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Accepting cooking for two challenge

Grace shares recipes for two this week. Some actually serve more than two. Here a Swiss steak entrée is served.
Grace shares recipes for two this week. Some actually serve more than two. Here a Swiss steak entrée is served.

Editor's note: This is a rerun of a Dash of Grace that previously ran in Sauk Valley Media publications on Feb. 15, 2012.

Some of you have asked about “cooking for two,” and I am going to try to help you. Maybe we can all help each other. I will give you some ideas and you can give me yours. Some of these make 3 helpings, so you can have seconds or leftovers. The delicious little mini cake is 4 servings, because I know you can’t stop at one!

Cooking and eating becomes a whole new challenge when your family starts leaving the nest. It can be fun or it can be a drag, depending on how you react. You can try some new fun things that your kids snubbed without even tasting. You can be creative, you can be fancy, you can try foods that never have been through your door before.

No more huge pots of mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, and meatloaf – you can try cool stuff like artichokes, leeks, lobster thermidor, and triple-chocolate Kahlua cakes. You can get dressed to the nines and set a fancy table in the formal dining room, or you can throw a red plaid tablecloth on the ground under a tree and have a picnic. 

My point is, it can be a lot of fun. It can be an adventure.

Swiss steak is not a new recipe for me. I have made it many times over the years. I had to leave out the green peppers, though, because two of the kids did not like them, and another did not eat tomatoes, so I left them out. It wasn’t much without them, though.

Now if they come to my house when I'm having Swiss steak, they just have to pick out the peppers. I am in control of my kitchen.

Swiss steak for two

3/4 pound boneless round steak, 1/2-inch thick

4 tablespoons flour, divided

1 teaspoon salt, divided

1 teaspoon black pepper, divided

2 tablespoons canola oil, divided

1 can (8 ounces) chopped stewed tomatoes

1 medium green pepper, sliced

1 medium red or yellow pepper, sliced

1 onion, sliced

Lay out the steak on a cutting board. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of flour, half the salt and half the pepper onto the meat. Pound with a meat tenderizer, or a small hammer will do. If you don’t have a small hammer, use a big one. It's your kitchen.

In a resealable plastic bag, combine the remaining flour, salt, and pepper. Cut steak into two pieces; place in bag and shake to coat. In a skillet, over medium heat, saute peppers and onions in 1 tablespoon of oil, until tender. Remove vegetables from pan, add the remainder of the oil and brown meat on both sides over medium heat. Add peppers, onions, and tomatoes to skillet with the meat. Turn down heat and simmer until meat is tender, about 30 minutes. Add water if needed.

Creamy linguini for two 

A light pasta dish with a creamy blend of Parmesan and ground nutmeg. 

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 10 minutes

Ready in: 30 minutes

1/2 pound linguine pasta

1 thick slice bacon

1/4 cup butter

1/2 cup cream

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add pasta and cook 7 to 8 minutes or until al dente; drain. Remove from pot, cover and set aside.

Meanwhile, cook bacon over medium heat until crispy. Break up into small pieces and set aside.

In the pasta pot, melt butter over medium-low heat and add cream. Heat thoroughly but do not allow to boil. Combine cooked pasta with butter/cream mixture. Add Parmesan cheese and bacon; toss well. Allow sauce to thicken for a few minutes; add pepper and nutmeg. Serve immediately, with a tossed green salad and garlic bread.

Apple pork stir-fry for 3

A bit of sweet from the pie filling, a bit of crunch from the water chestnuts.

Total time: 25 minutes

1/2 teaspoon cornstarch

1/2 cup apple cider or unsweetened apple juice

2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce

2 boneless pork loin chops (4 ounces each), cut into strips

2 teaspoons canola oil

1/2 cup sliced celery

1/2 cup sliced fresh carrots

1/3 cup sliced onions

1/3 cup julienned sweet red peppers

1/3 cup sliced water chestnuts

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1 cup apple pie filling

1 1/2 cups hot cooked rice

In a small bowl, combine cornstarch, cider, and soy sauce, stir until smooth; set aside.

In a large skillet or wok, stir-fry pork in oil 5 to 7 minutes or until no longer pink.

Add celery, carrots, onions, red peppers, water chestnuts, and ginger; stir-fry until vegetables are tender. Add pie filling. Stir cornstarch mixture into pork mixture. Bring to a boil; cook and stir 1 or 2 minutes or until thickened. Serve with rice.

