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84: Man Meals Update 1: Troy's Culinary Struggle

Aug 10, 2021

The guys' first foray into healthy cooking turned out to be a bit of a learning experience. Culinary coach Theresa Dvorak checks in with how everyone handled the Thai Red Curry recipe and hits us with a pair of new easy-to-make meals to try.

Episode Transcript

This week's recipe is Stuffed Spaghetti Squash and homemade No-bake Chewy Granola Bars. If you make it, tell us how it was and post your pictures on our Facebook page.

This content was originally created for audio. Some elements such as tone, sound effects, and music can be hard to translate to text. As such, the following is a summary of the episode and has been edited for clarity. For the full experience, we encourage you to subscribe and listen— it's more fun that way.

Scot: All right. So today on "Who Cares About Men's Health," we're going to find out how it went with the first recipe, easy Thai red curry. Was it tasty? How did it go for cooking newbie Troy? And we're also going to get another easy-to-make man meal that you can eat all week today.

It is "Who Cares About Men's Health," providing information, inspiration, and a different interpretation about men's health.

All right. Today's crew, we've got co-host, Dr. Troy Madsen.

Troy: Hey, Scot.

Scot: I'm Scot Singpiel. I bring the BS and ask the dumb questions so you don't have to. Mitch, looking good from his head to his toes, and now he can breathe through his nose. It's Producer Mitch in the mix.

Mitch: Oh, wow. I'm glad I get an intro now. It's fancy.

Scot: And our guests today from University of Utah's College of Health Department of Nutrition and Integrative Physiology, we have registered dietician and culinary coach Theresa Dvorak. She's got another stack of tasty recipes.

Theresa: Hey, there. How's it going?

Scot: Doing well. And he has a PhD in nutrition, and I also just learned today biochemistry and molecular biology. And he also has a 16-page CV. Thunder Jalili.

Thunder: You must be really bored to be looking up my background.

Scot: All right. Today's easy-to-make-all-at-once man meal we're reviewing was the easy Thai red curry. We're going to go around the table here, see what people thought, get any sort of feedback that might be useful, and then Theresa is going to give us another recipe.

I don't have a ton to say, so I'm just going to jump in first. I thought it was really good. What'd you think, Thunder? Was it good?

Thunder: Yeah, I thought the meal was delicious. It was a little different than the curries I've made before because of the added tomatoes, but I found I actually liked that extra flavor in there.

Scot: Okay. Troy, what'd you think?

Troy: Well, it's clear that I'm the outlier in the group. I think Mitch should go before I do.

Scot: Okay. Well, just in general, was it tasty? Can you at least answer that?

Troy: It was good. I liked it. It was good.

Scot: Okay. All right.

Theresa: Did we get to the end product?

Troy: We did. It was good.

Scot: Yeah, stay tuned for some whining from Troy coming up. That'll be fun. Mitch, was it good or not? What'd you think?

Mitch: I really liked it, but my partner is a bit of a foodie, and it was really surprising when we went to . . . We went down to the Southeast Asian market to get some supplies because I know Theresa on the episode was like, "Get good stuff. Go and get some quality ingredients. It'll make a better product."

I got the pre-prepared curry paste and he was a little snooty about it. He was like, "You know you can make your own curry? You know you can do that." And it turned out better than any curry that we've tried before. I'm just going to throw that out there.

Scot: I have a feeling, Theresa, that in this particular recipe, simplicity trumps authenticity.

Theresa: Well, I would beg to differ on the authenticity piece because I know many Asian/Southeast Asian/Thai individuals who just use paste.

So that brings into a good point of when you use pre-prepared packaged items and when you make them from scratch. And some of the key things that you want to look for are: Are there added chemicals, things like MSG or added alternatives? Is there added sugar? Is there a lot of extra salt in it?"

Those types of pre-prepared packaged things, sauces, mixes, soups, things of that sort, you could probably do better if you did from scratch. Whereas something like the curry paste is really just a blend of spices and peppers and things like that. And across the board, I would say most of them don't have that extra stuff in them that we often want to stay away from.

