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liuzhou

Cooking for One

114 posts in this topic

I'm surprised this hasn't come up before, but I searched and found nothing.

I live alone. Not my choice, just the way it worked out. It has its advantages; but more disadvantages.

Sometimes I cook for friends and that is a lot of fun, but most of the time it's just me and my knives and pans (mainly wok).

And I get bored. Some things are just too much trouble for one portion. I waste a lot of food. I cook for more than one, but then only eat for one. People tell me to freeze stuff, but most of the time I don't want to live on frozen food. I want to cook.

I know I'm not the only one here. And even those in couples or extended families must have the occasional cooking for one experience.

Anything to share? Dishes, techniques, sob stories?


Edited by liuzhou (log)
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Make more soups and braises. (I do) Many of them taste better the next day and voilà! you have yummy stuff for breakfast and/or lunch. Oh, I leave them on the stovetop at room temp overnight, not in the fridge. :-) Covered, of course.

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I've always liked cooking just for myself! The food I prefer tends to lend itself well to small batches (or large batches that hold well), so I never gave much thought to the fact that I was cooking for one. The usual strategy was to make biggish batches of soup/beans, which would be my go-to when I didn't feel like bothering to stir-fry some meat and vegetables. I always stir-fried small amounts (I have a regrettably efficient metabolism) in a small suace pan, and tended to experiment quite a bit, since I tended to do this for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I seldom baked, because I've always tended to eat the whole [insert baked item name here] in one go, which is not great. Occasionally I'd break out and make something completely different, and just scale it down; if I couldn't scale, I'd skip it, or share it with friends.

Best Thanksgiving dinner I ever had was just me, some fantastic venison, baby greens, and some sort of winter squash thing... can't remember what, it's a while ago now :)


Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

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I leave them on the stovetop at room temp overnight, not in the fridge. :-) Covered, of course.

What is room temperature? Here it can be anything between 10ºC and 40ºC. I don't really want to be eating braises in the heights of summer and the braises I make in winter, I don't eat all. Back to where we started.

I certainly don't want to live on soup and beans. l want the full range of dishes. I may live alone. I am not an invalid.

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We discussed a few cookbooks on the subject here

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I leave them on the stovetop at room temp overnight, not in the fridge. :-) Covered, of course.

What is room temperature? Here it can be anything between 10ºC and 40ºC. I don't really want to be eating braises in the heights of summer and the braises I make in winter, I don't eat all. Back to where we started.

I certainly don't want to live on soup and beans. l want the full range of dishes. I may live alone. I am not an invalid.

My room temp? Ranges from around 60ºF or below in winter to the mid/high seventies in summer. (Central heating/air-con). Yes, Leaving stuff out at 40ºC (104ºF) for long periods might not be a great idea, I'll agree.

Well, "soup and beans" - Western format - is not a particularly inviting thing to have all the time, true - but there are so many substantial and tasty Chinese-type soups and braises. I've illustrated several of them here recently. ;-) I don't eat everything I cook either, and do throw out a fair bit of food too. I do make small-ish batches without too much effort although I often tend to make batches that are equivalent to at least two meals worth; with some braises and certain soups I do end up with, say, three meals worth (or more) and those I might chuck out the "last portion". I like soups and braises year-round, even when the temperature outside may be hot, hot, hot - in accordance with my Cantonese background. :-)

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I live in a house share, but we mainly cook for ourselves, so I am in a similar position, but with added complications of limited storage, and shared use of the kithen.

Most of my meals tend to be one pot kind of affairs, or one pot plus some pasta/rice - cooking separate vegetables/sides for one is a bit of a pain, plus it hogs all the burners.

Stir fries, obviously are well suited to the solo diner - cooking for any more without a high powered restaurant style burner is difficult anyway.

It's the shopping I find tricker than the cooking itself - it's fine when I have had time to do a proper shop, somewhere where I can get things loose, so can get just what I need, but I often end up relying on trips to small supermarkets or convenience stores, where veg is pre-packed, and fish/meats always seem to come in packs of two.

The best thing about cooking for yourself is that you can make things as spicy, weird and experimental as you like!


I love animals.

They are delicious.

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I often tend to make batches that are equivalent to at least two meals worth; with some braises and certain soups I do end up with, say, three meals worth (or more) and those I might chuck out the "last portion"

.

