Tag Archives: men cooking

10 Worst Gifts for Men Who Cook 2011

Trouble waking up in the morning? This Wake And Bake Alarm Griddle is just the thing to get you going. X these off your list.  Now.

Well, here’s your annual warning.  After a little Holiday shopping research I’ve turned up this new crop of presents Dad is hoping will not be making an appearance.  This year’s list of truly terrible gift ideas is a real testament to human ingenuity, or an incredibly bad sense of design.

You can find the entire freshly updated 10 Worst Gifts For Men Who Cook 2011 list and links here, in the Dads’ In the Kitchen! gift advice section.

Some say, it’s not the gift:  it’s the thought that counts.  Well, if you give any of these to a man, I guarantee he will have no idea at all what you were thinking. Maybe you can use one of those little gift tags, to explain.

For example, what message are we trying to send Dad with a log covered in fungus? Or, this year, there’s even a couple of NSFW items, including a cringe making grill tool that involves hot dogs and an anatomically correct stick figure; and an in your face cookbook that’s tasty, hysterically funny, and Martha Stewart lock your door they’re gangsta, all at the same time.

That said, I suppose it’s necessary here to address what’s truly important, the meaning of the holiday. Yes, my review of these and any other products, is for sale.  Just because no one pays me anything at all at the moment for this valuable service, doesn’t mean I’m not available.  Or, willing to accept free samples.  Or, do paid endorsements.

Otherwise, my wife is likely to decide I’m just doing this out of the goodness of my heart, for nothing but a sincere desire to help other dads, and become a popular dad blog some day.  And that just isn’t going to pay for college.

You’re Possessed by Holiday Diet Demons and They Want You To Skip This Post

High calorie pecan and pumpkin dessert, diet busting Holiday Pie Fat image from maubrowncow

Can you decode the secret message hidden in this dessert?

Holiday diet? Are you nuts? Mmm…nuts.

Quick:  have you recently  accidentally misplaced the bathroom scales, in the driveway, behind the car’s rear tire?  Have you been decorating all your large mirrors with thick flock?  Are your ‘lite cooking’ tips buried under stacks of colorful Christmas recipe calorie bombs?

If so, don’t be alarmed.  It’s not your fault.  The reason for this behavior is your home, like millions of others, has been secretly possessed by holiday diet demons. It’s a fact. Holiday diet demons (or HDD’s) are invisible, attracted to the colors red and green,  gravy, and appetites. They have nothing to do all day and night but try to convince men, women, children and dogs this is eating season, anything is game, and resistance is futile.

I have personally encountered these demons, and they’re not pretty. In fact, they’re quite crafty.  Inside your head, they sound completely reasonable and convincing. They are able to whisper seductive cooking and eating instructions directly into the part of the brain that’s responsible for stuffing the mouth full with both hands.

That is why, as a public service, I’m presently sitting outside, away from any possible snacking opportunity, to share some of my important findings and notes.  Use this list to check yourself for whether diet demons are secretly responsible for some added jolly at your house.

1.  One sure sign of holiday diet demon infestation, is having a cheery belief that foods with names ending in ‘itos’ are part of a trendy new hispanic healthfood craze.  This is actually false.

2.  If you’ve been celebrating because chocolate is busy curing cancer, you may have demons.  No, not even the really dark, rich, smooth expensive kind.  So, keeping a high level in the bloodstream at all times, actually is not necessary.

3.  Pie a la mode doesn’t really appear on the breakfast menu of any culture, ever.

4.  Deep fat fried food is actually not a method recommended by medical research to prevent pregnancy.  When you get right down to statistics and actual couples, it’s just not been found to be all that effective.

5.  A few extra pounds underneath the chin doesn’t really make you look more distinguished.  And neither does the scarf.

6.  Parents:  punishing your children, or teaching them a lesson, by finishing their desert for them, will send the message that all you really care about is getting their sweets.  Highly likely, some demons involved there.

7.  In spite of how good it sounds, that new strategy of reducing or completely eliminating the hours between meals will not simplify your life.  Not in a good way, anyhow.

