|My view for this week, cat on lap |
and tv on. Ah, the holidays!
Since I've been sticking close to home I've been cooking a lot of meals for myself. Still frustrated by my own inability to prepare meals for one person on a regular basis, I've been doing some further research on the subject. It makes sense that some foods lend themselves better to single serving versions than others...casseroles are too much effort as is anything that requires more than 30 minutes of prep and cooking time.
What I've discovered for myself is that if I can get a meal on my plate in under 20 minutes, that is just about perfect. Whether that means 20 solid minutes of cooking time spent in the kitchen at once or 10 minutes prep the night before and 10 minutes at dinner time, this amount of time makes it "worthwhile" in my mind to turn out my meal. Less time than that is usually some sort of frozen food shoved in the microwave and more than 20 minutes feels too daunting to be worth the effort.
My continuing task this year is to perfect a repertoire of meals that I can have ready in short order without serving up leftovers over and over and over again the following week. I've already blogged about some of those I've been using and you can read about them here. Keep checking in as I work my way through some more of my favorite things in single serving portions - and if you have anything you make for yourself (or for two) and want to share, feel free to comment and let me know.
MY FAVORITE COOKING APPLIANCES
|Pretty slow cookers all in a row|
SIZE TRULY DOES MATTER
One challenge I hear most of my single friends dealing with is making soup for themselves. We all love soup, and cold weather definitely cranks up the comfort factor of a warming bowl for dinner, but "too much work to make soup for one serving" is what I hear constantly. Hmmmmm....not for me! With my trusty slow cooker standing ready and a few minutes of slicing and dicing the night before, the heady aromas of fresh soup greet me as I stumble through the back door on a cold evening.
After my foray to Al's Market last week, I've been contemplating those bones I removed from the smoked pork chops. For me, the logical use for these is in bean soup. Last night, I rescued one of the bones from the freezer and grabbed a cup of navy beans and a box of chicken stock from the pantry and set up my dinner for tonight. The following prep work took all of 10 minutes. With a stop at the fridge in the morning to toss everything into the slow cooker, total prep time was about 15 minutes. A snap decision to make a batch of corn bread to go with the soup when I got home took another 5 minutes plus 20 minutes of baking time, still putting me within my 20 minute hands-on cooking time frame. When the fresh hot bread came out of the oven, my soup was ready and dinner was served.
OLD FASHIONED BEAN SOUP
|Notice that little pork bone I had|
saved from the pork chops earlier
this week? Perfect for this!
1 cup dried navy pea beans, rinsed and checked to remove bad beans or stones
2 cups chicken stock
1 small smoked ham or pork bone
1 bay leaf
1 medium carrot, peeled and grated
1/3 cup finely diced red onion
1 garlic clove, whole but slightly crushed
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
The night before, rinse and sort through the dried beans. In a medium sized bowl, put in the beans and about double enough water to cover them completely. Add in 2 teaspoons salt and stir to dissolve the salt. Let beans sit overnight.
Gather up the remaining ingredients, except the stock, and put in the crock of the slow cooker and store in the refrigerator overnight.
The next morning:
Remove the crock from the fridge and put in the cooker. Turn to low heat. Rinse your beans thoroughly and add them to the pot along with the 2 cups of stock. Stir around to ensure everything is covered in stock. Leave the pot to cook on low for 8-10 hours.
|Old Fashioned Bean Soup|
I bake my cornbread in a 6-inch cast iron skillet that I purchased specifically for baking this bread. I use it for other things as well, but it is the perfect size for this amount of cornbread batter and fits neatly into the toaster oven to bake.
|My favorite little skillet and some|
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup yellow corn meal
1 Tbls. sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup milk (more or less)
2 Tbls. corn oil or bacon grease, melted*
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Put your skillet (with an ovenproof handle) on the stove and heat, adding the oil or grease (be careful if you use oil, it will burn very quickly if left too long). The idea here is to heat the pan so be careful, the handle will get hot.
In a small bowl, combine all dry ingredients. Add the egg and enough milk to make a loose batter (it will resemble cake batter). Add the melted oil or butter and stir to combine. Immediately pour into the hot skillet and transfer to the oven to bake for 15-20 minutes until the top is puffy and golden brown.
*A note about bacon drippings - as the granddaughter of a farm wife, my refrigerator is always home to a jar of bacon drippings. Every time I make bacon, the grease is poured into the container for future use. Although I know my Grandmother used this as her main source of fat for many dishes, in my house it's used as both a fat and a seasoning. It's main use in my kitchen is in cornbread as I've described above.
And don't say eeeuuuwwww...your great-grandparents were cooking with pork fat long before a can of Crisco or margarine showed up on their pantry shelves. If used sparingly as a seasoning, this still has a place in today's modern kitchen.