Monday, February 28, 2011

Tuna + Spinach with Onions/Garlic in 15 minutes

Grilled Tuna and Spinach with Onions-Faster than Take-out and So Much Better

If you keep your eyes peeled, your local run-of-the-mill grocery store sometimes has fresh tuna at nearly canned tuna prices.   Well, that maybe exaggerates it a bit.  Still, it's not terribly expensive and doesn't need anything fancy.  This is a lovely meal for one.  Saute a pan of onions and spinach with garlic to complete the meal.  (Do it first so your tuna it hot.)

If you have any tuna left over, you can make a Salad Nicoise (a Provencal favorite) the next day.  Just slice your tuna kindly, add to the plate some boiled potatoes, sliced tomatoes, Nicoise olives (or Kalamata if you can't find Nicoise; the French tend to keep a lot of them.), some greens, anchovies( if you like) and steamed green beans. Drizzle the platter with a mustard or tarragon vinaigrette and Nicoise is nearly yours.  Perfect summer fare.  Is it summer where you are?  Anyway, before the Nicoise, you must make this simple tuna with sauteed spinach, onions and garlic.  Add a bit of baguette or even some leftover rice or potato and you're in the business of dinner.  Actually, you don't need anything else, though a bit of wine would go down well, as would a good book.

         Quote of the Day:  " Am I eating chicken or tuna?"  ~ Jessica Simpson

 Tuna and Spinach with Onions and Garlic in 15 minutes

  • 1 small fresh tuna filet (Ahi is nice)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1T olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 a small onion
  • 3 cups fresh spinach
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
Set your table and get out your drink before you cook.  Crack your window or light a candle to dispel the fish cooking odor.
  1. Pat down the tuna with paper towels and season it well with salt and pepper.  Set it aside.
  2. Heat 2t of the olive oil  in a medium-sized skillet over medium heat and add the onion.  Stirring regularly, saute about 5 minutes until softened.  Add spinach, throw in a pinch each of salt/pepper and cook down about one minute.  Add garlic and cook another minute. Remove to plate and set aside.
  3. Add other 1 t olive oil to the pan, raise heat to high, and let heat briefly--about 30 seconds. Add tuna; sear 2 minutes.  (Don't move the tuna; let it sit still.)  Turn and sear the other side for 2 minutes.  Place cooked, rare* tuna on top of spinach. 
  4. This meal is lovely hot, but is also tasty at room temperature.  Refrigerate leftovers well-covered and immediately.
Solo Cook Notes:
  •  Make a bigger piece of tuna if you'd like leftovers.  Fish salad for lunch is a treat. 
  •  *Cook the tuna longer if you want, but brown tuna is tough tuna.
  • Top with some pesto if you have any.
  • I like Pinot Noir with tuna, but some people prefer Chardonnay or even Sauvignon Blanc.  Unlike simpler, lighter white fish, tuna stands up to a bit more of a wine or sauce.
How's that vegan thing going?   Each day (Vegan for breakfast and lunch) finds me expanding and I've had things like:  

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Tofu Stir Fry

Tofu Stir Fry for One
You might be like me.  You'll eat tofu in an Asian restaurant.  Or when a friend says, "You've got to try this!"  And you like it.  Really you do.   But when you look around the kitchen for dinner, you do not cast around for firm tofu or silken tofu or any tofu.  Time to rethink.  You, too, can make perfectly-cooked tofu so tasty and so fast, you'll want it over and over again.  This stir fry will show you how and the vegetables are almost infinitely changeable.  Note:   if you use brown rice, it takes 45 minutes to cook.  You can make a big batch the night before and use the rest for other things.  You'll have enough  stir fry for lunch or dinner the next day.

Where'd this come from?  I'm rethinking my cooking options lately and after reading Mark Bittman's article in the January, 2011 issue of BON APPETIT ("Mark Bittman Knows What's Best for You",) decided to give the vegan life a whirl for breakfast and lunch only.  Add to that I happened to read a 2008 tofu recipe by Melissa Clark, "Tofu Meets its Match" and  I was off to the store for a piece of tofu.  I had to look for it.  It's in the refrigerated section with things like soy crumbles and soy yogurt.  Read all about tofu here, especially about how to store it.  (It stores, covered in water changed daily, for up to a week in the frig.)

