Time For Thanksgiving Planning

Two things are apparent to us in The Bachelor’s Kitchen:

  1. It’s not too early to start planning for Thanksgiving, and
  2. Thanksgiving will be different this year because of Covid.

Yes, we know we haven’t even got past Halloween yet, but it is time to begin planning for the big feast in November. Even if you’re a bachelor and not planning to do much for dinner, you still need to have some idea now what you will do. Shopping and other preparations for a meal like this just can’t be done at the last minute unless you plan on having a frozen dinner.

Early planning is even more important this year than in the past. Big gatherings of family and friends from all over are out. Smaller gatherings of the immediate family or a few friends will be the new normal now.

The turkey industry is in a tough spot. People are scaling back their usual plans and are predicted to want smaller turkeys this year. However, turkey farms in this country raise hybrid birds that are bigger, heavier and with huge breasts. To get smaller birds, they have to be slaughtered earlier which means less money because we sell turkeys by the pound. Between that and the other stressors of this year, turkey farmers are having a very difficult time.

Health officials are warning against big dinners or travel this year. If you don’t want a big turkey, how about something smaller like a goose, duck or ham? You can still have a big table, but without people crowded together. Remember, it’s not what’s on the table that’s important, it’s the people around it. Experts say planning ahead is key to make your gathering a safe one. With a smaller, more intimate group, you have more leeway in how much of the work you will do. You can assign dishes and other things to bring. If you are a bachelor celebrating alone, a nice rotisserie chicken would be ideal. If you have kids, you have to come up with something else to do Thanksgiving morning because many of the traditional parades have been canceled.

Enjoy the holiday. You might even like the smaller version. Just remember to be as safe as you can.

Recipe: Easy Cinnamon Raisin Scones

Maybe you gave in to the Pandemic Pastime for baking. Maybe you have not had time because you are an essential worker. So here’s and easy bake you might try.

Scones are, to me, just sweet biscuits (the American kind, not the British cookie). In fact, the ingredients and method are identical. Scones can be versatile, posing as sweet or savory. They can be light or brick-like. They can be easy or hard.

Scones have enjoyed increasing popularity in the U. S. because of their not-too-sweet character. This Scottish quick bread is particularly popular in the English-speaking world’s afternoon snack, cream tea.

The Oxford English Dictionary puts the first appearance of scone in the early 1500s, believing that the word derives from the Dutch term for “pure bread.” The earliest versions were round and flat, usually the size of a medium size plate. It was made with unleavened oats and baked on a griddle (or girdle, in Scots), then cut into triangle-like quadrants for serving. Today, many would call the large round cake a bannock, and call the quadrants scones.

In the recipe below, vegetable shortening is used instead of butter because it’s easier to work with and a little less fattening. But like really good biscuits, using cold butter gives a lighter, flakier texture. Still, these turn out well and they are a lot easier. Cutting cold butter into the dry ingredients can be time consuming and exhausting.

This makes about 10-12 scones.

Easy Cinnamon Raisin Scones

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 7 tablespoons shortening or butter
  • 3/4 cup cream or half & half
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon water

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.
  2. Combine flour, baking powder sugar and salt in a large bowl. Work shortening or butter into flour mixture until the fat makes small lumps.
  3. In a medium bowl, beat one of the eggs and combine with cream. Stir wet ingredients into the dry and mix well. Mix in raisins and cinnamon. A very wet dough will form, almost batter-like.
  4. Coat your hands in flour. On a floured surface, roll out dough to about 1/2-inch thickness and cut into circles or triangles. Lay out scones on cookie sheet covered with parchment paper, leaving at least 1/2 inch between each scone.
  5. In a small bowl, beat remaining egg thoroughly and mix in water. Use a pastry brush to coat tops of scones with the egg wash. Bake for 20 minutes.

Once you have this basic recipe down, you can easily modify it for other kinds of fruit or spices. If using fresh or frozen fruit instead of dried, reduce the cream by 1/4 cup. These are good as a snack or for breakfast instead of a muffin. They can be reheated by wrapping in a paper towel and microwaving on high for 15 seconds. They go great with some butter and preserves.

Real men can and do bake. One batch, stored in a sealed plastic bag, should last about a week.

Happy Labor Day!

The Bachelor’s Kitchen want to hope you have a good day honoring our country’s workers. We know a lot of you will be celebrating with a season ending cookout or barbecue. Make it a good one. And tell us about your holiday by leaving a comment by the link below or on our Contact Us page.

