Saturday, February 26, 2011

BEEF STEW ON A COLD WINTER EVENING

There's not much any better than walking in the back door when you're cold, hungry and tired from a long day at work and a slippery, snowy drive home than to find the kitchen smelling like a wonderful Sunday supper.  Friday, when we had our latest in a long string of snow storms, I had planned ahead enough to have beef stew in the slow cooker awaiting my arrival after work.  With a little prep work the night before, turning out a slow roasted style meal is simple.

I'd actually forgotten about dinner when I walked through the door.  For a brief moment when my nose caught the aroma of cooking beef and vegetables, I thought my Mother was there cooking dinner for me.  Heavy sigh....miss having you here Mom!

ONE OF MY FAVORITE COOKING APPLIANCES
Pretty little cookers, all in a row!
One is WAY too big, another is
too big, but one is JUST RIGHT!
Whether cooking for just me, or turning out a big meal for a bunch of people, one of my favorite cooking utensils is my slow cooker. Or should I say, my slow cookers...I have 3. Ranging in size from large to small, these have turned out meal after meal of good, homecooking goodness over the years. I got my first 5 quart cooker before I ever got married and used it to cook for myself and my roommate or my family on many occasions. Later, after my divorce, I obtained a smaller 3 quart version that rarely saw the light of day unless there was company coming or my parents were staying with me. I still loved these cookers, but they were too large for the small amounts of food I was needing on a regular basis. The few times I attempted to cook a single chicken breast or a small piece of beef roast in these, I came home to burnt, dried out food that was completely unacceptable Consequently, they mostly gather dust on the top shelf of the kitchen pantry.

Just the right size for a
single cook
SIZE TRULY DOES MATTER

In frustration over the inability to turn out a decent pot roast or a chicken dish for one, last year I finally did some more research and ended up purchasing my third slow cooker, a small 1 1/2 quart version that has been my best buddy in the kitchen for months now. Soups for one or two meals - no problem! Tiny pot roasts for one or two - no big deal! Chicken dinners of all kinds - fantastic! With a little pre-planning and prep work the night or morning before mealtime, eating a home cooked, comforting meal is a snap.

SIMPLE BASIC BEEF STEW FOR ONE

6 oz. beef stew meat
2 small potatoes, peeled and quartered
2 small carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 stalk celery, cleaned and cut into large chunks
1/4 small onion, peeled and pulled apart
1 garlic clove, peeled and cut in half
1/2 cup water
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp corn starch mixed into 1/4 cup cold water
splash of red wine (optional)

The night before:In a skillet, heat a teaspoon of vegetable oil over medium high heat. Add the beef stew pieces and brown on all sides. Remove from the skillet and set on a plate. When cooled, put in the fridge for overnight.

In the morning:  Into the slow cooker pot, add the potatoes, carrots, onion, celery, garlic, salt and pepper.

Put the browned meat on top and pour the water over. Turn the slow cooker to Low and let cook 8-9 hours.
Before serving:   Remove the beef and vegetables from the cooker.  Discard the garlic and celery (they've done their work).  Put a skillet back on the stove over medium high heat and strain in the liquid from the cooker.  Heat the liquid to boiling, add the corn starch and water and allow to boil until thickened.  Splash in some red wine if desired, cook for a minute longer.  Taste and adjust seasonings.
 Serve the gravy over the stew.
Feel free to add other ingredients to the pot.  Some peas would have been a good addition at the end to lend some color and sweetness.  Exchange sweet potatoes for white.  Add some herbs to the pot such as a bay leaf while it cooks all day or some thyme, either would be good.  Adding a tablespoon of tomato paste and some oregano turns it towards an Italian flare.  You get the idea - once you get the basics down let your pantry take you to other flavors.

This makes quite a bit of stew, so I removed some of the meat and set it aside to make soup one night this week.  Once the meet is cooked, it's a simple task to use a carton of stock and some frozen veggies into a bowl of steaming hot soup. 