Tofu Stir Fry  serves 2 hungry people or you twice

  • 2 c cooked brown rice
  • 1 piece of firm tofu approx 2"x4"
  • 3t canola, peanut or any vegetable oil, divided
  • Kosher salt and pepper, a pinch each
  • 1T minced garlic
  • 1T minced fresh ginger (more if you love ginger)
  • 1 small onion, cut into large pieces
  • 1/2 c cabbage, chopped roughly
  • 1/2 c sweet red pepper, chopped roughly
  • 1/2 c green beans, cut into thirds
  • 1/2 c eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/2" dice
  • Pinch dried red pepper flakes

Sauce:  (Whisk together first five ingredients and then whisk in cornstarch. Simpler sauce in Solo Cook's Note.)
  • 1/4 c soy sauce, plus more as a condiment for the finished dish (check for gluten free)
  • 1/2 t sesame oil
  • 1t honey
  • 2t sherry
  • 1/4 c white wine or chicken stock (gluten free)
  • 1/2-1 t cornstarch (depending on how thick you like your stir fry)
  1. Place tofu between several layers of paper towel and lay on a microwavable plate.  Place another plate on top of the tofu.  Microwave on high 2 minutes.  Remove from the oven, unwrap and gently press with another folded towel  to remove excess liquid.  Cut tofu into 1" square pieces.
  2. Heat 2t oil over medium-high heat in large skillet or wok.  Place tofu pieces in pan, leaving plenty of room so they brown well. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper.  Let brown well (takes 2-4 minutes) on one side.  Do not move tofu until it's well-browned; let it sit undisturbed.  Turn, using tongs, and let brown on the other side.  Remove to a plate and set aside.
  3. Add other tsp of oil and heat pan to high.  Add ginger and garlic and immediately begin adding all the vegetables and red pepper, stirring as you go.  Continue to stir for about 2 minutes until vegetables are barely beginning to soften.
  4. Return tofu to the pan and stir.  Add sauce.  Let cook about a minute until stir fry is about as thick as you like it.  Serve over or beside rice.  Shake soy sauce over rice or over all if you like it.
Here it is in pictures:

Monday, February 21, 2011

Pasta Marinara

"Life is a combination of magic and pasta."
Federico Fellini
   Every cook needs a marinara in her pocket and in her heart.  This isn't grandma's 12-hour simmered sauce; it's quick, fresher and more adaptable.  It's what you can make for just yourself on a day when you haven't been to the store and need comfort food.  It can be a spicy sauce with the addition of a bit of dried red pepper.  Blend with tortellini and grilled Italian sausage for the night you have a friend to dinner.  Keep it in the freezer in small batches and defrost  in the microwave to dress up a bit of cold, roasted chicken or to stir into some rice dried almost beyond saving. Spoon a little over fried eggs and top with cheese to make a couple of eggs feel more like a real meal.  It makes the dinner if you have a celebration and the bucks for some grilled tuna (see below).  Ladle it into a pasta bowl over and/or under the tuna and add some orzo stirred up with sauteed spinach and garlic or onions.   The options are multitude and all are happy. 

Tuna Marinara with Sauteed Spinach and Onions
 Pasta Marinara serves 2   --  easily doubles
  • 1/2 pound  whole wheat linguine or your choice of pasta shape (I like Whole Foods 365 brand best)
  • 1 tablespoon butter (use olive oil for vegan version)
  • 1/3 cup onion, minced
  • 1 stalk celery, minced
  • 1-2 tablespoons minced carrot, optional  (Don't overdo the carrot; it'll ruin the sauce.)
  • 1 28-oz can whole tomatoes (I like Cento, but it can be pricey.)
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
  •  1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt and 1/8 t freshly ground pepper or more to taste
  1.   Heat large skillet or a 3-quart pot with butter/oil over medium heat.  Add onion, celery and carrot (if you're using it) and cook about 10 minutes.  Add tomatoes, stir and break up by pressing down with a  large fork or a potato masher. Add parsley and a bit of salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring regularly. Taste and adjust seasonings (add a tiny bit more salt, sugar or pepper, if needed)
  2. Meantime, bring 6 quarts well-salted and peppered water to boil in a large soup pot.
  3. When at a rolling boil, add pasta and cook about 11 minutes til al dente (Just a bit of resistance when you bite into it.)  Drain, return to pot and keep warm (cover if you need to)
  4. Place a serving of pasta on each of two plates (or in pasta bowls) and top with sauce.  Add cheese (or basil) if you like it.  Unless you're terribly hungry, you'll have some sauce for tomorrow's breakfast eggs or to spike up a simple soup.

Solo Cook's Notes:  You could also
  • add a pinch of dried red pepper 
  • add a pinch of dried red pepper and a few shrimp at end of cooking
  • add a tsp of minced garlic to the sauce
  • top finished dish with some fresh basil  
  • saute a few scallops and eat with a bit of this sauce
  • dust with freshly-grated Parmesan cheese 
  • give the dish a big extra grind of black pepper for garnish
  • make a double or triple batch  and freeze some in plastic or glass freezer containers. 