Why White Rice & Flour?

You’ve probably heard that brown rice is better for you than white rice. The same is also true for whole wheat flour versus white flour. The questions arises, why?

Nutritionists say the whole grain, no matter what type of grain, is better because it contains a lot of fiber, something our bodies need to keep our digestive system clean and efficient.

But, if that’s the case, why are white rice and white flour so common?

It all comes down to storage. Brown rice and whole wheat contain fat that can spoil in a relatively short amount of time. When grains are milled, the outer coating, or husk, is removed, which reduces the fiber. The germ, usually found just beneath the husk, contains fat, protein and an embryo and is also removed in milling. It’s this bit which can spoil so easily.

Think of a grain, or seed, like an egg. There’s a shell to protect the delicate organism inside. There’s a white part containing protein and carbohydrates to support the organism. In a seed or grain, this is called the endosperm. The germ of a grain is the same as the yolk of the egg, containing fat, or stored energy, for the embryo which is attached to the yolk or germ.

Stripping off that part means it can be stored for a long time. Whole grain can only be stored for a few weeks or months. White rice and white wheat flour can be stored for years. In a world before refrigeration, this was very important.

While whole grain is better for you, white rice (and even white flour) are better for you than no grain at all. Rice is a much better side dish choice than potatoes or bread.

Menudo Is In!

Chances are, most of you have never had Menudo. No, we’re not talking about the Puerto Rican boy band that spawned Ricky Martin. We’re talking about a common dish served in many parts of Latin America.

Menudo is made with tripe, or cow’s stomach lining. It’s usually a weekend and holiday dish and is sometimes touted as a hangover cure. It’s a simple soup made with hominy, onions, chilis, spices and cilantro. It takes a long time to cook because the texture of the tripe is tough. Most cooks and restaurants begin making it the night before and allow the tripe to simmer all night, adding the chilis and spices an hour or two before serving.

Since we in The Bachelor’s Kitchen have not yet tried to make menudo, if you’d like to give it a shot, here’s a link to a recipe on Allrecipes.com to get you started. If you do make it, please drop us a comment or email (see the Contact Us page) and tell us how it came out.

Things Your Kitchen Needs

This blog is all about learning the basic things your kitchen needs so anyone can cook a basic meal and feed themselves. We’ve also discussed the need to be careful about what kitchen appliances you spend money on to avoid acquiring dust collectors. We’re talking about what we call the “intermediate” level of kitchen equipment — things that are useful but not absolutely necessary.

One of the things we’ve noticed in cooking is that often we need the same equipment for more than one job when making a meal. For example, we might need the wire strainer to wash the rice, but also to drain the grease off cooked ground meat. Or our Pyrex measuring cup is used to measure milk to go into a dish, but we also need it to mix up a marinade.

That means for a well-equipped kitchen, you don’t always need more things, but more of the same things. This includes measuring cups, both wet and dry, measuring spoons, spatulas, whisks of varying sizes, mixing bowls and anything else you use a lot.

Cutting boards are a kitchen basic. You need at least one good one that will preserve your knives and is easy to clean. But we also recommend you have more than one. In fact, three or four are best, color-coded if possible. Many chefs and cooks insist on at least two, a wooden one for fruits and vegetables, and an acrylic one for meat and fish. But having several of those flexible ones can be useful for conveying ingredients and other jobs you might not have considered for a cutting board.

Space is always in short supply in The Bachelor’s Kitchen. But organization is key to keeping your kitchen running smoothly and not wasting time trying to find the right pan for the job. If you say you don’t have time to cook, how can you have time to find the vegetable peeler? Most of us have a drawer for the utensils. But do you have a special place for your mixing bowls? How about plates and glassware? Try to organize your kitchen the way professionals do — in stations. We know space is at a premium, but if you arrange things according to usage, it will make pulling together a meal much easier. Put condiments (that don’t need refrigeration), salt, pepper grinder, herbs and spices you use often within arm’s reach, while others go into the cabinet or on a shelf. In other words, arrange things like you would if you were lining up your ingredients for cooking. Have pinch bowls, ramekins or other small containers for ingredients within easy reach.

