Make Your Own Personal Spice Mix

Earlier, The Bachelor’s Kitchen talked about how spice mixes can really up the taste of dishes without adding salt or fat. There are plenty to choose from. One of the big brands is Mrs. Dash, a salt-free blend of seasonings and spices in a variety of tastes.

We’re a big fan of Mrs. Dash. But we use it less because we’re now creating our own spice blend. And you can do it, too. Take any combination of tastes you use frequently and make a blend of it. Here’s our current recipe:

The Bachelor’s Kitchen All Purpose Spice Mix

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds
  • 2-1/2 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
  • 1 chicken bouillon powder
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons garlic powder (not salt)
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seed
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Directions:

  1. Crush bouillon cube into a fine powder and put in screw-top jar. Add remaining ingredients and shake until well mixed. Store in refrigerator for up to four months.

You can experiment with whatever combination you like. So, spice it up and enjoy.

Love That Lemon Cake

We love the taste of lemon. We use it in both sweet and in savory dishes. It goes so well with seafood. It’s a great filling for pastry. We even drink it in everything from water to tea to lemonade. Some people even like just the lemon itself, the tarter the better. This acidic fruit really has the power to make you pucker.

Here in The Bachelor’s Kitchen we like it best in desserts. Cookies, tarts, pies, cakes – they’re all good. We’ve even made lemon brownies, which disappeared very quickly here.

We have gathered here today to discuss Lemon Drizzle Cake. Essentially, it’s a lemon flavored cake, all made from scratch, of course, topped with a lemon syrup that soaks into the cake. It makes this cake moist and full of lemon flavor.

You will need a 9 by 12 inch cake pan or baking dish. Some people call this size a lasagna pan.

For ingredients, get together at least 2 whole sticks of butter (no low fat here), all-purpose flour, baking powder, salt (Kosher preferred) and three lemons from which you will extract the zest and the juice. Tip: cut the used up rinds into smaller pieces and put them down the garbage disposal with lots of water to help clean and deodorize it.

You’ll also need regular sugar, four large eggs and a little whole milk (like we said, this is not a low-fat treat, just make small pieces).

Pre-heat the oven to 325F and make sure the rack is in the center of the oven. Grease the baking dish and line with parchment paper with about an inch or two hanging over the long sides. Then grease the paper in the pan. You can use butter, oil or a spray. This makes the cake easier to take out of the pan and the pan easier to clean.

In a medium bowl, whisk together 2 heaping cups of flour, 5-1/2 teaspoons of baking powder 1/4 teaspoon of salt and the finely grated zest of three lemons.

In a large bowl, mix together 2 sticks of butter and a cup of sugar, using an electric mixer, until the mixture is soft and fluffy. That takes about three minutes. Now, add the 4 eggs one at a time, keeping the mixer running, until they are incorporated into the mixture. Next, add 1/4 cup of milk. At this point, the batter will look a bit lumpy. Then, add in the flour mixture and keep beating until fully combined. Pour the batter into the baking dish and smooth out the top with a spatula.

Bake for about 35 to 40 minutes until golden brown and a toothpick stuck into the middle comes out clean. Let it rest in the pan for about ten minutes. Then use the paper to remove the cake from the pan and onto a wire rack over a cookie sheet to cool. Very carefully, remove the paper.

While the cake is baking, mix together in a small bowl a cup of sugar and enough lemon juice to make a runny mixture. While the cake is still warm, gently spoon the sugar mixture evenly over the top of the cake. It should soak into the cake and leave a sugary coating on the top. When completely cool, cut into squares and serve.

All of this will take less than an hour of cooking and preparation, plus a couple hours of cooling time. It’s a great, moist finish to a meal or a day.

Now Is The Time To Change Your Eating

Summer is great time to make changes in your diet or eating plan (we prefer the second term) and branch out to try new foods. Because of the abundance, whether or not you shop at Farmers’ markets, it’s time to try all the great variety of locally grown fruits and vegetables at their peak of perfection. Even better, that produce is loaded with healthful nutrients that can help you lose weight, gain energy and improve your life.