Exactly what I am trying to avoid.

I think it's unavoidable to a certain extent if one cooks decent meals (as I would like to think all of us here do) rather than subsistence-level meals. Surely two-meal portions, which are quite doable, are acceptable? As I mentioned above, I do manage to cook single-portion meals too...but perhaps the fact that I have a healthy appetite also helps in that regard.

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My significant other isn't a huge fan of seafood. Thus, when I cook fish on the off occasion, I usually am cooking only for myself. I usually prepare side components in advance, and then pick up a fresh filet for the night on my way home from work. That way I cut down on waste and get a fresh/different fish each night.

For example, I recently had cooked some poached fish with citrus beurre blanc, pickled daikon, dehydrated citrus, and daikon vinaigrette (Eleven Madison Park Cookbook). I prepared the pickles, vinaigrette, buerre blanc, and dehydrated citrus a day or two in advance, then each night would just cook a new filet sous vide and serve with the sides (and fresh scallions & tarragon). Obviously more work than simply reheating previously cooked fish, but much better too.

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Maybe I just worded the introduction to the thread wrongly. I wasn't looking for well thought out expositions on the nature of cooking for one - especially when they get a bit judgemental.

I was kind of more looking for cut down recipes, tips etc. Practical stuff.

I have no objection to reasonably complicated recipes provided they are "single suitable". I often cook fish for myself. Sometimes in complicated ways.

But I absolutely refuse to live on soup and braises only.

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Something else I learned to do on eG was to freeze small portions of cooked white rice.

I hate frozen rice. Ditto refrigerated rice. It never quite regains the texture it had before freezing/chilling when reheated. For my taste, anyway. With me, cooked rice is left out at room temp - annnddd I have "proper" rice for that stir-fry the next day. :-) In fact, I've left out cooked rice (covered, of course) for 2 days or so.

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When I lived alone, I quickly discovered that the freezer was my friend

I have already pointed out that I do not want to live on frozen food.

Lay in a supply of smoked pork chops.

Can you tell me where to buy these in SW China?

Not right off-hand. But my next trip through there, I'll be sure to source some.

And I will say that although I clearly didn't realize that's where you are, I have actually lived in Asia (Hong Kong and the Philippines) and done a lot of traveling there, and after wandering through those markets, it seems to me as though, while you had some disadvantages, you also have a lot of last-minute, sling-together options that I can only dream about.


I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Maybe I just worded the introduction to the thread wrongly. I wasn't looking for well thought out expositions on the nature of cooking for one - especially when they get a bit judgemental.

I was kind of more looking for cut down recipes, tips etc. Practical stuff.

I have no objection to reasonably complicated recipes provided they are "single suitable". I often cook fish for myself. Sometimes in complicated ways.

But I absolutely refuse to live on soup and braises only.

Liuzhou, were you addressing this to me? If so, I certainly didn't mean to be judgemental. I was expressing my opinions as it concerned me. Let me reword that sentence about two-meal portions to say that it is acceptable for me, I wonder if it may be for you too?

As for soups and braises, I don't live on only these either. I don't think it is expected of anyone that they do, really. :-)

One way I create single-portion meals in my personal case is to portion out what I *think* I would need in a dish, then cut everything in half and put that half back in the fridge or cupboard. That doesn't work with everything, of course!

I also do use "convenience foods" (horrors! :-D) such as ramen packs, certain canned foodstuffs - and these are "automatic" one-portion meals. Instant ramen (don't laugh!) packs are very useful - I doctor them up with whatever I feel like, fresh veggies, an egg or two, sausages/sundry meats either fresh or leftover...and it's hard to arrive at a portion that is more than one serving for myself in my case. Not gourmet food, but I personally find it decent enough for casual meals now and then, here and there, and in the US there are so many types of such ramen/noodle packs from SE Asia to Japan and even India, ranging from bad to very good. I don't know what you would have available in your case, however.


Edited by huiray (log)

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My partner travels a lot, so I end up cooking for one frequently.

I mainly do:

- pasta - 1/2 lb works for one person, there are rarely leftovers

- beans, soups, stews and similar items that refrigerate well

- experimental dishes (new to me, complex and/or very spicy ones) that my partner might not want to eat

I do enjoy the zen of cooking for myself.

