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Do you cook/eat differently when it's only yourself?

I'm solo for 2 weeks while husband is traveling for business. Making a mental list of what I want to eat during this time. On my list of favorites so far are confit duck legs, grilled bone-in rib-eye, steamed dungeness crab, braised pork belly, wild mushroom risotto, and the only thing I haven't attempted thus far, an uni pasta dish (fresh pasta as well). What would your solo favorite list look like?

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  1. Would appreciate any tried & true recipes for your uni pasta dish. TIA.

    1. yes, i absolutely do. I eat very clean, plain, and sometimes a TON when I'm alone--I need a lot of food to feel satisfied and I'm a small girl so it looks kind of freaky for me to eat so much. lol. So I try to scale it back around others.

      1 Reply
      1. re: chrissy1988

        LOL...I've always had a good appetite but I can relate to eating around others.

      2. In that there are some foods that my partner doesn't eat (pork, shellfish, etc.), I tend to OD on these when I'm cooking just for myself.

        1 Reply
        1. When I'm cooking just for myself, I eat crap. Total crap. Mac & cheese from a blue box. Instant ramen. Potato/tortilla chips. Fast food burgers and tacos. Spam. A whole pot of rice.

          I used to think my primary motivation for cooking well was because it's a way I can show my love for my family, but lately, I've been thinking it may be a more selfish thing: I'm showing off. I'm a good cook and I know it, so I don't have to prove it to myself. But when I whip up something fancy for Mrs. ricepad from a pantry full of seemingly unrelated items and she wonders how in the hell I managed it...that's satisfaction. But on my own, I eat crap.

          7 Replies
          1. re: ricepad

            I've been known to fry up a can of Spam, a pot of white rice, and eggs over medium. Salty & crispy is one of my favorite flavors/textures.

            1. re: ricepad

              I was just wondering, does Spam go into the "total crap" or just the "crap" category?

              1. re: rcspott

                Depends on how it's prepared and served.

              2. re: ricepad

                Yep, me too sometimes. Or I'll eat something weird, like a head of iceberg or romaine lettuce (guilty pleasures in other words) and a couple of slices of the most exotic cheese in the fridge.

                1. re: EWSflash

                  Or a box of Kraft mac & cheese, or some pasta with a bunch of crumbled gorgonzola mixed in and microwaved. Really, that's my big-time favorite.
                  I thought imight look like a wannabe anorexic, but that's not it. I like what I like whether it's a head of romaine of a huge gutbomb.

                2. re: ricepad

                  I can totally relate to that, in fact, I'm laughing it's so dead on me. I'm not going shopping for just me unless I know my wife is gone for a couple of weeks. Hot dogs. Tuna. Omelets. Prepackaged Indian microwave. I keep a smoked kielbasa in the freezer for exactly those times.

                  If I do get motivated, it'll be one huge pot of bigos or something that'll last me a week. I'll eat it every day, maybe even twice a day.

                  Lots of things I'd LIKE to make when alone because my wife won't eat them. Stuffed cabbage, Tongue. Menudo. Sweetbreads. A good clam sauce (in shell) or mussels over pasta. Invariably when given the opportunity, I opt for lazy.

                  1. re: Panini Guy

                    If not for the bigos (never had it), I'd say you were me! I do the same, tho, with jook or MY chili (Mrs. ricepad's family recipe has BEANS in it, fer cryin' out loud!). With you on the hot dogs, and tuna...as a joke, my brother got me a box of frozen White Castle sliders, and I have to admit...I freakin' LOVE 'em!

                3. Much more game would be cooked than when my partner is around. And east asian food.

                  She's not too keen on either so it gives me chance to cook when she is away.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Harters

                    Not much game available around here, but E. Asian cuisine especially Korean & Japanese I definitely enjoy quite a bit.

