Alone and OK

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  • Post category:Cooking

I love cooking for myself. Given the choice between dining out at a restaurant and cooking my own meal at home, I would prefer the home-cooked meal, even if someone else was willing to pay for my meal out. And it is not because of ED, I swear.

I just love the whole process of cooking, especially when I try out a new recipe or create my own dishes. I love the hands-on chopping and mixing and stirring, love choosing each ingredient with care and attention, being aware of each components that make up the overall taste of the dish. I adore the innovation and novelty of trying out a fresh new recipe, love adding my own little twist and trademarks; I treasure the experience of tasting the finished product with both apprehension and excitement, and thoroughly relieve the pride and accomplishment I feel with each success. Even if I failed, I end up learning something new. Actually, the way I look at it, the more disastrous the result, the more interesting a story to tell in the end.

But a lot of people shy away from cooking, especially if they are cooking for themselves. And truthfully, I do understand why they avoid it. Cooking for one is not that easy or cheap, as most produce don’t come in single-servings, or if they do, they usually cost a lot more. In addition, most recipes available out there comes in servings of four to six. Nobody likes to live on leftovers for four to six consecutive days. You could always scale down the recipe, of course, but cooking just a single serving worth of beans or rice, and turning on the whole oven just to bake a single potato or a small slab of tofu seems like an awful waste of energy and electrical costs.

So how do I do it? You might have noticed that I always cook for myself, and that I usually always have something different each day. My meals are rarely based on boxed, frozen, or microwaveable products, but are always made from scratch with fresh ingredients. Because I am an incredibly generous and kind person, let me just share a few of my tips based on my own experience:

Well, first of all, become best buddies with your freezer and toaster oven. When you buy meat or fish, portion them out into single servings and then freeze them, where they can keep for months. The toaster oven is a big help when you want to bake something small like a potato but don’t wanna waste energy by turning on a whole oven.

Also, when it comes to fresh produce, try to limit yourself. Don’t buy whole caskets of veggies and fruits, where they will inevitably sit for days in your fridge, wilting and molding. I’m lucky in that I live a stone’s throw away from the supermarket, so I can just hop over to buy fresh produce everyday.

Try different grains and beans. Buy them in bulk by weight, since they are cheaper that way, and you can choose your own measurements. Cook up several servings at once, and store the leftovers in the fridge. They make excellent base for new recipes and creations.

Get ingredients that are versatile, like potatoes, eggs, and cheese. Things that you can buy in bulk, but won’t have trouble using them up or having to eat the same dish everyday, because they are flexible enough to be used in myriads of different dishes.

Case in point: Today’s lunch was a whole new dish made out of leftovers. It took barely any brain energy nor time to whip it up. In fact, it was totally last minute, because I had been expecting to have lunch out with friends, but at the last minute they had to hurry to church to deal with some issues. By then it was already past 2pm, and my stomach was growling. I didn’t have time to wait for a potato to bake, or dream up of a complicated new dish. I just wanted something fast, ready, and simple.

I looked into my fridge, and saw that I had leftover barley, black beans, and roasted winter squash. Perfect! Below is the “recipe,” and I have divided them into different components which you can follow to create your own signature dish:

Basic “Mix-it-up” Bowl recipe

The base: 1 cup cooked pearl barley (other suggestions: rice, bulgur, wheat berries, couscous, etc.)

The mix-ins: 1/4 cup black beans and 1/2 cup chopped roasted winter squash (other suggestions: any other type of beans, lentils, root vegetables like sweet potatoes and parsnips)

The dressing: splash of soy sauce and maple syrup (other suggestions: BBQ sauce, teriyaki sauce, pasta sauce, Italian dressing, blah blah whatever fits your fancy)

The topping: big spoonful of desiccated coconut and chopped spring onion (other suggestions: any kind of crushed nuts, seeds, fresh herbs, dried fruits, egg, cheese, the sky’s the limit!)

DIRECTIONS: Heat up some oil in a skillet over medium heat, stir in minced garlic and chopped onions until soft and fragrant. Toss in your base and mix-in ingredients, stir to mix. Splash in the dressing and mix to coat. Dish the mixture out into a bowl and sprinkle with your desired topping.

This was my version of a “Mix-it-up” bowl:

Beans-and-Squash Barley Pilaf with Coconut

So freaking fast and easy, and I got to use up three of my leftovers! All I needed to do was choose the dressing and topping and chop up some garlic and onions. Now that’s what I call smart, efficient, economical, and practical!

Not to mention utterly delicious. Can you believe the colors and textures of this amazing bowl of leftovers?

The taste was really complex and interesting: the savory Asian flavor from the soy sauce, the subtle sweetness from the maple syrup, and the unique tropical taste from the coconut all combined together in one freaking scrumptious bowl.

I really love this “recipe,” because there are so many different dishes I can create with this one recipe! My head is already churning with all sorts of ideas…I can guarantee you there’s gonna be more of these “Mix-it-up” bowls in
the future!

So, have I convinced anyone yet? There shouldn’t be any more excuses not to cook for oneself! Okay, I admit it, sometimes it doesn’t work, like with big batches of soup or baked goods or casseroles, but then…that’s when you’ve gotta share! In cases when I have to cook up a huge batch, I just set aside my own portion and then share the rest with my friends. Trust me, you gain a lot of popularity this way. Tee hee!

Now, I’d love to hear from you! Do you cook for yourself often? Any tips or advice you’d like to share on cooking for yourself? And also, please share some of your ideas based on this “Mix-it-up” recipe! What are some of the creations you’d like to try?

Oh, and heads up: I’ve been invited as a guest blogger to write an article on an eating disorder blog! The article is not up yet, but will probably be posted sometime on Monday. I’ll let you know, but in the meantime please check out her eating disorder blog! It has a lot of great information on eating disorders, as well as her own personal story. I love that she’s trying to bring more awareness to eating disorders, since this disease is so prevalent yet so misunderstood.