Ag information agency organizes food workshops | News

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

This session included a presentation from Armstrong on what degrades the nutritional value of various foods and how to maximize nutrient retention. Armstrong is a senior at SHSU and will graduate in December. She talked about different cooking methods and which ones enhance or reduce the naturally occurring vitamins and minerals in food. Armstrong also shared how each essential vitamin supports various bodily functions and how to prevent the creation of carcinogens during food preparation.

Cryer gave an in-depth explanation of how to safely operate and clean several electric pressure cookers that have replaced traditional cooking appliances. Street contributed by sharing tips and personal experiences with using electric pressure cookers in her own kitchen.


After their visual presentations, the trio helped the class prepare 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 using traditional methods.

According to Cryer, the pressure function cooks dry beans in about 45 minutes. She guided attendees through every mechanism from different brands on the market. Cryer stressed the importance of giving the cooker time to release the pressure and explained which types of recipes are safe to use the quick release and which require the natural release of steam.

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

Electric pressure cookers save energy as they cut cooking times by less than half compared to using a hob or oven. Compared to an electric slow cooker, a recipe that takes eight to 10 hours on a low setting can be ready in half an hour or less in an electric pressure cooker. Pasta can be cooked in less than five minutes.

“I’m usually the person in my household who does most of the cooking during the holidays,” Street says. “It’s really handy to have these on hand when every burner on my hob is full.” Some cookers have a non-stick insert that saves time by allowing browning or baking to be done in the same vessel as the rest of the recipe. The agents did not recommend a particular brand, but provided specific details on the size and performance of the most common types in a wide variety of applications.

All materials on screen at the beginning of the lesson were handed out in printed form to take home for reference. The students were asked to evaluate each part of the class and provide feedback to improve the coming sessions. The students made many positive comments because they enjoyed the food that was prepared in just one hour. Recipe conversions and equipment maintenance were presented during the meal.

The next lesson on Thursday, September 1, is all about bread, including a quick yeast recipe, Irish soda bread, and some Cryer “cheats” with ready-made biscuits. On Thursday, October 6, the agents will share recipes for pies and fillings. On Thursday, November 17, the class will make Christmas treats. Classes are from 10am to 1pm and cost $30 per session. All ingredients and tools are included and participants can take home what they cook during class. For RSVP, contact the Walker County Extension Office at 936-435-2426 or register online by clicking Homemade Huntsville at–huntsville/events/.