Saturday, May 30, 2015

How to Cook Healthy Grilled Vegetables Directly on Charcoal For Kids

What makes us human? In order to answer that question, Richard Wrangham asks, "What made us human?" In Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human, Wrangham argues cooking not only transformed food, it transformed us. By learning how to cook their food externally, our prehistoric ancestors greatly increased their access to the energy within food. As a result, they developed uniquely human, shorter intestinal tracts. Because they didn't need to devote as much energy towards digesting their food, they also evolved larger brains, the most energy hungry organ in the human body.

If cooking made us human, then why don't humans cook anymore? Because they don't have to. Our lives used to depend on cooking. Now, our processed food and restaurant industries do the cooking for us. But cooking not only made us human, cooking also makes us human. In Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation, Michael Pollan credits cooking for connecting humans and strengthening relationships.

One way you can enrich your kids' lives with more human experiences is to invite more humans to eat with your family. A cook out is a great way to simultaneously get back to your roots by cooking with fire and gathering friends and family together for a meal.

Recently, I tried a novel technique of cooking vegetables directly on hot charcoal that I read about in Every Day With Rachel Ray. I placed zucchini, eggplant, red onions, and bell peppers right on top of hot coals and cooked them until soft and blackened. Then, I peeled the skins away, chopped the vegetables up, and added a little salt, black pepper, and fresh herbs. The vegetables were delicious, but what really made the meal special was sharing the experience with our friends. That's what made it a truly human experience.


Pollan, Michael. 2013. Cooked: a natural history of transformation.

Wrangham, Richard W. 2009. Catching fire: how cooking made us human. New York: Basic Books.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

How to Cook Healthy Food for Kids : Egg Omelet Breakfast Wrap

I have something to confess. I went on a date with someone new. I had actually been seeing this new girl off and on for more than two years, but this was the first time that I took her out on an official date, just the two of us. Luckily for me, my wife not only knew about our date, she happily arranged it.

Cassie went out of town with Colin to visit her parents. That just left me alone with Cailya. At first, I was worried about being the sole guardian. I actually felt sorry for Cailya. Then, I realized how fortunate I was to spend quality time with my daughter. I decided to make the most of our time together.

I picked out a special spring dress for Cailya. Then, I headed downstairs to prepare our daddy daughter breakfast. I cracked two eggs into a bowl and mixed in salt, pepper, and chopped scallions. I quickly fried the eggs into a thin omelet. Then, I applied a generous coating of cream cheese with chives. I layered thin slices of avocado and smoked salmon on top. Finally, I rolled the omelet up and wrapped the whole thing in parchment paper. She took a bite of her omelet wrap and said, "Ketchup."

After breakfast, we headed out to enjoy our day together. First, I took Cailya on a romantic stroll through the aisles of the local grocery store. Next, I expanded her horizons by showing her around a wholesale warehouse club, of which I am an exclusive member. After that, we went to a birthday party, celebrating the 100th birthday of the city of Mclean. While there, we enjoyed some treats. Unfortunately, I am unable to disclose what we had because this is a healthy food blog.

After a short nap, I took Cailya to a Rocknoceros concert. Rocknoceros is a children's band based out of Northern Virginia. They are known for catchy hooks, clever lyrics, and humor that appeals to kids and parents alike. We enjoyed some nice snacks while we sat under a shady tree and listened to the band. After the concert, we headed home and had a light dinner. After her bath, I changed Cailya into her bumblebee pajamas.

We had had a wonderful day together, and I decided to top the evening off with a slow dance and serenade. As I held my daughter in my arms and softly crooned, "In the Still of the Night" into her ear, I was reminded of the first time I sang those same words and held her mother in my arms. Back then, I was convinced that nothing would feel as good as the love I have for my wife. Now, there's another special lady in my life, and there is nothing quite like the love between a daddy and his daughter.

Friday, May 15, 2015

How to Cook Healthy Food for Kids : Make Gazpacho - The Original Vegetable Smoothie


One of the highlights of our recent trip to Spain was the Taller Andaluz de Cocina cooking school. Held within the Triana food market in Seville, the class started with a tour of the food market. During the market tour, our guide introduced us to fresh vegetables, sweet chorizo, and paprika infused pork fat. "Traditional Spanish cuisine is not complicated. It just requires time and fresh produce," she explained.

The class was taught by a chef who started cooking alongside his mother at an early age and went on to work in a two Michelin star restaurant in Northern Spain. His passion for cuisine was self evident. His advice was practical and uncomplicated. For instance, he advised cooking diced onions low and slow to get a nice caramelization. He also taught me the value of adding salt to draw water out from the center of the onion. No wonder my onions turn out black on the outside and raw in the center! Altogether, the Taller Andaluz de Cocina cooking school was a unique experience involving entertainment, education, and a delicious meal, all for a very reasonable price.

