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Sunday, June 25

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A while back a reader offered to give me a whole-buncha money if I was able to come up with a week's worth of dinners along with a shopping list that would be suitable for one person. It seemed like a challenge I could manage, so I set about trying to think of recipes that are easy and quick to make, that also happen to be somewhat healthy. It's not very often that I end up cooking for one, so this was harder than I thought. We always tend to have leftovers from dinners so when I am cooking for just myself, I'm just as likely to warm up leftovers as I am to make a sandwich or eat some soup.

I remember that when I did live alone, repeating those quick and easy meals grew quite boring and I found myself not pushing myself to cook as often as I should. But I know several people who live alone and I know they enjoy cooking or are at least trying to do it more often, so I found myself spending a lot of time thinking about making single portions of well-balanced meals.

I've written recipes for five dinners and an extra way to use a box of mac and cheese. Any of these recipes can be doubled to provide leftovers for the next day's lunch or to provide next week's dinner. I've tried to make sure that all ingredients purchased will get used during the week to prevent waste.

I hope that some of these meals are intriguing and I hope that the shopping list at the end encourages you to print this out and slip it into your bag for your next trip to the grocery store. And you'll be happy to know that most of these dinners are vegetarian, or can easily be made so. This makes them more affordable, means they freeze easier, and reduces cooking time.

Quinoa or Couscous Pilaf vegan
1 teaspoon of vegetable or olive oil
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon of turmeric (optional: will turn the dish a golden color)
pinch of crushed red chile flakes
1 cup of vegetable broth
1 small clove of garlic, minced
1/2 cup of quinoa or couscous
1/2 can of kidney beans
1 roma tomato, chopped
4-6 black or green olives, chopped and with pits removed
2 tablespoons of dried currants, cranberries or apricots
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup of frozen vegetables

Place a skillet over medium heat and add the vegetable oil and onion. Stir occasionally as it cooks for about 5 minutes, or until the onion is translucent and soft and just starting to turn golden. Add the cinnamon, coriander, red chile flakes and turmeric if you're using it. Cook for one minute while stirring constantly. Now pour in the vegetable broth and add the garlic, quinoa and beans. Reduce the heat to low and cover it. Let it simmer for about 15 minutes, or until almost all the liquid is absorbed. Add the chopped tomato, the olives and the dried fruit. Stir slightly and let it cook for 5 more minutes or until the water has evaporated. While the quinoa cooks, place the frozen vegetables along with a shake of garlic powder and a little salt and pepper in a microwave safe bowl and follow the package directions to reheat. Taste and season with salt and pepper as desired.
Makes two servings of pilaf. The second portion will be used for the next recipe.

Quinoa and Beef-Stuffed Acorn Squash vegan or meaty
1 acorn squash
salt and pepper
1 serving of Quinoa or Couscous Pilaf
2 ounces of ground beef, rehydrated Textured Vegetable Protein, or chopped mushrooms
(1 teaspoon of olive oil if using the TVP or mushrooms)
4 tablespoons of vegetable broth
2 teaspoons of parmesan cheese (optional)

Preheat your oven to 350° F. Cut the stem off the squash, taking just a little of the squash with it to create a flat spot. Cut the squash in half. Use a spoon and your fingers to remove the seeds and strings from the squash. Sprinkle each half lightly with salt and pepper. Place it hollow-side up in a baking dish and put it in the oven. While it starts to bake, sautée the ground beef, TVP or mushrooms in a skillet over medium heat. Let it cook until the beef is cooked through, the TVP is just slightly browned or the mushrooms are cooked to where you like them. Drain off any excess oil or grease and add it into a bowl with the serving of pilaf. Stir to combine. Remove the squash from the oven and carefully spoon the mixture evenly into each half. Pour two teaspoons of vegetable broth over each squash half. If you wish, you can sprinkle a teaspoon of parmesan cheese over each half before placing in the oven. Let it bake for about 30-40 minutes. When you pierce the meat of the squash with a fork it should be able to cut to the skin quickly and easily.
Serves two, so you'll have an extra serving for later in the week.

Salmon with Pineapple Salsa and Polenta
6 ounce fillet of salmon
3 tablespoons of pineapple salsa or other fruit salsa
1 refrigerated tube of pre-made polenta
4 tablespoons of olive oil
1/2 cup of frozen green beans
squeeze of lime juice
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat your broiler to high. Sprinkle the salmon lightly on each side with salt. Place about 4-5 inches from the flame under the broiler. Let it cook for about 2-3 minutes on each side. Remove it from the oven and lightly brush some of the salsa over the salmon. Return it to the flame for about 30 seconds. Flip, brush with the salsa again and let it cook for another 30 seconds. Remove it from oven and spoon the rest of the salsa over the fish. Cover it and let it rest until the polenta is finished.

Slice the polenta into two or three half-inch thick patties, depending on how many you wish to eat. Place on a dish and keep in the refrigerator. Heat a heavy skillet over medium-high to high heat. Once it gets hot, add the olive oil and gently glide the polenta patties into the oil. Do not move the polenta for 5 minutes to prevent the polenta from crumbling apart and sticking. Flip the polenta and cook for 5 minutes on the other side.

While the salmon and polenta are finishing, place the frozen green beans, a squeeze of lime juice, and a little salt and pepper in either a small saucepan over medium heat or in a microwave-safe bowl. Serve by placing the polenta in the center of your plate, then the salmon with the salsa on top of the polenta, and the beans on the side.
Serves one.

