What do you cook when you are cooking for one?
For me, much of the joy of cooking is sitting down and sharing the meal with friends or someone you love. Thus, while we cook from scratch on weeknights and usually have a more elaborate meal on Sunday evening, when my husband goes out of town and leaves me alone, I resort to convenience food-- Kraft macaroni and cheese, Stouffer's french bread pizza, etc. I have a hard time getting the initiative up to truly cook for myself.
I'd like to change this. So, what do you all prepare when cooking for one?
I am incapable of cooking for one without resorting to convenience food, like yourself.
My SO is out of town for the weekend and I'm cooking dinner right now; soft corn tortillas with spiced black beans, homemade tomato salsa, avocado, feta and sriracha (comfort food, admittedly). There will be enough for lunches until Sunday ;)
And many others if you do a search on Amazon or elsewhere.
I also do things like a roasted chicken breast (bone in, skin on) on a cut up potato (fits in the toaster oven if you have one) and a steamed vegetable...takes about 5 minutes to get it into the oven and about 30 minutes to cook. Another favorite option is do it yourself convenience foods. My wife and I are both fans of mac and cheese which we put into large ramekins or oven safe dishes and freeze as individual servings. Works with lasagna, too. For both, I put them in a cold oven, and they take about an hour to defrost and heat through. Add some bread (we cut up baguettes and freeze them in pieces so we can easily grab a couple of pieces) and some salad and it works well.
Another trick I use is to help with portioning. I'll use ramen noodles or a pack of fresh udon noodles which are usually about right for one dinner (at least for me) and toss the seasoning packet. With the ramen, I'll put them on to boil and then slice a chicken breast or thigh or a boneless pork chop or small steak, saute it on high and season it however you like...often some hoisin and chili sauce or one of the black bean sauces available that isn't loaded with nasty stuff, then toss in some snap peas or spinach or asparagus...add the cooked or fresh noodles and warm it all through.
For me, it's about getting the portions right, so having something pre-portioned or having it obvious what to use (the one chicken breast/one potato thing) makes it a lot easier.
You can do soups or stews and freeze into single servings.
Another thing is to cook enough of whatever you make the last day your husband is around to carry through for leftovers. Maybe stew, chili, turkey breast, oven-stuffer sized chicken (w/ or w/o stuffing), meatloaf, london broil. Leftover beef, chicken and/or turkey can be mixed with wokked or sauteed veggies, for a one-pan dinner. Some markets have cut up assorted fresh veggies in a package in the produce section, so all you have to do is stir-fry the veggies and add the leftover cooked meat before the end and you don't have a bunch of assorted half-cut veggies floating around your fridge.
If you have frozen shrimp in your freezer, just make some pasta and add garlic, oil, chopped sauteed (or left over) veggies and toss through, then add the shrimp. You could do the same with leftover rice from the Chinese takeout place, also. Quick and easy.
I stop at the market on the way home and buy either a nice steak (boneless ribeye or New York strip) and some mushrooms, or some loin pork chops, or some rib lamb chops. I bring them home and grill them (and, if it's the steak, slice the mushrooms and saute them in butter). If it's heirloom tomato time at the farmers' market, I cut up a tomato and put a splat of home-made mayo on top. Then I sit in front of the TV and eat it alllllll up, with an India Pale Ale in a stein I keep in the freezer.
Grilled cheese sandwiches, pasta sorrentino, take out (I am TERRIBLE about this) - the take out predominates. My husband travels a lot too. I had the best intentions of making learning to make omelettes for JC month, while he was gone, but I still haven't even seasoned the pan.
My dh is a pilot and sky performer and there are two things I do when he's gone and the kids are settled: depending on the time of year/seasonal choices...a wine, fruit & cheese platter for one or a delicious soup or a pot pie of some sort, I especially love the all veggie recipes for pot pies .
I'm big on make aheads meals, so dining solo isn't too tough. The trick is planning ahead, using that freezer space :)
This weekend I'm all about the pumpkin-carrot soup!
