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Old 10-21-2012, 11:52 PM   #1
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Default Cooking for one - please share recipes and tip

I am used to cooking for a family. Right now I'm pretty much not cooking for anyone, but soon I'll have my house back and want to start cooking for myself.

Except. I have the bad habit of cooking (and shopping) as if I'm feeding an army.

I'm looking both for meals that can be fixed quickly as well as those that take a little more prep but that can be frozen to be eaten later. And I personally want ideas for things that based primarily on minimally processed fresh or frozen ingredients.

I'm also looking for suggestions on how to make it easier to shop for one -- in particular, how to make fresh or unusual ingredients that are sold in family-sized not go to waste

I'll start with sharing a few things of my own.

Dinner recipe:
Wasabi-almond crusted baked mahi with roasted asparagus and mushrooms
Prep time: 10 minutes (plus time to defrost fish). Cooking time: 20 minutes. Two servings (dinner plus leftovers)
Heate oven to 350
Toss some asparagus spears (snapped in half) and some baby portobellos (quartered) in a little bit of good olive oil with some salt and pepper and stuck them in the oven
melt a tbsp or so of butter squeezed in some lime and mixed in
take about a half-cup of wasabi seasoned almonds and chopped them fine in a food processor
cut defrosted mahi filet into two single portions, and dipped the filets into the butter
Coat the filets with the almonds, put into baking dish
pour remaining butter over them, squeeze on the rest of that half lime, stuck it into the oven (stirred up the veggies while I was at it)
Stirred veggies up again in ten minutes, then took it all out in ten.
Total prep time: Maybe 10 minutes. Total cooking time for fish: 20 minutes. Used that 20 to clean up and fix me a grown-up beverage.
Dinner was delicious and I had leftovers.

What to do with the extra ingredients:
I made an omelet with some of the remaining asparagus and mushrooms and used the rest in a salad. I used the other half of the lime in a grown-up drink. The almonds are a staple for me - I eat them as a snack and use in salads.

Cooking for One Tip:
I've found that vacuum sealing makes a HUGE difference in how well things freeze and how they taste after freezing. I used to have a cheap hand-held vacuum sealer but it made so much of a difference that I'm considering buying one of the ones that are pricier but that are much better at sealing -- the cheap ones seal what's basically still a ziplock baggie and too frequently lose their seal. I know some folks cook larger meals and just have leftovers throughout the week but I'd rather cook a larger meal and have the leftovers over the next few weeks with no loss of quality, plus I'd like to have several meal options in the freezer that let me just come home and heat something up without it being junk.
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Old 10-22-2012, 12:05 AM   #2
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If you don't have one, pick up a George Foreman grill. There is a small size, for singles.

What I like is to buy a bag or package of chicken breasts, then grill just one, then maybe add a topping or just have it plain with some vegetables. It's also good for small steaks or chops.

I also use my crockpot quite a bit, then divide up a huge bowl of stew or sauce and freeze.

If you're friends with neighbors, maybe find out if they would take some of the ingredients off your hands? This usually works with vegetables and fruits.
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Old 10-22-2012, 01:17 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by guihong View Post
If you don't have one, pick up a George Foreman grill. There is a small size, for singles.
I have a Cuisinart grill and it rocks - works a lot better than the Foreman that I had before, in that it gets a lot hotter (so it can put a real sear on meat) and the plates are removable and interchangeable. I just saw that the newest model has flat plates, ridged ones for meats, AND waffle plates!

Quote:
What I like is to buy a bag or package of chicken breasts, then grill just one, then maybe add a topping or just have it plain with some vegetables. It's also good for small steaks or chops.
I've been buying pre-packaged chicken breasts at BJs, but they're a serving for 3-4 in a package. But still that would fit with trying to cook in advance, and I could find enough stuff to do with one small package in a week.

Quote:
I also use my crockpot quite a bit, then divide up a huge bowl of stew or sauce and freeze.
I'm going to have to read more about using the crockpot for one person. Mine is big, so it just doesn't seem to fit for me to do that.

Thanks for the ideas!
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Old 10-22-2012, 01:25 PM   #4
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Speaking of boneless chicken breasts, here's an old favorite recipe that is very adaptable and is low-fat and very tasty:

Prep time: 5 minutes. Cooking time: 10 minutes. Two servings (dinner plus leftovers)

Chicken breast, pounded even - not thin, just down enough so that it doesn't take a lot longer to cook in the thicker part

Dust with thyme or dried herb of choice

In a medium-hot skillet, spray with cooking spray (or better, good olive oil in a mister such as a Misto) and let the chicken breast brown.

