Cooking For One 2013-01-04

I guess I'm technically a spinster now, though that term is quite outdated. Either way it's left me cooking exclusively for myself. Cooking for one is something that is surprising hard to do well, and economically.

It's also hard to work up the willpower to actually cook something when you're by yourself. It's so much easier to do something uncivilized like eat just a hunk of cheese, or eat cereal for dinner. It's taken me a while to convince myself that I'm worth pampering with a decent meal.

I have a sort of go-to list of meals I can construct quickly, but are also satisfying and way cheaper, and better than reheating some frozen entree. They're generally a bit free-form, depending on the items I have at hand, but I'm going to start posting them.

I wanted to start with one of my favorite recipies, it makes something really quite delicious and I always have to tell people it doesn't taste anything like they imagine when I describe it to them.

Absurdly Buttery Lima Beans: (no seriously, try it.)

  • 4-16 ounces (110g-450g) dried large lima beans (these are apparently called butter beans in some parts of the world)
  • 2-8 ounces (55g-225g) butter
  • salt
  • water

Preheat oven to 250F/120C add beans to dutch-oven or large heavy pot, cover with enough water to submerge beans by ~2 inches (5cm) add enough salt for the water to taste vaguely like sea water. Cover, bring pot to boil on stovetop, immediately insert into preheated oven, stir after 45 minutes or so, let cook another 30-50 minutes (the beans should be creamy, and not chalky at all). Strain, add back to pot with butter, stir until butter is melted and luscious buttery sauce forms from butter meeting with the bean starch. Goes well with a simple pan-seared steak, or anything really.


This basic method (sans the butter)actually works for nearly every dried bean-type out there. Most of the beans similar in size/shape/taste to kidney and black beans will usually take slightly longer than lima beans, but they also freeze well and you can make a bunch for a whole week for anything from chili(see below) or quick refried beans, or tossing in a salad, or whatever.

This next one is what I make when I'm feeling especially lazy, but really need to feel full in the next 30 minutes.

Ghetto Chili:

  • ~2 cups leftover cooked beans OR a 15 oz can of beans (kidney beans, black beans, cannellini, navy, any in that family will work)
  • 1-2 tablespoons tomato paste (amount depends on brand, and desired tomatoeyness)
  • 1 cup water (may need more, or less, depending on various factors)
  • 1/4th to 1/3rd cups chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • cheese, grated (I usually top with 2oz/57g of a mild or medium cheddar, freshly grated because I'm worth it)
  • salt (amount depends on how salty above things are)
  • meat (optional, see notes at bottom of recipie for what to do)
  • 1/4th cup diced tomatoes (optional)

Place about 1/2 cups worth of beans into a pot with the tomato paste. mash with a potato masher until reasonably broken up(you can do this in a food processor too, it makes grating the cheese easier as well if you have the disc for that). set pot in heat to medium or medium-low. add chili powder, stir to integrate, add all remaining ingredients except for the cheese. Cover, maintain heat until beans are heated through and flavors have melded (~15m), adding water if necessary, stirring occasionally. Place in bowl and top with cheese.


If you wish to use leftover, already-cooked meat, add it when you add the water and increase the heat slightly to ensure that the meat will reach an internal temperature of 160F, (making sure the chili maintains a simmer when stirred is more than enough indication).

If you wish to use raw meat, cook it separately in a skillet with a small amount of oil and add to the pot along with the water (or if you start them at the same time, really as soon as the meat is done, you can toss it in).

I usually freeze the leftover tomato paste if it was from a can (I sometimes buythe kind that comes in the toothpaste-ish tube though)

Neither of these are particularly fancy, or really the best form of themselves I could make; but they are easy to prepare, and still make me feel civilized.