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Posts tagged ‘cooking for two’

Use-It-Up Beef Vegetable Soup

The beauty of this soup is in it’s versatility; you can use most vegetables and any number of meat products that are available to you, and it will still taste delicious. Personally, I use up any leftovers I have from a beef roast,  and I incorporate whatever veggies I have on hand that are looking sad in the fridge or need to be used up from the garden. You can also go simple and use a bag of frozen mixed vegetables from your freezer. This soup is thick and hearty enough for a meal if you include a loaf of homemade bread or a salad. Followed exactly, this recipe will feed at least 6 people. You can also adapt this recipe for the slow-cooker. From my estimates, this recipe cost me around $2 in total to make. Please note, I did go a little easy on the meat because I didn’t have much left this time. This dish has a great tomato flavor and a bit of a spicy kick; if you don’t care for heat in your food, decrease or omit the red pepper flakes.

  • 1/2-1 lb. of leftover pot roast (or cooked ground beef or sausage)
  • 2 large potatoes, cubed
  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 6 cups chicken stock (I use my homemade stock because it’s free, but you can also use veggie or beef stock, or water with bouillon)
  • 2 can condensed tomato soup
  • 1.5 cups of chopped veggies (either raw or frozen–use whatever you have on hand that you need to use up)
  • 1/4 box of ditalini or macaroni noodles
  • 2 TBS Worcestershire
  • 2 tsps. red pepper flakes
  • salt, pepper and onion powder to taste
  1. Bring the stock to a boil; add celery, potatoes and any raw veggies to the stock and boil for 10 minutes.
  2. Add the tomato soup and any frozen pasta noodles. Bring back to a boil and continue simmering for 10 minutes.
  3. Add any frozen veggies, Worcestershire sauce, pepper flakes, and seasonings. Continue to simmer 10 minutes more or until pasta and veggies are tender.
  4. Add beef or ground meat and heat through. Don’t worry if your leftover beef has gravy on it; this will add flavor to the soup.
  5. Serve with sprinkled parmesan or Romano cheese on top.

This leftover soup is a big hit in my house; my fiancé is super-picky and he still loves it. This is one of those recipes that has endless variations, so don’t be afraid to play around with it in order to use up any leftovers you have sitting in the fridge. It’s great for using up some of that end-of-summer zucchini surplus as well if you have a garden.

What about you? Any no-fail recipes that you use to get rid of veggie or meat leftovers?

Crock Pot Madness!! Devilishly Simple and Delightfully Delish Pot Roast for $5 (or less!)

Crock Pot 4-Quart Oval, in super-sleek black!!

As you probably know by now, I loooove me some Crock Pot dinners! Above is my favorite style (I have three). This medium sized guy is awesome for two people because it holds about a 4 pound maximum weight pot roast or pork roast or chicken, which is perfect for feeding us and a couple friends a nice meal…or just feeding us alone for the evening, and supplying us with ample leftovers for the next day or so. I also have a super-big-daddy Crock for JUMBO meals or big party foods, and I have an itty-bitty baby Crock for party dips. I’ve got the whole freakin’ family! The model above is the Crock Pot brand, is priced just right at under $25 on Amazon.com, and has gotten rave reviews. (just click on the crock if you don’t believe me that it’s the bomb…c’mon, I dare ya!)

ANYWAY…this pot roast recipe couldn’t be easier. It’s basically just three ingredients, but you can feel free to add quartered potatoes and carrots into the Crock with it if that’s how you like it. Personally, I looove to make my homemade mashed potatoes on the side, because this recipe makes it’s own super-yummy gravy that is divine on mashed potatoes. My simple version goes like this:

Devilish and Delightful Pot Roast

  1. I give a 2.5 to 3.5 lb pot roast a nice olive-oil and garlic sauce massage on both sides, and if possible, let it chill in the fridge for a few hours. If you’re pressed for time, no big deal. It will still be scrumptious.

  2. In a large skillet on high heat, I sear the roast on all sides, about a minute or two on each side, to get a tasty, blackened crust and seal in the juices.