Turkey chili for 2

Low in fat, calories

Total time: 30 minutes

1/4 pound lean ground turkey

1 small onion, chopped

1 can Italian diced tomatoes with juice

1/2 cup canned kidney beans, not drained

1-1/2 teaspoons chili powder

3/4 teaspoon white wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon salt, optional

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Dash ground cinnamon

Dash ground allspice

3 tablespoons shredded cheddar cheese, optional

Crumble turkey into a saucepan; add onion. Cook over medium heat until meat no longer is pink; drain. Add tomatoes, beans, chili powder, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce and seasonings. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes or until thickened. Discard bay leaf. Garnish with cheese if desired. Add canned tomatoes or beef broth if chili is too thick.

One serving: 1-1/4 cups (without salt or cheese) is 234 calories, 5g fat (1g saturated fat), 45mg cholesterol, 1,346mg sodium, 31g carbohydrate, 6g fiber, 17g protein.

Sausage lasagna for 3

Prep: 45 minutes

Bake: 40 minutes

2 Italian sausage links, casings removed

1/4 cup chopped onion

1 garlic clove, minced

1 can (14-1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes, not drained

1/4 cup tomato paste

3/4 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon dried basil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 egg, beaten

3/4 cup ricotta cheese

1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley

4 lasagna noodles, cooked and drained

3/4 to 1 cup shredded, part-skim mozzarella cheese

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Crumble sausage into a small skillet. Add onion and garlic; cook over medium heat until meat no longer is pink. Drain. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar and seasonings. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, 20 minutes. Combine egg, ricotta and parsley.

Spread 1/4 cup sauce in an 8-by-4-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Trim noodles to fit dish. Layer a third of the noodles over sauce; top with a third of the remaining sauce, a third of the ricotta mixture and 3 tablespoons mozzarella cheese. Repeat layers twice.

Cover; bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or until browned. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Let stand for 15 minutes before cutting.

One serving: 1 piece (prepared with turkey sausage, part-skim ricotta and 3/4 cup mozzarella) equals 496 calories, 19g fat (9g saturated fat), 148mg cholesterol, 1,120mg sodium, 45g carbohydrate, 5g fiber, 36g protein.

Almond praline cakes

Serves 4 (2 servings each for 2 people, because no one can stop at just one slice)

Prep: 20 minutes

Bake: 20 minutes

2 tablespoons butter

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

2 tablespoons 2 percent milk

1/4 cup chopped almonds

In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Stir in brown sugar and milk. Cook and stir until sugar is dissolved, about 1 minute. Pour into four 8-ounce ramekins or custard cups coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle with almonds; set aside.

2 tablespoons butter, softened

1/2 cup sugar

1 egg

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons baking cocoa

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/3 cup 2 percent milk

In a small bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Combine flour, cocoa, baking powder and baking soda; gradually add to creamed mixture, alternately with milk. Spoon over almonds.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick, inserted in the center, comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Carefully run a knife around the edge of ramekins to loosen. Invert cakes onto dessert plates. Serve warm or at room temperature. 

1 cake equals 410 calories, 18g fat (8g saturated fat), 86mg cholesterol, 282mg sodium, 59g carbohydrates, 2g fiber, 6g protein.

Tip of the week: Save leftover tomato paste by freezing 3-tablespoon-size-portions in ice cube trays, then transfer them to a heavy-duty resealable freezer bag. Use a frozen cube whenever you need a small amount of tomato paste. 

Readers Corner

I have been getting several recipes lately. Keep them coming.

Colleen Bonnell of Dixon, who sent us such a nice letter last week along with a lovely cherry pie recipe, has sent some more of her favorites, which include two slow cooker recipes. I am using one today that I am eager to try out on my big family. 

Colleen writes that she enjoys reading recipes in the newspaper and that this one is “pretty simple” and very good. We have a couple more from Colleen, and I would love to get more readers' recipes, so look through your files and send us some.

Thanks, Colleen, for sharing:

Crock-pot pork chops

6 to 8 pork chops, 1-inch thick, boneless

1/2 cup flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

2 tablespoons cooking oil

4 cans of chicken and rice soup

4 or 5 potatoes, cut into chunks

4 or 5 carrots, cut into chunks

Dip chops in dry mixture and brown in oil. Layer in the pot, the carrots on the bottom, potatoes in the middle, and the chops on top. Cover with soup. Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours. The recipe does not say how many it serves, but I am guessing 6 to 8. 

I also had a phone call from Dorothy Noble of Amboy. She is the reader who last week gave us a tip about making noodles using self-rising flour. Dorothy was telling me about a noodle cutter and did not know what it was called. It was not one that attaches to the mixer.

She just called me this week and said she and her daughter were shopping in Sterling and found one. She is sending it to me, so I will get the scoop for you.

What would we do without our dear readers?

Thanks, Dorothy.

– Grace

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