Turn and let the other side brown, and don't worry if some parts stick.

Remove from pan, and remove pan from heat and let cool slightly.

Add in balsamic vinegar (no idea how much, I just shake it in -- 2 Tbsp?) and stir it around the pan to pull up the stuck bits from browning the chicken.

Stir in a big spoonful of some kind of all-fruit jam: Blackberry, raspberry, plum, cherry and stir to melt the jam, then serve over the chicken.

Serve with veggies and starch, OR I've cut it up and served it over baby greens or spinach with other salad toppings as desired, using the sauce as a dressing for the greens.
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Old 10-22-2012, 01:27 PM   #5
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I'm forever cooking like I have a family of 10 to feed or something so I might not be one to talk here but my thoughts:

Cook main ingredients in bulk and then turn them into different things during the week. It keeps you from eating leftovers all the time and works well with whole foods.
For example, if you make up a pot of beans, a couple of whole grains, steam a big bowl of greens, roast up a pan of root vegetables, and maybe cook up some sort of animal protein. You could turn that into:
  • A dozen different kinds of soups
  • Another different kinds of stews
  • Easy one bowl meals of a grain with some legumes/animal protein, greens on top, season with a dressing/sauce
  • Enchiladas/burritos

This time of year it's easy to roast some root vegetables, bake squash, etc, just while you're home in the evening. Puree the squash with some coconut milk and broth and some spices and you've got killer soup.
Reheat other root veggies in the toaster oven at meal time or pack for school and you've got an easy side dish for the week.
Black bean soup/black bean burritos/black bean burgers- all with most of the same ingredients.

Make sense?
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Old 10-22-2012, 01:46 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dance-with-me View Post
I have a Cuisinart grill and it rocks - works a lot better than the Foreman that I had before, in that it gets a lot hotter (so it can put a real sear on meat) and the plates are removable and interchangeable. I just saw that the newest model has flat plates, ridged ones for meats, AND waffle plates!


I've been buying pre-packaged chicken breasts at BJs, but they're a serving for 3-4 in a package. But still that would fit with trying to cook in advance, and I could find enough stuff to do with one small package in a week.


I'm going to have to read more about using the crockpot for one person. Mine is big, so it just doesn't seem to fit for me to do that.

Thanks for the ideas!
Can you tell me about the gril cooking thingl. I gave away my little George grill last year, and it was like new. I don't really like to cook at all, so when things say saute, roast, oven, crock pot and cut and brown and well all that kitchen talk, I know why I eat out or go to friends or think I need a cook.

I have a 6 year old like a virgin stove with/ over the stove microwave that's never been used. I cook in a counter top Sanyo microwave, IF I cook.

I really am looking at how to incorporate more veggies in my life.
I have been buying broccoli , cauliflower and those little string cheese thingees and nuking them. but that gets really boring.

So, I have airpopped popcorn instead.
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Old 10-22-2012, 02:05 PM   #7
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I often cook in quantity, too. I, like some of you, live alone. I have also learned to not waste food and after a few days of eating the same meal, I freeze in either containers or freezer bags.

I do make good use of my crockpot, but mine has 3 inter-changable ceramic crocks. It came with a 2, 4 and 6 quart and I have no problem putting in simple ingredients and freezing what I don't use.

I also have a toaster oven, so I can only bake or broil so much in it. It makes planning meals easier by knowing I can't cram the world into the oven.

I don't think there is anything wrong with cooking meals for more than one night as long as you don't mind leftovers or freezing for future meals. Makes better sense and is much cheaper than buying microwaveable meals from the freezer section of a grocery store.
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Old 10-22-2012, 02:08 PM   #8
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Looks like Cuisinart now has a "junior" sized one that still heats up enough to sear meats -- all of the Foreman's I've had simply steamed them at best, which was ok for chicken but terrible for most other meats.

Cuisinart GR-3 Griddler Jr 3-in-1 Nonstick Countertop Grill: Amazon.com: Kitchen & Dining Cuisinart GR-3 Griddler Jr 3-in-1 Nonstick Countertop Grill: Amazon.com: Kitchen & Dining

I will say that 90% of the time mine is used for grilled cheese and quesadillas, but it's also great for a lot of other things. For example -- thinking at the non-cook level -- I'll take individually frozen chicken tenders, rinse the outside ice layer off, sprinkle with adobo seasoning (basically garlic salt) or some other seasoning, and put onto the hot grill and close it. Maybe 5 minutes later at most, the chicken is cooked and ready to go onto a salad, a sandwich, or just to eat by itself.

