Parks & Rec class teaches basics of food preparation

Q: I read on the community page of the Lawrence Parks & Recreation 2010 Summer/Fall Activities Guide about the Cooking 101 class. Is it just for beginning cooks?

A: This is the fourth year that the Douglas County Extension Master Food Volunteers have been offering Cooking 101. As I have observed who has participated in the class over the past years, it has been a real mixed group with a large range of skills. Some of them have tinkered in the kitchen for a long time but wanted to gain some new cooking skills, and others had barely boiled water. We’ve had everyone from a 16-year-old and his mother; a 70-plus-year-old who declared that she is not “domestic” in any way but decided it was time to learn how to cook after a lifelong career; several couples (all ages) who thought it would be a fun way to get acquainted with others; a recent widower who had never cooked a day in his life; a soon-to-be bride and her mom; college students and recent graduates; plus foodies who just love to cook and want to connect with other foodies.

I can say, anyone who signs up for the class will gain some new knowledge and ideas on preparing food. Although it is called Cooking 101, it is very comprehensive. Our Master Food Volunteers are absolutely loaded with a large array of tips and skills that they are so willing to pass on — I thought I knew a lot, but they have shared a multitude of ideas that I frequently use in the kitchen. Every year the class gets rave reviews, but the Master Food Volunteers continually modify the sessions to make them the best that they can be. This year, they have actually added a class based on the recommendations from participants.

In this seven-class, hands-on course, participants will practice basic cooking techniques and prepare and sample a variety of dishes. In addition, short presentations will be given on a variety of topics, including healthy eating, knife skills, kitchen safety, slow cooking and meal planning. The class will meet from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Tuesdays from Oct. 5 to Nov. 16 at the Douglas County 4-H Fairgrounds, Building 21, 21st and Harper streets. The $85 fee per person (couples $150) includes the cookbook, a chef’s knife, a dial instant-read thermometer, lots of food to prepare and sample, and instruction. Partial scholarships are available upon request. Class registration and payment will be accepted through Sept. 17 at the K-State Research & Extension-Douglas County Office on the fairgrounds or online at

Now, if you enjoy food, love to cook and want to become a “Master” at your culinary skills and also help your community, then you may want to become a trained Extension Master Food Volunteer.

In this program, volunteers will receive approximately 40 hours of in-depth training in food science, food preparation, food preservation and food safety. Each day of training will be filled with demonstrations and hands-on learning. Once completed, volunteers will have the opportunity to share their skills and knowledge with their community.

The Master Food Volunteer Training will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursdays, Sept. 23 through Nov. 18 (excluding Oct. 21). Applications are due by Sept. 14.

An $80 fee is charged to cover the notebook, apron, name tag and teaching supplies. Again, no one is denied due to inability to pay. Fees are due one week prior to the first class. An application can be downloaded off our website or sent to you.

Q: Should I wash reusable grocery bags?

A: In one word, yes! Cross-contamination is one of the top reasons linked to foodborne illness in the home. One example of cross-contamination is in using reusable shopping bags for a variety of purposes.

In a study by Loma Linda University School of Public Health, they found that most bags are never washed and often used to carry items other than groceries. They also found that storing the bags in the back seat or trunk of the car for two hours will increase bacteria growth tenfold.

Bags were gathered from three states for a total of 84 bags. They also bought four new bags and four disposable plastic bags. Consumers were also interviewed to learn how they used and cared for the reusable bags.

Large numbers of bacteria were found in the bags. The new bags were clean. After testing the contaminated bags, they washed them by machine and by hand, with and without bleach. Results showed that simply washing them in soap and water was just as effective as using bleach with bacteria being reduced by 99.9 percent.

Q: What is black garlic?

A: This form of garlic is aged and fermented. It was introduced in Korean markets in 2007.

Now it is appearing is some American grocery stores.

To make black garlic, the bulbs are fermented in a temperature- and humidity-controlled machine for 30 days. Then they are dried for 10 days in the open air. The skin becomes gray-purple in color and loose. The cloves become opaque black in color. They also have a sticky, chewy texture. The flavor becomes concentrated and tastes like sweet molasses or reduced balsamic vinegar along with a mild garlic aftertaste.

Black garlic is best used in larger pieces for more flavor. For true garlic flavor, however, stick with traditional garlic.

— Susan Krumm is an Extension agent in family and consumer sciences with K-State Research and Extension-Douglas County, 2110 Harper St. She can be reached at 843-7058.