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Cooking for One

I most cook for myself these days and find it very difficult. I get bored very easy and do not particular like leftovers. So when I make a normal recipe - serves four - I end up throwing some of it away. I tried freezing and sometimes it is OK - recent successes have been individual leek and turkey pies, chicken curry with pineapple, mushroom and barley soup. Other things just sit in the freezer and I have no desire to take them out... I have Joyce Goldstein "Solo Suppers" and like some (but unfortunately not too many) of her recipes - persian soup with meatballs, farro salad, lobster, poached salmon - but didn't like her duck recipes, saltimbocca, chicken recipes. Took Toni Lydecker's Serves One out of the library the other day and am left complete uninspired:(

Any suggestions? Would love to hear your thoughts!

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  1. Tell us more about why you don't like leftovers, what flavors you do like etc. It's hard to say what will work without knowing what you'd like.

    1 Reply
    1. re: escondido123

      I guess I spent too many years in Asia where no one eats leftovers:) I prefer something freshly cooked and do not mind cooking it:)

      I love lots of cusines - asian, indian, middle eastern, italian, spanish, french... mainly savoury, hardly ever crave sweets aside from dark chocolate.

      1. re: The Dairy Queen

        Thank you, TDQ! Great-great threads - why was I not able to find them on my own?!

        1. re: herby

          ALWAYS click the Advanced Search options on the initial search results page, to allow you to expand your results.

      2. I love "Healthy Cooking for Two-Or Just You" by Price.

        1 Reply
        1. re: ann_l

          I used to have this book and gave it to a friend in need of a cooking for one book never to be seen again...

        2. I'm exactly the same. I can't stand leftovers, and cooking for one was a struggle as it's just impossible to scale some things down to just make a perfect portion size. Also, I hated cooking for one. The hobos were really well fed and I was losing weight...

          Unfortunately, I don't have any great suggestions for you. The boyfriend came on the scene and thinks I'm a kitchen genius, and has a huge appetite and a fondness for leftovers. I'm dreading the day I have to cook for one again; I tend to rely on takeaways or prepare from frozen meals (boxed fish and prepared veg) when he's away for somewhat longer periods.

          4 Replies
          1. re: haiku.

            People who throw away leftovers rather than eating them waste enough money that they are probably better off eating out instead.

            1. re: greygarious

              You are absolutely right, greygarious! I like to cook and eat at home though and try not to throw leftovers away but I do not like to eat them either. I was thinking about it after I started the thread and realized that as I child I hardly ever had leftovers and when I cooked for my kids we alsways had something new even if super quick. It seems that my dislike of leftovers ha a long history:)

              1. re: greygarious

                I refuse to throw out food; I gave it to the homeless people I would see often near where I lived.

              2. re: haiku.

                I started seeing someone and am having trouble letting go of my well-honed arsenal of cooking-for-one habits :-P

              3. Judith Jones' book "Cooking for One" advocates using leftovers to make another meal (i.e. 1 C of rice can become ...............) so this might not be very helpful for you. When I was alone, I relished finding something in the fridge that I could build around. Have you had success combining buying some prepared things and cooking the rest of the meal? A single steak or game hen is a tidy serving, it's easy to bake a single sweet or russet potato and toss a salad for a no-brainer dinner. Substituting some interesting salad-side dish for the (boring) potato-salad might be an answer. A sobo-peanut-bok choy salad would be my first thought, then it's on to Mexican green chile rice or some saag aloo. Risotto for one is a snap as are many pasta dishes.

                I found it an enormous challenge to go from cooking for a family to having grown sons away at school and being widowed at a (relatively) young age. There were days I had popcorn & martinis for supper; that wasn't all bad. When I was energetic, I made a large pot of red sauce and ate from that, freezing some for later. My fallback favorite became Garbage Quesadillas - tortillas filled with whatever sounded good, topped with some kind of cheese.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Sherri

                  Cooking for One by Jones is indeed an excellent cookbook. Some of it is outside of my range (duck) but it really is a great resource.

                2. Found myself cooking for one a couple of years ago after a lifetime of cooking for a crowd...stuff happens...I survived my solo time by making a meal plan and being totally self-indulgent (even if it meant throwing away half a composed salad or freezing 3/4 of an over the top pie).

                  I don't know if it would work for everyone, but I started the year by making a list of the things I already knew that I loved: Ginger Salmon et al. Then I made a list of those things I enjoyed or thought I might enjoy, but had never been able to talk my family into trying (or just knew they wouldn't care for...this included farro, spelt, tabuleh, sushi, Pho, ginger tea, almond milk, lemon grass...)

                  In that year, I did fall back on my beloved Ginger Salmon and those clever boxed salads. But I also learned a lot of new techniques and recipes. I took classes, both from the local high school (bread-making, not with a machine and sushi rolling). and from the William Sonoma nearby. I learned a lot and enjoyed the company.

