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GENERATIONS: Evan Hazard: Bachelor cuisine, continued

As noted last month, the column I'd started to write got sidetracked by a visit to Sanford Health Bemidji's excellent ER (Emergency “Room”: actually, department). Turned out my blood potassium (K) was a bit low. Remedy: daily banana plus frequent use of spinach or other high-K greens.

Evan HazardBut what had I in mind in the first place? A vague notion, that's what. Most of you know I live alone, having suddenly lost my companion of some six decades during “the Holidays” in late 2010. I’ve mentioned Elaine here often, most notably in my columns of March and May 2011, and November 2012. Among her many virtues, Elaine was a splendid cook, partly because she had a hungry husband who appreciated trying new dishes and was of some help in the kitchen.  Growing up, neither of us had run into much imaginative cooking.

Cooking for one, as too many of us know, can be a problem. Mostly you cook for two or more, then freeze or fridge the rest. Unfortunately, not everything improves when reheated. Also, buying fresh produce or dairy takes careful planning to avoid spoilage. A pint of half-and-half must be dated at least 10 days ahead, unless timing allows for taking it to church for coffee time.

Stores carry lots of ready-made food for us singles. Much of it is too salty, and maybe also too fatty. Some of it is takeout, either ready-to-eat or to warm and eat. Wraps, including burritos, are among my favorites, and are widely available. Some are big enough for two meals: suppers tonight and two nights later. Pizza is also available as freshly baked takeout, or as ready to bake at home. No way should anyone my age do a whole pizza at one meal, but it keeps and rewarms well.

The one advantage of cooking for one is that I've nobody to please but myself. Here’s how supper prep went Thursday, Dec. 21 (Winter Solstice, or Saturnalia). Fresh produce: cauliflower, onions, yellow sweet pepper, half a zucchini. Canned and boxed items: “14 oz.” cans of JYOTi Delhi Saag (downtown grocery) and Our Family NO SALT ADDED diced tomatoes; three 5 oz. cans of Our Family light tuna, and one can of Our Family mushroom stems and pieces.

Zatarain’s Spanish Rice, dry mix. (Our Family and selected Zatarain’s products are available at both Bemidji supermarkets).

Zatarain’s dinners generally take 16-17 minutes in a microwave, so I started there. Drained as much liquid as possible from all the cans into a 6-pint measuring cup. Chopped the tuna in the cans, then added all the canned items to the dry Spanish rice mix in an immense ovenproof glass bowl that fits in my larger microwave. Followed box directions, adding measured water to liquids already saved. Directions on the box include stopping every 5-6 min. to stir.

While that mix was microwaving, I chopped and steamed about two cups of cauliflower and two smallish onions (14 min.), the yellow pepper (8 min.), and the zucchini (4 min.). Oven mitt and potholder helped move the bowl of mix to a counter, where I added the steamed veggies, stirred, and filled five 1-pint containers: one for supper, and the others to freeze.

My source of reusable pint containers is the New China restaurant, where I buy egg drop soup.  I also get egg fried rice there. That, combined with the soup, a plastic single serving of Chinese mustard, and above sorts of steamed veggies plus fish or chicken and either Delhi Saag or Our Family canned cut spinach, make a different sort of five or six frozen suppers, one described here in March 2002.

My source of labels to show month, contents, and estimated fat grams per serving is the scads of address labels that come with begging letters sent via US Mail. I will never run out of them.

Cholesterol: since quatorze juillet (Bastille Day) 2007, I’ve stabilized my blood cholesterol at a level that keeps Dr. David Wilcox happy. Depending mostly on the protein I add, these pint suppers contain 1-8 fat grams. My freezer soup, which you may remember from the September 2015 “Threescore and Ten,” sometimes runs higher, maybe 8-13 fat grams.

What about salt (table salt, sodium chloride)? It’s usually on labels of cans and boxes as mg of sodium per serving, so you multiply that by the number of claimed servings to get total per can, which is what I need for calculating the total and dividing by the number of pint containers. We'll maybe consider that another time.  

I'm submitting this on Thursday, Dec. 28, the seventh anniversary of Elaine’s departure. It is fitting that an article in her memory be about food prep.

Evan Hazard is a retired BSU biology professor.