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Cooking for Two or Who Am I Kidding?

By Tobye S. Stein

The writer, her husband Neal Alpiner and Buddy the Bichon lighting the Hannukah candles
The writer (left), her husband Neal Alpiner and Buddy the Bichon lighting the Hannukah candles

Like so many of my friends and family members, I am now cooking solely for two. Well, the only ones at home are my husband Neal and me and our dog Buddy, of course. We used to have friends over for dinner before the pandemic, but that’s not happening now. There aren’t many things that I cook that couldn’t feed four to six people, but when it comes to meals, it’s really no problem. I freeze what’s left, and we have dinner for another evening down the road.

While I’ve been a decent cook for some time, sheltering in place has taken my cooking to a new and higher level. Every so often, I’ll ask Facebook friends, what are you cooking? I typically get a fair number of responses, and if something sounds interesting, I ask for the recipe. As a result, we’ve had chicken taco casserole, Mediterranean turkey burgers, and sweet potato and black bean chili. I purchased an instant pot several weeks ago, followed by an air fryer lid, and many more recipes are now being incorporated regularly, including caprese chicken, beef teriyaki and stir fry tofu and vegetables (which are actually excellent). One of our favorite newer recipes is Vegetable Tian. It’s a Dorie Greenspan recipe from Everyday Dorie that I mostly stick to.

Unless I’m trying a new recipe for the first time, I rarely rely on exact recipes. Often the same dish isn’t really the same the next time I make it. I season to taste, I substitute if I don’t have something available, and I don’t think twice about it.

In five months, I only had one epic failure; instant pot polenta, Ironically, another friend made the same disappointing dish. We concluded some things should be made in the oven.

I’ve recently gone back to baking, but the problem with baked goods is that they’re too yummy. On the plus (or minus) side, Neal has lost several pounds, and I haven’t gained any weight. We’ve taken to distributing muffins and quick breads to some of our neighbors. Baking is more scientific than cooking, so measurements matter.

Early on, Neal kept telling me he was going to make sweet and sour meatballs. He’s made them before but really hadn’t been doing any cooking. After three months of hearing this, I finally asked, “Are you going to make the damn meatballs or just keep talking about them?” Clearly, I was tiring of coming up with two to three meals a day. So he made the meatballs, which were delicious, and yes, I helped. We actually work well in the kitchen together most of the time.

Since then, Neal has made Hobo Bread (a Greenfield Village recipe) twice, blueberry soup (a cold soup recipe that was printed in the Detroit Free Press), and grilled steaks. Neal is getting a lot more comfortable in the kitchen, too. He’s even used the immersion blender a few times.

After Neal’s first foray into Hobo Bread, I tweaked the recipe a bit, and round two was much better. I’m not a fan of nuts in baked goods, so they are frequently eliminated. It also takes care of the recipient of said baked goods saying, “Oh, I’m allergic to nuts. “

I can honestly say I’m starting to prefer my food (and Neal’s) to takeout or other restaurant fare!

Hobo Bread:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. If you have a convection oven, I would recommend baking at 325 degrees.

While traditionally baked in a can, we’ve used aluminum loaf pans or a regular loaf pan.


1-1/2 cups boiling water

2 cups raisins

4 tsp. baking soda

4 tsp. softened butter

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste

1 tsp. cinnamon

1-3/4 cups walnuts (pecans or almonds also work well)

4 cups all purpose flour (we use Cup4Cup Gluten Free Flour)


Pour boiling water over raisins, let cool

Once cooled, stir in all ingredients

Fill 3 greased and floured 28-ounce cans or 2 medium aluminum or regular loaf pans.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 45-60 minutes (oven temperatures vary). If the top is browning too quickly, cover pans with foil

Cool and remove from pans or cans


Tobye S. Stein retired as Chief Human Resources Officer from a California-based financial services organization. She once landed a job by replying to the age old question, “Why should I hire you instead of the other two candidates” by simply stating “I’m funnier than most people.” It worked.



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