Saturday, March 26, 2016

How to Cook Vietnamese Caramelized and Braised Fish For Kids

When I was a kid, I used to watch reruns of The Andy Griffith Show. After repeatedly watching the opening credits, I concluded that one of the jobs of a father is to take their sons fishing. The other job is to happily whistle whenever feasibly possible. I vowed that one day, when I had a son of my own, I'd take him fishing too.

That day finally came. Since Cassie had taken Cailya on a trip to Las Vegas, I figured it would be the perfect opportunity for a father son fishing expedition. The Herndon Parks and Rec department was holding their annual trout fishing derby, so I signed us up. The fact that I didn't know how to fish was a minor detail.

When we arrived at the park, I quickly realized that most of the other father son duos had at least one experienced fisherman in the pair. Other sons and fathers were armed with knee high waterproof boots and high tech fishing gear. On the other hand, I quietly made my way over to registration and whispered, "Can someone teach us how to fish?"

One nice teenaged volunteer handed us a loaner pole and showed us how to release the line and then reel it back in. He then handed us a cup of worms and said, "Hooking the worms is self-explanatory." In other words, only an idiot would have trouble attaching a worm to a hook.

We headed over to the stream and I picked a nice spot. After several attempts, I finally hooked the worm. Then, as I have seen it done so many times in television and movies, I whipped our fishing pole behind my head. Unfortunately, when I attempted to throw our line forward into the water, I couldn't. It had gotten stuck on a tree. I actually got our line caught on a tree three other times before I realized that I could simply put the line over the water, then send it out sideways. 

Colin and I took turns holding the fishing pole, patiently waiting for a bite. Colin asked a lot of questions to pass the time like, "Did you get the fishing line stuck on the tree again?" and "Did you lose the worm again?" After a couple of hours, our supply of worms and patience were exhausted. We didn't end up catching any fish, so we went to the supermarket and bought a fish instead. I brought it home and cooked up this tasty Vietnamese Caramelized and Braised Catfish recipe. Although I turned out to be more Don Knotts than Andy Griffith, I'm glad I took Colin fishing. Perhaps now I'll show him how to whistle.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

How to Make a Healthy Gluten Free Low Carbohydrate Ham and Cheese Paleo Sandwich

How about some wood pulp in your cheese? A lot of recipes call for shredded cheese. But have you ever stopped to think what exactly shredded cheese is? In order to keep it from clumping, processed shredded cheese often contains cellulose, a processed fiber created in a food laboratory made from wood pulp. Yum!

Rather than use cellulose, some processed shredded cheeses use starches or calcium sulfate to prevent caking. If you're trying to avoid carbohydrates that are high in glycemic index, those little hidden starches from potato starch and cornstarch can really add up.  For instance, here's a list of the ingredients I found in one such processed cheddar shredded cheese:

Pasteurized milk, cheese culture, salt, enzymes, annatto (color), potato starch, cornstarch and calcium sulfate added to prevent caking, natamycin (a natural mold inhibitor)

In contrast, here's the ingredients listed on a block of parmesan cheese:

Pasteurized part-skim milk, cheese cultures, salt, enzymes

And here's the ingredients listed on a block of Pecorino Romano cheese:

100% pure pasteurized sheeps milk, cultures, rennet, salt

Packaged shredded cheese is a processed cheese like product, just as packaged loaves of bread are bread like products. Folks, this is not real cheese. This is not real food.

If you have Netflix, I highly recommend you watch Michael Pollan's four part series, Cooked. Based on his book by the same name, the last in the series features the element land. He interviews a nun who shows how microorganisms turn milk and rennet into real aged cheese.

One way to enjoy real cheese is to buy blocks of real aged cheese and shred what you need with a grater. Aged cheese is so flavorful, you only need a little to add a ton of umami to your dishes. Try making your kids gluten free low carbohydrate ham and cheese sandwiches by putting a slice of cured sausage in between two parmesan crisps.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

How to Make Healthy Creamed Spinach and Simply Seared Scallops For Kids

One of my most memorable gifts was a transformer set I received for my birthday. I remember seeing the set in Toys R Us and begging my mom for it. It had a big rig that could transform into a missile launcher. The big rig carried a yellow sports car that could transform into an airplane. On the day of my birthday, I was thrilled to unwrap my present even though I already knew the contents of the package. I loved that transformer. I loved it so much I kept it and handed it down to Colin. It is now one of his favorite toys.

Thanks to the generosity of one of our friends, Cassie and I received a four week trial to Blue Apron. We returned home on a Thursday evening and found a large package waiting for us on our doorstep. Even though we had selected our meals in advance, I was still excited and curious to open the package. I tore into the package like it was my birthday. In fact, the Blue Apron trial was actually a present for Cassie's birthday, but that's besides the point.

This is how I would describe my Blue Apron experience:


  • Deliciously tasty meals
  • Fresh, high quality ingredients
  • Nice packaging, labeling, and organization
  • Easy to follow recipe cards
  • Reasonably affordable
  • Simple flavors from salt, acid, spices, and fresh herbs
  • Innovative use of ingredients with novel recipes


  • You still have to do the work--peeling, chopping, and cooking
  • Meals come at the end of the work week
  • Meals may be high in glycemic index and saturated fat--several of my meals incorporated flour and butter for instance. 

All in all, my experience with Blue Apron was quite favorable. Perhaps the greatest value in Blue Apron is it makes cooking and learning about food fun. Their packages include a card highlighting interesting factoids about the ingredients in their meals. I learned some nifty flavor combinations like cashews and rice. I also made food I never would have otherwise made, like homemade empanadas. My family learned we are fans of creamed spinach and simply seared scallops.

But the most important message from Blue Apron is anyone can cook. Michael Pollan laments how cooking has become a lost art form. Cooking is a uniquely human activity. Sadly, so many of us have lost our culinary sensibilities due to the demands of work and life in general. Blue Apron invites us all to don our blue aprons, and once again learn the joy of cooking.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

How to Make Healthy Hungarian Goulash For Kids

One of the most important lessons you can teach your kids is what hunger is. After Colin finishes his dessert, he often laments, "I'm hungry." That is NOT hunger. In the middle of a long flight, Cailya, looking a bit bored whined, "I'm hungry." She had recently eaten lunch. That too, is not hunger. When the kids haven't eaten recently, they can get cranky. That is hunger. And when that happens, I know I failed to do my job.

Not only is it important to teach your kids how to understand their hunger cues, it is essential to teach them how to control their hunger. One study found weight gain was prevented amongst children by teaching them to slow down the pace of their eating. Children who waited 30 seconds between each bite lost an average of 3.4% of their body weight during a year-long research project, while those who didn't pace their eating saw their weight increase by as much as 12.6%. Slowing down food intake allows enough time to pass for normal satiety signals to kick in.  

Hunger can also be prevented by eating regular meals. Our bodies are sensitive to change. Skipping meals or waiting too long between feedings contribute to more extreme changes in hunger hormones. That is hunger, but not the kind of hunger I want to teach my kids to react to.

You can also teach your kids how to control hunger by teaching them to avoid foods that stimulate appetite and select foods that promote satiety instead. Instead of giving them foods with added sugar and refined carbohydrates, try incorporating some fat or protein into their meals and snacks. Both fat and protein promote satiety, helping kids and adults alike control their portions. Instead of letting your kids go hungry, try teaching them something about Hungary by making this tasty Hungarian Goulash recipe.


Lukits, A. (2016, Feb). Slow EAting May Help Children Keep Weight Off. Wall Street Journal, pg. D4.

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