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Meals for 2

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I'm going to have an empty nest by September 1st. I want to go back to the days of all of them piling on the couch for read-a-louds. I miss having them all sitting around the table for dinner.

 

I have never been a good cook but I had major back surgery and now have a very small time I can be on my feet. We are tired of frozen dinners and my husband won't eat leftovers so I don't want to make the same things I did when we had 4 or 5. Any ideas for good meals for 2 people?

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Can dh cook for awhile? If we were empty nesting, I didn't like cooking, plus I was recovering from major surgery and couldn't work on my feet for long, I'm not sure I would afford dh the luxury of not eating leftovers or frozen dinners. Unless he wanted to provide an alternative.

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Grilled food is easy to scale down. If you have a favorite marinate, make your usual recipe, but freeze some for later. Steaks, burgers, kabobs, brats, chicken, etc. can all be bought in regular packages and broken down to smaller meals.

 

Seafood is good too. For some reason it's easier to find seafood recipes for two. It's not cost prohibitive in small quantities. You can make linguine and clams with just one can of clams for two, or just buy two servings of fish. Shrimp is less annoying when you only need two servings.

 

Stuff like soups, Mac n cheese, and meatloaf makes a lot but freezes well. It doesn't count as leftovers if you serve in another week.

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America's Test Kitchen has a great cookbook just for this.  DH and I love it.

 

Also, the old original Martha Stewart "Quick Cook" cookbook is great for just 2-3 people.

 

In general, I think having meats that can be remade is particularly helpful.  So, for instance, you roast a chicken one day, make chicken curry with some of the leftovers the next day, and have a hearty green salad with chopped chicken on the third.  What makes that work is that the meals are different enough from each other that you feel like you have had a reasonable variety.

 

This also works with baked meatballs--you make a different gravy to warm them in every night for a while, but it feels like you are having several different meals if you do, say, the grape jelly/cocktail sauce one night, cream sauce another, Polynesian sauce another, spaghetti sauce and noodles for the last one.

 

Also, it's easy to make pasta or steaks or sausages or chops for two instead of four.

 

A pork tenderloin makes a great meal for two with just one meal of leftovers.  This is better than, say, a big baked mac and cheese casserole that makes 5 meals for two.  

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Dh doesn't like leftovers??  Any chance  he might agree to leftovers until you get on your feet better?  Some foods such as soups, stews, and chilis, I sometimes make a day ahead anyway because the flavors develop nicely.  Would he be interested in a roast chicken one day and chicken salad the next?  Not exactly leftovers but making wise use of time and resources.

 

Make a big batch of ground meat and put servings in ziplock bags?  One day could be tacos.  One day could be spaghetti. Shepherd's Pie. 

 

The more I think about this, the more I remember my father didn't like leftovers either.  My mother would have to get creative to disguise leftovers.  She used to make a beef roast for dinner, then have roast beef sandwiches and soup or salad the next night.  Putting the remaining beef roast in soup or stew would be another dinner. 

 

Loaded baked potatoes?

 

Breakfast for dinner?

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I don't care for leftovers, either. Unfortunately, they're sometimes just more efficient so I suck it up. 

 

Since you're not a fan of cooking, buy a bag of pre-chopped frozen veggies and spread them on a cookie sheet. Coat with oil, season lightly, bake. We change up the veggies to keep it "exciting" but prep remains the same most nights. Root veggies one day, potatoes the next, broccoli with cauliflower after that, then maybe some asparagus with onions. You get the idea. When we want to change it up, we steam the veggies instead. We love steamed bell peppers with peas, plus the usual broccoli, peas, carrots. One bag is perfect for two people and will leave no leftovers, or enough for just one (a good lunch for you the next day!  

 

This makes a full meal if you serve over pasta or rice. It also makes a side dish you can serve with chicken. If you don't want to put the effort into pan-frying, get a small crockpot and toss in the meat at breakfast. Change it up with body parts (thighs, breasts) and with sauces (bbq, teriyaki). Then switch up animals (cow, pork). Get a rotation of about 10 main entrees (bbq chicken thighs, teriyaki chicken breast, etc.) and everything will become familiar enough to make easily but be spread out enough to not get TOO boring. 

 

I look forward to an empty nest, but I dread it also. So I'm not sure whether to celebrate with you, or to cry with you. So ... just ... here's an acknowledging the changes coming soon! 

 

 

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Empty nesters here.

Just us, we eat pretty simple.

Protein and a starch, plus veggie.

That looks like, two grills chicken breasts, or a steak to share, maybe two pork chops or some fish. Potatoes, rice, or pasta, and a side salad or veggies. Just cook what you will eat.

Often it's chicken or steak over salad.

I do a lot of planned meals, where I cook once and then switch it up and make something different, this summer I often grill chicken and steak early in the week. We might eat the steak, but the next night I have chicken already cooked to reheat with salad or make sandwiches.

