Cooking For One Person — Hacks, Tips and Tricks- Part 2

Cooking for one person can be hard. It may be your first time cooking or it may be the waste that’s often involved. Here are some tips to make things easier!

Cooking for one person
Cooking for one person

When I post recipes, I’ll often post hacks at the end of it to give some helpful information in regards to storing leftover ingredients or to make things easier.  I hope this has been beneficial but I also thought it might be great to have all those ideas in one place.  Yep, right here.

Print ‘em out and stick ‘em right on your fridge.  I hope they help!

Ready?  Let’s GO!

Baked Goods

Bread Making Tips
Bread Making Tip


Do not add flour to the countertop while kneading unless absolutely necessary.  This may cause your finished product to be dry.  If the dough is sticky at first, spray the surface and your hands with cooking spray while kneading.  Use a pastry scraper or spatula to fold dough if necessary.

For better rising, put the covered dough in a sunny spot in your house.  I’m not sure this is necessary for warmer climates but it sure helps here in cold New England!

On the final rise, gauge the readiness of the dough by pressing your finger gently on the top.  If it bounces right back, it’s not proofed enough.  Your fingerprint should remain briefly after you take your finger away, however, if your dough falls to any degree after removing your finger, it’s over-proofed and will probably fall in the oven.

Bread can be sliced and then frozen or refrigerated for longer storage.  You can “refresh” the bread by warming it briefly in the microwave or toasting it before use.

If the bread stales before you’ve finished eating it, run it between your fingers (or use a food processor) to turn it into bread crumbs.   Seal in a bag or container and store in the freezer for future use.

Recipes for loaves of bread can be turned into sandwich rolls if preferred.  After the first rise, separate the dough into 8 pieces and form into rolls.  Allow to rise until double, about 30 minutes.

Loaves and cakes

Instead of making a single big cake or bread, make smaller loaves (for freezing or giving away!) by dividing batter between two 6’ x 4” loaf pans, 12 muffin tins or shaping dough into rolls.

Dried Beans

Using Dried Beans
Using Dried Beans

Cooked legumes, beans and lentils can be frozen for future use but allow them to thaw completely in the refrigerator before reheating.

One 15 oz. can of cooked beans can be substituted for each cup of dried beans in most recipes.  Drain, rinse and add to the pot at the end of the recipe.

Fresh Produce

Avoiding Produce Waste
Avoiding Produce Waste

Brussels sprouts, broccoli florets, shallots, mushrooms and other items can often be found loose and/or pre-cut in the produce department of your grocery store..  If you don’t see them, ask a clerk if they’re available.

Cabbage:  Instead of buying an entire head of cabbage, ask the produce clerk to cut it into wedges so you’ll only have to buy what you need.  They’ll wrap the leftover pieces and put it back on the shelf for sale.

Carrots:  Matchstick carrots can be found in the packaged section of the produce department.  Freeze any leftover carrots for use in cooking

Cranberries:  Cranberries can only be bought fresh when they’re “in season”.  If you want to stock up, fresh cranberries can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 30 days or frozen for up to a year.  Frozen cranberries are available in the freezer section of your local grocery store year-round.

Frozen vegetables:  Frozen veggies can be substituted for fresh vegetables in cooked recipes.  This includes frozen onions and peppers.

Green onions: Chop green onions and freeze in a sealable freezer bag or container for future use.  The defrosted onions may not be pretty enough to use as a garnish but they’ll be perfectly fine for cooking.


To easily zest a whole orange, use a vegetable peeler and then chop peeled zest finely with a sharp knife. Lay unused zest in a single layer and freeze. Store, tightly wrapped, in the freezer for up to 6 months.

Puree any leftover oranges in the blender or food processor for use in recipes such as cakes, cookies or breads. 1 orange yields about ½ cup, which can be sealed in a bag and stored in the freezer.

Tomatoes:  If you have leftover tomatoes that are becoming over-ripe, simply puree them in the blender and freeze the fresh puree in sealed freezer bags or containers to use in recipes at a later date.  No need to core, peel or seed ‘em…just toss ‘em right in.  Run the puree through a mesh colander if you want to remove the seeds.

Tricks of the Trade

Hacks, Tips and Tricks
Hacks, Tips and Tricks

Bacon Grease:  Store any leftover bacon grease tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.  It can be used as a substitute for butter in various cooked dishes.  Caution:  Use caution when cooking with bacon grease.  It has a smoke point similar to butter, which is lower than oils.

Blue Cheese:  Many grocery store delis cut and wrap blue cheese for the shelf.  If you can’t find the size you’re looking for, ask a clerk to cut it for you.  Blue cheese can be frozen but it will lose some of its creaminess and flavor.

Meats:  When cutting meats, place them in the freezer for 30 minutes prior to butterflying or thin slicing to allow for more stability.  Allow to thaw completely before proceeding with the rest of the recipe.

Softened Butter:  Butter will soften to room temperature in 30-60 minutes, depending on the size of the chunk of butter.  Butter can also be softened in the microwave at 30% power for 5-second intervals until desired softness.

Room Temperature Eggs:   Forget to take that egg out of the fridge to warm up?  Place it in warm (not boiling!) water for 10 minutes.

