The small batch meals category are generally two or three servings. Some people hate leftovers, but making a slightly bigger batch of something can be a big time saver. Instead of cooking a new meal, just reheat a previous meal. Or, make a bigger batch, eat one serving, and freeze the rest for later.
On the other hand, if you are cooking for one, you don’t want enough soup to feed ten people! For recipes like these, I have cut down the amounts to make far fewer servings than normal recipes. Usually, it’s enough for two or three meals.
I do this quite a bit with soup (because there’s usually a lot of chopping and simmering and it’s more efficient to do it once, rather than three times). It’s also a good technique for chili and meatballs.
There are probably hundreds or thousands of variations of this easy Mediterranean fish stew. In San Francisco, they add shellfish and clam juice or fish stock and call it cioppino. Sicilians make it with sea bass or orange roughy. The Greeks use dill and potatoes, while the Portuguese add sausage.
This particular version has tomatoes, potatoes, and some citrus zest. I adapted it from a New York Times recipe (which made a big pot of stew, enough for 6 people, and included the dreaded anchovies). I also threw in some mushrooms (mostly because I wanted to use them up). There’s no shellfish, and I made it with cod (which is more sustainable and budget-friendly than orange roughy or sea bass). I also swapped the chopped tomatoes they called for with tomato puree (that’s what I had, and it cooks faster).
There are two nice things about this recipe. The first is that it’s super-easy to make. Just make the stew, and then add the fish at the very end. Don’t overcook it!
The second is that you can make it in advance up to the point where you add the fish. When you’re ready to eat, reheat the stew and add the fish once it’s hot.
I just love stuffed cabbage, but making all those individual rolls is just a big pain in the neck. It looks good, but it’s labor-intensive and all that work is just not worth it (unless you want to impress company). And, most recipes make enough to feed a small army. Great for a crowd, but not so great when you’re cooking for one. What I really wanted was a small batch unstuffed cabbage rolls recipe. Something easy to put together.
I decided there must be an easier way. I saw a recipe for unstuffed cabbage rolls, made with meatballs and shredded cabbage. Make the meatballs, shred the cabbage, and pile the meatballs on the cabbage. It sounded good (and more of a savory, than sweet/sour recipe). That’s still quite a bit of work.
Then, I hit on an easier method. Instead of making individual rolls, or shredding cabbage, I would layer it instead. Like lasagna!
So, that’s what I did. It’s easiest if you cut the core of the cabbage off first. Then the leaves will come off more easily.
I cut off a few cabbage leaves, made the filling and the sauce, and then put the whole thing in a square baking pan. It was enough for several meals, and proved to be a life-saver as I got sick a few days later. Since I had all that unstuffed cabbage, I didn’t have to cook much.
If you don’t want to eat cabbage every day for several days, cut it into individual portions and freeze them in plastic containers.
I used red cabbage because the cabbage I’d ordered to make no mayo cabbage slaw turned out to be huge! You can use green cabbage if you prefer.
Rolling up cabbage rolls is just too much work. So, I layered my cabbage and sauce and made unstuffed cabbage instead. It's much easier, faster, and still tastes great.
8-10 cabbage leaves
3/4 lb. ground beef
1/4 C raw rice
1/2 small onion, chopped
1T neutral oil
1/2 small onion, chopped
1 1/4 C tomato sauce
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp sriracha sauce
1 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp sugar
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Remove the cabbage leaves (it's easier if you cut out the core first). If it's neat, great, if not don't worry about it.
Mix all the ingredients for the filling together in a medium-size bowl and set aside.
Cook the chopped onion in a saucepan with some neutral oil. Add the tomato sauce, salt and pepper, sriracha, lemon juice, and sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat, and simmer for 15 minutes, covered.
Take an eight inch square baking pan (the kind you would use for brownies). Layer some of the cabbage leaves on the bottom.
Add some of the filling, spreading it out to cover the cabbage.
Now layer the sauce on top.
