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.

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