Turmeric: stains anything it touches so proceed with caution!

Just one more tip:  Click here to check out my favorite bags and containers to freeze all the above-mentioned goodies!

That’s All For Now!


So, I think that’s enough for one day, don’t you?  That’s a whole lot of information and I hope it comes in handy!

Did I miss anything?  Do you have any handy-dandy hacks, tips and tricks to share with the class?  Please leave a comment below to let us know what it is!

All my best



No Throw Zone: How To Use Leftovers

Many think that “leftovers” are just a step ahead of “garbage”. Welcome to the No Throw Zone as we talk about a few creative thoughts on how to use leftovers.

No Throw Zone
No Throw Zone

Show of hands, who loves leftovers? Anybody? No? Well, I’m not surprised. Leftovers have gotten a bad rap over the course of time.

Old adages such as “Waste Not, Want Not” and “Clean Your Plate” still ring in our ears from our childhoods (and maybe our children’s childhoods as well!). We were continuously reminded that there were starving children that would give their eye teeth for just one bite of the tuna surprise that was sitting on the table in front of us.

Even Pope Francis jumped on the bandwagon in 2013 saying, “Throwing away food is like stealing from the table of those who are poor and hungry.”

All of this makes us feel like leftovers are something we must eat instead of something we could actually enjoy.

I would like to welcome you to the No Throw Zone as we talk about a few creative thoughts on how to use leftovers.

Safely Storing Food Leftovers

Safely Store Leftovers
Safely Store Leftovers

I’m gonna put this at the top of the list because it’s important to store your leftovers in a manner that will allow you to use them in a timely manner before they go bad. For cooked meats and hardy vegetables, the general rule of thumb is that they should be eaten or frozen within 5 days of putting them in the refrigerator (which should happen within 2 hours of cooking them!).

This 5-day rule doesn’t apply to everything so make sure you do your homework. Cured meats can be stored up to 14 days in the fridge after being opened, whereas a fruit or vegetable salad will probably look mushy and unappealing by the next day.

It’s best to use the “first in, first out” method of using your leftovers. When you put a container in, pull any existing containers to the front so they can be used first and the older stuff won’t be hidden in the back!

Keep in mind that’s OK to toss something that looks or smells “funny”. Or, as often happens to me, if you can’t remember when you made it. Never take the chance of getting sick just so you can say you didn’t have to throw it away!

What’s For Lunch Today?

What's For Lunch?
What’s For Lunch?

How about leftovers from your dinner last night?

Nothing’s easier than depositing your leftovers from diner directly into a microwave-safe container to have for lunch the next day. Many dishes are even better when the flavors have had a chance to meld overnight. Don’t believe me? You can’t argue with science, man.

Let’s take that soup or stew, for example. This type of dish is typically simmered for some amount of time, both to cook the ingredients and to evaporate some of the liquid, which makes the broth more concentrated and flavorful.

This evaporation process continues as the dish cools and even in the refrigerator. The meat and vegetables absorb liquid as well, causing them to become more tender and flavorful as time goes on. These chemical reactions are what turn that tasty dinner into a heavenly lunch!

Make It New Again

Make It New Again
Make It New Again

When my kids were growing up, a family favorite was turning stew, pot roast or boiled dinner into hash a day or two later. Simply remove the meat and veggies out of the liquid, chop ‘em up small and crisp them up in a saute pan with a little oil. Use cornstarch to turn the broth into the gravy and you’ve got a real “stick-to-your-ribs” kind of meal. My kids now use this recipe for their own families!

You can also turn any kind of leftovers into a stir-fry. Give them a quick saute and then toss with soy sauce, sesame oil, grated Parmesan or whatever you’ve got on hand!

Puree leftovers to stir into pasta sauce to kick up nutrition and flavor. Or mix them in with pasta and some grated cheese for an easy-peasy meal.

Leftover meat or seafood? How about a sandwich? Or toss it up with some lettuce and your favorite salad dressing! Nachos, chicken salad, ham salad…the possibilities are endless.

Quick And Easy Soup

Quick and Easy Soup
Quick and Easy Soup

Soup’s On! Make that quick and easy soup. Got some bouillon? Puree your leftovers to add for a comforting, tasty broth or mix them in as they are for a hearty soup. Top it with freshly made croutons (made from any kind of leftover bread) and dinner’s ready!

Feeling adventurous? How about some ramen? I know this recipe calls for chicken, celery and carrots but you’re feeling adventurous, right? Go ahead and try it with some different ingredients. Basic, dried, unflavored ramen noodles can be found in the Asian section of your local supermarket and have a long shelf life so why not stock up?

And, just for the record, making your own soup or ramen broth is about one million times better than that “instant” stuff.

Improving The Bottom Line

Improving The Bottom Line
Improving The Bottom Line

Using (reusing?) your leftovers has benefits far beyond the cost of trash bags. Not only are you saving money on your grocery bill, but you’re also reducing greenhouse gas emissions as well as your ecological footprint. You’re improving the bottom line for yourself and the whole world.

And lest I end this sounding like your mother, I will also point out that you’re creating tasty and nutritious meals to enjoy with your family and friends. Because that’s the real bottom line, isn’t it?


All my best,





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