Saturday, December 27, 2014

How to Make Healthy Bircher Muesli Swiss Oatmeal for Kids


Happy New Years!  A new year is a great time to try new things and make a renewed commitment to cooking healthy food for your kids.  Many people consider oatmeal to be healthy.  Compared to other grains, oatmeal can be a healthy option.  Grains are generally high in glycemic index.  And while oats tend to be lower in glycemic index than wheat, the glycemic index of any grain will increase with more processing and more cooking.

Many people cook their oatmeal to the consistency of mush.  The more you overcook your oatmeal, the more unhealthy it becomes.  This New Year, why not try your oatmeal a new way?  Sometimes inspiration for new foods in your diet can come from old sources.  Muesli is a tasty breakfast dish developed around 1900 by the Swiss physician Maximillian Bircher-Benner for patients in his hospital.  It is also known as Bircher oatmeal or Swiss oatmeal.  It is comprised of raw oats, whole fruits, yogurt, and milk.

As the following video shows, Muesli is a great way to enjoy oats and is very easy to make:

Best wishes to you and your family in the New Year!


Snow P & O'Dea K. Factors affecting the rate of hydrolysis of starch in food. Am J Clin Nutr 1981;34:2721-2727.

Atkinson FS et al. International tables of glycemic index and glycemic load values: 2008. Diabetes Care 2008 Dec 31(12):2281-3.

Heaton KW et al. Particle size of wheat, maize, and oat test meals: effects on plasma glucose and insulin responses and on the rate of starch digestion in vitro. Am J Clin Nutr 1988;47:675-82.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

How to Make Grain Free Gluten Free Pancakes for Kids on Christmas Morning

Merry Christmas!  Christmas has always been my favorite holiday.  In the Ko household, Christmas wasn't about the presents and cheery music, though those did help.  For me, Christmas has always been about family.  

I have always enjoyed the tradition of putting up the Christmas tree...or putting together the Christmas tree, rather.  The Ko family Christmas tree comes out of a box...none of the real stuff for us.  I have such fond memories of assembling and decorating the Ko Christmas tree, that I moved that same dusty box over to my house so Colin and Cailya could carry on the tradition.

One thing I enjoy doing on Christmas morning besides opening up presents, is having breakfast together as a family.  It's a perfect opportunity to fire up the griddle and make some morning flapjacks.  In the following video, I put a healthy twist on traditional pancakes by using almond flour to make grain free fluffy little almond flour pancakes:

Saturday, December 13, 2014

How to Cook the Best Food of Taiwan : Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup for Kids

We recently came back from a trip to Taiwan.  It was Colin and Cailya's first visit to Taiwan, and the first time Cassie and I visited the island together.  I hadn't been back since 1997, when I participated in a summer program affectionately referred to as, "The Love Boat".  Taiwanese Americans refer to this summer program as the love boat because Taiwanese parents supposedly expect their American sons to come back from this study tour with a wife.  I happily took part in this program, but I didn't find love…or a boat.

On this recent trip back, in an attempt to expose my kids to their cultural heritage, I inadvertently gained a better understanding of my own cultural heritage and a more profound love for Taiwan.  I reflect about what it means to me to be Taiwanese American in the following featured article:

As a child, I remember many instances where I thought my parents were a bit idiosyncratic.  My dad cares little about brand name clothes and buys three sets of the same thing at a time.  My mom wears a sweater and jacket when it's 75 degrees outside, and she keeps all the original boxes and packaging from purchases stacked in her room.  But as I traveled around Taiwan, I began to notice how an entire population regularly does arm exercises in the park, wears their backpacks on their chest, and keeps their furniture hidden under protective shrink wrap.  Now I realize how idiosyncratic I must appear to my parents.

One culture's norms is another culture's idiosyncrasies.  The same can be said about food.  In Taiwan, pickled vegetables find their way onto breakfast tables, oysters find their way into pancakes, and beans find themselves featured in desserts.  Many people can be found doing their grocery shopping at local open air morning markets such as these:

Taiwan is also famous for its beef noodle soup and its vibrant night market scene, which I feature in the following video (I cut down on the saturated fat by using eye round beef instead of shank).

