Cooking for One

Chic recipes for the single girl.

katie lee joel
(Image credit: Archives)

You all know her — or maybe you are her: the woman at the grocery store pushing a cart filled with Lean Cuisine meals, Pria bars, kitty litter, and a box of Tampax. She might as well be wearing a neon sign that flashes, "Alone, alone, ALONE!" Sure, cooking for one doesn't sound like fun — have you ever tried making a single serving of coq au vin? But there's an easier way. Stockpile these basic ingredients and you'll have a few weeks' worth of cool meals at the ready.

Cooking for more than one? Check out these quick and easy recipes from celebrity chefs

Don't leave Costco without them.

1. Jarred tomato pasta sauce

2. Dried pasta

3. White rice

4. Low-sodium chicken broth

5. Peanut butter

6. Canned beans (such as chickpeas, cannellinis, kidneys)

7. Dry breadcrumbs

8. Extra-virgin olive oil

9. Dried herbs and spices

10. Onions

There's room — just toss the pizza box.

1. Fresh herbs

2. Eggs

3. Butter

4. Plain yogurt

5. Milk

6. Cheeses (such as cheddar, Parmesan, and mozzarella)

7. Lemons

8. Condiments (such as Dijon mustard, ketchup, BBQ sauce, mayonnaise, and soy sauce)

9. Jams (such as strawberry, raspberry, and apricot)

10. Salad greens

Beyond vodka and eye packs.

1. Gingerroot

2. Bacon (divide into individual servings)

3. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I like to leave some whole and cut some into strips and others cubed for easy use.)

4. Ground beef (divided into 1-pound portions)

5. Boneless pork chops

6. Frozen vegetables (such as spinach, broccoli florets, peas, and mixed vegetables)

7. Peeled and deveined shrimp

8. Pizza dough

9. Frozen fruits (such as strawberries, blueberries, pineapple, and mango)

10. Ice cream

Cheat sheet — what you can make.

Ground beef + onion + breadcrumbs + eggs + ketchup + herbs = Meatloaf

Frozen fruit + yogurt + milk = Fruity Breakfast Smoothie

Chicken breasts + eggs + breadcrumbs + Parmesan + tomato sauce + mozzarella = Chicken Parmesan

Eggs + fresh herbs + cheese + salad = French Omelet with Salad Greens

Frozen strawberries + strawberry jam + ice cream = Ice Cream Sundae

Peanut butter + chocolate ice cream + milk = Chocolate-Peanut Butter Milkshake

Tandoori Chicken

2 lbs. chicken (cut into 1-inch cubes)

1 cup plain yogurt

Juice of 1 lemon

2 teaspoons curry powder

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 onion, thinly sliced

1/4 cup fresh cilantro, minced

2 cups cooked white rice

In a bowl, combine yogurt, lemon juice, curry powder, garlic powder, ginger, cayenne and salt. Add chicken and stir until chicken is completely coated. Transfer to a resealable plastic bag and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours.

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and sauté until translucent and tender, about 10 minutes. Add chicken and cook about 7-8 minutes, stirring often, until completely done.

Serve over rice and top with fresh cilantro.

Broccoli and Cheese Calzones with Tomato Dipping Sauce

1 package frozen pizza dough, thawed

1 (10 ounce) package frozen broccoli florets, thawed and finely chopped

1/3 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1 cup shredded mozzarella

1/2 cup grated Parmesan

2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

Jarred tomato sauce

Preheat oven to 500 F.

In a medium bowl, combine broccoli, garlic powder, oregano, mozzarella, parmesan, and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Set aside.

Divide pizza dough into four sections. Roll each piece into a six-inch circle. Evenly divide broccoli mixture onto 1/2 of each circle, leaving a 1/2 inch border. Fold the unfilled side over the filling. Crimp the edges with a fork.

Place the calzones onto a lightly-greased baking sheet. Using a pastry brush, coat each calzone with remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Sprinkle with parmesan and serve with prepared tomato sauce.

Breakfast Smoothie

1/2 cup frozen fruit

1/2 cup yogurt

1 cup milk

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Milkshake

1 cup chocolate ice cream

2 Tablespoons peanut butter

1 cup milk

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

Spaghetti Carbonara

1 lb. spaghetti

8 slices bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

3 eggs

3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

1/2 cup pasta water

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook spaghetti until al dente, about 8-9 minutes. Drain and reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water.

