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Stuffed Pork Chops for One

Just because you are cooking for one doesn’t mean you have to have instant stuffing (the kind you cook on the stove). Dressing up a regular stuffing mix (the kind that comes in bags) is easy.  You will need some seasoning vegetables, and soup gravy.

Seasoning vegetables are nothing more than diced up vegetables used to flavor a variety of dishes. They should always include onions and bell peppers and, depending on your taste, celery, green onions, carrots, or hot peppers. Dice up the veggies of choice into roughly 1/4-inch pieces, mix together, and freeze in a freezer bag. These are a wonderful way to add flavor to omelets, casseroles, soups as well as stuffing.

Soup gravy couldn’t be easier. Any of the “Cream of” soups will do. I like either Cream of Mushroom or Cream of Celery the best. Mix the soup with 1/2 the amount of the recommended liquid. The extra I save in frozen 1/4 cup amounts. There is a snack-size zipper bag that would be perfect but I use regular fold-over sandwich bags. I put 1/4 cup of the gravy in each bag and freeze. To make sure the bags stay upright while freezing, I place them in a small plastic container. After they are frozen solid I collect them together in a zippered bag. When I need a serving of gravy I take out one package—very nice over rice or potatoes.

Stuffed Pork Chops for One

1 pork chop
1/2 cup stuffing mix
1/4 water
1/8 cup seasoning vegetables
1/4 cup soup gravy

In a small bowl, mix the stuffing, water, and seasoning vegetables. If you like, you may also add raisins and or nuts—I like slivered almonds—to the stuffing.

Cut a piece of aluminum foil long enough to wrap around the pork chop. Spray it with a little cooking spray or oil it with a bit of oil (this will keep the food from sticking). Put the pork chop on the foil, the stuffing on top of the pork chop and the gravy on top of the stuffing. Seal the foil into a package and place on a baking sheet. Bake at 350º for 30 minutes. Open the foil and return to the oven for 15 minutes to top brown. Let rest 5 minutes.

To complete the dinner, place 1 cup of the frozen vegetable of your choice—spinach, green beans, peas, broccoli, etc.—on a dinner plate. I like to put a tablespoon or so of olive oil vinaigrette over the vegetables. While the pork chop is resting, microwave the vegetables on high for 5 minutes. Transfer the pork chop to the plate. Dinner is served.

Published: January 12, 2011

All Purpose Meat Sauce

Some things just can’t be done in 20 minutes or in small quantities. This sauce does freeze very well and can be packaged in single portions.

My first introduction to true Italian cooking was as a teenager. My friend’s father fixed a sauce for Sunday dinner each week. He started on Wednesday. He always started with fresh tomatoes, seeded and skinned, which he reduced into a tomato sauce base. To this he added Italian sausages, both sweet and hot, pepperoni, a whole cut up chicken with the skin, and meatballs. Vegetables included in the sauce were onions, bell peppers, mushrooms, and garlic. He served the sauce over pasta and let each person choose the meats they most liked. Needless to say this was a hearty dish.

By today’s standards there is way too much fat in this dish, the sausages and chicken contributing most of it.

Over the years, I have developed a quicker version of his sauce. This is not a 20-minute quickie but the sauce does freeze well and can be used not only as a pasta sauce but whenever a tomato meat sauce is called for, such as french bread pizzas or lasagna. The commercial manufacturer’s of pasta sauces websites have recipes available.

Like all home cooks, my recipes are done to my taste. I prefer that salt be added at the table. If you prefer that your dishes be salted in the pot, then add ½ tablespoon of salt to the sauce or alternatively 4 stalks of finely chopped celery (sauté them with the rest of the veggies). Celery has a high sodium content.

I’m not fond of sweet entrees so there is no sugar in my recipe. Also, I like to see what I’m eating so the vegetables are rough chopped, by that I mean slices about ¼-inch wide. No harm will be done if you prefer diced veggies or a bit of sugar in your sauce.1 soup ladle make one serving of sauce—that is about 1/2 of a cup. The sauce can be frozen by itself in plastic containers or in zippered freezer bags (cool the sauce before packaging in freezer bags).

For individual frozen dinners, prepare the pasta of your choice according to package directions to the al dente stage, drain and rinse. (It will cook more during the reheating process.) My daughter reminds me that if you use a long pasta like spaghetti or vermicelli to break the pasta in half before cooking. Toss the pasta with a bit of oil, olive oil preferably, to keep it from clumping.

Gladware makes a small snack size container (9 oz). It is the perfect single portion. Don’t be fooled, it may look too small but it is just right—if you’re still hungry you can always fix a second helping.

Check the pasta package and divide the pasta into the right number of containers, ladle sauce on top (approximately 1 soup ladle— 1/2 cup), cover and freeze. Reheat in microwave on high for 3 minutes, stir and return for 2 minutes on high. Enjoy.

Kalei’s All Purpose Meat Sauce

1 lb hot pork sausage roll
1 lb ground beef
1 large white onion
1 large bell pepper
1 package of mushrooms
2 tablespoon butter
2 12-oz cans tomato paste
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes
4 12-oz cans red wine or water
1 tablespoon dry basil
1 tablespoon dry parsley
1 tablespoon dry diced garlic
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon oregano
6 teaspoons or cubes chicken bullion
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon powdered curry
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2-3 bay leaves

Mix sausage and ground beef together and brown, breaking up any clumps. While the meat mixture is cooking, rough chop onions, bell peppers, and mushrooms. When the meat mixture is cooked through, drain the off the excess fat with a colander. Be careful not to put this grease down your drain as it could clog your pipes. I catch mine in a bowl and transfer it to a zippered bag to go out with the trash.

Melt butter in the pan and sauté the vegetables until the onions are translucent. Add tomato paste, diced tomatoes, wine or water, spices, and meat mixture back to the pan.