                  My friends all knew I was willing to contribute to their dinner parites and I held quite a few myself.

                  I also volunteered at a local Food Bank and learned how to deal with very large serving sizes in a 'commercial' environment...this was also fascinating.

                  There were nights when I did not have a plan...the list of pre-planned meals ran out before the week did. Thats when I tended to head to the Ginger Salmon, steak with mushrooms or tuna sandwich...but without guilt.

                  I realize this is more about a strategy than about a cookbook...but, for me, that was the greater challenge.

                  1. I've been cooking for one for about two years now, after a split up from the ex-boyfriend. It took some getting used to, but I've got it down to a science. I very rarely eat out and don't like leftovers either (for various reasons). I typically have no "waste" after a meal, and if I do have small amounts of extra veggies, I give them to the dogs with their dinner.

                    I fall back on staples I can measure out accordingly (rice, pasta, beans, etc.) as the basis of a meal. I keep different types of rice in glass canisters and just take out what's needed each night. I keep cans of chicken and veggie stock around, or frozen cubes in the freezer, or bouillion cubes for flavoring rice. These make it easy to measure out "single servings" for flavor instead of having to boil a freaking chicken carcass for 2 gallons of fresh chicken stock.

                    I keep my fridge loaded with fresh veggies (I buy smaller amounts of veggies every 2-3 days) and plan meals according to which veggies I have on hand. I always have potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic, then add in a few others at a time until they're used up. Many veggie combos are versatile enough to make different types of cuisine each day (add in cauliflower to the above combo and you can make indian veggie curry one day, roasted cauliflower and onion pasta with parmesan the next, and a chicken soup with potatoes, cauliflower, onions, rice, and cilantro the next--super tasty combo!). I also keep certain veggies on hand in the freezer for all occasions, namely peas and chopped spinach. I find myself putting handfuls of spinach in spanish rice, risottos, soups, etc. Delicious, nutritious, and easy to portion out with no waste.

                    As for your meats--I went vegetarian some years ago, so I can't attest to that. However, back when I first started living on my own after high school, I found it easiest to keep frozen chicken breasts (individually wrapped), meat, etc. in the freezer for such occasions. Either that, or I'd buy smaller servings of meat from a butcher or deli counter and cook them one night and save half for a new meal the next day. My ex particularly liked when I'd cook up some freshly ground beef and make a bolognese sauce one night, then add in seasonings and whatnot to make him modified sloppy joes the next. Oh god, I do not miss meat.

                    One last thing I've found useful is cooking up batches of tomato sauce and freezing them in ice cube trays til solid, then transferring to labeled ziploc bags. You can just pop out one or two for a meal and add herbs or seasonings according to dinner. You can do the same with homemade pesto, fresh-squeezed fruit juices, ethnic sauces, dips, or veggie purees. I always hated throwing away half a lemon because I only needed a small amount of juice for my pasta or vinaigrette.

                    I personally find eating vegetarian is much more conducive to solo cooking. I don't envy the solo-meat eaters. It was much harder to get meat into the meals without waste, at least for me. Most veggies are already in single-serving sizes and are obviously easier to keep in the fridge and break off pieces as you need them.

                    Anyway, hope this helped some. Good luck!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: nothingswrong

                      Wow, I guess I've been cooking for one for so long I don't see the problem. If you don't like leftovers, then obviously you want to buy food in places that let you buy the quantities you actually consume.

                      A pork chop, A single chicken breast. A quarter or half a pound of scallops or shrimp.. A cup of cooked rice. A handful of cooked pasta. Some polenta--make as much as you'll eat. An avocado half. A pear. A half a cantaloupe. Grilled cheese on a muffin. An omelette. A scone. A small souffle. A poached egg on spinach. A tofu stir fry. A baked sweet potato. An artichoke. A fried banana. Creamed anything on toast. Why does it have to be fancy? If you want stews or long cooked soups, you're going to have to make something so delicious you'll want it again in a week or a month, or find a neighbor who'll trade your leftovers for a small casserole of his/her lasagna. I don't see the logic of making extra food you know you won't want, then throwing it out, or putting it in the freezer never to be defrosted.

                    2. My sister has cooked for one since she got out of college... Her strategy is to buy small amounts of meat, have meat sparingly, and freeze what she doesn't eat immediately. She found she could scale down a lot of recipes with a few substitutions and bought herself a whole bunch of smaller pans-- tiny casserole pans, small pie pans, etc. So she can make most recipes except for whole roasts or birds, which she doesn't like anyway.

                      Combine that with making the staples in advance and freezing them-- not making a big pot of soup and freezing it, but freezing sauces especially-- and you can pretty much be covered. I've scaled down curries very easily, by the way-- just halve it.