Give Mashed Potatoes A Tasty Tan

Mashed potatoes are one of the most basic of comfort foods. It’s also one of the most popular. But after a while, we suspect even a classic favorite like this can become a little boring. And don’t even get us started on those awful instant stuff.

We came along this variation on that traditional classic and it turned out really great. So, naturally, we’re passing it along to you in The Bachelor’s Kitchen.

Baked Mashed Potatoes takes the same old stuff and turns it into a rich side dish.

Of course, one starts with potatoes. I like Yukon Golds for mashed potatoes. That golden color and slightly buttery taste make simply great mashers.

Next comes the dairy. If you’re lactose-intolerant, this is not the dish for you. But if you love cream and cheese, this recipe will elevate ordinary mashed potatoes into something special. In this dish are sour cream, cream cheese and shredded Parmesan cheese.

Now take all that, put it into a baking dish and top with some bread crumbs, some extra virgin olive oil and a bit more cheese, pop it in the oven and you’ve got a delicious dish for a special occasion, a pot luck supper or any old Sunday dinner.

The dairy portion is where the fat is. But you can reduce that substantially by using low fat versions. Sour cream is available with little or no fat and the taste is close enough to the full fat version that you won’t notice the difference in this application. But I do admit that on a baked potato, you can taste the difference.

The same thing is true for the cream cheese. You can reduce the fat a lot by using Neufchatel, which is a low fat version of cream cheese. You’ll find it right next to the regular stuff. This is the block type, not the whipped stuff in the tub.

This dish starts the way you’d start any mashed potato recipe. This recipe makes plenty for one or two, but easily can be doubled for a group.

Start with four large russet or Yukon Gold potatoes. We prefer the gold for this. While peeling and cutting into roughly ½ inch cubes, put a big pot of water on high heat to boil. When boiling potatoes, as you would with pasta, make sure you have a lot more water than just enough to cover. When the water begins to boil, add about a tablespoon of salt and allow the water to return to a boil before adding your potato cubes. Cook at a simmer, not a rolling boil, until the potato pieces are tender enough to stick a fork into them easily. Try not to overcook them. You’ll know you’ve let them go too far if the cubes fall apart when you stick your fork into them. Drain and return to the pot or a large bowl. It’s time to mash.

If you like absolutely smooth potatoes with no lumps, then use a hand mixer to mash them well. But I prefer a more rustic approach and just use an old-fashioned potato masher. My argument is that over-whipped potatoes turn into a gluey consistency that reminds one of the library paste we all used to eat in kindergarten. I think a few lumps add character. Also, you still have ingredient to add. So, a quick smash, just breaking the potato pieces up, is all you need.

Add in ¼ cup sour cream, 4 oz. cream cheese, a 1/2 cup of shredded Parmesan and a little salt and pepper to taste. Stir gently to combine.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Take a large casserole dish and spray with cooking spray. Pour your potato mixture into the dish, sprinkle another half-cup of shredded Parmesan over the top, along with a cup of Panko bread crumbs ( you can also use homemade) and even a bit of cheddar cheese, about ½ cup. Drizzle extra virgin olive oil over the dish and it’s ready for the oven.

Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes, then crank up the heat to 450 to brown the top. Watch your dish! Be careful not to burn it. Allow the dish to cool for about 10 minutes before serving.

These re-heat very well with a one-minute shot in the microwave covered with wax paper.

Grilling: It’s Not Just For American Backyards

Chance are at least some of you bachelors out there will be grilling this summer. Whether you have your own grill station at home or at a family cook-out, the lure of the open flame will suck you into doing some “Man’s” cooking.

Isn’t it funny how so many men are masters of the grill but get lost in their own kitchen?

If you think of grilling as a male rite of passage in America, you are leaving out a whole world of grills, all loaded with local meats and vegetables.

Grilling is probably one of the oldest forms of cooking. It involves applying dry heat to the surface of food. That heat can come from underneath, above or even both at the same time.

