Jul 21, 2014

Healthy Cooking for the Single Girl

It applies to those of us in long distance relationships every bit as much as those who are single - cooking for one, especially healthy cooking for one, can be quite a feat.

When you contemplate all the dirty dishes, the grocery shopping, the chopping, the preparation time, and the fact that you're probably only saving pennies on the meal, if that, it can be really tempting to just throw in the towel and call it a Seamless night every night.

But guess what happens then?

The Seamless delivery guy starts inquiring into your personal life. You get personal fortune cookie notes saying things like, "tomorrow, you will order the California Roll - am running out of avocado for the Avocado Roll" and "Don't tip with crinkly bills because the vending machine won't take them." And when you're finally not living like a single girl anymore, you'll realize you've lost all your mad Martha Stewart skills and regressed to soggy ramen and burnt toast.

A good goal is to aim to cook at least three or four meals at home per week. How much you end up doing, whether it's a little below that or way above that, depends on your lifestyle, budget, and what works for you.

But three or four meals a week, even if they aren't all elaborate seven-course stunners (let's be honest - elaborate three course stunners is already a huge stretch) are enough to keep you in the habit.

There are a few tricks that make cooking for one easier.

Buy ingredients you just need a tiny bit for from the salad bar. Dying to try a cool new recipe with a million ingredients, each of which is only about a tablespoonful when scaled back to a single portion? Instead of buying the ingredients in the grocery store, and ending up either having to make that recipe a million times to use everything up, or having to toss it all out because it goes bad before you finish it, shop the salad bar!

You can easily get a little bit of diced tomato or diced onion for your stew there in exactly the amount that you need.

Try dishes that have easy spinoffs. I went to boarding school and college after, so I've had plenty of time to pick up the sly tricks of the cafeteria workers - remember how there was meatloaf for dinner on Tuesday and Shepard's pie on Wednesday that tasted suspiciously like the meatloaf with an extra layer of mashed potatoes?

That sly trickery can serve you well. If you're making pasta with tomato sauce one night, make a little extra and you have the pizza sauce for your next dinner's personal pan pizza! It's a huge time saver, as long as you can do a little planning.

Look for longer shelf-life alternatives to the ingredients you need. Swapping out super perishable ingredients for less perishable alternatives, like frozen vegetables for fresh in a stew (flash-frozen veggies maintain most of the nutrient content) can save you a lot of money and headache. Some swaps can even make your food healthier!

My favorite less-perishable, healthy swap is using chia seeds instead of eggs!

Just like eggs, chia seeds are a powerful binding ingredient for cakes, loaves, baked oatmeal, etc. - but you can keep a bag of chia seeds in the pantry for way longer than you can keep eggs in the fridge. The powerful little seeds also pack a lot of fiber and omega 3 fatty acids, making them a great addition to your diet!

Not burnt (I swear) just that chocolatey - I got a special type of baking cocoa and used 100% baking chocolate squares
I like to use them in microwave cakes (hey, hey, hey healthy chocolate) and favor Nutiva black chia seeds (and white chia seeds, for vanilla microwave cakes or thick smoothies!) for consistently high quality and great bags that keep the powerful seeds fresh even longer.

What are your favorite single portion recipes? Links are welcome!

Do you have any single portion cooking tips?

How often do you eat out per week? And are you happy with it or working on changing your patterns?


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