ASU students learn how pressure cookers can bring together nutritious food, culture


May 6, 2022

Students learned how to prepare healthy cultural cuisine using pressure cookers at a recent event series hosted by the College of Health Solutions and Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation at Arizona State University’s Downtown Phoenix and West campuses.

Chef Kenneth Moody, an instructional retail kitchen coordinator at the College of Health Solutions, demonstrated how to quickly and easily prepare chicken tortilla soup and refried beans with bacon using a pressure cooker. He explained the nutritional benefits of the ingredients and the cultural relevance of each dish. Chef Kenneth Moody demonstrates chopping ingredients for use in a pressure cooker. Chef Kenneth Moody demonstrates cooking nutritious, culturally significant recipes using a pressure cooker as students look on. Download Full Image

Students who attended Food and Culture Under Pressure were able to receive a free pressure cooker thanks to a donation from the American Cancer Society. The events promoted healthy lifestyles and behaviors that can help prevent disease, including cancer.

Pressure cookers can be a useful tool when it comes to meal prepping or making simple meals for students on the go. And when it comes to balancing student life and making healthy meals on a budget, Mercedes Molina, a health solutions senior majoring in dietetics, really liked the idea of using a pressure cooker to simplify the process.

“Because just cooking, in general, it’s really hard to find time, but then trying to make a healthy meal is even harder because sometimes you’re just looking for quick little things,” Molina said. “So if you can make it healthy and quick it’s better.”

Students at the event enjoyed learning how to be more health-conscious using a pressure cooker, and those with little cooking experience found the recipes easy to follow.

“These recipes are not hard to do, and I don’t really have a lot of experience cooking, so for me they seem manageable,” said Kalei Castaneda, a sophomore health solutions student majoring in clinical exercise science with a minor in nutrition and healthy living.

Students also learned basic skills on how to prepare fresh ingredients, including how to properly hold a knife and chop ingredients. 

“I like when Chef Moody teaches those basic skills,” said Maureen McCoy, a senior lecturer at the College of Health Solutions. “This is such a nice opportunity to do that because that's what so many students are lacking, like how to even cut things. All those things are so useful. … If you know what to do with the ingredient that costs a dollar and can make yourself food that lasts a week, I mean, that solves half the battle.”

Pressure cookers can be used and adapted to a variety of settings and situations, said Mercedes Amador, director of student engagement and retention at the College of Health Solutions and an organizer of the event.

“This appliance can be helpful for larger families, but also can be used for a single individual who’s trying to make it through commuting, coming to campus and still being well-fed,” Amador said.

Amador also recognized the cultural value and potential for improving health outcomes of students from marginalized communities and intergenerational homes with the food and culture events. 

“Culture and nutrition aren’t separate,” Amador said. “You can have both. You can have active conversations about improving health outcomes with family members through avenues like food, or incorporate what you’re learning within the academic setting and translate that at home.”

After students are given their new pressure cookers, McCoy said she wants to see students expand their culinary horizons and try new recipes.

“I hope that they try something new and it's a way to make flavorful food and expand their food boundaries on a budget because this is an expensive tool,” McCoy said. “So to be able to try out some really low-cost recipes, I just hope that they start experimenting and have fun.”

Story by Mindy Lok, digital content producer, College of Health Solutions