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.

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