Cooking for Two
Sometimes you don’t want the hassle of bringing out all the pots and pans when you’re cooking for two people. Judi Strauss from The Charmed Kitchen is here with a solution. www.TheCharmedKitchen.com
New Day- Cooking for 1 or 2
Some tips for saving time and money when cooking for a smaller family:
- Buy frozen vegetables over canned as you can cook just the amount you need.
- Try to menu plan before shopping so you'll do less impulse buying.
- Use weekly store adds to take advantage of a bargain, but remember, if you can't use it or store it safely for later its no bargain.
-Since meats should be re-wrapped before freezing anyway; you can buy larger, often less expensive packages, and then wrap in smaller packages before freezing. But keep in mind that if you have little or no freezer space you may be unable to freeze all that you would like. Also don't forget to label and date what you have frozen. That way you'll know what you have and you'll use it.
- Buy a food that's versatile, like chicken breasts or ground meat and keep on hand in the freezer. Then you can just use different sauces and side dishes to keep meals interesting.
-Cooked meats can also be frozen. Roast a whole chicken, bone and freeze the meat you don't need right away. It'll be great for chicken salad, sandwiches and casseroles. You can also make mini meat loaves in regular or large muffin pans. These can be frozen raw or cooked, then just take out as many as you'll need.
- Instead of turkey for holidays why not stuffed chicken breasts or Rock Cornish game hens? If your holiday tradition includes goose, why not try duck instead? They are smaller and also take less time to cook.
- If you want to cook a larger amount any freeze some for later, why not make up your own TV dinners? They will cost less to make your own and taste better, too. For conventional ovens you can use foil pans, covered with foil. For microwave ovens, use microwave safe plastic covered with plastic wrap. When cooking in the microwave pierce the plastic wrap, or loosen to allow steam to vent. This also allows you to take advantage of seasonal buys. Every summer, when we have sweet peppers from the garden, my Mom makes a batch of stuffed peppers and freezes them in packages of one or two depending on the size of the peppers. She puts them in foil containers and seals and labels them. Sometimes she'll even add some mashed potatoes. You may not have a lot of freezer space, but even a couple of frozen dinners can be a welcome time saver on a busy day.
- Use dried minced onions in place of fresh. That way you only use what you need. Dried minced garlic can be handy, too.
- For desserts you can make cupcakes rather than a large cake and freeze the extras. Cakes can be frozen, too. Freeze uncovered, until frosting firms. Then wrap the pieces in plastic wrap or freezer paper. To defrost, leave on the wrapping, but loosen it to prevent the frosting from sticking. Don't remove the wrapping completely or the cake will get soggy. You can also place frozen fruit in a processor and blend until smooth and creamy- sweeten a little, if you like, for sorbet.
- Some quick and easy side dishes, that are easy to make for one or two people are: rice, (use 1/3 c. raw for 1 cup cooked) baked or boiled potatoes, pasta (1-2 ounces uncooked per person), ramen noodles, applesauce, bakes apples, poached pears, canned pineapple chunks (8 ounce can), instant mashed potatoes, twice baked potatoes, frozen vegetables (seasoned with herbs), stuffing made from prepared mixes, salad made with whole head of baby Bibb lettuce, carrot and raisin salad, 1-2 apple Waldorf salad, glazed carrots, couscous, sliced tomatoes, cucumbers and sour cream. As you can see there are plenty of choices out there and I'm sure you'll think of more.
- Ramen noodles can make the base for many dishes from soups to casseroles and even salads. They cook quickly, so take care not to over cook them.
- A small can of red or pink salmon, mixed with chopped onion, an egg, bread crumbs and seasonings will make 2 salmon patties.
-Pudding, applesauce and fruit in single serving sizes are great for quick snacks and desserts.
- Pre-bagged salads can make an easy warm weather main dish. Just add a small can of tuna or shredded cheese, cherry tomatoes and croutons.
- Tortillas can be a nice change from bread and are very versatile. You can wrap one up with meat or cheese and heat in the oven, microwave or even in a skillet. Cut into shreds and they can be used in soup like noodles. Just place shredded tortillas in bowl and ladle over hot soup.
- Smaller single-serving size tuna fish is great to have on hand for sandwiches and salads. Other canned meats may work for you, too.
- Watch out for expiration dates. Products like eggs and dairy products expire faster than you think. Make sure to check the dates BEFORE you buy them. I was in a store having a big egg sale. Well the eggs were expiring the next day. No bargain. A few days later the eggs were still on sale, but newer, fresher eggs were now for sale.
- Freezers are not fountains of youth. If food is past its prime freezing will not rejuvenate it. Only freeze food that is of good quality.
Chicken Sauces for Small Batch Cooking
If you are eating chicken more you may want some quick sauce ideas to dress up breasts, legs or even boneless chicken. When cooking chicken without bones cooking time will be reduced. You can bake, grill, poach or sauté chicken, depending on your mood, and what sauce you are using. You can also purchase an already cooked chicken, then freeze some for later.
- 1 8oz. Can tomato sauce, Italian seasoning and 1 c. sliced mushrooms for Italian Chicken, serve over pasta.
- Sweet and sour- 1/4 c. each sugar, pineapple juice and vinegar. Add a little ketchup, soy sauce and about 1 tablespoon of cornstarch to thicken.
- Marsala, Add 1/4-1/3 c. Marsala wine per chicken piece to the pan. Add onion, mushrooms and a little tarragon. Thicken with flour.
- Cantonese- Sauté chicken with celery, onion and mushrooms. Add 1/2 c. chicken stock mixed with 1 T. cornstarch and cook until thickened. Add soy sauce to taste. Serve over rice
Lemon- Dredge chicken in flour, sauté until cooked. Add 1-2 T. lemon juice and a little water or broth. Simmer until the flour on the chicken thickens liquids into a sauce. Add a little grated Parmesan cheese, if you like.
