Monday, November 20, 2006

Cooking for one or two

Last week at the library book sale I picked up a few Taste of Home magazines, one being Cooking for One or Two, Vol. 3, 2001. I can't find on the Reiman website that this title still exists, although it does show a Cooking for Two title. It's fun to look through, just to get some new ideas for menus, although I do wonder a bit. If I'd been cooking for 6 and had become an empty nester, I think I'd figure out I should buy 2 pork chops instead of 6 or 8. And I know enough to cook a roast and put half in the freezer. I've been cooking for two for almost 20 years now and I have learned a few things I wish I'd done earlier:

Spray skillets and pans with a cooking spray (I use Meijer's soy bean oil) even for stove top cooking, and never have a problem with clean up.

Pour a can of undiluted cream of mushroom soup over the beef roast and you'll never mess with gravy again.

Buy a small roasting pan with lid.

Don't bother to thaw your meat; makes no difference, not even hamburgers, and may take only a few minutes longer to cook if you keep turning and don't let it burn.

I haven't used a broiler in years (doesn't work). For steak I semi-thaw a boneless or semi-boneless ribeye and then while still firm, slice diagonally in strips and cook on the stove top in my trusty black iron skillet, still marvelous after 46 years of use. It's really easy to remove the large chunks of fat before frying when cut cold, and the kitchen doesn't get hot or smokey.

Repackage into smaller, airtight, ziplock bags if you do buy in quantity. (Even my quantity purchases are small compared to most.) I make up my hamburger patties ahead, divide up the chicken, and sometimes cut up the roast before freezing. However, Mom used to say beef roasts smaller than 3 lbs didn't quite taste right, but she was known for killing the cow the second time by over cooking the meat into charcoal.

I use Splenda often, and have found just a touch of vanilla adds a bit of sparkle. My daughter, who is pre-diabetic, says you need a bit more Splenda than sugar to make a dessert taste right, such as a pumpkin pie.

More and more I am grilling chopped up fresh or frozen vegetables in a little olive oil. If the pieces are small, it only takes a few minutes.

If we didn't have guests occasionally, my oven wouldn't get much use. Baking for two, if one is disciplined and the other isn't, is just folly. Go to a nice quality bakery and buy 4 cookies.

Some things, however, stay the same, whether or not you're cooking for 2 or 12. Yesterday I forgot to prick a hole in the potato, and it exploded in the oven. Today is clean the oven day.

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