| “If you have the lifestyle where you eat out or order take-out every night, you can really get tired of it and it’s so expensive”, says cooking expert Marybeth Gregg, “so why not learn to cook with ease, and actually enjoy it?” “There is more to life than pizza and popcorn. Be a little adventurous. With just a few simple secrets, you can create a great meal for yourself and others.”, say this active business owner who offers tips to making cooking easy for a single person or smaller household. Many people with active lives think that cooking for one, or two, is just not worth the time, or they simply don’t know how. Be a little different - your skills may make you stand out in the crowd!
Marybeth, owner of Cook-with-Confidence Cooking School, has found out that there are major benefits to cooking – you eat healthier, it costs less and you get to actually create something on your own. Many people with hectic lives usually snack, skip meals or grab a quick fast food or other take-out meal. Skipping meals or eating high-fat foods deprives your body of energy and can make you feel tired. And a lot of people are in jobs that offer little creativity so cooking is a wonderful way to jump out of the box and be inspired and use their imaginations for a change!
So what's a body to do? Marybeth offers some tips and techniques for making eating alone an easier, more enjoyable experience by learning to shop and cook quick, delicious meals for one or two people.
There are a few strategies are essential for smaller quantities.
1.Plan ahead - using a written or mental menu. You don’t have to cook everyday! Just start with one or two times a week – select an easy menu, organize your ingredients and shop on the weekend when you have a few extra minutes. Organize your list by stores (grocery, specialty Italian, etc.)
2. Food Shopping - Make a list and stick to it. It may be difficult to resist the temptation to buy more food than you need or frozen ready-made dinners. But keep to your plan.
Ask the produce manager to halve heads of lettuce, or other produce to meet your needs. Just but one leek, not a big bunch of three.
Buy smaller cuts of meat or ask the butcher to cut beef or chicken into pieces big enough for one meal.
Look for foods that can be portioned with ease into smaller serving sizes such as rice, pasta, or fresh vegetables like a broccoli crown or pre-cut carrot and celery sticks. Buy fruits and vegetables by the piece, not by the package.
3. Time to Cook –Cooking need not be a dirty word and cooking for one has many solutions.
Cutting Recipes or Freeze It - Many recipes serve 4-8 as a rule. So you can either reduce the quantities, if they lend them selves to division, or make the whole recipe and freeze it. I recently invested in one of those vacuum- sealer appliances, and find it really useful. I put in a smaller quantity, seal it, mark it and freeze. You can also use those zip-lock bags which work just as well. This way you can also have a great meal you can thaw out in the microwave – make sure to remove the food from the bag when you do nuke it- and then just sit down and eat a fine meal after a tough day at work.
Invite guests when making a large meal – they can help you cook and then you can divide leftovers into smaller portions, enough for one meal and have 3-4 meals ready. Make it into a mini-party.
Save leftovers and create new meals by adding rice, pasta, vegetables, or a different kind of cheese.
4.Your well-stocked pantry – this is key to cooking with ease. Use some wonderful ingredients in your cabinets so that you can come home and just throw them together. Roasted peppers, tapenade, fig balsamic vinegar, capers, a great extra-virgin olive oil, a variety of spices, walnuts, almonds or pecans, all ingredients that can help you make a piece of plain chicken or fish into a delicious and fast meal and in barely more time than making a sandwich, or waiting in line for take-out.
5.The Niceties of Life -
To make your meal more of a treat, rather than a chore, remember the table. The ambiance often make the meal, even when eating alone. Vary the color of your foods – a meal of foods that are all the same color is dull. Choose multi-colored foods and use your nicest plates and place mats. Maybe even place some flowers on the table. Make it fun to cook and eat for one. Make a recipe you’ve been wanting to try so that you can use it for entertaining. Why not?
And you know you can always invite a friend to dinner. No matter what your age, company is really important to making us feel good. Sometimes the only socialization people get is at work or with family. Company during meal times can make a difference in what and how you feel about eating. It doesn’t have to be a fancy meal. A simple menu, using only the fresh ingredients, will go a long way.
So do something different and just enjoy a home-cooked meal for a change. You surely don’t need to cook every night, but when you do, you will get great satisfaction, and your body will love you for it! Have fun in the kitchen- it can be done.
Visit her at www.cook-with-confidence.com and ontact her with any thoughts or questions at: Marybeth@cook-with-confidence.com
About the Author
Marybeth Gregg has been cooking, entertaining and giving cooking advice for almost 20 years, is well-known for her wonderful cuisine, great parties and started her successful cooking school several years ago. She has been featured in several newspapers, is currently working on cookbook, a dvd'series of cooking lessons.