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Popcorn for dinner again? Try these tips for solo meals

Thursday, July 2 2015 12:14 AM
Do you remember the last time you cooked for a house full of people? What about the last time you cooked for two people? If cooking for one is the norm now, embrace the ease and freedom that comes with making whatever you want.

Not sure you know your way around the kitchen? Follow these tips from chef and author Marc Matsumoto, contributor to PBS’ Fresh Tastes recipe blog, and you’ll be eating like a pro.

“I think there’s two ways to think about cooking for one,” Marc says. “One is making a large portion of something, and preserving it or repurposing it. Or you make something that you can portion for a single person.”

If making a large portion of something sounds better to you, dishes like roast chicken are the way to get five or six meals out of one effort.

  • Meal one is the roast chicken and whatever veggies you roasted with it.
  • Meal two is sliced chicken and chicken sandwiches.
  • Meal three is chicken salad.
  • Meal four is chopped chicken paired with pasta.
  • If there’s any chicken left, meal five is shredded chicken stir-fry.
  • For the final use, put the carcass in a pot and make chicken stock for soup.

Pasta is another great meal for one because it’s fast, easy and offers many options for building unique flavors using things in your pantry.

Marc’s formula for foolproof pasta is simple: “You have the pasta, whatever kind you want. And some kind of oil, whether its olive oil or butter or schmaltz—like chicken fat. Then some kind of aromatic, like garlic or scallions. Add a protein; you could use something like canned tuna on the simple side, or shrimp or chicken on the fancier end.”  Finish the dish with cheese of some kind. As an example, he cites cacio e pepe, or “cheese and pepper” pasta.



Cacio e pepe

½ lb. pasta

1 T. crushed black pepper

Kosher salt: 1 T. for the water, 1 tsp. for the sauce

1 C. Parmesan cheese

2 T. cream

1 T. unsalted butter

Bring a pot of salted water to boil over high heat. Cook until done to your liking. Save one cup of the cooking water, but drain the rest when the pasta is done. Return the noodles to the pot and add ½ C. cheese, cream, pepper and 1 tsp. salt to the pot. If it seems too thick, add a little water to make it creamier. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on the plated meal, or incorporate into the pasta before serving.

This will make four smaller portions of the dish. Pair with a protein, like chicken, and some vegetables for a filling, balanced meal.



No matter how many people you cook for, nutrition is key. Make sure to incorporate servings of grains, proteins, fruits and vegetables into each meal.

“As a general rule, you should eat the rainbow,” says Marc. “Different colors have different nutrients, and if you eat all the colors in the rainbow, you’ll cover your bases. Greens have vitamin A, yellow and orange foods have beta-carotene; red things, like tomatoes, contain lycopene. There’s not too many blue foods, but things like blueberries or blackberries have benefits.”

Marc cautions that people on special diets should adhere to their health needs; but otherwise, eating a variety of colors will boost food’s nutrition and appeal.

If you’re hesitant to buy vegetables because you can’t eat them all before they spoil, become friends with your freezer.



Tips for freezing

  • Cook the vegetables, drain them, and before adding any sauce or other liquid to them, freeze in single-serving portions.
  • Use freezer bags, rather than Tupperware, because they take less space, don’t contain an air pocket when properly sealed, and allow food to freeze faster.
  • Freezer burn happens where there is air against the food, and a fast freeze reduces the chance of ice crystals forming in the food’s tissues. When a food with many ice crystals thaws, the melting crystals leave the food spongy or mushy.
  • Grains can also be prepared and frozen in single serve sizes. When you cook rice, portion it and freeze it in freezer bags. Microwave to reheat, and serve as you normally would.




Whether you’re cooking one big meal and stretching it to make several others, or cooking a batch of veggies, Marc recommends going from the “least sauced to the most sauced,” or the most natural form of something to a dish with more sauces, ingredients or sides.

If you are freezing leftovers, this method of preparation can help the food freeze faster and thaw better; and it will allow you to get creative as you repurpose the dish, which is what time in the kitchen is all about.

“As we age, we sort of find ourselves falling into routines, so whatever you can do to introduce something new breathes new life into your day. It makes it new, it makes it fresh,” says Marc. “I think the kitchen is a great outlet for creativity.”

Click here to visit Marc’s website, No Recipes.  Click here to visit the PBS Fresh Tastes site.

Click here to view the original article. 

By Marcella Prokop

Communications Coordinator

Good Samaritan Society

Are you tired of cooking for yourself?  Move into Cedar Lake Village, and our Executive Chef and his team will take care of all of your culinary needs!  If you are interested in scheduling a complimentary lunch and tour at Cedar Lake Village, please call 913-780-9916 and speak with a member of our Marketing Team.  You can also send us an email at info@cedarlakevillagekc.org

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