Thursday, February 24, 2011

SOUP FOR DINNER

Tonight as I was driving home I contemplated what I might find in the house for dinner.  I forgot to plan ahead so whatever was in the pantry would have to do. I also had a movie to watch that needed to be returned to the library by midnight, so whatever I fixed would have to be quick, ready to eat in front of the TV, and warm me up enough for a quick trek through the snow to my neighborhood library branch.  By the time I drove the 7 minutes from work to home I'd made up my mind to have some soup and a hunk of bread.

Soup is one of those things that can be extremely simple or extravagantly complicated. Potato Soup in particular is one of those that can be very basic or quite elaborate, depending upon what else you might have in your pantry or your energy level at cooking time. 

Face it, potatoes are one of those foods that will go with almost anything.  Many cultures around the world wouldn't consider sitting down to a meal without potatoes on the plate.  They're basically a bland ingredient that can take on lots of other flavors and tastes terrific no matter what you do to them.


MOM'S SIMPLE POTATO SOUP
As a kid, my Mom made Potato Soup often for Saturday lunches. Served with a hot dog along side, this was one of my favorite meals. Helping her make this was how I learned to peel potatoes (because it never would have occurred to Mom to leave the skins on!) Her soup was the simple soup she must have learned to make from her Mother while growing up on a farm in the years following the Depression where they grew potatoes and milked their own goats and cows, but probably did not have things like celery or leeks or garlic growing in the kitchen garden.

Simple ingredients made for a simple
soup.  Now my tastes run just
a bit more complex.
Mom’s recipe – cube 1 medium sized potato (peeled) per person. Over medium-high heat, cover potatoes with water to cover, boil in water till soft, add a little milk, season with salt and pepper and serve.

This was simple food at its most basic - economical, easy to make and tummy-filling when there isn’t a lot of stuff hanging around your pantry because you can’t afford to buy it. Potatoes were (and still are) cheap, everyone had milk in the fridge (or out in the cow), and salt and pepper were THE seasonings for absolutely everything we ate. While visiting with my folks in Florida last winter, Mom served this same soup for lunch one day (complete with a hot dog along side) and I felt like a kid again eating this very elementary meal.

TONIGHT'S POTATO SOUP WITH KALE AND SAUSAGE
Luckily, I have a few more ingredients in my kitchen that lend themselves to dressing up a simple pot of cooked potatoes.  For instance, when I brought home a package of smoked sausage a few weeks ago, I cut it into single serving size pieces and froze them so that I could pull out one piece when I wanted it.  So my plan was to use one of those, a couple of taters from the pantry and whatever else I could scrounge for a nice bowl of warm soup.  The end product turned out very tasty and I was sad when the bowl was empty.  Maybe next time I'll double up and make enough for another night.

Potato soup ingredients ready
for the pot
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1/2 stalk celery, washed and diced small
1/4 teaspoon chopped garlic
2 tablespoons chopped onion
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup sliced smoked sausage
2 small potatoes, peeled and diced small
1 1/2 cups water (or chicken broth)
1 kale leaf, stalk removed and sliced
1/2 cup milk mixed with 1 teaspoon corn starch
1 1/2 teaspoons powdered cheese (optional)*
sprinkle of fresh or dried parsley


In a heavy bottomed 2 quart saucepan over medium high heat, heat the oil. Add the celery, onion and saute until soft. Add the garlic and sausage and stir until the sausage has browned a bit. Add the potatoes and water (or broth) making sure the potatoes are covered.



 Let cook on medium high heat until the potatoes are cooked through, about 10 minutes.  You may wish to remove some of the cooking water at this point, it depends upon whether you like more "soup" than "stuff" in your bowl.  I prefer the "stuff" so will sacrifice some broth here.
 

