Thursday, February 3, 2011

Dinner for One

So (one of) the (many) downside(s) of being single (1) is having to cook dinner for one (1).

I'm thinking of it like a math equation. Cook + 4 + 1 = BIG TIME BUMMER.

I try not to eat fast food. I certainly have a love affair with Chick-fil-a... but all those waffle fries aren't doing a thing for my "wobbly bits," as Bridget Jones would say. I try my best to eat healthy and include lots of colors in my daily diet. Not to wane esoteric, but do all the colors of peanut M&Ms count???

Sidenote: Tim Hawkins has written an extremely clever ode to the world's best fast food restaurant. Check it.

Anyway, I also have a lifelong hatred of leftovers. I'm not gonna make a casserole that I have to eat 3 meals a day for the next 10 days. Uh-uh. Not gonna do it. I always admired my old roommate Darsey (shout out! miss ya girl!) for making big pots of Brunswick Stew and eating on that thing til the pot was dry. She's a fan of leftovers. Me....not so much.

So, back to the idea of today's post. My quest to make myself dinner tonight.

I come home after a FANTASTIC arts integration workshop at 7:00 pm, wearily open the refrigerator door.

Close it. Open the freezer. Poke around at ancient bags of frozen vegetables. Gross.

Open the refrigerator again.

Since there is nothing to my liking I go for the canned goods. I notice towards the back a large can of Progresso French Onion Soup covered with a thin layer of dust.

I don't have any real bread to go in it, so I get out a stale bagel-thin from the refrigerator, tear it up, and find an almost-expired piece of sliced provolone cheese to put on top!

As I settle down on the couch to take my first bite, I nearly spit it out. The broth was watery and weirdly sweet. It also tasted like a can. I have a weird thing about canned soup tasting like a can. (Definite food issues....I know.) The bread was soggy, but not in the right way. It tasted like a yellow dish sponge. The cheese was also old and tasted musty. Like goat cheese - which always smells like gym sneakers to me.

Not to be defeated, I head back to the fridge for another look. Don't see a thing. Notice a bag of rice in the freezer that you can steam in the microwave. I take it out and also notice a bag of frozen grilled chicken pieces that have been in there forever. Perfect! Some protein!

Just in the nick of time I remember a bag of dusty can of black beans that was near the soup in my other cabinet. "Excellent!" I thought. "Black beans with chicken and rice. Totally carby, but at least it will be hot and filling. Just what I need after the soup du jour disaster."

So I put the chicken in a pan with some olive oil. It smells weird. I look at the date on the bag. Expired 5/2010. Oops.

The result was a bland beans and rice mixture that had me feeling like I was back in Nicaragua for breakfast. I ate about three bites and gave up.

Now I'm going back to the kitchen for a bowl of cereal.

Now I know:
Growing up eating mom's insanely delicious homemade meals really spoiled me.
I need to clean out my freezer more often.
I can't wait to have a family to cook for. :)


  1. Totally despise leftovers as well! I can't eat the same thing twice... And, I have food texture issues too. Glad I can read about yours and feel "connected!"

  2. And what happened to that new waffle maker? :)

  3. my mom used to have a cooking show here in greenville. she got so many letters from people about this subject that she start doing full episodes on "cooking for one." really helpful and got great response.

    a couple of things i learned, way back then, that come in handy now that i am a for-1 cook:

    1- divvy up foods into small portions for freezing. if you buy a pound (or more) of ground meat, separate it into small freezer containers or bags as soon as you get home. go ahead and make patties for burgers (which is also a good serving size for tacos). same sort of thing with chicken breasts, veggies, etc. that way, you're not having to cook as much at one time and ending up with the dreaded week's worth of leftovers!

    2- cook freezable meals at the beginning of the week. every month or so i make a huge pot of veggie soup and have some for dinner and lunch the next day (i don't mind leftovers in small doses). the rest goes (to friends and) in the freezer in small storage containers. they're perfect for days like you had when you can't find or think of anything to make. just heat it up and dig in. (casseroles, spaghetti, lasagna, soups, etc)

    one of my favorite meals for 1 (or more) is fish tacos. SO easy and SUPER quick. (and healthy!)

    i don't make these, but hobo dinners are also good options. chicken breast or burger patty with thinly sliced potatoes, onions, carrots and some soy sauce (or worcestershire) wrapped in foil (pack it up the night before so it's ready to go in the oven when you get home) and baked in the oven or thrown on the grill. eat right out of the foil - no dishes! (well, a fork and knife, perhaps.)

    this is a really long comment, but i hope it helps! figure i have many more years of cooking for 1 under my belt than you, so if i can not only commiserate, but share some tips...

  4. seriously, julia - that was the best comment EVER! and i can't believe your mom had her own cooking show. how cool!!!! i am totally going to try the fish tacos - when i do i will write a blog entry about them. :) thanks for commiserating and for the tips. you are fantastic!!
    ps: lets get together for dinner soon! i'd love to see you!!