I am single and I found that I was getting into a junk food/takeout rut. I started cooking a nice dinner on Saturday and Sunday and alternating leftovers during the week.
Last weekend, I made rotisserie chicken and last night I finished the leftovers by making them into chicken etoufee. You can't get much easier that that!
My husband is a picky eater and works second shift, so a lot of the times I make dinner just for myself. I take a combined approach. 1) Make a full sized recipe (4-6 servings) of something that keeps well, reheats well or freezes well (e.g. a salad without dressing, soup, etc), and have that on hand for lunch or dinner. 2)Keep versatile condiments on hand - chutneys, tomato confit, tomatillo salsa, cheese, etc. 3) Cobble together "single food" from the leftover unused ingredients for purchased for #1, my "versatile condiments" from #2, and whatever else I have in the fridge - often involves salads, eggs, pasta, veggies I've gotten at the farmer's market and need to use up so I can buy some more, etc. I take it as an opportunity to experiment and improve my improvisational skills without any pressure or embarrassement that it won't be good enough for anyone else.
Eh, I eat alone more often than not. I make:
Mostly breakfast foods: pancakes, eggs in a thousand different ways, pimped out porridge, etc.
Or Mexican-style food, because it's easy to make in single-servings: quesadillas, burritos, chilaquiles, soft tacos.
I also keep homemade veggie burgers in the freezer for quick meals, and potatoes/sweet potatoes in the pantry. With a combo of microwave and oven, you can make a baked potato dinner in about 15 minutes without sacrificing flavour.
I'm usually just making a meal for myself. I always have stock in the freezer and fridge. Often do veggie soups with thinly sliced beef or seafood added for a moment at the end, or pho (keep fresh rice noodles always). I am currently on a kick of thinly sliced meat marinated with Korean hot pepper paste, broiled briefly on a piece of crunched up foil (no pan to clean!) and wrapped up in lettuce, cucumber, carrot/daikon pickle, avacado, onion, cilantro, mint w/ a dipping sauce. It is really freeing to play around and just please yourself. Recent repeat lunch is grilled eggplant with melted cheese. I also have really inexpensive take-out places (like South Indian veg) that I can hit for something interesting that I would not cook for one as I don't like alot of repeats, but combine with something at home. Example Trader Joes curry naan with a $1 container of saag paneer.
Here is a recipe I pulled out of my personal file. It is perfect for one with extra leftover rice, or even stuffed inside a heated pita bread.
Simple Szechuan Beef and Celery
3 oz beef, thinly sliced and in small pieces (I used chuck roast)
2 stalks celery, cut thin on a bias
½ carrot, cut thin on a bias
3 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
Pinch of cayenne or pepper flakes, or sliced hot fresh chili
10 szechuan peppercorns
½ inch ginger, sliced thin and narrow.
2 scallions, sliced down center and cut into ¾ inch pieces
1 tablespoon oil
1 tsp sugar
1 tbls rice or white wine
Prepare all the ingredients above and plan to move quickly.
In a very hot cast iron skillet, heat the oil until smoking. Add beef, celery and carrots with ½ tsp salt and give a stir for 1 minute. Add garlic and hot pepper/chili. Stir, keeping the heat high. Add the peppercorns. Stir and let rest for 10 seconds, stir again. Continue stirring until beef loses all its red color. Add scallions and ginger. Stir. Add sugar, then wine, stirring after each addition. Serve 1.
Most often, something like a stir-fry. I also make up various vegetable dishes that can be eaten over the week (I live alone, but like you and most people, far prefer to cook for friends and beloved). I do like good sardines to fall back on if I don't feel like cooking. I live very close to a very large public market so I always have lots of fruits and veg, and really MUST prepare them.
I'm a fan of the variations of stir-fry idea. :)
You can buy chicken breasts/flank steak/shrimp or whatever you prefer and if it's not in a small enough quantity, you can freeze the leftovers individually.
