Beginner recipes for a single person.

A good friend us recently widowed. He has no idea how to cook ANY thing. He had to pull out the instruction manual to turn on the stove.
I am trying to compile a few easy, healthy recipes that I can teach him to cook.

  • Posted by: KimW
  • February 16, 2012


Cookie16 February 24, 2012
Wow, you're a very good friend. I applause you on this, it's very sweet. My friends would probably leave me for dead!

I would teach him how to make lasagna with these new no-boil noodles that are out now, and a good easy soup, maybe something with lentils for a healthful kick. If we want to make this even easier, he could buy a pre-prepped container of chopped celery, carrot and onion. Besides that, a good lentil soup could really be a matter of pressing some garlic, and dumping in boxed broth and a little tomato paste.

Both can be made and divided into smaller portions that he can freeze for later.

A really really easy sauteed green would be nice as well. Olive oil, garlic, lemon juice and greens.

Nigella Lawson has a tasty and incredibly easy white bean mash that is great, too. I eat it often when I want something very easy as a filling side dish with some protein.
luvcookbooks February 22, 2012
Judith Jones has a great cookbook about Cooking for One. Also there is a nice book of essays "Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant" about the difficulties and pleasures of eating alone. Sometimes it's better to read about food while eating canned soup and some good bread and cheese. A salad would be a good second course, with a glass of wine.
KimW February 21, 2012
Thanks everyone. I should have mentioned the other problem, he's diabetic.
Go now I stuffed his freezer with dishes that can be reheated quickly.
We stocked ingredients for some salads, I taught him how to make an omelette. Perfect for any time of day. Roast half chicken with root vegetables. Can make chicken salad the next day.
I think stir fry will be next weeks lesson.
Please ladies, teach your husbands and sons a few basics! Men, teach your wives and daughters to change their oil , use the lawn mower and set a mouse trap.
Sam1148 February 21, 2012
Oversize portions can be a problem. A single older person wants convince and not what we might want..a big week long 'take to lunch' thing. I'll bet most of the salad stuff will go unused...or rot in the 'fridge.

I wish I could a source for individual 'TV dinner" type sectioned plates. Which could be made and frozen, and placed in 'food saver' vac pack. For dinner.
cranberry February 17, 2012
Crazy but my dad would buy a whole beef tenderloin, cut off a hunk, grill it, and have that for dinner with a salad. the filet would last him a week or so in the coldest part of the frig. He also used to marinate turkey legs in a teriyaki-style sauce and bake them, then have them for a few days with rice and salad. Chicken soup was also a staple for him.
Ophelia February 17, 2012
I've been thinking about this sort of thing lately, but more in terms of "what everyone should know how to do before they leave their parent's home" (which includes laundry, map skills and basic sewing).
I think that a focus on technique rather than recipe might be more useful. Braising is braising whether it's pork or beef or collard greens. Stir fry can be made of any veggie or meat that you can cut the right size. Soup, stew and chili are pretty similar, just different amounts of liquid and solid ingredients. A lasagna is a casserole, so is moussaka.
Make sure he can cook an egg (fried and boiled), boil pasta and use a meat thermometer and I'm sure things will turn out well.
Although I do question how someone can manage to live life without learning how to at least make their own mac and cheese from a box.
Miranda R. February 17, 2012
Pasta is such a great blank slate, and it's so impossible to mess up - he can start with dried pastas and even just simple olive oil, garlic and chili flakes and work from there. My grandfather really loved making soups, and those can be easy, one pot affairs that are also rather tricky to really mess up. Maybe suggest a few simple ones? I think "how to cook everything" is a great suggestion too - or really any simple, catch-all sort of cookbook.
creamtea February 17, 2012
For starters, it would be handy to have some shortcuts. For someone who is not an enthusiastic cook, it is very handy to have things like frozen vegetables at the start, semi-prepared foods, (Trader Joes, anyone?) etc. Frozen peas are handy to have, they cook especially quickly and can be added to things like hot rice at the last minute. Hate to say it, but even frozen corn on the cob just goes into a pot of hot water to steam and is neat and simple. Simple soups, salads. Meatballs are fairly easy to make and can bake in the oven, covered. Grampa was not a gourmet cook, but would make himself a chicken soup and use the chicken as the main dish with rice and a veg on the side. Not terribly exciting, I know, but it got the job done and served him all week.

It would be helpful to discuss a few basic techniques, like how to saute onions or fry an egg, make an omelet, or bake a potato. Or how to cook chicken cutlets (they always seem to take longer to cook through than one expects).

It is so thoughtful of you to do this.

Voted the Best Reply!

the P. February 17, 2012
Teach him how to perfectly roast a chicken; how to grill chicken breasts; how to make a vinaigrette. _How to Cook Everything_ by Mark Bittman would be a great gift for him!
Ellen M. February 16, 2012
What a great question. Your friend could start by making some healthy salads that don't need to be cooked at all. Although t might be a hard sell, raw kale salads are easy and full of nutrition but any fresh raw vegetables are fine. Add some fresh lemon juice or vinegar and some oil to taste and the salad is ready to eat.

Once he gets the oven and stove going, baked sweet potatoes are simple and satisfying. He should clean the potato and make a couple of small slits before baking at 350 to 400 degrees until tender, and then add some nuts, pumpkin or sunflower seeds, grape seed or olive oil, celtic sea salt and freshly ground pepper. I love warm sweet potatoes in dark green leafy salads. For additional protein, your friend might enjoy an omelette at any time of day, and the variations are endless.

My preferences are probably obvious, but it may be best to find out what your friend likes to eat. From there, I am sure that the community will be full of suggestions to motivate your friend to cook himself some simple yet delectable meals. Let us know how it's going!

Darlene C. February 16, 2012
I love slow roasted salmon. Season a piece of salmon, place in a 250 degree oven for 30 minutes. Comes out perfectly every time. And, as Sam1148 suggested, purchase a rice cooker with a steamer basket. Start the rice and vegetables (i really like asparagus with salmon) in the rice cooker, then stick salmon in oven, and dinner is ready in 30 minutes!

Sam1148 February 16, 2012
Stir fries are a good starting point.

Get him a rice cooker..Rival makes a good cheap one for 15 bucks or so. One button model with a steamer basket. Good for steaming some veggies, shrimp, fish along with the rice.

It's all going to depend on what his previous likes and dislikes were, and how committed he is to cooking.
Recently widowed, he's probably a bit depressed and confused with life in general.

Okay here's a quick one: Talapia. Get it frozen in the vacpacs. Those are pretty small portions.
Thaw under running water. Open, drain on paper towels. Season with salt, paprika. Coat with "Wondera flour"
(in the blue shaker top canister with the flour in the supermarket---easy to use just a shake for a fish or chicken cutlet).
Fry quickly with butter, remove the fish..remove the pan from heat...Hit the pan with some lemon juice and capers and wisk in some soft butter to make a sauce to put on the fish. (all off it makes just melts into a sauce)
Serve with steamed rice and veggies.
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