Corn is a food product we probably get too much of. But that’s not the same as summer Sweet Corn. These goodies are in season now through the end of summer. One thing you might not know about sweet corn is that it contains two important antioxidants that help your body deal with the summer sun. The easiest way to prepare it is to buy it still in the husk and put the whole thing, husk and all, into the microwave for two to three minutes. The corn steams in the husk and will be much easier to shuck and remove the threads after it’s cooked. However, if the husk doesn’t surround the whole cob (such has having a strip removed to display the corn) don’t use this method. In that case you can finish shucking the corn and boiling it for five to ten minutes. Or you can wrap it in aluminum foil and roast it with butter and herbs in the oven or on the grill.

There have been conflicting reports on the benefits (or detriments) of drinking coffee. But one new piece of information might make you want to try an iced coffee drink to beat the summer heat. One recent study showed that drinking one cup of caffeinated coffee a day offered protection against skin cancer. And more coffee provided more protection. Decaf just didn’t seem to do the job.

Available right now are tart cherries. These offer a long list of benefits. They are said to help in weight loss. Cherry juice has been found to help with post-workout pain and improve sleep. Compounds in cherries can increase the fat-burning process and decrease fat storage.

Tomatoes are another summer treat. Look for homegrown and heirloom varieties from small producers. You can even grow your own on your balcony or deck. A key nutrient in tomatoes is lycopene, the substance that makes tomatoes red. Like many summer fruits, this substance helps your skin deal with the summer sun. Tomatoes and carrots, as well as other reddish fruits and vegetables, can reduce sunburn by as much as 50%.

Staying hydrated is important in the summer. But you don’t always have to drink water or soda. Medical experts say you should stay away from dehydrating beverages like alcohol. But you don’t have to stay away from water-rich fruits, like watermelon. Some people don’t like this popular melon, but it’s 92% water and loaded with skin-enhancing nutrients. Research shows that water-rich foods keep you more satisfied than water alone without a lot of extra calories.

Another hydrating tip that’s also healthy for you is drinking tea. Hot, cold, black, green, herbal—it doesn’t matter, the benefits are still there. It’s best freshly brewed, but if you keep some in the refrigerator, add a squeeze of lemon or lime juice to help preserve the antioxidants. Studies show drinking tea regularly helps protect you from Alzheimer’s, diabetes, tooth loss, gum disease and bone loss.

Berries are a great source of fiber and antioxidants. Raspberries are particularly rich in fiber. Fibers is filling and necessary. It’s also good to help you lose weight. Research shows that those who consume a lot of fiber  lose more weight.

If you hunt for and consume these foods in the summer, you’ll be better prepared to face the winter months just a little healthier.

Bouillabaisse Is Just Fish Stew

You’ve probably heard of Bouillabaisse, the famous French seafood stew. It is considered by French chefs to be one of the great challenges in the kitchen. But perhaps you also know that it wasn’t always that way. Like most of the best dishes from around the world, bouillabaisse was originally a peasant dish.

The dish we know today clearly originated in Marseille, France and the name comes from two words meaning boil and simmer. But the origins of the stew go back much further, to ancient Greeks who founded that French port city. They ate a simple fish stew called kakvia. Naturally, the Romans had a similar dish.

Bouillabaisse in its modern form comes from Marseille fishermen who used the common rockfish and shellfish that got caught in their nets, while the more expensive fish were sold. That mostly worthless part of their catch was cooked in a large pot or cauldron filled with sea water, garlic and fennel. This was cooked dockside over an open wood fire. After tomatoes arrived from American, they were added to the recipe.

As the Provencal region prospered, bouillabaisse began showing up on restaurant and hotel menus. Fish stock replaced the sea water. Saffron and local vegetables were added. The name means boil then simmer, and that’s the cooking method. The broth is boiled and then the heat is lowered to a simmer.

