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Cooking for two!

I recently moved in with my new husband- which is great. My problem is that he eats like a horse and easily gets bored- if I feed him the same thing two weeks in a row he rolls his eyes, and he's got fairly vanilla tastes.

Anyone have any recommendations for meal ideas? I've made several different kinds of pork tenderloin, flank steak, pasta, lasagna, sausages, and burgers. I don't need recipes so much as meal combinations...I appear to suck at putting together well rounded meals!

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  1. IMHO, for meal combinations (menu planning) for more well rounded meals, you''ll probably find better answers at the library than here. This board is mostly about suggestions regarding individual recipes

    That said, two things come through loud and clear from your message: You're trying hard to put things on the table that please your husband, and he's not. (Otherwise, why the post.)

    Reality check: Is he as unhappy with your cooking as you think he is? Is he aware of how frustrated you are trying?

    Nobody can argue about the need for well-balanced, nutritious, tasty meals. But most of the time that pursuit should enjoyable.

    No offense intended, but maybe what's going on is less about cooking and more about how you communicate with each other. Only you and your husband can answer that. and If you can work that out, the cooking issue will likely recede in importance.

    Enough said, and good luck.

    1 Reply
    1. re: DPGood

      Good post, DPGood. Have him cook if he's such a whiner. I've dated picky eaters, before, but they knew better than to ask me to cook for them and then complain about it. It does NOT sound at all to me like you suck at putting together meals, Navan.

      Now, specific meal suggestions:

      -- baked (or nuked) potato + pan fried chicken / steak / pork chop + green veg (oven roasted or pan fried asparagus is a fave in my household)
      -- leftover baked potatoes convert into potato salad to be had with oven baked "fried' chicken (below)
      -- leftover baked potatoes also convert into twice baked potatoes, aloo gobi (if that's not too 'exotic'), roasted baked potatoes, potato / leek soup, potato / cheese gratin
      -- cider glazed pork chops + sauteed Swiss chard
      -- pita pizzas topped with sliced leftover meat + Greek salad
      -- oven baked "fried" chicken + rosemary roasted potatoes / corn on the cob + tomato and cucumber salad (or just fresh, vinegar / dilled cucumber... sort of like a quick pickle)
      -- roasted chicken + roasted potatoes + chopped salad (i.e. Turkish shepherd's salad)
      -- southwestern corn and bean salad + soft shelled corn tortilla tacos with shredded chicken left over from roasted chicken
      -- lettuce wraps filled with rice + ground chicken or pork, stirfried with veggies you have on hand (mine, tonight, included green, red and yellow peppers, baby corn, fish sauce, soy sauce, tomatoes, sriracha, onion, garlic, thai basil, lime juice)
      -- stew / chili + corn bread / rice / mashed potatoes
      -- leftover mashed potatoes convert into potato pancakes with sour cream and apple sauce, good as breakfast or a side with almost any protein
      -- shepherd's pie
      -- fajitas with beef strips, peppers, onion
      -- breakfast for dinner, i.e. cheese and veggie filled omelettes + homefries
      -- fritatas
      -- quiche
      -- savory strata
      -- pot pies made with phyllo dough or puff pastry
      -- leftover chicken shredded and mixed with bbq sauce served with a roll, sauteed veggies (i.e. summer squash, broccoli rabe, shredded brussels sprouts)
      -- savory crepes
      -- crockpot ribs / tougher, inexpensive meats + polenta + green veggie
      -- polenta can be allowed to set over night and then cut into squares and fried for the next meal.
      -- risotto as a bed for any protein; leftovers may be frozen and reheated or turned into arancini

      *** On the seventh day, rest, for you will have earned it. Have wine, cheese and fruit for dinner. Or even better, he should take you out to dinner. ***

      If there are leftovers that you can't / don't want to use, soon, freeze and bring back to life two weeks later.

      If he complains after all your efforts, he should eat toast for dinner. Or maybe he needs to learn what it's like to go hungry. =)

      Please, please keep us updated on how this goes for you. *hug!!!*

    2. Wow sounds like my husband and my husband does not like leftovers either (if there is any).
      Just work with the 3 main groups of a meal: meat (protein), starch (carbohydrate), and vegetable. Last week I made chicken parmesan which I know my husband likes but paired it with sauteed spinach/garlic which I haven't made for him before. No spaghetti b/c I wanted it to be a lower carb meal but you could add that in. My husband loved it. Now I also recently made a casserole that he did not like and ended up throwing most of it away.

      I guess the point is just keep trying. Mix up old recipes with new recipes. Ask your husband to be honest about your cooking and if he likes/dislikes something have him tell you specifically what it was to help you fine tune your recipes.

      Also, get your husband in the kitchen! I work alot and sometimes my husband has to cook dinner (he does not cook but he is learning). He enjoys it and I think it helps him realize putting meals together is not easy, Good luck!

      1 Reply
      1. re: tenshi77

        agreed my Mom's old cookbooks are marked with pencil marks and notes about whether or not Dad liked the meal.

      2. My husband was never crazy about my spanish rice casseroles, but he loves them in a stuffed pepper, which combines protein, grain and veg. The red, yellow and orange peppers seem to hold up better than green. I also use the same basic rice to stuff zucchini and yellow squash. I put cubed cheese in the mix before I stuff and bake.

        1. New Husband. You didn't know his food tastes and you married him?
          Go buy the Betty Crocker cookbook and work your way from cover to cover.

          Or tell him to eat what you put on the table or cook his own meals.

