New Year Commitments to Quality Cooking

January 28, 2009

Featured Recipe: Braised cabbage with sliced carrots

The end of January – it’s just about that time when many begin to back off those New Year’s resolutions, or at least lose a little of the gusto they had about making changes in their life during the new year. Whether or not you’re one to make resolutions or reflect upon your goals at the start of a new year, I’d like to offer some inspiration to keep you in the mood to do what’s best for you in 2009. Being that this is a food blog and my goal for FlavorDiva.com is to inspire more African-American women to reclaim our culinary legacy of home cooking, of course my words of inspiration have to do with what you eat, particularly what and how you cook.

I’ve been on the quest now for several years to cook more of the food I eat rather than rely on restaurants or “ready-in-minutes” packaged food for my meals. The main thing that led me to this change and back to my childhood love of cooking was my desire for great taste and more nutritious food. I’m a firm believer that if you cook well, homemade food is almost always better than anything you can buy ready-made from the store or most restaurants for that matter. However, the key to getting this result is to start with high-quality ingredients; second, is to cook often. Practice makes perfect. That’s one of my goals for 2009 – to cook even more regularly. 

If you’re inspired to prepare more of your own food in 2009 to nourish your body and share meals with family and friends, keep these principles in mind.

Get informed – Know what you’re eating and read labels. When it comes to our modern, industrialized food supply, there are more questionable ingredients and additives used than most consumers realize. From high fructose corn syrup to partially-hydrogenated soybean or partially-hydrogenated palm oil (trans fats) to additives you can barely pronounce, just because the FDA allows them in our food supply doesn’t mean they’re good for us or the best for making flavorful food. Go with foods that are additive-free and contain natural ingredients you’re familiar with.

Eat fresh as much as possible – In other words, buy whole fruits, vegetables, beans and grains and cook them yourself rather than, for example, buy canned soup (make your own soup instead). Now don’t get me wrong, time is always a factor and sometimes you have to get a little assistance from frozen or canned foods, but make it a point to try to eat fresh more often. The flavor is better, and the sooner a fruit or vegetable is eaten after it has been picked, the more abundant the nutrients.

Buy certain ingredients organic – I strongly advocate eating organic for certain conventional produce that are known to be heavily treated with pesticides. Also, I only buy organic dairy, and whenever possible, organic meat. Conventional dairy and meat often come from animals that have been treated with antibiotics and/or artificial growth hormones, which I don’t care to consume. See these 10 reasons to go organic.

Eat local and seasonal when possible – Eating locally and seasonally will add both more flavor and nutrition to the food you serve. When you eat foods out of season, you usually have access to them because they’ve been shipped across country or overseas. Not only is this shipment by plane or truck taxing on the environment and contributing to climate change, but fruits and vegetables shipped from far away places usually mean the food was picked unripe. As a result, the food is less nutritious and less flavorful. See these 10 Reasons to buy local.

In 2009 I look forward to sharing more recipes, cooking tips, reflections and insights with you on good food and cooking. Do you have any food/dietary/culinary goals for 2009? Leave a comment below and let me know. I’d love to hear them!

I served this braised cabbage with sliced carrots at a recent potluck dinner with some of my friends. Everyone liked it, and I promised my friend Tammy that I would post the recipe.

Braised Cabbage with Sliced Carrots
Inspired by my Aunt Sheryl’s cabbage recipe.

1 large head of green cabbage
2 medium sized carrots, peeled and sliced (on an angle)
2 – 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
Salt and pepper to taste 

Cut cabbage head into four quarters and cut the core out of each. Cut cabbage into thin slices (about 1/4 inch wide). Add cabbage and carrots to a colander and rinse well. In a deep sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add rinsed cabbage and carrots, still dripping with water, to the pan and place tablespoon pats of butter in several places over the cabbage.

Cover and cook for 25 – 30 minutes. After about 10 – 15 minutes, liquid in the bottom of the pan should be simmering. Salt and pepper cabbage and carrots to taste during the last five minutes of cooking. Feel free to add a sprinkle of an herbed spice blend for additional seasoning.

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