Steamed Mussels with Smashed Red Potatoes
1/2 cup of vegetable, chicken or fish stock
1 shallot, minced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/2-inch piece of fresh ginger, in thin slices
another 1-inch chunk of ginger, peeled and cut into 4 slices
1 teaspoon of soy sauce
2 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar
1 jalape┬ľo pepper cut into rings or 1/2 teaspoon of red chile flakes
2 small red potatoes
1 stick of lemon grass
1 pound of mussels (preferably cleaned and bearded)
Juice from 1 lime
1/4 cup of chopped fresh coriander
1/4 cup of dry white wine or sake
salt and pepper to taste

Add two cups of water, the stock, shallot, garlic, the first bit of ginger, jalapeno, soy sauce and rice wine vinegar to a stockpot and place it over medium-high heat for about 7-10 minutes or until it reaches a boil. Meanwhile, place another smaller pot filled with cold water over medium-high heat. Add the potatoes (cut into quarters) the lemon grass and the rest of the ginger. Cover it and let it come to a boil. While these two pans cook, make a large bowl of cold water. Place the mussels in the bowl in two batches. Fish out any that float and then tap on the shell. If it closes, return it to the bowl; if it doesn't close, throw it away. (This shouldn't happen with more than a few of them. It will be best to buy these the same day you plan on eating them.) Add the mussels to the pot and cover it with a lid. Give the pan a shake and increase the heat to high for 3 minutes. The mussels should have steamed open. Turn off the heat, squeeze the lime over the mussels and sprinkle with 1/4 cup of chopped cilantro. Cover it and let it sit while you remove the potatoes from the boiling water. Use a fork to smash them roughly and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Serve alongside a large bowl filled with the mussels.
Serves one.

Pasta with Kidney Beans and Cilantro Pesto vegetarian
1/2-3/4 bunch of fresh cilantro
1/4 cup of plain nonfat yogurt
1 teaspoon of olive oil
1 clove of garlic
salt and pepper to taste
4 ounces of dried bowtie or similar shaped pasta (tomato pasta is great with this)
1 teaspoon of olive oil
1 yellow squash, chopped
1 roma tomato, chopped
1/2 teaspoon of cumin
1/2 can of kidney beans

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Place the cilantro, yogurt, olive oil and garlic in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Taste before adding salt and pepper. Place in the refrigerator and let rest while the pasta cooks. Once the water comes to a boil, add the pasta and let it cook according to package directions. While it cooks put a small skillet over medium high heat. Add the olive oil and yellow squash. Toss to coat the squash with oil and then sprinkle the cumin over the squash. Let it cook for about 3-5 minutes or until it is just starting to soften. Add in the chopped tomato and toss it, and let it cook for another minute or two until the tomato is warmed through, but not starting to break down. Once the pasta is fully cooked, drain the water and return the pot to medium heat. Add the kidney beans and toss gently until they're warmed through. Pour the cilantro sauce over the pasta and toss it until combined. Pour onto a plate and serve with the squash and tomatoes.
Serves one.

And since I know that many people (myself included) turn to the blue box filled with macaroni noodles and powdered cheese for comfort, I thought I might offer a slightly more adult version that provides some more nutrition than Annie or Kraft will give you on their own.

"Doctored" Box Macaroni and Cheese
1 box of macaroni and cheese
2 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoons of milk
1 14 ounce can of diced tomatoes with green chiles, drained
1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin

Prepare the macaroni and cheese according to the package directions, but cutting back on the butter and milk. Once the noodles are coated with the powder, add in a can of diced tomatoes. Stir to combine over low heat. Once the tomatoes are heated through, serve.
Serves 2-3 as a main dish.

If you think these recipes will work for you, print out this column and take the following list of ingredients to the grocery store. As long as you purchase everything on this list or already have it in your own kitchen, you're ready to make six dinners. Hopefully this will help you get through your next week of brainless after work hours without you feeling the need to reach for a box of Lean Cuisine.

1 bunch of fresh cilantro
2 cloves of garlic
1 yellow squash
2 roma tomatoes
1 shallot
1 1/2-inch piece of ginger
1 jalape┬ľo pepper
2 small red potatoes
1 stalk of lemon grass
2 limes
1 acorn squash
1 small onion
2 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoons of milk
Small carton of plain nonfat yogurt
1 refrigerated tube of pre-made polenta
2 teaspoons of parmesan cheese (optional)
6 ounce fillet of salmon
1 pound of mussels (preferably cleaned and bearded)
2 ounces of ground beef, rehydrated Textured Vegetable Protein, or chopped mushrooms
cumin
salt
pepper
ground cinnamon
ground coriander
turmeric (optional)
crushed red chile flakes
olive oil
soy sauce
rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup of dry white wine or sake
2 tablespoons of dried currants, cranberries or apricots
1 box of macaroni and cheese
1/2 cup of quinoa or couscous
4 ounces of dried bowtie or similar shaped pasta (tomato flavored preferably)
1 can of kidney beans
1 can of vegetable or chicken broth
1 14 ounce can of diced tomatoes with green chiles, drained
3 tablespoons of pineapple salsa or other fruit salsa
4-6 black or green olives
bag of frozen green beans

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Comments

Katy / October 3, 2007 3:06 PM

Thanks Cinnamon! Besides the mussels, these are great looking recipes, that while adventurous, are things that I might actually eat. I'm printing!

 

About the Author(s)

Cinnamon Cooper is an untrained cook. Most of what she's learned has been by accident. The rest has been gained by reading cookbooks, watching The Food Network and by scouring the Internet. Oh, and she also hates following recipes but loves the irony of writing them down for others to follow.

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