But if Jonathan wants to make his own, I would be more than willing to taste test for it.

Mitch: That's kind of what I told him too.

Troy: I'm just going to jump in here and say if I had to make my own curry paste, that would have been my breaking point.

Thunder: It would have been back to the bean burrito, Troy.

Troy: No, this is what I would have done. I thought very seriously about going down to a Thai restaurant we had been to a week before and ordering a red curry, and eating it, and saying, "Yes, I had a delicious red curry. I loved it." I was close.

Theresa: And taken a picture like Thunder.

Troy: And taken a picture and said, "Look how great my . . . I made a few modifications. It may not look like yours, but it was delicious." I was close, but like I said, I'm definitely the outlier. I recognize this was not a difficult recipe, but my background is . . . I thought back over the years. I've never made anything that required more than five ingredients, and even that has been a stretch for me. So usually my ingredients are pancake mix, eggs, milk . . .

Theresa: Water.

Troy: And maybe some water. That's been it. I made some cheesy potatoes before. You cut up potatoes. I looked it up to see how many ingredients it was.

Thunder: Wow.

Troy: It's potatoes, cheese, and cream of mushroom soup. That's the extent of my cooking expertise. So this was a stretch.

Theresa: Was it real cheese or Velveeta? No, I'm just joking.

Troy: It was real cheese. It was better than Velveeta. So I'm speaking for all the guys out there who may not have a lot of cooking experience. This was a stretch for me. This was tough.

Scot: Yeah, I want to throw in Troy's wife posted on Facebook and made me laugh out loud. So it says, "Troy's preparing dinner as part of a challenge for the podcast. In 13 years of marriage, he's never made dinner." Here are my favorite comments so far. This is from Troy's wife. "What is a saucepan?"

Troy: I have no idea

Scot: "Are shallots a vegetable? Was I supposed to buy those?"

Troy: Yeah, there were shallots in the recipe. I get down to this point and it says, "Add the shallots to the oil that's already cooking." I was like, "What did I miss? Where are shallots? I missed that."

Scot: That might be a little trip-up in the recipe because it asks for a yellow onion.

Theresa: I apologize. Yes, Troy, that was a typo. Thank you.

Troy: I figured it out later, but I hit that, I was like, "Shallots? Number one, what is a shallot? Number two, I didn't buy one."

Theresa: Well, see, I was thinking of you because I changed it originally from shallots to yellow onions, because I knew . . .

Troy: So you did that for me? Thank you.

Theresa: For all of you, yes.

Troy: For all of us. Me in particular.

Scot: It just sent him into a tailspin, though.

Troy: It did. I was like, "Whoa."

Scot: The third thing, "Do you know coconut milk is a thing?" That was his third comment. And not only is it a thing, it's the thing that makes this so freaking good, I have to say.

Troy: It did make a difference.

Thunder: It's a key ingredient.

Scot: If you don't know anything about coconut milk, know this. It makes things good. "Ginger is crazy-looking," and, "How do I do medium heat?" which is a legitimate kind of question in a way.

Thunder: Isn't that the middle part of the heat dial?

Troy: One would assume, but I honestly had it on medium and I'm like, "This isn't cooking fast enough." I'm supposed to brown everything I chopped up and it was two minutes into it and it wasn't very brown. I'm like, "Okay, I don't think this is medium." So that was throwing me off a little bit.

Scot: It takes time. I think I might have put in a little too much oil because it took a long time for my onions to brown, and I think maybe it was too much oil. I don't know.

So I think what we should focus on here is Troy's story because I think this could be a familiar story. For somebody who doesn't have a lot of experience in the kitchen, can be really kind of intimidated, Theresa, is there anything . . . What would you say to Troy or somebody like that? Because you teach cooking lessons out in the community, so you must run into this.

Theresa: Certainly. First and foremost, I would probably say Troy should join one of our classes.