And good for you for wanting to eat more veggies! Easygoingfemme is the veggie master here, so she can probably come up with 1000 ways to cook every veggie. One thing to keep in mind They don't have to be fresh veggies to be nutritious. Frozen veggies are generally just as good for you and a whole lot easier to fix.

One very easy and delicious way to fix veggies, especially this time of year, is to roast them. Very little prep time - we can walk you through the steps, they pretty much take care of themselves in the oven, and they taste fantastic.

Tommi, we can hold your hand through cooking your first non-popcorn meal for yourself if you want. I have to say, I enjoy cooking but for everyday? If it takes more than 15 minutes of my time I don't want to be bothered. There's a surprising amount of things that you could really truly cook for youself with just ten minutes.

Give us an idea of what you'd LIKE to be able to fix for yourself, and we'll see if we can help!
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Old 10-22-2012, 02:09 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dance-with-me View Post
I have a Cuisinart grill and it rocks - works a lot better than the Foreman that I had before, in that it gets a lot hotter (so it can put a real sear on meat) and the plates are removable and interchangeable. I just saw that the newest model has flat plates, ridged ones for meats, AND waffle plates!


I've been buying pre-packaged chicken breasts at BJs, but they're a serving for 3-4 in a package. But still that would fit with trying to cook in advance, and I could find enough stuff to do with one small package in a week.


I'm going to have to read more about using the crockpot for one person. Mine is big, so it just doesn't seem to fit for me to do that.

Thanks for the ideas!
ooooooo love my Cuisinart grill.


I cook for myself. I often cook enough to freeze and save. But I also need to eat fresh food. I'm staying away from grains right now but really digging making these lettuce wraps. I like romaine but my favorite is boston bibb lettuce because I can make it taco like. You can fry fish, chicken, shrimp almost anything along with tomatoes, cukes, salsa or any sauce then wrap. I keep grilled chicken in the fridge and its easy to grab.

But the key, IMO to cooking single is preparing things ahead that you can defrost and reheat.

woks are also great for cooking healthy and fast.
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Old 10-22-2012, 02:11 PM   #10
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Yeah Tommi, I'm worried about you.
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Old 10-22-2012, 02:19 PM   #11
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Okie doakie. Thanks Dance.

I am buying a grill this weekend, and will buy food to cook too (making list from posts) . Seeing some of these recipe's makes me hungry) , and ..will check in and see what ya'll are cooking up by the weekend. I envy the great cooks in the crowd.

My Mom booted me out of the kitchen when I was a tiny tyke/dyke ( my lame excuse ) and told me to go play, so, I have ever since.

Roasting is done in the oven where pots and pans live.
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Old 10-22-2012, 02:28 PM   #12
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Not sure of your overall skills and talents but what got another butch friend of mine to start feeling comfortable in the kitchen wass to point out that it's really no different than a house project: Measure, combine using the right (or a substitute set of ) tools, follow the directions (which are usually far clearer for cooking than for many house projects), and don't be afraid to screw it up, toss it out, and start over.

And honestly, if you have a skillet (probably non-stick would be best at your skill level) you don't need the grill - we can walk you through turning the stove on...

There are cookbooks out there that start at the "how to boil water" stage and work their way up from there that you might want to try. I know some great vegetable/vegetarian cookbooks as well for anyone who wants to focus on seasonal fresh vegetables - let me know and I'll post the link.
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Old 10-22-2012, 02:32 PM   #13
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i worry about you too tommi! wish i could come cook for you.

i love cooking and am forever cooking like i'm feeding a small army. even after living alone for 7 years. it's a holdover from childhood (when i WAS cooking to feed a small army).

things i do that i find helpful...

