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.