                  2. Yup, it used to happen more frequently...but first on my list is broiled chicken livers. Everybody in my family loathes them and the smell.. I can cook these to my heart's content. Also fried clam strips (yes, I know it's the best I can get here in MI), rice is my starch of choice, soup, pudding or custard. It can be really fun. But if it goes on too long, I start reverting to sandwiches, take out pizza, salads or yogurt.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: berkleybabe

                      Can't even remember how long it's been, but chicken livers are now my list! Never had them broiled. Thinking a buttermilk, and flour fried treatment. A wedge salad would pair well.

                    2. I appear to be on your flip side since I'm usually cooking for only myself. I definitely cook differently when it's just me vs for others. I tend to do plainer food for myself and don't do enough well rounded meals. The treats you've lined up for yourself would be things I'd mostly do for company and not myself.

                      Sounds like you are in for a truly indulgent couple of weeks!

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Terrie H.

                        I only hope that he's eating as well while he's in Isreal.

                      2. I can't remember the last time I had a meal alone at home, but if the occasion ever arises, I would definitely cook more vegetarian. MY husband loves vegetables, but he has to have some sort of meat product at every meal as well. I am perfectly happy without it, and in fact I get tired of it. The only time I ever cooked a meat product for just me was when I was pregnant (lots of chicken, and which I guess may have the last time I cooked a meal for just me!), but other than that it's salads, stirfrys, pasta, rice and beans. Simple.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Cachetes

                          I too go through periods where I'm just not interested in proteins. I love a good salad, and leafy bitter greens especially.

                        2. Just returned from shopping for ingredients. Got my mushrooms for the risotto at The Milk Pail, along with broccoli rape for my duck side, and sunchokes, and asparagus just because. Next stop was 99 Ranch for the duck legs which I will start with the rub tonight. Worked up quite a appetite so I couldn't resist making a stop at Rose's International Market for my late lunch of koobideh with rice, roasted tomatoes, onions, and peppers drizzled with mast-o-khiar.

                          7 Replies
                          1. re: letsindulge

                            Is your husband a vegetarian? It caught my curiousity about why you want to cook these dishes while he was away. What parts of your meals are the things he won't eat?

                            1. re: Terrie H.

                              Husband is not vegetarian but he does like a wide variety of vegetables now. Apparently MIL cooked vegetables to death whereas I stop at al dente. His likes run the gamut from a simple grilled chicken breast, to haute cuisine.

                              The items he would not partake of from my list would be the pork belly, and mushrooms although he does like risotto, especially Milanese.

                              1. re: letsindulge

                                I'll sometimes buy mushrooms and then add them to everything. I'm the only one who likes them, so I need to use them up before they dry up. I like mushrooms in scrambled eggs or in an omlette. Sometimes I'll make mushrooms as just a side dish.

                                1. re: GraydonCarter

                                  I LOVE MUSHROOMS. Husband doesn't like cooked shrooms, but he will eat them sliced, raw in a prepared salad. Spinach is another thing he likes raw, but not cooked. And...he'll eat rice, and pasta if we're eating out but won't at home. Odd, but I loves him anyway.

                                  1. re: letsindulge

                                    Yes, add shrooms to my list. Husband isn't in love with them, so I will slow saute large whole mushrooms until they are shrunken and dark brown. Then I add them to a nicely prepraed spaghetti with homemade sauce---the mushrooms are like meatballs!

                                    1. re: IndyGirl

                                      It really intensifies the earthiness when you cook them au sec (to dry). To me it's totally worth the extra time to achieve that flavor. Have you tried roasting them? They're delicious.

                                      1. re: letsindulge

                                        Yes, I love them that way as well!!

                          2. Well I'm impressed! If I had two weeks, it would be cereal and more cereal...interspersed with ice cream, chocolate and an occasional salad! Maybe a bagel or two here or there...

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: jbsiegel

                              Got me thinking about Captain Crunch w/ Crunchberries now!

                              1. re: letsindulge

                                Life or Frosted Mini Wheats...left to go kind of mushy in the milk! Or...Cream of Wheat cooked so that it's lumpy! Yes...LOVE it lumpy with brown sugar, raisins and milk. Oatmeal with butter and brown sugar....