Friday, February 18, 2011

Bread, Bread, Bread

"I won't quarrel with my bread and butter."  ~ Jonathan Swift
Let's start by saying the recipe for No-Knead Bread has been around the block more than a few times.  That doesn't mean it doesn't bear repeating in this blog.   This bread is a simple, luscious loaf for the solo baker, wonderful with honey and butter or jam and  in later reincarnations as toast, in sandwiches or for bread pudding for one.  It keeps nicely if well-wrapped, which is important to you.

The first time we saw it was in a 2006 NYT Minimalist  where Mark Bittman interviewed Jim Lahey, of Sullivan Street Bakery at 533 West 47th Street, documenting the process for an incredibly delicious artisan-type bread.  (Mr. Lahey, with Rick Flaste, has since written a book on the subject, published in 2009.) 

(Courtesy: WW Norton)

This particular loaf, a boule,  is scrumptious to the max, but also qualifies in the very-easy-to-make category, albeit time-consuming.   Two years later, a quicker version (four hours rise) of the bread was developed; it eats, but not nearly as well.  There's even a whole wheat version that I haven't tried.  I'll admit to knowing (I watched the video!) that Jim Lahey didn't exactly agree with the idea of a faster bread made this manner, but thought you could try to decrease the time involved by still using a  minimal amount of yeast and adding some vinegar the the dough.  Watch here a lively, fun video with Lahey and Bittman in which they kibitz about the faster bread and bread in general.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Turkey Burgers and Guac with Salad or Chips

Turkey Burger  with BBQ Sauce and  Salad

While you're adding to your first pantry (or even if you aren't), a turkey burger is just a good meal anytime.  They're simple to make, easy to shop for, and the raw burgers freeze perfectly.   Most everyone loves a burger, but also hates the fat and calories of a burger made from ground beef.  Add a little salad, some guacamole and/or chips et voila, dinner is served.

 Buy a pack of Jennie O Italian Seasoned lean ground turkey, which comes in a little over a pound
package.  You won't need to buy other spices, etc.   Make yourself four or five patties.  Save out one for tonight's dinner and freeze the rest; use within 4-6 weeks.  Before freezing, you can put them in plastic sandwich bags, tupperware or between sheets of waxed paper and  wrapped in foil or a gallon freezer bag.  You can unthaw (perhaps two hours on the counter or overnight in the frig) to cook, but they cook fine frozen.(If you buy a pack of buns, freeze them, too--either individually in foil or by wrapping each one in plastic wrap and returning them to the bag.  Use them within a couple of weeks.)

Before you start to cook, put on some music.  Set your table with some things you like.  Find a candle and light it.  Give thanks and enjoy.  A meal for one is a celebration.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Baking For Others: D-I-Y Valentine’s Day Chocolate Bark

Ok, even if you're in a dorm room with a microwave in the (yuck, yuck, yuck) bathroom, you can make chocolate good, good, goodies for Valentine's Day.  Bark, Bark, Bark!!!

Click on the link below to see this sweet, sweet post.
Happy Valentine's Weekend.

Have fun cooking and taking care of yourself,

Baking For Others: D-I-Y Valentine’s Day Chocolate Bark

What wine to have for Valentine's Day--According to WSJ

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

An Omelet and a Glass of Wine a fine book by famed writer, Elizabeth David.  I wish I'd coined the phrase, but, alas, I just eat the meal regularly.  Add sauteed spinach, a piece of whole-grain toast (I often skip this or have half) and you have a meal.  (Photos below.) This particular omelet is a cheese one, but you can make whatever kind of omelet you like.  I'll give some tips about that at the bottom under "Solo Cook's Notes."  If you'd like to see another, more classic omelet prep, watch this Julia Child video et voila!

Or watch Jacques Pepin make an omelet here.   Choose your method!

A great Judith Jones omelet post, with lots of pics from her kitchen, is here.

No, I'm not pedaling books, but I've read Elizabeth David (and others-- Jacques Pepin or MFK Fisher for example) for years.   If you like yummy prose as well as yummy food, try books by  these writers who knew from words and knew from food. 

My Little Omelet Info and Primer:
Omelets are  notorious for using up leftovers...that bit of broccoli left from last night, that last tablespoon of chopped onion or green pepper, that bit of hard cheese you didn't wrap well.  Here are a few tips:
  • Best quality cage-free eggs.  (or from a local farmer)
  • Don't overbeat your eggs.  30 whips with a big whisk is plenty for two eggs. 
  • Buy a heavy-duty, 8", nonstick pan (or stainless steel if you like that) and you'll have it for a long time.  I like Scanpan for more expensive pans and Pampered Chef for a good cheapie. 
  • Don't be afraid to crank that heat up a little to really get the butter really hot.  But don't dare walk away either.  Turn off your cell phone.
  • You must have everything you need ready before you heat the pan, because after that, your eyes and your hands must attend the omelet.  Set table and get your drink first.
  • Do not make an omelet without butter unless you are allergic to it, are vegan or have a health problem that requires you to use oil.  Omelets are made with butter period. 
  • As the eggs begin to cook, gently stir them to allow uncooked eggs into the bottom of the hot pan.
  • If you want to cook more than one omelet, heat the oven to 200 and let one omelet rest there while you cook the other.   Move on to a frittata if you have several people.
  • Be brave, cook your omelet and enjoy it!  However it turns out, you'll eat it and be glad. 
  • Note: For South Beach Option, skip toast

Omelets are great for solo cooks.