What I enjoy less is eating by myself. I end up consuming everything too fast and not enjoying it nearly as much. I think I enjoy dining most as a shared experience. It's just not always an option.

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I routinely cook for two, and I dislike eating leftovers in the same state as the original dish. So with a little planning, you can cook something substantial and recycle it through various editions later in the week. I frequently cook a main protein (say, a roasted or poached chicken) on Sunday nights, then use the leftover chicken to make soft tacos on Monday, diced small for a chicken salad on Tuesday, and then turn the remains of the carcass into chicken & veggie soup on Wednesday. The same applies to braised beef: pot roast on the first night...second night, shred some of the beef and veg and reduce the broth with wine & additional aromatics for a quick pasta sauce. Third night, shepherd's pie with the leftover beef as a filling w/mushrooms and tiny peas. Or use it as a ravioli or dumpling filling if you like to make fresh pasta. Black beans: over rice, then as a burrito filling, then pureed into a soup, then in a chili. Multi dishes along a theme keep you from getting bored and from throwing out the last bit of anything--you get good at turning it into something new.

I was raised by two working parents who did cook from scratch, so thinking like this is ingrained in me. I also freeze things in smaller containers for later use.

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...you can cook something substantial and recycle it through various editions later in the week. I frequently cook a main protein (say, a roasted or poached chicken)...

True.

One example in my case is when I sometimes make Hainanese chicken rice, with say a 4 lb chicken poached in the usual way (or a variant if I feel like mixing it up), eat my fill of the chicken (and rice and soup), then shred the remains of the chicken flesh and turn it into a chicken-in-aspic using the remaining stock (adding gelatin powder to it) and stuff like sliced hard-boiled eggs (layered in) and chopped scallions and cilantro (mixed in). That provides for a couple meals more or "snacks" for a few days.

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The food I prefer tends to lend itself well to small batches

eg?

I'm afraid it was mostly stir fries, which I realize sounds dull, but for speed, flavour, variety, and freshness, it's really hard to beat. Plus, as I said, I do like to experiment, and if an experiment was a disaster, I wasn't stuck with a large quantity of awful or inedible food. I grew up in Italy, so pasta was a go to for quite a while, but an aggravated carbohydrate intolerance took that off the table for most days, leaving it as a treat for when I could afford to be comatose the next day. But it also scales well, and leaves a lot of room for experimenting.


Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

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Eggs. Already individually portioned.

Baked eggs, scrambled eggs with tomatoes, sunny side up over some salad greens, steamed/baked egg custard (vietnamese, japanese or chinese salted egg style).

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The food I prefer tends to lend itself well to small batches

eg?

I'm afraid it was mostly stir fries, which I realize sounds dull, but for speed, flavour, variety, and freshness, it's really hard to beat. Plus, as I said, I do like to experiment, and if an experiment was a disaster, I wasn't stuck with a large quantity of awful or inedible food. I grew up in Italy, so pasta was a go to for quite a while, but an aggravated carbohydrate intolerance took that off the table for most days, leaving it as a treat for when I could afford to be comatose the next day. But it also scales well, and leaves a lot of room for experimenting.

I personally also find stir-fries to be easily scalable. I just use less stuff if I consciously want to cook a single portion, although I do also have a healthy appetite as I've mentioned previously. :-)

I also find pasta-with-a-sauce to be also easy in many cases for me. Pasta Carbonara is particularly amenable to single-portion control, at least for myself, as I lay out however much guanciale or pancetta I need for a single serving, then portion out the egg yolks/eggs I need [hongda mentioned the "individually portioned" aspect of eggs :-) ] and the rest follows. The rest of the guanciale/pancetta simply stays in the fridge/freezer. :-)

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I also freeze things in smaller containers for later use.

Well, I for one, certainly think you're wise to use the freezer as one of many tools to make your workday mealtime quicker and easier. I don't think that means you have "to live on frozen food."

For example, you could easily take a few hours on your day off and prepare & cook some meatballs, freeze them, and then later cook up some broth, fresh vegetables and noodles, and slip in a few of your meatballs to make a tasty, nutritious and speedy meal.

.


Edited by Jaymes (log)

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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I make batches of meatballs Italian-style, Greek-style, Asian-style, Middle-Eastern style and freeze them--carefully marking the bags. It makes for a nice variety of time savers and food mood matchers.

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