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Cooking for one takes getting used to

Susan Manzke
Finished Coffee Mug Brownie topped with a Kiss.

I’m having all kinds of problems when it comes to cooking. Making a meal for one isn’t easy, especially when I don’t know what I want to eat.

For many years, I cooked for six. Having four children at home meant many large meals.

My stews and soups were made in large pots, and included all kinds of vegetables. No one liked everything that went into the mix, not even my husband. Bob didn’t like carrots and when the kids saw their dad pushing aside the orange vegetable they figured they didn’t have to eat everything either, but I had a plan for that.

I told them they could push one vegetable aside, but only one. If they still found they couldn’t palate the family meal they were allowed to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich—they would never starve.

Leftovers were part of making a large pot of food. Bob and I always liked eating stew a second day. It actually tastes better. When that didn’t please people, out came the peanut butter.

After our children grew up and moved out, I couldn’t get out of the habit of cooking for six. Large pots were filled to simmer the morning away. At noon, Bob and I would happily dish out bowls of food—lunch was always our largest meal of the day.

We ate leftovers and eventually stored some in the freezer in containers fit for two. Those were thawed when there wasn’t time or energy to cook.

Now I’m cooking for one and having all kinds of problems. First, I ask myself what I want to eat. For years, I thought about what food would please the greatest number of people in the family, but especially Bob. He was the most hardworking and needed to refuel so he could continue farming.

Roast beef, chicken, steak, Bob would eat anything, well almost. Chicken wasn’t a favorite. I’m the roast chicken fan and I slipped that in now and then. He would eat it too, except he just wouldn’t enjoy it as much.

If I baked a cake, it was in a 9 by 13 pan. Cake was something everyone liked, though some liked chocolate more and others preferred marble. Cakes usually didn’t stay around long in a house filled with four growing children and Bob.

Today I had a craving for chocolate cake. My cookbooks gave me recipes for large cakes. I put them away. If I made a whole cake, I would end up eating it myself. Maybe not in one sitting, but it still would be more than I needed in a month.

It was time to check a little bit farther. I have a file of recipes given to me by family and friends. There’s one special brownie/cake I’ve made before and shared with Bob. It’s a cake in a mug. Here’s the recipe.

Coffee Mug Brownie batter going into microwave.

Coffee Mug Brownie

1 large Coffee Mug

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons sugar

1½ to 2 tablespoons baking cocoa (I use two because I like chocolate.)

A pinch of salt

3 tablespoons milk

Put dry ingredients in mug, and mix. Add milk, vanilla, oil, and chocolate chips and mix well.Put mug in the microwave and cook about 2 minutes on high. Cool a little before eating right out of the mug. It’s delicious warm. (To make this more cakelike, add an egg.)

I pigged out on my Coffee Mug Brownie today. It was more than enough to banish my craving and I’m not tempted by a pan full of leftover cake.

Making a small serving of stew or soup or even spaghetti is still out of reach for me. When cold weather returns, a large pot will be simmering on the stove just like always. I’ll just have a bunch of freezer containers ready for leftovers. Maybe I’ll even share with friends who are also cooking for one.

Susan Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165; sunnybook@aol.com; www.susanmanzke.net/blog.