- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 9, 2004

One of the secret pleasures of cooking for one is that you can indulge yourself. You don’t have to cater to the whims of a hungry brood.

It’s too bad many singles don’t appreciate the advantage. Almost half of singles don’t cook even one meal per day at home, according to statistics from a recent U.S. Department of Energy study.

Although this column is devoted to cooking for two, you probably find yourself alone for some meals. That doesn’t have to be an excuse to skip a meal or nibble on cold, from-the-can ravioli.

“People have the mind-set that it’s only for me, so it seems like too much bother,” says Karen Collins, a registered dietitian.

Unfortunately, this aversion to the kitchen has negative consequences. If you don’t cook for yourself but opt to dine out, you probably spend more money per meal. Even if you eat at home, you may not be getting a nutritionally balanced meal.

Noncooks often dine on bowls of cereal or crackers right from the box, Miss Collins says. “The protein, vegetables and fruit are lacking. The mind-set isn’t to grab protein and produce,” says the dietitian, who is a nutrition consultant for the American Institute for Cancer Research in Washington.

Don’t assume cooking for one isn’t worth the effort. Think of how well you can eat on your own. To start, stock up on a few basic ingredients, including canned tuna and beans, pasta, canned chicken broth, frozen vegetables, and fruit, so you don’t face an empty cupboard when you’re hungry.

The following recipe is adapted from a new booklet, “Cooking Solo,” from American Institute for Cancer Research. The free booklet can be downloaded from www.aicr.org.

Hot and sour soup

1 15-ounce can fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth

1 teaspoon peeled, minced ginger root

2 scallions, chopped

1 cup finely chopped bok choy

1 to 2 teaspoons hot pepper oil or sauce, or to taste

1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar

1 teaspoon reduced-sodium soy sauce

cup (3 ounces) extra-firm tofu, cut in thin slices

1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms

1 tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in 1/4 cup cold water, optional

Pour broth into a large saucepan and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to low, and add ginger root, scallions and bok choy. Cook for 3 minutes.

Add the pepper oil, vinegar, soy sauce, tofu and mushrooms. Simmer 3 more minutes.

For a thicker soup, slowly stir cornstarch mixture into broth, whisking constantly. Simmer for 2 minutes or until the soup is thickened.

Makes 2 servings.

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