Cooking for One

I love to cook, love to read cookbooks, and love to watch certain cooking shows on the food network. I subscribe to Cooking Light, get recipes from friends, but have never mastered cooking for myself. I think that’s because I do not like leftovers, never have and rarely eat them. There are books available, websites out there, but I think it’s very personal. One good thing about cooking for one is that I can experiment with dishes that I like without thinking about anyone else — very selfish. So, I’ve been looking for ways to cook what I like, be healthy in my choices, and not fall into the trap of prepared foods or snacking from the pantry. As anyone who cooks knows, it is easier to prepare foods you’ve done before — it tends to be for me chicken or fish. This gets boring for sure, so now and then I decide to make something like a big pot of soup or chili or spaghetti sauce. Then, my frugal self says this is a very good thing because I can freeze portions and then have lots of good things in the freezer when I don’t feel like cooking fish or chicken! Why does this make me feel a bit pathetic? Why do these dishes tend to be tomato-based (I don’t even like tomatoes that much)? Why is this even blog-worthy?

It’s blog-worthy because I need help. Cooking for one person is a challenge that lots of us face as we navigate living on our own. My friend, Roxanne, cooks freshly picked seasonal vegetables and is clearly a more creative cook than I am. Cathy, from my Tallahassee book club, has lots of vegetarian recipes that are wonderful. Lynda sent me a recipe for cookies this morning and talked about new things she is trying out. I have often talked about this with my cousin Jill who is single and a vegan. She makes the most wonderful soups and dishes and will eat them all week-long. Honestly, I just threw out another tub of Noodle Soup for Needy People (see an earlier post) because I only like it when it’s freshly prepared.

I know other single people who rarely cook fresh ingredients, relying on packaged mixes or prepared frozen foods. These aren’t bad, but I somehow equate using them on a regular basis (don’t get me wrong, I always have a Kashi pizza in the freezer and a couple of Amy’s Bowls!) as giving into a way of living as a single person that has been perpetuated by the advertising industry; marketing foods by implying that we single people need to pay attention to nutrition and the way to do that is to buy foods that will pay attention for us! All of this said, I welcome any ideas that you might have. Several years ago I hosted book club at my house and Anita brought a red lentil dish in a tagine. It’s been a go-to recipe for me ever since, so I hope she doesn’t mind if I share it with you here. It makes enough for 6 people easily. Let me know what you think!

Red Lentilstagine

2 cups red lentils
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 tbsp. ginger, finely chopped
4 cups vegetable broth
1 1/2 cups chopped tomatoes with juice
1/ cup chopped cilantro
1 tsp. ground turmeric
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
salt to taste

1. Spread lentils out, sort, rinse and drain well.
2. Heat oil over medium high heat and add onions. Cook until softened.
3. Add cumin, cardamom, garlic and ginger. Cook, stirring often, until fragrant (about 2 minutes)
4. Add lentils, broth, tomatoes, cilantro, turmeric, salt and jalapeno and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low, cover and simmer, stirring often, until lentils are soft.

Serve over rice of your choice (Anita recommended basmati rice cooked in half water, half coconut milk — delicious!!)