Free classes to teach real home cooking
CHAMPAIGN — When Julie Munoz-Najar hears some younger people talking about a home-cooked meal, they're often talking about a meal their grandma made.
Cooking a healthy meal at home on a budget has gradually become a lost skill, says Munoz-Najar, an educator with the University of Illinois Extension's Expanded Food and Nutrition Program.
The Extension is working to change that with free cooking classes and has another weeklong course coming up that is targeted to low-income parents and caregivers.
People signing up for the course will learn how to plan and prepare breakfast and lunch every day; how to cut and measure ingredients correctly and follow recipes; how to manage their food dollars wisely; and what foods are nutrition-packed. Topics also include how to deal with picky eaters and the importance of sharing family mealtime.
For those accustomed to eating fast food or a lot of packaged convenience foods, prepare for taste surprises. There is a big focus on cooking with fruits and vegetables, and the dilled zucchini on the cooking school menu is currently popular with students, Munoz-Najar says.
Some other things students make: turkey burgers, black bean quesadillas, apple/carrot salad and chicken cattiatore, an Italian dish with chicken, tomatoes and vegetables.
What students in the classes learn is how easy it can be to make food at home and how tasty that food can be, Monoz-Najar says.
The classes are being provided with the help of U.S. Department of Agriculture funding and are open to anyone who is an income-eligible parent, foster parent, grandparent or guardian of child under age 18 living with them.
Income limits are about 185 percent of the federal poverty line or below — for example, $3,676 a month for four people.
There will be a six-day cooking course held from 9 a.m. to noon Aug. 18-19, Aug. 21, Aug. 25-26 and Aug. 29 at Hope Center, 1802 N. Lincoln Ave., U.
To sign up, go online to bit.ly/1nZiEpN or call 217-353-0740.