HUNDREDS of you responded to our October 11 story on what single people eat (``Solo Cuisine is Chicken Hurry,'' p. 14). We were delighted so many took time to write us about favorite quick meals, and unconventional ones. Along with the nearly 250 responses - from Maine to California, Minnesota to Florida, and everywhere in between - came food for thought.
Topping the ``unconventional meal'' responses, and ranking high in the the ``quickest, most satisfying meal'' category were: popcorn (No. 1, no contest), cereal (oatmeal was big), and peanut butter (in sandwiches, on crackers). A few of you admitted to polishing off a whole pint of ice cream and eating cold pizza for breakfast.
As for the quickest, most satisfying meal, many sent recipes for meals they said were convenient, nutritious, and easy to clean up after. Among them were soups and stews, pasta (noodles, various sauces), potatoes (mashed, baked with toppings), vegetables (stir-fried, steamed), microwave or frozen dinners, rice dishes, salads, and sandwiches. Mexican food was popular - store-bought and homemade burritos, fajitas, enchiladas, nachos, chili, and more. Chicken dishes were favored, as were breakfast foods for dinner.
Three cheers for one-pot meals! Many mentioned these neo-casseroles. They start with pasta or rice, then add whatever is handy - vegetables, meat, seasonings, cheese, even pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, and pine-nuts. In fact, the ``mix-ins'' concept seems to suit many people's needs for convenience, balance, and variety.
Canned soup as a sauce in disguise was big. An oft-mentioned (and longtime) favorite was non-diluted cream of mushroom soup over rice or breast of chicken. Making big batches of something - chili, say - and freezing individual portions for future meals was also popular.
There were more than a few responses that made us laugh - intentionally, we hope. Several people commented that singles need to treat themselves better when it comes to how they eat.
We've included a partial list of cookbooks readers may find useful in their quest for simple, nourishing, quick meals.
Many thanks to everyone who wrote! Based on the meal-preparation times some of you included, you could have prepared several meals in the time it took to fill out the coupon.
We couldn't possibly print all the responses, alas. A sampling: Tips from readers
Thank goodness for: baked potatoes, Quaker Oats, yogurt, peanut butter, and ice cream. Ming Ivory, Omaha, Neb.
Fall Special: In one pan I saut'e apples cut in rings and onions. In another I cook bacon or sausage. I drain and combine the two. It is wunderbar. Paige McHugh, Cambridge, Mass.
Ruiz's [brand] frozen beef burritos. You can recognize all the ingredients in them, which is more than can be said about most frozen foods. Also, salads, pizza, macaroni and cheese, and Waldorf salad. (Not all at the same time.) German potato salad. I make a week's worth at a time. It reheats very well. Mark Ammerman, Whittier, Calif.
Cold pasta - I cook up a week's supply on Sundays. When I feel ambitious, I ``nuke'' it in the microwave, and sprinkle with parmesan cheese and pine nuts. Elree Harris, Salt Lake City
Stir-fry and rice. I bought a good cast-iron wok and an electric rice-cooker. With stir-fry, you only make as much as you need for one meal and voila! no leftovers or over-eating. It's the only thing that's good made in a small amount, infinitely variable, and really well-balanced nutritionally. Patricia C. Sharp, Livonia, Mich.
Once a week (usually a Friday night) I would pretend I was having company for dinner and make myself a wonderful meal. Maggie Holter, Cincinnati
Because I work 10-12 hours a day I eat dinner for breakfast and have breakfast for dinner. ... By eating dinner for breakfast I don't get hungry during the day. This dinner-lunch-breakfast approach has allowed me to have a balanced, filling and good, enjoyable meals. J. McCahon, San Gabriel, Calif.
I sometimes buy a family pack of chicken parts - such as thighs. Bake them with a marinade or shake-and-bake product. Then, freeze them down individually in plastic bag or wrap, and put them all into one large plastic bag. Then, to defrost and reheat them one at a time provides me with my meal 12-15 times! Vernelle Busteed, Pasadena, Calif. Recipes Bachelor Mexican Casserole:
1.make macaroni and cheese
2.add one standard can of chili (hot chili best)
3.add one small can of whole-kernel corn.
Servings for two days. (No kidding. It's good, very fast. Only one pot!) Bruce Peterson, Seattle Shell pasta w/tomatoes and a tossed salad:
1.boil 2 handfuls of shells
2.heat in microwave: 1 can peeled tomatoes, sprinkle of salt, pepper, basil, and oregano
3.prepare tossed salad
Steps 1-3 can be done simultaneously. Meal ready in less than 10 minutes. Margaret A. Wynn, Orlando, Fla. Potato Pie. (15 minutes)
Slice unpeeled potato(es), brown on both sides in spider [iron skillet] with with 1 tbl. butter, 1/2 tbl. Crisco. Pour over it beaten egg; let it set. Fresh spinach around it. Slide pie onto plate. Erika Risedorph, Stuart, Fla.
Slice 1-3 potatoes in large slices about 1/4 inch. Bake in toaster oven at 450 degrees until they turn brown and puff up. Then dip in ``Ranch'' dressing or salsa, or - lacking these - mayonnaise or mustard or both. P. Chaney, San Bernardino, Calif.
I eat this at least once a week. It takes approximately 15 minutes maximum to prepare:
Pan-fry in butter a flour tortilla covered with cheese and your favorite veggies. Top with other tortilla. Cook until crispy outside, gooey inside. Garnish with lettuce, tomato, sour cream, and salsa. Serve with refried beans. Slice like pizza. Gregory Mears, Chapel Hill, N.C. Unconventional meals
Microwaved Spam laced with cloves and a can of creamed corn. Ron Bentley, Boston, Mass.
I like oatmeal with real cream. One day I didn't have the cream, or even skim milk: so I substituted vanilla ice cream. Good emergency fare! Dr. J.B. Casey, Kissimmee, Fla.
A pint of coffee H"agen-Daaz.
A bag of uncooked Mueller's egg noodles. Susan Korthals, Holliston, Mass.
A whole batch of brownies - uncooked. Actually, that still doesn't sound too bad. Kim Zwick, Great Falls, Mont.
I'm a widowed great-grandma who eats at least one meal out every day. Sometimes all three. It's a great life! My favorite meals are those served on cruise ships. Joyce Gorman, Tinley Park, Ill.
Korean and Japanese instant noodles with the little broth packets included - It cuts down on my freezer burn paranoia.
(Most unconventional: Chicken salad and Cheetos on mini bagels.) Karen Arentson, Lawrence, Kan.
I make a big pot of chili that I eat all week. (Most unconventional: Green beans straight out of the can.) Anonymous - to prevent my grown children from knowing!
These male cooks you mentioned in your article ... were any of them from Arkansas? My friends and I would like to hire one on a time-sharing basis! Susan Hines, Fayetteville, Ark. Environmental concerns:
I am 23 years old, single and exhausted as many others are after a full day's work. I do not contribute to the convenient tear-of-a-package, touch-of-a-button method of cooking and eating, for it highly contributes to the problem of household waste. I would like to encourage those who find cooking boring or eating alone unsatisfying to give it a try with a friend. By the sound of it, the young single, working person is becoming geared towards convenience, I would say it's a cop-out. Don't give in so easily! Dawn Marie Glover, North Whitefield, Maine