6 Ways to Make Cooking for One Easier, According to Dietitians
For some, eating for one means dining out or grabbing some takeout. But when you're trying to eat healthier, that usually means you do more of your cooking at home. And when there's only one person eating, it's common to cook a larger-batch recipe and eat it on repeat throughout the week. While that strategy works (more on that in a bit), it might not be for everyone.
But we believe healthy eating for one can be delicious and enjoyable. That's why we turned to a handful of dietitians for their top tips on how to cook for one while keeping it healthy, mouthwatering, and fun.
Eating healthy should still be delicious.
1. Stock Your Fridge
"I rarely cook a full-blown meal for myself. Instead, I make it a point to have components of meals on hand so I can easily build something delicious. I always have some type of leafy greens on hand like baby spinach, some kind of lean protein, beans, a sauceeither marinara, pesto, or vinaigretteand some kind of grain. From there, I create something different for every meal, though usually it's a bowl meal for me. For example, I made myself a cauliflower rice bowl with seasoned chicken and used the same chicken to make chicken tostadas for my kids."
Carolyn Williams, PhD, RD, author of Meals That Heal
2. Subscribe to a Meal-Kit Delivery Service
"I am always recommending recipe delivery kits for my clients who are cooking for one! There are several companies that provide meals with two servings per recipe, meaning you always have lunch for the following day. I particularly like the protein portions that are perfectly sized as well as the fact that you don't have to buy large amounts of dried spices or fresh herbs, while still getting delicious, unique meals on the table."
Katie Andrews, MS, RDN, of Wellness by Katie
You don't have to spend money on expensive meal kits to get delicious meals for one! Subscribe to the Cooking Light Diet today and receive customizable meal plans based on the foods YOU love.
3. Choose Veggies You Can Cook Once and Eat Multiple Times
"I try to prep roasted veggies on the weekend and then eat them in (my favorite!) Gluten-Free Egg, Kale & Sweet-Potato Stacksthat particular recipe covers all the bases of flavors and macronutrients. I also will then pair my pre-roasted veggies with smoked salmon, fruit, and some crackers for a quick meal."
Jenna Braddock, MSH, RD, CSSD, of JennaBraddock.com
4. Lean On Pre-Chopped Veggies and Fresh Dips
"I rely on as many shortcuts as possible to cut down cooking time for one person. Fresh Cravings Restaurant Style Salsa is my favorite salsa shortcut and is made with vine-ripened tomatoes and fresh veggies with an incredible authentic taste. Their Kickin' Queso Cashew Dip is made from superfoods and almonds or cashews, making it the perfect dairy replacement and shortcut in traditional meals, like time-saving make-ahead casseroles! I grab both in the produce section while stocking up on pre-chopped or spiralized vegetables."
Shannon A. Garcia, MDS, RD, of KissintheKitchen.com
5. Cook Once, Eat Thrice
"If you're the only one eating a meal, it may seem daunting to go through all that work for just yourself. But if you plan to follow a recipe that usually provides 2 to 4 servings per meal, you can prep that and then just enjoy the rest at work the next day and/or the following evening(s). Cooking for 1 means you can elevate your normal humdrum work lunch or save time the next evening."
Christopher Mohr, PhD, RD, co-owner of Mohr Results, Inc.
6. Indulge in Premade or Frozen Eats
"I like to get a really good frozen pizza, cut it in half (or thirds), and pair it with a salad. It feels like a treat. In fact, I have half a frozen pizza in my fridge right now. Another thing I like to do is buy a premade soup and add a veggie to it (like baby spinach) for extra nutrition."
Indulge in non-frozen homemade pizzas, delicious cheeseburgers, and more! Subscribe to the Cooking Light Diet today and start receiving customizable meal plans with recipes the whole family will love.
From Cooking (Week 2) Quick and Easy Menus, Recipes and Tips for Singles and Couples
Hot tips about food storage
What do you know already?
(The answers are on page 5.)
1. What temperature range is safest for a refrigerator?
- a. 34 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit
- b. 41 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit
- c. 56 to 69 degrees Fahrenheit
2. True or False: Temperatures below 0 degrees Fahrenheit can kill bacteria.
3. Which method is safe for thawing frozen foods?
- a. Thawing on the counter
- b. Thawing under cold water
Your Refrigerator and the Cold Truth
What should happen when you realize you didn’t put your leftover pizza in the fridge last night?