I always likes making a chicken/italian-style veggie stir-fry, serving with my favourite tomato sauce (barilla!) over pasta. Pasta is great because you only need to cook the amount you'll need. And always make enough for 2 meals so you'll have a lunch for the next day. :)
Asian stir-frys are great too - add a mixture of half soy sauce and half pineapple juice, and a little bit of cornstarch to thicken and you are set. Ginger and garlic are important too.
I think if you approach dinner for one as being a sort of relaxing thing to do at the end of the day - put on nice music while you cook, sip on something you enjoy - it doesn't seem such an onerous task. :)
I live alone, so I ALWAYS cook for one. At first it was a pain, but I've come to enjoy it. I'll cook pretty much anything I want, but I do tend to cook one-pot meals more often than not. Most recipes are for 4 servings, so I often halve the recipe, for 1 serving for dinner and 1 for lunch the next day. If it's freezable, I'll cook the whole thing and freeze half. Soups and many pasta sauces are great for this. One of my faves is clam and radicchio pasta sauce, inspired by a recipe in Toni Lydecker's "Serves One." I saute a couple cloves of garlic and a small red onion until soft. Then add a shredded head of radicchio and a box of Pomi chopped tomatoes. Once the radicchio is wilted, add a can of clams, drained. Salt pretty generously (I'm not a salt person, but this recipe tends to need it), and add some of the pasta water as necessary. The author recommends regular farfalle, but I use whole wheat penne.
I also do a quick braised chicken fairly often. Saute a diced onion in some olive oil. Add a cubed, skinless, boneless chicken breast, and quickly brown. Dump in a box of Pomi chopped tomatoes (can you tell it's my go-to convenience food?), a drained jar of marinated artichoke hearts (chop some of them), chopped Kalamata olives, capers, minced garlic, some basil and oregano, and fresh ground black pepper. Cook until slightly reduced and serve over brown rice. Makes 2 generous servings, and tastes *great* the next day.
My other go-tos are omelets (take 5 minutes, but a complete meal if you include veggies like tomatoes and dairy like goat cheese; mix some garlic and basil into the eggs before cooking), and salads (try the white bean & tuna salad in Giada's Everyday Italian as a base--maybe substitute chickpeas, and serve over a big bed of lettuce).
When I was married & husband would travel I would prepare decadent meals consisting of things he didn't care for. Also did a lot of Cornish hen experiments then too! Once I wasn't married any longer I generally cooked the way I always had - just used the freezer more. My biggest problem in cooking solo was veggies, often had tremendous waste. Then I discovered the salad bar and could buy just the amount of cauliflower, cucumber, whathaveyou that I needed for a dish and my fridge stopped looking like a biology experiment gone bad. I did stop baking sweets, my will power was not strong enough to remember that the freezer was my friend. Less toxic to the hips to just buy a single pastry every now & then!
Cheese, vegetable and fruit platter
Batches of soup, frozen in individual portions: available for eating whenever
12 oz steak, cut in half, seared, then one half put away for later in the week and the other half finished in the oven. Sauteed or baked vegetables and baked or mashed potatoes
Sauteed greens topped with seared scallops
Pasta with shrimp and vegetables
Grilled or baked fish (toaster oven) with sauteed or baked vegetables
Braised chicken with peppercorns, onions and mushrooms and potato hash or fritters
My go-to meal-- and you don't even have to shop, if you've got greens in the fridge-- is a simple but super-tasty pasta and greens. Boil 6 oz. linguini. In a large saucepan, 3 T olive oil, plus 1 or 2 T double-concentrate tomato paste (the stuff in a tube), 1 T red pepper flake, 1 clove garlic, finely chopped. When the pasta's done (al dente) add to saucepan, and toss. Add three or four big handfuls of greens (sping mix is good; better is just radicchio and arugula), toss again until greens just start to wilt. Generously top with grated parm/romano. Good veggie dish, too, and done in 15 mins.
