I live with my sister and when we first moved in together, we’d cook meals together from cookbooks, trying new things and using a lot of fresh ingredients. It was a great way to catch up on each other’s day and attempt to maintain a healthy diet.
Then she left the country for two months. Almost immediately, I started eating more frozen pizza and less home cooking. It was the curse of cooking for one – it didn’t seem worth the effort to make something interesting for just myself. Plus, I always ended up with leftovers or even worse, just ate the extra portions even though I wasn’t hungry for more.
Cooking for yourself doesn’t have to be the curse of frozen dinners; there are lots of resources for people cooking for one (or even two since some of those recipes are for four or six people – way too much food!) Here are some tips and resources to help you in cooking for one or two people:
Prep veggies and meat ahead of time
This is a HUGE time saver. Recipes that have estimated time limits fit the time because it assumes all the food has been prepped already, i.e. veggies cut, meat cooked, etc. All the cooks on TV have their vegetables cut ahead of time and in little bowls, but you don’t need to go to quite that extent. However, I suggest cutting veggies into usable sizes (slices, chunks, whatever you think will work) and storing for future use. 1: It makes for easy cooking. 2: You’ll always have a good idea of what’s in your fridge. 3: Can you say “fast snack”? 4: Less chance things will spoil. It’s super easy to throw together a salad when most of the ingredients are already cut. Right now I have a container of cilantro leaves for chopping, garnishing or just adding where necessary.
Cut recipes in half
Most recipes in cookbooks serve four to eight people and create a lot of leftovers for a single gal. With a little planning and some simple division, you can half those recipes so you’re working with a more manageable amount of food. No one wants to cook 2 pounds of chicken for themselves.
Portion out ahead of time
However, sometimes you just can’t half a soup recipe. Some things are better cooked en masse, like chili or bread. In this situation, you can cook a whole recipe and save most for later. Freeze portions in individual containers that you can just grab on your way to work – a little defrosting and voila, instant lunch!
The Minimalist from The New York Times gives us 101 seasonal salads, from vegan to fish to meat-tastic. Most can be made in less than 20 minutes.
Cooking for One, by Judith Jones, suggests that cooking for yourself may be the most satisfying cooking you do since the only person you have to please or impress is yourself. The book ranges from essential recipes like tomato sauce to more complicated dishes, all portioned for one.
Deborah Madison and Patrick McFarlin think that What We Eat When We Eat Alone says a lot about our personality and who we are. Expect stories mingled with reciples.
Microwave Cooking for One. Enough said.
Katie Lee Joel, foodie, host of Top Chef Season 1 and author of The Comfort Table, gives us an exhaustive list of ingredients single cooks should have on hand to make cooking a breeze. However, her recipes have far too many portions for her intended audience (what am I going to do with two pounds of meatloaf, Katie, huh?) so I’d suggest halving and freezing most of her creations.
Any other tips or good resources for a single chef? Feel free to share with us!
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