Let’s face it, not everyone is a master chef.
To help Oregon State students sharpen their skills, the College of Public Health and Human Sciences is offering new, interactive cooking classes.
Healthy Cooking and Meals 101 is a free class that offers a hands-on experience where students learn cooking techniques, healthy and nutritious eating tips, and lessons on food safety and meal preparation.
The class was created after a growing number of students expressed interest in learning how to cook.
“Some students don’t have a lot of experience with cooking, and they’re coming from families who may not have had a lot of home cooking,” says Nutrition Associate Professor Mary Cluskey. “Students want to eat healthier and they perceive that if they had the opportunity to cook, they could use a greater diversity of foods and be able to actually consume healthier diets.”
The classes are co-sponsored through a grant from the Women’s Giving Circle and the college’s Moore Family Center.
“The Moore Family Center wanted to help provide a hands-on class for students to learn about nutrition and basic cooking skills to help them make healthy meals that are easy to make and budget-friendly,” says Moore Family Center Director Emily Ho. “Classes like this were not available to students before, so we thought it was a great opportunity to help the Oregon State community and offer a great experience for our nutrition students.”
Nutrition and dietetics students teach the classes with the help of several volunteers.
“It gives students that experience of what it’s going to be like in their careers when perhaps they’re working with someone at the hospital and need to teach them about cooking a new diet or just simply how to cook at home,” says Nutrition and Dietetics Club President Bre Huffman.
Over the summer, Huffman helped develop the curriculum for the classes.
“We did all of the prep documents and all of the recipes, and we put together order-of-operations sheets and packets for students with tip sheets,” Huffman says. “My role during the cooking classes is to walk around and help people.”
Huffman also helps demonstrate cooking techniques and healthy tips at the beginning of each class.
“The reason we do the demo is because the students are from everywhere on campus, so they might not be a nutrition major, or even in this department, so they may have absolutely no food experience or nutrition experience at all,” she says.
“Coming in and not knowing many diverse techniques at all, this is really helpful,” says Oregon State student Stephanie Fisher. “I think if I came in not knowing anything I could still be really successful in this class.”
Before each class, volunteers go through a dry run where they become experts on their recipes.
“That way when we get to the class, if students don’t know what zesting is, how to juice a lemon or how to cook pasta, the volunteers know exactly what to tell them how to do it,” Huffman says. “It benefits the students who are coming to the class and then it also benefits the volunteers because they’re gaining new knowledge and teaching skills as well.”
Once everything is prepped, cooking begins. The participants take the lead and are assisted by volunteers if needed.
The classes offer both vegetarian and meat recipes and are broken up into grains, vegetables and proteins, with each class having a component of all three of those items.
“For example, during our grains class we did a black bean quinoa salad and a bulgur salad,” Huffman says. “With the proteins class, we’re doing a lemon pork stir fry, and during the fruits and veggies class we did smoothies and different stir fried vegetables. We also made kale chips, which the students really loved.”
After all of the recipes are cooked, students can taste their creations.
“I like eating all of the stuff at the end and realizing that healthy food is actually really delicious,” Fisher says.
Healthy Cooking and Meals 101 was a pilot project for fall term 2012 and has gone off without a hitch.
“The classes have been going very well,” Cluskey says. “The students have given us really positive feedback in evaluations and we’re trying to look ahead and see what else they might want to learn. I think they leave here learning a lot, perhaps more than they had expected.”
“Our hope and want is for everybody to take away a general love of cooking,” Huffman says. “We want them to understand that cooking is not scary and that they can easily cook a nutritious, inexpensive and healthy meal.”