Add the kale and the milk and cornstarch mixture. Heat to a simmer until soup thickens. Add the cheese powder if you wish and the parsley. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve immediately.
* Note - I've begun to look for more uses for the powdered cheese I bought for my Cheeseburger Mac dinner.  Originally I got this to bake some bread with and then have lost track of that recipe.  Meanwhile, it lends a bit of cheesy goodness to lots of things without the mess of trying to melt reaL cheddar cheese.  If you feel adventurous, you can find this in the bulk store or order on-line from King Arthur Flour.  
 
 
 
 

Monday, February 21, 2011

LEFTOVERS SOLUTION

Yes, I love to cook...but yes, yes, I LOVE to go out to eat. If my funds were unlimited I would probably be out to eat twice a day almost every day of the week.

Aside from the cost of it, it’s darn near impossible to leave a restaurant these days without carrying a little ‘doggie bag’ that will get stashed in the fridge for later. For whatever reasons, most restaurant portions are way out of control. Even the new meals at one of our chain restaurants that tout a “cut back” meal of less than 550 calories is out of whack with their meat portions. At 7 ounces, the size of the beef on these meals is nearly twice the recommended daily intake of animal protein. Yowser!

So when I come home many nights and really DO feel like cooking, what I’m faced with is a refrigerator filled with little bags and boxes of meals half- eaten from restaurants that I now must either deal with or toss away.

A sneak peek in my fridge - too many
little doggie bags for someone that
doesn't own a dog!
Learning to deal with these bits and bobs of leftover meals can really be a creative process. Since generally what I’m left with in these little containers is some sort of meat (chicken breast, beef steak, half of a corned beef sandwich, etc), I’ve been learning to salvage the good parts (the actual meat) and toss out the icky-over-cooked parts (mushy bread, browned salad greens – whatever).

Tonight I’ve come home for dinner and have been contemplating a good-sized portion of pork tenderloin that’s been rambling around the fridge for a few days. I brought this home from a good meal eaten at Triple Crown where I was simply too full to deal with a full 8 ounces of pork, even if it was slathered in an apple brandy cream sauce.

So tonight I’m using one of my hocus-pocus leftovers-to-new-meal techniques – FRIED RICE.

Brown rice with an extra bonus of
more whole grain.
Almost everyone loves fried rice and it’s one of those meals that takes to whatever you decide to add to the pot. In its simplest form it is nothing more than cooked rice with a few vegetables tossed in and then lightly sautéed till warmed through. Add an egg if you feel the need, bits of leftover meat if you have it and some soy sauce for seasoning and dinner is served.

Feel free to use any type of non-sticky rice you like, white rice, brown rice, whichever you prefer as long as it is precooked. Yes, this means a little preplanning or a short wait while your rice cooks while you change clothes after work. I’ve become partial to a rice blend I discovered that contains some additional grains giving the rice a nuttier, richer texture and flavor. If you can find it, give it a try, if not, a bag of instant boil-in-bag rice will do nicely here too.

8 inch wok - perfect tool for a single cook
ANOTHER COOL TOOL
Tonight I’m reaching for my 8-inch stovetop wok. Small enough for stir fry or fried rice for one meal, yet large enough to hold a meal for 2 or 3, this pan gets a workout in my kitchen. Stir fry and fried rice don’t require long cooking, but will take high heat and this pan is made for that. If you have room in your kitchen for such a pan, I’d highly recommend getting one.

FRIED RICE WITH PORK
3 teaspoons peanut oil
1 egg, beaten
2/3 cup cooked rice
1 scallion, chopped
2-3 ounces of leftover pork tenderloin (or chicken or beef), diced small
¼ cup frozen peas or peas and carrots mixture (or any other precooked veg you like)
Soy sauce to taste (1-2 teaspoons)
sprinkle of chopped cashews

Egg cooked and set aside.  Everything else
heating nicely in the pan.
Heat 1 teaspoon of the peanut oil in the wok over high heat. Add the beaten egg and stir in the oil until the egg is nearly cooked through (this will go quickly - now is not the time to wander away to answer the door.) Remove the egg from the pan.

