Monday, June 25, 2012

Cooking for One

Though my cookbooks are geared for families, I'm often asked for tips and suggestions on cooking for one, and since this is an issue I too face at times, here are my ideas on the subject.

There are two issues that I see:

1) It often seems too much trouble to prepare a meal (and do all the cleanup) just for yourself.

2) Most recipes are geared for multiple people.

I know that when my kids are with their dad, it can be tempting to fall into a bowl of cereal for dinner or maybe heating some frozen thing--not the most healthy or satisfying dinner, that's for sure. But I have found a solution that works well for me. One that gives me healthy, yummy meals with not too much work.

My solution?

Cook like I would if my kids were there. In other words, make a full meal for 4-6 people. However, the beauty is I can cook foods that I really like that the kids don't . . . like eggplant or mushrooms for example. Or curries and spicy foods. So yes, I have to spend one night cooking a full meal but then . . . leftovers! So for the next few meals, I have premade food that just needs to be heated up. Or you can use the cooked foods to make other easy meals. Like I'll roast a big batch of veggies and then mix them into pasta for one meal or put them in a salad for lunch.

Of course, there are days when I am inventing dishes or trying a gourmet recipe and I hit on something so good, I really want to share. But I've found that usually it just takes a phone call or two before I find someone willing to come over and share a meal with me :) And that's really nice too.

Feel free to share your cooking for one ideas with me as well.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Veggie Pasta Salad

In the winter, soup is my staple food. I make a big batch at a time so we have enough to last for a few days for dinners, lunches, etc. Well, in the summer I do the same thing but with salads . . . especially hearty salads made with potatoes, beans, or grains. This pasta salad that I made this weekend that was a such a hit with my kids. We had some for dinner, took some to the beach, and the kids even ate it for snacks. It would be a great choice for a potluck as well.

Veggie Pasta Salad

I basically used all the veggies from my trip to the farmer's market and herbs from my garden, so don't feel like you have to stick to this exact combination. You can also add cooked beans or some crumbled feta cheese.

1 cup asparagus cut into bite-sized pieces
1 yellow summer squash, sliced
1 zucchini, sliced
2 cups green beans cut into bite-sized pieces
2 cups chopped kale (packed)
1 pound penne pasta
1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half
3 tablespoons minced fresh chives
3 tablespoons minced fresh basil
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup black currant champagne vinegar (or flavor of your choice)
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and black pepper to taste

Bring a big pot of water to a boil. Blanch asparagus by putting in boiling water and letting cook a couple of minutes, until bright green and slightly tender. Use slotted spoon to remove asparagus to a colander. Immediately rinse with very cold water to prevent it from cooking further. Repeat with squashes, beans, and kale. When veggies are cooked, use the same boiling water to cook pasta according to package directions. Drain pasta.
To Assemble salad:
Put pasta in large mixing bowl. Add cooked vegetables and remaining ingredients. Toss together and chill until ready to serve.

Makes at least 10 servings

Friday, June 15, 2012

Right to Know on Ballot!

It's official! The California Secretary of State's office announced that the Right to Know initiative to label genetically engineered foods will be on the November ballot for California. This would be the first law in the United States requiring labeling of a wide range of genetically engineered foods.

The initiative requires labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) - which are plants or meats that have had their DNA artificially altered by genes from other plants, animals, viruses, or bacteria, in order to produce foreign compounds in that food. This type of genetic alteration occurs in a laboratory and is not found in nature.

Polls show nearly unanimous support across the political spectrum for labeling of genetically engineered foods. Nine out of ten voters in the U.S. and in California back labeling, according to recent polls (see Mellman 2012, Reuters 2010, Zogby 2012).

I hope you will vote for this initiative in November. It's not about whether you are for or against genetic engineering . . . but that you believe that we, as consumers, have the right to know what is in the food we eat, where it comes from, and how it was grown. This article has more information.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Quick Hot Cereal Alternative

A few weeks ago, I posted an alternative to processed cold cereal . . . well, today I'm posting an alternative for processed hot cereals. Now, hot cereals are typically less processed than cold ones but the less processed they are the longer they typically take to cook. This hot cereal uses leftover cooked brown rice and is ready to eat in minutes. We call it:

Breakfast Rice Pudding

Place cooked brown rice in a saucepan with enough milk (dairy or nondairy) to cover the rice. Sprinkle on some cinammon and a dash of vanilla extract. Cover and cook over medium-low heat until warm. Serve with fresh or dried fruit. We also like to sprinkle on chopped nuts or seeds.

Tip: Whenever you cook grain or beans for dinner, make extra. The leftovers can be used for future dinners, lunches, and as in this recipe . . . breakfast. You can find lots of other recipes for hot and cold cereals in The Vegetarian Mother's Cookbook.