Monday, February 7, 2011

Lentil Soup-Eat, Freeze and/or Share

Lentil soup for one (or more)
  I have a dear friend named Helen, with whom I've cooked many times. 
Helen makes a mean lentil soup and stirred up a pot of it one night at a beach house we had rented together.  The deal was this:  if you came for the week, you had to cook one night and clean up the others.  Except for one fine fellow, who appeared to be only in charge of libations.  Fine by me.  

Friend Suzy grilled fine tuna and stirred up some Italian beans and herbs to slip under the fish.  I think I made breakfast...,an egg casserole and cinnamon rolls.  But Helen made this soup and I watched her.  I came home and tried to duplicate and document the process, but I ended up with something different, of course.  Is it as good?  I'm not so sure, but you know everything tastes good at the beach.  Here's the soup, which with your changes/additions will become your own.  Work on it after you've made it once; add the vegetables you like and change or leave out the meat.

Chopped Salads and How to Use a Big Knife

  As solos cooks, your first line of defense could be a great salad.  There's never a problem with making a salad for one and, if you make a chopped salad, make enough (store without dressing or tomatoes) to last a few days.  That way, you'll get the most out of your shopping and get all the veggies you need. 

If you master a basic salad and understand fresh vegetables, you'll also be able to change that salad up:
  • Add cheese or boiled eggs
  • Add grilled chicken
  • Add leftover shrimp from your take-out from last night
  • Add chopped pepperoni from that two-day-old pizza in the frig
  • Add homemade croutons (using up that old bread)
Most people never learn how to make a good salad, but you're going to.

I have a great recipe (below) for you, but first....  Watch Jamie Oliver's short video on chopped salad:

Watch Jamie Now!  Make a note of how he uses the knife, too.

Making Jamie's salad in my kitchen
 In fact, here's a basic, really quick video on holding and using a chef's knife:

How to use a knife!

Alyce's Salad Notes
  • Buy greens you like, but buy good-looking greens and skip iceberg lettuce unless you crave a blue-cheese wedge.  Wash them well (Put them in cold water in the sink or a bowl for 5 minutes, swishing several times.)  Drain them well and lay them out on cotton or linen or paper towels. Wrap well and put in a plastic bag or a covered refrigerator container.  Alternately, you can spin them in a salad spinner.
  • Add any vegetable or fruit you like or have.  Google salad recipes or go to (great site) and see lots of recipes.  Be brave and mix things up; the recipe police aren't coming.
  • If you have fresh herbs, including parsley, just throw them in; you'll be blown away.  (In fact, you can make a great parsley salad and it's easy to grow.)
  • Be loving to yourself and be creative:  Make salads you adore so that you'll eat them.
  • Make your own salad dressings...  Ok, you might keep a jar of low-fat Ranch (bought in the produce section cold) for veggie dip or to mix with salsa for a great taco salad dressing or fish taco sauce ...also great for a grilled asparagus dip.)
  • Most green salads benefit from a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a sprinkle of salt and pepper before (or instead of) being dressed.

Cherry Tomato Chicken Pasta with Basil

With rotini.

As cooks, we sometimes wake up with something special on our minds.
Something that just keeps going round and round and, until we make that dish, we just can't do anything.
No one should get in our way then.  No how.
Then we go to the grocery store.
Are way-laid by a point of entrance display of, say, raspberries.  Or avocados.  Or, in this case,
I had every intention of making a Splendid Table newsletter dish called something like "Sicilian Chicken."
Until I saw cherry tomatoes

10 PINTS FOR $10

And my world went spinning until I could figure out and make  (a large detour from Sicilian Chicken)

Cherry Tomato Chicken Pasta with Basil
  Serves 4 or 2 very hungry people.  Can divide in half to cook only 2 portions
Here with linguine.

  • 3 pints cherry tomatoes*  (Can use 6-8 Roma tomatoes, chopped, too)
  • 2 tablespoons plus 2t olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus a little extra for chicken
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper, ditto
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 small red onion, sliced
  • 8 oz sliced mushrooms* (optional)
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper*
  • 1/4 cup white wine or chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup kalamata olives, chopped* (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped very finely*
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts*
  • 3/4 pound whole wheat linguine or other pasta
  • 10-12 fresh basil leaves (or 1-2T dried)*
  • 4 tablespoons gruyere or Parmesan cheese, grated, optional*
*To purchase if not in pantry.