                              2. re: jbsiegel

                                Brings back memories of sending my girls to summer camp. Their parting words, "remember Mom, you have to eat something other than popcorn and frozen yogurt all the time."

                                1. re: KarenDW

                                  Sounds like they know their Mom. Good memories.....

                              3. I eat anchovy spaghetti when I am alone because my partner won't eat it, then beans and rice, then I revert to to pb&j. Although I love veggies, I am bad about cooking them for myself so i go out to CHinese restaurants and get big piles of them stir fried.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: magiesmom

                                  A nice cheese pizza with anchovies is something he & I enjoy together. Funny thing 2 weeks ago I fulfilled my craving for PB&J on extra-sourdough bread.

                                  1. re: letsindulge

                                    I have found exactly ONE loaf of good sourdough bread here in Georgia in the past 10 years. And that bakery is about 2 hours away, so it's not that convenient go hop on down and get a loaf.
                                    That was the sourdough that was central to my discovery of the wonder of peanut butter on toasted, buttered sourdough bread. Oh, my goodness. It was heaven. I have tried and tried to replicate that flavor, but the (not untasty) loaves that are sold as sourdough resemble more a standard white country loaf.
                                    I think I need to head west to get the real stuff. I envy you!

                                    1. re: jmcarthur8

                                      Yes, we are fortunate to have numerous artisanal bread makers here in N. CA. So many in fact that I don't bother to bake my own any longer.

                                2. My boyfriend thinks I'm very strange because when I am only preparing a meal for myself I will just make something very very basic(like a chicken breast, steamed broccoli, and plain pasta) or even worse I'll just eat boxed dinners. Its awful, I know, but I don't feel like I need to make anything special when its just me. If someone else is eating, I go all out, but otherwise I don't.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: emalineisabear

                                    Eating extravagantly day after day would get tiring.

                                  2. Pics of my mixed mushrooms. Baby shiitakes, crimini, oyster, and chantrelles being the big splurge. 2# of naked duck legs prior to salting.

                                    1. I want to eat with you when you eat alone! (i realize sounds creepy, and also is kinda oxymoronic...)

                                      my menu becomes much more simple and healthy when i am eating alone vs cooking for my family at home. not sure if the eating really healthy when im alone causes the lack of healthiness when im with them, or vis versa though...

                                      when im by myself its alot of chicken, fish, and eggs, roasted sweet potatoes, oatmeal, and veggies. with family it becomes much more complex. i think the main reason is because i am normally very busy studying when im by myself though, and when at home i have time to get more complicated

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: mattstolz

                                        I love roasted sweet potatoes. Sprinkled w/ cayenne & smothered in butter, and baked w/ ginger, orange zest, and maple syrup.

                                      2. I eat stuff he doesn't like or can't eat due to high cholesterol when he's not around!

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: IndyGirl

                                          Yes, logically we try to prepare a single meal that meets both tastes.

                                          1. re: letsindulge

                                            But I stick with easy. I never make anything extravagant when I am alone.

                                            Some examples:
                                            takeout palaak paneer
                                            takeout pizza from the excellent wood-fired pizza place nearby

                                            grilled cheese (total guilty pleasure)

                                            tomato/basil/fresh mozz on a crusty loaf.... only if the tomato is perfect!

                                            all of these things feature cheese, which my dear spouse needs to avoid most of the time. (We don't even keep any cheese in the house--too tempting.)

                                            1. re: IndyGirl

                                              I'm actually slightly lactose intolerant but I LOVE CHEESE! Paired with a nice bread?

                                        2. Salt & peppered legs, herbs de Provence, bay. To be Monday's dinner. Planned for risotto tonight but late lunch of Persian zapped my appetite. Tomorrow it is. Spot prawns @ 99 Ranch today has me thinking of a Cajun preparation with polenta for later this week.

                                          1. When I'm alone, I will usually cook one thing. When I cook for others, I'll cook 2-3.

                                            1. Yeah. Making a big extravagant meal for myself seems kind of pointless, so when I eat alone it usually ends up being pretty sparse. My go-to lunch used to be canned tuna (without mayonnaise or anything), salad leaves, and toast. No seasoning or anything, I just liked the way the ingredients themselves tasted, it was easy, and it was healthy.