There are many recipes available. Each great chef seems to have developed their own version of this dish. But here’s a simple one from Austin, Texas’ Trace restaurant.

Servings: 2

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium carrots, one chopped and one sliced into batons
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1 fennel bulb half chopped and half shaved with a mandolin or V-slicer, fronds reserved for garnish
  • 1/2 small red onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 ripe plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon tomato paste
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup parsley leaves, loosely packed
  • 6 jumbo Gulf shrimp, peeled and deveined with tail shell on
  • 12 large freshwater mussels, scrubbed well
  • 1 large red potato, peeled and cubed
  • 1 6 to 8-ounce fillet red snapper, cut in half

Directions:

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.
  2. Saute chopped carrots, celery, chopped fennel, onion and garlic for 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently, until softened.
  3. Add tomatoes and cook for another 3-5 minutes until tomatoes begin to dissolve. Add tomato paste, stock and parsley, stir well to combine, bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes.
  4. Drop in mussels and shrimp, place lid on the saucepan and cook until shrimp is opaque all the way through and mussels have opened — about 2-3 minutes.
  5. Remove shrimp and mussels, discarding any mussels that haven’t opened, and set aside.
  6. Strain mixture through a sieve or chinois, pushing down with a wooden spoon to extract all the liquid, and return to pot. Discard what’s left in the strainer.
  7. Add potatoes, shaved fennel and carrot batons, bring to a boil, cover loosely with lid and cook at a vigorous simmer until potatoes are tender — about 10 minutes.
  8. Meanwhile, heat the other tablespoon of olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat until very hot, almost smoking.
  9. Sprinkle the snapper pieces with salt on both sides and sear in the hot pan for 2-3 minutes on each side.
  10. Divide broth with carrots and potatoes between two deep bowls, arrange shrimp and mussels on top, and top with a piece of snapper.
  11. Garnish with fronds from the top of the fennel bulb and serve.

Level of Difficulty:  Moderate; Prep Time: 25 minutes; Cooking Time: 50 minutes

Cooking Is Healthy

It will surprise no one that studies have shown over and over that cooking your meals at home leads to improvements in your health. In The Bachelor’s Kitchen we have often said that even if what you cook at home isn’t the healthiest food, it’s still better than anything you can get outside the home, in most cases. Even when restaurants offer healthier options, you are still better off cooking and eating at home.

That idea is what this blog is all about — getting bachelors and other singles to eat better, because they deserve good food as much as families do.

Research has shown then people who frequently cook meals at home eat healthier and with fewer calories. People in the study ate less even if they were not trying to lose weight. Even when eating out, these people still ate less.

The obvious lesson from all this is, the more you cook at home, the better your health. Sounds to us like a great trade-off, even if you have a very busy life.

Quick Breakfast Sandwich

We made a marvellous discovery in The Bachelor’s Kitchen. It will keep you out of the drive-through on the way to work. Most bachelors, and bachelorettes, and lots of other people wait to get up until the last possible moment in the morning. They leave just enough time to shower, dress and maybe grab a cup of coffee as they head out the door. And many of you will stop at the fast food joint on the way to work for a quick breakfast sandwich. Don’t get us wrong, we love breakfast sandwiches. But the ones on those delicious biscuits are so full of fat that everyone closes an artery somewhere.

We’re going to rescue you from all that with a breakfast sandwich that can be made in the same time it takes to go through the drive-through of the fast food restaurant. Our Egg Muffin Sandwich only takes a couple minutes to prepare. It’s tasty and very low in fat. Here’s what you need:

  • English muffins
  • Eggs
  • sliced cheese
  • a coffee mug or tumbler
  • optional sliced Canadian bacon or ham
  • optional light mayonnaise and/or mustard
  • optional butter

You can make this sandwich as rich or light as you choose. Split the muffin and put it in the toaster. While that’s going, ready the rest of your ingredients. Crack the egg into a microwave-safe mug about the size of the muffin. A coffee mug or short tumbler works perfectly. Add a teaspoon of water and beat the egg until well mixed. Microwave the egg for 30 to 50 seconds or until all the water is gone.