    1. Put a 10qt pot of salted and peppered water (2/3 full) for linguine to boil.  Add a few leaves of fresh basil if you have them.  Lower heat a little and leave water ready for pasta as you make the sauce
    2. In a deep, 12 or 14" saute pan (skillet/fry pan) or a good-sized (3qt+)saucepan,  heat 2T olive oil over heat and add tomatoes, salt and pepper.  Cook 10 minutes until tomatoes begin to pop, stirring often.  Add garlic, onion, mushrooms, dried red pepper, wine, olives and rosemary.   Continue to cook for another 10 minutes as tomatoes begin to fall apart.  Stir regularly.
    3. Heat another saute or grill pan and add 2t olive oil. (See Solo Cook's Note below.)  Salt and pepper chicken breasts and grill very briefly, about 1 minute on each side.  Lower heat under tomato sauce and add the chicken to the  sauce.  Cover and cook at a low simmer for about 12 minutes.
    4. Bring pasta water back to a rolling boil and add linguine.   Let covered chicken in sauce sit 10  minutes.   Test pasta for doneness (there should be a little resistance to your teeth)  and pour out into colander in sink.
    5.  Divide the pasta into four pasta bowls and top each with a piece of chicken and a good serving of the tomato sauce.
    6. Garnish with torn fresh basil leaves, if using, and a dusting of fresh ground pepper.  Sprinkle with cheese, if desired.
    Options:  Add some finely chopped zucchini to the tomatoes.

    Solo Cook's Notes:  If you don't have the required pans, cook the chicken first and set aside, covered, to keep warm until the sauce is done in the large saute (skillet).  Then add the chicken.

    Wine:  We liked a not-so-rough chianti with this dish.  Don't buy the bottom of the barrel, literally.  Go up one notch to a chianti classico for a tish more smoothness in your mouth and in your stomach.

    Note:  additional photos added 11/7/12

    Have fun cooking and taking care of yourself,
    Note:  Originally posted at on May 2, 2010

    The Pantry or What I Need in my Cupboards, on my Counters and in my Frig/Freezer

    I can't live without good honey and balsamic vinegar.
    A pantry encompasses things you like to cook with on a regular basis.  Things you need all the time.  Things you couldn't live without.  They may sit on the counter (sweet potatoes or onions), be in your frig (mayonnaise) or even in your freezer (bag of blueberries).  You know what those things are for you.   If you're a baker, you'll need baking powder, unsweetened chocolate, etc. If not, you won't buy those things.  I'll make a basic list (and add to it for shopping lists), but you can also visit my friend Lydia Walshin's site The Perfect Pantry and look under "ingredients."  (Lydia also blogs seven different soups every Saturday at Soup Chick.)  This pantry list is a work-in-progress and isn't something to go out and buy today.

    If your pantry is well-stocked, you can make a decent meal even without a stop at the store.  You can invite a friend home at the spur of the moment.  You won't starve during a snowstorm or when you have the flu.

    Sick or just tired?  You can make soup if you have broth and pasta.

    If you made it to the store and bought the first grocery list, you have some of these things.  I'll include them anyway for a complete list.  When I blog recipes, I will (if time) note what you need from the store that isn't on this list.  You'll still need to see if you're out of onions or pasta.

    In the Cupboards:  Spices +more , Canned and Dry Goods

    Dried Herbs/Spices/Other things in small quantities (I like Penzey's Spices)

    Bay leaves
    Cayenne (dried, ground red pepper)
    Chili powder (Penzey's 3000, Spice Island or make your own)
    Cinnamon -I like Vietnamese or Chinese
    Cloves (ground)
    Curry powder
    Mustard, dried (Colman's)
    Nutmeg (whole; you'll need a grater)
    Pepper, Red, dried flakes
    Peppercorns, black (I keep several kinds)
    Salt, Kosher
    Salt, Sea (I keep several kinds and a grinder; some are used in chunks)

    Hot sauce

    Baking Powder
    Baking Soda
    Cream of tartar

    Click for a Dictionary of Spices

    Dried or Fresh?    Dried or powdered onions or garlic are useful in rubs for meat, etc., but typically you're better off using the real thing for any other cooking.  Also, you can easily grow herbs indoors in a sunny window or in your garden.  I do not lightly say that cooking with fresh herbs makes you so much better a cook that there's no measurement for it.  Without a good window or gardening ability, you will sometimes just need to bite the bullet and pay for fresh herbs at the market.  In summer, farmers markets often have less expensive fresh herbs.

