- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Meal preparation usually is such a rushed affair it’s hard to justify cooking any food that takes more than 15 minutes from start to finish. However, slower-cooking ingredients can yield time-saving dividends if you make more than you need for one recipe.

Although cooking with leftovers in mind is a technique more often used by those feeding large groups, it works equally well for twosomes.

Take an inventory of your menus for the past week and see what you used most often. Those are the items you can cook in greater quantity. Here are some ideas to start.

You probably use chicken once a week for soups, salads or casseroles. Roast four or six chicken breast halves instead of your usual one or two. Strip the meat from the bone and package it in one-cup portions. Label and freeze. When you’re making an entree salad, toss in a thawed package of cooked chicken.

Rice probably is one of those ingredients you don’t think to make in bulk. But imagine all the dishes you serve with rice.

Think how convenient it would be to pull cooked rice out of the freezer and ladle on your favorite chili. Again, double or triple the recipe. Spoon the cooked rice, in one-cup portions, into containers, then label and freeze. Reheat cooked rice alone or in a recipe you’re making.

Even vegetables have a second life. Bake an extra sweet potato, and you have the base for a delicious muffin for Sunday brunch. The following recipe yields more than enough for two. Pack the remainders in single-serve portions and freeze. To serve, thaw and warm the muffins in a preheated 325-degree oven for 5 minutes.

Sweet-potato muffins

1 cup flour

1½ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ginger

1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons light brown sugar

3/4 cup mashed sweet potato (1 small cooked, peeled sweet potato)

1 egg, beaten

3 tablespoons melted butter

1/4 cup milk

2 tablespoons finely chopped crystallized ginger

2 tablespoons chopped pecans

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, granulated sugar and light brown sugar in a large bowl. Stir well.

Combine sweet potato, egg, melted butter and milk in a bowl. Blend well. Stir sweet-potato mixture into flour. Do not beat; mix gently to wet dough. Stir in ginger and pecans.

Spoon batter into 9 greased muffin tins. Fill 3 empty tins half full with water. Bake muffins in preheated 375-degree oven for 18 minutes or until golden. Cool muffins in tin for 5 minutes. Turn out onto wire rack and cool completely. Makes 9 muffins.

Bev Bennett is the author of “30-Minute Meals for Dummies” (John Wiley & Sons Inc.).

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