Help: how to cook for one?

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

When breakfast is derailed...I really don’t intend to be so whiny…

but I just haven’t gotten the hang of cooking for one.

So far, I seem to save up my culinary energies for when I’m visiting Sweets and then I load up the kitchen with goodies. It’s like I have something to prove in my cooking that isn’t worth doing for just myself?

I do recognize that this is a good exercise in getting portion size under control.

I can’t even make a smoothie for one; they’re coming out a bit super-sized. Ugg.

What are some of your favorite single sized meals?


posted May 30th, 2007 at 10:28 pm

Most of my favorite meals-for-one are quick junk food style things: pizza made on french bread, english muffins or tortillas; egg foods like omelets and egg sandwiches; sausages, etc.

The other way I think of cooking for one is in terms of how tolerable the leftovers will be. Some things that make leftovers that I don’t mind eating for a few days are stuffed pizza, pasta with a nice long cooked tomato sauce, and thick curries with potatoes. Comfort food! Pizza and pasta freeze well, so you can make a decent sized batch and not have to eat it right away. One other leftover I really like is grilled waffle sandwiches. Mmmm. Good cheese, tomato and avocado in between waffles squished down with that high-tech sandwich press: the trusty skillet.

Good luck with the cooking for one!

posted May 30th, 2007 at 10:48 pm

I think my favorite “for one” is risotto. I just find whatever yummy I have in my fridge (generally artichokes and sundried tomatoes) and toss it in.

I have also been known to toss a chicken breast onto the skillet and cook it up. Either way, it’s good!!

Oh- risotto is one of those specific challenges for single cooking (for me). I have a difficult time measuring it and let the pan size dictate the amount- hence I need to find a smaller pan :) And I have a difficult time leaving its leftovers alone.

Renne- do you toss in your risotto goodies (artichokes etc) at the beginning or the end?


- Renee
posted May 31st, 2007 at 3:14 am

My favorite for-one dish is an omelet or frittata. So easy to make with two eggs and any bits and pieces of veggies. They are good at any meal, hot or cold, in a sandwich or on toast. I also love to make soups and freeze them in single-portion containers.

Mmmm I love eggs. Good one. Maybe I’ll buy a container of egg whites to bulk it up a notch without going crazy on the yolks, as I could eat egg meals everyday. Mmmm

thanks Lydia- caused a good spark in the ole brain there


posted May 31st, 2007 at 5:47 am

Ah, welcome to my world. It’s damn near impossible to buy portions of stuff for one, so I don’t bother. I usually make a week’s worth of salad and put it in Tupperware, then I can just dip.

Main courses involve lots of meat, and it’s grilling season. I flip between breaking bigger packages down right after shopping into appropriate portions, and cooking everything then divvying it up. The former is better for my waistline.

Veggies are the same – since they go bad quickly, I like to at least steam/stirfry them all, the put the rest in the fridge or freeze.

Ya know- I do still have the outdoor grill! This could just be the opportunity to become its master. This would be one of those situations where I make lots of leftovers as I have a difficult time leaving a hot grill alone. It’s like frying- heck if you’ve got all that heat- you’ve got to use it!


- SteveG
posted May 31st, 2007 at 6:06 am

Chicken Picatta
Broiled Trout with Herbs
Panini on Homemade Bread

Yum- thanks for the ideas Kevin. You’re inspiring me to think about going on a fish eating binge. My closest grocery stores don’t have butchers and sell fillets and steaks usually in packs of two- I can do that.


posted May 31st, 2007 at 9:59 am

I tend to make cappellini w/broccoli…butter, lemon and fresh garlic sauce….it’s easy ( I get the proportion right) and you can toss in anything else that may be lingering in the crisper.

Hi Katherine- cappellini is a pasta?
Cooking up pasta is a single serving portion I need to brush up on… 1 cup of dried seems good?

Will schedule this in my dinners to keep me from eating out- thanks!


- katherine
posted May 31st, 2007 at 1:27 pm

I have a hard time making just enough food for two! It must come from growing up in a large family. When I’m on my own, I take advantage of the opportunity to make the things my husband dislikes. Particularly seafood, which can be expensive, so buying a single portion is a less expensive way of indulging. I can eat rice with just about every meal, so I make a couple dry cups and eat it over time. I love a fried egg over rice with lots of black pepper and butter. And spaghetti with butter, Parmesan, black pepper, and garlic. (My husband thinks the egg-and-rice thing is weird, and dislikes pastas that don’t include sausage stuffing.)

- Elizabeth
posted June 1st, 2007 at 6:23 pm

my meal for ones are mostly salad. I always get heart of romaine, cut it very finely, then mix with either a small can of tuna and mayo or salmon and mayo.

quesadillas are also very easy, and you can put anything into them. they are a favorite of my kids.

i also like egg tostadas and broiled open faced sandwiches.

- Joe
posted June 2nd, 2007 at 5:04 am

I try never to cook for one, because it isn’t economical. Recently, I’ve been doing an experiment, where I made a meal plan with 7 different meals, each one I cooked for four over a week and froze the other three portions.