One dish that exemplifies how uncomplicated and fresh Spanish cuisine can be is gazpacho. In fact, gazpacho was traditionally a poor man's food. Traditionally served as a cool summer drink, gazpacho was the original vegetable smoothie far predating the trendy green smoothie. Now, according to our friends who live in Spain, kids may even have gazpacho for breakfast.

Try this recipe to make your own cool and refreshing gazpacho. Cailya, who has always loved tomatoes, slurped this dish up. Because Colin has always been weary of tomatoes, I sweetened his gazpacho up with some strawberries and told him it was strawberry soup. It worked like a charm.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

How to Cook Healthy Food For Kids : Make Creamy Spinach Lentils - A Labor of Love


We recently took a trip to Spain. And by "we", I mean Cassie and me...without the kids! We walked over 20,000 steps a day, saw many historical sites, and of course ate! The Spanish take their food very seriously. While in Seville, we went on an Iberian Ham Tour, guided by Roger Davies with Epicurean Ways. This delightful tour was a true farm to table experience.

Roger picked us up promptly at 9:30 in the morning and took us in his private car on a scenic drive to a local pig farm about one and a half hours outside of Seville. When I pictured a "pig farm", I envisioned a tightly spaced pig pen with smelly hogs fighting for space. Quite to the contrary, the farm that Roger took us to was a vast, open park.

Here, pigs roam freely around on stretches and stretches of open land. A large man-made lake provides a cool respite on hot days. When they are hungry, the pigs have an ample supply of acorns provided by the many oak trees that dot the farm. Iberian ham, in fact, is distinguished from other hams like Serrano ham because Iberian pigs are raised on a natural acorn fed diet. As a result, Iberian ham is rich in oleic acid, a healthy monounsaturated fat.

After the farm tour, Roger introduced us to the owner of the farm, an exquisitely charming and loquacious lady. She generously prepared a delicious Spanish potato tortilla accompanied with slices of savory Iberian ham. We stuffed ourselves silly then traveled to see where and how the ham was made.

Roger took us to a large warehouse, where thousands of legs of Iberian ham hung to dry. During the curing process, the legs are first placed into a pile of salt for ten days. Then, a generous coating of sunflower is applied. The ham is then hung from hooks in the ceiling for a minimum of two to three years. Yes, I said years. Over the course of that time period, the ham is lovingly tended to, with periodic inspections and reapplications of sunflower oil.

I was amazed by the length of the curing process. While I find it difficult to wait more than a few minutes for my food, the Spanish wait two to three years for their food! I thought of the last time I labored over something for two to three years and it dawned on me that I do have something in common with the Spanish. Just like the Spanish take care of their ham, Cassie and I have nurtured our little baby Cailya for more than two years. Yes, I just compared Cailya to cured ham.

Both child-rearing and cooking are labors of love. In both endeavors, there are trials and tribulations and exercises in patience. In the end, the time spent laboring over the ones you love is more than worthwhile. In the following video, I feature a tasty creamy spinach lentil dish which gently simmers over forty-five minutes. It is definitely worth the wait!  Happy Mother's Day!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

How to Cook Healthy Food For Kids : Whole Grain Black Barley Shrimp Risotto


"Remember when you cut my arm off?" asked Colin.

"Huh?" I responded, perplexed by my son's question.

"You cut my arm off. I want to watch you cut my arm off on again."

"Oh, you mean the video when I pretended to cut your arm off?"

"Yes. I want to watch that video again."

Cassie likes to read books on normal child development. I guess she likes to confirm that our children our normal. I, on the other hand, don't like to read about child development. I know that I would likely worry anytime my kids stray from what is defined as "normal". One thing Cassie read was that boys start to get attached to their dads around the age of four.

So I awaited Colin's fourth birthday with baited breath. I had suffered in obscurity for four long years! Each time Colin and Cailya would repel away from me in favor for beloved mommy, was like a dagger to my heart. Forever the bridesmaid and never the bride, I felt like the Andy Roddick of my family. And then Colin turned four and nothing changed. He continued to regard me with cordial indifference.

All that changed when we left the kids with their grandparents for a week while we took a boondoggle to Europe for our tenth anniversary. Absence truly does make the heart grow fonder. Ever since we returned from our trip, Colin has really taken a shining to his old man. And let me tell you, it sure feels good when the boy selects yours truly as his object of affection and idolization. Now who's Roger Federer?  Me, that's who!

Since Colin recognizes that I like making videos, lately, he has taken a keen interest in participating in the videography and production of my videos. And, just like his old man, he enjoys watching himself in playback. I sure do like seeing Colin take up similar interests to myself, I just don't want him to ask me to cut off his arm again. In part two of Monty Python and the Holy Grain, I feature a truly tasty Black Barley Risotto With Shrimp and Artichokes, without the violence.

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