The method we’re most familiar with in the U. S. is Gridironing. This uses a metal grate laid out in a grid, such as the typical barbecue grate. Another common grill is the flattop. We most associate this type with fast food and diners. Japanese chefs use something similar, a teppanyaki. The Japanese also use the ancient hibachi grill, a metal box containing hot charcoal under a metal grate. Most often you will find these grills on carts selling hot meat on a stick, called yakitori, similar to the Persian kebob.

Speaking of kebabs, in Thailand and Indonesia, meat is also grilled on a stick. For this, the Thai and Indonesians regularly use a satay grill, which, with its metal rods or checkered-metal top, resembles the yakitori style. In Thailand, you can also find a small tabletop charcoal cooker used to make thinly sliced meat and vegetables, a tool that also gets used to make the famous Korean barbecue.

Argentina and Uruguay are also known for barbecue. Called asado, both for the event and the technique, this style uses an iron cross to cook whole animals. In India they do a lot of grilling, and commonly use a brick oven shaped like a cube called a chula. This device has a hole cut in the front so you can feed the fire. They also use the tandoor, a typically large ceramic pot that gets buried in the ground up to its neck. Unlike many types of grills, the food in this one is cooked inside the device using hot coals, though some people do place a grate over the top for surface grilling.

One of the best things about barbecue and grilling is that you can do it anywhere and with various tools no matter where you live. The basic principles are the same: fire, heat, meat and time.

Recipe: Artichoke Heart Farfalli

We hear it over and over again about us eating less meat. There are Meatless Mondays and vegans and doctors, all trying to get us to consider non-animal proteins. For many people, this is a difficult challenge. It’s not so much that they don’t like to eat other things, but that meat and chicken become a habit. Breaking that habit requires a little creativity and broader flavor profiles.

I saw a recipe for an artichoke heart pesto. But it required the services of a food processor or blender. I don’t have either of those appliances and so I was going to pass the recipe idea by. But then I thought there might be another way to use these ingredients that would be just as good, maybe better. That’s how I came up with Artichoke farfalli. For those less inclined to Italian, that means bow-tie pasta with artichoke hearts.

In addition to the box of dried pasta, you’ll need 2 jars (6.5 oz.) of marinated artichoke hearts packed in oil. For acid, pick up a small lemon and juice it. You need a tablespoon each of dried oregano and basil, a quarter cup of chopped walnuts, and three tablespoons of shredded Parmesan cheese.extra virgin olive oil and salt and pepper. With just these few ingredients, you’re ready to make a tasty dish.

Cook the pasta as usual and when finished, rinse with cold water to stop the cooking. Meanwhile, combine the other ingredients in a large bowl. Use a spoon to break up the artichoke hearts or chop them roughly before putting them in the bowl. Mix everything up well and taste for seasoning. Add the pasta to the bowl and stir to combine.

That’s it, you’re done. See how easy it is? This can be served hot or cold. In this hot weather, a cold pasta salad sounds really good. It can be zipped up with some ripe olive slices, chopped roasted red pepper, onion or garlic.

Rounding The Food Pyramid

When I was a kid, we were taught in school about the four basic food groups. A balanced diet included foods from each of those basic groups at every meal. When it became clear that the amount of food from each group was also a factor, the U. S. Department of Agriculture came up with the Food Pyramid. The Pyramid contained a greater number of divisions than just the four and also weighted the groups by quantity. Carbohydrates were at the base, the largest portion of people’s diets. Sweets and fats were at the top, the smallest portion.

I have had problems with the Food Pyramid. I feel the organization is wrong. All I have learned about nutrition and diet tells me that the largest portion of our food intake should be vegetables, not carbohydrates. The problem is that most carbohydrates in our diets are simple. Those contribute to our obesity issues. On the other hand, complex carbohydrates are a great benefit to our eating, making us feel satisfied and full. They stay with us longer because they take longer to digest. But most people equate carbohydrates with grain products, like bread and cereal. The more complex carbohydrates are usually categorized as vegetables, things like beans.

And I’m not the only one critical of the Food Pyramid. Many nutritionists and educators have called the Pyramid too complicated, trying to do too much and too hard to follow for the average person. One of those critics is First Lady Michelle Obama.

