05 October 2014

Cooking for One Week! ~ Green Quinoa Bowl

Welcome to Cooking for One week! I am thrilled to be teaming up with some very inspiring and talented fellow whole food bloggers to bring you this series. You can see in the daily line-up below the recipe that over the next 7 days we will be arming you with an arsenal of easy and approachable whole, plant-based recipes ideal for those dinners for one.

But you may be asking….Cooking for one, is it really worth it?

Of course it is. Now let me convince you. Whether you usually cook just for yourself or for others, we all find ourselves needing to cook for one from time to time, right? But I think there is a misconception when it comes to what it really takes to make a quality whole foods meal just for one. Friends with busy careers who live alone have told me it's not worth the effort and is just as easy to eat out or buy something ready-made. I get the time and effort argument, as I also often face this same dilemma when my husband is away. Even I have less motivation to dirty the kitchen and make an effort just for myself, especially during the work week at the end of a busy day.

But I have found ways to make good food that I look forward to eating and can spend minimal time in the kitchen preparing. In fact, the more I do small things like this for myself, the better I feel physically and emotionally. I've come to realize that with just a little planning and minimal effort, the pay off to feeling replenished and nourished is huge. And remember, treating others well starts with treating ourselves well.

So, it's really a mindset shift. It is a shift in the way we think about optimizing our efforts and minimizing our time in the kitchen. And to help you with this mindset shift, in addition to  a week's worth of recipes, my friends and I will also be sharing our personal favorite top tips for successfully cooking for one.

My Top Tips for Cooking for One

  1. Plan ahead + Embrace leftovers
Cook big batch items like soups, stews, or pasta sauces, roast veggies, and cook a pot of grains when you have the time and energy on the weekend. These often taste even better the second or third day anyways, plus they are usually freezer-friendly. Try portioning out soups and pasta sauces in single-serving containers to freeze.

  1. Proactively stock your kitchen
Don't wait until you're hungry to scan your kitchen to decide what you should cook. Keep a diverse set of your favorite fridge and pantry staples stocked so they can be easily combined last minute to make a quick entree salad or soup.

  1. Adjust expectations
Solo meals don't need to be elaborate to nourish. But they should still be approached with the intention to satisfy. When I'm alone for dinner I often look forward to big salads, leftover soup, or roasted veggies with eggs or leftover grains. I don't expect anything more than simple, but I make sure the ingredients are quality and mealtime is enjoyable.

My belief is that the more we are mentally and emotionally open to enjoying the meal, the easier the food will be digested and the nutrients assimilated in our body. This is backed by science, in fact. One of the main divisions of our nervous system is in our gut, and the energy of thoughts and emotions we take into and throughout mealtime affects the motility of our digestive tract. 

Needless to say, no matter how simple my solo dinners are, I get as much pleasure from them as any other dining experience because I take time to have food on hand that I enjoy and I know that eating a homemade meal in a quiet, relaxed environment with some much deserved "me time" is special in itself and nourishing on so many levels.

Green Quinoa Bowl
Serves 2-3

Notes: I am more likely to cook for myself when there is minimal chopping and everything can be prepared in one pot for little cleanup. Here the broccoli steams directly on top of the quinoa in the last 8 minutes of cooking time. And while the quinoa cooks, I chop avocado and olives and make a quick lemon-balsamic dressing in a glass jar to store in the fridge. This quinoa bowl has a few fun surprises - it was inspired by the flavors of Morocco.  

1 cup (190 g) white quinoa
1 3/4 cup (420 ml) water
1/4 tsp. salt
4 unsulphured dried apricots, chopped
1 lemon, zest and juice (divided)
1 small head broccoli (~3 cups/230 g chopped)
Handful green olives
1/3-1/2 avocado
Lemon-Balsamic Dressing (recipe below)

Rinse quinoa in a sieve until water runs clear. Add to a medium pot with water, salt, and chopped apricots. Cover, bring to a bowl, then reduce heat to medium. Simmer for 15 minutes.

In the meantime, chop broccoli florets and tender stems into small bite size pieces (err on the smaller side so they cook thoroughly). With 10 minutes cooking time remaining, remove lid and quickly zest lemon directly over quinoa, then distribute chopped broccoli evenly on top. Cover again, finish cooking, then remove pot from heat, keep covered and let steam for 5 minutes. Once steamed remove most of broccoli, squeeze 1/2 lemon over quinoa and fluff with fork.

