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Welcome Home Dinner

My husband has been on a crazy work trip for the last 16 days and is finally going to be home tomorrow. While being gone, his complaints have been not enough sleep, way too much booze and too much heavy food. I have to pick him up from the airport right around dinner time, so I'm trying to think of a good supper that's either very quick or can be made ahead of time...and would be a good, welcome-back-we-missed-you light supper.
My brain keeps thinking soup? Fish? Comfort food, but not super heavy?
I'm a bit brain dead myself, having been solo mom to a wild toddler this whole time as well.
Internet searches aren't helping. So here's the question...what would you want to eat after being gone from your family for 2 1/2 weeks?

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  1. Can you tell us more about his general likes/dislikes?

    For instance my husband would probably love some summer rolls and big bowl of pho. Light, flavorful and comforting. However if your husband doesn't like vietnamese that would be bad suggestion.

    1. Baked salmon and a big green salad. Rice pilaf if you need some carbs in the mix.

      1. Salade Nicoise. Everything can be prepared in advance, then dress the greens and plate when you get home.

        2 Replies
        1. re: masha

          I second Salad Nicoise. I put everything (including hard-boiled eggs and potatoes) on a platter so there's a DIY element to it.

          Also, Ina Garten has a great herby salmon recipe that I make with brown rice and green beans. (You basically cover the salmon with scallions, dill, and parsley and then cook with white wine. Simple, light, good.)

          1. re: TheKeroseneKid

            I serve Salad Nicoise as a composed salad, in a wide shallow bowl: place the greens on the bottom and toss to dress them, then place all the other ingredients on top, with the potato salad mounded in the center and other ingredients in an outer ring, typically organizing them in quadrants -- i.e., 4 mounds of tuna at 90 degree intervals and other ingredients in between, including the green beans dressed in vinaigrette, anchovies, olives, hard boiled egg halves, and grape tomatoes.

            I use a red wine/ balsamic vinaigrette for the greens but dress the beans in the same cider/ mustard vinaigrette used in the potato salad.

        2. If you wish to serve something on the healthier side, create a large salad. Use Romaine lettuce instead of iceberg, and include vegetables like sliced carrots, diced bell pepper, caramelized onion, diced celery, tomato(es), celery seed, etc. Dress the salad with extra virgin olive oil and either lemon juice, red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar. I like raw onion in salads, but some people do not care for that. Fresh fruit for dessert...sliced strawberries, blueberries, cantalope, etc.

          1. Vegetables! A beautiful salad with toppings to choose from like garbanzo beans, peas, hardboiled egg, etc. And nice toast, maybe with pesto or bruschetta. A bottle of mineral water or a light wine/beer. Quiet time to just talk. After the toddler is in bed ;)

            1. How about Hazan's carbonara?


              I frequently prepare the 'meat' part in advance and quickly reheat. With a nice salad, some bread and sparkling rose'. It comes together in a flash so y'all can sit and chat.

              5 Replies
              1. re: c oliver

                how is pasta, pancetta, eggs and a ton of cheese not heavy? great recipe though

                1. re: Bellachefa

                  It's just not. Probably cause we don't gorge/overuse the pasta.

                  1. re: c oliver

                    we don't gorge/overuse pasta either. it is a rich and heavy dish and far from light regardless of how many bites.

                    1. re: Bellachefa

                      Not at all. And I make it many, many times a year. One recipe serves four adults the way we do it.

                      1. re: c oliver

                        I got to thinking about this. I never use the recipe any more so I checked it. Turns out it's a recipe for six. If my math is correct, a single serving contains the following:

                        1-1/3oz pancetta (which is about one thick slice piece of bacon
                        1/2 T oo
                        1/3 egg
                        1/12 C Romano
                        1/24 C Parm
                        3-1/3 oz pasta

                        I just don't see that as at all heavy. It's one of those meals that satisfies me but never makes me feel like I've eaten too much. Your mileage varies obviously.

