Pantry Cooking: Carbonara for Two

There is something to say for having a few meals in the pantry for those times when you can’t think of what to fix or when your time is short.

This easy carbonara for two requires only 6 basic ingredients. (Seven if you want to add a handful of peas) It might be argued that this really requires 8 ingredients if you count the salt a pepper. OK. So maybe it’s 8 instead of 6. Still, not many ingredients and they are all things I keep on hand.

carbonara

Spaghetti Carbonara for Two

4 ounces spaghetti
1 clove garlic, minced
2 strips bacon, diced
1 large egg
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for topping
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 cup frozen peas, thawed (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

Bring salted water to a boil in a large sauce pan. Cook spaghetti according to package directions. Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water; drain well.
In a small bowl, whisk together egg and 1/4 cup Parmesan. Set aside.
Meanwhile, cook bacon in a skillet, over medium heat, until crisp. Remove and drain on a paper towel. Reserve drippings.
Saute garlic in drippings until fragrant. About 1 minute.
Add pasta to skillet. Working quickly, stir in egg mixture. Add reserved pasta water a small amount at a time until it is smooth and creamy. Fold in bacon, parsley and peas, if using, and top with additional Parmesan. Serve immediately.

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Pork Chops with Sweet and Spicy Sauce

A simple sauce is all you need to dress up a chop.

Sweet and Spicy Pork Chops

Pork Chops with Sweet and Spicy Sauce

2 boneless pork chops
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 shallot, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup vinegar
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground chipotle
1 teaspoon butter

Season both sides of chops with salt and pepper.

Brown chops in the oil over medium heat until cooked through. Remove from pan and keep warm.

Saute shallot and garlic in the pan drippings. De-glaze with vinegar and cook until liquid is almost completely reduced.

Add broth, sugar and chipotle to pan. Simmer until liquid is reduced by half. Remove from heat and stir in the butter.

Serve sauce with chops.

Salisbury Steak for Two

I’m OK with just a hamburger patty as an entree but, if you want to elevate the simple patty, you can call it Salisbury Steak.

salisbury steak for two

Salisbury Steak for Two

1 egg
1/4 cup dry bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/8 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons minced onion
1/2 pound ground beef

2 strips bacon
2 teaspoons dried parsley or 2 tablespoons fresh parsley
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup beef broth
2 tablespoons cream

Beat egg lightly in a mixing bowl. Add next five ingredients and stir to moisten. Crumble beef over mixture and mix well.

In a small skillet, fry bacon until crisp. Remove and drain on paper towels. Reserve drippings.

Mix parsley into beef and shape into two oblong patties. Spread 1/4 cup flour on a plate. Dredge patties in the flour and brown in bacon drippings.

Meanwhile, melt butter in small sauce pan. Add mushrooms and saute until tender. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons flour over mushrooms. Add beef broth, whisking continually until thickened. Continue to simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and add the cream. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Top patties with mushroom sauce and bacon.

Pork Chops for Two

Another effort to combat the problem of leftovers is to repackage items that you buy into smaller sizes. In this case, I wrapped pork chops from a larger package individually. When it’s time to cook, I can take out what I need.

This is an easy, inexpensive recipe for two that is quick to prepare.
porkchops

Pork Chops for Two

  • Difficulty: easy
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1 tablespoon olive oil
2 pork chops
Salt and pepper to taste
1 green pepper, sliced
1 small onion, sliced
1 teaspoon dry basil

Heat oil in a small skillet over medium high heat. Season pork on both sides with salt and pepper. Cook pork chops until browned on both sides.
Top chops with green pepper, onion and basil. Cover skillet, reduce heat and cook until vegetables are tender and pork is cooked through.

Crockpot Chicken Tetrazzini for Two

This is a simple recipe that can be dressed up any way you like. Add some carrots, celery or bell peppers for a different taste. Use turkey or pork instead of the chicken. Experiment a bit with herbs. It’s a blank canvas.

CrockpotTetrazziniforTwo

Crockpot Chicken Tetrazzini for Two

1½ cups cubed, cooked chicken
1 can (14½ ounce) chicken broth
½ cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
½ cup sliced mushrooms
¼ cup cream
1 tablespoon sherry (optional)
4 ounces dry spaghetti
Grated Parmesan cheese

Place first 5 ingredients into slow cooker. Cook on low for 4 to 5 hours.

Turn to high. Add spaghetti, cream and sherry, if using. Stir until mixed. Continue to cook for 30 minutes to 1 hour, or until spaghetti is tender.

Serve with Parmesan.

Cooking Like a Copycat

A few years ago, we decided that eating at most restaurants wasn’t really worth the money. Yes, it was nice not to cook. Yes, it was nice to go out, but the food wasn’t the central focus of the event. Of course, restaurant meals are no way to cut the food budget and, if it isn’t good, why bother.

Copycat recipes can replace the food that is missed by cooking at home instead of eating out. Last week, I tried one of my husband’s favorites–Jack-in-the-Box tacos. I tried to follow this recipe, but I didn’t have everything listed. I had to make refried beans and, of course, they don’t taste like those from a can. I didn’t have the specific taco sauce called for in the recipe, so I used what I had on hand. I’ve never had a Jack-in-the-Box taco, but I thought they tasted fine. The expert, my spouse, said they tasted fine but were nowhere near the real thing. I guess I’ll have to go out for a taco dinner to know for sure.

Buddy

If you miss some of your favorites, there is a recipe for just about any restaurant dish:

Picadillo Stuffed Peppers

One of the best cost-saving measures that I have implemented is cutting the amount of food that I cook. Most recipes are for 4 servings and sometimes more. We couldn’t eat the entire recipe, so the left-overs often sat in the refrigerator until they no longer resembled food. (I do miss the fun of guessing what the furry blobs in the container once were.)

Here is a take on stuffed peppers that is a little different. If you want a milder dish, then substitute bell peppers for the poblanos.

Stuffed Peppers

 

Picadillo Stuffed Peppers

  • Servings: 2
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1 tablespoons oil
1/2 pound lean ground beef
1/2 cup diced onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup diced tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped apple
1/4 cup raisins
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup beef broth
2 poblano peppers cut in half, seeds and membranes removed
1/4 cup Mexican-style shredded cheese

Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Brown ground beef in oil until no longer pink.
Add onion and garlic. Cook until soft.
Add apple, raisins, cinnamon, and beef broth. Simmer until liquid is absorbed.
Arrange the peppers, cut side up, in a baking dish. Fill peppers with ground beef mixture. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until the peppers are tender.
Top each pepper with1 tablespoons of cheese and continue to bake until the cheese is melted.
2 Servings, (2 half peppers each)