5 Awesome Cooking Tricks for Single People

by Christa Avampato on 29 May 2014 0 comments

You're eating another bowl of cereal or a single serve microwave meal — again. You don't have a lot of time, and because it's just you for dinner, why go crazy, right? Wrong! You are the very best thing you've got in your life, and you need to take care of you. (See also: Bulk Buying Basics)

As a single person, I have to manage my life on my own — including my food prep — so I keep a well-stocked pantry and constantly search for ways to make meals ahead of time, so I'm not tempted by take-out or eating poorly when my calendar is crunched. Here are five tips, and recipes to illustrate them, that work for me. (See also: 10 Great Freeze-Ahead Burrito Recipes)

1. Make Mini-Meals in Muffin Pans

Muffin tins are a single person's savior because they control portions and instantly turn recipes for a crowd into single servings.

I make all kinds of meals in muffin tins including quiche, meatloaf, breakfast and energy bars, breads and baked goods of all kinds, and pot pies (savory and sweet). Two of these goodies on a plate, and I've got a meal in minutes. Refrigerate or freeze any portions you don't use right out of the oven. If you have a 12-muffin tin and you don't have enough of the recipe to fill 12 spots, just put water into the empty ones to prevent the pan from burning.

Here's one of my favorite recipes that illustrates the concept: easy vegetable quiche. I skip the crust altogether since baking in the the muffin tin browns the egg mixture on the bottom and all the way around. This saves time and calories without sacrificing flavor.

2. Portion It, Bag It, Freeze It

My crockpot is one of my favorite kitchen tools. I throw in all the ingredients, turn it on low, leave the house, and come home to a delicious, healthy, fully-prepared meal. The crockpot does 95% of the work, and I get all of the culinary benefits. However, most crockpot recipes make many more portions than I typically need so I take the "portion, bag, and freeze" approach.

Chili is one of the most satisfying, comforting meals you can make in a crockpot, and it freezes very well. I love this recipe for easy crockpot vegetarian chili. Once you savor your first sumptuous serving, put the rest into individual freezer bags, seal, flatten, and freeze. The chili tastes even better reheated in a handful of minutes in the microwave. (See also: 25 Great and Easy Crock Pot Recipes)

3. Make "Natural" Single Servings

Certain meals such as smoothies, baked potatoes, and sandwiches are naturally single-serve. To make them special, I always go over the top on the decadence for these seemingly everyday options.

I'll use chocolate almond milk and a scoop of nut butter to make my smoothies extra velvety.

With baked potatoes, I fill many different varieties with all kinds of toppings both savory and sweet.

For my sandwiches, I'll make them ahead of time with hearty bread and gourmet cheeses, tightly wrap them or seal in a plastic container, stick them in the fridge, and then grill them into gooey panini when I get home.

Speaking of gooey goodness, this collection of 6 gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches will knock your socks off.

4. Let Kale Soften With Time

Some things get better with age: wine, cheese, and kale.

Kale?

Kale is a powerhouse of a vegetable, although straight from the ground it's a bit tough on the palate. To soften it up, dress it with lemon, high-quality olive oil, and a bit of salt and pepper. Cover it and put it in the fridge, and this humble dressing will go to work to soften up those leaves to serve as a base for a delectable chopped kale salad whenever you're ready for lunch or dinner. I love this kale salad and quinoa recipe, although you could throw in pretty much any salad ingredient your have on hand.

5. Stir-Fry Ahead, Rice Later

Stir-frys are perfect make-ahead recipes and can easily be portioned into single servings for future eating. You can either make up the main stir fry and then quickly make a serving of rice when it's mealtime or prepare the stir fry with noodles as the base to portion into freezer bags for either the fridge or freezer.

I'm a sucker for orange chicken, and I love this recipe.

Single people don't need to sacrifice the quality of their meals due to their single status or lack of time. These tips and recipes will let you get creative in the kitchen with a minimal amount of effort.

Got a make-ahead recipe for singles that you'd like to recommend ? Please share it in comments.

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