          1. Tenshi77 has a good idea about working with the 3 main food groups that forms the basic meal. Protein, carbohydrate (yes you do need some), and vegetable.
            Also, Kilted Cook suggests a basic cookbook like the Betty Crocker and I'll suggest the large recent Joy of Cooking book. Both have endless variations of common recipes which are easy to follow, prepare and cook. Finally.... communication is key. What do each of you like to eat and what food will you not eat. Shopping together can be a good way to choose the components of a meal.

            I found that when I was first married I relied on what my parents cooked at home and I grew up eating. It was an Italian family of great cooks so you can imaine what the meals were like.... My husband's famiy weren't the best cooks so he was happy just to have something tasty. Good luck and remember... the first 100 years are the hardest.

            1. weird, i don't see chicken on your list. americans tend to plan meals in a protein-centric way. is your husband really just a big meat and potatoes kind of guy? if not, think things like stir-fries and grains, to which you can add endless arrays of veggies, cheeses and even fruits with smaller amounts of meat.

              also search for simple sauces and salsas, which can really change the flavor profiles.

              if monotony is an issue, keep a journal and plan ahead so you minimize repeats.

              honestly, if my s/o rolled his eyes at dinner, i'd throw it in his lap and eat out.

              1. Folks, we understand that there's a great temptation to offer relationship advice, and have removed a few such posts. However, this is a board about home cooking, so if you'd like to offer advice, please keep it focused on meal suggestions. Thanks.

                2 Replies
                1. re: The Chowhound Team

                  Agreed with focusing on a protein-carb-veg. I try to work in something green with every meal too. Chicken-couscous-green beans, pork-roast potatoes-zuchhini. Add a sauce or a rub or whatever. These work. These simple 3 item meals are maybe my husband's faves, but I get bored so I need to get creative.

                  With pastas-just make sure you have a veg and a protein to go with all that starch: white beans and zucchini, or say, meat sauce with peppers, or shrimp lemon sauce with a salad on the side, etc. I come up with the cheeses/ sauces after I've picked the main ingredients.
                  Mexican food: burrito/ enchilada/ taco shells count as your starch, so add a protein and a veg: black beans or steak, and then corn or peppers or whatever. Again, sauces and cheeses, salsas etc come last for me.

                  Slowly, after 6 years of living together, I've built up a stockpile of recipes to pull from, plus I'm always adding new ones. You'll learn what works for BOTH of you. My husband HATES tofu, hates it. He will never like anything I make with it, so I finally abandoned it about a year ago. I order it when we're out, or make it when he's away. He also LOVES couscous. I can serve it 5x a week and he wouldn't complain (I would), so that's a fall back for me when I get stuck.

                  Also, get used to freezing stuff. When there are two of you things are tricky.
                  Hope that helps.

                  1. re: hollyd

                    or cook a large something that can be turned into other meals. like roast a chicken. the leftover meat can be turned into tacos or burritos later in the week, but most of your cooking will already have been done, because the meat is already cooked..

                    same with larger pieces of pork or beef.

                2. In addition to the suggestions that others have made, I suggest taking a look each week in the Food Section of your daily newspaper. Most weeks I don't clip any but, about once/month I see something that looks both appealing and doable. Then, about once/mo. -- usually on a weekend when I have more time -- I'll try out a new recipe. If it works well, it gets added into the regular repertoire.

                  Also, what about some fish dishes? I started making fish tacos about 1 year ago, and we now have them about every 2-3 weeks. Very easy to do, and it's essentially a one-dish meal with all of your food groups. Shrimp is also very versatile; marinated briefly in oil, with seasonings, it can be cooked quickly on skewers on the grill (or under the broiler on weekends), and then added into a pasta dish, or served as part of a meal salad, for example. This past week, I grilled shrimp and served it over baby spinach, which was dressed in olive oil and lemon juice, with a mayonnaise-less potatoe salad on the side.

                  1. The secret to leftovers is not to have them look like what they were the day before, if you're serving someone who doesn't want the same basic dish 2-3 days in a row. My mom would make a nice, but very straightforward large meatloaf with a sauce passed on the side for Day 1. On Day 2, she would cut fat slices then cube them up, dredge them in a spicy flour mixture, fry to get a little crust on the edges, and mix them into an Asian-flavored based sauce with veggies and serve over rice. Day 3, she would mince the remaining meatloaf and add to a tomato-based sauced and serve on pasta.

                    1. Thanks everyone for your constructive suggestions!

                      It's going better...I gave him two nights a week (the nights I worked) to cook...so I kind of got to know his tastes better through what he was making for me. Needless to say we have different tastes in food, but we're getting better.

                      To those who doubt the strength of my relationship- thank you, but my frustration was litterally purely culinary...I had only lived with my parents or by myself before so cooking for other people was something totally new to me and I had no idea how to put together a full meal. When I lived on my own I just made whatever main dish I wanted and a salad. But thank you for your concern.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Navan

                        how nice of you to check back in and am so glad you're getting through your learning curve in a happy way.

                        1. re: Navan

                          2 Suggestions
                          If you do not already have a subscription to Fine Cooking, get one. It has not only cooking tips but some great recipes and menu suggestions.
                          I have a lot of cookbooks, when I get stuck I hand some over and get suggestions from the family. I also download and tear out recipes from magazines, put them in sheet protectors and store in a 3 ring binder.
                          good luck!

                        2. I highly recommend Moosewood Restaurant's "Simple Suppers, Fresh Ideas for the Weeknight Table." No meat or poultry recipes, but does include some for fish. Great recipes, along with suggestions for combining them for a whole meal. Lots of variety -- you could cook from this book exclusively for a month, and your husband most definitely would not be bored.

                          1. Congratulations to you! Some good suggestions here and I would also recommend that you find a biscuit recipe and a cornbread recipe that you like. These go together in a snap and really round out the meal nicely. They add some variety too.