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Menu/meal planning for two


CDRFloppingham
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If this has been covered before, I beg your pardon and please direct me to that thread.

My fiance and I just moved in together and, as the cook, I am now responsible for preparation of lunches (for work) and dinners. We would like to eat reasonably healthy but nothing extreme and I like to cook rich, fatty, delicious dishes from time to time.

Now, I know that one strategy is to make a big pot of something and eat it for dinner and lunches until it's gone. My fiance could stand that but I get bored with the monotomy...even if it's a really good dish.

It's just the two of us. I'm willing to cook every night but eating leftovers a couple of times a week would be great too.

I'm wondering if any of you have developed any useful meal rotations.

Thanks in advance.

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johnnybird is in your roomate's camp; i am in yours.

i will make one or two things on saturday when i have time to cook and transform into others - roast a chicken and make a meatloaf. dinner that night is chicken with baked potatoes and a veg. i then pick the carcass and have chicken to make chicken salad or chicken pot pie. meatloaf for sandwiches or reheat and serve with mash and veg.

i also keep chicken breasts pre-mashed and prepackaged in the freezer. pull them out in the morning, put in the freezer and they are ready to make dinner with when you get home. i also make and freeze pint and half pint containers of soup and stew that go into lunch bags to be heated up at work.

i have found the hardest thing for me is quantity and portions for two. hope this helps...

oh and check out your library to see if they have- or can borrow for you - a cookbook that might help about cooking for two.

Nothing is better than frying in lard.

Nothing.  Do not quote me on this.

 

Linda Ellerbee

Take Big Bites

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I have employed several techniques over the years, but now that we are empty nesters the volume control has been critical to keep from discarding what was perfectly good food. Having a second fridge/freezer helps.

Weekend before last, I made a roast turkey breast, marinara sauce, an ersatz Italian sausage, beef rendang (crock pot) and I roasted/poached chicken leg quarters to yield a soup base and chicken for tacos.

We are still eating on this. The turkey breast I pulled and made a pan sauce in the pan and froze both. Beef rendang went into storage. The marinara became a salsa base for tacos one night and mixed with sausage for spaghetti another night. Chicken was in the tacos and fried rice one night with some rendang on the side. Turkey breast is tonight and then will probably become a soup with the chicken poach liquid and leftover rice from fried rice batch.

Makes weeknights a pleasure as we got in a real rut for awhile being so tired and just throwing things together.

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johnnybird is in your roomate's camp; i am in yours.

i will make one or two things on saturday when i have time to cook and transform into others - roast a chicken and make a meatloaf.  dinner that night is chicken with baked potatoes and a veg.  i then pick the carcass and have chicken to make chicken salad or chicken pot pie.  meatloaf for sandwiches or reheat and serve with mash and veg.

i also keep chicken breasts pre-mashed and prepackaged in the freezer.  pull them out in the morning, put in the freezer and they are ready to make dinner with when you get home.  i also make and freeze pint and half pint containers of soup and stew that go into lunch bags to be heated up at work.

i have found the hardest thing for me is quantity and portions for two.  hope this helps...

oh and check out your library to see if they have- or can borrow for you -  a cookbook that might help about cooking for two.

My wife hates leftovers, I have gotten her to take them as lunch the next day, but that's all I can do. So with that in mind, prepare twice the protein and save half for a different application. Like Suzi said, roast a bird and then make stock, chicken salad, soup, pot pie, or jambalaya with the remainder. I grill extra breasts and then julienne some to make quesadillas with the next day. I love thin sliced rare medium rare steak that is chilled and on a salad, so I put an extra on the grill.

In some restaurants last night's baked potatoes become today's potato soup.

Last night I blanched 2 pounds of green beans for us to snack on during the week.

Veni Vidi Vino - I came, I saw, I drank.
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Try making foil or paper pouches ahead of time. I love the en papillote approach for ease, variety and convenience. It's hard to beat a fish bag.

Peter Gamble aka "Peter the eater"

I just made a cornish game hen with chestnut stuffing. . .

