Those cooking solo or for two can experiment with `mini' recipes

By , Special to The Christian Science Monitor

Many retirees enjoy cooking because they have, perhaps for the first time in their lives, the leisure to experiment. Some live solo or cook only for two, a change from shopping and preparing meals for a large family.

Fortunately, many manufacturers have finally caught on to the fact that there are many one-person households, and they've packaged and canned smaller quantities.

Not only is there now more of a choice of sizes for various foods, there's also a good assortment today of ``freezer to oven'' cookware designed for individual servings, plus pots and pans that stack easily for storing, have see-through covers, and can be bought in sets or singly.

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Today, when everyone is likely to eat smaller, lighter amounts of food, quality becomes more important. Grains, pasta, legumes, fruits, vegetables, dairy products, poultry, and fish are diet mainstays, with sometimes a few goodies here and there.

For those who want to subtract the fat from soups and stews, prepare these ahead, then refrigerate so the fat can harden on the surface and be easily removed.

Here are just a few possibilities that can serve as delicious main dishes for anyone living alone or cooking for a small family. California Turkey Salad Veronique for Two 1 cup cooked turkey, diced or shredded 1 tablespoon light French dressing 1/2 cup halved seedless grapes 1/4 cup chopped celery 2 tablespoons walnut or cashews, chopped 1/3 cup light mayonnaise or salad dressing 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

Mix turkey with French dressing. Chill 1 hour. Add grapes, celery, and nuts. Combine mayonnaise, lemon juice, salt to taste, and dash of pepper, if desired. Toss with salad. Chill. Serve with extra grapes. Serves 2.

Lentils with pasta is a combination well known in other parts of the world. In the Middle East it has been eaten for centuries. This recipe serves six but tastes good reheated, too. Lentils With Vermicelli 1 cup dried lentils 4 cups water 2 tablespoons olive oil 1 cup finely chopped onion 3 cloves garlic, minced 2 teaspoons ground coriander 3/4 pound vermicelli or other fine pasta broken into 3-inch lengths 3 tablespoons unsalted margarine or butter Salt 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Heat lentils and water in medium saucepan to boiling. Reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, until lentils are very tender, about 1 hour. Drain and reserve.

Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium heat until hot. Add onion, garlic, and coriander. Saut'e until onion is golden, about 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until al dente, about 12 minutes. Drain.

Add pasta, reserved lentils, margarine or butter, salt, and pepper to skillet. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until margarine is melted and lentils are heated through. Serves 6. Chicken a L'Orange 1 2-pound ready-to-cook broiler-fryer chicken, cut up 1 teaspoon curry or chili powder 1/4 cup orange juice 2 tablespoons honey 1 tablespoon prepared mustard 2 teaspoons cornstarch 1 tablespoon cold water 1/2 orange, peeled, sliced, and quartered

Sprinkle chicken pieces with curry or chili powder. Rub into meat. Arrange chicken in small baking dish, skin side down.

Combine orange juice, honey, and mustard in small saucepan. Simmer until blended. Pour over chicken.

Bake in 375 degree F. oven for 30 minutes. Turn chicken and continue baking 20 minutes longer or until tender.

Remove chicken to serving dish and keep warm. In small saucepan combine cornstarch and water. Stir in pan juices from chicken. Cook and stir until thick and bubbly.

Add orange pieces. Heat 1 minute. Pour sauce over chicken in serving dish or serve separately to be spooned over hot cooked rice. Serves 2. Tuna Chow Mein 1 chicken bouillon cube 1 cup water 1 tablespoon soy sauce Salt and pepper to taste 2 tablespoons cornstarch 6 stalks celery, cut diagonally 2 medium onions, slivered 1 6-ounce can bamboo shoots, drained 1 4-ounce can mushrooms, drained, or 4 ounces sliced, fresh mushrooms 2 cups fresh bean sprouts or 1 can bean sprouts, drained 2 tablespoons vegetable oil 1 7-ounce can water-packed tuna, drained

Dissolve bouillon cube in the water. Add soy sauce, salt, and pepper. Stir in cornstarch until dissolved. Set aside.

Slice celery diagonally 1/8-inch thick. Slice onions in very thin slices or slivers. Cut mushrooms in slices.

Heat oil in frying pan or wok over highest heat. When hot, toss in celery and onion. Stir-fry 1 minute. Add bamboo shoots, mushrooms, and bean sprouts.

Stir broth mixture and add to vegetables. Stir and cook just until sauce is thickened. Add tuna and stir until hot and sauce is clear.

Serve at once over fluffy rice. Serves 4.

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