Help! Dinner for one
My boyfriend just started travelling during the week and I am now alone for dinner most nights. I get tired of eating leftovers and find myself eating frozen meals or eating out now that he is gone. What are your favorite meals for one?
A few of my favorites include simple stir fries (e.g., beef/chicken & broccoli), fresh pasta with a nice sauce (homemade or store-bought, but not just the usual marinara; I like vodka sauce, pesto, etc.), omelettes or other egg dishes, and what I call "sandwich plus," which is a sandwich plus a yogurt, some raw or cooked vegetables, and some fruit.
You can easily ask for 6 - 8 oz of fish or salmon, and quickly pan sautee or bake it in the oven. Microwave some asparagus and dress with butter and lemon or throw together a quick salad of baby greens. Voila!
I recently bought some single serve portions of chicken breast (each is individually wrapped) made by Perdue. They have plain as well as white wine and garlic marinade ones. I have yet to try them, but I'm hoping they are good!
I like making myself a really nice omelet. Julia Child is a good inspiration here, as is Deborah Madison. I'm particularly fond of spinach and feta, and often base the meal around those. Mushrooms, red bells, onions, olives, basil, etc all make appearances.
Mujadarrah is delish. Carmelize yourself a bunch of onions in lots of olive oil. Cook some lentils. Perhaps cook some rice with the lentils. Mix onions with lentils/rice. Serve with harissa and/or sour cream. YUM. Definitely the kind of of thing that's nice to eat by yourself on the couch while you watch a DVD-- ugly but tasty and filling.
Crepes are nice for dinners alone too. You can stuff them with all the same things in an omelet. You can make the batter in a blender ahead of time and then have an easier time with the batter when it comes time to cook it. My favorite restaurant lunch crepe has carmelized onions, some thyme or sage, a mild sausage and some swiss cheese in it. That with a salad is very nice.
My husband has been out of town since the 10th and won't be home until the 24th. Stupid intensives.....anyhow =), Before he left I was thinking I would seize the opportunity to try out several new recipes and perfect a few things, but as it turns out, I really don't like cooking for just myself and have been doing all quick and easy meals.
The first night was a throw together salad of odds and ends in the fridge. Arthichoke hearts, grape tomatoes, feta, and a bit of balsamic with a piece of toasted crusty bread. It was really satisfying. Baked sweet potatoes which were already a staple have made a couple of appearances. I like mine plain, but you can jazz them up however you like. A couple of nights I've made green smoothies for supper which hit the spot as the weather is getting super hot here. Last night I was having a bit of a pizza pasta fit, but didn't really have any of the ingredients on hand so I improvised a little casserole of artichoke hearts, italian stewed tomatoes, garlic, parmesan, mozz, and bread crumbs. It was super yummy, filled the craving for something heavier and italianish, AND I didn't even have to worry about consuming an exorbitant amount of garlic as I was home alone=) I have also gotten really into cold soups lately. I did have a batch of very basil-y tomato soup in my fridge that I was having cold, but I finished that off. Not sure where you're at, but here it's in the 80's so not turning on the stove/oven is nice. I'll also admit to relying heavily of Morningstar Farms Garden Veggie Burgers.
If you're feeling slightly more motivated than myself here is a link to some recipes that have been scaled down for one.
When my SO's away, I take the opportunity to experiment and to make things that he doesn't like much--like really spicy food, or the Nigella watermelon-olive-feta salad.
I like to do spaghetti with whatever's on hand: garlic, oil, and hot pepper; or fresh tomatoes and basil; or hot pepper and canned sardines in olive oil (a new one for me, thanks to others on this board!).
Sometimes I go for Asian-type things: noodles with garlic, chilli, fish sauce, chicken; or maybe a salad with noodles and vegetables and a fish sauce/lime/garlic dressing and lots of chilli.
If inspiration fails me, I like to make sure I always have lots of bits around for a stand-in-front-of-the-fridge meal: canned salmon or sardines, olives, cheese, bread, salad, avocados, maybe a steamed vegetable or two.
With DH traveling a lot more lately and teenage DD not always home, I find myself in this situation as well. Invest in a Food Saver or sealable vaccum machine. You can make individual servings of many favorites you like (pasta, crepes, lasagna, meat loaf, etc) and with an afternoon of investment, have a library of foods you can call on for one or more servings. I also use the opportunity to be a little more adventerous and try out new cuisines DH and DD wouldn't attempt. Have been cooking a lot of fusion food lately as have been following Chef Ming Tsai on the PBS/Create channel.
