I Said “I Do”: Cooking for One

28 Dec

What a whirlwind of a…few weeks? Why, I can remember it as if it were yesterday: ’twas the week before Christmas, and all through my office, everyone was coughing, even those not in the office (the only word I came up with to rhyme was “cannabis” and I couldn’t think of a clever phrase, so office again it is). I had dodged the inevitable “unidentified office illness” for quite some time now, so of course my luck ran out DURING THE HOLIDAYS. I had to take a day and a half off work and watch a lot of HBO’s The Newsroom, so needless to say I was not doing any cooking (except heating up a “Cup of Noodles” which I’ve never had-it’s even lazier cousin of ramen, who knew-and at a cool $0.50, the price was right…that’s like 1 cent per 29mg of sodium!).

Back up even further than my sickness you say? Well, not that this has anything to do with the culinary arts, but before a delicious meal at Michael Symon’s Roast in Detroit for our mutual Christmas gift, John proposed to me. I said yes (obviously). We kept it a secret from everyone for a full week so I could tell my family in person when in town for Christmas. So why the cooking alone? I’ll explain later.

This is the "complimentary breakfast" I took from the Holiday Inn Express we stayed at in Detroit even though we were leaving to go to a breakfast place. Why? To have bagels and yogurt for the rest of the week. Complimentary meal = free breakfast for 3 days!

This is the “complimentary breakfast” I took from the Holiday Inn Express we stayed at in Detroit even though we were leaving to go to a breakfast place. Why? To have bagels and yogurt for the rest of the week. Complimentary meal = free breakfast for 2 days!

Disclaimer: my camera battery has been dead for over a week, and I haven’t charged it yet, and I left my tripod at work, so all the photos from this post are from my cell phone. I apologize profusely. It won’t happen again. Hopefully.

What’s Christmas time for other than baking goodies? Lindsey and I (you may remember her from such posts as Fancy Family Dinner) decided we had to make an afternoon of it. On the menu: Salty Chocolate Chunk Cookies from Bon Apetit and Peppermint Puppy Chow.

Notice the expertly placed candy cane, and the cheerful green tupperware lid backdrop

Notice the expertly placed candy cane, and the cheerful green tupperware lid backdrop

The cookies were REALLY good (3 types of sugar!), but each hour that passed after they were pulled out of the oven, they became increasingly SUPER crunchy. As in, hard. Bygones. For the puppy chow it was ridiculously easy:

Box of Chex, 1/2 stick butter, 10 oz chocolate, 1 box candy canes (crushed), 3ish cups powdered sugar.

Melt chocolate and butter. Pour over chex. Mix until covered. Add candy cane “dust” and/or “rocks” (I’m trying to give examples of how large the chunks of cane we used, but it all just sounds like drugs), and mix until covering all the pieces. Pour powdered sugar in big container/bag, then add chex/chocolate/drug mix. Shake. Shake. Shake. Try to eat without breathing in powered sugar.

Now, I must mention, Lindsey LOVES Christmas, just can’t get enough. Listens to the radio stations that only play Christmas music for the full month, and nothing else (except maybe her Glee Christmas album). Wears christmas tree earring in a non-ironic manner, along with a Christmas broach. Will probably tear up if you mention Christmas in May and refer to how long away it is. Just loves it. So I thought it was proper to mention “I wish Christmas was tomorrow!” as we were baking, to which I was greeted with a stony “are you crazy!? I don’t!”. Her reasoning: once it’s here, it’ll be over, and then “everyone will forget”. Heartwarming.

Moving right along: Christmas Day. We celebrated Christmas morn’ with a hearty breakfast of Bagels, Lox, Fresh veggies, and a Zucchini and Onion Tortilla (or torta). We opted for breakfast as “our meal” since we had a special Koran Bibimbop on Christmas Eve (I apologize, I have no pictures, but let me assure you, it was pretty, and AMAZING).

Ahh Christmas Breakfast, a mere appetizer to the real meal: Les Miserables on opening day! Buenicimo

Ahh Christmas Breakfast, a mere appetizer to the real meal: Les Miserables on opening day! Buenicimo

And guess what: I got a cast iron skillet! Get ready for future trials and tribulations utilizing it. But now for the real question: why am I cooking for one? Well, for Christmas, since I had to be back in Ann Arbor on Wednesday, I did not go down to Indiana with him to see his family (it’s about 4.5 hours away form Ann Arbor), so I have 4 days of “cooking for one”. I must say, it IS an adjustment, since he ends up eating about 80% of what I make, so I had to tread carefully. What to make? Soup! And we got a snowstorm, how perfect!

I set my sights on 2 soups for the week: a re-do of the Miso Soup, this time making it for individual portions (so smart!) and Big Girl Small Kitchen Parmesan, White Bean, and Kale Soup with Torn Pasta, modified.

I began with the kale soup, and modified it to this beauty:

  • 3lb can of Chicken Stock (low sodium!)
  • Parmesan Rind (in my case, a HUGE parmesan rind)
  • 1 Tbs Leftover “I’m not sure if this is still good” cream
  • Grocery store roasted chicken, meat torn into shreds, carcass saves (I’ll explain later, again)
  • Head of Kale
  • 1 Can White Beans, rinsed
  • 8 oz small pasta
  • Lemon

To make:

  • Bring stock and parmesan rind to a boil. Simmer covered for about 40 minutes
  • Rifle through fridge, see that that old carton of cream in the back of the fridge EXPRIES TODAY. It was a sign. Use those little drops to add a little more texture to your broth
  • Meanwhile, remove stems from Kale, and submerge in boiling water. Cover and boil for about 8 minutes
  • Discard parmesan rind (or save it for later use!) Add pasta and boil for about 2 minutes
  • Drain Kale, and reserve cooking liquid. Chop up the Kale, and add to pot. Simmer for a few minutes
  • Add beans, and shredded chicken, and cook until pasta is done, and kale is niiiice and soft. Add reserved kale cooking water to desired consistency.
  • What I should have done but did later: squeeze juice of lemon into pot, stir. Enjoy

Now, this soup is da bomb. It’s so comfort-foody, tasty, and it has Kale! It quickly turned into more of a stew or a casserole since the noodles basically soaked up all the liquid, but it doesn’t take anything away. What I misjudged: how much this would make. I’m on day 3 (and currently eating it now) of having it for every meal (including breakfast), and I’d say there’s at least 50% left. So now I wonder, can I eat it all in time? Do I change up my soup-only diet? Is this the end of cooking-for-one as we know it?! This and more will be answered…in the next blog post.

Almost expired cream and strew! mmmmm

Almost expired cream and strew! mmmmm

But wait! What to do with this saved chicken carcass? Make homemade stock…my very first!

Throw the carcass into a pot, cover with water and add any “aromatics” you may have laying around the house (in my case: rosemary, bay leaf, garlic, shallot with skin, red onion with skin, green onion green parts, carrots). Simmer for about 2-3 hours covered. Taste. When you think it’s ready, strain, throw in fridge for the night, skim off fat on top, throw in freezer bag, place in freezer. Think of a use, put it to work!

Don't be afraid when you pull it out of the fridge and it's all jell-o-y

Don’t be afraid when you pull it out of the fridge and it’s all jell-o-y

Full disclosure: I ate that carrot you see in the picture. It was not my proudest moment.

I have not had the chance to make the Miso soup, so I’m hoping to try it out tonight to CHANGE UP MY CHICKEN/KALE/BEAN SOUP ONLY DIET. Only time will tell.

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