8.  Joining Holiday Diet Clubs, whose members go into each others homes to eat their fattening foods for them, has not yet been proved to result in any significant weight loss.

9.  Most studies do show that people better survive cold weather, and colder months, when they add an extra inch or two of insulation to their door jambs.  Not their waists, as previously reported.

If you have any such signs of holiday diet demons at your place, be sure and pass them along to me in the comment box below, or twitter me @kitchenup    #dietdemon.

As for me, I am not curious about what the buzzards are circling over there.  I am pretty sure I wouldn’t want to eat it.  But, maybe it’s worth just a quick check.

5 Things Dad Should Never Do in the Kitchen

Man cooking kitchen finger food drippingMost of the time, a guy in the kitchen won’t think twice.  Which is why women keep a careful watch.

Let me say, I don’t know of a single case where a family has ever keeled over and expired because of a man doing any of these things.  In fact, most of the time, the family probably gets along just fine for years without ever noticing.

Then, occasionally, someone does notice and an alarm will go up, so even distant neighbors pause behind their windows and wonder what  sick biohazard stuff dad’s been up to in the garage.

In the interest of domestic tranquility and general hygiene, consider these five tips on kitchen and cooking mistakes you might want to consider breaking.

1. Do Not Taste Food with Your Fingers   Now, at first it seems reasonable that those pointed things on the ends of your hands were custom built for the job of dipping into food, to check flavor or doneness.  However, its come to my attention that some people think men do not wash their hands nearly enough.  Or, they do not know where those hands have been. Therefore, it’s unwise to slip them into the pot or serving dish for sampling.  Especially more than once.

2.  Do Not Mix Food With Your Hands  This makes little sense.  A spoon or fork is slow and clumsy when it comes to,  say, tossing a salad, unless you want it on the floor.  And for blending sugar or spices into food that’s thick as paste?  And, are we  sure a spoon is really cleaner? I’m willing to bet, you have no idea where it originally came from. Or what somebody did with it before you got it.  Even so, some people consider it completely gross when you use the good hands you’ve had your entire life.

3.  Do Not Get Food On Your Clothes   Somehow, food which is good enough to put into your mouth, is no longer safe if it lands on the outside of your jeans or t-shirt.  Once there, it apparently turns instantly foul and repulsive.  You can no longer eat it. You need to immediately change, because wearing food below your neck puts some people completely off their appetite.  Apparently the only way to avert this disaster is to wear an apron.  A food-smacked apron makes folks feel homey.  On your t-shirt, the same thing is just stains and grime.

4. Do Not Mix The Wrong Foods Together   Many dads don’t realize,  certain spices, ingredients and seasonings need to be kept as far from each other as possible. If they ever are put together, the food turns instantly disgusting.  I’m told, someone doesn’t even have to taste it, to know its bad.  Apparently, everybody (who is not a man) knows this. You just don’t mix certain things together, even if you think it might work.  Or because they were the only food items you could find in the refrigerator. That’s a concoction.  Decent people don’t eat concoctions.  That’s why we have recipes.

5. Do Not Use the Kitchen Sink for Cleaning  Dirty things have no place being washed in the kitchen sink.  It’s used for washing.  That’s  just the way it is.  If you want to wash hands in the kitchen, go wash them first in the bathroom.  Don’t bring that filthy dog in here.  Don’t even dare think about doing anything greasy, gummy or grimy in there at all: the sink might get dirty. And then where would we wash up?

Good luck with all this, and take my word, there’s no point going to the mat on a single one.  By the way, when I talk about aprons, I’m talking about the kind a man should be comfortable in.

And since I get asked what that means, I decided to come up with a few one of a kind, Dad’s own, like the one’s below, that a guy can be PROUD standing in at the sink or stove.  Not your mother’s apron, by a long shot.  And, enough with the BBQ already – these are for men who cook in the kitchen, with some attitude.  Tshirts, for those who prefer to just wipe the hands.  Printed and delivered through Zazzle, a pro place that does high quality work, and ships worldwide.   Dad’s In the Kitchen! Gift Shop

Go over and take a look if you’re in the market.  I’m told some women find a man in an apron sexy. There are some fun ones, I come up with new ones every week, customizable, plus mugs and other gear.   Let me know what you think, or what you’d like to see .Gift cooking aprons for men and dads Chicken Dinner and I Love Dad's Cooking

Fish Cakes Mad

Great gratin to the rescue.