For safety, throw it out. Unfortunately, you cannot reheat the food and pretend leaving it unrefrigerated never happened. Bacteria grew to dangerous numbers during the night, and some produce heat-stable toxins. Even boiling will not undo the damage.
If you remembered to put your leftovers in the fridge, did you make sure the temperature was between 34 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit? At this temperature, bacteria grow slowly, so food can last longer. If you don’t have a refrigerator thermometer, you need to get one ASAP: preferably get a hanging one that won’t get in
Choose Your Pantry Storage Space Wisely
Do you keep your potatoes under the sink? That is an unsafe habit unless you are trying to grow moldy or sprouted potatoes. If your storage area is moist or warm, food could spoil or decrease in quality. When deciding where to store food, keep these tips in mind:
- Be sure it’s a dry, cool and dark place. The ideal temperature of a pantry should be 50 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Keep food storage away from the oven, range, dishwasher, water heater or any hot pipes.
- Make sure you can see and reach all areas of the pantry easily.
What Freezes Well?
- Meats such as beef, poultry, fish
- Leftover casseroles
- Leftover soups
- Breads/grain products
- Berry fruits such as raspberries, strawberries, blackberries and blueberries
What Does Not Freeze Well?
- Whole eggs
- Raw vegetables (unless you blanch or heat-treat them)
- Dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt) — these tend to separate and lose quality, but are safe to eat
Some Freezing Tips
If you have enough leftovers for multiple meals, try freezing them. Let’s use lasagna as an example. While putting the whole pan in the freezer is easy, carving out single servings from a large frozen block of food is not practical. Instead, separate leftovers into individual portions (approximately 1 cup). Place in freezer containers or use freezer bags. Label the package with contents and date.
Don’t forget to have a thermometer in your freezer. The freezer should be 0 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. Take note that the freezer does not kill bacteria. Freezer temperatures prevent bacteria from growing until the food is thawed.
Thawing Frozen Foods: The Basics
Here are some safe ways to thaw foods:
Thaw in the microwave if the food is to be cooked immediately afterward.
- This is an easy method when reheating leftovers.
- Make sure the food is heated through by stirring or cutting into smaller pieces.
Thaw in the refrigerator, but be sure to plan ahead.
- This takes the longest amount of time but the least amount of effort.
- Thawing 1 pound of raw meat generally takes one day.
Thaw under cold running water at 70 degrees Fahrenheit or lower.
- Make sure the food is wrapped in a water-tight package such as a plastic bag.
- You also can submerge the food in cold water for a maximum of two hours.
- Fill with new cold water every 15 to 30 minutes.
Some Thawing Don'ts
Have you ever left a pound of meat on the counter to thaw?
Have you ever run a chicken breast under warm water to thaw?
If you answered “yes” to either question, you could be putting yourself at risk of foodborne illness.
Never thaw food at room temperature or in warm water. If food is warmer than 40 degrees Fahrenheit, but colder than degrees Fahrenheit, bacteria will multiply quickly.
What if that warm water from the chicken breast splashed on a salad you had sitting on the counter? Now you have bacteria growing in your salad. If you think thawing food on the counter is OK because the center of the food is still frozen, think again. The outer, thawed surfaces will serve as a breeding ground for bacteria.
Key to Abbreviations
tsp. = teaspoon pkg. = package
Tbsp. = tablespoon g = grams
c. = cup mg = milligrams
oz. = ounce lb. = pound
Easy Pasta Bowl
1 c. cooked spiral pasta
¼ c. sauteed grape tomatoes
2 Tbsp. olive oil
¼ c. shredded cheese (mozzarella cheese recommended)
Salt and pepper to taste
Cook pasta according to package directions. At the same time pasta is cooking, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in pan on medium-high heat and add grape tomatoes. Saute grape tomatoes for two minutes. Combine sauteed grape tomatoes, remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, cooked pasta and shredded cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Makes one serving. Per serving: calories, 31 g fat, 44 g carbohydrate, 3 g fiber, mg sodium
1 small pork tenderloin (2 or 3 lbs.)
