Sunday, November 11, 2012

Use Those Celery Leaves!

Fresh celery leaves.
Since Hurricane Sandy hit in late October, my mother has been staying with me while her apartment is under repair. I'm very much enjoying her company, especially when we work together in the kitchen. Although I learned most of what I know about cooking from my mother, we do have our differences when it comes to certain things--like what to do with the leaves on celery stalks.

Today we're making a pot of vegetable soup. Mom is cleaning fresh celery stalks before mincing them to add to the soup. I see that she's prepared the large, outer stalks of the bunch and is now eyeing the more tender, smaller interior stalks that are topped with a dense cluster of beautiful, pale green leaves. I see her mental wheels turning. She's thinking, "I'll chop the leaves and put them in the soup."

That's certainly one good use for the leaves, but I have a couple of other ideas. I manage to snatch the leaves from under her knife just in time. She gives me a puzzled look. But I think she'll be happy with one of the alternatives I have in mind.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Quick and Easy Pad Thai Rice Noodle Suggestions for One

Annie Chun's Pad Thai Noodles, 8-Ounce Packages (Pack of 6)
I was in a situation yesterday, once again, about needing a quick meal I hadn't planned for. Life's been like that for a few weeks now, with things going on in the family and a recent hand injury. Until my hand heals, driving and shopping are out of the question.

Since I went through all of my frozen emergency supplies last week, I had to come up with something clever for yesterday. Ordering out Chinese or Italian would be the easy thing, but also the more expensive.

So, I settled on my stash of Pad Thai rice noodles and organic vegetable stock. I cooked up an ounce of the noodles, heated up a cup of vegetable stock and a small can of cooked, drained black beans, poured the stock and beans over the noodles, and added a generous dose of Parmesan cheese and chopped scallions, and a pinch of salt and pepper. The resulting dish was filling and also healthy. I followed it up with two clementine oranges fresh from South America which my daughter had brought me the day before.

The Pad Thai noodles I buy come in an 8-ounce package, and they are the flatter noodles that look like

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Keep Your Freezer Stocked with Single Servings for Emergencies

I've been distracted this last week with an illness in our family. My normal routine is disrupted, and frankly, meal planning, shopping, and cooking have been the last things on my mind. But that doesn't mean that I haven't been hungry, just that I don't want to plan anything, and I really don't want to put the effort into cooking anything, either, not even the effort it takes to cut up greens for a fresh salad.

This week, I was grateful that I had a well-stocked freezer.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Salads, Sandwiches, and Smoothies - A No-Cook Summer Meal Plan for One

Since it's been so hot lately, unusually hot this summer, I haven't felt much like cooking, so I'm devoting this week to foods I don't have to cook, in other words, salads, sandwiches, and smoothies. My plan starts at my local farmer's market.

I'm Going Shopping

I get excited when my local farmer's market opens on Wednesday in the summer for a five-day week. They're closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, so when Wednesday comes along I'm waiting at the door first thing in the morning, eager to stock up on freshly pulled and picked produce from their farm and from produce they stock daily from the Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market for their customers' convenience. So here's what I'm buying tomorrow and then I'll tell you what I'm going to do with it all.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Why I Cook a Whole Chicken Just for Me

Cooking a Whole Chicken Is a Smart Thing To Do When You are Cooking for One

I've never met a cooked chicken I didn't like. Well, except once. Many years ago I ordered a baked chicken quarter from a local family restaurant. That chicken must have been sitting in the refrigerator, cooked, for at least five days, got warmed up, and was as stale as a shut-up room. Needless to say, I never visited that restaurant again (it went out of business shortly thereafter). But that stale experience never has to be yours when cooking a whole chicken just for yourself.

Although I'm cooking for only one person, I never worry about a whole cooked chicken going stale before I can eat it all. In fact, I often cook a whole chicken because, first, I love it, and second, it's such an economically smart thing to do, especially when whole chickens are on sale. For about five dollars, I can have at least five chicken servings, plus herbed chicken stock for a pot of soup, and even chicken sauce or biscuits for the dog. When a chicken comes into my house, nothing goes to waste. Here's what I do.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Ease into Meal Planning for One - Start with Lunches

A simple, hearty sandwich for lunch.
When I finally got serious about meal planning for one, after my daughter left the nest, I felt uncomfortably adrift in a sea of confusion. I'd been cooking and meal planning for most of my adult life, but aside from a few years of being on my own before marriage, always with others in mind. With my daughter off on her own, I found I'd have to break the old habits associated with cooking day-to-day for others and make some new habits that centered only on me. At first I bought too much, cooked too much, and wasted too much. But over time, I developed a few successful strategies for planning meals for one, and this is one of them: start meal planning with one category of meal at a time--breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snacks (yes, snacks are meals!).

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Start Meal Planning One Meal at a Time - Breakfast

Quick and easy breakfast parfait -
yogurt, fresh berries,
and muesli.
You don't have to go whole-hog when beginning to create and follow a meal planning program. You can start simply, with one category of meal at a time, and use your success to build up to an entire meal planning routine. Let's start with the breakfast category.

They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It can start your day with energy and alertness, and just as important, it can fend off that hungry feeling that drives us to make poor food choices for the rest of the day. It can also be the easiest meal of the day to make.

Read on for easy ways to kick-start your overall meal planning strategy.