(The recipe’s below.)

As a general rule, I hate fish cakes.  It’s just one of those things.  Few foods will drop my appetite faster than the hint of one cooking.  If fish cakes suddenly became the only meal available, I’d scrape moss and eat bugs.

This came to mind the other night when I walked in late to find my wife making fish cakes.  Actually, my first reflex was to think hard whether today was our anniversary.

Let me explain how I got into this situation.  It’s actually my father’s fault.  Dad was cut from a sheet of stainless steel.  When I was growing up, he was never confused by subtleties.  Things were either black, or white.  Which is why the idea that romance might require a bit more than a hallmark card with flowers on it, did not automatically occur to him.

Matters came to a head one birthday when he actually gifted my mother a large, brightly wrapped box brimming with vacuum cleaner.  In his mind, he was saving his wife unnecessary labor.  All those new, nifty attachments.  A modern shiny replacement for the old upright.

In front of the family, my mother bit her lip.  I don’t know what was said privately.  But my mother made fish cakes for dinner that night.  Oily, pungent canned tuna and bread crumbs, fried crispy brown in oil.  The house reeked for days.

Now dad, raised on a North Dakota farm with plain boiled potatoes, as far from an ocean as it was possible to be, was not a fan of fish in any form.  I don’t know if he’d ever actually run across anything with fins before he left home.  I think he privately doubted humans were intended to eat any creature that swam in its own pee and smelled like it.

But he’d raised his children to clean their plates of whatever dinner was put in front of them.  So he sat with his back straight and silently ate his fish cakes.

After that, fish cake nights would appear every so often.  And I never developed a taste.

‘What’s for dinner?’ I say.

‘New recipe’, my wife says, over a bowl of potent canned salmon and spices, already being formed into patties.  The dog is on station, alerted by the smell, hoping for an accident.

‘And rice’, she says.  And its clear, if I’m going to get something to eat, I’m going to have to make it myself.  What have I forgotten?

‘You said you’d make dinner tonight’, she says, solving the riddle, and then I remember, she’d asked me to cover.

‘Coming up’, I reply, and wonder whether somewhere, silently, dad’s smiling.  It’s a brave new world, pop.

Now, the only way to make up for a lousy main dish is to load on the sides.  And if possible, make something that will stand on its own.  I happen to have just the recipe.  And, while it’s pretty simple to make, it’s actual cooking, not just opening a box.  Julia Childs made it.  It even has a French name: Gratin Dauphinois.  So, it qualifies as fixing dinner.  And, Dad would approve.

You’ll Need: a 9 x 13 baking dish, cheese grater, knife or mandoline (the slicing tool, not the musical instrument), medium sauce pan

Ingredients:

  • six large russet or other starchy potato
  • 1 unpeeled garlic, cut in half
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) grated Gruyere or good Swiss cheese
  • 2 cups boiling milk or (it’s better with) cream

How To Make:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F / 190 C.  Peel and slice the potatoes into rounds 1/8 inch thick.
  2. Bring the milk or cream to steaming hot in the saucepan, but don’t let it boil over.  When it tries, turn off the heat.
  3. Rub the cut side of the garlic clove all around the baking dish.  Then smear, to cover, the baking dish bottom and sides with 1 tablespoon of the butter.
  4. Spread half the potato slices in the baking dish, top with half the remaining butter, and half the salt and pepper.
  5. Put the rest of the potatoes in a layer on top.  Add the remaining butter, salt pepper, and then sprinkle evenly with the cheese.
  6. Carefully pour the milk or cream into the baking dish.
  7. Put a baking sheet (with a lip) in the oven on a shelf about one third of the way from the top.  Put the baking dish with potatoes on the baking sheet.  (Pull the shelf partly out to help keep from spilling.)
  8. Bake about 30 minutes. You’ll know when it’s done when the potatoes are tender to a fork, the top is golden brown and bubbly.
  9. Let it set out of the oven about ten minutes before serving.

