Cooking for one: operating at optimal

Do you struggle with cooking for one? This was BY FAR the number 1 topic request resulting from my recent reader’s survey. Strategies. Practicalities. How to overcome fatigue and inertia to cook just for yourself, when it’s all too easy to stop for take out on the way home. Are you looking for a way to get in a solo healthy cooking groove?

It’s about mindset 

Being successful at cooking for oneself is really about a mindset. The key is: we deserve to nourish ourselves! I invite you to convince yourself of this. You have a little more time than you think you do. You can easily acquire any skills and materials you lack. I’ll share practical strategies and recipes. All you really need is a commitment to self-care and a desire to go beyond sufficient to terrific!

An artist friend of mine who’s a good cook with a limited amount of time has recently been trying to cook healthier. He made my roasted asparagus salad (see below) and couldn’t BELIEVE how simple the salad dressing was. No more bottled salad dressing! Fresh tastes infinitely better. He personalized my recipe, adding extra vegetables and some leftover chicken from the night before. (He could have put a poached egg on it). A lovely, nourishing spring salad! Quick and easy, and a delight to the spirit as well as the tummy. 

It’s about delight!

My niece Mia who lives in New York City is crazy crazy crazy busy, but she can still get it together to cook for herself, because she’s become a good culinary assembler. 

The key is to have healthy options on hand. Mia loves greens, so if she has some eggs and some swiss chard, she can whip up a frittata (see below). Or she’ll just poach an egg and put it on top of some greens. She’s a big lentils person, and she can whip up a quick bowl of soup with a little stock on hand, or a lentil salad. It doesn’t have to be a major production. 

If you can include a little batch cooking on the weekend, it will be 10 times easier to get some good food in your body during a busy week. A pot of soup, a pot of quinoa, a tray of roasted vegetables, and you’ve got fixings when you come home tired and hungry. 

You gotta get on board. 

Having high quality cans of cold water salmon or sardines on hand, along with good eggs that you can plop on top of veggies, is invaluable.  I’ve become increasingly fond of meals in a bowl, with rice, quinoa, or greens as a base, topped with roasted vegetables, lentils, roasted chickpeas... any number of delicious and colorful things! Beautiful examples are all over Instagram and Pinterest. Fall in love with color, and you’ll be feeling SO much better for it. 

Try this for a week and see If you can get into the habit. You’ll notice it’s MUCH more cost and time effective. You can easily take a lovely salad in a jar to work, versus getting a big, overpriced sandwich and dying because you’ve eaten too much. 

Perfect recipes for one (yum, yum, yum!)

If you’ve been a reader for awhile, you’ll know I’m CRAZY about asparagus! I can barely WAIT for the first spears to arrive at the market in spring, and I eat asparagus in every possible guise (my poor husband!) until it is only a cherished memory, not to be seen again until the same time next year… This is a particularly elegant recipe I created in memory of a favorite farmer who shared my passion, and I think you’ll love it just as much as I do! And fyi, arugula keeps especially well and is a great choice to prevent waste when buying for one. 

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Frittatas, or baked omelets, are a delicious staple of Italian cuisine. Unfortunately, many people avoid them because they believe eggs raise cholesterol. That just ain’t so. A huge study of 100,000 people proved that to be a myth, and the American Heart Association now says that eggs can be part of a healthful diet. Aside from being an excellent source of protein, eggs also support brain health. In this delicious frittata, the eggs frame a whirlwind of flavorful ingredients with all the colors of the Italian flag: Swiss chard, cherry tomatoes, and Parmesan cheese (optional). 

My suggestion? Fall in love with sardines! They’re extremely high in omega-3s and vitamin D, both of which tend to be in short supply in people’s diets. Thanks to those mood-boosting nutrients, sardines are like little antidepressants in a can. That said, culinary wizardry is required to turn sardine skeptics into wild-eyed fans. My kitchen colleagues, Jen and Katie. swore they couldn’t stand sardines. I simply said, “You haven’t had them the way I make them” and sent them out of the kitchen so I could perform my kind of magic. (No rabbit and top hat; just red onion, basil, parsley, mint, olive oil, and lemon juice). Voilà! They eagerly devoured the sardines and asked for more. Ready?

COOKING FOR ONE, YOU CAN SUIT YOURSELF! GO FOR SIMPLE, ELEGANT, FRESH. THE RESULTS? YOU’LL BE OPERATING AT OPTIMAL, SAVING CASH, AND DELIGHTING IN YOUR DIET! A PRETTY DARN GOOD DEAL :)