The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

On The Table

August 14, 2013

Cheryle Finley: Cooking single? Treat yourself to real meals

JOPLIN, Mo. — Back in my younger days, I lived alone for a couple of years. I rented an apartment before buying a house when I was 21.

The cute two-bedroom, one-bath cottage came complete with furniture for $18,000. I loved that little house, but what I didn't love was trying to cook for one person. It would have been easier to eat chips and salsa or cheese and crackers every night, but I usually tried to fix a proper meal, even if it was warming up a can of green beans and frying a piece of ham. has some great tips for people who are eating solo. First, let the saute pan become your best friend. It's the perfect size for a single steak, fish fillet or chicken breast, and it's ideal for sauteed vegetables. You can fix a complete meal in one pan.

Single servings are made for "en papillote," which is French for "in parchment." Parchment packets or foil can be used to wrap food tightly inside -- the enclosed meat and vegetables cook together, steamed to perfection. And the best part? No pan scrubbing.

Good advice from helpguide. org is to cook once and eat twice. If what you are fixing freezes well, make a double batch. Eat one and freeze one. Or make a recipe that yields several servings, and freeze them to eat later. Frozen mini-meatloaf and lasagna are great for future dinners. I've always tried to cook enough to insure leftovers because I don't mind eating the same meal for two or three days. You can also take that leftover baked chicken and turn it into chicken salad or enchiladas.

Instead of turning on the oven to make a meal for one, turn to the toaster oven, slow cooker or hot plate. Even a rice cooker can be used for more than rice. Did you know it's also great for preparing oatmeal, steamed veggies, soup and dessert?

Have a recipe that makes your mouth water but it makes 10 to 12 servings? While it can be tricky to reduce the recipe, it's not impossible, especially if you know your portion sizes. Also, be aware of pan size when reducing a recipe. If a recipe for 12 servings says to heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a big Dutch oven, use only what you will need for a small skillet. The best way to adapt a recipe to your needs is to experiment. Whether cooking for one or 12, plan ahead. Freeze what is left so you can enjoy leftovers and cut down on your time in the kitchen.

If you are cooking for one, sometimes appetizer recipes will hit the spot. From "Taste of Home Summer Appetizers," the mini-burger bites recipe will give your taste buds a treat with each bite. Also from "Taste of Home" is a shortcake recipe that provides two nights of dessert -- just wait until the second evening to assemble the second treat. Double this recipe for a larger group.

Our dear neighbor, Ed Sneed, has been giving us flavorful zucchini from his garden this year. My favorite way to fix this squash is to slice it, then fry it in butter with some onion. I could eat that every day.

I was surprised last year by how much I like zucchini bread and cake. So if you have extra zucchini, try the cake recipe from Frost it with cream cheese or chocolate frosting, or leave it plain for a good on-the-go breakfast. Have a wonderful week and happy eating.


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