    Canned or Dried Goods

    Artichokes, jar or can
    Beans, canned (no salt)
    Beans, dried
    Broth, beef
    Broth, chicken
    Brown and white rice
    Chocolate, semi-sweet bars and chips
    Chocolate, unsweetened
    Crackers,  graham, whole wheat
    Cookies, shortbread and/or vanilla wafers
    Flour, white (store whole wheat or rye flour in the freezer or frig)
    Fruit, canned (unsweetened peaches or pears)
    Marinara Sauce
    Nuts (I store all other nuts  for cooking/baking in freezer)
    Oil, canola
    Oil, olive
    Pasta (Keep some small, large and long, such as elbows, ziti and linguine)
    Peanut  Butter
    Peanuts, in jar
    Salsa (store in frig once opened)
    Soy Sauce
    Sugar, brown (Store in the bag inside a real Tupperware container.)
    Sugar, white
    Tomatoes, canned
    Tuna, canned
    Vegetables, canned (I keep several kinds of no-salt beans)
    Vinegar, apple cider
    Vinegar, balsamic
    Vinegar, red wine
    Vinegar, sherry
    Vinegar, white
    Vinegar, white wine
    Yeast, dried

    Refrigerator Items

    Asian cooking condiments (Sesame oil, fish sauce, etc.)
    Barbeque Sauce (my own or purchased)
    Cream Cheese (I like no-fat; great for toast, bagels or crackers)
    Ginger (peel your ginger and put it in a jam jar with sherry to cover)
    Lemons *
    Mayonnaise (Olive oil or Hellman’s)
    Meat (Freeze ground meat if not using the day purchased; I keep bacon and/or ham, also leftovers for sandwiches.)
    Milk (also ½ and ½ or cream if needed)
    Mustard, Dijon
    Mustard, Stoneground
    Mustard, Yellow
    Olives, several kinds
    Salad greens
    Syrup, Maple
    Vegetables (I usually keep peppers, celery, carrots, parsnips, cucumber, spinach, zucchini, yellow squash,  turnips, tomatoes*)
    Yogurt, plain

    *There are always some fruits and vegetables on the counter, where they keep fine  and are more likely to get used.  Tomatoes are always on my counter unless about to go bad, in which case I use them or store in frig briefly.)

    Counter Storage (Some people use bins.)

    Onions, yellow and red
    Tomatoes (see above)
    Potatoes, Idaho or Yukon or small red
    Sweet Potatoes
    Winter Squash
    (Also usually  1.some apples-or other fruit- and a lemon and lime 2. Farmer's Market bounty)

    Freezer Storage

    Bread (I keep leftover bread, tea bread and baguette for various uses.)
    Cookies (Homemade; they don't keep long at altitude.)
    Frozen meal, purchased (emergency only--try Michaelangelo's Lasagne)
    Fruit (Stock up in the summer and freeze or buy at store; I always keep blueberries.)
    Ice cream, frozen yogurt, gelato or sorbet
    Jam, homemade (Make freezer jam when fruit is in season.)
    Leftovers (Make your own instant meals or cook in large quantities or ahead.)
    Noodles/pasta, frozen (I keep egg noodles for soup and freeze fresh pasta if I can't use it quickly.)
    Protein-Chicken, Burgers, Shrimp, Salmon, Steaks, Chops, Etc (Wrapped in freezer paper, freezer bags, foil or store in Tupperware.)
    Onions, pearl (I don't like to peel them.)
    Puff Pastry
    Vegetables (Stock up in the summer at farmer's markets for the winter or keep a bag of stir fry
        vegetables--or your favorite--from the grocery store.)

    Enjoy cooking and taking good care of yourself,

    Sunday, February 6, 2011

    Setting up the Kitchen

    Table for one?
    Welcome to my new blog!  I've been thinking about starting a second cooking blog for a long time, but had too many ideas that never seemed to boil down to just the right one.  Recently, my youngest moved into an apartment and said, "Mom, could come up with a pantry list and some very simple recipes for one?"  That was it; I knew I had my idea.  I, too, often cook for one and would love to share those ideas.

    So, who am I?  Check out the profile at the right and, when you have time, peruse my first blog, and see what's going on over there; I'll be glad to see you.  That blog is a couple of years old by now and focuses on meals that bring people together around a table in our nutty world.  I believe a lot of problems in life could be solved by slowing down, taking care of ourselves and those we love, especially by cooking with and for them.  No car-eats or choked down over the kitchen sink food, but...mostly simple things for you and your family or friends.  Occasionally I'll blog more complicated things or fun things from magazines or other sites.  And, at More Time at the Table, there is a section of recipes called "Cooking for One or Two" that might be interesting to you, as well as lots of recipes and ideas for you and guests.