The Simple Week-day Breakfast

My mother was an excellent meal planner, and I learned nearly all I know about meal planning from her. Since she worked full-time, she planned quick and simple week-day breakfasts, saving the tastier and more time-intensive breakfast feasts for weekends. She planned our simple week-day breakfasts with convenience in mind. Since Mom had to be off to work before I had to leave for school, she made sure I had breakfast items I could put together in a hurry and consume in the ten minutes it took to read the morning comics before gathering up my books and running out the door to catch the school bus.

Week-day Breakfast Items for Quick and Healthy Starts to the Day
  • Cold cereal (bran flakes, corn flakes, shredded wheat, granola, muesli).
  • Fresh or dried fruits (bananas, raisins, berries in season, dried plums, figs)
  • Yogurt or milk (cow, soy, almond...whatever your choice)
  • Hard boiled egg
  • Toast

Friday, May 4, 2012

Pantry Essentials for Impromptu Meals When Cooking for One

Pantry Essentials
I love stocking my pantry. I suppose there's a bit of compulsive behavior involved here, maybe even a hint of hoarding. But for sure, I don't like being out of favorite pantry staples when I have to cook on the fly, something all of us who cook for one must face from time to time despite the best planning efforts. As far as I'm concerned, there's almost nothing worse than having plenty of eggs in the refrigerator and craving deviled eggs for lunch only to discover I'm out of mustard, or finding a fresh chicken at a rock-bottom price and realizing I used the last of my dried tarragon in last week's halibut in tarragon lemon sauce.

Focus on What You Like To Eat

Building a stock of pantry essentials that allow you to pull together an impromptu meal is a personal affair. You are the one who knows best what foods you like and need. But maybe you can get some tips and inspiration from how I stock my pantry and from how the folks whose photos are featured here stock theirs.

Friday, April 20, 2012

From the Toaster Oven: English Muffin Ham and Swiss Sandwich with Red Grapes

By Guest Writer Michelle PG Richardson (aka Frieda Babbley)

A simple sandwich paired with fruit can be
just what your body needs for lunch time.
In the world of lunch for one, plopping together a sandwich is a common act.  Pairing that sandwich with chips is just as common. Sometimes this is all we want or need, and that’s fine.  But we all know that it’s good to treat yourself to a sandwich that can wow you and a side that gives you a bit more than a handful of chips has to offer.  A warm homemade sandwich like this English muffin ham and Swiss with a side of grapes is sure to hit the spot and give you a variety of nutrients to boot.

What You'll Need

  • English muffin - I like to use an original Thomas’ English Muffin (or you could try the whole wheat version)
  • Butter and a butter knife - for spreading
  • Ham - plain, smoked, honey cured, or low sodium is fine to use
  • Cheese - Swiss, baby Swiss, or provolone (remember, low sodium is available)
  • Fruits and vegetables as a filling or as a side - a good variety is listed below
  • Dollop of your choice of condiment - mayo, Dijon, ranch or honey mustard dressing
  • Oven set to 250 F or toaster oven set to toast - a toaster oven works faster, more efficiently, and uses up less energy

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Chef and Writer Joe Yonan Makes Cooking for One an Adventure

Joe Yonan is Food and Travel editor for The Washington Post where he writes the column "Cooking for One." His popular book, Serve Yourself: Nightly Adventures in Cooking for One, is a delightful sojourn into the world of cooking for one, not only because of the book's recipes, sound cooking advice, and encouraging words for those of us who cook primarily for ourselves, but also because of its engaging writing and thoughtful reflection.

I learned about Mr. Yonan's book while listening to one of my favorite radio shows, Splendid Table, from American Public Media. Host Lynn Rossetto Kasper interviewed the chef and journalist and put together a short but powerful five-minute bite that led me right to devouring his book. (The April 7 Splendid Table interview begins at the 27-minute mark.)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Quick and Easy Dinner for One - Tortilla Pizza

Drive Past the Drive-through Window!
There are times, like at the end of a particularly long and stressful workday, when I just don't want any part of  preparing a meal, even if I did plan well and have all the ingredients I need on hand. I just don't want to be in the kitchen and I certainly don't want to think about washing pots and pans and dishes before I call it a night. On days like this, all I want to do is drive over to the nearest fast food window, pick up a bag of comfort food and stuff myself while I sit on the couch and watch TV. It's almost always only with a supreme effort of will that I do drive right past the drive-through window and head for home -- unless I know I have ingredients for a hot, fresh tortilla pizza.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Meal Planning for One: Where To Start

What I love about planning meals for myself is how selfish I can be about it. After all, I'm the only one I need to please. I don't have to worry about anyone else's likes or dislikes, intolerances or allergies, eating schedules, or diet plans. I'm free to choose what I eat and when I eat. It's a nice freedom to have, although it's also a freedom that's easy to abuse. While I do focus on the foods I love, I'm also mindful of the foods I don't jump up and down about but also need to have.

When planning meals for yourself, begin with these three simple pre-planning steps. Taking these steps will let you create a meal plan that incorporates the foods you love, provides the right nutritional balance for you, and allows you to manage your cooking and shopping with efficiency.

Make a List of the Foods You Love
Knowing that you can eat the foods you love is a big motivator for building a successful meal plan. Years ago, my mother and I decided to go on a diet that was supposed to take off ten pounds in three weeks. We lasted only a week: We couldn't bear the idea of another fourteen days of eating nothing but spinach, grapefruit, black coffee, and hard boiled eggs. Take some quiet time to write down your favorite foods and then make sure they get included in your meal planning so that you never have to abandon a meal plan only because you can't stand the food in it.