1 packet dry onion soup mix
¾ c. water
Cut thawed tenderloin into three or more chunks. Add all ingredients in the slow cooker. Turn slow cooker on high for six hours. Pull apart meat with a fork after four to five hours. This recipe is good on a wheat bun or wrap with barbeque sauce, tomato slices, zucchini slices or cucumber slices.
Makes eight servings. Per serving: calories, g fat, mg sodium, 2 g carbohydrate, 0 g fiber, 24 g protein
3 c. reduced-sodium chicken broth
oz. can diced tomatoes
oz. can white beans (cannellini or navy), drained
2 celery stalks, chopped
3 c. fresh spinach
½ tsp. each salt and pepper
2 c. uncooked spiral pasta of choice
Parmesan cheese (optional)
Combine chicken broth, tomatoes, beans, celery, salt and pepper in slow cooker. Cover and cook on low heat for six to eight hours or on high for three to four hours. Add spinach during the last 10 minutes of cooking.
Cook pasta in separate pot according to package directions. Drain and add pasta to slow cooker right before serving. When soup is done, dish into bowls and add salt, pepper and parmesan to taste.
Makes six servings. Per serving: calories, 1 g fat, 38 g carbohydrate, 10 g protein, 5 g fiber, mg sodium
Vegetarian Taco Salad
2 c. fresh spinach
¼ c. corn kernels, cooked
¼ c. canned black beans, drained and rinsed (cold or heated)
2 Tbsp. shredded cheese
2 Tbsp. salsa
1 Tbsp. light sour cream
Toss all ingredients together.
Makes one serving. Per serving: calories, 7 g fat, 22 g carbohydrate, 10 g protein, 6 g fiber, mg sodium
Oriental chicken stir-fry
2 c. pre-chopped, prewashed stir-fry vegetables
2 Tbsp. olive oil
½ c. precooked chicken
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
Heat olive oil in large pan on medium to medium-high. Add vegetables and cook for approximately seven to 10 minutes. Stir every minute and adjust temperature as needed. Add precooked chicken when vegetables are almost done. Remove from heat and add soy sauce.
Makes one serving. Per serving: calories, 29 g fat, 16 g carbohydrate, 4 g fiber, 1, mg sodium
*To reduce sodium content, choose reduced-sodium soy sauce.
Chicken and Black Bean Quesadilla
2 whole-wheat tortillas
½ c. cooked chicken
¼ c. canned black beans, drained and rinsed
¼ c. shredded cheese
¼ c. bell peppers, chopped
Salsa, sour cream (optional)
Place pan on stove and turn to medium heat. Put one tortilla in pan, add half of the cheese, add the other toppings and sprinkle on the other half of the cheese. Place other tortilla on top of cheese and cover pan for approximately two to four minutes. Flip quesadilla very carefully to heat other side approximately one to two minutes. Cut into six pieces and serve with salsa and sour cream.
Makes two servings. Per serving: calories, 7 g fat, 29 g carbohydrate, 18 g protein, 4 g fiber and mg sodium
Scrambled Egg Burrito
1 whole-wheat tortilla
1 whole egg and 2 egg whites
1 c. spinach
¼ c. canned black beans, drained and rinsed
2 Tbsp. shredded cheese
2 Tbsp. salsa
1 Tbsp. light sour cream
Spray pan. On stovetop with medium heat, cook eggs and spinach until eggs are completely cooked.
On a heated tortilla, add cooked eggs, black beans and shredded cheese. Roll up tortilla and serve with salsa and sour cream.
Makes one serving. Per serving: calories, 37 g carbohydrate, 15 g fat, 6 g fiber and mg sodium
Healthier Chicken Parmesan
1 small chicken breast
½ c. dry pasta (1 c. cooked)
½ c. tomato sauce
¼ c. shredded cheese (mozzarella cheese recommended)
Cook one small chicken breast in pan on medium heat (in a small amount of oil or broth, as needed). Boil water with pasta according to package directions. Heat tomato sauce in microwave while chicken is cooking (Note: Thoroughly heating the sauce only takes about 30 seconds.) Cook chicken to F. Place chicken on top of drained, cooked pasta and pour tomato sauce and then shredded cheese on top of chicken. Serve hot.
