The Solo Chef

Eating alone is no excuse to not enjoy healthful creations from your kitchen.

By Lisa James

March 2012


According to the US Census Bureau, more than 31 million people live alone. While that doubt­lessly means a number of lives filled with dinners eaten out and take-out eaten in, for many people “cooking for one is a fact of daily living. Far from dreading it, they find it to be a satisfying, fun, rewarding activity,” say Mark Erickson, CMC, and Lisa Erickson, graduates of the Culinary Institute of America and authors of Cooking for One (Lebhar-Friedman).

The Ericksons believe that solo cooking requires a strategy. First, approach mealtimes intentionally to “make cooking and eating dinner an integral part of the day.” Commit to making food that includes a variety of fresh, flavorful components so that boredom doesn’t set in (and to make meals healthier as well).

It also helps to take the drudgework out of cooking, starting with proper equipment. “You don’t need a lot of tools, just the right tools—sharp knives, good pans and a few hand tools,” say the Ericksons. They recommend getting an instant-read thermometer and a pair of kitchen shears, which can handle heavier jobs than regular scissors.

A little menu planning can make both cooking and shopping easier. The Ericksons suggest looking for fresh, seasonal ingredients and using them in a variety of recipes; for example, figs bought for skewering with meat one night can serve as part of breakfast the next morning. Double the ingredients in a recipe and pop the extra portion into the freezer. Use time spent waiting for food to cook to start something else: Soaking beans for soup the following evening, roasting a chicken breast for the next day’s lunch.

Living alone doesn’t mean always having to eat out of containers. You can make healthy, enjoyable meals for yourself.

ET Recipe

Ratatouille

2 cups large-dice eggplant
1/2 medium zucchini, cut into large dice
1/2 medium yellow squash, cut into large dice
1/3 red pepper, cut into large dice
1/4 onion, cut into large dice
1 1/2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground black
pepper, to taste
1/2 cup halved cherry tomatoes
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 tbsp red wine
1/4 cup chicken stock (homemadeor low-fat and -sodium)
2 tbsp slivered basil

1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Place vegetables (except tomatoes and garlic) on a lipped baking sheet, drizzle with oil, season with salt and pepper, and toss until evenly coated. Bake, uncovered,
for 20 minutes. Add tomatoes and garlic, turn with a spatula to distribute evenly and bake until all vegetables are tender, another 10 minutes.

2. Remove from the oven. Add wine and stock; mix well, scraping the sheet bottom. Pour into a small casserole, return to the oven and bake, uncovered, until vegetables are tender and wine has mellowed, another10 minutes. Season with more salt and pepper, and sprinkle with basil.

Serves 1. Analysis per serving: 320 calories, 5g protein,
21g fat (3g saturated), 10g fiber, 25g carbohydrate, 62 mg sodium
Recipe from The Culinary Institute of America's Cooking For One (Lebhar-Friedman, 2011) available at bookstores nationwide or at www.ciaprochef.com/fbi/books.html.


Polenta

1/4  cup medium-coarse or coarse stone-ground cornmeal
1  cup water
1/4  tsp salt
1/4  cup milk
1/2  tsp butter (optional)
1  tbsp grated Parmesan
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. Whisk together cornmeal, water and salt. Pour into a heavy 1-qt casserole dish and bake,
uncovered, for 40 minutes. The polenta will be nearly done at this point.

3. Add the milk and butter, and stir well until the butter is blended in and the polenta is smooth.
Continue to bake until the polenta is fully cooked and creamy, 10 minutes more.

4. Stir in the remaining ingredients and serve.

Serves 1. Analysis: 266 calories, 10g protein, 5g fat (2g saturated),
44g carbohydrates, 5g fiber

Source: The Culinary Institute of America's Cooking For One
(Lebhar-Friedman, 2011) available at bookstores nationwide or at www.ciaprochef.com/fbi/books.html.

 

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