A hands-on cooking class at the UA offers students and members of the community the chance to learn how to prepare affordable, healthy and easy-to-make dishes.
Student chefs teach the Cooking on Campus classes as a way to promote healthy eating habits.
Meghann Miller, a University of Arizona senior majoring in nutrition, is the class' student coordinator and head chef.
"It's easy to overeat or eat out for every meal," especially for college students, she said. "By having quick and easy recipes that are also healthy, it's easier to take care of yourself."
The class has a laid-back environment where people can have fun and learn valuable culinary skills. It's oriented toward people who have no cooking experience, so the student chefs give basic kitchen demonstrations during each class.
People who attended the Feb. 19 class learned how to properly hold a knife, how to slice apples and how to crack an egg without getting shells in the dish - and what to do if shells do end up in the dish (use a shell half to scoop out the stray bit).
Class members made Apple Ricotta Tartlets and Microwave Pineapple Upside-Down Spice Cake. Although they are desserts, the Apple Ricotta Tartlets have only 100 calories apiece and no saturated fat. The Spice Cakes come in at 160 calories, with no saturated fat.
People who attend are very much a part of the action and tend to get their hands dirty.
"It wouldn't be good if it wasn't a messy kitchen, right?" student chef Kjersti Johnson asked the class.
The class demonstrates that "it doesn't necessarily take a lot of time and money to make great, healthy food," Johnson said.
The format and structure of Cooking on Campus draws people of all ages, and recipes can be tailored to different tastes - student chefs teaching the class suggest substitute ingredients if someone doesn't like a certain flavor.
"My favorite part of the class is that it's hands-on. We're actually making and tasting recipes," said Robert Hollander, who works at the university. "It's great to be at UA learning from students - it's very fun."
Student chefs connect with members of the class and provide positive feedback, which is a priority of the class. As each step is completed, a student chef walks around the class and shows what it should look like, and helps out if needed.
Gale Welter Coleman, director of Cooking on Campus, said it's great to have the committed, motivated student chefs, whom she called "charming, responsive, talented and friendly."
The low price of the class also appeals to people who want to cook: It's just $5 for one class and $30 for the semester, which includes seven classes. The food is donated by UA Dining Services.
Dawn Bell takes her young daughter to the classes so they can both learn and try new foods.
"I like the cost," she said, "and the variety of healthy food."
Microwave Pineapple Upside-Down Spice Cake
• 1 tablespoon brown sugar
• 2 pineapple slices
• 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
• 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
• 2 tablespoons club soda
• 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• Pinch of ground nutmeg
• Cooking spray
Spray two microwave-safe mugs with cooking spray. Sprinkle the brown sugar into the bottom of each mug. Place a pineapple slice in the bottom of each mug.
In a small bowl, mix together the remaining ingredients. Pour half of the mixture into each cup. Microwave for 2-3 minutes, or until the cake is fully cooked.
Carefully flip each cup upside-down onto its own plate.
Catch a cooking class
The next Cooking on Campus class, on March 5, will focus on "feel-good food." The cost is $5, and reservations are requested. For more information about the program and other upcoming topics, go to uacookingoncampus.com or call 621-5700.
Drew McCullough is a University of Arizona student who is an apprentice at the Star. Contact him at 573-4117 or at firstname.lastname@example.org