We Try It!: Cooking For One

Cooking meals and working with leftovers can be vexing when you’re cooking for one. That’s why, when my good friend Lauren introduced me to the concept of Grilled Chicken Veggie Bowls, I ran with it.

Lauren works full-time, and she wanted a quick, easy, and inexpensive way to pack up lunches for the week. She tried it out and told me she got some delicious bowls and even more delicious chicken wraps out of her first go. This gave me the push I needed to try it out for myself. This type of organization appeals to my neuroatypical sensibilities and need for structure to calm the chaos. So, I tried it with stuff I had around the house.

First, I rubbed down a rack of ribs with a homemade taco seasoning rub and threw that in with some Mexican-style rice and a side of veggies. Next, I turned another rack of ribs into shredded pork with homemade BBQ sauce, some plain rice, and homemade baked beans. After that, I was hooked. The one part protein, one part grain or starch, and three parts veggie template is very versatile and works perfectly for quick, little dinners for someone like me who typically only cooks for myself.

Image of shredded pork, baked beans, and white rice on a dinner plate.
If this doesn’t hook you, I don’t know what will.

This time around, I made Italian-style meatballs in pasta sauce over a bed of orzo with a side of onions, spinach, and bell peppers.

For the meatballs I used “Chef John’s Italian Meatballs” recipe with a few changes here and there (dried, minced onion instead of fresh, and little changes like that) and made the mix over my lunch break. Just mix together the ingredients in a glass bowl, cover with tinfoil or plastic wrap, and toss it in the fridge until you’re ready to make the meatballs.

An image of various foods used to make meatballs.
The line-up

Once the sun set and supper time came around, I yanked out the mix, shaped 16 huge meatballs, and set them in the oven. In the meantime, I boiled a small box of orzo, microwaved my veggies (yes, I used the frozen kind to save myself some work), and warmed up the marinara sauce. (Hint: to jack up the nutritional value of store-bought pasta sauces, I toss a container of frozen, chopped spinach into the mix.)

Image of pasta sauce, pasta, and vegetables cooking.
About ready to rock.

Once everything came together and the meatballs were done, it was time for assembly. This works best if you have some reusable containers with covers in order to separate this into easy meals you can pop into the microwave at future dates. My containers come from a set of BPA-free Rubbermaid containers that Lauren gifted to me some time ago. (Thanks, Lauren!) To assemble, I used a ¼ cup dry measuring cup and dropped the orzo, veggies, two meatballs a piece, and the pasta sauce into seven containers and one plate in equal proportions. Then, I simply sealed up the containers and popped them into the fridge to enjoy for the week.

Image of food in reusable food storage containers.
Some assembly required.

With this template, I’ve found that you can whip up a few recipes as many days, freeze them individually, and then have a few alternatives over the next few weeks. Or, if you’re like me and thrive on repetition, you can just make one big meal at the beginning of the week and have a whole week’s worth of meals. Cooking for one has never been easier!

An image of meatballs with pasta sauce and vegetables on a dinner plate.

By Marena

Marena recently earned her Master of Arts degree in Social Justice & Human Rights & primarily explores social justice issues in the production & consumption of popular mass media. You may find her creating fanworks, testing her hand-eye coordination with beadweaving, flailing over her fictional faves, reading everything from fanfic to theory texts, or watching low budget sci-fi. You can find her writing on Marena ni yukyats.

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