Makes one serving. Per serving: calories, 4 g fat, 45 g carbohydrate, 8 g fiber, mg sodium
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extremely lazy dinners for when youre out of ideas
Sometimes the mental load of the day means coming up with dinner ideas just isnt happening. Thats when we reach for these super-easy meals. Were grabbing 2-minute noodles, microwave rice, pre-chopped veg and heaps of other shortcut ingredients to help you get dinner done quickly so you can kick back and relax.
This super easy cheesy noodle dish is sure to be a hit with the kids!
You can now make this Chinese takeaway classic in your slow cooker! The ingredients are usually stir-fried but in our version you cook the chicken first and then at the end combine with vegies and noodles.
Ready in just 15 minutes, this quick and easy chicken and corn soup is perfect for busy weeknights.
Cooking with Selema: Baked chicken and sides
Okay, so this one is going to be two dishes. Its baked Bar-b-que chicken with cheese and baked chicken with an avocado and mango topping—it’ll make sense in a minute.
Things you will need for BBQ Chicken:
- Chicken breast
- BBQ sauce
- Sides you want, in this case, mashed potatoes
- Potatoes, milk, butter, other things?
Things you will need, Avocado Mango:
- Chicken breast
- Mangos (as much as you want, one is probably okay)
- Avocados (as much as you want, two is probably good for one or two people)
- Rice (any kind)
- An oven
- Cookie sheet
- Non-stick spray (like Pam)
- A big bowl for mashing the avocado and potatoes
- Something to mash with
- A big sharp knife
- Rice strainer
Preheat to oven to degrees Fahrenheit.
Get the cookie sheet ready and sprayed.
You want to cut off all the fat and whatever else you feel like removing and then cut it in half to make two thinner full breast slices like the knife is going to be horizontal rather than vertical. So, lay it down, go to the thicker side with the knife, and slice through moving the knife back and forward but keeping it flat.
Put those pieces on the cookie sheet. Most will only fit like 2 breasts or 4 slices, but feel free to put more if you want. Since they will not expand like most things you bake you do not have to worry about them being too close, but I would avoid them touching.
Season it how you want, you can do both sides, but for the BBQ chicken, one side will be covered in cheese and BBQ sauce so that has a lot of flavors too.
When the oven is ready put the chicken in and set the timer to 10 minutes. The bottom should be pretty white, and the top should be getting there. It will look about half cooked. Then take the tongs and flip them. Then another 10 minutes.
By this point the chicken should be cooked, so cut a piece off and make sure it is easy to slice through and it is all white and taste it. Then cut into the middle/thicker parts and make sure it is white as well.
If you see all the juice has gone to one side, you should rotate the cookie sheet. Now lower the oven to °F. For the avocado chicken just give it about another 5 minutes or so. For the BBQ chicken go ahead and put the cheese on. Let it melt, do not underestimate how long it takes cheese to melt. I would say at least 5 minutes. Then slather that BBQ sauce on, cover all parts of the chicken using the whole bottle. What have you got to lose? Let it sit and warm-up for about 5 minutes.
Bar-B-Que – Potatoes:
Okay, so do not be an idiot like me the first time, I made this and used different-sized potatoes. Similar-sized potatoes are a must!
I think about that Lord of the Rings meme every time I type “potatoes,” this is not going to be fun for me.
Get yourself a big ol’ pot and fill it like 2/3 to 3/4 of the way with water, more than enough to cover the potatoes. Put it on the stove. Put the burner on high, add salt if you wish. Wait for it to boil. Also now is when you should pre-heat the oven to °F.
You can peel your potatoes or leave the peel on them— it does not really matter. However, you must wash them regardless, like give them a decent scrub. If you do not you are going to be like “SelEmA mY PoTatOs tAstE LikE dIrT.”
Once they are washed and possibly peeled and the water in the pot on the stove is boiling you can carefully drop them in. Now is time for the fun game called “How High Can I Leave the Stove Without the Water Boiling Over!”
If you are by yourself you might want to wait for the potatoes to go in before starting the chicken so that you have time to mash them while the chicken bakes, but that means they will also get a bit cold. If someone is helping you, you can start the chicken right away and have them mash while you deal with the chicken.
