NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


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Small Group Cooking

Small Group Cooking


          After all the holiday entertaining, which usually includes preparing food for large number of people, cooking for just one or two may seem like a good idea.  But cooking for one or two on a regular basis has its own special challenges.

           For many, cooking for one or two seems like too much work. Often recipes serve at least four. Bulk foods may be economical but not necessarily interesting over time. Perishable foods may be difficult to keep on hand without wasting them. Mealtime can be lonely. Plus, cooking inherently means doing dishes.

          The good news is that preparing meals for one or two can be easy — and enjoyable — by planning ahead and making meals simple. Plus, many manufacturers now cater to the single diner with pre-packaged individual serving foods to help you create well-balanced meals.  Cooking meals for one or two can be easy and enjoyable.

          Shop with convenience in mind. Purchase foods that are individually frozen, such as fruits, vegetables, chicken breasts or fish fillets. These foods allow you to thaw out only the amount you need. Also, keep on hand low-fat frozen meals and prepackaged single-serving foods, such as ready-to-eat, low-fat, reduced-sodium canned soups. The easiest way to prepare a meal for one or two is to plan ahead. Keep a variety of staple foods on hand — especially those foods you enjoy eating — so you are ready when its mealtime.

          Sometimes foods are cheaper if you buy them in bulk. If you buy more than you can eat in a safe and reasonable amount of time, freeze the foods. If you don’t like chopping vegetables or don’t expect to use a whole head of lettuce before it spoils, purchase prepackaged salad greens or select just the salad ingredients you need from the salad bar section of your supermarket, if available

           Plan leftovers, so all you have to do is re-heat and eat. Make a pan of lasagna or enchiladas. Bake a casserole. Cook a pot of chili, soup or beans when you have time. Package them in small individual bags or containers and freeze the servings for later, when you may not have as much time or don’t feel like preparing something.

           Look for one-dish meals. For quick and simple cooking, choose a dish that serves as the meal. A good choice is one that includes foods from several food groups, such as meats, whole grains, legumes and vegetables. Healthy examples include beef, barley and vegetable stew; chicken, vegetable and rice casserole; turkey and bean casserole (made with turkey breast, white beans and tomatoes); and vegetarian chili with diced vegetables

           Take advantage of your freezer. Storing food in your freezer helps prevent waste and keeps foods fresher longer. Most foods freeze well, including breads, meats, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and nuts and seeds. For best quality, freeze food while it's fresh.

          Most recipes can be cut in half or in thirds. Some ingredients are difficult to divide, such as an egg. If the recipe you want to cut in half calls for a large egg, try using a small egg or just the egg white. In some cases, it may be easier to make the entire recipe and freeze the rest for later.

          Finally, now that you have created a meal, try to create a pleasant setting for dining at home. Listen to relaxing music, choose a pleasant location, or set the table — even if it’s just for you. An attractive placemat, flowers and candles help make a meal important, even if your company is yourself and the evening news on television.

          And of course, we can’t leave out food safety. A meal isn’t complete until all leftover food is stored safely. Make sure you have food storage containers to store any leftovers safely in the refrigerator or freezer. Leftovers should be refrigerated within two hours.


Half a Box Cake

          This revision of a purchased cake mix allows you to enjoy two, smaller, freshly baked cakes.


1-3/4 cups cake mix from two layer box
2/3 cup water
1/4 cup oil
1 egg

Combine ingredients in an ungreased 8 or 9" square pan and beat with fork until well blended. Spread batter evenly in the pan when mixed. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

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