We might have roast beef and mashed potatoes one night. But I cook some potatoes and carrots with the beef roast. Skip a day and then I make beef stew with the carrots and potatoes I cooked with th roast. skip a day and I might make hash, or hot beef sandwiches.

Soups, we eat once and I freeze some. Two weeks later it isn't leftovers, it's a new meal.

 

I might cook more rice for a meal and later in the week I will make fried rice with leftover rice and whatever protein and veggies I have in the fridge.

 

I will make 3 pounds of burger at a time into meatloaf or meatballs and freeze it in small portions. Most of the time I prebake it then it's very fast to reheat. Meatballs, I will put some in frying pan with a little BBQ sauce. 10 mins tops they are ready to,eat.

 

I have the ATK cookbook. And it's great. But you have to have your burger or whatever protein in small portions. I buy half a beef at a time, so burger is packaged in one pound bags.

 

I will fry a pound of burger with some onions and one night we have taco salad with half and later in the week we have spaghetti.

 

I will eat leftovers for lunch often. DH does not mind them at all, but I try to not serve them th next day. Sometimes I save them for Saturday lunch for example.

 

I buy salmon and often chicken that is frozen in single portions. Easy to just cook what you need.

 

Can you do your prep work sitting down at a counter or even the table?

 

It's an adjustment, but you figure it out.

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Does it count as dreaded leftovers if you freeze what's leftover and have it another week? Like it's pretty easy to make tacos for two, and the leftover meat can be put in the freezer for tacos again or taco salad a different week. I can't tell the difference between fresh-made chili and chili that came out of the freezer and was reheated. Lasagna roll-ups are nicely portioned out--three or four would fit in a bread pan and feed two. I freeze those too--just put the roll-ups sans sauce in a gallon ziploc bag and freeze, then thaw and add the sauce and cheese when you want them for dinner. For spaghetti with either marinara or meat sauce, I make the amount of pasta needed and use the amount of sauce needed. Since my sauce recipes make more than is needed, the rest goes in a ziploc bag in the freezer. Extra grilled chicken or steak can also go in the freezer already sliced up for another recipe.

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Does it count as dreaded leftovers if you freeze what's leftover and have it another week? Like it's pretty easy to make tacos for two, and the leftover meat can be put in the freezer for tacos again or taco salad a different week. I can't tell the difference between fresh-made chili and chili that came out of the freezer and was reheated. Lasagna roll-ups are nicely portioned out--three or four would fit in a bread pan and feed two. I freeze those too--just put the roll-ups sans sauce in a gallon ziploc bag and freeze, then thaw and add the sauce and cheese when you want them for dinner. For spaghetti with either marinara or meat sauce, I make the amount of pasta needed and use the amount of sauce needed. Since my sauce recipes make more than is needed, the rest goes in a ziploc bag in the freezer. Extra grilled chicken or steak can also go in the freezer already sliced up for another recipe.

What are lasagna roll ups or do you mean just regular lasagna noodles? The sounds good.

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I wish we had an outside grill. My husband never wanted to get one. I tried the small indoor grills but haven't had good results. The chicken seems dry and not very flavorful.

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What are lasagna roll ups or do you mean just regular lasagna noodles? The sounds good.

 

That is a great way to make small portions of lasagna instead of a whole tray. Basically, instead of layering noodles, sauce, cheese, repeat, you cook the noodles until they are soft enough to roll, lay one flat, spread a thin layer of ricotta, then a thin layer of sauce, sprinkle on a little of whatever else you want, and then roll it up. It is about the size of a big stuffed shell. Fit 6-8 close together in a small baking dish, standing up so you can see the swirl from above, put a little more sauce on top, and bake. Dinner for 2.

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Well if you're prepping for after surgery, I'd probably go to Trader Joe's and get a bunch of their frozen meals!

 

But otherwise, I' might cook some stews and lasagne and things like that, freeze them individually into servings for two, and re-heat as needed.

 

I also like that you can now get packages of frozen chicken breasts where each breast is wrapped separately.  It makes it easy to take out just one or two and use it for a quick meal.  If you and your dh like meat, I think chicken is the easiest.  You can cook it in olive oil on the stove, or bake it in the oven with potatoes and veggies.  I've also become a big fan of roasted veggies, which is not only one of the easiest ways to prepare veggies but definitely the tastiest!  Just spread a layer of veggies on a baking sheet, drizzle olive oil, salt and pepper on it, and bake at 450 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until tender and slightly charred.  You can roast almost anything:  broccoli, carrots, onions, sliced cauliflower, brussel sprouts, chopped or sliced sweet potatoes, regular potatoes, corn, peppers, etc. 

 

Or you can always bake or saute chicken and buy the frozen sides.  Places like Trader Joe's have great frozen and dried sides -- rice with veggies, veggies plain, mashed cauliflower, etc.  

 

I hope your surgery goes well!

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