The potatoes are done when you can stick a fork through them easily. Cooking time depends on the size of the potato you picked, smaller goes faster than big. When done, put them in a big bowl, mixing bowl, and smash them with whatever you have, a slotted spoon and a fork worked well for me. Because like, what college kid has a potato masher? I do not do you? Am I behind in life? If you want to be really fancy and use a mixer you can do that, but if you have one you probably don’t need to be reading this. Mixing the milk and butter (softened) in will help you smash them as well. Just like I don’t know a decent amount at a time like the worst thing would be you have kind of runny potatoes. Then when it is nice and mashed-potatoy, you can mix in the other things. I get tired of mashing them though, so mine ends up a little lumpy, whatever.
If you can make potatoes, you can make rice. This is going to be the easiest thing to write. Measure, rinse it and follow the instructions on the pack of rice. If you did the coconut rice, then you should have a rice strainer and know how to do this. Check the water to rice ratio. Measure the water. Boil the water and then add the rice. Cover if it says to, don’t if it does not. Boom.
Turn the on and let it preheat before starting the rice. The chicken and rice could go in at about the same time.
If you mix the rice and it looks dry you should add more water. If it looks watery just leave it for a minute, it is still cooking.
While the chicken is baking, and the rice is cooking you can make the avocado mango. Think of this kind of like a sauce for the chicken—emphasis on kind of. You are going to cut the avocado (the way the internet says not to) by putting the knife in and rotating the avocado around the knife. So, you cannot sue me. I am officially saying to put it on the counter and rotate it around that way.
If you have a good knife and trust yourself then do the thing where you hit the pit with the knife turn and pull it out. I have some of the shakiest hands ever, so I will not be doing that. What I do is I start with the side without the pit and scoop the green stuff out of it by sticking a fork in it at the peel and rotating it around and scooping the green stuff out and putting it in the bowl (if this is hard your avocado probably isn’t totally ripe yet). You can scrape off the stuff that did not come out on the first try and put it in the bowl with the rest. Then I go to the other side, get the fork stick it in and under the pit and pop it out, might fly a little so just go gently. Then repeat.
Start smashing up the avocado with the fork and add in any seasonings or flavors you might want, like lime juice. When it is decently smashed you can add in the mango chunks.
Don’t forget about your chicken!!
About the mango chunks, as my friend said, “I feel so inadequate when cutting a mango.” So, I won’t be telling you how to do that, my advice is to get the pre-cut mangos and then if needed cut them into smaller ones. Like bite-sized or a little smaller, sized chunk.
You want the avocado to be really smooth so feel free to smash it some more when adding the mango in. Taste it. If it’s good, it’s done. If it is not, then I don’t know fam.
When everything is good cooked done and ready put it on a plate and enjoy!
For two 101 cooking
Slow Cooking for Two: A Slow Cooker Cookbook with Slow Cooker Recipes Designed for Two People
Create easy and delicious meals for two with Slow Cooking for Two.
If you're short on time, few in numbers, and craving the comfort of a home-cooked meal, Slow Cooking for Two is here to save the day. Slow Cooking for Two offers easy recipes meant for just two people, including soups, stews, casseroles, desserts, and more. Slow Cooking for Two will save you time and moCreate easy and delicious meals for two with Slow Cooking for Two.
If you're short on time, few in numbers, and craving the comfort of a home-cooked meal, Slow Cooking for Two is here to save the day. Slow Cooking for Two offers easy recipes meant for just two people, including soups, stews, casseroles, desserts, and more. Slow Cooking for Two will save you time and money with simple and delicious meals that are flavorful without requiring hours of preparation.
Slow Cooking for Two will give you all the tools you need to start enjoying slow cooking for two people, with:
* easy slow cooker recipes specifically designed for 1½ and 2-quart slow cookers
*Comforting Slow Cooking for Two recipes, including Minestrone Soup, Beef Bourguignon, Chicken Pot Pie, Mac and Cheese, and Turtle Brownies
*Easy one-pot meals, including Short Ribs with Polenta and Meat Loaf with Potatoes
*Practical techniques for slow cooking for two, including shopping lists, and food preparation and storage tips
Slow Cooking for Two will make it easy for you (and one more!) to enjoy delicious and hassle-free mealsmore
Published February 25th by Mendocino Press
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