While quinoa finishes cooking, chop enough olives and avocado for that night's serving and make the dressing.  To serve, layer quinoa in a bowl with broccoli, avocado, and olives on top and drizzle with dressing.

Lemon-Balsamic Dressing
3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
Juice 1/2 lemon (remaining from recipe above)
1 Tbsp. whole grain mustard (or Dijon - this is stronger, so you may need less)
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground cumin
Pinch salt + freshly ground pepper to taste

Add all ingredients to a glass jar with a lid. Screw on lid and shake to combine. Store extra in jar in the fridge to use with leftovers the next night.

Follow this daily line-up for Cooking for One inspiration all week. Hopefully you enjoy this series as much as we enjoyed putting it together!

Sunday, October 5th
Katie @ Whole Nourishment ~ Green Quinoa Bowl
Monday, October 6th
Kellie @ Food to Glow ~ Grilled Shiitake Kimcheese
Tuesday, October 7th
Isadora @ She Likes Food ~ Vegetable Lasagna Roll-ups
Wednesday, October 8th
Dearna @ to her core ~ Roasted Pumpkin and Peanut Soup
Thursday, October 9th
Lynsey @ lynseylovesfood ~ Roasted Root Vegetable Calzones

Sarah @ Highgate Hill KitchenSpicy-Roasted Chickpeas, Herbed Freekeh & Moroccan Carrot Salad
Friday, October 10th
Grace @ Earthy FeastMarinated Mushroom Sandwich with Sautéed Greens + Avocado + Egg
Saturday, October 11th
Teri @ Nourished Roots ~ Curried Red Lentil and Roasted Delicata Squash Soup


  1. Meal bowls are definitely great cooking for one fodder, with so much scope for healthy, textural add-ins. I love this one you have come up with. Bookmarking, pinning etc. I am looking forward to what everyone else in the series contributes. Btw, your tips are spot on. I had a hard time adding to what you wrote!

    1. Yes, again well said - meal bowls have so much scope for lots of textural and flavor add-ins. That's exactly why I love them, not to mention that they're easy to pull together as well. I'm looking forward to everyone else's contributions too. Thanks Kelli!

  2. I love this dish, Katie! Unfortunately, my husband doesn't eat quite like I do and I have to cook only for myself when I make quinoa because he won't eat it. I love your tip of steaming the broccoli with the quinoa while cooking, that is so smart and I love doing quick things like that when cooking for myself! This totally looks like a meal that I would make for myself and enjoy so much! Love the green olives, avocado, and dressing! I'm so glad that you started this series up and I can't wait to see what comes next :)

    1. Thank you so much, Izzy! There are certain things I love too but my husband does not share that love for, so I end up making it for my lunch during the week. This quinoa would be a great lunch option it sounds like for you too. In fact I made it at lunchtime so I know it's completely do-able in 20 minutes! Can't wait to see what's next in the series too, so glad you're participating!

  3. Wow! All these recipes sound so yummy! I can't wait to try them all. I love the idea of steaming the broccoli over the quinoa!

    1. Hi Teri! I love doubling up on tasks like steaming the broccoli with the quinoa. Works great with rice in a rice cooker too. The trick is to not add too thick of a layer of veg and cut them in small pieces, especially the denser stalk. That's why I call for a small head of broccoli here.

  4. Yay for multitasking dinner by steaming the broccoli with the quinoa! Genius! This looks delicious!

    1. Hi Grace! I wouldn't say I am a fan of multi-tasking in life in general, but if it can be done in the kitchen I will certainly not pass it up!

  5. Oh yum, a green quinoa bowl is the perfect meal for one - I love the different flavour combos here too with the sweet dried apricots and the salty olives. I had a sweet pumpkin and currant salad with salty olives for lunch today and it was amazing, so I'm really liking the idea of mixing those two different tastes together. Can't wait to see what all of the other bloggers come up with! :)

    1. Mmm, the pumpkin, currant, and olives sound really good - and yes, that is a similar flavor profile. I love the sweet and sour combo - I think that's why I love North African and Middle Eastern food so much. :) I'm looking forward to the other bloggers recipes too!

  6. Cecilia SwenssonOctober 07, 2014

    this great idea thanks for sharing!!

  7. Oh, Oh. I love this bowl! It looks delicious :) I think I will make this for my husband and myself for lunch!

    1. Hi Kristie, thank you! I hope you and your husband enjoy this. Let me know how it turns out!

  8. this looks so good. thank you, katie, for another great post!

    1. Hi Laura! It is good and very balanced in the 6 tastes. I think you would approve. ;-)


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