It’s down to the Championship round in our Recipe March Madness, which means your votes will pick next week’s 500th Health-e-Recipe. To make it as one of our cancer-protective recipes, we go through a rigorous process that involves a lot of experts, including recipe developers. I chatted with cookbook author and one of our developers, Dana Jacobi, to discuss how she became interested in healthy eating and why new cooks may want to grab a chicken breast.
Dana, a self-taught cook with French culinary training, developed a passion for cooking at a young age. After a 20-year career in marketing, she took a leap of faith to pursue her passion for food.
Q: How did you start cooking?
A: I grew up in New York City and always loved food. My family and I were adventurous and open to trying new and unfamiliar food and cuisines. When I was in high school I started to cook for fun and my mother encouraged me to make dinner anytime I wanted.
Q: How do you generally go about developing recipes?
A: One of the most important things for me is seasonality. Working with fresh, beautiful ingredients that are in season make for good building blocks. Sometimes my creativity is sparked by a specific ingredient or by a meal as a whole. I also like to keep tabs on current trends and I keep a list of things that I see in food magazines, blogs and websites.
Q: What is your “go-to” recipe or ingredient for someone new to cooking and apprehensive?
A: I would start them with chicken breast because it is very versatile. It can be prepared very simply, but can also handle more complex seasonings and preparations. If the person is just starting out, I would suggest purchasing a store bought, fresh salsa; there are a great variety of them available. The chicken breast could be baked and then topped with a spoonful of fresh salsa. I would also encourage them to try making pesto. I think preparing an easy item like this will give people the confidence to try other things with success.
Q: What is your favorite cancer preventive food to eat and cook?
A: I love dark, leafy greens. They have always been a favorite food of mine. As a child, I used to steam kale and wedges of cabbage and eat them as a snack.
Q: Why do you think cooking is important?
A: Cooking at home from scratch gives you control so you can avoid bad fats, reduce sodium and include whole grains. Incorporating different whole grains and other healthy ingredients lets you create more excitement for your family. A plus with many whole grain recipes is that they can be prepared ahead, very helpful for those who are busy, especially during the week.
In addition to creating recipes for AICR, Dana Jacobi has written over a dozen cookbooks that specialize in delicious healthy food uniquely appealing to all kinds of cooks. You can find her cookbooks, including Good for You: Easy Healthy Recipes for Everyday at Amazon and follow her on twitter @DanaDish.
Tauryn Carter has a Bachelors of Science degree in Culinary Nutrition from Johnson & Wales University. She is currently an AICR intern.