Friday, February 18, 2011


Today I begin a new blog based upon by own ideas about feeding myself with healthy, economical food at home. As someone who loves to cook, I still struggle with putting healthy food on my plate when I'm eating alone. Like most of my single friends, I tend to eat convenience foods or skip to something straight out of a bag (like potato chips!)

As a more mature person (age-wise at least) I realize that eating healthier should have probably been a priorty all along but it just wasn't. Now it's time to begin paying attention - not only to what I eat, but where it comes from and how it gets to my local market. By no means am I an expert at eating the "right" things so this will be as much of an adventure in learning as anything else.

I also have a couple of friends who struggle to put meals on their own table simply because they don't know how to cook for themselves or because they just do not enjoy the process.  So here is my effort to combine doing something fun for myself and perhaps helpful for others in my situation.

Trying out new recipes has always been enjoyable for me and sharing them with others is fun and satisfying. If you run across this blog and find it helpful or just entertaining please feel free to comment so that I know what you're liking or disliking. Feel free to share ideas of your own too.

Almost every single person I ask has reasons why they don't cook when they're eating alone.  It's time consuming; it's hard to make the correct portion sizes; there's no time to 'plan' for cooking.  I hear lots of excuses and have used them all myself over and over again. 

In reality, whether you like to cook or not, taking a few minutes each day to make a meal is not difficult.  The world is filled with cook books and recipe sites to make any sort of meal you’d like. What I've discovered is that the hard part is portion control and leftover management.   

If you like cooking for a crowd, do what
I did and enter a cookoff! 
Here I am taking first place in our
company Chili Cookoff in 2002!!!
I’ve done a lot of research on the subject (took me almost an hour to see all that’s written about “cooking for one” out on the web) and I truly believe the hardest part about all of this is figuring out how to make “just enough”.  Nearly every recipe out there is scaled for four or more.  So I've challenged myself to find a way to get around that by scaling down my cooking to create "just enough" food for one meal, maybe two.

If you find a normal recipe that looks good and you make it following their directions– now you’re stuck with it for a few days whether you like it or not. A friend invited me over for stir-fry one night and there was just the two of us. She doesn’t cook much so when she does, she follows a recipe with great dedication. The dish turned out great - it tasted wonderful and we enjoyed the process of chopping and cooking together! The trouble was the recipe was scaled to serve 6. So although the both of us ate till we were stuffed, she still had more than enough to last several days.

I ran across this little pearl of wisdom on a web site dedicated to cooking for singles: “When cooking for one person it is best to either cook something you can then re-serve for another meal or freeze.”  Oh, come on!  How is that helpful?  In the case of my stir-fry friend, she will reheat it again….and again….and again….and again.  I don't know about the rest of you, but I like variety in my diet.  If I head home knowing I have to eat the same thing I ate last night, and the night before that, I will be sorely tempted to stop and grab something else before I get home.
The statement that was made about reheating and freezing really struck me as a cowards way out of the situation. That web site was supposedly dedicated to cooking for a single person and here was someone offering the best advice they could give and that was to just suffer through leftovers in perpetuity.

Bless their little hearts!  I love it
when my family comes to dinner.
The second bit of advice from this “cooking for one” site was to invite a friend over to eat with you “because eating alone is hard.” Hmmm….gee what sort of support and advice was that? As if most of us would never consider inviting friends over for dinner. Frankly I do this often, but every night? No, I don’t think that’s reasonable.

I will agree that going out to a restaurant and eating alone may be awkward for many single people, but eating alone is NOT hard if you're doing it in the comfort of your own home. It’s the COOKING for one that is the hard part.  I believe that if cooking is easy and doesn’t take much time, we can all make a great meal for ourselves anytime we need to eat.

I'll talk more about my rules as I go along, but basically these have come about to help me solve problems as they crop up in my own experience.
1 - always eat with real plates, cutlery and stemware
Eating alone doesn't have to be
dreary.  Make every meal
appealing as well as tasty.
2 - make yourself a comfortable place to sit and eat your meal
3 - keep your kitchen neat and tidy so that cooking will be more fun (or at least less hectic)
4 - fill your pantry with staples so that you can cook a meal without stopping at the grocery every day
5 - develop basic cooking skills and techniques to make cooking easier and faster - take cooking classes if necessary
6 - use the right tools and don't buy cheap tools
7 - learn to use a freezer for cook ahead days
8 - develop a list of meals that you can make easily
9 - if you're a wine drinker, have a glass or two with your meal
10 - when appropriate, have "cook ahead" days where you will make larger quanitites of something to store for later use

Don't look at rules 7 and 10 and think I'm just copying that other website telling you to freeze extra portions.  Believe me, not everything you make is appropriate for the freezer - but there are many things that are and the convenience of pulling out a single serving of homemade soup for dinner some night you do not feel like cooking, makes the fix ahead idea very smart.  There is a fine line between storing leftovers in the freezer until you toss them out a year later and carefully preparing and storing a meal for another time. 

Come visit this site often, I'm aiming to put at least one recipe up each week, more if possible.  Send me your comments and request things if you'd like.  I'm hoping this will be fun and let's get cooking!

All this being said, tonight I needed something quick and easy and simple for dinner. A very fast stop at the grocery netted 1/4 pound of deli sliced turkey and 1 packet of turkey gravy mix. From my pantry I pulled out 1 slice of nice French bread and a small can of beets. With these I made a very simple dinner.

It feels silly to even give a recipe for this, but here goes.  It's a simple start for the blog and one to get you rolling if you want to try it yourself.  It requires no special equipment, no fancy ingredients or any advanced planning. 


1/4 pound sliced deli turkey (get the unsweetened kind, the honey roasted will be weird tasting with gravy)
1/2 package of turkey gravy mix
pepper to taste
1 slice bread of your choice, lightly toasted

Simple dinner in a flash
In a small saucepan, mix 1/2 cup water with the half packet of gravy mix. Prepare per packet directions. Once the gravy is ready, break up the deli turkey into bite sized pieces and mix in with the gravy and heat through. Add pepper to taste.

To serve, place the toast on a warmed plate, top with the hot turkey and gravy.

Some of my friends think I do ALL of my cooking from scratch and that I might sneer at the use of packaged gravy mixes, but frankly I grew up with Mom using these all the time and while I agree that homemade gravy would be the ideal ingredient here, I might not always have chicken broth sitting in the fridge to be used. Give yourself a break and use the pre-packed to save the time and effort here. A good quality jarred gravy would be good here too, I prefer Boston Market brand, they're very good.


1 small can (4 oz) beets, drained
2 teaspoons butter
drizzle of maple syrup

In a small skillet, melt the butter and add the syrup. Add the beets to the skillet and bring to a boil. Stir to coat beets with the butter-syrup mixture. Serve immediately.

This meal comes in at around 500 calories, takes about 15 minutes to prepare and costs just under $3.50. Compare that to a take out you might have picked up on the way home and I've got you beat on all fronts.

Use the same method and substitute roast beef for the turkey and brown gravy for the turkey and you have another easy meal for a night when you're too tired to fuss much with your dinner.

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