“Parents don’t have the time to measure out exactly three ounces of chicken or to look up how much rice or broccoli is in a serving,” she said.

But for all its faults, the Food Pyramid was a good teaching tool for educating us about nutrition and what we should be eating. But now that’s gone.

The USDA has replaced the Pyramid with the Plate. In many ways, this is going back to the old four food groups. But it’s laid out in a much better way. The agency and health officials hope this simplified layout will be easier to understand and follow.

If you look at the Plate, you notice that half the plate consists of fruits and vegetables. This goes along with the changes I felt were needed in the Food Pyramid.

You’ll also notice that dairy is on the side. This goes along with much of the current thinking on nutrition. Dairy is highly processed and usually high in fat. More and more people are giving up dairy and switching to alternatives like soy milk and rice milk. While those alternatives won’t replace dairy in all cases, such as cheese, they are an improvement, being cholesterol- and fat-free.

Another difference is the role of meat. It’s not even mentioned! Instead, we have a smaller proportion of protein, which can be from many sources including vegetables. Grains still hold a big portion on the plate, but that still leaves a lot of options besides bread.

Fruits are the only sweets on the plate, reflecting the need to cut back on sugar. Fruits, like protein, are a smaller portion of the plate. So, it’s not quite like the four basic food groups, but it’s a lot more realistic than the Food Pyramid or the equal portions of four groups.

According to John Stanton, who heads the food marketing program at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, a simple plate is a good idea from a marketing point of view.

“The consumer spends maybe a maximum of three seconds looking at a food in a grocery store,” he says. “Can you think of a busy mother trying to put delicious, nutritious food on the table, looking at a pyramid?”

I like the change and I think it more accurately reflects not only current nutritional knowledge, but is a better fit for modern American lifestyles. What do you think?

Recipe: Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

I’ve cut back a lot on my consumption of pork. I guess I’m a little tired of fatty bacon and sausage or dried out, tasteless pork chops. But I tried one new recipe recently that I have to say is certainly a keeper. This produced a succulent pork suitable for so many uses from sandwiches to barbecue to fried rice.

It’s Easy Slow Cooker Pulled Pork. Just make a spicy rub and allow a nice roast to spend the day in the slow cooker. Then you’re ready to make tacos, burritos, sandwiches or lots of other things.

Easy Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

Prep time: 20 minutes. Cooking time: 6 to 8 hours. Makes 10 servings. Serving size: about 1/3 lb. or 5 to 6 oz. Calories per serving: 155. Fat: 8 grams. Protein: 15 grams. Sodium: varies according to spice mix, average 622 mg.


  • 1 pork shoulder roast, about 3 lbs.
  • 2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning OR enough dry spice and herb blend to make 1 tablespoon
  • 2 teaspoons adobo or hot sauce
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar or pepperoncini
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, can be chopped or whole
  • water to cover half of roast, 4 to 8 cups depending on size of slow cooker


  1. Rub the cajun seasoning or your own dry spice rub all over the roast. Place it in the bottom of the slow cooker. Add vinegar or pepperoncini and adobo or hot sauce all over top of roast. Cover with onions and garlic. Pour in enough water to immerse lower half of roast.
  2. Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours until meat begins to fall apart. While still in the slow cooker, use two forks to shred. You can add barbecue sauce to thicken up the liquid if desired.

I like nice easy recipes, and this one certainly qualifies — ideal for bachelor cooking! If you’re considering using a different cut of meat, I don’t recommend it. Pork shoulder has the right mixture of tissues for this application. A loin is too lean. I used this to make some great soft tacos using shredded cheddar cheese and jar taco sauce, with rice on the side. You can think of lots of dishes to make with this. And the sandwiches are really great.


Kitchen Intermediates: Food Processor

Food processors were invented in 1973 as a replacement for all that detailed knife work. Unfortunately, while it has saved many cooks a lot of time, it hasn’t been quite as dependable as most of us hope for taking up that very valuable countertop space. And they can be very expensive. You can spend up to $900 for one of these machines. Of course, you can also spend at little at $40, but you might find that all you get for that price is an underpowered wide body blender that either doesn’t do anything or turns whatever you put in it into a paste before you can blink your eyes.