Cooking and freezing the dishes meant that they kept fresh, but what I liked best was that I didn’t have to cook for the rest of the month, got all my shopping done in one go and still had a proper dinner every day.

Interesting strategy, thanks Pamela.
I’ve never been a fan of frozen meals though.

But the bigger issue being that I *like* cooking and don’t generally see it as something to avoid. I’ll avoid washing dishes, but not the cooking part ;)


posted June 3rd, 2007 at 1:21 pm

It gets more natural. Definitely. But it takes a while. And I think that, for me, the shift came when I realized that I was worth cooking for myself … not to get too hippy-dippy about it, but I think there’s some truth there. Worth dirtying the kitchen, worth standing at the stove for 30 minutes.

A couple nights ago I made a lamb chop and roasted porcini mushrooms on top of a salad of basil leaves. That was a good night. The nights of popcorn dinner, however, are not as healthful. :) Risotto made for one is a luxury. I need to find you those measurements … I originally got it from Joyce Goldstein’s Solo Suppers book.

posted June 3rd, 2007 at 7:58 pm

It was always hard for me to find enough motivation to cook something “just for me”. I did a lot of salads, pasta, grilled chicken and vegetables, omelettes, sandwiches, etc. When I made more substantial or interesting meals, I’d tend to make enough for a family and work on the leftovers each day until it was gone. I did find a cookbook that had decent offerings for a single or couple – “Cookery for 1 or 2″ by Barbara Swain. Nothing earth shattering in there, but there’s a recipe for Steak Diane, Eggs Benedict, really amazing individual quiches, crepes, etc. I still use some of the recipes, sized up for a bigger group, because they came out so well.

posted June 5th, 2007 at 6:36 am


i cut a pizza dough recipe in half and make either a small pizza or a couple calzones (good for using up extra bits and pieces of things and I freeze the extra calzone for a quick, prepackaged meal for later)

posted June 7th, 2007 at 7:36 am

Sorry, McA, I just don’t think that it’s possible. ;)

Although on the nights when my husband is away, I tend to cook small portions of shrimp or scallops, griddle up some paninis…. or even have bowls of cereal. Good luck!

posted June 7th, 2007 at 2:29 pm

My favorite solo meal cooked from scratch (as opposed to big batches made ahead which I should do but don’t) is:

1 skinless boneless chicken breast half

2-3 oz. goat cheese, softened

sundried tomatoes soaked in oil

1. Flatten breast as flat as you can without tearing it. Spread as much goat cheese as you want on the “rough” side — the side the skin *wasn’t* on before you flattened it.
2. Arrange a clump/line of sundried tomatoes along the fat end of the breast.
3. Roll from the fat end to the skinny and secure with toothpicks.

Saute in medium-hot non-stick pan in a little oil. You’ll have to fiddle with the toothpicks to get it browned on all sides, pushing them out of the way as your rotate the roll. If you want it to take more time you could truss your bird. Cook until done. If you get the chicken thin enough this can be in as little as 5-7 minutes; 5-7 on medium high followed by another 3-4 on low with a lid will guarantee doneness throughout. The latter method will soften some of the crunchiness of the browned outside, however. Life’s a tradeoff.

It is to die for. I usually skip starch and salad and eat two and call it good.

- Susan
posted June 12th, 2007 at 5:45 am

I usually buy one or two vegetables and then eat them, prepared in different ways, every day until I run out. I use handfuls as measuring tools. It gets more complicated with rice, cause it absorbs so much. I rented a furnished apartment that had these teacups that were exactly perfect for measuring one portion of uncooked rice…but rice is a great thing to have leftover. You can make fried rice the next day! Or better yet, stuff a pepper with it. Half a stuffed pepper with some salad on the side is a good meal for one person, and you can make it in a toaster oven if you don’t feel like heating up a real oven just for one pepper.

- Shlowzi
posted June 15th, 2007 at 9:14 am

When I’m cooking for just me I tend to cook rice or pasta,
with a nice jarred sauce (something with veggies in it already), and piece of chicken, beef, fish, or pork on top. If I’m cooking pasta (like shells or rotini), I’ll measure it out with the bowl I’ll be eating out of so I can ruffly see how much I’m making. If I’m making rice I make a whole pot of it because rice tastes better the next day anyway, and my boyfriend will make fried rice with it.

The other thing I’ll make is a stuffed bread roll, where you take bread/pizza dough make a big circle with it, then rub it with pesto, put a hand full of spinach, cooked chicken, and any cheese you like all over the top, then roll up the sides to make something that looks like a bread stick and sprinkle the top with garlic powder, chili powder and parmesan cheese. Then bake it till the out side is crispy. You can then cut a couple of slices, for dinner, and put the rest away in the fridge, you can even use it as a side to another meal.


- Mandy
posted June 20th, 2007 at 9:50 am

I am so bad about not eating all the food I bought or prepared and letting spoil that I now have a freezer full of single portion meals.

I wish I could be as good as the other posters.

- Ann

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