Let me kind of tease this out a little bit more, Troy. Was it the recipe literacy piece or not knowing what . . . It sounds like there was not knowing what things are. And so just learning that? Or the actual seeing this laundry list of ingredients and multiple paragraphs of instructions, was that the intimidating part that caused a little bit of the shutdown?

Thunder: Or all the above?

Troy: Everything you just said. I went down aisles in the grocery store I have never visited before.

Theresa: Awesome. Love it.

Troy: I'm like, "I have never been in this aisle. Wait." And then I'm looking for the diced tomatoes and I find this aisle that has all the vegetables. I'm like, "Where are diced tomatoes?" There's every other vegetable you can imagine in this aisle. Come to find out diced tomatoes are in the Italian aisle. There are like 400 varieties of diced tomatoes by the spaghetti sauce.

And then the clincher . . . because I found the Thai paste pretty quickly because there is an Asian aisle, but the clincher was the coconut milk. I was like, "Coconut milk? Where in the world am I going to find that?" And I finally found it down on the bottom. They had a couple cans of coconut milk by the condensed milk. And so that part . . .

Theresa: In the baking aisle, yeah, which threw you. Why shouldn't it be by the Asian food?

Troy: I know.

Thunder: Troy, did you start in the dairy section for the coconut milk?

Troy: I might as well have.

Theresa: That's great.

Troy: I didn't go that far with it. I'm like, "I don't think it's going to be refrigerated. So it's not going to be next to a gallon of milk that I would pull out of the thing." But like I said, I was going places I've never been. And I'm glad there weren't a lot of people in the grocery store because it was just me going up and down aisles, up and down aisles multiple times.

Scot: Yeah, your frustration started at the grocery store, and then did it continue?

Troy: It did. Yes, it did continue. That wasn't the end of it. As I'm trying to peel the garlic, I'm like, "How do I peel garlic?" Just simple things. Honestly, I've never done them before, so Laura, my wife, says, "Well, if you put it in the microwave for like seven seconds, it makes it easier to peel." So that kind of helped.

And then the ginger, I kind of figured out how to peel that with the spoon, but again, it's something I'd never done before.

But when I did get into the recipe itself, I'm trying to time this stuff, like, "Okay, I've got this in there. Oh, wait, I need to add this. Oh, wait, I should have chopped those vegetables first. I didn't chop those vegetables. I've got to get those in."

So I think I probably should have read ahead a little bit more and been prepared for what was coming rather than just kind of going step by step, which is what I did. I mean, I got through it and it actually tasted really good. I was happy with the outcome, but it was a process, but I got there.

Theresa: So looking back, was it a good . . . Do you feel a little bit more empowered now . . .

Troy: I don't know if empowered is the best word.

Theresa: . . . for this next week's recipe?

Troy: Maybe a little bit.

Scot: Quite frankly, I'm afraid he's dropping out. I really am.

Troy: I thought about it. I hate to admit it. It was a challenge. Again, the most rewarding part is that, number one, I enjoyed it. It tasted good. Number two, Laura was very impressed. She was like, "Okay, this is really cool you did this." She was very supportive, so that was great. But it was a challenge. It was definitely a stretch.

Thunder: Troy, I have a question for you. How long did it take you to actually cook it?

Troy: The whole process, like once I chopped and cooked everything, was an hour and a half. So I was hoping it would be under an hour. It was an hour and a half.

Thunder: Well, the recipe did say an hour.

Troy: It did.

Thunder: So you blew through that metric.

Troy: Yeah, I did okay there. At the end I was like, "I'm just going to botch this and it's going to taste awful," but it actually tasted good. I will admit, I told you I was going to do minute rice. I did minute rice. I did not do any special kind of rice, but it tasted fine. It was good.

Scot: I just have a feeling . . . I'm not super well versed in the kitchen, but you start to kind of learn when . . . Like, while the onions are doing their thing, if you have an idea that it's going to take five to seven minutes, then you can be chopping your vegetables. I mean, after you do this a couple times, you start figuring that stuff out. So I hope that by the end of this, maybe we see some growth as Chef Madsen puts on his hat.

