Table for one. . .

We all have to do it from time to time. A lunch alone. Dinner by yourself.  Whether you are single, dating, married, have a ton of kids with activities hither and yon, empty nesters…every once in awhile you have a meal alone.

So what do you eat?

Most people I know will high tail it to the closest drive through or chinese take out or make that somber pilgrimage into a restaurant for a table for one, but frankly if you have to do it on a regular basis that’s hard on the budget, the arteries and the waistline. Lord knows I’ve done my share of staring blankly at a pantry of stuff when it’s only a meal for myself bemoaning the fact there’s nothing to eat and grouchily settling on oatmeal with an ice cream chaser. (Yes, it ain’t pretty! No, I’m not doing that any more.) It’s not any fun.

Better solution…cooking for one.

If you flip through a modern cook book, a lot of recipes are for 4-6 people and make a ton of food, which is fine if you have other people to help with the leftovers. But if you’re just looking for an entree and a side for one, you don’t need to toss the cookbook in a pique of dining rage. You just need to find something that will work. Look for recipes that are made in a single skillet and are easily divided. Check out the appetizers and party food sections for things that are easily made in small amounts. If you are lucky enough to have a cookbook from the 50s, look for a section specifically for dining for two…many of them have great recipes and tips.

Be sure to stock up on a few staples too such as individually frozen chicken breasts and various frozen mixed vegetables. Frozen fish fillets are good too and you can find them individually frozen many places now as well. I always try to keep a few things on hand in the fridge too…having apples, carrots, celery, broccoli, onions and garlic available makes just about any dinner simpler.

So here’s a pair of great recipes for all those times you really don’t want to deal with the drive through on the way home or just for something nice to have on those nights when everyone else is off doing their own thing and you have to eat by yourself.

Fish en Papillote – fancy talk for fish in parchment (or tinfoil!)

1 frozen lean fish fillets (perch, sole, just about any white fish)
1 C frozen mixed vegetables (broccoli, carrots & cauliflower)
1/4 tsp dill
salt & pepper
1 TBSP white wine (leftovers work fine if you don’t feel like opening a new bottle, or get a nice bottle of kitchen wine)

Do this on a cookie sheet lined with foil. Very little clean up that way! Heat oven to 450. Place the fish on a 12 inch square of foil and top with the vegetables, dill, salt, pepper and wine. Fold up foil and seal edges to hold in the steam. Bake about 35 minutes on a cookie sheet or until vegetables are done and fish flakes with a fork.

You can do this in parchment paper too, but rather than a square, you’ll need to cut the parchment in a heart shape. Brush the parchment with oil and put everything on one side of the heart, fold over the other half and roll the edge to seal.

This recipe is -very- versatile as well, just multiply and make enough packets for however many people you’re having over for dinner. It’s also crazy easy for camping and cooking over coals.

Maple Syrup Apples & Carrots – great with a nice pork chop or chicken

1 medium carrot, sliced
1 medium apple, sliced thinly (hint…slice like you would a potato,  then cut out and discard the centers)
1 TBSP butter
2 TBSP maple syrup
1/4 tsp cardamom (use nutmeg if you don’t have cardamom handy)

Heat about an inch of water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Add carrots, cover and heat to boiling then reduce to a simmer. Simmer 12 to 15 minutes or until tender, but not overcooked and smushy. Drain. While carrots cook, heat butter in a skillet over medium heat. Cook apple wedges in butter for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in syrup and spice and cook for an additional 3-5 minutes stirring frequently until apples are evenly coated. Stir in carrots.

What’s your favorite thing to make when you are dining alone?


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