Add the remaining 2 teaspoons peanut oil to the pan, then add the rice and the scallion. Stirring the rice to coat it evenly in the oil, cook over high heat until slightly browned and heated through. Add the cooked egg back to the pan along with the chopped meat. Continue to stir and saute until the meat is heated through then add the peas and cook until they are warmed.

Add the soy sauce, heat through and serve immediately.  Sprinkle with cashews for a bit of extra crunch.

Leftovers to new meal in a snap.  10 minutes
start to finish if you have cooked rice
in the fridge or freezer.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

GIFTS FROM THE CHICKENS

Eggs are by far and away one of lifes best gifts.  They cross all cultures and food styles, are found in sweets as well as savory foods.  They can be eaten on their own or dolled up with any number of ingredients. 
Farm fresh eggs tend to come in a variety
of colors and sizes

French omelets, spanish tortillas, italian frittatas, scrambled, sunny-side up, poached or hard boiled - in all, eggs are fantastic.  And they happen to be one of my favorite foods.  Eggs make terrific meals, especially if you are cooking for yourself and looking for something quick and easy. 

I won't bore you here with my egg philosophy, but you can check out my other blog for what I really think about supermarket eggs.  My eggs tend to come from local suppliers where I can trust the way the chickens are raised. 

Weekend mornings are made for having eggs.  My Monday through Friday breakfasts tend to be foods eaten out of hand like muffins or power bars.  So Saturday and Sunday lend themselves to scouring around the pantry and finding something to go with my pretty little eggs.  Generally what else I find in my fridge or pantry dictates how they will be prepared.  Today I had a bag of organic arugula, a few potatoes and some parmesan cheese at hand.  With a few other odds and ends, a Spanish Tortilla was my end result.

6-inch non-stick, oven-proof handle.
If you cook for JUST YOU, go out and
get one of these, they are invaluable.
ONE OF MY FAVORITE KITCHEN TOOLS
I have a long list of kitchen tools that I feel are important for anyone cooking for one.  Today I am using my favorite non-stick 6-inch skillet for my tortilla.  Between this skillet and my 2 quart saucpan, these items seldom actually see the inside of the cupboard.  They are the perfect size to cook with everyday and so I tend to wash them and stick them back on the stove for the next meal. 

When looking for the perfect skillet for yourself, look for one with a heavy bottom that will evenly distribute heat.  One with sloping sides that slant outward will lend itself to tossing foods as you cook without the food landing on the floor.  Also, a heat resistant handle is very important so that it will easily move from stovetop to oven, which was a requirment for today.

SPANISH STYLE TORTILLA

1 Tbls butter
1 medium potato, peeled and sliced into 1/4 inch slices
1 scallion, chopped
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup finely diced ham
1/2 cup fresh arugula, lightly chopped
2 eggs, beaten
1 Tbls. grated parmesan cheese


Heat your oven to broil.  (Note - I use my toaster oven for this sort of process.  Your regular oven will work fine here too)
  
Cook the potatoes and scallion in the butter over medium-high heat until the potatoes are browned and cooked through.

Add the ham, red pepper flakes and arugula to the hot pan, toss to combine and cook to heat through.

Meanwhile, beat the eggs with the parmesan cheese in a small bowl.

Add the eggs to the pan, lightly mix to evenly distribute over the pan. Continue to cook until the eggs are mostly set and browned on the bottom. Transfer the pan to the oven for another 3-5 minutes cooking until the eggs are completely set and browned on top.




Remove the tortilla from the pan onto a cutting board.  Slice and serve.



Ready to eat! 

Ah ha!  You've caught me - indeed I did not eat the entire tortilla today which is making this a meal with leftovers.  Tortillas and frittatas are great as left overs for breakfast later on in the week.  Or, most likely I will save it for a night when I'm running between work and someplace else and have little time for a meal.  A few seconds in the microwave and a salad on the side will make this the perfect 5-minute dinner. 


