Saturday, January 30, 2016

How to Make a Healthy Homemade Breakfast Sausage For Kids

Twenty-five in twelve. That was the benchmark. That was the mark to beat up until one rookie made his debut at Nathan's Coney Island Hot Dog Eating Contest on July 4th, 2001. At his inaugural event, Takeru Kobayashi ate at such a blistering pace that the judges ran out of signs to indicate how many hot dogs he had eaten, and resorted to handwritten signs. At the end of twelve minutes, Kobayashi had polished off fifty hot dogs and fifty hot dog buns, nearly doubling the previous record. 

How did he do it? How did he eat so many hot dogs? He did it by rethinking competitive eating. According to Stephen Dubner of Freakonomics, instead of asking how many hot dogs he could fit into his stomach, Kobayashi, asked, "how can I make one hot dog easier to eat?"

What can we learn from a competitive eater? Kobayashi's feat demonstrates that the limits  of how much we can eat is not necessarily based on the capacity of our stomachs but how fast we eat. The faster we consume, the more we consume. Therefore, a strategy of slowing down the consumption of calories can curtail the excessive consumption of calories. A deeper analysis of the strategies Kobayashi used to speed up his eating can provide insight for those interested in watching their caloric intake:

1. Eat Whole Food

Kobayashi accelerated his eating by breaking his hot dogs in half with his bare hands before putting them into his mouth. This strategy reduced chewing time and was later coined "The Solomon method". To slow down excessive food consumption, eat whole foods in their whole form, and thoroughly chew your food.

2. Avoid Processed Food

Another reason Kobayashi was able to eat so quickly is because the food he ate was processed. The buns he consumed were made of refined flour and devoid of fiber. Refined carbohydrates are not only easier to eat, they are rapidly emptied from the stomach at approximately 10 calories per minute. In other words, they go down fast and go out fast, leaving the eater hungry again. Processed hot dogs are more aptly called fat dogs, as they are typically made up of twice as much fat as they are protein. And while fat can enhance satiety (emptying from the stomach at 2 calories per minute), it also serves as a lubricant. Hot dogs go down fast even without the aid of water. If Kobyashi had competed in a steak eating contest instead, he wouldn't have been able to eat nearly as fast. Unprocessed lean protein takes much longer to chew. It also empties slowly out of the stomach, at approximately 4 calories per minute.

3. Enjoy Food

Kobayashi distinguishes competitive eating from typical eating. To him, competitive eating is a mechanical race to the finish, much like a foot race. He doesn't appreciate the sensory pleasures of what he is eating when he is in a food competition. He doesn't have time. So often, we catch ourselves eating on the run or rushing through a meal. And yet, one of life's greatest pleasures is sitting down and enjoying a meal. Instead of rushing to finish your meal, sit down and enjoy your meal. Sit down with family and friends at the dining table and enjoy a shared meal. Spend at least thirty minutes in conversation over your shared meal. This will afford adequate time for your satiety signals to kick in, which will in turn curtail overeating. Try sharing these homemade breakfast sausages at your next family meal!


Kessler, David A. 2009. The end of overeating: taking control of the insatiable American appetite. Emmaus, Pa: Rodale.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

How to Cook Healthy Creamy Middle Eastern Persian Eggplant Dip For Kids

"One hundred percent.  This is kashk.  One hundred percent."

This is what the shopkeeper at Babylon Market assured me of when I visited the Falls Church specialty grocer one Saturday morning on a desperate search for kashk. It certainly didn't help that I had no idea what kashk looked like or tasted like. All I had to go on was pictures of jars of kashk that I had found on the internet. Admittedly, I was a bit skeptical since the internet pictures were jars and the shopkeeper directed me towards boxes that looked like silken tofu. 

One of the hidden bonuses of maintaining a healthy food blog is it forces me to search out new and exotic ingredients. I recently ate at a Persian restaurant and tasted some of the best eggplant I have ever had. I looked up "Persian eggplant recipe" and found several recipes which included this mysterious ingredient called kashk. After some research, I learned that kashk is a dairy product made from drained, dried yogurt.

After fruitlessly searching for kashk at our local grocery chain, I almost decided to substitute with plain yogurt or sour cream as some recipes suggested. Then I remembered this small Middle Eastern market hidden in the back of a shopping plaza in Falls Church. I figured a place called Babylon Market just might have the elusive ingredient.

It turned out that I was right. In fact, I was one hundred percent right. Heeding the advice of the owner, I picked up the box of kashk and headed home. I opened up the box and indeed found a dried ball of kashk sitting in a pool of cloudy liquid resembling the whey found in a carton of yogurt. I followed the instructions for Creamy Persian Eggplant Dip (Kashk-e Bademjan) and this is how the dish turned out:

I don't know if it was the salting of the eggplant, the caramelized onions, or the kashk, but this was indeed one of the creamiest eggplants I have ever made. I am thankful to the knowledgeable and affable shopkeeper at Babylon Market. Unlike the processed food we often cram into our mouths, food cooked from scratch is authentic and real. It is the only way to be assured that the food you are putting into your body is indeed good for your body, one hundred percent.


