Cooking for one or two is not as easy as it sounds.
Last week, my kitchen was abuzz one evening with multiple cooking projects: Homemade soup was bubbling on the stovetop while mini cakes were baking in the oven. The single-serving-size cakes were in pans that had been 14-ounce vegetable cans.
The purpose of the cooking session was to test small-batch recipes. Cooking for one or two people is a topic that's appearing in cookbooks, new food products, cooking classes, and at least one major recipe contest and one newsletter.
Small-batch cooking and baking appeals to people of all ages, from young singles to empty nesters, and from college students and young professionals to senior citizens like Frances Ciesinski of Sylvania.
Mrs. Ciesinski is looking for recipes that have one or two servings that "are not that elaborate, that are everyday cooking," she said in a phone call. "You get tired of cooking the same things all the time."
Today's average household size is 2.59 people, and almost 60 percent of Americans live in one or two-person households, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Many people need to downsize the recipes they have, as well as find new ones.
However, going the route of removing the contents and labeling from vegetable cans and washing the insides (taking care not to cut yourself on anything sharp) to bake smaller portions may be more time and work than the average cook wants.
The recipe tested was Old Fashioned Yellow Cake with Double Chocolate Sour Cream frosting from Small-Batch Baking by Debby Maugans Nakos (Workman, $13.95). We also tested a recipe for sweet rolls to yield four rolls by using part of a package of roll mix; we were left with 2/3 of a package of the mix and half a package of the yeast packet.
We had better luck with Flaky Cherry Cobbler, a recipe that serves two people, and is baked in two one or 1 1/2-cup ramekins or a two-cup souffle dish or casserole. It was delicious, according to Kay Lynne Schaller who tested the recipe for The Blade.
While I wouldn't recommend the cans-turned-cake-pans or the partial use of packages of roll mix to achieve small batches, Ms. Nakos has plenty of other ideas that are adaptable to the person who wants small servings. Among them are: using mini Bundt pans, a baklava made in a small standard loaf pan (8 by 4 inches), tart pans for mini pies, and tart pans with removable bottoms for small cheesecakes. For small-batch cookies, use small or medium eggs, she advises. (One medium egg equals 3 tablespoons beaten egg.) She also has recipes for three muffins and small loaves of bread such as Herbed Cheese Bread and Rosemary Focaccia.
While downsizing recipes is one way to get a small batch, you can also make recipes that will last for two meals, or freeze leftovers in one or two-serving amounts for later use.
Heartwarming casseroles can be downsized. Easy Pasta Bake uses browned ground beef mixed with prepared pasta sauce spooned over refrigerated ravioli. Top with an Italian blend cheese, and bake.
Veal chops or pork chops adapt to a one or two-serving recipe. Veal Chops with Tomato-Pepper Relish makes a dazzling and delicious dish. The savory relish can be assembled in advance and then cooked at the same time the chops pan cook. Veal chops are most flavorful cooked to medium (160 degrees) doneness. To test, use an instant-read thermometer or cut a small slit near the bone and check the color. At medium, the veal will be slightly pink. (For pork chops, internal cooked temperature should be 160 degrees for medium.)
The desire for small-batch, easy-to-fix recipes is also driving food companies.
Bertolli Dinner for Two has eight Italian frozen selections that can be prepared in a skillet in 10 minutes. Through flash freezing, the dinners have fresh-tasting sauces and pasta that cooks al dente. No extra ingredients are needed, according to information from the company. Varieties include Grilled Chicken Alfredo with Portobello Mushrooms and Shrimp Scampi & Linguine with Roasted Red Peppers in Garlic Sauce.
Cooking for two is also of great interest to the 42nd Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest, which is accepting recipe entries through May 31. The event will be held March 18-21, 2006, at the Fontainebleau Resort in Miami. Among the six recipe categories is the new Cooking for Two category, which includes easy-to-fix recipes with two servings for any meal of the day.
"This reflects our recognition of the number of consumers living in smaller households," said Marlene Johnson, a Pillsbury Bake-Off spokesman. "This number will grow as baby boomers turn 50. One of our business units has had great success with frozen biscuits and dinner rolls in resealable bags." Consumers can bake one or two at a time and return the rest of the package to the freezer for later use. She said that consumers loved the flexibility.
(Other categories in the Bake-Off are Dinner Made Easy, Weekends Made Special, Wake Up to Breakfast, Simple Snacks, and the new Brand New You with healthier cooking. Seven additional awards will be presented. For more information on the $1 million grand prize and contest, visit www.pillsbury.com/bakeoff/).
In addition, Pillsbury's Web site (www.pillsbury.com) has recipes called Easy Meals: Cooking for Two. Those interested can also sign up with an e-mail address for the free Cooking for Two Newsletter.
Kiwi-Pineapple Yogurt Parfaits was a finalist in the 41st Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest (2004). Layers of fresh tropical fruit, creamy yogurt, and crunchy granola make it a simple breakfast recipe for two servings.
Locally, Sharon Dela-Hamaide of Kitchen Tools & Skills will be teaching Cooking for One or Two at 7 p.m. April 26 in her shop at 26597 North Dixie Hwy., Perrysburg. The class is for singles and couples who need to downsize the number of portions they cook. It will include menu planning, shopping, storing, and more. Cost is $35. Information: 419-872-9090.
Kathie Smith is The Blade's food editor.
Contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6155.