Saturday, April 25, 2015

How to Cook Healthy Food For Kids : Korean Mackerel Fish Stew With Daikon


Does size matter? I address this topic in the weight management classes I teach. Size matters only if you let it matter. People often remark on how skinny I am. Growing up, I found comments like that to be hurtful because size is often associated with strength and virility. At a time when I was trying to attract the opposite sex, comments like that would cut my manliness down to size.

Some people associate big appetites with masculinity as well. For instance, Brian Wansink studied how people behave on first dates. While women tend to eat less than they normally would, men tend to eat more. I guess men feel they need to overcompensate for something. 

In Man With a Pan, John Donohue shares a collection of stories written by men who cook for their families. Shankar Vedantam explores the topic of gender bias in cooking. Studies suggest people associate home cooking with females and professional cooking with males. Jesse Green shares the perspective of cooking in a gay family. In his relationship, family duties are assigned based on individual strengths. While Jesse cooks when the couple host a dinner party, his partner is better suited toward practical day to day meals for the kids.

When I thought about what makes a man manly, I realized that I need look no further than my own dad. My dad has always provided for his family. He works long hours as a cardiologist and when he comes home, he continues working to support his family. Whether he is working on the yard, or working on the house, he is always taking care of his family. Despite the fact that he doesn't enjoy cooking, I remember coming down several mornings to find that my dad had cooked up a couple of sausage links for me.

Because of the example that my dad set, I strive to be a hard-working dad for my own kids. There are no male or female jobs. When I think of how I can step up and take care of my family, I can think of nothing more manly than cooking for my kids. In the following video, I show you a manly dish for Korean Mackerel Stew that you can serve your own kids:


Wansink, Brian. 2006. Mindless eating: why we eat more than we think. New York: Bantam Books.

Donohue, John. 2011. Man with a pan: culinary adventures of fathers who cook for their families. Chapel Hill, N.C.: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

How to Cook Healthy Food For Kids : Be a Man in the Kitchen with Muhammara Red Bell Pepper Dip

I recently read a fantastic book called, Man With a Pan. This was a fun read that featured a collection of stories from men who cook for their families. Authors ranged from columnist Shankar Vedantam, to horror novelist Stephen King, to celebrity chefs like Mario Batali. Collectively, the stories resonated with me, expressing many of the same sentiments that I have felt through my own efforts to cook for my family. 

Man With a Pan also inspired me to step up my game. One particular piece by Mark Bittman about how cooking taught him to become a self-sufficient man, really spoke to me. My in-laws recently came to town, so I figured it was the perfect opportunity for me to "be the man." What better way to impress the in-laws and feed the family simultaneously than to show off my new culinary skills in the kitchen?  I found a recipe on Pinterest for quinoa chicken curry bowls. The recipe sounded tasty and the pictures were vibrant and inviting. 

It was a typical weeknight, and I confidently told Cassie, "Don't worry about dinner. I've got us covered!" I went to work preparing my mise en place, which included garlic, onions, tomatoes, and eggplant. Delicious! I had my ginger paste, red curry paste, and garam masala in the ready. Spicy! I went to bed excited to place the ingredients into the slow cooker the next morning. I slept soundly.

I slept a little too soundly. I woke up late and hurriedly put the ingredients into the Instant Pot. The recipe stated that caramelizing the onions in a pan beforehand was optional, so I skipped this step. I covered all the ingredients in tomato puree and chicken broth, closed the lid, and set the slow cooker to high. In my haste, I had forgotten to put in the olive oil.

Nonetheless, I cheerfully dropped the kids off at school and drove off to work. Since I was working late that day, I texted Cassie that they could get started on dinner without me. As usual, I asked Cassie to videotape Colin and Cailya's precious reactions to eating the food I prepared for them.

Upon returning home from work, I burst through the door like a victor sharing his spoils. After all, "I was the man!" But wait, where were the trumpets? Where was the sound of satisfied slurps? Cassie gently said, "I videotaped the kids, but the footage is...unusable." Puzzled, I helped myself to a bowl, put a heaping spoonful into my mouth, and tasted the quinoa chicken curry. Ooh, that was one bland dish! It turns out that I had inadvertently bought and used low sodium chicken broth. Taken together, I had essentially cooked a dish with no salt, no fat, and no caramelized sugars. Of course, everyone was too polite to say anything. We just ate in subdued silence. And now for lunch, I am eating a bowl of quinoa chicken leftovers.

