How a smartphone game inspired healthy cooking for kids

A few years ago, my daughter contracted the deadly H1N1 virus. She was in a hospital for over three weeks – truly a dreadful time for my wife and me. Seeing our three-year-old on a hospital bed riddled with plastic tubing and with a fever that would never come down, as well as never-ending blood draws, almost broke my heart. My Angela loves food – but during those times, food was the last thing on her mind, especially hospital food. We couldn’t make her eat anything, not even her favorite french fries.

Although I knew full well that sick people just do not have an appetite, as a father I was very concerned, as she had already lost a lot of weight. Being a chef, I wondered to myself what could entice children to eat? It had to be something colorful, tasty, and fun that they wouldn’t necessarily realize was healthy food.

When she finally came home, her recovery took another few weeks before things went back to normal in our household again. While trying to make her feel better, we played a game on my phone, and she pointed and said, “This is what I want to eat!”

The game was Candy Crush. Immediately, my mind started turning, and I had an exciting idea. My inspiration to create healthy, appetizing food for kids was right in front of me. From then on, every day I would prepare a healthy dish to entice my children to eat. As time went on during these experiments, I began to get a grasp of what my children liked to eat. Immediately, I started creating healthier counterparts of the original dishes my children enjoyed. To my surprise, it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. After each meal, I would ask them what they liked and disliked about the food. To this day my children are my best critics.

My wife and I strongly believe in eating healthy food. Fruits and vegetables are always a part of our meals. The benefits of eating a healthy and balanced diet is widely publicized, and although it’s cute and adorable to see a chubby baby, overfeeding is probably the most unhealthy thing parents can do to their children.

Obesity starts with what we feed our children at home. It’s best to start eating well at a young age, as healthy food is a big factor in raising a healthy child. With that, I leave you a simple recipe that your children will enjoy.

BIO: Vietnamese chef Jack Lee has served a host of Hollywood A-listers from Angelina Jolie to Barbra Streisand, and recently returned to chef for Acacia Veranda Dining (149-151 Nguyen Du, D1). His biography You Don’t Know Jack by Oi writer NPD Khanh will be released later this year.

CANDY CRUSH CRUDITÉ WITH RANCH DRESSING
Now, remember that vegetable crudité can be anything you put on the plate. As long as the Ranch Dressing dip is good, your kids will eat it up. Bon appétit!
For the Ranch Dressing:

  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 clove of garlic, grated
  • 2 tablespoons fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • Salt and freshly-ground black pepper

If you’re making this dish for adults rather than children, you can consider adding ½ tsp of Tabasco.

For my crudité I like to use:

  • 2 cups celery
  • 1 cup carrots
  • 1 cup beets
  • 1 whole yellow and red plum
  • 1 cup of forbidden rice (cooked and seasonal)
  • 1 cup of cooked pearl onion
  • ½ hot house cucumber