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Oct 20, 2011 11:02 AM

Cooking for One: A Widow's Challenge

note: in the widowhood circles these days, the term 'widow' is non-gender specific. It's come to mean anyone who's lost their life partner.

In the two years of my journey down this new road, a huge challenge has been to feed myself properly, and with efficency. That means cutting down on food waste. I am always looking for strategies to that end. But please, no advice to "just freeze the leftovers". Already doing that.

There are days when all I can work up the energy for is popcorn and fruit. Other days I find joy in cooking "like I used to"--full blown meals with a sink full of dishes at the conclusion.

I'd love to start a conversation among those who newly cook for one here. What do you do and WHY? It may mean some repitition from old threads, but perhaps we can all glean some new insight into healthy and efficient meal prep for one, singles and widows alike. What do you say?

Toodie Jane

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  1. Hi Toodie Jane: I'm still in the throes of family feeding but for some reason I am always attracted to "cooking for one" books and articles. Have you seen Judith Jones' (she wrote Pleasures of Cooking for One several years ago) blog on the topic?

    1 Reply
    1. re: tcamp

      Joyce Goldstein and Deborah Madison have both written books on solo cooking, and America's Test Kitchen has an annual printing of recipes to serve two people--at least with them you won't be eating the same thing for a month.

    2. In one of the old Peg Barken "I Hate to Cook" books she has a wonderful chapter on cooking for one. She says people tend to gravitate toward a particular type of food--her list included soups, baked potatoes, eggs, open faced sandwiches and her own mother who survived on a martini, a vitamin and Metracal (the earliest Ensure.) Even though her book is of a different time and place, that chapter will make you smile. (She quotes Truman Capote as saying one of the best meals of his life was baked potatoes covered in sour cream and caviar--prepared on a hot plate in a motel.

      3 Replies
      1. re: escondido123

        I immediately thought of Peg Bracken, too! As I recall the chapter is subtitled "Eating with your Shoes Off'. It's in the Appendix to the I Hate to Cook Book. I know she also had a recipe for Prime Rib for One.

        1. re: Jeri L

          That's the one. I gave out the prime rib yesterday, and her banana bread, today. Like 5 minutes ago. Love that.. Such a witty, cynical lady: and good recipes too, easy as pie. Or not, if you're making your own crust, which Peg Bracken would certainly never do.

        2. re: escondido123

          If I remember correctly, Amy Sedaris also devotes part of her book ("I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence") to the art of cooking for only yourself.

        3. I'm not a widow but I'm single and like to cook. I find a kitchen scale helps with cooking volumes so you don't make too much of something and have wasteful leftovers either because they don't keep or I won't be home for a while to eat what won't freeze before it goes bad.

          Things I find easy to make for one:
          -Carbonara (it is about ratios) 1 slice of bacon cooked in pan, 1 serving of cooked pasta added to pan, 1 egg and 1 tablespoon of grated cheese added in the end, s&p
          -Sole meuniere, just buy one filet at the market.
          -Burgers, make a head and freeze and defrost when you need to, can make an infinite amount of flavored patties.
          -Potatoes: baked, oven fries, smashed pioneer woman style
          -Omlettes – infinite combinations
          -Cornish hens – small and cook faster than a chicken
          -Polenta – can be eaten traditionally the first night and then spread out and cut into squares to be crisped up the next day with various toppings
          -What I call eggs in purgatory- I make a simple tomato sauce or jarred, simmer in a pan, slide a raw egg or two in on top, cover, cook until desired doneness. Serve with bread or polenta.

          1. I find shrimp or scallops make an easy meal for one.

            Or I buy just enough fish to eat tonight, roast some potatoes and carrots and herbs in the oven, and when they've got about 10 minutes left to go, stick the piece of fish in your baking pan.

            I make a pound of ground turkey thighs worth of chili, and that can feed me for a couple of nights.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Jay F

              If you get frozen shrimp, its really quite quick to thaw enough for 1 under some running water. I always ask at the meat counter and they go to the back and get me ones that are still frozen, not thawed.

            2. I've made a cheese souffle for one ( in a 10-oz ramekin). You do wind upnwith an extra egg yolk, but you an always add that to scrambled eggs for some other meal.

              4 Replies
              1. re: nofunlatte

                I'd love the recipe for a single cheese souffle if you'd be willing to provide!

                1. re: 4Snisl

                  Here you go! I got this from

                  There is something very indulgent about eating a souffle for one!

                  2 1/2 tsp unsalted butter (plus more to grease ramekin


                  3/4 oz grated cheese (gruyere is good, but I’ve made it with supermarket cheddar and it was fine)
                  2 1/2 tsp all-purpose flour
                  1/4 c hot milk
                  pinch pepper
                  pinch nutmeg
                  can add a pinch of cayenne if desired
                  2 eggs, at room temperature and separated
                  pinch cream of tartar
                  1-2 Tbsp grated parmesan or romano

                  Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease a ramekin (10-oz or so; two smaller 7-oz ones if you plan to make this in a toaster oven, so it doesn’t hit the heating element when it puffs up). Sprinkle about half of the parmesan in the ramekin(s) and coat the bottom and sides. Wipe the rim if it has butter or cheese on it.
                  Melt butter in small saucepan over medium low heat and then add the flour, stirring it. Cook this mixture and do not let it brown. This will take 1-2 minutes. Take off the heat, add the hot milk and whisk everything together. Then a little salt, pepper, and nutmeg (plus cayenne if using). Place saucepan back on heat and turn up heat to medium-high. Stir and cook for about a minute; mixture should become thick. Then remove from heat. Add one egg yolk to mixture and whisk everything together.
                  Add a pinch of salt to egg whites and beat with mixer or whisk. After they get a little foamy add cream of tartar. Beat until egg whites are stiff. Add ¼ of the egg whites and stir in. Add cheese, reserving a little bit for the top. Gently fold the rest of the egg whites into the sauce mixture.
                  Put into ramekin(s). Tap on counter and smooth tops if necessary. Clean rim of ramekin. Sprinkle the top with the rest of the parmesan and other cheese. Place in oven. Turn down heat to 375°F. Cook for 20 minutes, until top is golden brown and soufflé has puffed up. Bake for 5 more minutes if necessary. Eat.

                  1. re: nofunlatte

                    This is fantastic- going to give this a try for dinner this week. Thanks so much!

                    1. re: nofunlatte

                      A long overdue reply to say that this cheese souffle recipe is absolutely wonderful- thank you! I do admit, I place the mixture in a shallower dish so I can put it in my toaster oven without risk of it billowing to the roof of the appliance. :) It still comes out decadent, light and satisfying.