Pack the pot

Fast, frugal and healthy meals in just one pot

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March 28, 2014 | 10:30 am

IOWA CITY — Hanna Rosman never had to embrace the “eat local” movement. The daughter of a farmer, eating local was her childhood.

“I was raised with that knowledge and understanding of food,” says Rosman, a University of Iowa senior majoring in anthropology.

So when she moved out of the dorms and into an apartment, Rosman put that knowledge to use, creating quick, economical and healthy dishes that would keep her energy up and mind sharp. She shares her experience as a blogger with the UI’s Division of Student Life.

“I kind of cook my recipes in bulk on Sunday, so I have leftovers for the rest of the week,” she says.

Efficiency is key, which is another reason Rosman loves one-pot cooking — there is only one pot to clean.

“It’s a way to blend natural foods and eating healthy in a quick manner,” Rosman says.

It’s the health aspect that attracted Elizabeth Yarnell to one-pot cooking.

Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1999, Yarnell began to examine the impact her food choices had on her health.

“My staple diet at that time was Diet Coke, Crystal Light and gummy bears,” says Yarnell, who lives in Colorado.

Her research into better nutrition all said the same thing — cooking from scratch is better than eating processed foods. Only she didn’t have time to prepare homemade meals.

“I wanted to eat healthy, but I didn’t have all day, every day, to spend in the kitchen,” Yarnell says.

Yarnell received a cast iron Dutch oven as a wedding present, but it sat unused until an infomercial touting a quick-cooking food appliance inspired her to try layering ingredients in the pot and cooking it on high heat.

“It’s a good thing I didn’t know you’re not supposed to cook fish at 450 degrees because then I never would have tried it,” Yarnell says with a laugh.

Instead of a disaster, she stumbled upon a new one-pot cooking method.

“I call myself an accidental inventor because I had no idea how to create a new cooking method,” Yarnell says.

Yarnell’s method received a U.S. patent in 2005, and a Canadian patent in 2007. Her cookbook, “Glorious One-Pot Meals: A Revolutionary New Quick and Healthy Approach to Dutch-Oven Cooking,” was released in 2009.

“A one-pot meal is like a puzzle,” Yarnell says. “You choose the oil. You choose the protein. You choose the vegetables and the seasonings. You can substitute ingredients to meet your needs.”

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One-Pot Meals 101

  • One-pot meals range from simple soups to elaborate recipes such as beef stroganoff.
  • Most one-pot meals combine a meat, one or more vegetables and a starch such as pasta or rice. These meals can be baked in a casserole dish, or cooked in a crock pot or a Dutch oven.
  • One-pot meals can be made to feed a single person or a crowd.
  • One-pot meals are an inexpensive way to use leftovers, but there are also recipes that require costly ingredients and are labor intensive. The only advantage of the more elaborate dishes is the clean-up process.

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This recipe appeared on Hanna Rosman's blog last year. She says it made enough food for her to dine on leftovers the rest of the week.

“If you can make the whole office smell and everyone wants a taste, you know you did well,” Rosman says.

One-Pot Chicken and Brown Rice

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (6 to 8 ounces each)
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 large yellow onion, cut into 8 wedges
  • 2 celery stalks, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 medium carrots, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup brown rice

In a large Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat oil over medium-high. Season chicken with salt and pepper and place, skin side down, in pot. Cook until golden brown on both sides, 10 to 12 minutes total. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from pot; add onion and celery. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook 20 minutes.

Add carrots, bay leaf, and 1 3/4 cups water; stir in rice and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Cover and cook until rice absorbs almost all the liquid, 40 to 45 minutes. Let stand, covered, for 10 minutes before serving.

Source: Everyday Food: Light: The Quickest and Easiest Recipes, All Under 500 Calories by Martha Stewart (Clarkson Potter; December 2011)

All-American Pot Roast

  • 12-15 pearl onions
  • 2 potatoes, cut in ½-inch thick slices, then halved
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ½ to 3/4 pound boneless chuck roast
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/3 cup beef broth or stock
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup carrots, sliced medallions or whole baby
  • 1 cup green beans, trimmed, cut into thirds
  • 4 to 6 mushrooms, sliced thickly

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Spray the inside of a 2-quart cast iron Dutch oven and lid with canola oil.

Peel the pearl onions and drop them into the pot. Intersperse potato slices among the onions. Lightly sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place meat in next, and again sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.

In a small bowl, whisk together the tomato paste, broth and Worcestershire sauce until fully incorporated. Pour 1/2 of the mixture over the meat. Add layers of carrots, green beans and mushrooms and pour rest of sauce over all.

Cover and bake for 48 minutes for medium/well-done meat and crunchy vegetables, 53 minutes for more well-done meat and softer vegetables, or just gauge it by waiting 3 minutes after the full-bodied aroma wafts from the oven. Recipe serves 2.

Note: The thinner the slice of meat, the more tender the pot roast will be. Ask your butcher to slice it less than 2-inch thick.

Source: Elizabeth Yarnell, certified nutritional consultant and the author of “Glorious One-Pot Meals: A Revolutionary New Quick and Healthy Approach to Dutch-Oven Cooking” (Clarkson Potter; 2009). Visit www.GloriousOnePotMeals.com to subscribe to Yarnell’s free newsletter.   

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