Organize your pantry. We know stuff just gets shoved into any old empty space in your cabinets. Some of you might even be surprised as to what’s hiding from you in the dark recesses of your stores. And a lot of the packaging that comes with staple items just takes up space. Invest in some clear containers that can be stacked in needed. And don’t limit your choices to flour, sugar and tea bags. Use them to hold pasta, beans, rice, cereals, nuts and dried fruits. Just make sure you buy ones with air-tight seals. They should be of varying sizes and shapes, easy to open and have wide openings for scooping or pouring. Too poor to buy a good set of canisters? No problem. Buy food in big jars and then clean and use them. In The Bachelor’s Kitchen, we like fruit and pickle jars as well as purchased canisters. We use them for all sorts of jobs, like making homemade dressing, storing leftover tomato paste and shaking up our own spice blends.

As with all tools, you should buy the best you can afford. But don’t just look at the price. Many kitchenware products have a great label but don’t perform as we think they should. So take a moment on the Internet to look at unbiased product reviews. We like to hit Consumer Reports first, but often commercial sites like Amazon have good reviews. Take into consideration how you will use those items and, most importantly, where you’ll put them when not using them. Don’t spend a lot of money on cookware you will only use once a year. Instead of buying a turkey roasting pan, get the cheaper aluminum foil version and save storage space and clean up time. While you’re looking at reviews, don’t just read the good ones. Sometimes the bad ones can be quite revealing.

Clear the clutter. If you have kitchen items, even small ones like measuring spoons, that you no longer need or don’t use, donate them to someone who could use them. Don’t know anyone in that category, local thrift shops will probably be glad to have your clean and gently used goods.

Caution: Kitchenware can be addicting! It’s so easy to get carried away when you’re buying things for the kitchen. That leads to lost money, crowded counters and dust collectors. Before you buy any equipment for your kitchen, ask yourself if you really need it or do you just want it. Have you had several instances where you could have used this? Or are you just full of good intentions to use it? Good intentions are not enough. You don’t have a current need for something that you regularly do, then you probably don’t need it.

Ultimately, what every kitchen needs is people to enjoy it. Even if you’re a loner, food is best when shared. Take a chance on offering something you’ve cooked to a neighbor or co-workers. You’ll find whatever you make will taste a lot better.

Things To Remove From the Kitchen

A well equipped kitchen should have all the basics and maybe a few other things. And we know there are things a kitchen can do without, like rarely used tools or appliances. What else needs to be removed from the kitchen?

Some of the things a kitchen doesn’t need are not really cooking equipment or tools. Some things are obvious, like that extra toaster your aunt gave you that doesn’t work all the time anyway. Things like that can go to a second hand shop or in the garbage if it doesn’t work.

But what about those things that are less tangible, but still of great value to a cook at any level?

What does that mean? Well, what about dirty dishes? Or clutter on the counters? Or piles of papers on the table? These are things your kitchen doesn’t need. As we mentioned in our post about what your kitchen does need, organization is a great thing to have in the kitchen. The more organized, the cleaner the space, the easier it is to cook. We know many of you don’t like cleaning. Believe me, we understand. But it’s exactly that which can make cooking less fun and more of a chore.

Hoity-toity pretense has no place in a kitchen. We’ve talked about how many appliances turn into dust collectors. Before you buy anything for your kitchen that costs more than about $70, think long and hard about whether you really need it or just want to have it. A $300 stand-mixer looks great in the kitchen. But if you only use it a couple times a year, you’re turning that holiday batch of cookies into a very expensive treat.

Don’t be afraid to buy some organizational tools for the kitchen. Get all those little odds and ends put away somewhere where you can find them again. Drawer dividers, especially the modular ones you can arrange yourself, are great for the utensils drawer. Got recipe cards and sheets of paper, put them in a card file or notebook, and then on a shelf out of the way.

In the Bachelor’s Kitchen, we love to cook with music playing. It can make the experience more fun. But leave the television out in the living room. It’s too distracting.

It’s okay to hang a picture or two in the kitchen. A calendar is always welcome. If you have high shelves that are hard to reach or space on top of the cabinets, you can put some artsy things up there. But don’t decorate the countertops. You might think it looks nice, but it soon will just get in the way or get dirty.

