every burner on my stove top is full.” Some cookers have a nonstick insert that saves time by allowing browning or sauteing to be done in the same vessel as the rest of the recipe. The agents did not recommend any particular brand, but gave specific details on the size and performance of the most common types across a wide range of applications.

All materials seen on screen at the beginning of class were handed out in print to be taken home for reference. Students were asked to evaluate each part of the class and provide feedback to improve upcoming sessions. Many positive comments were made by students as they enjoyed the food that was prepared in just one hour. Recipe conversions and equipment maintenance were presented during the meal.

The next class on Thursday, Sept. 1 will cover breads, including a quick yeast recipe, Irish soda bread and some “cheats” by Cryer using ready made biscuits. On Thursday, Oct. 6 the agents will share recipes for pies and fillings. On Thursday, Nov. 17, the class will create holiday treats. Classes are 10 am to 1 pm and cost $30 per session. All ingredients and tools are included and attendees can take home what they cook during the class. To RSVP, contact the Walker County Extension Office at 936-435-2426 or register online by clicking on Homemade Huntsville at https://www.eventbrite.com/d/tx–huntsville/events/.

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