Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Dinner for One

On nights when I'm home alone, it is really tempting to hit the cereal box or a lovely pile of cheese and crackers for dinner.  When I lived alone in my twenties, both of these were go-to meals, as was hitting the salad bar at Whole Foods on the way home from work, or cracking a bottle of red and a can of Heinz vegetarian baked beans and calling it a night.  However, there is something truly decadent and grown up about preparing a proper dinner when dining alone.  It is really the ultimate act of self-care to say that you are important enough to dirty some dishes and a knife, just for you.  

There are a few different directions to go in with such solo dining:
1) Divine Decadence: buying a really beautiful piece of fish or a steak and preparing it exactly how you want it.  To eat something that would normally be served at a fun dinner party alone on the couch is kind of a revelation.
2) Freezer Frenzy: we've usually got a Flatbread Pizza and a couple of other choice goodies in the freezer, and to dip into the stash solo feels indulgent and like something of a raid.
3) "You're Eating What?":  this is when you prepare something that sounds absolutely divine to you, but that anyone else would give you the stink-eye for serving to them, so odd is the combination of ingredients and flavors (a certain someone in my life who likes mayo on bananas and shall remain unnamed, I'm talking to you).   

Option three is the one I went with last night when the husband was out playing hockey, and the result was so good I had to share it, not only in case you too would like these bizarre-o ingredients and want to give the dish a whirl, but as a reminder and public service announcement that sometimes a girl just has to grub down on what she wants, all sense be damned, and that sometimes indulging those whims is a path to genius.

In my fridge, I had enough Brussels sprouts to be a side dish for two or a big old pile of veggies for one.  I halved them all, drizzled them with olive oil, sprinkled them with Kosher salt and pepper, and put them in the toaster oven at 400 degrees.  As they started to bake, I realized I was really hankering for protein, and assessed my options.  Egg?  Eh.  Frozen shrimp?  Nah.  Then I spied a package of Applegate Farms Sweet Italian Chicken Sausage (I love this brand because unlike many other chicken sausages, they are high in protein, low in fat, so flavorful, and all natural).  I bought the sausage for a pasta dish I have planned later this week, but figured no one would mind if there were three instead of four sausages in that dish, and I stole one.  I sliced it, and added it to the sprouts about 15 minutes into their bake.  I baked the whole thing for another 15, until the sausage was beautifully browned, and the sprouts were soft on the inside and crispy on the outside.  I dotted the whole dish with a bit of homemade marinara, topped it with shredded parmesan, and called it dinner.

Wow!  This dinner was so delicious and so satisfying.  I was thinking of various carbs to round out the meal (a piece of garlic naan was particularly calling my name), but decided to just eat the dish as it was and see how I felt.  It was a good reminder that you don't always need a grain or a carb to make a meal complete.  The protein in the sausage and the fiber in the veg filled me right up, and it was so delightful to have a warm, homemade dinner just for me.  A cup of peppermint tea, a square of dark chocolate and Oprah's Oscar After Party made my night a little slice of perfection.  

In busy lives with jobs and families, it is easy to let yourself fall to the bottom of the priority list.  Let this be a reminder that sometimes the simplest things you can do to take care of yourself can pay the biggest dividends.  For me, taking the time to make myself a weird but delicious dinner on a rainy February Monday night relaxed me into a glorious night of sleep that is making today better as well.  Sometimes all it takes is the contents of your fridge and just a few extra minutes to make you feel cared for and special. 


  1. I am so guilty of putting myself on the back burner. Sometimes even if Nick is home but had a big lunch and doesn't want anything other than a light snack for dinner, I will do the bare minimum for myself. My go-to dinner when I first moved to Des Moines and it's kind of a comfort now, black beans (I'll spice them up with cumin & Tapatio hot sauce) then I will cook a few eggs (however I am feeling like having them) top the warmed black beans with the eggs, add a dash of cheese & salsa. Sounds bizarre but I still love eating this every now and again.

  2. I like baby tomatoes cut up with an avocado, dressed like a salad but without the lettuce and vinegar. For dessert, peanut butter and jelly on Kashi Original 7 Grain crackers.