Monthly Archives: November 2006

The lonely business of cooking for one

As a single person, I never made an apple pie. Who would eat it all? (Gasp, what if I ate it all?). I never made lasagne. I hardly ever made meatloaf, because frozen meatloaf reheated was always spongy. And like everyone else, I wanted a recipe that makes enough for dinner, plus maybe some for the next day’s lunch. And if it can be frozen, like some soups can, it better taste as good thawed and reheated as it did going into the freezer, otherwise every time I open the freezer door I’m going to see the plastic container of whatever, and say to myself… “gee, there’s nothing to eat in here.”

Right up there among the things we dislike most… buying more than we need and throwing out food past its expiry date … is eating the same thing day after day. I was single for a couple of longish periods in my life. And being a passionate cook, I never minded cooking for myself, because I knew the alternatives (frozen tv dinner, delivery). So if the challenge is to eat at home more often, and to eat well, then in this adventure of One Roast Chicken, I had to tackle the challenge of cooking for one.


Mini recipe for meatloaf

Starting this week, as the new recipes for download are being posted, I will try wherever possible to create illustrated, simple, step-by-step recipes that feed 4 to 6 people, AND include instructions on how to adapt the recipe to serve one or two.

Let’s call this the Mini recipe.

The recipe I’m publishing this week is Meatloaf with spicy ketchup. It’s a huge favourite in my house, and we make it about every couple of weeks. With two of us eating it for dinner, and then again for lunch the next day, we can use the 4 servings rather nicely. If you’re two adults with two kids, you finish this in one sitting.

But if you’re Gramma, and you’re cooking for one or two, or if you’re Single-Shelley (or Single-Patrick) and you still want to have a decent, home cooked meal… Here’s the question… can you make meat loaf for one?

For the past two weeks I’ve been researching just this question. How can I adapt meatloaf to be made in a muffin tin? And today, it’s finished. Some trial and error, a messy oven, and reheated leftovers today for lunch, and now I have finally discovered all of the tricks.

The tricks for the meatloaf Mini recipe include: how to get the right quantity in the individual muffin tins, how long to cook it, and (most importantly) how to reheat the little babies once frozen. You can download a copy of that recipe here for less than the cost of a super value meal.

As always, I’d love to hear your feedback. If you have any recipes that you’d like simplified, anything you would love to serve for just one or two… or any other ideas for the upcoming cookbook (Spring 2007), drop me a line or post a comment to the blog ๐Ÿ™‚

You can always reach me at shelley@oneroastchicken.com.

Thanks and bon appetit!

Shelley MacDonald Beaulieu, Owner & Head Chef
www.oneroastchicken.com

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7 Christmas rituals you can start this year

ituals are the glue that hold us together. We like doing certain things at certain times of the year. We pass down traditions from Gramma to kidlet. And Christmas is the perfect time to have some food-based rituals.

I recently married a wonderful man who had no Christmas traditions. No special meals, baking, or tree decorating rituals. Last year, I introduced him to some of my Christmas routines.


Spicy Orange Gingersnaps

Here are 7 of my food rituals that you can share with your family this year:

1. Have a tree trimming party. I always get my tree the same day each year (December 15th, because I get a live tree). My favourite dinner for the first night we set up the tree is fish chowder and blender drinks (like frozen

margaritas). Maybe you set up your artificial tree on December 1st, or right after American Thanksgiving… it doesn’t matter. You can celebrate by having the first eggnog of the year.

2. Bake cookies to give away as gifts. Choose something you enjoy, that you can easily accomplish (such as Recipe 1.3 for Spicy Orange Gingersnaps or Easy Bar Shortbread Cookies with green sprinkles). Wrap up a dozen cookies in a small cardboard box from the Dollar Store, and give them as gifts. You probably have four people near you who’d love to have something homemade … your landlord, Uncle Don, your child’s teacher, the lady who cleans the office, your elderly neighbour. You can make cookies for your spouse to take to work to share with co-workers. Don’t overdo it. Pick one or two types, and send a dozen. Too much effort smells like you’re trying too hard, and anyway it makes you exhausted which takes the fun out of everything.

3. Have some baking or special meals that you only eat during the holidays. As a child, we only had Cherry Surprises in December, never in the summer. When I first made this childhood favourite for my new husband, I had to explain that they were a once-yearly event. He didn’t really understand why. If they’re so good, why not eat them year-round? But let me tell you, this year, starting in November, he’s asking “are we having Cherry Surprises this year?” The answer surely is yes. Maybe you make ham on Boxing Day (like I do), or Sherri’s bread stuffing (I only make this once a year for Christmas Day dinner), or trifle for New Year’s Eve. Pick a couple of things and save them for time of year.

4. Try one new recipe each year and drop one thing you don’t like from your list. Food traditions aren’t supposed to be stressful, they’re supposed to bring comfort and happiness. If making four kinds of tarts the night before your office party is too much, then skip it this year. Make orange gingersnaps in November (they freeze well) and defrost them the night before. Simplify as much as necessary. Try a new recipe this year, maybe chicken liver pรขtรฉ from scratch, but if it’s not absolutely fabulous then go back to buying it from the deli. Don’t add extra work for no reason. Make this your new rule: If it’s not fabulous, I’m not doing it. Try something new. Rid yourself of routines you’re tired of, or that aren’t working for you anymore.

