Category Archives: Cooking for one

Snobbery, and a trip to the grocery store

Snobbery

I really never considered myself a snob. Well, much.

Hard reality: yesterday I had coffee with a really nice, highly intelligent man (we met on Brainiacdating.com – seriously). I was enjoying the conversation, even though I suspected that there is no possibility of more than coffee. He has an adult son with autism, and is pretty upfront about being committed to taking care of him.

All was well. Until he mentioned the new Pergo throughout the double-wide.

Done.

The grocery store
– I’m taking myself on a field trip to a grocery store later today. I realize that to you, the general, food-eating public, this is not momentous. People go to grocery stores all the time. Even single people. Even newly-divorced, “I don’t know how to cook for one after cooking for four” people.

I have gone grocery shopping since Mr. Ex moved out. But it’s been more of the “run in, buy yogurt, run out” shopping, unless I was entertaining (which, frankly, I didn’t do much in the last year). What have I been eating? For the most part, particularly since youngest moved out, it’s been quickie meals; roast chicken; take out; eat at oldest’s; happy hour (okay, quite a few of THOSE). Eggs. Bagels. You get my drift, I’m sure.

I realized this week that taking care of myself must include indulging in something that I’ve always enjoyed, which is cooking and baking. The whole onion roll adventure was part of that, and last week’s beef bourguignon and chicken enchilada soup day was another. So, today, I’m taking myself to a NEW grocery store (well, new to me), Perusing without a list. Gasp – buying on impulse. Because I want it.

The problem, of course, is that if I cook it’s too much for one. Perhaps having ComEd come out last week to take away my old full-size freezer was not the best timing. But I may have a solution to that. I found out yesterday that our school secretary and his live-in girlfriend are a little low on cash (how shocking – a colleague of mine not making enough money to live . . . she says with a touch of irony). He already works a second job, but I guess things are still tight. I’m guessing that they may be willing to help me out with the leftovers . . .

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Baking for one

p_1600_1200_46BDE6A3-765F-414F-9F33-FB6ED8961B89.jpegFor some time I’ve had a taste for these onion rolls. I used to make them all the time, and they were a particular favorite of Mr. Ex’s. The cookbook in which they can be found is an old copy of Ratner’s Meatless Cooking. So old that the cover price is $1.50.

So old that the book itself is a reminder of my beginnings with Mr. Ex. When he and I got engaged (at the ripe old age of, um, twenty), this book was a gift from a sorority sister. At that time there weren’t a lot of vegetarian cookbooks, especially Jewish ones. Named for the once-famed dairy deli in NY, Ratner’s cookbook provided me with many meal ideas early in our marriage. But the best was the onion roll recipe.

I used to make them all the time. Warm from the oven, dotted on top and filled with a tasty mixture of chopped onions, breadcrumbs and spices, Mr. Ex and I would make meal of them with a bowl of soup. Just tasting them brings back years of memories.

Which is probably why I haven’t made them for quite some time. The memories, and the fact that the recipe makes 24 of the delicious – but hardly low calorie – suckers.

But I’ve wanted them.

So, today, with plans for making a hearty soup over the weekend in the works, I braved the kitchen ghosts and mixed, chopped, kneaded and folded the dough. I waited for the dough to rise and contemplated what to do with 24 (okay, maybe 21) rolls at the end of the evening.

Then I saw the note on the recipe, right before the part about letting them rise before baking: rolls can be frozen at this point.

Frozen?

Frozen and ready-to-bake on demand?

Hot damn.

Better yet, hot rolls.

So there are now 18 frozen rolls just waiting to thaw, rise, bake and be eaten. And, lest you think I ate six tonight, three in the fridge for dinner Saturday night.

Kitchen ghosts be gone.

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The frugal single

More on living single on the cheap…

Disclaimer: although my husband of 30 years has moved out, my 23 year old daughter still lives with me. I’m still purchasing most of the groceries for the two of us, but she handles her own personal expenses and gas, etc.

I’ve been doing all the shopping for groceries (well, for everything) since he moved out, and it’s been an eye-opener. He did most of the grocery shopping in the past, so I didn’t really know how much we were spending on stuff. Being newly single has forced me to reevaluate the way to do everything, and spending is certainly one area that was ready for examination. Here are some of my recent observations:

Grocery buying at a non-grocery store

I buy a lot of Crystal Light. A lot. We don’t drink much soda at home any more (too expensive, not good for you, and – most important – too heavy to shlep), but sometimes dinner needs something more than water. So I buy Crystal Light. It isn’t the cheapest, either. It is, however, less expensive than soda (and I don’t have to recycle cans or bottles). Friday I was at Jewel (my local grocery store – owned by Albertson’s) and bought a can for over $5.00. But they didn’t have the flavor I really like, so when I was at Target yesterday I wandered over to the grocery section. Not only did they have the flavor I like, but it was under $4.00. That’s a big savings, in my book. Especially since I’m at Target at least once a week.  While I was there I checked out some of the other stuff I buy. Eggs were $2.30 for 18. Normally I buy 36 eggs at Sam’s Club for just over $4.00, so that was a little more than I normally spend, but the upside is that I wasn’t planning to go to Sam’s so the extra 30 cents was well worth it. And, it was still cheaper than buying eggs at Jewel.