When I lived alone I did a lot of cooking "transformation." On my day off, for example, I'd roast a chicken and have some for dinner along with maybe mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli, just an example. I'd debone the chicken after dinner, and make soup with the carcass and fresh veggies, adding the meat to the finished soup, and reserving some for a different application a couple days later, maybe chicken enchiladas or a casserole. If there were leftover mashed potatoes, I'd add an egg yolk, some chopped jalapeno and cilantro and shredded cheese, form them into cakes, coat with panko, and pan fry them for lunch the next day. You can do the same with many different proteins and carbs. Leftover polenta becomes pan fried mush, leftover risotto fills chard leaves or is stuffed in a baked squash, etc. I often had enough from cooking on my day off work to eat all week, and usually did takeout Friday night.
I kind of love cooking for just myself, because I can experiment and if it goes poorly, I don't have to hear about it from anyone else.
I really love making omelettes, frittatas, and tarts with different kinds of vegetables and cheeses. it's really quick and simple, but feels miles away from "convenience food."
One of my favorites is "gussied up" ramen, Thai style. I use pork ramen noodles, but instead of water I use coconut milk. I steep the coconut milk first with half of the seasoning packet, a bunch of thinly sliced fresh ginger and several whole garlic cloves. I add sliced mushrooms, chopped up baby bok choy, spinach, snap peas (yum!), any other vegies that look good to me. I cook all that for the two minutes with the noodles.
Meanwhile, I've put a bunch of bean sprouts, sliced green onions, sriracha, sugar, fish sauce in a very large serving bowl, leaving plenty of room for the noodles and soup.
By now the noodles are done, so I break a couple of eggs into the pot and let simmer for another two minutes. Remove from the heat and pop the lid on for another minute or two to finish poaching the eggs. Sometimes I substitute cubed firm tofu for the eggs, leaving it in the pan just long enough to heat through.
Pour the whole thing over the vegies in the bowl and serve, for a VERY filling one dish meal. I eat the eggs first, then as much of the rest as I can. I can always reheat what's left the next day and poach more eggs in it.
It's really hard for me to cook small, but I do it because we really don't eat huge quantities and husband despises leftovers. I will eat them but end up throwing out a lot of food if I don't vac seal and freeze...
When I'm the only one eating, I will make the usual amount- so anything goes. But I really choose those times to cook stuff I love but no one else does- usually involving tofu, or Nutella. (not together)
Adding ot some good ideas.
I find that pasta with various toppings are very easy to make in single quantities. I'll saute some sliced chicke breast in olive oil with sundried tomatoes and aritchoke hearts, make a a few meatballs (or make a lot and freeze) and add tomato sauce (yes from a jar) or pesto with either shrimp or sundried tomatoes and a spoonful of ricotta cheese. Sometimes I stash a chicken breast or pesto in cubes made in an ice cube tray so these meals can be made without going to the store. Another good one is saute some finely chopped onion in olive oil and the fry and egg in the same pan. Place on a bowl of pasta and add parmesan cheese.
In hot weather sometime I'll have a lot not cooking dinner of half a melon and procuitto or pate and crackers, with a glass of wine and dessert it's the kind of meal you won't serve to someone else but is a real treat alone.
An individual steak, some chops or a piece of fish are easy to make in quantites for one if your up to cooking a one time meal, and one of my personal favorites are broiled chicken wings with barbeque sauce.
My husband used to have to travel a lot. I considered it a great time for experimenting with new things and indulging in things he didn't like that I didn't prepare when he was around. Lots of vegetarian-ish things, anchovies on everything, fish, fish, fish. I remember on one occasion making a whole meal of a roasted head of garlic, a baguette and some goat cheese. Sooo not anything he'd enjoy but I loved it!
I also cooked full recipes and took advantage of the opportunity to freeze small portions.