Would you believe a pigeon stuffed with spam? . . .

Would you believe a rat filled with cough drops?

Moe Sizlack

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Soups and stews reheat from frozen beautifully....invest in a supply of portion-sized plastic containers to package chili, bean soup, bolognese sauce, etc for your lunch bags. This prevents same-dish burnout. You can also prep all of the ingredients for lots of lasagna, but assemble into smaller pans (get disposable foil ones if you don't have mini lasagna crockery). Cooking in smaller quantities means that you can eat well the first night, then have limited leftovers to foist off on your better half for his/her lunches. (I'm a leftover hater myself.)

The grill is your friend---when you fire it up on Saturday or Sunday to cook whatever, plan ahead and cook some additional proteins for variety's sake later in the week. Cook rice and pasta in larger quantities than just for two--both easily transform into something else for lunches later in the week. Ex, rice to go with a pot roast for Sunday supper becomes fried rice for dinner on Wednesday, or penne w/ pesto becomes mac-n-cheese later on.

Once upon a time, in a land far away and long ago, these skills were taught to girls AND boys in a class called Home Economics...sigh. I'm getting old.

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My wife hates leftovers. . . .

Really? What about chili and lasagna? Beef and tomatoes need to overnight in the fridge together before they really get it on.

Peter Gamble aka "Peter the eater"

I just made a cornish game hen with chestnut stuffing. . .

Would you believe a pigeon stuffed with spam? . . .

Would you believe a rat filled with cough drops?

Moe Sizlack

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For us, a magic combination seems to be interspersing the kinds of multi-meal techniques above, with a number of one-night dinners, such as salmon, with a vegetable side, etc. We also like to have "snack nights", which can include just about anything; it just mainly means I'm not cooking that night, and we're both free to nibble and graze as we please. Especially in winter, one of those nights might find me having pasta with butter and parmesan - which would never be enough for my husband - or a soup I believe I got from the Jacques Pepin website, which consists of freshly-toasted cubes of bread topped with shredded Swiss cheese, and then hot chicken broth is poured over all, with sliced scallions floating on top. It gives each of us the opportunity to have things we like, that the other would never eat.

Variety is the key, as it would be when cooking for a large family.

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For us, a magic combination seems to be interspersing the kinds of multi-meal techniques above, with a number of one-night dinners, such as salmon, with a vegetable side, etc.  We also like to have "snack nights", which can include just about anything; it just mainly means I'm not cooking that night, and we're both free to nibble and graze as we please.  Especially in winter, one of those nights might find me having pasta with butter and parmesan - which would never be enough for my husband - or a soup I believe I got from the Jacques Pepin website, which consists of freshly-toasted cubes of bread topped with shredded Swiss cheese, and then hot chicken broth is poured over all, with sliced scallions floating on top.  It gives each of us the opportunity to have things we like, that the other would never eat. 

Variety is the key, as it would be when cooking for a large family.

Our snack night is called Last Call and occurs on Monday night when everyone is tired and trash day is the next day. Anything that does not get eaten is fodder for the can since the new wave of weekend cooking will hold us until next Last Call.

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My wife hates leftovers

Left overs are great when re-invented into a new dish. We are empty nesters now but I have been very good at making new dishes from the previous nights meal for years.

Can you elaborate with some examples? I'm always open to new ideas.

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My wife hates leftovers

Left overs are great when re-invented into a new dish. We are empty nesters now but I have been very good at making new dishes from the previous nights meal for years.

Can you elaborate with some examples? I'm always open to new ideas.

I made gumbo last night with a series of leftovers. Think jambalaya, quiche, stir fry, casserole. Anything that was designed to use up leftovers.

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My wife hates leftovers

Left overs are great when re-invented into a new dish. We are empty nesters now but I have been very good at making new dishes from the previous nights meal for years.

I once made a indian mixed vegetable dish that sucked. It was bland and really didn't work well as what it was. I combined it with some chicken stock, simmered a bit and pureed into a luscious tasty soup. A lot of leftover vegetables will make a good soup.