One prototypical Taiwanese dish found at night markets is "stinky tofu"(pictured above), so named because of its strong odor.  Walking down the streets of Taiwan's night markets, you can smell stinky tofu well before you see it or taste it.  The smell is a by-product of a natural process of fermentation.  The fermentation also confers a complex flavor to the tofu, which is why it is a treasured Taiwanese dish.

Although naturally fermented foods are not commonly eaten in America, they are historically common across many cultures (i.e. German sauerkraut, Korean kim-chi, and European sourdough bread).  In fact, before refrigeration, fermentation was the primary method of both flavoring and preserving beverages in the form of alcohol.  Fermented foods are healthy because they are full of healthy bacteria that delay the absorption of foods.

While stinky tofu may be the norm in Taiwan, it certainly would be an acquired smell in America.  But at least when I smell stinky tofu, I can recognize it as good food that is good for me.  I can't say the same about American made, odorless, processed food.  I hope that when my kids are old enough to appreciate the sights, sounds, tastes, and smells of Taiwan, they will fully embrace the food culture of Taiwan, idiosyncrasies and all.


Pollan, Michael.  Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation.  New York: Penguin Press. 2013. 

Saturday, December 6, 2014

How to Cook a Healthy and Tender Beef Stew for Kids

Where's the beef?  If you've been following my blog, you probably have noticed that I haven't featured a lot of beef recipes.  Don't misunderstand.  I love beef.  However, some studies indicate that a higher consumption of red meat is associated with a higher risk of heart disease, cancer, and even death.  It isn't clear why red meat consumption is associated with higher mortality, but one study found that the association was moderately attenuated when adjusted for saturated fat and cholesterol.

Based on such studies, I prefer to limit the quantity of red meat that my kids eat and substitute red meat with other sources of protein such as fish, poultry, and plant based protein.  When I do serve my kids red meat, I prefer to select lean cuts of beef such as eye round steak.

You might think that lean beef is inevitably dry.  However, you can serve up deliciously tender and moist lean beef by cooking it the right way.  Stewing your meat in a liquid medium and cooking it low and slow by using a slow cooker, breaks down the protein and tenderizes the meat.  My kids were especially fond of the soft consistency of the beef stew featured in the following video:


Pan A. et al.  Red Meat Consumption and Mortality.  Arch Intern Med.  2012;172(7):555-563.

Pollan, Michael.  Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation.  New York: Penguin Press.  2013.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

How to Cook Healthy Corn For Thanksgiving Day

I recently watched a Thanksgiving themed episode of Top Chef.  The chefs had to cook a Thanksgiving meal using only food and equipment that was available at the time of the first Thanksgiving.  I was surprised to learn that turkey was not served at the first Thanksgiving.  I was equally surprised and impressed with how delicious and inventive their dishes were despite the obstacles thrown at them.   

The episode made me think of how different things are now compared to the first Thanksgiving.  We now have a wide assortment of food and gadgets at our disposal.  But while modern technology brings convenience, modern food bears very little resemblance to the food served at the first Thanksgiving.  

For instance, whole ears of corn were available at the first Thanksgiving.  Nowadays, we are much more likely to consume corn in the form of highly processed high fructose corn syrup than we are to eat it in its whole and natural form.  My kids love eating corn right off the cob.  One way you can keep the traditions of the first Thanksgiving while also enjoying corn in an innovative way is to grill corn and serve it with a chili mayo like I did in the following video:

Have a great Thanksgiving Day!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

How to Cook Healthy Pumpkin Pie for Kids on Thanksgiving Day


This Thanksgiving will be one of the few Thanksgivings that I won't be spending with my parents.  They will be on a much deserved vacation to Australia.  At first I was saddened by the prospect of not spending the holidays with my parents.  And then I remembered how lucky I am to be spending the holidays with Cassie, Colin, and Cailya.  I almost forgot that this is only the second Thanksgiving that I will be spending with Cailya.

One of my favorite Thanksgiving desserts is pumpkin pie.  Pumpkin pie has a special place in my heart not only because it is a tasty treat, but because it evokes feelings of tradition, family, and togetherness.  A couple tips for making a healthier pumpkin pie include making your own pumpkin puree (which is less processed), and making your pie crust out of almond flour instead of wheat flour.  

