Yes, it is possible to cook great-tasting meals for one without breaking the budget or having leftovers for a week.
Over a quarter of Canadians live on their own, and that figure is rising. From 2006 to 2011 alone, it soared over 10 per cent.
Two very different age groups frequently face the challenge of solo cooking: students when they first leave home, and seniors living on their own.
For the younger age group, lack of time, money and lack of cooking skills can mean they down a bag of chips and call it dinner. Many seniors simply lack motivation and may end up eating toast-and-jam suppers.
Fact is, cooking for one definitely has its upside. You can buy and cook only what you love to eat, with no need to worry about pleasing others. The possibilities for treating yourself are unlimited—from what you buy, to how you cook and season it.
Making a meal-in-one avoids the need to have a bunch of pots brewing away at the same time—a skillet to fry meat, for example, plus a couple of pots with peas and potatoes—which can lead to a sink full of dirty dishes. Furthermore, if you’re just starting off, you may just own a single skillet and might have access to only a microwave or slow cooker to do all of your cooking.
Here are a few ways to reel in a nutritionally smart meal, from wrapping a complete dinner in foil or parchment, to cooking everything in a frying pan or single baking pan.
ALL WRAPPED UP
Cooking in packets is an easy way to make dinner, with no cleanup required. Check out Tomato Feta Chicken for One and Asparagus Chèvre for One at chicken.ca. Both of these nutritionally complete meals are enclosed in parchment paper using the fancy French technique known as “en papillote” (pah-pee-yoht). Foil also works well in these recipes; it’s just not as pretty.
Here’s a simple DIY idea: Start with one piece of chicken (whichever piece you prefer); place it on foil or parchment. Add a vegetable and cheese, if you want to include that recommended dairy component. Use whichever vegetables you have that will cook in the same time as the chicken, and any cheese you adore. A good sprinkling of poultry seasoning, tarragon or thyme adds flavour and fragrance. Then wrap, bake, and dinner is done.
Got a hankering for an old-fashioned roast chicken dinner, but don’t want a ton of leftovers? Easy peasy! Choose a chicken leg or breast with skin on and bone in. Place on a pie plate or small foil pan. Add pudgy potato wedges, and a few carrots or slices of squash or pepper. Rub everything with butter. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and poultry seasoning, or sage and thyme. Paprika is perfect on the potatoes and dill on the carrots. Roast at 375°F (190°C) until golden, about an hour. Turn potatoes and carrots a couple of times.
Also try our Honey-Dijon Drumsticks and bake squash or half a sweet potato alongside.
For a fast healthy dinner in a frying pan, start by browning the chicken (a mix of butter and oil in the pan is best) over medium heat. The browning will take 2 to 3 minutes a side. Then lower the heat, cover and cook through. Count on 4 minutes per side for boneless thighs and as much as 12 minutes a side for a leg with thigh attached. Now, there is nothing taxing about this method.
To make it a complete dinner, throw in some cut-up fresh vegetables (from Bok Choy to pepper strips or inexpensive zucchini) or a handful of cherry tomatoes for the last few minutes of cooking. You could also add a few spoonfuls of water and either frozen or canned vegetables. Some quick-cooking rice, quinoa or pasta on the side, and it’s a wrap.
Glam up your meal a little by trying our Prosciutto-Wrapped Chicken with Brie Mash and Green Beans. Use whichever creamy cheese you may have and whichever vegetable you like.
Stir-fries don’t need to be gargantuan. A frying pan is an excellent sub for a wok when cooking just for yourself. While most stir-fries are kick-started by sizzling onions and garlic in a generous splash of oil, you can keep the oil count low by simmering with a few spoonfuls of water instead. Alternatively, simply skip this step; instead, throw in green onion and garlic powder with the chicken. In place of frying cut-up chicken, add leftover cooked chicken from the fridge or freezer after stir-frying cut-up veggies. Add teriyaki or hoisin sauce thinned with water and let the chicken poach (or heat if previously cooked) in the sauce. You may also want to drizzle in a little honey.
To make it more interesting, check out our Chicken Stir-Fry with Peanut Miso Sauce. And remember, the easiest way to kick up a dish is to add a fiery touch—hot chili flakes, Asian chili garlic sauce or a big dash of hot sauce. Learn more.
Guest Author: Monda Rosenberg