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‘Cooking Matters’ teaches skills, nutrition education

March 7, 2012
By Serra Muscatello - Staff Writer , The Journal

NEW ULM - Mango salsa, homemade corn tortilla chips and raspberry-lime fizz ... does this menu sound good to you?

Participants involved in a series of six cooking classes for a program called "Cooking Matters" made these recipes during their final class on Tuesday afternoon.

The Cooking Matters program teaches hands-on cooking skills and nutrition education to families experiencing low income, according to Becky Kunst. She serves as the Cooking Matters coordinator with the University of Minnesota Extension. The Cooking Matters program originated from a national non-profit called "Share Our Strength."

Article Photos

Staff photo by Steve Muscatello
Culinary volunteer Deanna Fenske (left) helps Aubre Davis slice a mango for mango salsa during a ‘Cooking Matters’ class Tuesday.
For more photos of this event go to

Kunst said the University of Minnesota Extension partners with local agencies like WIC (Women Infants and Children - Special Supplemental Nutrition Program), SNAP (food stamps) and students who are receiving free or reduced cost lunches at school.

Classes were held at Christ the King Lutheran Church in New Ulm.

"I think it's a well-rounded program," said Kunst, "We're getting people to cook healthier at home even on a limited budget."

The focus is to teach participants to make meals for a family of four people for under $10 per meal.

The classes were broken down into various parts. A chef demonstration started the class, and it was followed by small groups making the recipe and a nutrition lesson. Participants then enjoy their food together. They also take home a bag of groceries to prepare the meal they just learned how to make.

Free child care is provided for people taking the class while the classes are being held, Kunst said.

"This helps to reduce barriers for participants," said Kunst.

Class the first week dealt with "Healthy Cooking Basics." The second week focused on "Choosing Fruits, Veggies and Whole Grains." The next week people learned about "Cooking Lean and Lowfat." The fourth week taught people who to plan and make the most of your meals. The fifth week they did a grocery tour at CashWise to learn about unit pricing, reading labels, and using coupons.

"It's (the class has) really reinforced the basics of cooking skills," said Rachael Uher, of New Ulm. "It gave a lot of good cooking tips like using a meat thermometer, and sharpening knives. I really enjoyed it. It's been a good two hours a week to get away."

Uher said she would use the recipes for her family.

"I do a lot of budgeting at home," said Uher, "They fit right in with the budgeting I'm doing."

Deb Benson, a class participant from New Ulm, also enjoyed the classes.

"I took it to learn how to cook," said Benson.

Benson tried making one of the pasta recipes for her family.

She also has received some good parenting advice from other members of the class.

Rural Fairfax resident Jeanette Merkel said she loved taking the class.

"I wanted to learn how to cook a little more healthy for my family," said Merkel, "The kids loved the recipes. I've already used the recipes a few times."

Participant Aubre Davis of New Ulm said she has been living on her own for three years now.

"I'd been living off of pizza ... and now I can make some more stuff," said Davis, I've liked the recipes and I'll use them. I also tried some new foods in class."

The volunteer culinary instructors were Carmen Wenner and Deanna Fenske. The nutrition portion of the class was taught by Jan Simonsen, who is a community nutrition educator with Brown County Extension, University of Minnesota.

The next Cooking Matters class is scheduled for May 1 through June 5.

For more information about this program, contact Becky Kunst at 507-304-4250.



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