I don't eat alone very often but once in a while if my husband has other commitments, I will make soups or beans. I'll usually know if that is going to happen a couple of days in advance so I'll make a nice pot of beans or soup, something he can enjoy later when he comes in. I use the crockpot for this duty, for me its the best tool for beans. It makes great left overs for the next night too.
It is hard to cook for one, I can see why some lean on take out or make a packaged meal. There was a time I did that too. but, I love soup and I am crazy for any beans of any kind. In fact I'm getting a craving for some good lima beans....
stir fry. I will throw that together and it keeps me busy with the chopping. I love making a good chow mein, or shrimp egg foo yung even. I'll make enough so that I can have it in the morning!
Oh and there's also Mexican food. Either tacos, or a taco salad. Making it just for me, I can make it as hot as I want and no one complains.
I'll cook anything I darn well please. You can freeze for other days when you may be busy or not feeling up to cooking. Also, if you have unexpected company, you can always go to your freezer and make a great meal in little time. I prefer my meals to eating out simply because I can fix it the way I like it and the most important thing, it is clean. I don't have to wonder if someone went to the bathroom and didn't take the time to wash their hands.
Make a bunch of quesadilla's, wrap for one. You can reheat in the microwave. I love to fix a chuck roast and then have sandwiches, or my favorite, beef hash. I'll make about 30 meatballs at one time, place some raw into homemade sauce and simmer. Add the rest to freezer bags after letting freeze on a pan so they don't stick. I'll make fettuccine with alfredo sauce for myself. Golly, anything you feel like eating, you can fix. That's why your freezer can be a very good friend.
funny, I love to experiment with a recipe when hubby takes off (which isn't often). I choose things he doesn't care for like mussels recently - came out fantastic with leeks/cream. Last night he was away and I wanted to try roasted okra - love love loved it!!! He'll be bummed though - he likes okra too (have to go get some more).
I live alone and I cook pretty much whatever I want, although a turkey is a bit much. I have done it and froze it, but its still a LOT of turkey.
I do a lot of main dish salads, chicken w/greens, cottage cheese suppers (now that its hot), soups, turkey meatloaf, omelets. I usually plan for leftovers for lunch and freeze and mix and match.
I agree with some others here: cook whatever he doesn't like! For me, that is typically vegetarian things, eggplant, ratatouille, curries, spinach, etc.
But my go to meal for any night he's out of town is a piece of fish sauteed in butter with lemon and herbs over sauteed cabbage and red onions. I love it and I feel so good about it afterward, AND it's fast and requires few ingredients. (my husband loathes cabbage and needs fish to have a little more ooomph that this dish).
I’m in the cook-whatever-you-want-and-enjoy-the-leftovers-tomorrow school of thought.
The SO has frequent overnight trips away from home, so I fix roasted vegetables, fried potatoes, steak, pork steaks, spaghetti, big salads, casseroles; anything I can eat for more than one meal, and then he has food to eat when he returns.
The basics for my cooking are three things I use in just about everything – Fresh garlic, fresh lime, salt/fresh ground black pepper. I won’t bog you down with fresh herbs, they can be a little high maintenance if you don’t grow them but there is a way to keep some on hand in the fridge.
Garlic is the key ingredient for flavor, and it’s a hassle when you think about peeling and dealing with it, so I always have fresh garlic prepared and ready for cooking on hand. Take one clove of Elephant garlic or a whole head of regular garlic , peel it and I use a small oysterizer Oscar now but I used to smash it with a large knife and fine chop it. Mix it with olive oil and keep it in a small plastic container in the fridge. I use the same container over and over as you can’t use it for anything else after the garlic permeats it. Now it’s easy to add garlic to anything and everything from soups, to beans, salad dressings, marinades, vegetables, etc. This will keep me in garlic for the week.
Any protein, lamb chops and skirt steak are the current faves, marinated overnight or seasoned at the last minute with a splash of acid, either wine vinegar/balsamic vinager/lemon or lime and a sprinkle of garlic salt if you don’t have fresh garlic. Into the toaster oven or on the grill.