Saturday, February 19, 2011

A HELPING HAND FOR A SINGLE COOK

Here I am again admitting stuff no one in their right mind would admit to. When I was a young person learning to cook for myself, I learned to really love Hamburger Helper – especially the Cheeseburger version – high sodium content and all. Many, many nights that was my go-to meal after long days studying or working. Eventually I began cooking “for real” and stopped purchasing boxed versions of food and this old standby faded from memory.

Remember this little guy!?
A few years ago I attempted to relive the experience when I happened across a sale of Hamburger Helper at the store. Hmmmm, I thought…I used to LOVE this stuff. Why not give it another try for a busy weeknight meal? So I wandered past the meat counter and picked up a pound of ground beef and was sort of excited to get home and try to relive my un-culinary history.

A few nights later my ground beef hit the hot skillet and a batch of Cheeseburger Mac was created. It looked good and smelled just like I remembered. I was actually pretty excited so I settled into my comfy TV watching chair with a bowl of sloppy, cheesy meat and after a bite or two…heavy sigh…it went directly to the trash. It’s hard to say whether the product itself has changed so much over the years or whether my tastes have changed but it truly was not for me anymore.

However, not to be daunted by one bad experience, I determined to try to revisit this and make it something I can have again and really like. Plus I added the caveat of making it a “meal for one” that I can make, eat and not have leftovers.

A little research on the web found a slew of recipes for cheeseburger macaroni. Some called for cans of condensed cream of cheddar and/or chicken soups, some for Velveeta cheese products, some a can of tomatoes and mushrooms – some of which looked pretty darned good, but made WAY more than I could eat in a single sitting without inviting half the neighborhood for dinner. So I went to an old “secret recipes” cookbook that supposedly had the original version and I decided to back into my single serving version based on that.

Add some peas and different pasta for
a new twist on an old favorite.
Now don’t laugh, but my version calls for powdered cheese. I know that it’s not very culinarily correct to use such a product, but my reasoning behind giving it a try is that I can purchase a bulk amount of the powder at my local bulk food store and let it sit in the pantry while using only enough for one meal at a time. It’s very hard to buy just enough of a block of cheddar cheese like that, so this way I’m not putting anything to waste. Plus I imagine we’ve all learned that it’s very difficult to melt cheddar cheese and not have it become clumpy or oily. So this solved that issue as well.

The other obvious alternative was to simply buy a box of macaroni and cheese and add some cooked ground beef to it. And realistically, that might be a great idea except that it defeats my “single serving” idea. Plus you’re stuck using the plain old macaroni they give you and sometimes I like choo-choo wheels or little shells – you’ve got to have SOME fun, right?

Here is the recipe I ended up with after a bit of tinkering. As usual, I keep my ground beef in the freezer in quarter pound balls, so deciding to make this on the spur of the moment is pretty easy, everything else sits in the pantry awaiting my whim.

Simple ingredients make this an easy meal
SIMPLE SINGLE SERVING CHEESEBURGER MACARONI

¼ lb. ground beef (turkey or pork sausage would also be tasty here)
1/3 cup macaroni (uncooked)
3/4 cup water
1 Tbls dehydrated cheddar cheese powder *
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp dried oregano
additional 1 tsp cheddar cheese powder

Brown ground beef (adding salt and pepper to taste) in a small heavy saucepan or skillet with a tight-fitting lid. Add 1 Tbls cheese powder and the remaining ingredients, bring to a simmer, cover the pan/pot and let cook on medium heat for 10-12 minutes until the pasta is fully cooked. Sprinkle on the additional cheese powder and stir to combine. Continue to cook uncovered until liquid is mostly absorbed.


Cheeseburger Macaroni - don't even TRY
to tell me this doesn't look good!
 You could easily add peas or a bit of cooked broccoli to this at the end to get some veggies into the dish, or even a teaspoon or so of tomato paste to give a different flavor. As is, this is a lot as I recalled the old meals when I was a young non-cook. This was perfect alone for lunch, but add a salad or piece of garlic bread and it would make a very decent weeknight dinner. Yippee for something coming out the way I remembered! Nostalgia maybe, but comforting, yes siree!