One problem with a food processor is that it either goes too fast, minimizing your control, or it requires a lot of advance preparation, making the time-savings moot. In my own experience, a food processor has very limited uses. I never use it for chopping, mincing or other functions I can easily achieve with my trusty chef’s knife. But I’ve tried making hummus or cutting butter into flour or sugar a real pain without a food processor. So, you should think carefully about whether you want to add this appliance to your kitchen. I strongly recommend you do a little research before making a decision. That should include a lot more than just price, power and attachments.

On the whole, I’ll stick with my knives and my box grater (which does pretty good even slices) and my own elbow grease. An immersion blender does a better job of pureeing foods, especially soups in the pot. A stand mixer is much better at making and handling dough. About the only thing I like a food processor for is making hummus. But that’s just me.

There are monsters in our food

I’ve been talking for quite a long time now about the poor quality of our food supply. And the news just keeps getting worse. I’m not talking just about the constant flow of stories about contaminations and food safety. I’m not just talking about factory farming and the dangers it brings to just about everything it touches. I’m also talking about the safety and quality of any and all food that we all eat. This isn’t just about meat, or dangerous fertilizer. It’s also about … well, everything!

Think of this. Nearly half of all meat, poultry and seafood in your grocery store is contaminated with antibiotic resistant bacteria, from Staph to e. coli and more. And if that’s not shocking enough, the government has know about this for years. Makes you wonder just who all those officials getting paid with your tax money are working for. Doesn’t seem to be us.

And we’ve seen from the recent e. coli scare in Germany that this is not just a problem in this country. Centralized agriculture that puts profits ahead of quality is the culprit. It keeps our food costs low, but maybe that price is higher than we thought. It’s not a bargain if we get sick or have our kidneys shut down.

Here’s what we know. Bacteria come from many sources. E. coli comes from animal feces. Because of the processing and mechanization of even fresh food, it’s very easy for a little manure or animal droppings to get into washing water or even sprayed on the growing plants.

Enough talk about the problem. We know what the problem is. The question now is: What can we do about it? One thing we can do is continue to pester our politicians about it. We need to make it clear that safe, healthy, quality food is important to us. This is especially true when many in Congress are looking to slash money for food safety programs to practically nothing. That means that agencies like the FDA and USDA won’t be able to take steps to help protect our food. Somehow I bet that would change the minute a leading congressman gets sick from contaminated food and he spends several weeks in the hospital because his infection cannot be treated with common antibiotics. Meanwhile, it’s the rest of us who will suffer.

Next, we need to make it clear to those we buy food from that we want those same things. Put our money where our mouth is. Shop farmers markets whenever possible. Eat less meat and more fruits and vegetables. Where possible, buy meat and poultry not laden with antibiotics. Buy organic where you can. And continue to follow safe food handling practices.


What A Waste of Time, Effort, Money

The Food and Drug Administration has launched a new advertising campaign to encourage consumers to observe food safety handling rules. It includes television spots and print ads in a variety of media. The centerpiece is this image:

There’s really nothing new here. Anyone who’s worked in food service could recite these rules in their sleep.

But the program misses the real point and the real problem. Most food contamination doesn’t happen in the home. It happens in places where you have no control over handling (restaurants, buffets, etc.) or before you even get your hands on the food (at producer and processing levels). It is there where the government needs to step in and clean up the food supply system. It requires strong regulations and a strong agency to enforce them. As some politicians would say, this campaign is putting lipstick on a pig.

Yet you have to give the FDA points for trying. Without funding or legal authority, the agency can only do so much. And as long as those food companies have a lot of money to throw into candidate campaign funds, only a strong uprising of the public will get Congress and other legislators to do something about the problem.

