Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Bananas Foster

I first came across Bananas Foster as a graduate student.  I was fascinated by setting something on fire. 

Bananas Foster originated at Brennan's restaurant in New Orleans.  As the story goes, in the 1950's New Orleans was a major port of entry for bananas from Central and South America.  The owner of Brennan's challenged the chef to create a dish featuring bananas.  The chef, Paul Blangé, created Bananas Foster. 

Bananas Foster is basically bananas sautéed in butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon.  Heat a little rum.  Pour over bananas and flame.  Spoon bananas over vanilla ice cream and serve.

One thing I like about a good recipe, is that it can withstand the test of time.  We come back to them again and again.  A few months ago I found a recipe for Bananas Foster served over yogurt.  I had to try it.  Needless to say it was an excellent addition to the Bananas Foster repertoire.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A New 'New Year's' Resolution

So, it's the middle of January and your New Year's resolution hasn't quite worked out as planned.  If it helps you any, mine hasn't worked out so well either.  The way I look at it, everyday is a new day and a chance to start over. 

If your New Year's resolution was to shed a few pounds and that hasn't happened, all is not lost.  There are still over 300 days left in the year.  You have time to restart your resolution.  Studies show that if you want a healthier life, start by cooking.  According to some researchers, if we want to make progress on reducing the rates of obesity, we need to cook at home. 

Cooking seems to have gotten a bad rap.  We don't have time.  It's too much work.  What I want to know is when cooking good food became drudgery.  I even hear people brag about their inability to cook.  They wear it like a badge of honor. 
If you want to cook and you are dazed about where to start, here are a few suggestions.
  • You won't go from ruining everything to gourmet meals overnight.  Kind of like Rome wasn't built in a day.  I've learned that cooking is a process or journey.  You get better by practicing and learning from your mistakes.  Ask any good cook and they will tell you about a whole slew of their mistakes. 
  • You may want to begin your cooking journey by using websites. They are free.  Be careful, not all websites have tested recipes.  Here are a few that I have tried. 
    • Eating Well - Good for those trying to become healthier.  I do find their recipes tend to be slightly bland.  You may need to increase the spices.
    • Cooking Light - Good for those trying to become healthier.  Recipes tend to be somewhat flavorful.
    • Rachael Ray - I am not a Racheal Ray fan.  However, she has done a great job of getting younger people to cook.  And I am for anything that gets anyone into the kitchen to cook.  I don't find that most of her recipes are very flavorful, but they are a place to start.   
    • Everyday Food Magazine and website - This is a Martha Stewart magazine.  They do an excellent job of laying out the recipes (with pictures).  I generally find that the recipes are easy.
    • Most commodity boards (potato, dry beans, dairy, beef) have recipes.  Sometimes their recipes start with convenience products, so be careful, especially with sodium.
    • When you are strolling through the supermarket, look around the produce section to see if they have a recipe stand.  Most major grocery stores have a website with recipes.
  • Start with recipes that contain ingredients that you recognize.  As you build your repertoire, play around with different ingredients and spices.  Most spice companies (McCormick, Spice Islands) have website that will help you learn to use spices.
  • Lastly, have fun.  Know that you will make mistakes.  You will learn from them and become a better and healthier cook.

If you want to start cooking tomorrow, here is a rotisserie chicken recipe that can get you through today.  As I have said before, I love rotisserie chicken.  There are even rotisserie chicken cookbooks.  Using a rotisserie chicken may not be legimate cooking, but it is a place to start.  Your grocery deli or salad bar is a good place to pick up a few extras, like olives and artichokes.

  • Day 1 - Serve the chicken with a side dish or salad.
  • Day 2 - Cut the chicken up and use in a chef salad.
  • Day 3 - Keep the bones!  Keep the liquid at the bottom of the container!  These are loaded with flavor.  Put the bones and the liquid in a saucepan and cover with water.  Cook for about one hour.  Strain.  Use this broth as a base for soup, to cook rice or couscous.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


Yes, this is a repeat.  Well, sort of.  You may remember that during the holiday season, I posted a recipe for green beans with lemon and garlic.  A colleague tried it and fell in love with the dish.  She made it several times during the holidays and returned from the holiday break talking about this recipe. 

My colleague also made two major changes in the recipe.  She eliminated the butter and used all olive oil.  And, she changed the green beans to Brussels sprouts.  I loved it!  That's the beauty of cooking, you can change things to suite your tastes, health concerns, and the season.  I have come to realize that a recipe is an idea.  It is not something set in stone.  Once I put a recipe "out there", it belongs to whomever and they have the right to change or alter as they see fit.

The ability to cook frees one from the restrictions of a recipe.  When people tell me they have changed one of my recipes, I am generally quite flattered.  And sometimes, their changes give me new ideas and inspire me to make changes. 

Here is the new revised Brussels sprouts recipe.  If you make changes, let us know.

Brussels Sprouts with Lemon and Garlic

Serves 6.

1½ pounds Brussels sprouts
1 teaspoon salt, divided
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 Tablespoons fresh parsley, minced

1.  Remove outer leaves from Brussels sprouts.  Slice and place in water until ready to use.

2.  Fill a large saucepan about half full with water, add ½ teaspoon salt and bring to a boil.  Add Brussels sprouts; cover, reduce heat.  Simmer for about 7 to 10 minutes or until tender.  Drain.

3.  Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add garlic and sauté for about 1 minute.  Add Brussels sprouts, lemon juice, ½ teaspoon salt, and pepper.  Cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until thoroughly heated.  Sprinkle with parsley.

Note:  If desired, Brussels sprouts can be cooked ahead of time and sautéed just before serving.