Ladies of the Night Dessert

Bottom’s up in the kitchen.

The other day I went looking for a nicer than average dessert to make, and stopped when I found one that promised to put buttery caramel, apples, toasted walnuts and moist cake in your mouth all at the same time.

The recipe below got me smiling partly because of the occasion.   My engineer brother spreads a special family dinner at Christmas.  He and his wife never fail to impress.  Since we arrive with a small army of locusts, I usually offer to add something to the menu.  And around the fourth or fifth try he usually accepts. This year, he suggested I bring desserts.

While my wife and daughters got busy turning out special cookies and decorated cupcakes, I hit the laptop.  And I eventually uncovered this recipe, for an apple upside down cake.

‘That’s tarte tatin, ‘ my brother said, ‘it’s French.  You sure you don’t want to just pick up a pie or something?’

I wasn’t about to back down, or ask him what it meant, so I tried Google Translator.  It came back with an empty box.

Now, my command of French is really thin.  It wasn’t enough to keep me from riding shuttle buses for hours around Charles De Gaulle airport, looking for my departure terminal.  Which by the way is how the French cunningly disorient tourists and other terrorists. But that’s another story.

The point is, you’ll have to settle for my best explanation here.

By my understanding a tart is someone… well along the way to prostitution.  So it didn’t surprise me when a link I managed to turn up confirmed tarte tatin was a specialty of two French sisters who were awfully popular with hunters around the Loire Valley.  In fact, the French call this dessert tarte des demoiselles Tatin, which apparently works out to “the tarts are two unmarried women named Tatin.”

Which leaves to the imagination why the cake is upside down.

Anyway, this takes a bit of time and several steps, but it’s worth it.  It’s a lot easier than making a pie.  You can do the whole thing in a cast iron skillet (extra Dad’s points for that) but that requires tossing hot metal into the air and catching the contents on a platter, so I’ve gone with a cheat here.  Bonny appetite.

You’ll need:

a 10 inch cake pan, measuring equipment, a 12 inch heavy skillet, saucepan, mixer and two bowls, and between two and three hours.

Ingredients:

  • 7 or 8 medium apples (gravenstein or other good cooking apple)
  • 6 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup dark rum
  • 2 tb lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup toasted walnuts, chopped

For the cake:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 3/4 cup flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup milk

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F .
  2. Butter the inside of the cake pan well or use cooking spray to prevent sticking.
  3. In the saucepan, melt 3 tbsp butter with the brown sugar.  When it starts to bubble, pour it to cover the bottom of the cake pan.
  4. Peel the apples, slice into 8ths, core, and sprinkle with the lemon juice.
  5. Put 2 tbsp butter into the skillet, and when it’s melted, turn off the flame, add 1/4 cup rum and mix. Then put down a single layer of apple slices til the pan is filled, and cook over medium low heat til the undersides of the apples are just the color of your done-o-meter, a nice medium brown ale, like Newcastles: several minutes.  Don’t guess, lift them and check. Take them off the heat immediately.
  6. When the slices are cool enough to handle with a fork, line them up edge to edge in circles in the cake pan, cooked side down.  It’s ok if they overlap a little.  If you don’t have enough slices to fully cover, repeat the step above.  Sprinkle on the walnuts. Then set the pan aside.
  7. Mix the flour and baking powder together in a bowl.
  8. In a separate bowl, cream the 1/2 cup butter and 1 cup sugar together until its light and fluffy.  You’ll see.
  9. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat til light again.
  10. Now, in batches, add some flour and milk, and mix just until they’re combined. Continue in batches til it’s all in.  You don’t want to overmix the batter, as it knocks out all the fluffy air you worked to put in.
  11. Next, put heaping spoonfuls of this batter onto the apples, going around the pan from the center.  Then carefully spread the batter out so that the topping is covered evenly to the edge of the pan.
  12. Bake for about 45 minutes and check it.  When it’s done, a clean wood toothpick or skewer inserted in the center will come out clean.  Or, the top of the cake will spring back when touched with a finger.  Let it bake if it’s not done, but check every 5 minutes.
  13. Take the cake out and let it cool on a rack 10 minutes, not longer.
  14. Put a platter that’s wider than the cake pan over the top of the cake pan, and holding the two together, flip them over, so the platter’s on the bottom.  It feels like a tricky maneuver, but you can do it safely by holding the platter and pan together like a sandwich with your thumbs on top, and then rotating in one smooth turn towards yourself so your thumbs end up underneath.
  15. You can give it a good shake to free the cake from the pan onto the platter. If any apple slices are stuck to the pan, just take them off with a fork and replace onto the cake.