Sometimes there will be winners, and sometimes there will be losers. The important thing is that I learn from my mistakes. Each time I screw up in the kitchen, I come away with more knowledge, which helps me in my never-ending pursuit to become a self-sufficient man in the kitchen for my family. One of my more successful dishes is muhammara, a Syrian red bell pepper dip. I use oat flour instead of bread crumbs in my muhammara. Colin stars alongside this dip in the following movie trailer for Dip Hard.


Donohue, John. 2011. Man with a pan: culinary adventures of fathers who cook for their families. Chapel Hill, N.C.: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

How to Cook Healthy Food For Kids : Gluten Free Creamy Cauliflower Clam Chowder Soup


I'm not sure why we put food scientists in charge of our food. From fluffy loaves of bread to fat-free coffee creamers, food scientists have had a major impact on what we put into our bodies. Take for instance margarine, a type of hardened vegetable oil. In an effort to lower saturated fat intake, food scientists created partially hydrogenated margarine. And while food scientists got the consistency of margarine just right, they got it wrong when it came to health. Partially hydrogenated trans fats are associated with worsening blood cholesterol patterns and an increased risk of heart disease. In the Nurses' Health Study involving more than 85,000 women, those who ate four or more teaspoons of margarine per day had a higher risk of heart disease than those who used margarine only rarely.

A narrow pursuit of optimal food consistency often comes at the expense of optimal health. For instance, fat-free products often substitute corn syrup solids to mimic the consistency of fat. Some processed foods like salad dressings and ice cream contain chemical thickeners like xantham gum. Xantham gum is also added to toothpaste, drilling mud, and concrete for the same reason. 

Many recipes use high glycemic starches like corn starch or wheat flour as thickening agents. For instance, flour is often used to thicken clam chowder. Corn starch and wheat flour may give you the consistency of soup you are after, but at what cost? Instead of flour, why not try cauliflower? I took this recipe for gluten free clam chowder and blended heavy cream with cauliflower to create a creamy soup that my kids lapped up. I feature this recipe in the following movie trailer, Good Will Chowder


Teicholz, Nina. 2014. The Big Fat Surprise: A Nutritional Investigation. Simon & Schuster.

Davis, Robert.  2012. Coffee Is Good For You: From Vitamin C and Organic Foods to Low-carb and Detox Diets, The Truth About Diet and Nutrition Claims.  Penguin Group.

Friday, April 3, 2015

How to Cook Healthy Food For Kids : Make Perfectly Crispy Salmon Fish Skin

Food is much more than the sum of its parts. For instance, a whole wheat berry is comprised of three layers--a bran, a germ, and an endosperm. When wheat berries are milled into flour, the bran and germ layers are often removed to prevent spoilage. In the process, essential vitamin b complexes are lost. Even when all parts of the wheat berry are retained in 100% whole wheat flour, the fiber is so altered that it loses its beneficial properties.

Likewise, eating whole fish is far better than eating fish fillets. While fish fillets are easier to eat, their skin is often removed during packaging. The skin is the best part! Fish skin is high in omega three fatty acids, an essential nutrient which has been associated with longevity and cardiovascular health.

The other day, I had a nicely prepared bronzini with a perfectly crispy skin. Crispy fish skin is the potato chip of the sea. Crunchy, savory, and salty, crisp fish skin can really elevate any fish dish. But whenever I tried to make my own crispy fish skin, the skin would end up sticking to the pan. Then, I figured out that the key to a nicely crisped up fish skin is to make sure to thoroughly dry out the skin before frying it. Then, you want to fry it in oil at medium-high, a temperature above the boiling point of water. This ensures a hard sear as opposed to a limp steam.  

In the following video, Dr. Chris Ko teams up with Dr. Seuss to tell one tasty fish tale. In this video, I used my Anova Immersion Circulator to first sous vide the salmon, but you could just as easily crisp up the skin first, then finish it off in the oven.

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