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Cooking With Dad

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Behold the midlife crisis: a stark realization and critical time of change. Most dads turn in their sedan for a motorcycle and their North Face for a leather jacket. Some dye their hair and join the local band. But not my dad. I actually got lucky with my dad's "midlife crisis;" I saw him transform into a master chef in a matter of weeks.

When my dad discovered cooking it was like he had awoken a sleeping giant, one of a passion for and connection to food. My father cooked masterpieces sans recipes or direction like he was one with the ingredients. Whatever he imagined would materialize into a beautiful dish that my family (and our stomachs) gladly "tested."

Ever since then, cooking became our thing. It's more than a passion and quality time well spent -- it's a lifestyle.

My family background is Russian, and I'm technically zero generation. I was born in Minsk, Belarus, and I came here at the tender age of almost two. Nevertheless, my Belarusian culture greatly influenced my upbringing. One of my favorite parts of the culture (and any culture) is the cuisine. You are what you eat so there is no denying that food plays one of the most important roles in our lives.

There are many things I grew up loving that, let's just say, are probably on your "avoid" list to prevent a heart attack at the age of 40: meat for breakfast, lunch and dinner; mayonnaise as salad dressing; and baked goods galore. Don't get me wrong, there was also an emphasis on fresh and whole foods, but that wasn't really my cup of tea as a kid. I was lucky I grew up actively dancing and playing sports everyday; I never quite felt the wrath of "heavy" food.

As you get older, life becomes more static, yet more stressful. More than ever, I realized I needed food to fuel me, to keep me going and keep me feeling good from the inside out.

Around the time of my dad's "midlife crisis," he realized he too needed feel-good food. Not the sugar high kind but the "I feel like I can run a marathon" kind. My dad has always been very physically fit. Standing at 6 ft. 2 in., this is not a man you want to mess with. He can drop and give you 20 and casually do 15 pull-ups without really breaking a sweat. Fitness is one thing, however, but nutrition is a whole other animal.

Cooking With Dad photo

You see, a state-of-the-art car without fuel or a battery is useless. And fitness is nothing without the right fuel. So my dad and I found ourselves on the same mission: how to create foods that are both energy-fueling and something we're excited about.

Our eating habits evolved, and so did our cooking. Our diets began to mirror one another and there's nothing I enjoy more than bouncing ideas off of my dad. From smoothies to soups, salads to stir fry, and rice to ground turkey, we've helped each other perfect every single dish. We've really bonded over our appreciation for nutrition and our love of cooking.

Now it's something I'd love to share with all of you. A way to a man's heart, they say, is through his stomach, so on this Father's Day, there's no better way to say "I love you, dad" than preparing a hearty, healthy, dish.

Here are two simple recipes. Enjoy!


Very Berry Smoothie

One cup frozen strawberries

One cup frozen blueberries
3-4 handfuls of spinach
1 apple (any kind)
1 tablespoon honey
1-2 medjool dates
1½ cup of water

Throw it all in a blender and voilà!  


The Perfect Brown Rice
Brown rice is a perfect and filling whole grain. This recipe gives it the consistency of fluffy oatmeal with your favorite rice-tastic taste.   

You will need:
1-2 cups of dried brown rice (depending on how much you want to make)
Your favorite veggies (think carrots, onions, mushrooms, cauliflower, broccoli, or zucchini)
Deeper pot and a stainless steel cooking bowl

It's very important to soak the brown rice for 12-24 hours (at least try to soak it overnight) in room temperature water. The rice to water ratio should be about one to five: five cups of water for every one cup of rice.

Before cooking, pour out the water used for soaking and fill the bowl with four new cups of water for every one cup of rice.

You'll need a bigger pot and stainless steel cooking bowl that you can stack on top of the pot and close with a lid. Fill a quarter of the pot up with water and stack the steel pan/bowl of rice on top and close with lid.

Bring the pot to a boil and then down to a simmer. Now let it cook for an hour, and at that point throw in all your favorite veggies. You can also sauté the veggies before throwing them in to give it a slightly different taste. Let the rice simmer with veggies for another hour and it's done! You won't believe your eyes that this is brown rice when you see it. It's such a hearty dish and truly one of my favorites!

To read more posts in the "World's Greatest Jewish Dads" blog series, click here.

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