Sunday, January 17, 2016

How to Cook Healthy Juicy Chicken Zucchini Burger Patties For Kids

Kobe steak burger with duck fat fries. Maine lobster mac and cheese with truffle salt. If I were to open a fine dining restaurant, even before I selected a top rate chef, I would make sure to hire a clever linguist. In The language of food : a linguist reads the menu, Dan Jurafsky talks about the linguistics of restaurant menus.

For instance, fine dining restaurants are able to charge a premium for their food simply by highlighting exotic ingredients and citing where their food comes from. Kobe steak from Japan? $100 please. Lobster caught off the shores of Maine? Get ready to open your wallet. On the other hand, menus from budget diners don't tell you where their food comes from. They also don't include strange ingredients you've never heard of. Instead, if they describe their food at all, budget diners might emphasize "real" ingredients, like "real" cheese and "real" eggs.

We should be served food that can easily and honestly be described. We should know where our food comes from. We should eat real food. And, we shouldn't have to pay $100 a plate for good food. You don't need to cook with fancy ingredients to eat good tasting food that is good for you. You can create a gastronomically sensational experience simply by relying on unprocessed, whole food like plants and protein.

For instance, instead of buying an expensive cut of Kobe steak, you can create tender, juicy chicken zucchini poppers. Adding grated zucchini to ground up chicken takes advantage of the high water content of zucchini to make these poppers succulent. I recommend microwaving the zucchini and squeezing out some of the water so the poppers don't get soggy. Also, I used chicken thighs instead of chicken breasts because they are juicier but still lean. Try putting chicken zucchini poppers on the next menu you serve your kids!


Jurafsky, Dan. 2014. The language of food: a linguist reads the menu.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

How to Make a Healthy Sweet Snack For Kids

I try to cook something new at least once a week. And yet, I give my kids the same breakfast nearly every day of the week--plain yogurt. However, their yogurt breakfasts vary in one crucial way--the toppings. Plain yogurt is like a blank canvas. You can accessorize your yogurt with nuts, granola, peanut butter, or dried fruit, to name just a few suggestions.

Why do kids enjoy pouring themselves a glass of juice after school? Why do they like dolling out their ketchup from a squeeze bottle? Kids, like adults, want to have some say over their food. They want to feel empowered by the autonomy of decision making. My kids love to demand different toppings on their yogurt based on the whims of their morning tastes. When kids feel vested in the decisions they make over their food choices, they are more likely to eat their food.

One powerful way you can empower your kids and make life a little easier for yourself is to teach your kids how to prepare their own healthy snack. Take something easy like a piece of fruit and teach your kids to accessorize their snack with protein such as cheese, nuts, and peanut butter. Adding protein to their fruit lowers the overall glycemic index of their snack. The contrast of these toppings actually brings out the natural sweetness in the fruit as well. Plus, they will be proud of the creations they make themselves!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

How Charlie Brown Cooks Healthy Pan Seared Whole Branzino Fish For Kids

We recently took the kids to watch The Peanuts Movie. It was one of the first times both kids were able to sit through an entire movie in a theater. What an amazing experience! This opens up a whole world of cinematic possibilities. No longer do I need to wait for new releases to come out on Redbox.

The Peanuts Movie is a surprisingly well-crafted piece of work. Appealing to both young and old, quick-witted quips are interspersed throughout the flick, yet the overall pacing of the story is suitable for the young toddler mind. Having grown up reading comics by Charles Schultz, I particularly appreciated the authenticity of the characters, which stayed true to the original endearing strip.

Growing up, I used to get frustrated by Charlie Brown. The perpetual blockhead never seemed to learn from his mistakes, and he never seemed to get anything right. As an adult, I have a newfound appreciation for what a wonderfully complex and poignant character Charlie Brown is. This sentimental favorite is one of the few comic characters that is really spot on. Insecure, anxious, and forever struggling to find his place in life, Charlie Brown is one of the few truly relatable characters in life. Far from perfect, he reminds us all about the imperfection of our reality.

But despite his countless failures, Charlie Brown keeps on stepping up to to the plate, running towards that football, and optimistically chasing after that elusive kite. He reminds us that life is not about always getting things right, but in the rewarding struggle of trying to get things right.

Attempting a new dish, cooking for others, or starting a new diet can all be anxiety provoking events. I used to be terrified over the prospect of trying a completely new dish out on family and friends. Just as Charlie Brown struggles to get his kite off the ground, I have always struggled to get a whole fish cleanly off a pan.

I figured the best way to force myself to successfully pan sear a whole fish was to invite my family over and cook for them. Despite my initial trepidation, I got out my kite and started running. I made sure to dry off the fish well and get the cast iron skillet piping hot. Unfortunately, as I always seem to do, flipped my fish too early and some of the skin tore off. Nonetheless, I untangled my kite from the tree and went to work on the other side. This time I stayed patient and the fish turned out beautifully. In the end, my pan-seared branzino with herb-garlic marinade got the Ko family seal of approval.

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