Now assemble the sandwich and you are ready to go.  Cheese, bacon and mayonnaise or mustard can up the flavor but you don’t necessarily need it. Skip the drive-through and have a hot breakfast sandwich anytime.

Happy Independence Day, America!

Enjoy a nice cookout followed by some fireworks displays.

Sustainable Shellfish You Should Get To Know

You’ve probably heard that we need to eat fish every week. Fish contain valuable nutrients, like omega-3 fatty acids, important for heart health. It might interest you to know that most shellfish, like clams, mussels, shrimp and oysters, also contain most of these same nutrients.

But, you might ask, how can we eat more fish and shellfish without hurting the environment or fish stocks in the world’s oceans? While this is a concern, many fish and shellfish species are sustainable and thriving. And with the rise of fish farms, more of these species are becoming more widely available at lower costs and in sustainable plans.

Take for example farmed mussels and oysters.Oyster Farm Dispute Not only are these good for you with lots of omega-3’s and iron, but they’re good for the environment as well. These shellfish feed off of natural nutrients and algae in the water. That improves water quality. They also can act as natural reefs, attracting and providing food for other fish.

There is one caution about eating shellfish. Be very careful with, and even avoid, raw shellfish that come from warm waters. These often contain bacteria that can cause serious illness.

What shellfish should you get to know? Besides the aforementioned oysters and mussels (the later being very easy to cook and very tasty with rice or pasta), you should try Pink Shrimppinkshrimp and Spot Prawns. Most shrimp and related species are plentiful and reproduce quickly. But whether farmed or harvested from the wild these are great for many dishes. The pink shrimp are wild-caught from the waters off the coast of Oregon. Spot Prawns, a large shrimp, are plentiful in the wild off British Columbia. The best choices are these and other wild-caught shellfish from the Pacific Northwest. Look for the MSC certification for environmentally safe harvesting.

There is an issue with many of the shrimp you might find available at the store. Many environmentalists are concerned about the by-catch, those sea creatures caught up in the nets when harvesting shrimp. A common fishing method is to use drag nets which not only catch lots of unwanted but environmentally necessary species, but they destroy coral reefs and scrap clean the ocean floor. Although the U. S. has strict regulations on farming and trawling, many other countries do not. So, you should avoid imported shrimp, no matter whether they are wild or farmed. This is particularly true for countries with warmer climates, like Mexico and Central America.

Get your fish fix at least once a week by getting to know some of the other animals from the sea. But be aware of where they come from and how they were caught. That way both you and the Earth can maintain our health.

Cooking Can Save Your Life

Eating has become complicated in our modern life. But it doesn’t have to be.

Amen to that, sister. That’s from Christina Pirello, christina_pirelloan advocate of eating better with natural and whole foods. She’s saying what we’ve been saying for some time, as readers of The Bachelor’s Kitchen know.

In Change Your Life, Cook Dinner! Pirello dissects the conflicting information about what we eat.

It’s as though we don’t even see food as food anymore, just the sum of its nutritional parts. We have lost touch with our intuition and fallen victim to the science of nutrition. And as soon as we lost touch with our gut instinct, we became the perfect victims for the sharks who swim just under the water…marketers. They pounced on our confusion and through the smoke and mirrors of dazzling packaging, checkmarks, seals of approval and health claims have slowly and consistently robbed us of our health. And it seems to me, made us stupid in the process. It’s as though we don’t think for ourselves anymore — about anything.

Even those of use with pretty good nutritional knowledge find ourselves confused. If we’re supposed to eat a low fat diet, what about good fats? Can artificial sweeteners be worse than sugar? Why is there so much emphasis on carbohydrates in the government’s recommendations? Why so many questions.

Food is simple. Nature is simple. It’s easy to be healthy and vital. But we have to understand a few things first. There are a couple of facts about the effects of food on health that are not in dispute by any expert I have heard.

