Thursday, March 11, 2010

One-person cooking for people who hate leftovers

I’m not one of those people, as you’ve probably noticed. But many are. For those of you out there who need variety on a daily basis, here’s a way to do it: I call it batch processing.

Essentially you’re preparing a set of base ingredients, that can be used in a number of different recipes throughout the week. You can do this all at once, say on Sunday, or you can do it one ingredient at a time. As that one is used up, you start another. For example:

One roast chicken: the chicken itself, chicken salad, chicken fajitas, any number of soups, pasta with chicken, salad with chicken.

Black beans: chili, soups, enchiladas, black bean dip.

Red beans: pasta fagioli, red beans and rice, chili, soups.

White beans: chili, soups, minestrone, pasta fagioli.

Flank steak: steak, fajitas, steak salad, beef stew, steak sandwiches.

And so on. Most of the soups I make are vats, designed to feed two people for at least two or three meals. But you can make soup in one-serving batches, too. You can also make large batches and freeze the remainder for those nights you don’t feel like cooking—does freezing count as leftovers?

Here’s another way to look at it, using the contents of my own refrigerator/pantry as an example, putting together only one serving at a time; these are all the possible combinations, yielding much more than a week’s worth of options.

Omelet (using cheese, canned crab, bacon, lunch meat, any number of fresh or dried herbs, spinach or fresh greens) or a one-ramekin baked egg dish such as baked eggs with leeks. You can also poach single eggs in a serving of soup for a quick hit of protein.

Salad (incorporating standard items like croutons, nuts, carrots, meats, cheese, olives, etc., using balsamic vinegar and olive oil for dressing)

Grain salads (using quinoa or barley for the base, then incorporating other vegetables, edamame, cheeses, olives, and oils)

Risotto (can be as plain as cheese risotto; you can incorporate any vegetable—spinach, winter greens, beets, asparagus, mushroom, peas and tomatoes are just a few examples)

Pasta (spaghetti, linguine, penne, etc., with any number of sauces—tomato, meat, pesto, puttanesca, al fredo, etc.) Even for leftover-haters, you can make different spaghetti sauces in batches and freeze them in one-servings amounts.

Pizza (your imagination is the limit) Make personal size pan pizza using pretty much anything. Cheese, tomato sauce, whatever veggies or meat you have on hand. White pizzas, barbecue chicken pizzas, Thai curry pizzas…one batch of pizza dough will make several small pizzas. You can make several different kinds of pizza at once, eating one for each lunch during the week (for example).

Potatoes and sweet potatoes (baked potatoes, fried potatoes, fries, filler for soups, potato soup, mashed potatoes, scalloped potatoes)

A baguette (toast, garlic bread, French bread pizza, French toast, sandwich bread)

Let’s say you start your week on Sunday with one whole roast chicken, half a bag of dried white beans, two boxes of frozen spinach, a bag of salad greens, some tortillas, a jar of salsa, some cheese, a bag of spaghetti, a bag of potatoes (regular or sweet potatoes), a bag of carrots, three onions, and a dozen eggs, in addition to standard pantry items like spices and flour. From that you can produce this:

On Sunday, do this: roast the chicken. Soak the white beans for at least 8 hours, then cook on low (or in a Crockpot) overnight. In the morning, put them in a Tupperware container in the fridge. Place the spinach in the fridge to thaw.  Slice and cook the onions until very soft or until caramelized, then place in Tupperware in the fridge. After the chicken is done and cool enough to handle, pull off all the meat and place in Tupperware in the fridge. Add the carcass to a big soup pot, fill with water, add some salt, and cook on low overnight to produce chicken broth. In the morning, strain out the carcass and add the broth in Tupperware in the fridge.

Sunday night: roast chicken and green salad with a baked potato

Monday breakfast: breakfast burrito with egg, cheese, spinach and salsa
Monday lunch: Chicken and white bean enchiladas
Monday dinner: BBQ chicken pizza (on one half) and cheese and spinach pizza (on one half). Eat the BBQ chicken half.

Tuesday breakfast: baked eggs with onions
Tuesday lunch: cheese and spinach pizza half
Tuesday dinner: spaghetti with cheese sauce or tomato sauce with salad

Wednesday breakfast: chicken and potato hash (maybe with a fried egg on top) with salsa
Wednesday lunch: white bean puree with spinach
Wednesday dinner: scalloped potatoes with spinach, glazed carrots

Thursday breakfast: cheese and egg omelet
Thursday lunch: baked potato with salad
Thursday dinner: chicken noodle soup with white beans, spinach, carrots, onions, and spaghetti (broken into pieces)

Friday breakfast: scrambled eggs
Friday lunch: potato soup with garlic
Friday dinner: white bean and chicken chili with spinach

Saturday breakfast: pancakes with hash browns
Saturday lunch: carrot salad with spinach soufflé
Saturday dinner: pasta fagioli with the remaining beans, spinach and carrots

Of course, there are a billion other possible dishes. Chicken salad, chicken tettrazini, frittatas, fajitas, other kinds of pizza. You could use some of the onions to make a batch of caramelized onion-jalapeno waffles, then serve those with the leftover chicken and some BBQ sauce, for an upscale version of chicken n' waffles. The more you have in your pantry, the more you can vary what comes out of it.

1 comment:

  1. I've been reading your blog since you guest-posted on GRS and I have to say, love what you have here! So many great ideas, a good mix of easy and more difficult recipes and funny sense of humor!
    This is the type of post I've been looking for. Would you consider doing more of these? Say, giving a set of loose ingredients and some ideas of what to do during the week? Even just copying down what you do yourself would be great to see!