Just be careful, the sugar topping is blazing hot and sticks to skin.

Voila.

There are plenty of variations of this recipe, including some which claim to be authentic, but I’ve tested the one above personally, so if you go with the others, just be careful.  In my opinion, new recipes are like blind dates.

Vegetarian Beef Dinner for Christmas

Food controversy came to dad’s home recently, and challenged a manly tradition.

The Holidays are all about family.  And shopping.  Well, shopping and eating. And family.  In any case, for lots of folks the Christmas feast is important,  a time to gather and raise each others spirits when all the stores are closed.

And that makes choosing what to eat a big deal.  Particularly since everybody’s  home, and cooking chores get spread around.  If it’s turkey, my wife – who is the undisputed queen of stuffing – gets the honors, and if its prime rib, then dad’s pretty much out of excuses.  I mean, a man has got to be staggering incompetent not to be able to shove a roast in the oven and check the thermometer.  No, I mean it, to get out of this you have to be really who-emptied-the-Jack Daniels-in-the-eggnog staggering.

Unfortunately, things got ugly this year when we took the menu to the kids for the turkey or beef tie breaker.

‘We’re vegetarian,’ the twins announced, ten and holding hands, and as serious as young girls can be, which is dangerously serious.

‘Now…’,  I started, and my wife steered me off with the look.

‘…that’s great’, I smiled.  And why not?  As long as they eat healthy, what’s wrong with skipping  meat?

‘So, you can’t make meat any more’, they decreed.  ‘It’s not right.’

Looking back into my childrens’ bright eyes from the undisputed, will eat nearly everything pinnacle of the food chain, I weighed my words carefully.

‘We won’t make you eat any,’ I said.

‘It’s animals.  No one should eat animals any more. They have feelings too.’

‘Well, plants can feel’, I offered.  ‘That’s what scientists say,’ I said to my wife’s eye roll. ‘And we eat them.’

‘Plants don’t have faces, dad.  And they can’t be happy or sad.’

‘Well, you say that.  Maybe we just can’t hear them screa- ….’

‘I think that’s great’, their mom said. ‘Why do you want to be vegetarians, girls?’

‘We don’t think people should kill animals and eat them.’

Well, we’re just a few hundred thousand years late for that, I thought.  All fine and good, if people decide not to eat meat, in my opinion.  But, isn’t it really just about being squeamish?  The dawning realization that what we consume was once alive, and that we have to kill something living before we can feed ourselves?

‘Well,’ I said, aiming for philosophical, ‘it’s the circle of life.  Like, ‘Lion King’.  Completely natural.  What do you think Simba ate?’

It was out of my mouth before I realized, from the look on their faces, they may not have previously considered that particular image.  As a matter of fact,  Disney probably scrubbed every scene with cute dead antelope dangling from lion jaws, for that very reason.

‘Who wants ice cream?’ I said, rubbing my hands.

‘Lions don’t have a choice’, my wife said, and stood up and next to the girls. ‘Do you have something against vegetarians?’

‘Not at all,’ I said, feeling defensive. And when I feel defensive, I get glib. ‘Cows are vegetarians, and I like them just fine. For Christmas dinner, for example.’

‘So, you’d go ahead and serve beef?’ my wife the lioness said.  And I stood my ground.

‘Nobody has to eat it who doesn’t want to, that’s fine.  We can all respect each others’ personal choice.  Happy if the girls just want veggies.  But I want to be able to eat prime rib.’

My wife crossed her arms.

‘Girls, your father’s pretty set on this.  And, I guess it should be his right to have that beef he looks forward to.’