Theresa: In training.

Scot: Chef-in-training.

Theresa: Yeah, I think that's great. And you bring in a really great point, Troy, that a lot of newbies in the kitchen experience, is that they often don't read through the recipe. And so really reading through the recipe first to know what ingredients you're having. And often in that list, it tells you how it needs to be prepared and you can investigate and research that a little bit if needed.

But then it can also give you an idea of . . . kind of set the agenda almost of where we're starting and where we're going. And so you have that in the back of your mind as to, "Okay, this is the process."

Troy: It's true. And I think having been through this now, if I never cook another dish . . . I will. I will stick with it, but if I never cook another dish, I do feel like I could go back and I can make this and I could actually serve this to people who came to our house and be like, "Hey, I made this." And they'd be like, "Oh, it's pretty good."

So I feel like I now know what to expect and how to do things with this specific dish. And hopefully, that translates into a little more expertise with our next attempt here. We'll see how it goes.

Scot: And if you did this dish four or five times, you would be a master at it. I mean, it's just a matter of . . .

Troy: Yeah, that's true.

Scot: I mean, you'd be able to probably cut that time down. The frustration level would go away. And Thunder wanted to throw in . . . he had a couple of tips for maybe even making it easier to prepare some of the things in here. What did you have, Thunder?

Thunder: Yeah, since the idea is to have easy recipes that men can make that are not too intimidating, here are some ideas to make it more manly. I actually got frozen vegetables out of my freezer and put them in the curry instead of buying and slicing up my own vegetables. I had a powdered turmeric that I used instead of just shaving the root. I used the . . .

Troy: Powdered ginger, you mean?

Thunder: Sorry. Yeah, ginger.

Troy: Yeah, the ginger . . . Okay.

Thunder: And then I also had pre-minced garlic out of the jar. I used that stuff. Actually, the whole recipe didn't take that much time. What took the most time for me is I added my own flair to it. I took tofu and I pressed the water out of it and I stir-fried it and I added it to the curry, but I didn't have to do that.

Scot: They also have a pre-bottled or in a jar chopped ginger-garlic combination, which is what I used. So we have a jar of chopped garlic and then this little deal. Then you don't have to deal with that stuff, Troy, which can kind of take some of the stress and pressure off if you just buy that sort of thing.

Troy: That would have been nice.

Theresa: That piggybacks off of kind of what Mitch was talking about of how do you know what is a decent packaged or pre-prepared type of food versus not. And frozen vegetables, even some canned vegetables, are a great example of that because the chopping and finding it in-season and fresh can sometimes be challenging depending on the time of the year.

And those frozen individual veggies or veggie medleys are really great to have on hand so that you can just grab a couple of handfuls there and throw it in your sauce.

And you could throw it in your spaghetti sauce or your Thai curry sauce or your Alfredo or something like that too if you were venturing in those other directions.

Thunder: Can I ask a group question? I'm curious, what vegetables did you guys put into your curry? Now I'll go ahead and I'll start. I used frozen cauliflower, frozen red peppers and frozen orange peppers, and also some mushrooms I actually had in the freezer that I sautéed like a week before.

Scot: And those mushrooms held up, huh?

Thunder: Oh, they were fabulous.

Scot: Oh, that's cool. I did broccoli and cauliflower, a red bell pepper, and zucchini is what I put in. And then I just threw tofu. I didn't even press the water out of it like Thunder did. Mitch?

Thunder: I try to be fancy.

Mitch: Theresa was mentioning about the droopy vegetables, and I just threw everything in there. I had a parsnip, I had some carrots, I had a broccoli. It was just whatever. A red pepper. Things that were looking a little gross. They were not gross-gross, but they were a little wilty. I threw them in there.

Therese: A little wrinkly.

Mitch: A little wrinkly. Just chopped them up, threw them in there, delicious. I like that kind of thing because we try really hard to minimize our food waste in our house and so it was kind of cool to be like, "Well, this parsnip is not going anywhere. Let's just throw it on in."