I like to individually freeze boneless skinless chicken breasts. Then, I'll bake them one at a time. You can do all sorts of things with them. Make them into chicken parm with spaghetti. Bake and slice for a salad topper. Make chicken salad.
Same with fish. You can buy individual filets, freeze them and then cook them in lots of different ways, the easiest being to wrap them in aluminum foil pouches with herbs and other aromatics.
I like to make a whole roast chicken or rotisserie, then shred the rest for other things (chicken salad, quesadillas, wraps, soups, etc)
Quesadillas are great for 1- and so many filling variations.
Also, French onion soup works well for one. Other soups/chilis can be made & just freeze the rest for another day.
How about a mini potpie?
Healthy mini pizza with whole wheat pita bread. I also do a lot of stir frys when I'm alone. I make up this veg mix that I can stir fry with a protein, or just over brown rice or awesome as just a salad. This mix lasts a while because there are no tomatoes: shredded (not too thin) white cabbage, shredded red cabbage, brocolli, cauliflwer (cut bite size) and carrots (sliced thin). Keep this in the fridge for stir fry, salad, steam, etc.
I also love a great cole slaw with shredded chicken in it, maybe some walnuts and cranraisins.
Maybe it's the advantage of age, or maybe it's the realization after my last divorce that I have no ability to recognize good marriagable material, but living alone for a few years now, I have embraced the idea that I do not have to "save" great cooking and complicated dishes for "company." As they say in those hair color commercials, "I'm worth it." Goes for food too...! So how about a little foi gras and a tournedo for dinner tonight? You don't HAVE to tell your bf how good it was when he gets home. '-)
Here, here, Caroline1 and hilltowner!! I've spent most of my adult life single and have never bought into the notion that I can't delight just myself for dinner on a regular basis. Certainly, time has been an issue, but never the thought "it's only me, so why bother." My belief is that if you can cook reasonably well and can do basic math, you can make just about anything for one. I've even been known to braise a single veal shank--osso bucco for me. Haven't felt compelled yet to figure out how to do two cupcakes, but I'm still kicking, so you never know.
To build on hilltown's point, cooking for yourself is a great way to experiment with a new technique or recipe. Think of this as one of those "teachable moments," where you play with some recipes you've wanted to try but haven't. Perfect them, and then enjoy sharing them with your husband on weekends. Who knows? It could develop into one of those sweet rituals you'll always remember.
But on a more practical note. A couple of things that I love and that are actually easier for one are mussels and shrimp. Fewer to clean! A big bowl of steamed mussels (infinite variations on flavorful broths), good baguette, and a salad make for one nice dinner.
Single by choice, here. And Caroline1, I agree that saving "great cooking" for guests or a boyfriend du jour is silly. I AM worth it. Plus, I love the freedom from the standard dinner structure (main, veggie, starch) that I use when I'm cooking for someone else. Which means, sometimes my dinner might be some of my fabulous homemade ice cream!
I live alone and love to cook for myself. Current favorites include:
Pan-sauteed trout fillet (dredge in cornmeal) with asparagus and lemon
Baked potato with something green on the side - sauteed kale, steamed broccoli, roasted brussels sprouts, salad...
Pan-seared steak or pork chop or lamb chop with any veggie side
Roasted red pepper (blacken all over on gas burner, let steam a few minutes in a covered bowl, peel off burnt skin and cut into thin strips, then "marinate" in a little heated olive oil and chopped garlic) with spaghetti and grated parmesan
Bowl of rice topped with fried egg, steamed spinach, sesame oil and kochujang (Korean pepper paste - sort of a pseudo-bibimbap)
I have a lot of fallbacks as many others here - I don't save "good cooking" for others, but I cut more corners with myself, and certainly cook to my own palate... I'm one that likes my veggies cooked really well done and have no problem cooking them in the microwave or the steamer. I tend to make less cohesive *meals* so much as a smattering of protein, veggie, and maybe a carb of some sort.
Grilled veggies chopped and tossed over heat with shirataki noodles
Egg White Drop Miso Soup w/ Greens and Wild Mushrooms
Egg White omelettes w/ wild mushrooms and caramelized onions
Steamed Veggie Medley of whatever looked good at the market w/ White Balsamic Vinegar and Bragg's Amino Acids
Fish or Chicken en Papillote or blackened and broiled
Egg White "Crepes" filled w/ sweetened cottage cheese and preserves on the side