I have an oudoor grill, but have used the Forman grill with great results. I cut thick slices of large onions, paper and all, skew with three toothpicks so the the rings will stay intact, smear a little olive oil, salt and pepper and on to the grill, you have never had better onions.
Sauté some rough chopped cabbage in olive oil with onion, garlic (lots of garlic), salt, pepper and a sprinkle of caraway seed. Cook on high heat, to get a little browing on the bottom of the pan, lower heat and cover to steam. Hit it with a big squeeze of lime at the end to deglaze. This will taste even better the next day. Goes great with pork chops, lamb chops, chicken, with just about anything.
I steam a bag of fresh baby spinach in a large sauté pan, using a collapsible steamer, two minutes tops, put spinach aside, dump the water from the pan, add some olive oil and my fresh chopped garlic, sprinkle with a dash of nutmeg, sauté a bit, remove the pan from the heat, return the steamed spinach to the pan, toss, hit it with salt and pepper – all done – awesome and easy. Clean up is one pan used to steam and sauté.
Bags of coleslaw are tossed with a dressing of sesame oil, rice vinegar, fresh ginger and a pack of sweet & low, it’s even better with Broccoli Slaw. Easier still is bag of coleslaw, just add some fresh grated ginger and chopped apples to bottle slaw dressing.
Last night I made some thin spagetti with shrimp sauce. On the way home from work, I bought 5 oz of ez-peel shrimp and a 14 oz. can of crushed tomatoes. I cleaned the shrimp and soaked them for 30 minutes in some salted water to "bring them back to life." I then sauteed the shrimp briefly in a small no stick pan in a little olive oil and then removed them to a separate dish. In the same pan (uncleaned) I added a litte more olive oil and sauteed some finely chopped onion and garlic. I then added half of a 14 oz. can of crushed tomatoes, some Italian spices, 6 oz of white wine, s&p, and some crushed red pepper as well as 1/2 of a tomato I had in the fridge. I let the sauce cook for 30 minutes, corrected the seasoning, added back the shimp and poured the sauce over my spagetti. It tasted great- one dish, one pan and no left-overs.
I actually look forward to nights I am alone and make something my SO does not like. He does not love Shrimp, Salmon or Tuna, so I often with make Salmon filet or Tuna Steak. I also love cooking veggies he is not as fond of, beets, kale, broccoli. Or I will make something that will be good for leftovers/lunch: pasta, roasted chicken, soups. Or, I will do a "fridge cleaning" and make a fritata with whatever veg is there.
I actually love cooking for myself cause it gives me time to play with different ingredients and combinations that I wouldnt want to subject anyone else to if they are a failure. Normally I stick to salads with marinated proteins, and a home made salad dressing (one that was great was a few grape tomatoes, the oil from a jar of roasted red peppers, some dijon mustard and salt and pepper all blended together (if Im remembering that correctly). I've made turkey burgers for one, or Ill make a bigger meal like its been suggested before and then use it for lunch.
Most of the time though I experiment and hope for the best- when the SO is around though- I stick to his tastes and what he likes the best.
With the kids grown and living on my own now, I need to cook for one. And I don't use prepared meals, because of the high sodium content.
But, there are some nights that I make things for the freezer, like soups and spaghetti sauces.
Quick meals are my favorite. Some of my rotation are:
Ina's parmesean Chicken (1 half chicken breast) over greens.
Ina's Provencal Scallops (flash frozen from Costco). I use 4 scallops at a time, but six are fine too.
Ina's Shrimp Scampi over linguine. I usually use about 6 frozen extra large shrimp and a half pound of spaghetti and scale down the garlic, lemon, parsley.
One quarter pound of good hamburger meat, 1 red pepper, 1 onion makes a quick "American Chop Suey", along with 1/3 box of Cellentani.
What I do for vegetables is, roast a whole pound at a time and have different ones
to add with meals. Or four corn on the cob, to reheat also.
