A framework for cooking for one

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A framework for cooking for one

Hi All,

Does anyone have a ideas unique to cooking for one? For most of my friends cooking for one means cereal or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I'd like to do better.

I'm very unimpressed by most "cooking for one"-type cookbooks. Judith Jones' "The Pleasures of Cooking For One" is a great example of what's wrong with cooking for one. I was hoping for a thoughtful discussion of what it means to cook for one, instead I got a collection of recipes that, for the life of me, didn't seem unique to cooking for one. Her recipes are just normal recipes with smaller portion sizes or an alternative way to use an ingredient.

For example, her "hollandaise for one" has a special trick: use only 1 egg yolk and less butter. Or, her recipe for grilled asparagus suggests using leftovers in a BLT sandwich. Gee thanks Judith, I never would figure those out. If you thought those tips were great, you'll be blown away by "Chapter 4: Use leftover chicken in salads" and "Chapter 6: Freeze extra soup."

What ways can I cook good food for myself that is beyond the obvious? Are there special ways to prep or shop? Are some ingredients, techniques, or styles of cooking better than others? Are there ways of organizing a kitchen to make daily prep and cooking more efficient?

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Hi Jason,

  It sounds to me that you know what you don't want, which means that you probably know what you like.    Is there any area of cooking for yourself that has you stumped?  Do you like having left over food for tomorrow's lunch?  Are you opposed to freezing leftovers for another dinner?

 

  I cook for two, and everything is made from scratch, so the freezer my friend.  Otherwise, the labor, or time intensive foods would never come to the table.

 

 As far as quick but yummy, think crepes, Mexican food, stir fry.

Does this answer help you?

  

 

 

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I cook for one every day of the week. Fortunately I don't mind eating the same thing I've made over a 2 or 3 day period. I'll take a whole pork butt, braise it and pull it. Then use the meat in tacos, pulled pork sandwiches, in mac n' cheese, casseroles, and never really get sick of it. I like buying large pieces of meat and breaking it down myself. 1. It's good practice 2. It's good practice :)

 

If you're looking more along the lines of 1 meal per cooking session in the kitchen, then you'll have to look at ingredients with a lot of small components. Eggs, beans, rice, pasta, vegetables, etc. For the protein you'll have to take broken down pieces and freeze them individually or separate them with butcher paper. These are all things that keep well separately and you can use as much or as little as you want.

 

But really it comes down to what you want. Whatever you like cooking and eating will motivate you towards finding a way to make it work.

 

One of the great things about being single is that there are no real pressing time issues to worry about. I can pick up things on my way home from work instead of worrying about what's going to spoil in the fridge, even though I prefer buying larger rather than single portion sizes which are overly expensive.

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I'm with everyone else on this. In fact, I PREFER to cook 4-8 servings and either eating leftovers the next couple of days or freezing some as individual portions for times when it will be better to reheat something instead of starting from scratch.

Another approach that works for some people (whether single or with full families) is the "once-a-month-cooking" idea of cooking a full month's meals to be frozen either completed or at a point where only a minimum of additional preparation will be necessary to finish them. By using some form of this idea and freezing things as individual servings, you can have a different meal every night if you're not a fan of having the same thing two nights in a row.

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dk
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I second freezing meat in individual portions.  You can move a packet of meat from the freezer to the fridge in the morning and it will be about ready at dinner time.

 

I like to cook in a wok.  Stir fry and tempura both work very well.  I also have a rice maker, so I start cooking rice, then prep and cook my meal and the rice is usually almost done by the time food is ready.  I always make extra rice so I can make fried rice the next day.

 

I'm not really sure if this is what you want to know, but this is what I do.

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I find my cooking-for-one varies by seasons. In winter, when I like soups and stews and things that are better the second day anyway, I make a big pot of something yummy on Sunday and eat it over the course of the week. In spring and summer, when the fresh produce comes in, everything changes. Then I like to pick up whatever looks good at the Farmer's Market or at a roadside farm stand and bring it home. The key at those times is to have a very well-stocked pantry. Fresh veggies often want a starch, so I make sure I always have good rice, lentils, pasta, polenta that I can cook up, and I make sure always to have key ingredients for my favorite kinds of sauces (or my own sauces standing by in the freezer). That way I can be inspired by whatever I find that's fresh and good. For this approach, the most important things are to learn techniques that you can adapt and apply on your own without needing a recipe for everything, and to stock the pantry and keep it stocked.

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I appreciate the feedback. I've been thinking a lot about this. Here are some random thoughts, in no particular order:

  • Pan sauces: Quickly sear off my protein, use the nummies for a quick pan sauce.
  • The freeze-a-large-batch approach will work particularly well for soups. Also, those can be made in really large batches and freeze particularly well without the IQF hassle.
  • Along with the large-batch approach, a slow cooker could be utilized for this purpose.
  • Focus on smaller portions of higher quality ingredients. Since I'm cooking for one I don't mind spending a little extra. Also, the bulk family pack deals tend not to apply to higher priced items. When eating alone I tend to eat less; which further justifies buying a little more expensive product. After all, why not spend the money on ME!
  • Broaden my knowledge and use of vinaigrettes; they keep for extended periods and add significant flavor.
  • As mentioned by a lot of people: utilize the market more frequently. When buying one or two items it could be viewed as a large pantry. Thinking about this I realize that the time it takes to search a poorly organized pantry one could pick up one or two* fresh ingredients from the store. *One or two is key; shopping trips tend to get long (too long?) when buying a week's worth of food.
  • Utilize "leftovers" to try different variations. When eating at a restaurant I'm often torn between two choices: should I get the smoke house bacon cheese burger or bluecheese mushroom burger... I can't decide. Well, when cooking a home that extra ground beef means I can eat both. :)
  • Not cooking, or par cooking speeds up prep. I should think about how rawness affects flavor and texture.
  • Become a better butcher (or breaking down larger cuts of meat as mentioned). A whole chicken broken down becomes a week's worth of meals. Plus I become better at breaking down a chicken. (And what doesn't impress the ladies like knowing the anatomy of a chicken?)
  • Deep frying and heavy breadings may be off the table. However, a light coat of flour is easy. (It also creates nummies for a pan sauce).
  • Cook more with wine. And occasionally put it in the food. :)
  • Learn to bake bread. Perhaps become a master of the no-knead bread technique. A loaf to oneself could have a wide range of uses like croutons for salad and soup (see: cook soups in large batches above) or sandwiches with high quality deli-meats and cheeses.
  • Use smaller cookware.
  • Utilize my ice cream maker more. It seems the ice cream maker brings a few advantages when cooking for one -- 1) making ice cream is dead simple, 2) I can experiment with more flavor combinations, 3) adding a low-fuss dessert elevates the meal beyond "cooking alone".
  • Breakfast for dinner!

 

Through all this thinking I've concluded that planning is essential. Even though I'm fairly organized, I'm not even close to being organized as I feel I need to be. For example, cooking goes much faster when prepping 2-3 meals at once. However, in order to prep those meals, they need to be organized. I haven't flushed out how best to organize; I'll have to think more about that.

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There is not anything really to learn about the no knead method of making bread. Sure there are minor things, but overall it's more of an anyone can make bread instead of paying for overpriced wondercrap.

 

I would concentrate on learning kneaded doughs, which freeze extremely well. I would try all the different kneading methods and find one you are comfortable with. Many people will tell you there is only one way, their way, to knead dough. I disagree, there are many methods to kneading dough and it is only the one that you are comfortable with that will produce adequate results.

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