cook up things that can be easily made and frozen in batches of 2-3 servings (spaghetti, soup).
cook up lots of veggies i like and reheat them throughout the week...typically this means saute or roast a big pan of broccoli, mushrooms, and peppers with some garlic and rosemary.
i have a collard green habit that won't quit so i buy a few lbs. of collard greens when i go to the store and cook up 1-2 lbs. at a time and eat that throughout the week. collard greens are extremely easy and forgiving to make - just throw them in a pot on the stove with some water and garlic, salt, pepper, hot sauce (if you're into that), etc. then boil for 30-45 minutes. or throw them in a crock pot with some water and leave it on for several hours.
i buy big packs of chicken breasts and split them up - put 2-3 breasts in individual ziploc freezer bags and freeze. then when i'm hungry, take them out in the morning and let them thaw all day. then throw some garlic and rosemary on them, add butter or olive oil, and bake at 350 for around 45 minutes. enough chicken for 2-3 meals. i usually put foil in my baking pans so i don't have to wash them that often.
potatoes are awesome - scrub, poke holes in them, and microwave for 4-5 minutes. add butter/broccoli/cheese/ranch dressing/whatever and voila, instant side dish.
i'm also the queen of pasta with sauce from a jar. hey, it works. i like making homemade sauce but i rarely have the time/energy.
i'm a huge fan of roasted sausage with peppers, onions, and mushrooms - chopping the veggies takes time but you can put foil in the baking pan and toss everything in and cook for around an hour and it's basically a one pot meal with very few dishes.
sweet breads (like pumpkin or banana bread) freeze well if you can't eat a whole loaf by yourself and don't have anyone to share it with. as far as baking goes, they're also one of the most forgiving things to bake and usually you only need one bowl and a spoon to mix all the ingredients.
one of my partners is a confirmed bachelor who hasn't used the oven in several decades. he roasts steak and chicken using a countertop convection oven (again, using foil to minimize dishes) and swears by it.
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Old 10-22-2012, 02:45 PM   #14
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OH! Another great single (and EASY) nutritious and seasonal food: Sweet potatoes! SO much better for you than regular potatoes, and you can toss them in the oven while something else is baking or just microwave them for a couple of minutes each side. (Tommi, you could do this!)
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Old 10-22-2012, 02:49 PM   #15
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Default Challenges and success. :)

Yes, i can do that and more. I am Rocky running up the stairs~~ puff puff huff



Here is a smile for those in the know.
I can do this ..i can I can I can.

My 2X4 skills. Bought the house sans stove. Said I don't need one, hung a painting I did and set up the cat food in Stove alcove. Well, how can someone come and cook for me ..duh..

I measured the opening in the counter for the new gas stove and the new exhaust hood and microwave.

Delivered, installed, and all the tape and packaging removed. my gleaming stove sat there all pretty. Phew it all fit in nicely. .


As I went to empty the dishwasher, in the adjacent counter, the dishwasher door hits the new oven door. I forgot to measure the depth needed for the stove. So, if you open the oven door all the way, you can open the dishwasher all the way, and load the bottom of the dishwasher. I used to have a painting I did in the place where the oven now is.

So, a Cuisin ~ART grill will be in my life soon. I do have ground plug receptacles.

Outpost Outwest
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Old 10-22-2012, 03:03 PM   #16
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I got a seal a meal bag thingy and think it rocks,I only cook for two now insted of eight so it was a shock to cook for so fue.Now I get chicken brest or strips prepare it how I want the seal it in a bag to cook later.If I make stew or gumbo I always have leftovers so I use freezer safe bowls for enough for two at each meal.
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Old 11-12-2012, 06:06 PM   #17
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*Bump*

Hi All,

A few people in the "Something Delicious" thread have asked about Cooking for One so I am glad that this thread is here.

I know that cooking for one can present a challenge but you all have some great ideas posted in here.

Sun
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Old 11-12-2012, 06:40 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sun View Post
*Bump*

Hi All,

A few people in the "Something Delicious" thread have asked about Cooking for One so I am glad that this thread is here.

I know that cooking for one can present a challenge but you all have some great ideas posted in here.

Sun
Thanks for bumping Sun! I'm subscribing.
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Old 11-12-2012, 06:49 PM   #19
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This is one of my favourite 5 minute meals for one:

Ingredients-
angel hair pasta
frozen peeled shrimp
frozen or fresh broccoli
frozen pesto (or pesto-like sauce for those of us who can't eat cheese)

Boil water with a little salt and olive oil in a small to medium pot. Add only enough pasta for one person! (That means a round handful about an inch in diameter.)

If you're using fresh broccoli, cut it up.

Defrost or just soften the pesto in the microwave.

As soon as the pasta is ready, (should be only a few minutes if it's angel hair), turn off the stove.

Add the shrimp and the broccoli, then cover the pot. Wait a minute or less. The shrimp should have turned red, but not rubbery. Drain everything in a colander, then dump it on your plate. Put a few spoonful of the softened pesto on top and mix it in. If the sauce isn't melting, 20 seconds in the microwave should take care of business.

Grind some pepper over the top, and you'll have the tastiest 5 minute meal you ever ate.
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Old 11-25-2012, 10:34 AM   #20
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What a great recipe Cheryl, thank you! I will try this sometime this week and let you know how it goes.
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