I have found that baked potatoes are not good reheated (to me anyway), and so I nuke a red skin, if I want a potato with a meal.
In the summer, the grill is a good and easy way to prepare your protein, and I like to add a fresh salad and some grilled zucchini or summer squash.
To me, it's so easy now to cook for one, but it did take some adjustment.
I still love to grab take out of foods that I never cook at home, but only once in awile.
Good luck and have fun!
DH and I have lived in seperate cities for nearly 3 years now...after 28 years of living together it was really hard to adjust, and I am very glad that this career-related separation is about to end.
However, I have discovered the joy of 'variations on a theme' cooking.
I will, for example, roast a chicken on Sunday (with all the trimmings, mashed pototaoes, carrots, peas etc.). Then I will either make and eat or make and freeze the following in single-servings: hot chicken sandwich, chicken pot pie, curried chicken with rice, chicken salad with grapes and almonds and so forth.
Next week it might be a roast of beef Then a roast of lamb or pork or turkey. I know it sounds like madness to cook a turkey for one (I do share with friends on Sundays as well, life is rich with friends for single women!), but it is amazing how much better you feel cooking from scratch and reaping the rewards of a full freezer.
Now, the time is coming to and end and I expect I will be more imaginative than just the variations idea. But it got me through a difficult period without huge weight gain or that "why bother? its just me" feeling that so many of my recently divorced or widowed pals suffer from. Cooking is creative and therapeutic!
Most dishes can be scaled down, with some exceptions like roasts and some desserts (pies, cakes) . . . and even then if you cook a small chicken you have good sandwiches for lunches. Since I love to cook I like to think of cooking for one as a chance to try new things.Or to try those recipes that look just a little too odd to spring on someone else - but pique your curiosity. I think cooking for one is more about changing your mindset than recipes. Think of it as Research and Development, Megiac! :-)
This is an amazing thread!! I do my fair share of breakfast-for-dinner (oh, the weeks I lived on spinach scrambled eggs on toast), canned beans with rice, gussied-up ramen, spaghetti carbonara, wine and cheese suppers...
BUT, I've recently found out that shrimp etouffee is a surprisingly fast and simple supper, and veg curries are MADE for one-person meals.
Here's my etouffee recipe (given the seal of approval by an honest-to-goodness cajun):
Heat 2 T. oil and 2 T. flour over medium-high heat. Stir constantly until it's the color of peanut butter. Add 1/4 of a small onion, chopped, half a stalk of celery, chopped, and half a small bell pepper, chopped. Stir around until fragrant. Drop in a bay leaf and press in a clove of garlic. Add a cup of chopped or crushed tomatoes, a few dashes of hot sauce (Crystal or similar), salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for 5 minutes. Drop in peeled and de-veined shrimp and simmer just until cooked. Serve over hot rice.
In the time it takes the rice to cook, you have the "gravy" made. Easy.
I feel badly for single people who resort to prepared foods and take-out because cooking for one is not "worth the effort". We should value ourselves more than that!
I live alone, but it's rare that I cook a single portion's worth of anything. It's usually 3 or 4 meals' worth, or more, then divvied up for later in the week, or for the freezer. It's generally a more efficient use of time to prepare a multiple meals' worth of a dish. Before I retired, most of my cooking was done on my days off, or at night, AFTER a microwaved dinner of something previously prepared, to be eaten the next day and thereafter. That way there's no rush to get it done because I'm hungry for dinner, nor do I ruin foods by cranking up the heat or not cooking long enough because I'm trying to hurry.
if i'm alone it means the silver fox is out of town. to help me avoid feeling sorry for myself, i usually go all-guy with a menu that doesn't depend on yesterday or offer leftovers for tomorrow--a menu that is fun, easy, and doesn't seriously mess up the kitchen. (i hate pots and pans when i'm alone, though i happily wash them the rest of the time.) the optimal solution: a martini, grilled steak, baked potato, green salad, and a bottle of wine.