Turn down the heat and simmer 2 hours. Makes 19 servings. Approximately 200 calories when using water water.

Published: January 8, 2011

Cooking for One

Cooking is all about sharing; that’s why cooking for one or two people is not as much fun as cooking for larger group. Not having the positive reinforcement of “oohs” and “aahs” around the dinner table is a real bummer.

In these economic times it makes real sense to do your own cooking even if it is just for yourself. First, you can control the ingredients; second, it is just cheaper than eating out or buying convenience foods; and third, you can exercise portion control.

The trick is how you do it without spending all your time in the kitchen. And how do you make enough just for one without a ton of leftovers that will just go to waste.

The food industry has fortunately made it very easy for even a “passing fair” cook to make a well-balanced meal in a short period of time. Between a microwave oven and a counter top grill it is possible to have a protein, starch, and vegetable on the plate within 20 minutes or less.

Boneless pork chops and chicken breasts as well as hamburgers, steaks, and shrimp cook up fast on a counter top grill. Many of the frozen vegetables such as broccoli, corn, sweet peas, and green beans need about 5 minutes to cook in a microwave oven. Sliced fresh potatoes, either sweet or white, also take around 5 minutes in a microwave.

Your food needn’t all taste the same either. There are numerous bottled sauces and marinades available on the market today. One of my favorites is Olive Oil Vinaigrette salad dressing. Sprinkling a serving of this (2 tablespoons) over the vegetables and potatoes before microwaving will brighten the taste with the added benefit that the vinegar will aid in the digestion of the meal.

Comfort foods, such as spaghetti, beef stroganoff, and beans, that aren’t practical to make in small portions can be made in their usual quantity and then separated into single portions for freezing. It is nice to have something quick and easy on hand. Most shaped cookie recipes can be formed into logs and then frozen. When you want a cookie or two just slice them off and bake. Homemade cookies, warm from the oven—yum.

I hope to share some of my recipes and tips in the near future, starting with my special spaghetti sauce.

Published: January 7, 2011


Oak Leaves

Oak Leaves

These few, frail pages

Drifting on the wind contain

Just the “is” that seems.

Published: January 6, 2011


Line of Strawberries

Jeremiah the magpie was jubilant. He loved strawberries.  Jeremiah wasn’t a picky eater.  He would eat just about anything that was lying about—eggs, insects, nuts, or even scraps.  They were all much the same to him.  But there was nothing quite so delicious as that juicy red fruit.

They look like red rubies nestled in their green mat.  And the way they sparkled and glistened after a dew  was a sight worth remembering.

Jeremiah was known to like a bit of dazzle in his life.  His nest was festooned with shiny treasures such as odd pieces of glass, jewelry, and metal that he had found.  Sometimes he could catch is reflection in their surfaces.  He was such a handsome bird.  And didn’t he know it.

Each spring Jeremiah would fly over the secret place in the forest where the strawberries grew waiting for them to ripen.  He would watch as the tiny white flowers changed into baby albino berries and then grow into succulent gems.  Then—and only then—he would swoop in and eat his fill.

Jeremiah was jubilant because today was that day.  He was so agitated as he was preparing for his flight, hopping about and chattering to himself, that the other birds became quite concerned for his well being.  So much so, they decided to follow him.

Jeremiah was usually very careful not to let the other birds see where he was going.  But today, in his excitement, he flew straight to the patch.

He was so focused on his goal that at first he didn’t notice he had company.  But soon, the chirping and rustling of feathers other than his own caught his attention.  Looking around Jeremiah saw that his wonderful patch was filled with birds.

“Oh well,” thought Jeremiah, “nothing to be done about it now,” and he went back to eating.

Line of Strawberries

Moral: Good things are worth waiting for
Magpies can’t keep secrets.

Published: January 5, 2011

New Blog Design

Howdy, hope everyone likes the new blog design.  It is 2010-Weaver with the Mist sub-theme.

I have added a few new whistles and bells. Google Translator is in the sidebars and AddThis bookmarks will now appear at the end of the posts.

I have also put in a mobile theme, Carrington Mobile, that is suppose to kick in if anyone opens the site on a mobile device.

And, of course, I have changed the header images to oaks.

Published: January 4, 2011


A string of kisses


To keep life simple and embrace reality: Always a challenge.

A string of kisses

It has always been a challenge trying to keep things simple.  It is not a conundrum of modern times.  Things have a habit of becoming way too complicated, way too fast. It is all too easy to get caught up in details.  After all, that’s where the devil is.

Society today is driven by details.  Computers are partially responsible for this.  Computers are nothing–if they aren’t about details.  All those zeros and ones must be in the exact right place if you expect the machine to do anything.

When I got my first computer, a Commodore 64, and began to enter my first programs, I realized that I was beginning to think more like the computer than the computer was thinking like me.  Back then, there was a lot of hype about artificial intelligence … I’m still waiting.

With computers, things are always black or white, on or off, zero or one.  There can be no inbetween.  It is possible to make computers talk about gray but it takes a helluva lot of programming. For computers, it must always be either/or.

Computers were supposed to make our lives simple.  Give us the oodles of leisure time.  Free us to do the critical thinking that only humans can do.  Somehow this concept has been lost over the years.

I love computers.  I love the things they add to my life.  I love the easy access to information the Internet provides.

However, I do not love waiting in long checkout lines because the company chooses to use their computer system to check up on their employees instead of ensuring a speedy checkout for its customers.  Not to mention the numerous robot phone calls that never come at a convenient time.

“Keeping it simple is harder than it sounds. Things have a habit of becoming way too complicated way too fast.  Still, we need to take a breath—embrace the forest not just the tree.

Published: January 3, 2011