  3. While the roast is on the heat, simply mix together a packet of dry french onion soup mix, one or two cans of cream of mushroom sauce, depending on how much xtra gravy you want, and a few TBS of either Worcestershire or Steak Sauce (like A1), whatever tickles your taste buds. Mix it up a bit so it’s not too lumpy.

  4. Add the seared roast and cook on low heat for 8 to 9 hours.

  5. Stick a fork in there to serve that bad boy and it’s gonna be so tender it will fall apart, so you may as well just stick two forks in the Crock and give it a nice, healthy shred.

And that’s all folks…

Seriously, you will have the most tender, flavorful, picky-husband and kid proof roast of your life…and it took you less time to put together than a quick makeup job. Bravo!

Now, the trick to eating this meal for under five bucks is to wait until the roasts go on sale for BOGO at your grocery store…and they always do. When they do, I usually stock up on several. That way, if you’re buying a roast that costs $6, and getting the second one free, the cost of the roast is only $3. Soooo…..

  • Roast $3

  • French onion soup dry mix (generic) 50 cents

  • cream of mushroom soup (generic from Aldi’s) 40 cents

  • Few TBS of Worcestershire (ummm…maybe 5 cents?)

  • Some potatoes from when the 10 lb bag was on sale for $2.50…50 cents

  • Butter, milk, a splash of olive oil and a little garlic salt 50 cents 

Right around $4.95 for a hearty, home-cooked, stick-to-your-ribs dinner!! It’s possible the potatoes we used were definitely less than 50 cents, so use the leftover money to add a can or frozen bag of corn or peas, or some free garden veggies and some homemade garlic toast or a nice loaf of bread.

Cooking For (one) or Two…6 Tips to Beat Family-Oriented Packaging and Recipes

No financial help for dinner for deux??

Is it just me, or are the cookbook/online recipe/portion size people completely against singles, couples without children and two-person households???

Everything I pick up to buy in the store is designed to feed a family of four or more. Well, HELLO, there are only two of us!!

Every recipe I find in my cookbooks or print out online serves 6-8 . For someone as math-phobic as I am, sitting in front of a cookbook with a calculator and trying to figure out the necessary measurement adjustments to feed only two hungry people produces panicky breathing and a sweaty brow. Forget about it if it’s a recipe that I’m getting out of one of my many British cookbooks I got on super-sale from Barnes and Nobles.

The metric system AND division?? Sorry honey, we’re ordering pizza tonight!!!

It’s sad that Singles and Twosomes (or smaller families, even) sometimes end up throwing away or wasting food because, due to the American status quo, it’s easier to purchase and cook their food in the same manner a larger family does. It often seems impossible not to.  It often just doesn’t get eaten in time and into the trash it goes. What a waste.

BUT WAIT, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel!! Frustrated about this two-person-family prejudice, I did a little research, and came up with the following tips:

  1. Rescale/downsize recipes you are printing online.  I love browsing the web for recipes. Problem is (and it took me a shamefully long time to realize this), most recipes are written to accommodate a family of four or more. We would always end up with a TON of leftover food that often got chucked in the trash. However, a lot of recipe sites, such as allrecipes.com, allow the user to adjust the recipe to the number of servings they would like to make. No muss, no fuss, one click of the button and ingredient measurements are automatically adjusted to fit your needs!!! Love it! However, on smaller sites that don’t offer this option, you can always bust out the old calculator to split recipes in halves/quarters/thirds/etc. If you like math. I don’t, so I’m an allrecipes devotee. All Hail Allrecipes.com!!!
  2. There are a growing number of cookbooks out there geared towards the two-person family!! Yeah!! Just do a quick search on amazon.com for two-person cooking or two-person recipes and you should have a pretty nice selection of books to purchase. Sure, it’s cheaper to print free recipes from the internet, but there’s nothing like having at least a small collection of cookbooks on display in your kitchen. Ones that you actually use. Not glossy, expensive decoys to make your husband’s boss think you’re a domestic goddess when the extravagant meal you just placed before him is really take-out from the french restaurant down the street served on Grandma Audrey’s wedding gift china.
  3. Ok, you still have leftovers galore…FREEZE THEM or LUNCHBOX THEM. This is my method. If whatever we had for dinner is an easy freeze, say chili or soup or lasagna, I portion it out into 2-person sized meal servings, wrap it in saran wrap, pop it in a freezer bag, date and label it, and toss it in the freezer. Some crazy, busy night when there is no time to cook and you are starving, you will thank me!! If it’s something that’s not great to freeze (fettucine alfredo for example), It goes into Mike’s hot thermos for lunch the next day. I bought him a fantastic thermos that keeps food hot or cold for 7 hours. The lid is a serving bowl, and there’s a stainless steel spoon tucked inside of it. Lunch is served!!
  4. Start with a whole chicken. Or pot roast. Or pork roast. Whatever. I do this all the time, and not only is it great for two-person or small families, but it will save you tons of money as you can get three meals out of the deal. Using the chicken as an example, I’ll cook the whole bird (usually in the crock pot, which saves my valuable time, and saves money on utilities, AND keeps the house blessedly cool in the summer since I don’t have to turn on the inferno of an oven) on the first night, using a recipe I’ve found online or in a cookbook, and serve it up with some tasty sides, maybe a veggie and a potato or rice. The next day, I’ll repurpose the leftover chicken into another dish, maybe some chicken enchiladas, or a white chicken chili, a recipe in which I can further stretch out the remaining chicken with beans or rice or other ingredients. The third day, if there is still some life left in the old bird, I’ll do the same, but with a different dish. Usually by this time there’s not much left, so it may just be a chicken and bean soup (heavy on the beans). At the very least, I can use the chicken bones and carcass to make an awesome homemade chicken stock, and base another soup from that, or freeze it for later use. Whoo! There are similar scenarios with other meats, but that’s another blog post! And, if you scored your bird or roast when the grocery store was having a BOGO sale (like I do) you just ate for three days (and ate well) for probably under $10.
  5. Bulk bins are a two-person household’s friend. Seriously, if I have to buy one more $6 jar of tarragon that I need for a recipe, I’ll scream. I know I’m never going to use it again before it expires and dies a slow, tasteless death in my pantry. Check out ethnic stores, health food stores, and even some grocery stores for bulk bins where you can purchase as little or as much of spices, beans, lentils, rice, etc. as you need by weight. Really a lifesaver if it’s an ingredient you know you don’t use regularly.
  6. Watch what you buy at the grocery store. It’s hard to find smaller packages of ground meat, pork chops and chicken. We twosomes can combat this in two ways. One, it’s OK to ask your butcher if he can accommodate you with whatever sized package of meat you need. That’s his job. Butchers at the grocery store are often underutilized by clueless shoppers. Your friendly butcher can point you in the direction of meat markdowns, cut large pieces of meat for you to order (usually for free), and get you that one pound package of ground meat you’re looking for when the meat section cooler is full of huuuge six pound family-size bulk portions. Two, it can often be in your best (financial) interest to buy that huge, six pound family-size bulk portion. Heft it over your shoulder and take it home. Open it up, and divide it into smaller portions, big enough for several two-person meals. Wrap it up, date it, and freeze it. You’ll often snag a deep discount buying the bigger packaging, and now you won’t have to buy any ground meat for a while.

And, if all else fails, don’t forget about Fido or Fluffy. I’m not opposed to feeding Joey the occasional table scrap or two. He is healthier that I am. I don’t like to waste food when people and animals struggle to survive in some countries, so if my cat gets to eat the last scoop of Chicken Tetrazzini, so be it. I’m not gorging him on the stuff, it’s more like a treat. And he still eats his dry food just fine. If you have one of those pets that would rather pout and starve for a week than go back to his regular food after consuming even a lick of yummy people food, then you might want to abstain from doing this.

So Singles,  Twosomes and smaller families, don’t dispair!! There are ways around Minivan mentality! Hopefully these tips will help you to reduce or eliminate the food waste that often happens when twosomes are forced to buy or cook big-family style. I’ll be back with more tips, tricks and recipes later. Right now, I’m off to score some big freebies on a shopping trip, tell you all about it later!!