Thursday, May 30, 2013

Hey, A Writer's Got To Eat. Cooking For One Person.

My sister, who I often refer to as the second coming of Betty Crocker, is a very good cook. In some ways better than my mother, who was really good as well. At one get together she was complimented on her cooking and she said something very profound.
"I like to eat."
Well being on my own  cooking is a unique challenge. Cooking for one person may sound easy, but face it, in the world of recipes I think everyone forgot that single people like to eat too. Face it, most  recipes are made to feed a small army. What's that I hear you ask? Can't you just cut it down? You ever try to half an egg?
Now eating out is great, but it gets old real quick and it is expensive when you only have one income. Also cereal, cheese and crackers and frozen entrees are nice once in a while, but sooner or later (usually sooner) I want something a little more substantial.
Okay just to be clear, contrary to popular belief in my family, I am not totally hopeless in the kitchen. However, what I do know about cooking is the few things I picked up from my mother, years of watching the Food Network and High School Home Economics which was a long time ago. Never you mind just how long ago that was. Also I am not a trained nutritionist. I do not count calories nor do I know how much sodium, fat and other items are in what I cook. I do try to keep it as healthy as I can.
Anyway, I have come up with five simple rules (I may think of more later) regarding cooking for one person, which are as follows:

1) The dish in question will require as little labor and prep work as possible. I know the more you put into it the better, but sometimes I just don't feel like it.
2) Leftovers are fine, for one or two extra servings. However, I do not wish to eat the same thing for breakfast, lunch and dinner for a week and my freezer space is limited.
3) It must be as inexpensive as possible with very few "one-time" ingredients. Hey I'm a one person income. Wasting food and stuff that sits in my pantry for long periods of time are not in my budget. As soon as I figure one of those out.
4) One pot dishes whenever possible. Side dishes are just extra work (see Rule #1).
5) It must taste good. Yeah, I know, duh.

Okay here is my first real success in creating a recipe. Yes I created this recipe. I find that hunger, not necessity, is the Mother of Invention. Although I admit there was a little, okay a lot, of trial and error involved. 

I call it - Easy Beef Stew For One, With Leftovers.


Before I  give you the recipe a few things you will need to know.

First about the meat. I use stew meat, just stew meat. A friend of mine mentioned using rib eye, but this is going to be cooked in a slow cooker on low for 9 to 10 hours. I don't think a good cut of meat like that is going to make it without dissolving into many pieces. Also, rib eye violates rule number 3! The long cook time is also why I don't bother to trim the stew meat. Trust me, everything is going to be tender after that much time in the pot
Also I'm not going to give you an actual amount of meat to use. Why? Two reasons. First, the meat packing people at the supermarket do not pack meat for one person. Most of the time, no matter what you buy, you're going to end up splitting it up and re-wrapping it yourself before putting it in the freezer. What I do is get the lowest amount I can then I split it into equal parts depending of the type of meat. Second, personal preference. You might like more meat in your stew than I do. However, since this is a recipe for one person, I wouldn't suggest the whole package in one stew.
Vegetable leftover. Now you will notice that I use half an onion and the optional one half of a potato. Optional because although I like stew and I like potatoes I don't like them together, Don't know why, I just don't. However, most people do like potatoes in stew so I gave the option. Now I hate giving a partial perishable ingredient because I hate waste, but it's a small stew. However, onions and potatoes are used in a lot of things so there shouldn't be any waste. Just plan on using them in another dish.
Okay so here's how you actually cook the stew.

Ingredients:

Stew Meat
1 can of 14.5 oz. Beef Broth
1 Tablespoon of Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons of Flour
1/2 of a medium onion (I use yellow, but I don't think it matters)
2 stalks of celery
2 carrots, or one carrot and 1/2 of a potato (or a real small one if you can find it)
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/8 teaspoon of pepper
1 Tablespoon of Salt Free Garlic and Herb Seasoning
1 Bay Leaf (Bay Leaf is always in stews I do not know why)
Your bread of choice
Slow Cooker (I use a two quart crock pot, but that's because that's what I have)

Before you start cooking chop all of your vegetables into thick chucks. How thick is up to you, but don't worry about it being perfectly sized. It's cooking for 9 to 10 hours, everything is going to cook!
Put the stew meat into the crock pot. Measure out 1/3 cup of the beef broth. In a skillet combine the olive oil and flour and cook over medium heat until smooth. Add the 1/3 cup of beef broth and cook, stirring constantly until thickened. Pour mixture over the meat. Pour in the rest of the broth (I hate having partial beef broth sitting in my refrigerator, remember rule #3!) Add in the spices and the vegetables. Give a quick stir. Set the slow cooker on low, put on the lid, and cook for 9 to 10 hours. By the way while it's cooking leave it alone! It's called a slow cooker for a reason.
Once the stew is done, take out the Bay Leaf and throw it away, then dip the stew into a bowl (however much you want) take a piece of your favorite bread for dipping purposes. Mom liked corn bread and I'm a sourdough girl, but whatever kind you like is fine.
I usually manage to get three generous servings out of this. One for dinner, one for lunch the next day, and one to put in the freezer for that day I just don't feel like cooking.
Yes cooking for one can be a challenge, but in the now immortal words of my sister, I like to eat.

4 comments:

  1. You're making me hungry! I like potatoes in mine.

    ~Nancy Jill

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    1. Most people do, I'm not sure why I don't but I don't. Funny I like them with pot roast just fine. Anyway it is a pretty tasty recipe. I almost called it accidental stew because the first time I made it the fact that it tasted good was an accident! Seriously I just didn't feel like doing all the prep work so I just threw everything into the crock pot, made the roux and hoped for the best. When it turned out good my other single friends asked me to make a recipe out of it because they don't find the game "I must figure it out" quite as fun as I do.

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  2. Sounds delish!

    I never put potatoes in mine either...or my roast! I'm the cook, I don't have to. ;)

    One thing I noticed towards the end gave me a smile. You said, "then dip the stew into a bowl" which is exactly how my husband would say it, but still always makes me smile. :) It's not a phrase we use up in my part of Oregon so when I hear it I picture the soup being dipped into another liquid. :) When Daniel asks if he can"dip me some ice cream" I always want to say, "It depends on what you're gonna dip it in!"

    Thanks for the great tips! learning the tricks of cooking for just one or two people is a real money saver!

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  3. Great way to cook for one and not eat the same thing over and over - planned overs. Cook your steak one night and then use the left overs in your stew a few days later. Have mashed potatoes one night, and then make potato patties (by adding some spices and some eggs and frying them up like pancakes). A little tweaking make leftovers something amazing!

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