Naperville Eats: Dad on mission to serve healthy food
January 16, 2013 5:52PM
Mark Smoler plates up a serving of his Hash Brown Encrusted Salmon.
Hash Brown Encrusted Salmon
1 pound salmon
1 cup rice or almond milk
1 teaspoon onion powder
3 cups shredded potatoes, frozen or fresh
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon dill weed
If using fresh potatoes, shred and soak in cold water for 15 minutes. Drain and squeeze out excess water. If using frozen, thaw and drain. Set aside.
Mix egg, milk and onion powder in a small bowl. Bathe salmon in the mixture. Press into shredded potatoes, covering both sides of the salmon so it is entirely coated.
Heat frying pan and add just enough oil to cover the bottom. Place salmon in pan and season with salt and pepper. Fry about five minutes and then flip the salmon. Pour lemon juice and dill weed on the salmon. Cook an additional five minutes or until potatoes are lightly browned. The potatoes form a crust that steams the salmon inside. Serve with steamed broccoli.
2 cups fresh blueberries
2 cups fresh spinach
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup water
Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend. Freeze in 1/2 cup portions.
4 tablespoons coconut oil
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup purple sludge
1/2 cup flour
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Mix coconut oil, cocoa, eggs, vanilla, sugar, purple sludge and flour. Pour into a greased 9-inch pan. Sprinkle chocolate chips over mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
Updated: February 19, 2013 1:22PM
Mark Smoler, of Naperville, believes that “you are what you eat,” so he is a careful about the meals he prepares for his three children. The 45-year-old single dad only cooks healthy for his three children, but he has also taught them to read labels and be selective.
He recalls when one of his children was eight and asked for a popular cereal. Mark reluctantly agreed to buy one box as a reward. His daughter read the label after getting the cereal home and was so shocked by the ingredients that she threw it out without eating it.
Since Smoler is a professional food provider for Chicago-area restaurants, he is aware of trends in healthy eating.
“Some chefs see cooking healthy as a way to stand out from others,” Smoler says. “I am finding that more chefs are caring more about health concerns than in the past. My goal is to make healthy cooking easy and affordable, so they are more likely to change.”
Graham Elliot, a Chicago chef who has appeared on television cooking shows, is one of Smoler’s clients. He is also pleased to be working with Epic Burger, a Chicago restaurant focused on organic and natural cooking methods.
Smoler says one change that many experienced chefs are making is using less vegetable oil for food preparation.
“There are several alternatives that are healthier,” Smoler says. “One chef told me that he uses grape seed oil for frying fish because there is less absorption so it is easier to taste the fish. He also has found that he needs less grape seed oil for frying than with other oils.”
When cooking at home, Smoler tries to slip nutritious ingredients into meals without telling his family. After reading about a purple puree used by cookbook author Missy Chase Lapin, he came up with his own version of pureed blueberries, spinach and lemon juice that he makes, portions into plastic bags and freezes.
“I put it in everything,” he says of his mixture, which he calls purple sludge. “Pancakes, cupcakes, brownies. My kids don’t know it is in there. I have found that when I add it to a recipe, I need to reduce the amount of flour a little.”
Smoler is always looking for new ways to prepare food and was playing in a poker tournament when he saw a new way to fix salmon.
“The television was on during the tournament, but there was no sound, so I just watched the guy make the salmon. It looked so good that I went home and made it until I got it right,” Smoler says.
Hash Brown Encrusted Salmon has become a family favorite. With a side of steamed broccoli, Smoler says it is an easy and delicious meal.
Whenever he can, Smoler avoids processed foods. For example, instead of using frozen hash browns for his salmon, Smoler prefers to shred Yukon Gold potatoes with the skins left intact. He soaks the potatoes for 15 minutes in cold water, drains them and then squeezes out excess moisture in the potatoes with paper towels.
“It takes a little longer, but I can avoid the chemicals that are used to preserve frozen potatoes,” he explains. “Just put on your favorite music and take the time to enjoy making dinner.”
Smoler’s favorite cooking music is supplied by Frank Sinatra. Smoler invites others to tune in their favorite artist and try cooking healthy with his recipes.