‘That’s settled then’, she said to me.

And as she turned to go, I could swear I saw her toss the girls a wink.

If you’re one of the men cooking beef yourself, I’ve put a list of tips and a complete how-to guide for prime rib roast at http://www.dadsinthekitchen.com.

House Fire for the Holidays

fire in the kitchen, kitchen fire quiz, cooking fire advice

Cooking oil flames burn fast and high.

Tis the Season for most deadly kitchen fires, say authorities.  How safe is your family? Can you pass the quiz below?

I was drifting between channels looking for something that didn’t involve reality, when reality intruded. A hysterically loud, tinny skreeeling from the smoke detector in the kitchen.

My record for not burning things is pretty good, but I hustled in there anyway.  There was a tang and haze of smoke, all right.  I tracked it back to the oven, which I’d left to pre-heat for dinner.  I checked for flames, popped the door.  After the cloud rolled out I could see something had spilled onto the oven bottom, and it was now busy pumping out special effects in the kitchen.  I  started throwing open windows and doors, then waving cookie pans.  The alarm kept up its nerve-grating howl, and the kids appeared, hands over ears, at the dining room.

“It’s ok”, I shouted uselessly, then smiled, trying to clear the air.

The whole episode got us talking about fires, what to do, and not to do, and I decided to brush up.  Which is how I found that home fires are actually part of the Holiday tradition.  With men spending more time cooking, it pays to stay up to speed on kitchen hazards that can affect the family.

Here’s a little quiz to check if you’re up to date on important fire and safety knowledge.  Answers at the bottom.

1.  The most common cause of home fires is:

a)  candles

b)  cooking

c)  heating and chimneys

2.  The greatest risk for starting a kitchen fire is:

a) broiling

b) baking

c) frying

3.  What percent of all deaths due to fire occur in the home?

a) 24

b) 58

c) 81

4. What percent of American homes have fire extinguishers?

a) 36

b) 47

c) 64

5.  The most common reason cooking fires start is

a) leaving food cooking unattended

b) spilling food on the stove

c) overheating appliances

6. You should only use a fire extinguisher if

a) the fire is confined to small area and isn’t spreading

b) everyone else has left the building

c) someone has called the fire department

d) the room isn’t filled with smoke

7.  You’re more likely to end up in the emergency room with a scalding burn from

a) using your microwave oven

b) spilling a boiling liquid

c) taking a dish out of a conventional oven

8.  In the US, this many home fires are started by microwave ovens each year

a) 880

b) 4400

c) 6600

9.  The recommended place to keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen is

a) very close to the stove

b) very close to the microwave

c) next to an exit from the kitchen

HERE’S THE ANSWERS *

1. (a) Cooking fires account for nearly 40% of all home fires in the US.

2. (c)  Frying is by far the most likely to start a fire.  Oil will flame if it gets hot enough.

3. (c)  The home is a much more dangerous place than work.

4. (b)  Less than half of all homes have one in the kitchen.

5. (a)  Nobody plans to start a fire.  They’re just distracted from the stove by something.

6.  Alright, it’s a trick question. Authorities say you should NOT use an extinguisher unless you have a, b, c, AND d.  They also point out that three out of every five non-fatal home cooking fire injuries occur when victims tried to fight the fire themselves.

7. (a)  Microwave ovens boil the same way as open flame, and carelessly handling or opening a covered dish is an invitation to burn.  Eleven percent of scald burns, and 5% of all microwave oven injuries are to children under five years of age.

8. (c)  6600 fires a year.  Everybody knows how to use them.  But what if the food inside starts to burn? Keep the door closed, turn it off.  Don’t open the door if there’s any chance it hasn’t gone out. And get it checked before using.

9. (c)  If your extinguisher is too close to the fire, you won’t be able to reach it. And if you use an extinguisher, you should have your back to the exit and be ready to bolt.

* If you want to see the National Fire Prevention authorities checklist about being prepared and what to do, I’ve put their entire cooking fire safety information and instructions at Kitchen 911, with links to more  sites.

It’s worth the time and effort to brush up, for the kids.

Information above is from the National Fire Prevention Association.