Florentine: Add 1 package of frozen spinach for every 2 pieces of chicken in the pan. Season with salt, pepper and a little dill. This dish works well as a baked dish with spinach on bottom of the pan and seasoned, and then chicken added and seasoned. Bake until chicken is cooked.
Orange- Add 1-2 T. orange juice concentrate, 1 T. vinegar and 2 T. brown sugar. Salt and pepper to taste.
Jelly- Many fruit jellies and preserves make a quick and tasty glaze for chicken, try apple, raspberry, pineapple, apricot and even strawberry. Add salt and pepper to taste and a little garlic powder.
Honey-mustard Add equal parts of honey and mustard to chicken. A pinch of ginger goes well here, too.
Rock Cornish Game Hens
Just the right size for special occasions when turkey is just too much.
2 small (under 1 lb.) or 1 large (over 1 lb.) Rock Cornish Game Hens
Small amount of oil or butter, for rubbing birds
Poultry seasoning to taste
Wash birds and separate skin on breast a little. Spread some of the butter under the skin and sprinkle with poultry seasoning. Rub outside of bird with a little more butter. Sprinkle in cavity with a little more seasoning. Place in baking dish and cook in 350 degree oven until juices run clear, about 1 hour. If using the larger birds, you can curt them in half before or after roasting, but if you cut them before cooking reduce baking time 10-15 minutes.
2 English muffins, split and toasted
1/2 c. pizza sauce
3-4 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese
Assorted pizza toppings, chopped green pepper, pepperoni, sliced mushrooms, etc. Try some unconventional toppings, too. These are a great way to use up leftover chicken or vegetables.
Place muffins on oven safe dish. Spread with the sauce, divide the cheese and add toppings as desired. Top brown in toaster oven or bake in conventional oven until cheese is melted and bubbly. Serves 2.
Chick Pea Salad
1 can of chick peas, drained
1 onion, diced
1 rib celery, diced
1/2 c. fresh chopped parsley
Fresh or dried basil and savory to taste
salt to taste
1/4 c. olive oil
2 T. vinegar
1 T. balsamic vinegar
Combine all ingredients and chill several hours or overnight. Serves 2-3.
Smoked Turkey and Pear Salad
1/2 lb. Smoked turkey, diced
1/4 c. chopped celery
2 chopped green onions
2-3 T. mayonnaise
1 T. chopped fresh parsley
1-2 ripe pears, cored and diced
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 c. oil
2 T. cider vinegar
1 1/2 t. sugar
dash salt and pepper
1/4 lb. Salad greens, washed and torn into bite-sized pieces
In medium bowl combine turkey with the next 5 ingredients. Season to taste and chill. In jar with tight-fitting lid combine dressing ingredients. Place greens in a large bowl and toss with the dressing. Divide among 2 serving plates and top with the turkey mixture and croutons. Serves 2.
2 T. olive oil
2 T. red wine vinegar
1 t. sugar
¼ t. red pepper flakes
4-6 oz. cheese ravioli, cooked
¾ c. diced ham
½ red pepper, seeded and diced
1 green onion, chopped
black olives, optional
Combine first 4 ingredients in medium bowl and whisk to blend well. Add next 4 ingredients and toss to coat. Add salt and pepper to taste. Chill before serving. Garnish with olives if desired and serve with Parmesan cheese on the side. Serves 2. Omit sweet pepper if you want to freeze half for later.
Easy Corn and Chicken Chowder
1 can cream style corn
2 c. milk
1 c. diced cooked chicken, ham or other meat or seafood you like
1 baked potato, diced
salt and pepper to taste
1 T. butter
Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and heat over medium heat until mixture almost boils. Serves 2-3.
6 vanilla wafers
1 (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
1/4 c. sugar
1 t. vanilla
Line 6 muffin tins with paper liners. Place 1 wafer in each. Beat together remaining ingredients for 1 minute with electric mixer. Divide this mixture in the muffin tins, filling each 3/4 full. Bake 25 minutes at 325 degrees. Cool and decorate with fruit topping, if desired. Makes 6. These can be frozen. Serves 2-3.
Lasagna for Two
5 lasagna noodles
½ lb. ground beef or turkey
¼ each chopped onion, sweet pepper and celery
1 (8 oz.) can mushrooms, drained
1 jar (14 oz.) spaghetti sauce
1 egg, beaten
¾ c. ricotta or cottage cheese
2 T. grated Parmesan cheese
2 t. Italian seasoning
1 c. (4 oz.) shredded mozzarella cheese
Cook noodles according to package directions, rinse and set aside. In skillet cook meat until no pink is visible and drain off any excess fat. Add vegetables and cook until tender. Add sauce and simmer for 5 minutes. While sauce is simmering combine egg with ricotta or cottage cheese, Parmesan and Italian seasoning. In a greased 8x4-inch loaf pan place ¼ cup meat sauce. Trim noodles to fit pan. Use 2 noodles to cover meat sauce. Top with 1/3 of the cheese mixture, 1/3 of the meat sauce and 1/3 cup of the mozzarella. Repeat layers twice, using trimmings from noodles for the top layer. Bake, uncovered, in a 350-degree oven for 30-35 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before cutting. Serves 2.
1½ c. sliced carrots
1 medium onion, chopped
1 c. chicken broth
1 c. milk
Salt and pepper to taste
Dash of nutmeg
Green onion or chopped chives for garnish, optional
In saucepan combine carrots with onion and broth and simmer, covered until vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes. Puree mixture and return to pan. Add remaining ingredients and heat through. Serve with chives or green onions sprinkled on top, if desired. Serves 2.