Several years ago, my best friend and I were sharing some of our favorite recipes. She said to me, “MaryAnn, I’m really impressed by how much you cook. I pretty much lived off Top Ramen and cereal when I was single.”
I explained to her, “You were only single until you were 20. I’ve been single for a while longer than that. At some point I decided that, single or not, I deserve to eat good food too.”
However, when I talk to my single friends my age, I find that many of them are still living off the same Top Ramen, cold cereal, and microwave meals that got them through college. It’s not that they don’t want to eat better, it’s that they don’t know how to cook for just one person. Cooking for one or even two people is difficult. What if your favorite recipe makes 8 servings? Do you make the whole recipe and then eat it until you’re so tired of it you never want to taste it again? If you divide the recipe, what do you do with the leftover half can of coconut milk?
Another difficulty in cooking for one is that single people often have chaotic schedules. Most of us work full time and come home tired and hungry. We have family and social commitments that pop up out of nowhere, making it difficult to schedule regular meals. My siblings and their families have crazy schedules too, but they make mealtime a priority for the sake of their children. When you are only responsible for feeding yourself, it’s easy to let your nutrition slip to the bottom of your priorities.
You deserve to eat well. Cooking is not just something we do for other people. It is something we do for ourselves. In A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf wrote, “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” It’s time to step into your kitchen and make it your own. This blog is intended to help you along that journey. I will share recipes, tips, tutorials, product and tool recommendations – all focused on helping you prepare delicious, healthy and affordable meals.To get you started, I am sharing with you my ten basic principles of single serving cooking, beginning with number one.
My Single Servings Principle #1: Live well, eat well.
You deserve to eat something better than fast food, cereal or a microwave meal. When you start investing some time and thought into your diet, you will feel better about yourself and your life will improve. Let me give you an example of what I mean by this. I live in Utah and I teach math at a public school. Yesterday at about 3:00 pm a crazy snowstorm blew in. At 6 am this morning I got a call informing me that school had been cancelled. “Cancel school for snow?” I thought. “Are you kidding me? This is Utah! Buck up, people!” Or at least that’s what I thought until I decided to take a morning walk and check it out for myself. If the schools declare a snow day, you have to spend at least part of the day outside playing in it. Isn’t there a rule about that somewhere? Not everyone knows about that rule I guess because here is what the sidewalks looked like in front of me.
And here’s what they they looked like behind me.
Apparently we got a bit of snow last night. Dining al fresco, anyone?
There were a few patches of sidewalk that were shoveled. This particular bit made me laugh. Who exactly is going to shovel the middle part?
One of my favorite buildings in Davis County. I love it right after a winter storm when the snow is still covering the tree branches like icing.
By the time I got home, my pants and boots were covered in snow and I wanted something warm to eat. I sent a text to all my teacher friends who live nearby to invite them over for lunch. Only one came. But she’s a really good friend so I think she counts as three. The last thing I wanted to do was go to the grocery store in that mess. So I made one of my pantry staple meals – Chicken Soup with Lemon and Orzo. It’s a perfect comfort food for a wintry day and it was wonderful to share it with a friend.
The recipe I am sharing makes 4 servings. This is my favorite recipe yield. It’s easy to cut it in half when it is just me or double it if I’m having a big dinner party. To start out, you’ll need to dice an onion, some celery and some carrots. If you’re making this for one person, you’ll only need half of the diced onion. Throw the rest in a container in the fridge to use later in the week. A few notes about celery – the leaves have a ton of flavor, so don’t throw them out. Just chop them up with the rest. Also, celery stays crisp in your veggie drawer a little longer if you wrap it in aluminum foil. (Apparently the extra air circulation keeps it from going limp so fast.)
Heat some olive oil in a big soup pot over medium high heat until shimmering. Throw in all the veggies and saute until soft. Add two cans (4 cups) of chicken stock plus one can (2 cups) of water. Bring to a boil and then add 1 cup of orzo (a rice-shaped pasta). Reduce to a simmer and cook until orzo is tender, about 8 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl combine two eggs with the zest and juice of one lemon. It’s much easier to zest before you juice. The white part is bitter, so be sure to only zest the yellow part of the lemon. It’s not an essential kitchen tool, but my little citrus press sure makes juicing lemons easier and more fun.
Next you need to temper the egg mixture. This means that you slowly raise their temperature so that they do not curdle or scramble when added to the soup. To do this, slowly add three or four ladles of soup broth to the bowl of egg mixture while constantly whisking. Try to get mostly broth in your ladle and avoid the veggies and orzo. (If I had four arms, I would have taken a picture of this process for you.) Add the tempered egg mixture to the soup. You’ll notice that it changes the clear broth to a beautiful creamy color.
Add 1-2 cups of shredded rotisserie chicken (I always keep pre-portioned bags of this in my freezer).
At this point, do not let the soup come to a boil, or the eggs will curdle no matter how well you tempered them. Cook until the chicken is heated through. This tastes great eaten immediately or for lunch the next day as leftovers. FYI, the orzo will soak up a lot of the liquid overnight so the soup will have a much different texture the next day. Still delicious, though.
Chicken Soup with Lemon and Orzo
Recipe adapted from Ellie Krieger
Yield: 4 servings
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 medium onion
3-4 stalks celery, diced
2-3 medium carrots, diced
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
1 cup orzo
2 large eggs
Zest and juice of one lemon
1-2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
Salt and pepper
Heat 2 tsp oil in soup pot over medium-high heat. Add vegetables and cook until tender, stirring occasionally. Add broth and water and bring to boil. Add orzo and simmer until tender, about 8 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small bowl whisk together eggs and lemon juice and zest. While whisking egg mixture, slowly add two to three ladles of broth to the eggs. Add to soup and stir. Do not let soup come to a boil. Add shredded chicken to the soup and cook until chicken is heated through. Season with salt and pepper to taste.