Try making a healthier pumpkin pie this Thanksgiving and be thankful for those friends and family that you can spend your Thanksgiving with!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

How to Cook Healthy Food for Kids : Portable Granola Snacks

Eating in the modern era has its challenges.  We live in such a fast paced, agenda driven world, that we can sometimes forget to eat.  You might forget to prepare food for your kids, but your kids won't forget to get hungry.  Kids' stomaches are on a three hour alarm schedule.  And if you forget to feed them, you will most definitely regret it.

One thing we can all do is stop, sit down, and eat.  I know that I need to do a better job of slowing down, savoring the moment, and pausing for what is really important in life.

That being said, if you have travel plans, sometimes you do have to eat on the go.  The other day, we took an airplane trip with the kids and thankfully Cassie had the presence of mind to pack a healthy snack for the kids.  If it weren't for those healthy snacks, we would have had a set of irritable kids and passengers glaring at us.

Although most people consider granola bars to be healthy, many store bought granola bars are laden with refined sugars and sweeteners.  I have been on the lookout for a healthier homemade granola bar recipe and I recently found one.  This homemade granola bar is naturally sweetened with applesauce and maple syrup.  The applesauce and chia seeds also help to bind the granola into a fairly serviceable bar.

I'm glad we were able to add this healthy granola bar to our snack bag of tricks on our last trip.  It really helped to keep the kids satiated and our travels peaceful.

Friday, November 7, 2014

How to Cook Healthy Food for Kids : Use Fun Characters to Get Kids to Eat Salad


The other day, we went out with some friends for dinner.  Our friends are raising their son to be a vegetarian.  The waiter served their son a green salad, and he dove right in.  I was dumbfounded.  Typically, if there are any raw greens in a dish, Colin will quickly spot them and comment, "I don't like crunchy."

Green salads are some of the most challenging foods to get kids to eat.  One of the reasons kids don't like salads is they are turned off by the crunchy texture of raw vegetables and greens.  However, believe it or not, your kid has already developed a preference for some raw foods.  Most kids I know don't need any convincing to chomp down on fruit, which is typically served raw.

So, I decided to prepare my kids a chicken salad with a secret ingredient…fruit.  Using fruit such as apples or dried cranberries is a wholesome way to sweeten up your dishes and get your kids to eat their salads.  In addition to fruit, I had one more trick up my sleeve…the Cooking Monster.  Take a look at this colorful character in the following video:

Saturday, November 1, 2014

How to Cook Healthy Food for Kids : Make Homemade Applesauce

I was recently fortunate enough to join Colin on a class field trip to a farm.  I dropped him off in the morning as per my usual routine, then showed up fifteen minutes later to surprise him.  When he saw me, he smiled broadly then he shouted, "Daddy!"  Boy did that feel good.

I took his hand in mine and together we boarded the bus.  On the ride over to the farm, we sang songs together and I let him play with my iPhone for a short while.  When we arrived, the kids, teachers, and I    all excitedly got off the bus and headed over to the farm.  

The kids enjoyed stomping around in the corn bin, seeing the animals, and picking out pumpkins.  We even got to go on a hayride.  As I sat on a bale of moving hay with my son, I thought to myself, "It doesn't get better than this."

When it was time to go, each kid received an apple from the farm.  On the ride back to daycare, Colin and I shared pieces of the apple.  It was a sweet ending to a sweet trip.  

Apples are a great way to add some natural sweetness to your dishes.  One particularly useful way of using apples is making your own homemade applesauce.  Not only is homemade applesauce easy to make, you can be assured that there are no added sugars when you make it yourself.  Take a look at how you can make your own homemade applesauce in the following video:

Monday, October 27, 2014

How to Cook Healthy For Kids : Good Versus Evil Fried Rice

Lately, Colin has really been looking up to his hero.  I'm talking about a man that is tall, dark, and handsome.  I'm talking about a man that is mysterious, cunning, and daring.  Yes indeed, I'm talking about…Batman!  Who did you think I was referring to?    