Speaking of dirty, don’t let those dishes accumulate. No one really likes to wash dishes. That’s why dishwashing machines were invented. But if you just take a minute to wash up those two or three dishes, glasses, and utensils, you’ll actually feel better about yourself and your kitchen. If you have a dishwasher, make sure you fill it up before you run it. Empty it and put away the dishes the next morning or night, depending on when you run it. If you wash dishes by hand, and most bachelors do, get something that allows you to wash just a dish or two without filling a sink of water and suds. In The Bachelor’s Kitchen, we like a dishwashing wand. There are several types available. Buy one where you know you can get refill sponges. These are plastic tubes with a sponge at one end. Dishwashing liquid goes into the tube and then you’re ready to wash a few dishes at any time under running water. Washing dishes as you go, any good chef or cook will tell you, makes the clean-up so much easier at the end of the meal.

Nothing makes a kitchen look messier than it really is than grease and grime on the chrome and stove and cupboards. Wipe it down now, then make a habit of cleaning the faucets and stove and backsplash as you cook and wash the dishes. It’s easy once you make a habit of it because it doesn’t have time to build up.

The kitchen is one of the most common spots in a house for a fire. This is why cleaning up that grease and grime is important. It’s not just about looks. Survey your kitchen for potential fire hazards. Keep the curtains away from the stove, along with paper or anything that easily catches fire. Use a timer to keep hot oil from overheating and bursting into flames. Have a small fire extinguisher within easy reach. Turn the handles of pots and pans away from you when on the stove. Potholders are great, but they’re not fireproof, so keep them away from the flames. That goes for kitchen towels, too.

When Julia Child wanted to flip an omelet, she paused before the camera and said, “You just have to have the courage of your convictions.” Many times in helping Americans cook French food in their own homes, she talked about never apologizing for your cooking. Your kitchen is a big part of that. Every cook or chef has mistakes and disasters. But keep the “Sorry” out of the kitchen. Be brave and proud, even if you’re just learning and even if things don’t turn out right. It’s only food.

Pantry Basics

In addition to talking about the basics you need in the kitchen, a well-stocked pantry is a repeated theme. A good one can make meal creation anytime so much easier. Here’s what you need to get started.

Not long after I started this blog, a friend emailed me and said I should do a “Ten Must-Have Pantry Items” list, like Martha Stewart had given in her Living magazine. (Thanks, Jeff.) He even sent me a link to the story. I looked at the list and said, “Yes, I agree with that, but I think it falls a little short.” Leaving it at just 10 items was, I felt, insufficient.

I have always maintained that any well-stocked kitchen should have at least three kinds of salt, three kinds of oil and three kinds of vinegar. That’s nine items right there and doesn’t include can goods, spices and other basic ingredients that I think every kitchen needs.

Salt. This is basic for nearly all cooking. Now I know we’ve talked about people eating too much salt. But nearly all of that extra salt comes from processed, prepared or convenience foods. If you’re starting from scratch, you have to have just a little salt or the food will taste bland. If it tastes bland you won’t eat it. Then you’ll reach for the bad food because it tastes good and you’re hungry.

Even if your doctor has told you to cut out the salt, you still need just a little for your body to function properly. What doctors mean when they say that is cut out the EXTRA salt. Have you ever seen someone add salt to food without even tasting it? That’s a problem. It means their taste buds have been so overloaded with salt, possibly due to overexposure to bland, dull, overcooked food, that without that extra salt they don’t think it tastes good. These people need to undergo behavioral therapy and a major detox diet. Trust me, if you stay away from that extra salt for a week or two, things with salt in them will seem too salty to you.

The question now is: what kind of salt? As I mentioned earlier, I think you need three kinds of salt. But I understand that’s not something you might be able to do right now. So, if I had to choose just one kind in my kitchen, it would be kosher salt. Why? It has to do with shape. Kosher salt is flaked. The flat shape helps it to stick to food, which is why it’s used in Koshering, preparing meat for human consumption under the Jewish dietary laws. The law says meat must be free of impurities, which are in the blood and other fluids. The salt helps pull those fluids out of the meat. Kosher salt is the cooks’ and chefs’ choice because its shape makes it easier to control and it sticks to the food. Regular table salt, seen under a magnifying glass, looks like a rounded ice cube. That means it rolls off the food and is less precise.

Another good salt choice is finely ground sea salt. This is a slightly stronger tasting salt that’s rich in minerals because it is made from evaporated seawater. The fine grind means it dissolves well in liquids. You can usually use a little less sea salt in cooking than you would other kinds of salt.