Milk. Milk is expensive. Did the cows get a raise? I checked the price of milk out at Target. It was definitely cheaper than Jewel. Speaking of milk – I usually pop into the local 7-11 to buy milk – it’s almost always cheaper than the grocery store (and no long lines to buy it, either).

Bulk buying when you’re eating alone

Speaking of buying food at Sam’s Club – here’s my observation on that. If I can freeze it or eat it right away, it’s usually worth buying. But most everything comes in packaging that’s way too much for one, so I pass it up if it’s perishable. I almost always buy chicken breasts there. They have a package for around $11.00 that has 6 enormous breasts in it (I can’t quite picture the chicken from whence these breasts came, to be honest). I open the package immediately and freeze the breasts individually. One is enough for Allie and me for dinner. When she moves out next year I’ll still buy the chicken – I figure I can roast one breast and have some yummy leftovers for lunch the next day.

The importance of planning

Leftovers seem to be a huge problem for me. I’m still adjusting my cooking habits, so I end up having a lot of extra food. I also don’t have a huge love for leftovers – I hate eating the same thing days in a row. The problem is I love making soup, and every soup recipe seems to make way too much. I’ve decided to cut back a little on how often I make soup and freeze half immediately. I’m working on eating our way through the stuff that’s in the freezer right now so that I can store portion-sized soup containers to make it easy to pull them out. So far I’ve frozen lentil-barley soup and chicken tortilla soup.

Besides freezing, I’m also working on perfecting the planned leftovers method. In other words, planning on having leftovers to repurpose in another meal. A couple of weeks ago I roasted chicken breasts (try the McCormick’s Rotisserie Chicken seasoning – yum). It uses just as much cooking gas to roast two as it does one, so I made a couple. But that was way too much for Allie and me to eat at one meal, so I sliced the rest up and threw it in the fridge. The next night I took out a ready-made pizza crust, put barbeque sauce on it and covered it with the roasted chicken from the day before and some cheddar cheese. Oh – and some caramelized onions (a worthy addition to every meal, I must say). It was really good and cost next to nothing!

Tradtional 28-ounce tin of McCann's Steel Cut ...
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The next thing I’m going to try is making a large pot of oatmeal and keeping it in the fridge for breakfast microwaving. Check out Mark Bittman‘s blog post for tips on that.

One of the things I was most worried about when the STBXH moved out was that cooking for one would really cramp my style. I love to cook and make a nice meal, and I just didn’t know if it would be fun to do it for just me. I’m finding out that with some modifications it can be just as rewarding and affordable, too.

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(Empty) nesting

It’s cold outside. There is at least one foot of snow on my patio table. The dogs (not small ones) are knee-deep (do dogs have knees?) in snow when they go out.

There is a blizzard warning for tomorrow.

Time to nest.

There is nothing that I love more than curling up on the couch during the winter and watching movies, eating comfort food. The problem is that I generally love doing that with another PERSON. Hmmmm. Not gonna happen this year.

The best I can do is curl up with Killian. Now, she’s loving and cuddly and loves me unconditionally. She is, however, a black lab.

Now, I know that, this year, it’s not good to stay home alone and watch movies. I know that I need to go out and be with the world. But it’s so hard when the world is cold and snow-covered.

So here are some of my tips for fighting the winter blues .

1. I go out a lot. I meet friends for meals, I go to movies and I get out of the house. I generally do this during the day, though, rather than at night. It seems to be easier to deal with the crappy weather during the day.

2. I do things for other people.  Seems to be easier to get out if someone else is counting on me. I’m taking my mother to the dentist on Saturday. I can’t exactly cancel that, y’know?

3. Make plans in advance. When it’s left up in the air (the veritable “I’ll call you in the morning and we’ll decide”) it’s so much easier to blow it off.

4. Do something you really want to do; go to the play that you’ve been dying to see, get reservations at that great new restaurant. And if they’re expensive (and you paid in advance), so much the better.

What are your tips?

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Filed under Cooking for one, Divorce tips, Singleness, Transition

Cooking for one

I don’t have a clue how to cook for one person. Not one iota. Frankly, I don’t have much of an idea of how to cook for four.

Problem is that I really am not a fan of frozen dinners, or any of the other stuff that makes sense for one person to eat. I always kind of feel like it tastes like the cardboard it came in.

Other problem: I really like to eat homemade soups in the winter. I think it’s part of the nesting thing. Most soup recipes, though, make a lot.

Today I made this awesome chicken tortilla soup. Delicious. But it made way more than one person can eat.

Of course, I refrigerated the leftover soup, but I think I would probably eat it every night this week and still have some left. So I guess I’ll either have to invite the neighborhood, or (more likely) freeze the remainder. So I’ll need to buy freezer containers.

I was thinking about getting together with some other single friends and cooking a big Sunday night meal, then splitting up the leftovers so everyone gets enough for their meals for a week. Think about it: 4 people cook. Each person brings enough for 2 meals. You cook everything up, share a Sunday night dinner and go home with food for the next 6 or so nights. That would work, wouldn’t it?

Anybody ever do a cooking club like that?

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