Thunder: You've got the adventure award for using a parsnip. Who uses that in cooking?

Theresa: Troy, do you know what a parsnip is?

Troy: I was going to say, please do not put parsnip on the next recipe. It was hard enough to find a ginger root. A parsnip.

Thunder: Troy would be in the grocery for days looking for that.

Troy: You guys are just going to make a missing person's report or something. Seriously. Well, I have to add what I put in. I put in carrots and broccoli. So I get the least adventurous, but I did do tofu as well. Yeah, I did tofu too.

Theresa: Something that I hadn't put on the list, Troy, that I often do, thinking about keeping it meat-free as much as possible, is that I often will put garbanzo beans in it as well. It's another kind of additional protein alternative and good fiber source.

Troy: Nice.

Theresa: That's pretty easy, right? They're usually in cans. You don't have to boil them yourself. You can buy them canned and rinse them.

Troy: That's a great option.

Scot: All right. Well, Troy, this next week's recipe, I'm a little concerned, Theresa, that it's going to put Troy into a tailspin. I'm seeing stuff on here like canneli beans, artichoke hearts.

Theresa: Cannellini.

Scot: Cannellini beans, artichoke hearts.

Troy: Wow.

Scot: Sun-dried tomatoes, quality pasta sauce. You probably could manage that one.

Troy: Ragu?

Thunder: Is that Ragu?

Troy: I was going to say I know Ragu.

Scot: All right. So what's this week's recipe, Theresa? And talk us through this.

Theresa: Sure. So we actually have two recipes. I know that might be a stretch, and whether you make the second one or not, we can cross that bridge next week.

First is a stuffed spaghetti squash. When we think about alternative carbohydrates, spaghetti squash is one of those that tends to check some boxes when we're looking for something like a pasta dinner.

It's going to be nice in the sense that everything is relatively prepared for you. The ingredients are. So you're going to have marinated artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, Kalamata olives, things that you could all find in . . . If there was an olive bar at the grocery store that you were choosing to go to, you could buy your small quantity there. Or then head down the Italian pasta aisle, and you'll find most of these ingredients.

They should be pretty similar areas of the grocery store, hopefully, Troy, that you're not having to meander all the way around the grocery store multiple times to find your items. But also, the benefit with some of those is that it brings in a lot of savory flavor.

And that's sometimes part of the issue when we're looking at using these large spaghetti squashes. They often need a lot of flavor because it's pretty bland on its own. And so that's why I choose a . . . when I say quality spaghetti sauce, I take it a step up from Ragu or Prego, and look at something that has a little lovelier of a label.

Rao's is a good brand. There are several others. Look for, again, a glass jar. If it's in a glass jar, it's probably a little bit better, and maybe something that's more than, say, a dollar a jar. Shoot for maybe $2 or $3 a jar.

And there are some tips in the recipe about how to cook the spaghetti squash and speed it up. Throw it in the microwave whole for a few minutes. It makes it much easier to cut.

This is also one that you could do in stages if you wanted to depending on how much time you have. You could cook the squash ahead of time, or even the day before, and then prepare it. If you wanted it for Monday night dinner, you could put the rest together, and it's a pretty quick 15 to 20 minutes in the oven that Monday night.

Scot: Any questions on this, Troy? Have you looked the recipe over?

Troy: I did look it over a little bit. I saw roasted red peppers on there. Does that mean I roast the red peppers in advance, or can you buy roasted red peppers?

Thunder: Troy, the olive bar is your friend.

Troy: The olive bar.

Thunder: Yes.

Theresa: And if not, yes, you can buy them jarred.

Troy: Okay, good. Good to know.

Theresa: So they're going to be in this same area that . . . your artichokes, your Kalamata olives, your sun-dried tomatoes are all going to be in that same area in the grocery store.

Troy: Italian aisle? Kind of near the spaghetti? I know pastas. I know spaghettis. As long as it's somewhere in that vicinity, I think I can find it.

