Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Banana Bread

This is one of my rainy day recipes that I pull out when I'm short on time and ingredients. It's dead simple to prepare and my students love it. Very versatile (try baking it as a cake and icing it with butter cream) and an essential entry in any respectable home-maker's repertoire.

Banana Bread

3-4 bananas, mashed
1/3 cup melted butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
1 pinch salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F
2. With a wooden spoon, mix butter into the mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl
3. Mix in the sugar, egg, and vanilla
4. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix in
5. Add the flour last, mix until just combined
6. Pour mixture into a large, greased, loaf pan
7. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until top is browned and the center is firm
8. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes.
9. Remove from pan and slice to serve.

Cooking Times
Preparation Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 minutes
Inactive Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes

The bananas should be slightly over-ripe.
The amount of sugar used can be reduced to 3/4 of a cup without affecting the taste.
Makes a great breakfast when toasted and served with butter.
3/4 of a cup of any type of chopped nuts may be added to this recipe
Bananas can be replaced with any type of semi-soft fruit, including squash, apple sauce, or soft pears.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Case for Herbs

Fresh herbs can make a wonderful addition to any dish, but how do cooks know which herbs to use? 
Most characteristic 'flavors' that we recognize can be broken into 1 of 2 broad categories: taste and aroma.
The key difference between those 2 attributes is this: some flavors you recognize with your tongue, and some flavors you recognize with your nose. The range of flavors that humans recognize with our tongues is fairly limited ('salty', 'sweet', 'bitter', 'sour', 'savory'), but the receptors in our noses are capable of identifying literally thousands of unique aromas!  
Aromatic plants have been used for thousands of years by every culture since the beginning of time to transform the most basic foods into mouth-watering meals. Just as artists mix shades of color to achieve eye-pleasing masterpieces, cooks use herbs and spices to color their culinary creations. The right herbs can add excitement to even the most boring meals. Entire encyclopedias have been published on the subject of herbs and spices, so I will simply list some of my favorites here:

While thyme is a very powerful herb, it blends well with other flavors and is often used in stocks and herb mixes such as herbs de provence and buquet garni. It has also been widely used as a medicinal herb, containing antiseptic compounds as well as being extremely high in iron (10 times as much by volume compared to other green vegetables). It is often paired with meats such as beef and poultry.

This herb is closely related to oregano, but with a slightly sweeter taste and a hint of citrus. Containing such chemical compounds as camphor and pinene, this herb can have a cooling effect on dishes and add a bit of earthy zing. Marjoram pairs well with food containing spicy capsicum flavors, and is wonderful with fish. 

A member of the salvia genus, sage has a slightly peppery flavor and is found in many dishes involving fatty meats such as pork. It is not commonly used in French cuisine, but Middle Eastern and Italian dishes make wide use of this versatile herb. In the Middle Ages, sage was considered a holy herb and was thought to ward off the plague (hence the latin name salvia salvatrix: sage the savior). Some studies have even found various chemical compounds in sage to be an effective treatment for mild Alzheimer’s disease.  

The leaf of the bay laurel tree is often used to flavor soups and stews. They are sold dried as they do not reach their full flavor potential until several weeks after they are picked. The leaves are almost always removed from the dish that they are used to season because the leaf itself is bitter when eaten alone and can be abrasive to the digestive tract. 

The full chapter will probably include more, but I won't make everyone read it here. Just get out there and try using some herbs!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Pineapple Chicken with Coconut rice

Recipe #1:

I came up with this recipe for a dinner party and decided to try it out at work. I ended up making it for lunch every day for an entire week because it was so popular. The original incarnation involved 3 whole chickens, and instead of canned pineapple I used a whole pineapple which I peeled, cut into thirds, and stuffed into the cavities of the birds before roasting. If you can't find Caribbean Jerk seasoning at your local grocery, you can easily make your own by mixing:

2 tablespoons dried minced onion
2 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 teaspoons ground allspice
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground clove
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt

Jerk Pineapple Chicken with Coconut Rice

4 Chicken Breasts
¼ Cup Honey
2 Tablespoons Jerk Seasoning
1 Can Sliced Pineapple
2 Cups Rice
1 Cup Shredded Coconut

1.       Pre heat the oven to 375 degrees.
2.       Wash the chicken and trim any excess fat.
3.       In a mixing bowl, combine the honey, jerk seasoning, and chicken breasts.
4.       Place the chicken breasts in a baking dish; Open the canned pineapple and pour it over the chicken in the baking dish; place in the oven and bake for 30 - 45 minutes, or until the centers are no longer pink.
5.       While the chicken is roasting in the oven, cook the rice according to the package directions.
6.       Spread the shredded coconut on a baking tray and place in the oven for 5 - 8 minutes, the coconut should be toasted brown, check often to make sure it doesn't burn; remove the coconut from the oven and fold into the cooked rice.
7.       When the chicken is done, pull it from the oven; the baked pineapple slices may be chopped and stirred into the rice OR served over the chicken breasts.

Cook book

Ok, I'm finally doing it; I'm writing a cook book. I'll be posting a new potential recipe addition each day, so check beck often for updates!

Here's what I need from you guys: I'm planning on crowd sourcing testimonials and phoodographs. If you like the recipes you find here, try it out at home, tell me how you like it in a comment, and send me a pic of the finished product!

~Chef Addy