One the weekend I BBQ'd some fennel, zucchini and eggplant. Husband didn't fancy eating them again, so I blitzed them up with some olive oil and feta and called it a spread. Served with toasted bread, and it went down very well. I think it would go well in some sort of stuffed chicken breast type thing.

Basically, for my husband, making it look different is key.

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My wife hates leftovers

Left overs are great when re-invented into a new dish. We are empty nesters now but I have been very good at making new dishes from the previous nights meal for years.

Basically, for my husband, making it look different is key.

She does eat leftovers but I have to do one or all of the above listed.

This is going to be an epic thread if we continue the posts with what we did with leftovers.

Veni Vidi Vino - I came, I saw, I drank.
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This is going to be an epic thread if we continue the posts with what we did with leftovers.

Probably. However a good use of leftovers is important in a small household. I find it impossible to cook for just one meal for two.

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This is going to be an epic thread if we continue the posts with what we did with leftovers.

Probably. However a good use of leftovers is important in a small household. I find it impossible to cook for just one meal for two.

I find it difficult as well. Just goes against my grain as I brown bag every day. My wife gets fed at work (country club) so leftovers effect me more than her except for Last Call night. A dinner with no leftovers would probably be sandwiches of some type or salad.

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This has been one of the most difficult things for me, since we've been more alone recently, cooking only for two is really a challenge!

I'm finally getting it right more consistently. Here are a couple of my tricks.

Make a batch of unseasoned mixed rice one day, and pack the leftovers into small bowls- that makes my life a lot easier, I must admit. I just take out a bowl and do whatever I want to the rice, EXCEPT for making hashu, then I start from scratch. We had a surprise guest after dinner last week and I made rice pudding with the refrigerator rice- it was really delicious with the mixed rices- all chewy and nutty, although I admit to liking ANY rice pudding.

Cook a pound of dried beans at one time, then put the beans and liquor in the refrigerator. You can just scoop out some beans for any meal, whether it is to add to a salad or to make a small pot of soup, some kind of dal or chili.

When you make pasta, freeze the extra dough BEFORE you shape it, then you can just thaw it out one morning for that night, and have 'fresh' pasta twice with only one kneading session!

I also freeze half of my dough whenever I make pizza now, so we don't eat ourselves sick on the pizza that day, and that way I have a dough in the freezer, too!Freezing things BEFORE they get to the table in finished form in the first place, is a GREAT trick to stave off the "it's a leftover" feeling.

When you roast a chicken, after serving the lovely meal, divide the meat into 2 or 3 packets and make stock with the carcass. You can use the packets of flesh for different meals, and you won't feel like it's leftovers.

Freeze extra sauce or soup when you make a batch, don't use the frozen portion for at least a couple of weeks- that's not leftovers, that's a bonus!

One important detail is to get yourself some small pots and pans. It really helps to be cooking in a smaller pot, you don't feel the urge to add too much of something to a smaller pot.

The most important detail for me has been to invest in some small baking dishes.

They hold a quart each, which is only 4 cups you know. :raz:

I even have 2 casserole dishes that only hold 2 cups- I have been known to use the last bits of fruit to make some very small desserts- and I also made the world's tiniest squash bake, too.

Now I can make small crumbles with just a bit of fruit at one time, or small casseroles with just a few vegetables instead of immense amounts in one go.

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My mom evolved a dish that fed us for years. It was a blend of French regional and American lazy, and we loved it.

She called it the Permanent Dinner. It was basically a pot au feu, but heavy on the broth, so you could think of it as a braise or a stew or a soup, depending on your disposition. The broth wasn't thickened. Some of the ingredients were browned and cooked long, others just simmered til tender.

The key was that the ingredients were in constant rotation. Chicken, beef stewing cuts, French sausages, leeks, carrots, cellery, pearl onions, herbs, whatever, all rotated in and out. More broth would get added as needed. It lived in a giant Creuset enameled cast iron pot, that could go from the stove to the fridge to the freezer. Bringing it to a simmer several times a week kept the microbes away (I have since learned that the Health Department frowns on this concept, but we all survived our childhoods).