Scot: Yeah, the stuffed spaghetti squash looks great. I've had spaghetti squash before and it is really, really tasty. And this looks really gourmet, but it also looks pretty easy to make. Like you said, a lot of the stuff is already kind of in cans, jars, whatnot.

The second one, I think Troy is going to really like this because he loves his protein bars.

Troy: I do love protein bars.

Scot: Yeah, maybe this will be a good substitute for you. It's something you might like. What is your second recipe, Theresa?

Theresa: Chewy granola bars. So from our conversation last week, there was lots of talk about things that are easy to grab and go, needing snacks that you feel good about, whether it's late night coming home from work, or middle of the day and just needing something to kind of take care of that craving in the afternoon, or even that sweet tooth. This one would definitely satisfy that as well. And who doesn't love a nice, crunchy, chewy granola bar that's got chocolate?

And so this one is really pretty easy and you can mix and match with either what you have at your house or what you like to put in it. Essentially, you need a nut butter, some honey, and then some cereal. So puffed rice, puffed kamut, things of that sort to give that crunch.

I like to put in some seeds like chia seeds or flax seeds. You could certainly put in some slivered almonds or things like that if you wanted to.

And then whether it's chocolate chips or a couple of tablespoons of cocoa powder, both work to give that nice chocolate flavor without a ton of extra sugar.

So yeah, the chewy granola bars, I think they'll become a favorite. And they're really easy to make and you can store them in the fridge or the freezer and pop one out as you're ready.

Scot: So one of the things that we want to watch for is added sugar. We've learned that added sugar is not necessarily great. I'm noticing a lot of sugar stuff in this, like light brown sugar, cocoa powder. Maybe that's actually not sugar. Chocolate chips, that's sugar. What makes this better?

Thunder: Partly.

Scot: Yeah. What makes this better than what I might buy in the store?

Theresa: So part of it is the ratio of sugar to your cereal and your nuts and seeds and things of that sort that are mixed into it. And certainly, yes, there is the sugar there. It's going to taste sweet.

We've got to think about portion size. Whether I'm eating a Snickers bar or a protein bar, often when we look at the nutritional content, they're very similar honestly.

And so with this recipe, it's got a significant amount of protein, which is really nice, from the nut butters brought into it. And if you add some nuts and seeds, you're getting a lot of extra fiber there as well.

And when you split up the actual sugar content per serving, it's a bit less than . . . When you see, "Oh, a whole half a cup of honey," you've also got to remember that you're dispersing that throughout all of your servings.

Troy: Are we making both of these then?

Scot: You are. I don't know about the rest of us, but you are.

Thunder: Troy, you make both of them, and we'll give you a couple of weeks to get through it.

Troy: Thanks, guys. Seriously, that's not a bad idea.

Thunder: You might have to take a leave of absence.

Troy: Yeah, can I get a leave of absence? Can one of you guys give me a work note? Seriously. Wow.

Theresa: Focus on the spaghetti squash. And if you've got time to do the granola bars, you can go from there.

Troy: I'm going to focus on spaghetti squash. I'm going to find the olive bar. I will find roasted red peppers and marinated artichoke hearts. I'm going to do this.

Scot: Warning: Put that spaghetti squash in the microwave. I've never heard that trick. They can be really hard to cut. You have to be careful with spaghetti squash.

Troy: Yeah. I do not want to slice a hand.

Theresa: You can always put it in the oven whole. It takes a little longer. It takes more like 45 minutes versus a half an hour in the oven. But yes, you can just put it straight into the oven on a baking sheet if you want, or straight onto the rack, but you can do that. And then how do you know it's done? You can stick a fork in it.

Scot: All right. Well, we're going to stick a fork in this episode right now. Thank you very much for listening, and we hope that you participate. If you do, let us know about it on Facebook. You can go to Send your pictures to, or leave your voice message at 601-55SCOPE. Thanks for listening and thanks for caring about men's health.

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Culinary Medicine at University of Utah Department of Nutrition & Integrative Physiology


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