* Note - I found my dehydrated cheese powder at my local bulk food store. I also know it can be purchased on-line at King Arthur Flour. 

Friday, February 18, 2011

WELCOME TO MY NEW BLOG

Today I begin a new blog based upon by own ideas about feeding myself with healthy, economical food at home. As someone who loves to cook, I still struggle with putting healthy food on my plate when I'm eating alone. Like most of my single friends, I tend to eat convenience foods or skip to something straight out of a bag (like potato chips!)

As a more mature person (age-wise at least) I realize that eating healthier should have probably been a priorty all along but it just wasn't. Now it's time to begin paying attention - not only to what I eat, but where it comes from and how it gets to my local market. By no means am I an expert at eating the "right" things so this will be as much of an adventure in learning as anything else.

I also have a couple of friends who struggle to put meals on their own table simply because they don't know how to cook for themselves or because they just do not enjoy the process.  So here is my effort to combine doing something fun for myself and perhaps helpful for others in my situation.

Trying out new recipes has always been enjoyable for me and sharing them with others is fun and satisfying. If you run across this blog and find it helpful or just entertaining please feel free to comment so that I know what you're liking or disliking. Feel free to share ideas of your own too.

WHY IS COOKING FOR ONE SO DARNED HARD?
Almost every single person I ask has reasons why they don't cook when they're eating alone.  It's time consuming; it's hard to make the correct portion sizes; there's no time to 'plan' for cooking.  I hear lots of excuses and have used them all myself over and over again. 

In reality, whether you like to cook or not, taking a few minutes each day to make a meal is not difficult.  The world is filled with cook books and recipe sites to make any sort of meal you’d like. What I've discovered is that the hard part is portion control and leftover management.   

If you like cooking for a crowd, do what
I did and enter a cookoff! 
Here I am taking first place in our
company Chili Cookoff in 2002!!!
ENOUGH ALREADY!
I’ve done a lot of research on the subject (took me almost an hour to see all that’s written about “cooking for one” out on the web) and I truly believe the hardest part about all of this is figuring out how to make “just enough”.  Nearly every recipe out there is scaled for four or more.  So I've challenged myself to find a way to get around that by scaling down my cooking to create "just enough" food for one meal, maybe two.

If you find a normal recipe that looks good and you make it following their directions– now you’re stuck with it for a few days whether you like it or not. A friend invited me over for stir-fry one night and there was just the two of us. She doesn’t cook much so when she does, she follows a recipe with great dedication. The dish turned out great - it tasted wonderful and we enjoyed the process of chopping and cooking together! The trouble was the recipe was scaled to serve 6. So although the both of us ate till we were stuffed, she still had more than enough to last several days.

I ran across this little pearl of wisdom on a web site dedicated to cooking for singles: “When cooking for one person it is best to either cook something you can then re-serve for another meal or freeze.”  Oh, come on!  How is that helpful?  In the case of my stir-fry friend, she will reheat it again….and again….and again….and again.  I don't know about the rest of you, but I like variety in my diet.  If I head home knowing I have to eat the same thing I ate last night, and the night before that, I will be sorely tempted to stop and grab something else before I get home.
The statement that was made about reheating and freezing really struck me as a cowards way out of the situation. That web site was supposedly dedicated to cooking for a single person and here was someone offering the best advice they could give and that was to just suffer through leftovers in perpetuity.

EATING ALONE GOT YOU DOWN?
Bless their little hearts!  I love it
when my family comes to dinner.
The second bit of advice from this “cooking for one” site was to invite a friend over to eat with you “because eating alone is hard.” Hmmm….gee what sort of support and advice was that? As if most of us would never consider inviting friends over for dinner. Frankly I do this often, but every night? No, I don’t think that’s reasonable.