              2. He likes everything...suggestions so far are awesome! Keep em coming!

                1. A frittata can be made ahead and served at room temperature. Chicken Caesar Salad, Waldorf Salad, a nice charcuterie platter/antipasto arrangement. Any of these with some good crusty bread & butter. New England Lobster rolls or a shrimp salad sandwich on brioche or croissant. Make a non-alcoholic spritzer, iced tea, or lemonade.

                  1. Having been on the travelling for weeks at a time end often internationally for years and years, if travelling meant fast food lunches or bad "roach coach" food and heavy dinners out with clients, I always liked soemthing very homey and simple to come home to. AND not too fussy.

                    Home made spaghetti and meatballs, meatloaf and gravy with light sides, or really anything that gets you out of the "eating out" rut.

                    You know you are away too long when Ruth's Chris Steakhouse or, if more rural, Olive Garden or Carabba's bring out an "Ick, not again" response. LOLZ.
                    ("Working meeting" box lunches still give me the "heebie-jeebies" depending upon the client and location in teh US.)

                    Go with a known family loved dish and maybe add or freshen up a thing or two, but keep it simple.

                    I've done business trips to India a week or two at time in smaller cities or twons where Indian food is often the only choice.( And I LOVE Indian food by the way) We almost always stopped before our flight back via Mumbai airport at a very nice hotel based Italian restaurantjust to get back a little of the Western style cooking that was not available where we were based.

                    It's the little, local and simple things that I always miss no matter where I go if out on the road too long.

                    Good luck.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: jjjrfoodie

                      Years back, I spent the better part of a summer into Fall away from home on business. Our favorite game in the morning was figuring out where to have lunch and dinner that day. That was good for a couple of weeks; everything was fried, everything was sauced, everything was cheesed. It all palled after a while, no matter how many different cuisines we explored. We were road-crazy, and then someone invited us to their home for dinner. Hallelujah!

                      Simple, family food, served on platters. Hot dogs, ribs, salad, vegetables, baked beans. It was wonderful!

                      By the time I was finally returning home, you're right. I wanted meatloaf, I wanted my own homemade spaghetti and meatballs, even breakfast would've been great for dinner.

                      1. re: mcsheridan

                        We spent nearly 3 months on the road, camping most of the time, with cheap hotels occasionally and lots of chain restaurants and/or fast food. Once we had a home base again, couldn't wait to make meatloaf, cornbread, mashed potatoes, something green, and roasted corn on the cob. Simple, homey, and homecooked meals tasted like ambrosia!

                        1. re: pine time

                          There are two things in this world that just cannot be topped on returning home; your own home-cooked food, and your own bed. Those two things = heaven.

                    2. Seeing as there's a toddler American Chop Suey and a family friendly green veg. Maybe some cornbread or rolls.

                      8 Replies
                      1. re: Berheenia

                        Mercy, our grand-toddlers would be wanting REAL Chinese food :) Hold the Sichuan peppercorns! Our 2-1/2 y.o. granddaughter just LOVES Cambozola chesse and was eating foie gras when she was about nine months old :)

                        1. re: c oliver

                          LOL. There's nothing Chinese about American Chop Suey! It's the old macaroni-hamburg-canned tomatoes casserole or skillet. My yankee husband always made it for our pre-schooler's Day Care Center when he was making lunch.

                          1. re: Berheenia

                            I just looked that up. I'm not thinking that screams "we missed you." :)

                              1. re: Berheenia

                                For sure. We've got plenty of CHs whose SOs aren't.

                            1. re: Berheenia

                              Yes, you're right and it must be an old Yankee dish because we grew up on it, but no one in my family outside of NE had ever heard of it. Now that my kids are a bit older, we like to make it with the spicy Mexican tomato sauce we find here in LA.

                              1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                Yep, I remember it fondly from our school cafeteria in Boston!

                                1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                  I grew up in New England and "American Chop Suey" was a regular on school lunch menus. In other parts of the country, it's known by different names such as Johnny Marzetti, Chili Mac, Beef-a-Roni, Hamburger Macaroni or Goulash. Maybe some other names that I'm not remembering at the moment. There are several threads on Chowhound about the regional variations of this dish.