                                              1. I eat the same food, but in a much grosser fashion. Usually over the sink, to minimize cleanup.

                                                1. I only cook spicy food at home when I am only cooking for myself because I am the only one who eats that. The same applies to sweet foods.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: FoodPopulist

                                                    Fortunately both he, and I like spicy but I must say he has the sweeter tooth then I. I tend towards fruit based desserts whereas he's all about the chocolate.

                                                  2. Sometimes I indulge in ingredients that either he doesn't like, or slightly more extravagant items. Or, eat out somewhere more expensive... :)

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: KarenDW

                                                      Letsinduge, if you like Cap'n Crunch with CrunchBerries (which I was addicted to in college), you might like the Kashi GoLeanCrisp Cereal with berry crumbles. Unfortunately, I'm addicted to THAT now but at least it is a healthier addiction. Like the others I am SO impressed that you are cooking these complex meals for yourself.! It's wonderful though - shows you value yourself :)

                                                      1. re: KarenDW

                                                        KarenDW I must agree with you. When he and I dine out he'll have made his meal choice in 5 minutes, whereas I'm still studying the menu. I go through a process of narrowing down to make my final decision. Then it's on to the wine list.....

                                                        I'm looking forward to a Korean, Basque, Indian, and Thai meal out during this 2 week period.

                                                      2. When it is just me I am less likely to do side dishes or veggies (bad old bachelor habits I guess) though I might do a salad.

                                                        Also when it is just me I probably eat in front of the TV.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: PenskeFan

                                                          I NEVER eat in front of the TV <lying through my teeth>. I'm all about multi-tasking!

                                                        2. Pasta, pasta, and more pasta. Mr. P. doesn't care for it, and I could eat pasta at least 6 days a week. I will make some for myself, but if/when he's gone, it's full-on, all the time!

                                                          3 Replies
                                                          1. re: pine time

                                                            Me too! I could easily eat pasta every day.

                                                            1. re: pine time

                                                              So many things you can do with PASTA. Aside from the Italian favorites I love making Thai Coconut Red Curry Mussels over linguine.

                                                              1. Heck to the yes. I make one big dish and eat on it for days. I would never inflict that on anybody else. But me, I'm grateful for 1. not having to come up with 7 days' worth of meals and 2. food I only have to reheat.

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: pdxgastro

                                                                  Heard. As we all know there are many dishes that are better the next day. We especially enjoy delicious L.O.'s for weekend lunch. Heat & eat!

                                                                2. Tonight's Roasted Mushroom Risotto. Was a little stiff but delicious. I pumped it up with white truffle oil. Tomorrow is duck confit night!

                                                                  1. Whenever I'm alone, I usually take the opportunity to eat a very nutritonally unbalanced meal. This usually means...

                                                                    Popcorn & wine
                                                                    Ice cream and pretzels
                                                                    Peanut butter toast and an apple
                                                                    Bowls of cereal

                                                                    Thank goodness my husband doesn't travel much for work!

                                                                    4 Replies
                                                                    1. re: gator28

                                                                      I do the popcorn and wine combo too! My new favorite is popcorn cooked in coconut oil. Really good.

                                                                      My boyfriend is out of town right now. Yesterday I had a couple packets of Cup o Soup wth a bunch of oyster crackers and today I made myself mashed potatoes with gravy for lunch. Dinner will most likely be some Valentines Day candy before I go to work tonight. Delightful. A far cry from the nice meals I make when he's home.

                                                                      1. re: gator28

                                                                        Very interesting pairings you have there! Would the wine be red or white?

                                                                      2. Would you like some company? My wife and I aren't doing too much for the next couple of weeks. We'll bring the vino. LOL

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: Puffin3

                                                                          Then I wouldn't be cooking for myself any longer...Lol! I've seen on various discussion boards that there are CH'ers that do meet ups. That sounds like fun.