     "Dinner Place" will contribute to the idea of making dinner (or breakfast or lunch)  a very real part of life.  You'll learn to cook for yourself and enjoy the meal,  how to invite a friend over, and you'll be healthier, wealthier, and wiser because of it.  Or, you can just find recipes for one or two if that's what you need.  It will take a while to get the list of recipes and posts going, but let's get started.  The first entry is about the kitchen set up and will be a work-in-progress, I'm sure.   (Please leave a comment if you think of some important item I've missed!)

    Setting up Your Kitchen--What do you need?

    You can make do with a hot plate, a microwave, a dorm frig and a single plate, fork, knife and spoon--and some of the recipes will be just for that.  But I'm looking at someone who has a basic kitchen:
    • A stove and oven of some sort
    • A sink
    • A refrigerator
    • A microwave
    • Perhaps a dishwasher
    In order to make the best use of that kitchen and what you can cook in it, you'll need (and can take your time getting it all) the following items; use your discretion.  Shop at Good Will, garage sales, estate sales or antique shop for bargains, but buy new cutting boards and knives.
    1. Tableware (I'm assuming you'll use the dishwasher and/or have people over for a meal.)
    • 8 ea plates, salad plates, cereal/soup bowls, mugs, large glasses, small glasses, wine glasses, silverware.  (Steak knives optional)
    • 2 serving spoons; 1 serving fork;  1 butter knife
    • 2 serving bowls, which could double as mixing bowls; 1 serving platter or tray
    • 1 bread basket
    • 1 trivet or large hot pad
    • 4 place mats and 8 fabric napkins (You have to wash clothes anyway; be green.  You can use a big pack of cheap white bar or mop towels for napkins if that appeals to you. Antique stores or second-hand shops that sell linens are a great source for fine-quality napkins that will last and last.  New napkins are often made cheaply abroad.)
    • Candles (real or battery)
    • Things you collect for centerpieces as time goes by.  A plant or herbs can do double duty and you can splurge on fresh flowers for a special occasion.
    2.  Equipment with which to cook:

    • 1 small, nonstick skillet (8") for omelets, eggs, grilled sandwiches, etc
    • 1 large, nonstick or stainless large skillet (12")
    • 1 2 or 3 qt saucepan w/ lid for rice, heating soup and so on
    • 1 (and later 2) stockpots 10 or 12 qt for pasta and soup or stew
    • 1 8" chef's knife (buy the best you can and this should be your only knife if it's all you can afford)
    • 1 serrated all-purpose or tomato knife
    • 1 wood or plastic cutting board
    • 1 colander (strainer)
    • 1 large mixing bowl
    • 1 set of measuring cups
    • 1 set of measuring spoons
    • 1 cheese grater (box-type is fine)
    • 1 whisk
    • 2 wooden spoons of different sizes
    • 1 spatula for nonstick pans
    • 1 ladle
    • 1 large cooking spoon
    • Can opener
    • Wine opener
    • Bottle opener
    • 2 glass or ceramic casseroles  (1 8" sq. and 1 9"x13") for oven and microwave
    • 1 (later 2) cookie sheets for cookies, heating bread or heating other things in the oven
    • 1 roasting pan, hopefully with a "V" rack 
    • 1 tea kettle (or you can use your 2 or 3 qt sauce pan to heat water) 
    • Food storage containers (plastic or glass) and/or plastic wrap, aluminum foil and gallon/sandwich bags if you use them.
    3.  Electric Appliances (This is  a very personal list you can make yourself.  Only you know if you can't live without an iced tea maker, ice cream freezer, iron or hot chocolate maker.  Most people at least need a toaster. Don't buy used appliances; ask friends or family if they have anything first, then, if they don't, buy the best you can afford.)
    • Coffeemaker (if you drink coffee)
    • Toaster 
    • Hand-held electric mixer (Optional--Will you make cookies or whip cream?)
    • Crock-pot (opt)
    • Waffle Iron (opt)
    4.  Fabric Kitchen Needs
    • Oven mitts, gloves or potholders (potholders can also be used for trivets)
    • 2 dish towels (1 terry; 1 plain cotton)
    • 2 dish cloths
    • 1 Apron (save your clothes)
    • Scrubbies of some sort for hard-to-clean dishes or pots
    • Place mats and napkins (see above)
    5.  Basic Cleaning Supplies
    • Dish soap and/or dishwasher detergent
    • Windex or Vinegar and water
    • Sanitizing spray or cleaner (Diluted Bleach or Bleach spray like Chlorox Clean-up; There are also more environmentally friendly products.)
    • Broom and dustpan
    • Mop and Floor Cleaner (in a pinch, you can use dish soap) or old rags / big sponges
    • Small sponges (some with rough sides)
    • Old towels (or paper towels)
    • Garbage can (and liners if you use them)
    • Oven Cleaner (unless you have a self-cleaning oven--and sometimes even then)
         If you try to fill your pantry all at once, you'll be broke.  Buy a few basics and the things you'll need for 3 or 4 meals.  The following week, buy the things you'll need for another 3 or 4 meals.  Soon you'll have an operating pantry out of which you can easily pull together a quick meal.  You'll need, as a solo cook, to greatly rely on dry goods that are not perishable and to very carefully choose your perishable goods so you don't waste money and food.  For instance, a bag of oranges might be a good buy, but will you eat them before they go bad?  Also, sometimes it might be easier and cheaper to eat certain things in restaurants.  A big salad bar take-out meal twice a week could be cheaper than maintaining all of those vegetables for one.  Your shopping habits will also determine what kind of pantry you'll have.  Do you shop once, twice or five times a week?