While parents have some sway over their kids, most of us know to defer to the likes of Batman, Superman, and other superheroes.  Colin is in a stage where he loves to pretend like he is a superhero.  He loves to dress up in a cape and run around the house with imaginary super powers.  And he especially likes to dress up as Batman, his idol.  

As a parent, you can use your kid's love of superheroes to your advantage.  If your kids won't listen to you, perhaps they will listen to Batman or Superman.  Try channeling the persuasive powers of your kids' heroes to encourage them to eat healthier.  In the following video, I get Colin and Cailya into the act of eating healthy by pitting good versus evil.  In this video, I make batman fried rice.  One tip to make your fried rice healthier is to load it up with finely chopped bok choy.  The white parts of the bok choy blend nicely into the rest of the rice grains.  Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 17, 2014

How to Cook Healthy Food for Kids : Hide Green Vegetables Like Kale in Pesto Pasta


I have fond memories of family vacations at Ocean City, Maryland.  Every summer, my uncle would invite my family to come stay at Golden Sands condominiums.  While there, we established many Ko family traditions.  All the kids would roam around on the beach, collect seashells, build sand castles, and join forces to dig a giant hole in the sand.  In the evenings, we would play cards, shoot pool, and walk the boardwalk.

Another Ko family tradition was dining at Paul Revere Smorgasbord.  Sometimes that meant showing up extra early to Paul Revere's to take advantage of the early bird special.  Sometimes that meant under-representing yourself.  You see, at Paul Revere's, children ages 9-12 eat at a discount, children ages 5-8 eat at a heavier discount, and children ages four and under eat free.  At Paul Revere's, I was probably eight years old for three consecutive years.

So, when it came time to buy tickets to Busch Gardens for my own children, of course I had to carry on the honorable Ko family tradition of under-representation.
"Colin, for Busch Gardens, you are two years old." I said.
"I'm not two years old.  I'm three!" he retorted.
"I know your three.  But as far as Busch Gardens is concerned, you are two."
"I'm not two.  I'm three!  I'm three!"
This went on for a while until he finally understood that he was two years old in Busch Gardens land.

I continued to prep him on the drive down to Williamsburg.  As we approached the ticketing gate, my palms began to sweat and I nearly aborted the mission.  I nervously handed the attendant two adult tickets as I casually pushed the sit and stand stroller which housed Colin and Cailya.  The attendant wordlessly ushered us through, and just like that, we were in!

I don't know what lesson, if any, I taught my son that day.  What I do know is that my two year old son had one helluva time at Busch Gardens!

Just as you can sneak your kids into a theme park, you can sneak in healthy ingredients into the dishes you serve your kids without them knowing.  Take for instance, this delicious kale pesto pasta dish.  The kale goes undetected, with its dark green hues blending in perfectly with the aromatic green tones from the basil.  My kids loved this simple and tasty dish:

Saturday, October 11, 2014

How to Cook Healthy Food for Kids : When Life Gives You Potatoes, Make Colcannon!

Sometimes life gives you lemons.  But that's not necessarily a bad thing.  As an amateur chef, I have found lemons to be a vital flavor enhancer.  That's why when life gives me lemons, I make delicious food!

I'm always trying to think of innovative ways to substitute healthy ingredients for unhealthy ones.  In my last post, I substituted white beans for white potatoes.  The result was a pureed bean dish that looked and tasted like mashed potatoes, but was much lower in glycemic index.

But sometimes it simply isn't convenient to substitute ingredients.  Perhaps all you have in your cupboard are potatoes.  Perhaps you are having one of those days where the kids are screaming specifically for mashed potatoes.  We've all been there.  So, when life gives you potatoes, I say, "Make colcannon!"

Colcannon is a traditional Irish dish consisting of mashed potatoes and greens.  Because dark leafy greens are nutrition powerhouses, they can really amplify the nutritional value of your meals.  In the following video, I show you how to make colcannon using kale and leeks:

Here is the link to the recipe I used to make the colcannon dish featured in the video above:

Friday, October 3, 2014

How to Cook Healthy Food For Kids : White Bean Starch for White Potato Starch, A Battle of Wits

Do you ever feel like you are in an epic battle of wits with your kid?  And do you feel like somehow you are constantly on the losing end of that battle?  It never ceases to amaze me that I am able to be outwitted by a three-year-old.  Like a trained pharmaceutical representative, Colin has somehow mastered the art of getting me to verbally commit to something and then holding me up to that commitment at a later date.  "Remember how you said you would take me to the playground on Thursday?  Well, today is Thursday."  Sometimes I'll gloss over a few words while reading Colin a bedtime story.  But, when I turn the page, my son will turn the page back and point out that I skipped some words.  At the end of the day, I put away his toys.  But, the next morning Colin will go to the exact spot where he had left his toys and ask me where his toys went.  The kid has a memory like a steel trap.  I blame his mom.  

