The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

August 14, 2013

Cheryle Finley: Cooking single? Treat yourself to real meals

By Cheryle Finley
Globe Columnist

JOPLIN, Mo. — Back in my younger days, I lived alone for a couple of years. I rented an apartment before buying a house when I was 21.

The cute two-bedroom, one-bath cottage came complete with furniture for $18,000. I loved that little house, but what I didn't love was trying to cook for one person. It would have been easier to eat chips and salsa or cheese and crackers every night, but I usually tried to fix a proper meal, even if it was warming up a can of green beans and frying a piece of ham. has some great tips for people who are eating solo. First, let the saute pan become your best friend. It's the perfect size for a single steak, fish fillet or chicken breast, and it's ideal for sauteed vegetables. You can fix a complete meal in one pan.

Single servings are made for "en papillote," which is French for "in parchment." Parchment packets or foil can be used to wrap food tightly inside -- the enclosed meat and vegetables cook together, steamed to perfection. And the best part? No pan scrubbing.

Good advice from helpguide. org is to cook once and eat twice. If what you are fixing freezes well, make a double batch. Eat one and freeze one. Or make a recipe that yields several servings, and freeze them to eat later. Frozen mini-meatloaf and lasagna are great for future dinners. I've always tried to cook enough to insure leftovers because I don't mind eating the same meal for two or three days. You can also take that leftover baked chicken and turn it into chicken salad or enchiladas.

Instead of turning on the oven to make a meal for one, turn to the toaster oven, slow cooker or hot plate. Even a rice cooker can be used for more than rice. Did you know it's also great for preparing oatmeal, steamed veggies, soup and dessert?

Have a recipe that makes your mouth water but it makes 10 to 12 servings? While it can be tricky to reduce the recipe, it's not impossible, especially if you know your portion sizes. Also, be aware of pan size when reducing a recipe. If a recipe for 12 servings says to heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a big Dutch oven, use only what you will need for a small skillet. The best way to adapt a recipe to your needs is to experiment. Whether cooking for one or 12, plan ahead. Freeze what is left so you can enjoy leftovers and cut down on your time in the kitchen.

If you are cooking for one, sometimes appetizer recipes will hit the spot. From "Taste of Home Summer Appetizers," the mini-burger bites recipe will give your taste buds a treat with each bite. Also from "Taste of Home" is a shortcake recipe that provides two nights of dessert -- just wait until the second evening to assemble the second treat. Double this recipe for a larger group.

Our dear neighbor, Ed Sneed, has been giving us flavorful zucchini from his garden this year. My favorite way to fix this squash is to slice it, then fry it in butter with some onion. I could eat that every day.

I was surprised last year by how much I like zucchini bread and cake. So if you have extra zucchini, try the cake recipe from Frost it with cream cheese or chocolate frosting, or leave it plain for a good on-the-go breakfast. Have a wonderful week and happy eating.


Mini-burger bites

16 frozen waffle-cut fries

1 pound ground beef

2 teaspoons steak seasoning

4 slices cheddar cheese, quartered

Optional toppings: sliced onion, cherry tomatoes, pickles and mustard

Bake waffle fries according to package directions. Meanwhile, combine beef and steak seasoning in large bowl. Shape into 16 patties. Cook in large skillet until juices run clear, turning once. Top each waffle fry with a burger and cheese. Broil 4 to 5 inches from heat for 1 to 2 minutes or until cheese is melted. Finish by adding toppings of your choice. Yields 16 appetizers.


Apple cream shortcakes

2/3 cup flour

1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon cold butter

1/4 cup milk


11/2 cups peeled tart apples, thinly sliced

1/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons water

11/2 teaspoons lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon


Whipped topping

In a small bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut in butter until crumbly. Stir in milk just until moistened. Turn onto lightly floured surface; knead 3 or 4 times. Round out into a 1/2-inch thick oval. Cut two circles with 2 1/2-inch floured biscuit cutter. Bake on sprayed baking sheet at 425 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on rack. In saucepan, combine filling ingredients; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 3 to 4 minutes or until apples are tender and sauce is thickened. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Split shortcakes in half. Place bottom half on serving dish and top with apple mixture and whipped topping. Replace top. Yields 2 servings.


Chocolate zucchini cake

2 cups flour

2 cups sugar

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

4 eggs

1 1/2 cups vegetable oil

3 cups grated zucchini

3/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Combine first seven ingredients in medium bowl. Add eggs and oil; mix well. Fold in zucchini and nuts until well blended. Bake in greased and floured 9-by-13-inch baking pan at 350 degrees for 50 to 60 minutes or until toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting. Makes 12 servings.

Address correspondence to Cheryle Finley, c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802.