In a large sauté pan, cook bacon until crisp. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Drain grease from pan.

In a bowl, whisk eggs, parmesan, pasta water, and pepper. Place pasta in large sauté pan over medium-low heat. Quickly stir in egg mixture and reserved bacon and toss to coat. Remove from heat and serve immediately.

Quick Minestrone

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1/2 onion, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon dried basil

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

4 cups chicken broth

1 1/2 cups jarred tomato sauce

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

2 cups frozen spinach

1 cup frozen mixed vegetables

1 cup pasta (such as macaroni elbows, mini penne, orzo, or broken spaghetti)

1 can cannellini beans (or chickpeas), with their juices

Parmesan cheese

In a large pot over medium heat, heat olive oil. Add onion, basil, and oregano and sauté for about 5 minutes. Add chicken broth, tomato sauce, salt, and pepper and bring to a low simmer. Add frozen spinach, vegetables, and pasta, simmer for about 10 minutes or until pasta is tender. Stir in beans and lower heat. Cook an additional 10 minutes. Serve garnished with parmesan cheese.

Chicken Parmesan

2 pounds chicken breasts, cut into strips

2 large eggs

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

3/4 cup dried breadcrumbs

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1 Tablespoon olive oil

2 cups jarred tomato sauce

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 400 F.

In a medium bowl, lightly beat eggs. In another bowl, combine parmesan, breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Dip chicken strips in egg, then in breadcrumb mixture. Place on a baking sheet.

In a large skillet over medium heat, heat olive oil. Add chicken strips and brown about 3 minutes per side.

Spread one cup tomato sauce in a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Place chicken on top of sauce then top chicken with remaining sauce and mozzarella. Bake 10 minutes, until cheese is completely melted.

Classic Meatloaf

2 pounds ground beef

1/2 medium onion, grated

1/2 teaspoon thyme

3/4 cup ketchup, divided

1/2 cup dried breadcrumbs

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 F.

In a large bowl, combine beef, onion, thyme, 1/2 cup ketchup, breadcrumbs, egg, salt, and pepper. Using your hands, gently mix until all the ingredients are combined.

Place meat mixture onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Shape the meat into a loaf about 9 inches long and 4 inches wide. Top with remaining π cup ketchup. Bake 45-50 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before slicing.

Thai-Style Shrimp and Noodles

1/4 cup peanut butter

2 Tablespoons soy sauce

1 teaspoon ginger, grated

2 Tablespoons lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/2 pound spaghetti or linguine

20 frozen shrimp

1 cup frozen vegetables (I like to buy the stir-fry mix)

1/4 cup fresh cilantro, minced

In a small bowl, combine peanut butter, soy sauce, ginger, lemon juice, garlic powder and red pepper flakes. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta about 7 minutes. Add frozen shrimp and cook an additional 2 minutes then add vegetables and cook 2 minutes. Drain.

In a large bowl, toss pasta mixture with peanut butter sauce and cilantro.

Strawberry Ice Cream Sundae

1/2 cup frozen strawberries

1/4 cup strawberry jam

1 Tablespoon water

Ice cream

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and cook over medium low heat until syrupy. Serve over ice cream.

Apricot-Glazed Braised Pork Chops

This super-simple recipe is great for a weeknight meal in a hurry. The apricot glaze, made from jam, takes just moments to make but tastes complex due to the spicy Dijon mustard and tangy vinegar. By braising the chops, the meat stays tender and moist.

1 cup low-sodium chicken stock

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1/4 cup apricot jam

2 tablespoons olive oil

6 boneless center-cut pork chops (about 11/4 inches thick), trimmed of fat

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 garlic clove, smashed

1 bay leaf

In a medium bowl, whisk together the chicken stock, mustard, vinegar, and jam.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season the pork chops with salt and pepper. Place the pork chops in the hot oil and brown about 3 minutes per side.

Remove the pork chops from pan and set aside. Add the chicken stock mixture to the pan and deglaze the pan, scraping up the brown bits with a wooden spoon. Add the garlic clove and bay leaf. Reduce heat to a simmer. Return the pork chops to the pan, cover and braise until just cooked through, about 5 minutes.

Transfer the pork chops to a serving dish and tent lightly with foil to keep warm. Discard the garlic and bay leaf. Bring the liquid to a rapid boil and reduce to a thick glaze, about 3 minutes. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Pour the glaze over the pork chops and serve.

By Katie Lee Joel, author of The Comfort Table