Of course, some of the most epic battle of wits come at the dinner table.  Some battles are not worth fighting.  Some battles really put me at my wit's end.  Still other battles are worth fighting, but as a parent, you need to know how to fight the good fight.  You've got to stay one step ahead of kids, anticipate their complaints, and give them food that satisfies your own sensibilities of healthiness while also satisfying their taste buds.  For instance, instead of mashed white potatoes, try a healthier white starch like pureed white beans.  Beans are a resistant starch that are much lower in glycemic index than are white potatoes.  Check out my epic battle of wits with Colin in this week's video, an homage to a scene from the movie, The Princess Bride.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

America's Healthiest Heroes - Playing it Cool

I wish I could say I play it cool when it comes to celebrities.  I often have trouble recognizing them.  When I'm watching a movie, at some point, I'll lean over and whisper to Cassie, "Where have a seen this guy before?"  Then, Cassie has to interrupt her movie-going experience to go over an actor's resume with me.  I'm even worse with celebrity sightings.  For instance, when I ran into Modern Family's Jesse Tyler Ferguson in Manhattan, the best I could do was blurt out, "Hey, it's you!"

So when I found myself in a YouTube video with Ian Ziering, I'd like to say that I played it cool.  But in reality, my reaction was, "Whoa!  I'm in a video with the guy from 90210!"  Yes, yours truly was fortunate enough to be featured in a YouTube series called, "America's Healthiest Heroes", hosted by Ian Ziering.

The premise of this series is to feature parents that are willing to go to extraordinary lengths to help kids adopt healthy habits.  Apparently, the series is intent on highlighting the parents since poor Cailya and Colin didn't make the final cut.

One of the things that I really enjoy about YouTube is the ability to reach a larger audience.  Trying to get a message out to others is infinitely more challenging than writing the message itself.  I am proud to take part in a larger campaign like "America's Healthiest Heroes" because celebrities like Ian Ziering have a wider sphere of influence.  Just like his character on 90210, Ian Ziering has the power of cool and the ability to make healthy eating cool.

Whether you are speaking to a YouTube audience of a few or a few thousand, or you are speaking to an audience of one or two in your own home, you can use the power of cool to make eating healthy the cool thing to do.  I encourage you to be your own kid's healthiest hero!

Friday, September 26, 2014

How to Cook Healthy Food For Kids : Cauliflower Mac N' Cheese

I was speaking to a friend of mine, Josh Coleman the other day.  He lamented, "All my kid eats is mac n' cheese!"  Macaroni and cheese is a common favorite food item of many kids.  There is indeed something comforting and disarming about macaroni and cheese.

The problem is that many of the white starches like bread, potatoes, rice, cereal, and some noodles are high in glycemic index and unhealthy.  Given this predicament, I decided to dedicate this post to Josh Coleman and attempt to come up with a solution to a very common problem.

It's time for cauliflower to rear its pretty little head once again!  Cauliflower is a great substitute for white starch.  It can be transformed in a multitude of ways to resemble mashed potatoes, rice, and even mac n' cheese!   Take a look as Sean Ko-nnery takes cauliflower undercover in this week's feature video, "Golden Cauliflower"

Friday, September 19, 2014

How to Cook Healthy Food for Kids : Make a Healthy Savory Popcorn With Nutritional Yeast


I am pleased to announce that my book, The Ping Pong Diet, is now available for sale at  The Ping Pong Diet is a comprehensive dietary guide for adults seeking to lose weight, keep it off, and maintain a healthy lifestyle.  You can read more about my thoughts on weight management at

Ping pong was my main sport growing up.  While other kids were playing catch in their backyard with their old man, I was paddling ping pong balls in the basement with my dad.  