Recipes: Low sugar Strawberry Coffee Cake

There are times when sugar can be replaced with honey, fructose or artificial sweeteners. And there are times when you can’t. And there are times with you can reduce the amount of sugar by substituting only part of the sugar. It depends on what the function of the sugar is in the recipe. In baking, sugar is often used more as a liquid, adding moisture to the finished goods. If cooking with yeast, some form of real sugar has to be used so the yeast can eat it to do its job. In other cases, sugar used as a sweetener can be completely replaced in one part of the dish, but not in the other.

I came across a recipe to use up all those gorgeous strawberries that were in season a few weeks ago. I decided to try it out but making a low-sugar version. If you get some strawberries soon, try this out.

Strawberries are really called Fragaria and are a member of the rose family. It got the name strawberry because growers used straw around the base of the plants for mulch and protection. Taste-wise, strawberries are one of the most popular fruits and flavors. When they come into season, it’s a good idea to get some. They’re great on cereal, dipped in chocolate of whipped cream, in a salad or dressing and just by themselves.

Here’s one good way to use them — a quick and easy coffee cake that’s good for breakfast of as a dessert. While it’s best to serve it warm, it’s pretty good cold, too.

Strawberry Coffee Cake

Prep time: 30 minutes. Baking time: 30 minutes. Makes 9 servings.


For Cake:

  • 1 cup All-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup Sucralose (Splenda)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1-1/2 cups fresh sliced strawberries

For Topping:

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar substitute blend (Splenda Brown for Baking)
  • 1/4 cup cold butter cut into small chunks
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans


  1. In a large bowl, combine the cake dry ingredients: flour, sugar, sucralose, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, combine cake wet ingredients: egg, milk and oil. Blend the wet ingredients well and add to dry ingredients. Stir just enough to moisten all ingredients. Pour into a greased 8 inch square baking dish. Top the batter with strawberries, laid out evenly.
  2. In a bowl, combine sugar and flour. Cut butter into the mixture until crumbly. Stir in pecans. Sprinkle evenly over the batter and strawberries.
  3. Bake at 375ºF for 30 to 40 minutes until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Cool for 10 to 15 minutes before cutting into 9 squares and serve.

As a dessert, a little ice cream or whipped cream with some additional strawberry slices wouldn’t be unwelcome. By cutting back the butter and sugar, we’ve made this a little healthier than it otherwise could be. Just strawberries are great, but this is just another idea in The Bachelor’s Kitchen.

Kitchen Intermediates: Blender

We covered the basics of what you need in your kitchen to make good food. Now, we’re talking about what items you might need at the next level. Today’s intermediate level of kitchen equipment is the perennial wedding gift — the blender.

This common kitchen appliance is a descendant of the drink mixer, most commonly found in restaurants and drug store lunch counters. The first such device was created by Polish-American inventor Stephan Poplawski, owner of the Stevens Electric Company. Three entrepreneurs, L. Hamilton, Chester Beach and Fred Osius began producing Poplawski’s drink mixer under the name Hamilton Beach. Osius then began modifying and improving the mixer and got financing from popular musician Fred Waring, inventor of the Smoothie in the 1940’s. His Waring Blendor (spelled with an “o”) was the forerunner of what we know today.

Other mixers were created in other countries. A Swiss inventor used the Waring Blendor as a model for the Turmix Juicer, the first appliance of its kind. In Brazil, a former General Electric employee created the first liquefaction blender in the 1940’s. John Oster bought Poplawski’s company and released the Osterizer in 1946. Sunbeam bought Oster’s company and still makes the Osterizer today.

There are two basic kinds of blenders: the traditional standing model and the immersion blender. This newer kind, also called a stick blender, is useful for pureéing soups and other dishes while still in the pot. All blenders have the same components: a base with a motor, a sealable container (the immersion blender has a long housing between the motor and the final component) and rotating blades.

Blender applications include: crushing ice, emulsifying, pureéing, grinding, blending and mixing. The food processor has taken over many of these jobs. My advise is if you drink a lot of smoothies or similar drinks, you might find the investment worthwhile. But don’t buy this device on the idea that you might use it. It’ll become a dust collector.