For example, we all know that our diets are killing us. But rather than change our food supply, everyone’s talking about some sort of cure, a magic bullet that will fix the problem, a single culprit to eliminate.

And we know that people who eat a more traditional diet for their culture or region don’t suffer from the same diseases, such as obesity and diabetes.

This tells us something very important. There is no one diet that serves all of humanity well. As humans, we can adapt to a wide variety of diets and foods — except, it seems, to the modern Western diet so commonly eaten today.

What Wine Goes With That?

We used to know a guy who worked for a wine distributor. From time to time they needed a hand to work wine tastings at area wine shops and liquor stores. Helping out, I learned a lot along the way. We’re not an expert, but can usually pick out a decent bottle of wine for any meal or occasion.

Unless you grew up drinking wine, your eyes probably glaze over when you look down a long aisle of bottles from all around the country and the world. There are reds, whites, rosés, blush, concord, kosher, local, national, Italian, French, South African, Australian, German, Californian, New York, Oregonian and undoubtedly more that I can’t think of right now. How’s a bachelor to choose?

Choose what you like. You’ve probably heard that there are rules about selecting wines. But I say throw those all out the window. The best wine is the wine you like.

The rules of thumb for choosing wines are a reasonable place to start. But don’t limit yourself. In general, foods that are light and delicate should go with a wine that won’t overpower the dish. Similarly, a hearty or spicy dish can stand up to and be enhanced by a wine with a strong or assertive taste. The color is not as important as the flavor and scent.

That being said, the rule says that white wine should go with white meat like chicken and fish; red wine with red meat like beef, lamb and pork. That’s because chicken and fish dishes are usually lighter and white wines are usually also lighter. But that is NOT an absolute. You can have a hearty, spicy fish dish that would go well with a hearty red wine like a burgundy or a cabernet.

The best first step is to find a good wine shop. Yes, you COULD buy wine at a liquor store or a grocery store. But just try asking something there to help you select a wine. You’ll probably hear something like, “It’s all good. I like Mad Dog, myself,” as he scratches himself. For those who don’t know, Mad Dog is Mogan David 20/20, a powerful concord grape wine that tastes like cough syrup and has strong alcohol kick from the addition of brandy. It’s also cheap and thus a favorite of professional drunks.

A good wine shop should be clean and well-lit. There should be more wine than other spirits or liquors. It should also be cool. The shelves should be clearly marked and organized in a logical way.

The most important thing to look for in a wine shop are the people who work there. They should be friendly and more than willing to answer questions. They’ll probably ask some questions of you, as well. If their response to a question is to reach for the nearest bargain bin bottle, run, don’t walk, out of the store and find another. In a good wine shop, the sales people regularly taste wines from various makers, wineries, countries and grapes. They should have learned a great deal about wine before they’re allowed on the sales floor. They should never look down at you or become less attentive when they find out how much you want to spend.

The kinds of questions the sales person should ask when you ask for a wine recommendation are:

  • What is the occasion?
  • What kinds of wines have you had that you like?
  • What kind of food will be served with it?
  • How much are you looking to spend?

If they don’t ask those questions or if they don’t pay attention to the answers, leave and find a better shop. If you say I’m looking for a bottle under $15 and they trot out a $50 bottle, leave. But if they bring out an $18 bottle, hear them out. It might be worth it. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, they should be as interested in teaching you as you are in learning.

Once you find a good shop, go there often and develop a relationship with YOUR sales person. They will get to know your tastes and you will get to trust their judgements. Most wine shops have tastings from time to time. Go! You will get to learn about some new wines, have a chance to talk to the staff and meet some people who might share your interests. You can attend a tasting even if you don’t buy something.

Don’t let wine intimidate you! It’s just fermented grape juice, for goodness sake. It’s one of the oldest, simplest drinks humans have every known. Later on, we’ll look at some of the different types of wine and what you might expect from them.