Other kinds of salt that might be useful are popcorn and rock varieties. I like popcorn, so my choice for my third salt is the powdery popcorn salt. Just a pinch in my oil in the pot is enough for a big mixing bowl of the stuff. Rock style salts, and I’m not talking about the stuff you put on your sidewalk in the winter, are used mostly for cocktails and garnishing. They also are used in meat crusts and rubs because they add a crunchy quality to the outside of the food without making it too salty.

There are many varieties of salt, but they are all basically the same. Some people say they can taste the difference between different types of salt from different parts of the world. But it’s a very subtle difference. Some salts have colors resulting from the other minerals dissolved in it, like Himalayan Pink salt.

Cooking Rice

Rice is one of the best staple foods we can eat. It is easy to digest, easy to cook, and gentle on your body’s systems. Compared to most other grains, it is the least allergenic. Rice is consumed all around the world and has been for thousands of years.

Many cooks find rice hard to cook. We in The Bachelor’s Kitchen eat a lot of rice and have tried many methods to cook it. Most of these cooking tips apply to white rice because long-grain white rice is what most of us will encounter in our stores, pantries and kitchens. This variety stores for a long time and is good to have around the house.

Cooking rice is simple. But we must admit it may take a little practice to get it just right. That’s because different stoves and cooking methods can vary widely. You can avoid a lot of the hassle by purchasing a rice cooker. These are widely available and inexpensive. They come in a variety of sizes and styles, but all operate in the same way. If you eat a lot of rice, no matter what kind of rice, this is a good investment.

But for thousands of years, people have cooked rice over a fire or stove and have had a lot of success. There’s a series of steps to follow.

  1. The amount of water or other liquid used to cook the rice is important and can vary with the type of rice and the cooking method. Also, different cooks will give different ratios. The tricky thing is that the ratio changes as the quantity grows. For one cup of rice, you need from just over one cup of water to two cups. The difference will give you different degrees of tenderness depending on how you expect to use it. In general, the best ratio we’ve found is one to one-and-a-half, which is one cup of rice with a one-and-one-half cup of water. For two cups of rice, use three cups of water. Other cooks will give you different ratios. And if you use brown rice or any other of the hundreds of varieties available, these rules won’t apply.
  2. The first step is to rinse the rice. We like to use a wire mesh strainer, but you can even do it in the pot. This removed the outer starch from the grains which might cause the rice to stick or scorch. For high starch rice, such as those used for risotto or sushi, thorough rinsing is very important and will require several minutes under running water.
  3. Add the rice and the cooking liquid into a cold pot that has a well-fitting lid. The cooking liquid is usually water, but you can also mix in some broth or stock for added flavor. Also, add in pinch or two of salt. Some cultures don’t add salt, but most of us prefer just a touch of it.
  4. Put the pot without the lid over high heat and bring to a light boil. Stir the rice just once to ensure nothing is sticking to the bottom. Stirring any more than that will give you mushy rice.
  5. When the water begins to bubble, put the lid on and lower the heat to a bare simmer, this will probably be the lowest heat setting, but could be medium low depending on the stove.
  6. Let the rice cook for 20 minutes. Do not remove the lid or stir the rice.
  7. At the end of the cooking time, remove from the heat and fluff the rice with a fork. This is the moment of truth. If there is scorching on the bottom, the heat was too high. If there’s still liquid in the bottom, the heat was too low. If there’s still water in the pot, put it over high heat until it begins to steam, clamp on the lid and remove from the heat. Allow the pot to sit for at least five minutes.
  8. After fluffing, you can put the lid back on and allow it to sit for up to 20 minutes. Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge. Reheating can be done in a steamer, a microwave (with the lid on) or sautéed with a little oil.

Make rice a regular part of your meals. It’s good for you and inexpensive.

Are Dishpan Hands Sexy?

Bachelors, are you looking for a way to impress a date? It won’t be that special bottle of wine or the bouquet of fresh flowers. If you really want to get the girl, at least according to one of our readers, is — do the dishes!

Our friend and reader, Priscilla, writes:

“You asked me about cooking, men in the kitchen, etc. I will share with you the fact that one of the sexiest things to me is a man washing dishes. I love it. A man cooking is very sexy but a man washing dishes is the best.”

So, there you have it. The way to your woman’s heart is through the kitchen sink. Keep those suds going in The Bachelor’s Kitchen.

What turns you on in the kitchen? Enter a comment below and let us know.