                          2. Tuna noodle casserole can be made ahead and then popped in the oven as soon as you get home. Does he have a favorite casserole?

                            I love all the composed salad ideas like niçoise, a Cobb or chef's salad, big veggie. And a big pot of his favorite homemade soup is a very comforting thought.

                            A nice roasted chicken dinner if that's something you do well. You can cook it earlier in the day, then slice and reheat the pieces with some au jus. Roasted vegs are good at room temp.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                              If roast chicken, my go-to (and many other CHs) is the Zuni Cafe one.


                              With "jus' not "au jus" :)

                            2. I've been on a soup kick this summer, so here are some of my favorites:
                              Stuffed Pepper Soup
                              Beef, Barley, and Vegetable Soup
                              Cabbage Soup
                              Chicken Noodle Soup
                              Lentil Soup
                              12 Bean Soup

                              Then again, it may be too warm for soup.

                              1. Start with a plate of fresh thick tomato slices that are just sprinkled with sea salt and torn basil.
                                Then an entree salad like this spinach salmon with pecans

                                Vanilla ice cream and berries for dessert

                                1. Marinated Tomatoes (Slice sprinkle with S&P and a pinch of Sugar)
                                  Corn on the Cob
                                  Summer Bean Salad (Wax and Green)
                                  Biscuits and Blackberry Jam
                                  Cold Sliced Ham or Fried Chicken
                                  Peach Cobbler

                                  1. Based on my experiences travelling, lots and lots of vegetables. Nothing cheesy, or heavy on dairy, nothing deep fried, no heavy pasta and sauce dishes.

                                    Given that's it's summer, I might go with grilled salmon with lemon butter, a fresh tomato salad, a salad of new lettuce with a homemade vinegar and cream dressing, grilled corn salsa, and maybe some good bread on the side. Lots of sparkling water or lemonade. Fresh fruit for dessert.

                                    Everything except the salmon can be made ahead, and the salmon is fast.

                                    Personally, I'd be tempted to do sauteed squid with garlic, lemon juice and olive oil, with good french bread to mop up the juices, but that's not everyone's cup of tea.

                                    5 Replies
                                    1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                                      Poached salmon is better made ahead.
                                      I would serve that with a nice fruity salsa and his favorite veggies and a grain or potatoes.

                                      1. re: magiesmom

                                        Do you have a salsa recommendation? I'm trying to get away from my usual pico de gallo.

                                        1. re: TheKeroseneKid

                                          I don't think there's anything better than pico de gallo :) 'Course I also don't like salmon...quite a lot :)

                                          1. re: c oliver

                                            Really good pico de gallo? I'll eat it with a giant spoon. Tortillas or chips be damned.

                                          2. re: TheKeroseneKid

                                            Last week I made a currant, nectarine, red onion and jalapeño salsa. It set off the poached salmon wonderfully.

                                      2. BLT with nice fresh good tomato slices and sliced watermelon. I bake my bacon so it could be made a head so all you have to do is assemble and eat (helpful with the kiddo too!)

                                        1. If I were a man, I would like to go home to a romantic evening with my wife. I would like to see my baby, kiss him goodnight, and spend the rest of the evening with my wife. Só, fix something nice that can be done ahead, like a salad Nicoise. Serve it with a glass of champagne or a nice white wine. Enjoy each other. He doesn't care so much what you serve. He wants to be with you.

                                          1. Chicken corn chowder
                                            Cornbread or favorite bread/roll
                                            Sliced tomatoes
                                            Fruit salad

                                            You can do all this ahead of time.

                                            1. If I was complaining about too much booze and heavy food I would be wanting some light and fresh.

                                              Asian style cucumber salad
                                              Stir Fry (either vegetarian or with his favorite protein item)
                                              Fresh mango for dessert

                                              1. So, what did you serve?