Back when I set out my New Year’s Resolutions for 2012, I promised to cook one new recipe a month. A real, live recipe. Not just aimlessly throwing a new combination of ingredients into a pan and hoping for the best, but choosing an actual meal, deliberately shopping for ingredients, and producing something edible. Hopefully without blowing up my apartment or giving myself food poisoning in the process.
I was doing really well on this plan in the first half of the year, but once the summer/early Fall hit, I majorly dropped the ball. Marathon training and life getting busy meant that I cared more about inhaling a vast quantity of hopefully nutritionally-balanced food, not necessarily that said food was interesting or involved ingredients I hadn’t cooked with before.
But now that I feel like life has calmed down a bit and I’ve even vaguely attempted to meal plan, I have made TWO, count ‘em, TWO recipes in the last two weeks.
Now, let it be known that I am the poster child for whining about why I can’t be bothered to cook anything interesting. I live alone, and cooking for one isn’t thrilling. I am busy, and while cooking doesn’t have to take that long, prep work + cleanup isn’t exactly what I feel like dealing with after a long day of work and exercise. I don’t have a dishwasher. I live in a studio apartment, and while I’m fortunate enough to have a breakfast bar that gives me counter space, this isn’t exactly what I’m dealing with:
But every once in a while, when I’ve planned ahead enough to buy ingredients, have a relatively free evening, and have picked a recipe that doesn’t require me to buy tons of new ingredients I will either never use again or won’t use up and will go bad… cooking can be really satisfying. It’s relaxing, and it’s always nice to know exactly what’s going into the meal I’m eating and that I’m eating 100% real food. And as an added bonus and to help use up ingredients, it can also mean that I can make a double portion and bring something to work for lunch sometime that week other than a turkey sandwich. And as much as I do love a great turkey sandwich (or even a mediocre one), variety is the spice of life (although whoever said that clearly was not surviving on a twenty-something’s grocery budget).
The blogiverse is a great place to find recipes. Yes, some bloggers are gourmet chefs and cook things I can only dream of being able to produce in my teeny kitchen (with my even teenier attention span), but most of the healthy living/running bloggers I follow have a lot of the same concerns I do: time, space, health, and money. And sometimes a recipe just jumps out at me as something I might like to try. So, for my fellow solo-dwelling, dishwashing-hating, tiny kitchen-owning twenty-somethings, here are two recipes I have tried and can endorse as tasty, easy, inexpensive, and creating loads of dishes that I managed to do in under five minutes.
Tina described this recipe on her blog as “frickin’ delicious,” which I’ll admit I was skeptical about, purely because it involved brussels sprouts. I like brussels sprouts, but FRICKIN’ DELICIOUS? But, ladies and gentlemen, behold the power of bacon.
This recipe really did taste like loaded potato skins at a chain restaurant. I wouldn’t call it diet food, but everything in it was 100% real and it was definitely pretty nutritionally balanced. I left out the mayo (because it’s gross) and tried to heavy up on the brussels sprouts, and while I got a little impatient waiting for everything to roast, it was definitely worth it.
First: On principle, I kind of resent the fact that this meal was “for two.” Don’t single girls like pad thai too? So I immediately decided that rather than halve everything in the recipe, I’d just make two meals’ worth, which I would have done anyway, and call it lunch on Monday.
Second: I think it’s absolute crap when people try to substitute vegetables for noodles and pretend like it’s just as satisfying. Newsflash, world: spaghetti squash is tasty, but it is not, nor will it ever be, actual spaghetti. And when I saw this recipe, the first thing I thought was that CABBAGE IS NOT DELICIOUS GREASY NOODLES. And if I tried to convince myself otherwise, I’d end up cooking this and then eating half a box of Oreos in an effort to find something satisfying. So when shopping for this recipe, I purchased Trader Joe’s rice noodles to throw in and hoped to rely on portion control and the modest oil quantity in the recipe to stay true to the “Lightened Up” aspect of the title.
But despite my weird anger at this recipe, I still wanted to try it, because pad thai is delicious and yet also gross, and greasy noodles have been one of my biggest enemies in trying to manage being healthy and um, not fat. So I made my peace with it, bought cabbage for the first time ever (thank you, Trader Joe’s, for shredding it for me), and was ready to get cooking.
And while the recipe moved super fast, I wished I had real sriracha sauce (mine gave the dish a slightly weird Mexican taste), I realized at the last minute that I didn’t have sesame oil, and I regretted not using more cabbage (damn, that stuff cooks wayyyyy down)… it was super delicious.
I don’t think I’m fooling anyone in thinking that this came from the Thai restaurant down the street, but it was a pretty damn good substitute. And I was able to restrain myself to a normal serving of Oreos for dessert. So, wins all around!