    The first trip to the store--$100. or so
    • Salt and pepper grinders(these are disposable and in the spice section)
    • 1# packages of flour and sugar
    • Whole wheat rolls, buns or tortillas/wraps (can freeze and use one at a time)
    • Peanut or almond butter and jam or honey
    • Whole wheat pasta and/or brown rice (You can also buy quick brown rice or frozen, cooked brown rice you can heat in the microwave.)
    • Tea, coffee or cocoa (your choice)
    • Jar of Marinara sauce (I'll blog a great home-made one for you, too.)
    • 1 jar Dijon-style mustard
    • Spinach or Leaf Lettuce or Bibb Lettuce (your favorite greens)
    • 1 onion; 1 bulb garlic (or buy a small jar of minced garlic for the frig)
    • Your favorite vegetables (fresh or frozen)
    • Your favorite fruit-3 or 4 pieces
    • Olive oil, small container
    • Vinegar (white, red or balsamic)
    • 1 Lemon
    • Salsa
    • 1/2 # of your favorite cheese
    • Tortilla Chips 
    • Nuts of some kind
    • Whole grain cereal or oatmeal or granola
    • Milk
    • Yogurt (Buy plain and add your own fruit or jam or honey; flavored, sugary yogurt is expensive for the nutritional content.)
    • Eggs
    • Butter
    • A protein you like:  canned tuna, fresh or frozen chicken, sausage, hamburger, tofu
    • 1 frozen desperation meal
    • Pint ice cream, sorbet or frozen yogurt
    • Dish soap
    • Bath soap
    • Toilet paper
    • Plastic Wrap

    First Meal (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner or Snack)

                                                              1 serving

    1 tsp (teaspoon) butter or olive oil
    1/2 cup  chopped vegetable(s) of your choice or mixed ( example: onions; spinach; zucchini; red peppers)
    2 eggs
    Salt and pepper
    1  large whole-grain tortilla
    1T grated cheese
    1/8  c salsa

    1. In a small skillet, heat butter or oil over medium heat and saute vegetable(s) about five minutes, stirring often, until tender. 
    2. Meantime, in a mixing bowl, beat two eggs with a sprinkle each of salt and pepper until well-mixed. Pour into the skillet.  Stir well and cook until eggs are set as you like, stirring again a time or two to let uncooked eggs reach the bottom of the skillet.
    3. Spoon eggs and vegetables out onto a tortilla (which you can heat for 12 seconds in the microwave wrapped in a towel or paper towel) and top with salsa.  
    4. Turn bottom of tortilla up and fold in each side to make a firm package.
    For a larger meal,  you can add some cooked potato to the taco (easy to chop and cook 1 potato in the microwave with a bit of water, covered, for 4-5 minutes) or add a piece of fruit for dessert.

    What else can I make from that stuff?
    1. Peanut Butter Toast or Grilled Peanut Butter and Jelly
    2. Grilled Cheese Sandwich  (WikiHow to make one.)
    3. Pasta (follow directions on package) and Marinara with hamburger ( kind of a Bolognese Sauce)
    4. Chicken Spaghetti and vegetables (if you bought chicken)
    5. Salad and dressing  (click to learn how Jamie Oliver makes a salad and dressing)
    6. Yogurt and fruit w/ jam or honey or a smoothie
    7. Omelet (plain, cheese, meat or veggie) and toasted roll with jam or honey and fruit (Coming soon) 
    8. Fried Egg Sandwich and fruit
    9. Sauteed chicken and vegetables with a whole wheat roll (Coming soon)
    10. Grilled Chicken Sandwich and salad or Leftover sauteed chicken sandwich if you made 2
    11. Cheese and fruit 
    12. Chicken and rice
    13. Meatloaf (if you bought hamburger) and vegetables
    14. Nachos

    Have fun cooking and taking care of yourself,