Add another layer of cabbage leaves.
Repeat this procedure, alternating filling, sauce, and cabbage layers until you run out or the pan is full (stop about an inch from the top).
Cover the pan with foil, put it in the oven, and bake for one hour.
Substitutions and Variations for Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls
This pan is a staple for every kitchen. If you don’t have one, you should. Use it for stuffed cabbage, large batches of brownies, or cakes. It’s heavy-duty, so it won’t warp. The handles make it much easier to take the hot pan out of the oven too.
Cuisinart Mixing Bowls I have had these bowls…forever. They stack neatly inside each other (important in a small kitchen), and the lids mean you can use them for storing leftovers, or for something that has to marinate overnight. And, the lids seal nicely so your food won’t slosh all over the inside of your fridge.
I have been making my spicy stovetop chili recipe the same way for years — until recently. There was a blizzard raging outside and I figured chili would keep me (and the apartment warm). The recipe has evolved since I first started making it, but I’ve been consistently using kidney beans, green and red bell peppers and threw in some chopped jalapeños and a couple of spoonfuls of salsa.
However, I didn’t have any of those ingredients on hand and had no intention of going outside to get them! So, I improvised. Instead of kidney beans I used cooked small white beans (which I had leftover from making this delicious garlicky bean dip). If you don’t have cooked beans ready, use this quick soaking method to speed up the process, or just use half a can.
That solved the bean problem, but there was still the question of adding more heat. I did have plenty of sriracha sauce and ground cayenne, so I used that and added a pinch of cinnamon to balance it out.
The chili came out so well I think I may make it this way going forward. Less chopping!
This makes about three or four servings. You can make it for company, eat it several times in one week, or freeze individual portions for later use.
Spicy stovetop chili you can have ready in a little over an hour.
2T vegetable oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb grass-fed beef*
1/2 can crushed tomatoes
1 T tomato paste
1 tsp cumin
1T chili powder
1/2 cup white beans (soaked and cooked), or about 1/2 can
2 squirts sriracha sauce
1/2 tsp dried coriander
1 generous pinch cayenne powder
1 generous pinch ground cinnamon
Heat the oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven. Add the onions and cook on low heat until soft.
Add the garlic. Cook stirring for a minute or two.
Add the meat and brown, stirring so it browns evenly.
Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, and the beans. Add the sriracha and the spices.
Simmer on low heat about 60 minutes.
Adjust seasoning as necessary.
Serve in bowls, and top with sour cream and shredded cheddar cheese.
*I used grass-fed beef because I think it tastes better. If you can't get it, or you disagree, use the regular kind.
Also, if the tomatoes are a bit sour, add a pinch of sugar.
Substitutions and Variations for Spicy Stovetop Chili Recipe
use kidney beans instead of white beans
replace the sriracha with Tabasco sauce
add a teaspoon or two of salsa
add jalapeño peppers to taste
add about 1/4 each red and green bell pepper about 10 minutes before the end of the cooking time (so they keep a bit of crunch)
use 2/3 pound beef and 1/3 lb. pork
Calphalon Stainless Steel Dutch Oven, 5-quart Dutch ovens are great for chili, for large pots of pasta (or pasta sauce). They can be used on the stove or in the oven for baking. This one has a glass lid (which I like because you can see if the water is boiling without getting a facefull of steam. It also has measuring lines (to make it easy to tell how much water or food you’ve added, as well as a built-in colander (handy for pouring out the water when you make pasta).
The Chili Cookbook If you really love chili, and are willing to be creative with it, this is a great resource. It’s got chili with ingredients you might not normally associate with chili, as well as lots of classics. There’s different sorts of beans (or no beans at all), vegetarian options, even one with lobster and corn! There are also recipes for huevos rancheros and even instructions on making your own chorizo. I better stop now, I’m about to start drooling over my keyboard.
This recipe for sweet and sour turkey meatballs with jelly and chili sauce is comfort food that’s grown up and gone to the big city.