I will agree that going out to a restaurant and eating alone may be awkward for many single people, but eating alone is NOT hard if you're doing it in the comfort of your own home. It’s the COOKING for one that is the hard part.  I believe that if cooking is easy and doesn’t take much time, we can all make a great meal for ourselves anytime we need to eat.

MY RULES FOR EATING AT HOME
I'll talk more about my rules as I go along, but basically these have come about to help me solve problems as they crop up in my own experience.
1 - always eat with real plates, cutlery and stemware
Eating alone doesn't have to be
dreary.  Make every meal
appealing as well as tasty.
2 - make yourself a comfortable place to sit and eat your meal
3 - keep your kitchen neat and tidy so that cooking will be more fun (or at least less hectic)
4 - fill your pantry with staples so that you can cook a meal without stopping at the grocery every day
5 - develop basic cooking skills and techniques to make cooking easier and faster - take cooking classes if necessary
6 - use the right tools and don't buy cheap tools
7 - learn to use a freezer for cook ahead days
8 - develop a list of meals that you can make easily
9 - if you're a wine drinker, have a glass or two with your meal
10 - when appropriate, have "cook ahead" days where you will make larger quanitites of something to store for later use

Don't look at rules 7 and 10 and think I'm just copying that other website telling you to freeze extra portions.  Believe me, not everything you make is appropriate for the freezer - but there are many things that are and the convenience of pulling out a single serving of homemade soup for dinner some night you do not feel like cooking, makes the fix ahead idea very smart.  There is a fine line between storing leftovers in the freezer until you toss them out a year later and carefully preparing and storing a meal for another time. 

Come visit this site often, I'm aiming to put at least one recipe up each week, more if possible.  Send me your comments and request things if you'd like.  I'm hoping this will be fun and informative....so let's get cooking!

SIMPLEST, EASIEST MEAL EVER AND PRETTY CHEAP TO BOOT
All this being said, tonight I needed something quick and easy and simple for dinner. A very fast stop at the grocery netted 1/4 pound of deli sliced turkey and 1 packet of turkey gravy mix. From my pantry I pulled out 1 slice of nice French bread and a small can of beets. With these I made a very simple dinner.

It feels silly to even give a recipe for this, but here goes.  It's a simple start for the blog and one to get you rolling if you want to try it yourself.  It requires no special equipment, no fancy ingredients or any advanced planning. 

OPEN FACE HOT TURKEY SANDWICH

1/4 pound sliced deli turkey (get the unsweetened kind, the honey roasted will be weird tasting with gravy)
1/2 package of turkey gravy mix
pepper to taste
1 slice bread of your choice, lightly toasted

Simple dinner in a flash
In a small saucepan, mix 1/2 cup water with the half packet of gravy mix. Prepare per packet directions. Once the gravy is ready, break up the deli turkey into bite sized pieces and mix in with the gravy and heat through. Add pepper to taste.

To serve, place the toast on a warmed plate, top with the hot turkey and gravy.

Some of my friends think I do ALL of my cooking from scratch and that I might sneer at the use of packaged gravy mixes, but frankly I grew up with Mom using these all the time and while I agree that homemade gravy would be the ideal ingredient here, I might not always have chicken broth sitting in the fridge to be used. Give yourself a break and use the pre-packed to save the time and effort here. A good quality jarred gravy would be good here too, I prefer Boston Market brand, they're very good.

MAPLE GLAZED BEETS

1 small can (4 oz) beets, drained
2 teaspoons butter
drizzle of maple syrup

In a small skillet, melt the butter and add the syrup. Add the beets to the skillet and bring to a boil. Stir to coat beets with the butter-syrup mixture. Serve immediately.

This meal comes in at around 500 calories, takes about 15 minutes to prepare and costs just under $3.50. Compare that to a take out you might have picked up on the way home and I've got you beat on all fronts.

Use the same method and substitute roast beef for the turkey and brown gravy for the turkey and you have another easy meal for a night when you're too tired to fuss much with your dinner.