                                                                        2. I scavenge in the fridge and pantry when I'm by myself. A sleeve of saltines? Okay. The last of the roasted brussel sprouts? Sounds good. A bowl of pimento cheese? Why not. Oh, is that a container of left over collards? Don't mind if I do.

                                                                          Better than the BF. When I leave him alone (with a freezer/fridge full of meals) he ends up eating a box of cheeseits or tortillas chips w/cheese for dinner.

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: viperlush

                                                                            My pantry is always pretty much stocked too. So much so that periodically I need to take inventory, and plan meals to use things up.

                                                                          2. I typically cook pretty lazy when I'm home alone. I save all the good expensive stuff for when we are cooking together. I seem to have much less desire to cook a nice bone in rib eye when I'm by myself than when I am with my gf. Typically when I'm home alone I just eat some left overs out of the freezer. A big part of it is that her and I cook together, she helps prep and clean. That's a bigger help than I realized and usually don't feel like doing all the work for just one person!

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: Rick

                                                                              Both you & I are lucky that we have partners that help in prep & cleanup. It wasn't always that harmonious in the kitchen for the hubs & I since I'm used to my commis @ work knowing exactly what I want / need.

                                                                            2. Happy V's Day to me, myself, & I. Just Skype'd with hubby in Isreal and now to enjoy my dinner of Duck Leg Confit w/ Spicy Sauteed Broccoli Rape.

                                                                              Thinking of Buta No Kakuni (Japanese Braised Pork Belly) for tomorrow. Any suggestions for a veg side?

                                                                              1. I tend to be a bit lazier when I'm eating on my own. I will do more soup and salad dinners, or bread and cheese and salad and pickles, neither of which are filling enough for my husband. I will indulge some food preferences he doesn't share (KD eaten straight from the pot in front of the TV, plus a night at the Pizza hut buffet). I also tend to cook for more than one night at a time, the way I did when single.

                                                                                My husband is an adventurous, uncomplaining and appreciative eater, so there isn't much that I'd cook that he wouldn't like, but things like KD aren't part of his cultural background (he likes homemade mac and cheese, though), and he needs his protein and a hearty meal. When I'm away, he will eat more simply (less dishes in the meal), and tends towards simple Japanese meals.

                                                                                3 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: letsindulge

                                                                                    Shorthand/British for Kraft macaroni and cheese ("Kraft Dinner").

                                                                                1. When I cook for myself it is almost always spicier and I tend to try different cuisines.

                                                                                  1. When my sweetheart and I got together (I was 37, it was 17 years ago), I was a little slow to realize that Dinner-with-a-capital-D -- the one I'd grown up with -- was back on the table, so to speak. We both cook, we both enjoy, but when he's out it's potato chips and cottage cheese for me. Man, I love that combination.

                                                                                    4 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: monfrancisco

                                                                                      I like this combo...what kind of potato chips? I think salt and vinegar would be very good with cottage cheese, or maybe even jalopeno.

                                                                                      1. re: gator28

                                                                                        Plain old Ruffles is my choice, but that salt & vinegar is pretty tempting...

                                                                                        1. re: monfrancisco

                                                                                          I adore sour cream and onion Ruffles dipped in cottage cheese. I haven't had it in years -- now I might have to!

                                                                                      2. re: monfrancisco

                                                                                        Hmmm...salty, crunchy, and creamy. Sounds like a winner to me!

                                                                                      3. I'm usually a combination of lazy plus indulging in whatever my husband doesn't really care for.

                                                                                        Frozen pot stickers from the H-Mart? Done.
                                                                                        Asparagus with a side of asparagus? No problem.

                                                                                        Generally, I'll just eat a lot of one thing and not bother with anything else. Easy to make, easy to clean up. And I really have no problem eating two artichokes on my own.

                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: sebetti

                                                                                          Great approach, and great selections! Now I kind of wish my sweetie had a trip coming up.

                                                                                          1. re: monfrancisco

                                                                                            Kraft dinner, or canned chili, or beef stew, or Bean with bacon soup. Eaten from the sauce pan and then the pan into the dishwasher. A perfect meal.