5. Decorate cookies with children during the holiday season. If you don’t have kids of your own, you can borrow some. Make sugar cookies covered with different coloured sparkles, silver balls, chocolate jimmies, squirts of icing. Or decorate gingerbread men with Smarties and vanilla icing. You don’t have to make the cookies from scratch if that’s too much work — you can decorate whatever you buy from the grocery store. The point is to have a yearly tradition with your kids, grandkids, nieces, or neighbours.

6. Buy yourself a food treat each year and try something new. I like to buy myself weird little cans of juice (guava?) or imported mints, and then I put them in my own stocking to open Christmas morning. It’s an opportunity to explore. You can have a tiny food adventure for under $5. Or invite your friends to share the tradition with you. One year Karen sent me sour watermelon candies which I ate one after the other until they were gone-gone-gone. I also like the mints we bought in Paris last year. Next time I go to Europe, I’ll get two bags and hide them in the house for next Christmas. I’ll get some for you too, if you like ๐Ÿ™‚

7. Plan a super easy breakfast for Christmas morning. Mash up some frozen strawberries and mix with orange juice. Add champagne if you don’t have to drive. Buy part-baked croissants and put them in the oven to have with your juice. Serve with homemade strawberry-rhubarb jam, a gift from Auntie Shelley. Christmas brunch on the west coast wouldn’t be complete without Japanese mandarin oranges. On the east coast, it’s clementines. In Montreal, we have fresh pineapple from somewhere down-under.

As always, I’d love to hear your feedback. If you have any favourite Christmas food rituals, drop me a line or post a comment to the blog ๐Ÿ™‚

You can always reach me at shelley@oneroastchicken.com.

Thanks and bon appetit!

Shelley MacDonald Beaulieu, Owner & Head Chef
www.oneroastchicken.com

The lost art of dinner

ere’s what Gramma knew about dinner, that we’ve all forgotten in only two generations: We’re supposed to eat dinner together. One meal, one table, no TV, no radio. We have a standing date, a ritual, see you there around 6 pm.

Perhaps one night a week Gramma took it easy and made eggs and bacon for supper. Sunday nights were probably reserved for a roast of some kind, ham maybe. Or roast beef. Something that made good leftovers for the following day.

Now what do we have? You want to eat a "home-cooked" meal but you don’t want to cook it yourself. Presto, your local grocery store sells pre-packaged meals at the front of the store: single-serving lasagne, tuna roll-ups in dry flour tortillas, and freaky expensive scary looking salmon and rice in plastic microwaveable containers. You have to search in this grocery store for an uncooked pork chop.

It’s nearly too much. What would Gramma say? (In my family, we call her ‘Nanny Teresa’, and I often mentally consult her on such topics.)

Nanny Teresa would say "look at the rates of childhood obesity. Look at the divorce rates. In my day we ate dinner together. One meal. No excuses. If you had band practise that interfered with dinner, you missed the practise, not the dinner."

So what are we missing two generations later?

We’re missing the connection that dinner brings. We get to ask each other "what happened to you that was good today?"
Everyone is seated around one table. The TV is off. The meal doesn’t have to be fancy, it just has to be mostly healthy, mostly homemade, and done with a bit of care.

It’s not complicated, really. Pick something you know you can make without much fuss and shop at least the day before. When your dinner night arrives, start your preparation in a clean kitchen, and construct an event — the dinner event.

It’s not supposed to be stressful, you just putter along until it’s done, no hurry. The kidlet helps with washing carrots, setting the table, the mate puts Xs in the bottoms of the brussels sprouts.

Try to get three food groups involved (veg/fruit, meat/fish/protein, bread/pasta). Spaghetti with meat sauce and a plate of sliced cucumbers on the side. Roast chicken with green beans and whole wheat bread. It can be as simple as that.

Throw in a placemat, a couple of candles, and a cloth napkin. Sip your glass of sparkly water. Now it begins: "Tell me something good about your day?"

If you’re on your own, you set a nice table, light the candles, and settle into your lovely dinner with an internet article you’ve downloaded for later reading (hint, hint), or a magazine you’ve been meaning to read, or a great mystery book.

Then what happens? Well, then it all seems possible. You’re making a date with dinner. Soon your once-a-week date turns into a couple of nights, then you’re doing it regularly.

So this week I want to challenge you to make a date with dinner. Just try it once this week. Use the real dining room table, the medium china, two candles. Cook something basic. Make grilled cheese sandwiches with the crusts cut off and a dish of pickles (notice now Nanny Teresa always puts the pickles in a dish). Add a tomato + feta + balsamic vinegar salad.

Then take a picture of your prepared table, hit reply to this message, and tell me how you did. Send me your picture. I’ll post some in an upcoming article. If you need a recipe for roast chicken, hey, I know where you can find a good one… [www.oneroastchicken.com].

You can always reach me at shelley@oneroastchicken.com.

Thanks and bon appetit!

Shelley MacDonald Beaulieu, Owner & Head Chef