Anyway, we had it a lot and it was delicious and low maintenance and always changing.

Notes from the underbelly

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My wife hates leftovers

Left overs are great when re-invented into a new dish. We are empty nesters now but I have been very good at making new dishes from the previous nights meal for years.

Can you elaborate with some examples? I'm always open to new ideas.

Like using left over roast chicken to make chicken enchiladas, tacos, tortilla soup.....you get the idea. Cold grilled shrimp from the night before can go into a Vietnamese summer roll.

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I cook for two and I've found that meal planning is really key. I have two days designated as "Leftovers." This really translates to my husband picking out whatever he wants from the fridge preparing it by himself with no help from me (as long as he's not eating a crucial ingredient for a meal that week). It doesn't have to be something that is left over from the previous days, sometimes he just eats cereal or makes himself a sandwich.

Roasting small whole chickens is great, you can do alot with them after a nice roast chicken meal (I never consider what I do with the left over chicken a "Leftovers" meal since I make a new meal). I usually use it shredded:

Chicken salad sandwiches on croissants with pickles and chips on the side

Chicken pot pies (you can make mini ones and freeze the remaining ones for later)

Chicken quesadillas with salsa verde

Lots of different Salads with chicken on top

etc

I also make CI's beef stock which leaves me with a whole lot of left over beef but that is superb. That's always a fun week because I'll usually make a beef noodle soup, pulled beef sandwiches, and throw together a saucy Mexican dish and serve it with rice (I try and throw some chicken/fish in that week to balance out the red meat).

Having a freezer with ample room also helps. If you make too much food for you to use up quickly, you can pop a lot of it in the freezer to use later (obviously this has limits. Frozen lettuce = not so good). I make a lot of soups and freeze half of it for later, and I too freeze half of my pizza dough when I make it. It thaws beautifully!

Since I follow a lot of recipes vs improvising, its important to note how many servings the dish is going to make. This is kind of an obvious thing to take into consideration, but it helps tremendously when cooking for two and trying to figure out what to do with leftovers. I tend to halve many recipes so our fridge isnt stuffed to the gills with tequila chicken or lentil soup or something.

Also (if you're a meat eater), when you buy your meats, repackage them in individual/two person portions. This will knock a lot of time off of prep work and save you from having to use up 4 pounds of thawed meat or risk texture quality by refreezing.

As you keep cooking, you'll know which dishes the two of you might gobble up and have no leftovers after, or ones that tend to hang around in the fridge for a while.

Whew. Sorry for the long post. :wacko:

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My fiance and I just moved in together and, as the cook, I am now responsible for preparation of lunches (for work) and dinners.  We would like to eat reasonably healthy but nothing extreme and I like to cook rich, fatty, delicious dishes from time to time.

. . .

It's just the two of us.  I'm willing to cook every night but eating leftovers a couple of times a week would be great too.

I've pretty much always just cooked for one or two (unless I'm cooking for a dozen or two), so to me it seems odd to have to have a "strategy." But I realize that if you're not used to it, it can seem daunting. And on second thought, I do have a strategy, but I've been following it for so long it doesn't seem like one.

My first thought is that there are two issues here: lunches and dinners. To answer the first, lunches, it would help to know what your workplaces are like. Do you have a kitchen at work? Microwaves? Refrigerators? If you have both, then lunches can be both easier and more varied. If you don't, then sandwiches and some kinds of salads are probably your best options. The good thing about sandwiches and salads is that they can often use up protein and vegetables from previous meals.

There's all kinds of good advice here about cooking and using extra protein already, but sometimes what people don't think about is using cooked vegetables in subsequent dishes. If you're roasting vegetables for dinner, roast extra and use them in a pasta salad for lunches. If you feel the need for protein, a little left over chicken or cheese can complete the meal. You have beets for dinner? Make a beet salad with feta cheese and mint (pine nuts are great too) for lunch the next day (or the day after). You got a huge bunch of broccoli because it was on sale? Cook it all and use the second half for broccoli soup.