When I was a kid, my grandma used to make those classic grape jelly meatballs. Kind of sweet, but comforting and simple. As my tastes have gotten more sophisticated, I wanted something with more complex and “grownup” flavor: not quite as sweet, a little more sour, and with a bit of a spicy kick.
I replaced the grape jelly with no sugar strawberry jam (it’s sweetened only with juice, there’s no sugar or artificial sweetener), then added chili sauce, a bit of Tabasco and apple juice and got sweet and sour turkey meatballs.
My parents were visiting one day, and decided to stay for dinner. I had ground turkey and the rest of the ingredients in the fridge. I whipped up a batch of these, and I swear you’d think they’d never eaten before. Dad was sopping up the sauce with bread. Heck, he practically licked the plate! Maybe I should have called these “lick the plate clean sweet and sour meatballs.”
You make this recipe in two stages, first the meatballs, and then the sauce. Put the meatballs in the oven for a few minutes to keep them from falling apart when you add them to the sauce.
Sweet and sour jelly turkey meatballs. Easy to make and you can eat one serving and freeze the rest for another time.
1 lb. ground turkey
1/2 cup oatmeal, ground up in a mini-chopper (or use breadcrumbs)
2T apple cider
salt and pepper
Sweet and Sour Sauce
1 large can tomato sauce (the 15 oz size)
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 T chili sauce
2T jam (I like blackberry or St. Dalfour Four Fruits)
1/4 tsp onion powder
2 dashes Worcestershire sauce
2 dashes Tabasco
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
To make the meatballs, combine turkey, egg, oatmeal (or bread crumbs), cider and salt and pepper in a large bowl. Use your hands to mix everything thoroughly.
Form the mixture into meatballs, about 2 inches in diameter. Place the meatballs in a shallow roasting pan or a cookie sheet.
Put the meatballs in the oven and bake for five minutes.
While the meatballs are cooking, start the sauce.
Combine all the sauce ingredients in a large saucepan. Stir to combine. When the meatballs are finished baking, remove them from the oven and set them down in a convenient spot.
Gently lift the meatballs out of the pan and place them into the pot of sauce.
Let the sauce simmer for 15 minutes until the meatballs are done. Taste the sauce and correct the seasoning (sweetness or sourness) as necessary.
Serve with rice or bread (for sopping up the sauce)
Check your tomato sauce to see if it has sugar or corn syrup. If it does, you may need to add more lemon juice.
I use all fruit jam (no added sweetener). Use more lemon, or less jam, if yours has sugar or added sweeteners.
Sweet and Sour Turkey Meatballs with Jelly and Chili Sauce Substitutions and Variations
Use beef instead of turkey
Replace the oatmeal with breadcrumbs
Try cranberry juice instead of apple cider (it will be a bit more tart)
Experiment with different jam flavors: strawberry, raspberry, four-fruit, sour cherry (you could even go back to good old grape)
Tools and Ingredients for This Recipe
St. Dalfour Strawberry Conserves This jam (technically conserves) is sweetened only with juice. There’s no sugar and no artificial sweeteners. The other thing I like about it is that there aren’t any extra thickeners added (like maltodextrin) to bulk it up.
Black & Decker 2-Speed Food Chopper with 3-Cup Bowl I’m not sure which I use more, this chopper or the immersion blender. If you make the recipe with oatmeal, this little gadget is great for grinding it up. It’s also good for chopping onions, potatoes, or whipping up a small batch of pesto. The bowl doubles as a storage bowl (it comes with its own lid).
OXO Good Grips Medium Cookie Scoop Ever hear of a cookie scoop? I hadn’t, until recently. Ice cream sure, but not cookies. The more I think about it the more uses I come up with.
It would be great for meatballs, cookies, or the perfect scoop of tuna, egg, or potato salad. It has a soft handle that’s easy to grip (it was originally developed for someone with arthritis, but it works well for everyone). Dishwasher safe too.