Although I didn't play catch with my dad as a child, I decided to play some catch up and go to my first father-son baseball game.  

We arrived at the Nationals Park stadium and joined a very lively and packed crowd, ready to cheer on the first place Nats.  As we walked towards our seats, I couldn't help but notice that one American pastime had been drowned out by another American past time…eating.  The concession stands featured a dizzying array of snacks and drinks.  I couldn't help but ask myself, "Was this a sporting event with food or a food event with sports?"

The problem was that there weren't many healthy food options.  Take for instance, the Cracker Jack.  Otherwise wholesome whole grains and nuts were steeped in butter and caramelized to a candied finish.  

As we sang "Take me out to the ballgame" during the seventh inning stretch, I wondered to myself, "Could I make a healthier popcorn snack?"

Incidentally, if you make popcorn for your kids, be sure to have them gargle afterwards so they don't get any retained kernels of corn stuck in their teeth.

At our first baseball game, the Nats put on an offensive clinic and obliterated the Phillies 11-0.  We enjoyed some munchies during the game, but most importantly, my dad and I shared a truly memorable experience together.

Friday, September 12, 2014

How to make healthy chia seed pudding for kids : A Healthy Transformation


One of the cool things about cooking is taking an ingredient and transforming it into an unexpected culinary experience.  One thing you have to be careful about, however, is avoiding unhealthy transformations.  For instance, grinding up grains into a fine flour, or blending fruit into a smoothie are examples of unhealthy transformations.

Last week, I introduced life changing crackers.  While these crackers didn't actually change my life, they were a great example of how you can change an ingredient like seeds into something more palatable to kids, like a cracker.

Another seed that you may consider incorporating into your diet is the chia seed.  Chia seeds are nutritional powerhouses.  You can read about the nutritional profile of chia seeds in my previous post:
One great way you can transform your chia seeds into an unexpectedly tasty and healthy dessert is by making chia pudding.

I show you how easy it is to make this simple and delicious dessert in the following video:

Saturday, September 6, 2014

My Experience With Life Changing Crackers


I've been following a blog called My New Roots by Sarah Britton.  She features novel plant-based recipes with gorgeous photography.  She recently posted a recipe for "Life Changing Crackers".

With a name like that, I just had to try them.  Unlike most store-bought crackers that are high in glycemic index, these crackers are completely flour-free and gluten-free.   They also contain a healthy dose of seeds like sunflower and sesame seeds.

I tried these out on my wife.  I asked her if these crackers changed her life.  She replied, "Needs more salt".  I served them up to my mother-in-law and asked her how her life was changed.  She retorted, "Healthy".

Maybe these crackers aren't truly life-changing, but they are a significantly healthier alternative to the traditional store-bought cracker.  And most importantly, I tried them out on Colin and he actually liked them.  I hope by introducing healthy eating habits to him and Cailya at a young age, I will have truly changed their lives for the better.  And that's my experience with life changing crackers.

Friday, August 29, 2014

How to Cook Healthy for Kids : Cooking the Best Broccoli of Your Life

When I first started blogging about my amateur cooking experience, I was quite nervous.  I didn't know the first thing about cooking, and I was afraid that my kids would reject everything I put in front of them.

What I really enjoy about blogging, vlogging, cooking, and writing is the freedom to do anything and everything I want.  If I want to try a new recipe, I can go ahead and do just that.  I don't need anyone's permission to fumble around in the kitchen or to make a silly video and publish it.  Just pushing that "publish" button on my posts or on my youtube videos is quite a thrill.

I also enjoy music, and although I am not the most talented musician, I enjoy the freedom of writing and playing whatever I want.  In college, I was surrounded by much better musicians who all picked up the guitar quite easily.  Playing the guitar has always been a challenge for me, which is why I pretty much write songs consisting of only three chords. 

However, whether I'm playing a song comprised of three chords or cooking a dish comprised of three ingredients, I can be proud of the finished product that I created.  Making up songs for the fun of it reminds me of the creative genius, Dana Carvey.  I do a parody of one of his bits and feature a recipe for the best broccoli of your life in the following video:

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