Generally, if you think "ingredients" instead of recipes, you can end up with the start of a new meal. It's not always possible, but if you can cook things without much strong seasoning or sauce, then add the flavorings afterward, you've got more useful fodder for future meals. I get pork shoulder or chuck roast and pressure cook it for an hour or so with nothing much more than salt, pepper and broth or beer. Then I can use the tender meat for chili, stew, pulled pork sandwiches, ragout -- whatever -- by adding the appropriate seasonings afterward.

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We fight the cooking for two conundrum every day, and have for the twelve years since the Girl went to college, never to eat here again on a regular basis. Here are a few things I've learned:

1)Leftovers must be quality and frozen immediately. A sorry dish of leftover pasta or Pad Thai, clingwrapped and shoved onto a refrigerator shelf gets tossed after three days. A bowl of minestrone in the fridge just sits there. A frozen minestrone two weeks later is worth a bravo! Meatballs, a bag of frozen shrimp you can dip into at will, a package of pulled pork -- these aren't leftovers. They're prepared high-quality food.

2)Portion size portion size portion size. Two peeps don't need that much food, and I should be arrested for what I've wasted and tossed. Plan ahead, an use economies of scale.

3) Buy better. So what if you can buy a family pack of good chuck when you know that four pounds of ground chuck, however utilized, will be 16 servings. Throw the five bucks for a couple of chuckeye steaks or a Cornish Game Hen. Buy three small servings of good protein a week, and cook from your well-stocked freezer the other nights.

4) Make stock. Freeze it. Last night I pulled a container from the frosty hinterlands of my freezer and made a vegetable/tortellini soup in about ten minutes. It tasted fresh.

5)Always have a good loaf of bread around, a couple of cans of tuna fish, and excellent cold cuts and cheese. Brown bagging a non-leftover lunch clears the palate for a dinner that comprises from- the- freezer stuff.

6)Egg cookery is your friend.

Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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Two good books - "Fix, Freeze, Feast: More than 125 recipes to prepare in bulk and by the serving by Kati Neville and Lindsay Tkacsik" - really can spark the ideas of what to do with buying in bulk from Costco/Sams - and you could spend like one day per month cooking, freezing, etc. - supplementing with fresh salads, vegies... more oriented toward family cooking - but i've adapted the receipes to feed just me and my hubbie....

next is the "Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Recipes for Two: For the Small Slow Cooker by Beth Hensperger "

Also, try stuffing chicken breasts with almost anything - pound them out - fill with leftovers (roasted veggies, bits of cheese leftover in the fridge, leftover coldcuts, sundried tomatoes, chutneys, any of those jars of stuff you got for other receipes, etc.) roll, cover in Breadcrumbs (or not) - and bake - freeze some for later and put in the oven right when you get home right out of the freezer - salad, veggies - dinner!

Live and learn. Die and get food. That's the Southern way.

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So, my fiance and I bought a house together and I've begun cooking for the two of us. I am on a STEEP learning curve.

I've solicited the advice and wisdom of my fellow eGulleters (thanks eGulletersfor the advice) on two prior occasions and I thought I'd start recording what I've cooked/we've eaten to get comments/criticism/help.

I don't think I can remember everything I cooked so far (we've lived here almost two weeks) but here goes.

Conditions: My fiance has no problem eating the same thing over and over although she will NOT bring leftovers to work and nuke them. Thus, for lunches, I have been left with making sammies and, maybe cheese/fruit/crackers or something similar. So lunches have been sammie and fruit.

So far, I've made:

Beef stew

One of those frozen veg and sauce things that you stir fry w/ chicken

Chicken enchiladas with a mexican coleslaw

Chicken soup and garlic bread (she was feeling under the weather)

Salmon, smashed potatoes, quick ratatouille

I have not been able to execute the concept of cooking a large quantity of protein, then "repackaging" it. We have eaten leftovers and I have frozen individual portions so far.

To be continued...

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