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October 11, 2012 5:44 AM   Subscribe

Recipe suggestions for chaotic new family lifestyle with a number of dietary restrictions.

We're a newish family (husband, me and baby >1yr old). Both of us parents work while the babe is at daycare.  We're surviving but things are hectic and we are worn thin between sleepless nights and working 40 hours. It's taking a toll on our eating habits, especially on my husband who has a number of dietary restrictions which makes cooking and deciding on what to make for dinner stressful. 

I'm looking for two types of suggestions for especially lunch and dinner but also breakfast and snacks.

1) I'm looking for easy, quick, and/or  make ahead and freeze recipes that fit in the below guideline. 

My husband is type 2 diabetic (no sugars, rice,  pasta*, potatoes, breads, carbs in general) and has gastrointestinal distress after: onions, garlic, mushrooms, beans**,  lots of spice (especially cayenne pepper) & cabbage. 
While he enjoys salads, he says he often doesn't feel full after eating one or the full feeling dissipates quickly and he's famished too soon afterwards. 

*we've had luck with Dreamfields pasta but I have tons of pasta-centric recipes so I don't need those suggested. 

**Beano helps a bit with beans but not enough we can use them as a staple ingredient.  

2. Our staple dinner right now is meat (steak, pork chops, chicken thighs) on the indoor grill and frozen veggies heated in the microwave or oven with some salt, pepper and butter. I need ways to change this up to get more variety. 

Although we don't eat a lot of seafood, we both enjoy it and recipes using fish, shellfish, etc. are welcome. 

We like fresh veggies but tend to forget about them and let them rot in the fridge. We're fans of the big bag of Normandy style frozen veggies from Costco. 
posted by anonymous to Food & Drink (20 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Off the stop of my head --- quinoa. It can be made in a slowcooker and flavored as a breakfast -- add apples and nuts. Or use it as a rice replacement. It's high protein and diabetes friendly, I believe.

Also, are chickpeas as upsetting as other kinds of beans? They''re very versatile. Maybe lentils would be gentler, too.

Also look at butternut squash. Roasted in the oven over quinoa is delicious./

I'd be hitting up the slowcooker a lot---especially for making bone-in chicken.
posted by vitabellosi at 6:11 AM on October 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Soup and stews are very filling and you can make them the night before.

Also salads are a good starter and you can make three or four on Sunday night (leave out wet stuff like cucumbers or sliced tomatoes).

You can grill a ton of meat and then use it throughout the week as well. A good pork roast can be eaten as-is one night and then as BBQ or tacos the next.

Finally, roasting veggies and meat in the oven is nice because you don't have to watch it every second. And it's quick if you prep the stuff the night before.
posted by dawkins_7 at 6:17 AM on October 11, 2012

Yeah, that first year is hard.

Seconding Vitabellosi, as far as the slow cooker goes. Having a slow cooker takes a lot of the edge off of meal prep for some kinds of meals, including the soups and stews that dawkins_7 mentions, pulled pork, plenty of stuff that can accomodate your husband's diet. Also, if you get a big one, you can make two big pots of whatever on the weekend, and that will carry you through most of the week.

Makes the house smell great, too.

Using the weekend for the week's prep was the key for us, so that you can get a meal on the table easily after work.
posted by mhoye at 6:23 AM on October 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Fry up ground beefs loose to mix into last minute meals, have it in freezer ready to roll.

Cook up meatballs, same thing.

Whatever veg he can handle, that doesn't come already frozen, cook up and freeze on trays (to freeze loose) and put into zip bags in freezer once frozen for DIY frozen veg (I do that with dried beans and lentils).

With a 10 hour day and commute, slowcookers = worthless to me during the day (burned burned food). I set up at night, cook all night, toss in fridge in morning, reheat at dinner time.
posted by tilde at 6:26 AM on October 11, 2012

Hello fellow low carb folks!

Pizza Sausage

Mild Italian Sausages
Pepperonis (or leave them out)
Sauteed peppers and onions (optional)
Marinara sauce

Split open the sausages lenghth-wise and put them, round side down on a cookie sheet lined with silver foil. (to eliminate cleaning). Roast in the oven on 400 degrees for about 10-12 minutes. Put slices of pepperoni on top of the sausages (if they're too spicy for your husband, skip this step), roast for another 5 minutes. Top with mozzarella, asiago, whatever Italian cheeses you like. Put back in oven until bubbly and brown. Serve with a side of sauteed peppers and onions (you can get them frozen) and top the sausages with marinara sauce.


Cubed pork and/or beef
Oil for browning
Can of chopped green chilis (they're mild)
Beef Stock
Chili Powder
Mexican oregono (a pinch)

Season the meat with salt and pepper. Brown it in the oil. When you have a nice sear on the meat, add the onions and reduce the heat until they're translucent. Add the can of green chilis, and a bit of fresh, pressed garlic. It should be lovely and fragrant. Pour stock over the meat to cover. Add chili powder.

Chili Powder: Each blend is different. You can go to a Mexican Market and get different ground chilis (Poblano, Ancho, Chipotle, etc) and make your own blend, or you can get a mass market blend. Penzy's or Badia have them, so does McCormick. I have the gene that makes cilantro taste gross, Cumin is similar to cilantro so I look for blends that have very little to no cumin. I like Badia, but I'm not sure if it's available all over.

Cook in a crock pot or on the stove for a few hours (if in crock pot, okay to leave all day on low)

You can serve with beans, corn tortillas or in a bowl with cheese if you like.

Egg Puff

6 Eggs
1.5 cups milk or 1 cup cream
Shredded Cheese
Dijon Mustard
Salt, pepper
Veggie of choice

I make this a couple of ways in a pie pan, like quiche, only without the crust. Beat eggs, cream, mustard, salt and pepper together. Spray a pie pan with non-stick spray. Put a layer of shredded cheese, then your veggie, Spinach is good (add pinch of nutmeg to egg mixture for yumminess) canned, chopped green chilis are also good. Then more cheese. Pour egg mixture on top and back at 350 for about 30 minutes. You can serve with breakfast sausage, chorizo or smoked sausage.

Pumpkin Custard

1 Can Pumpkin
1 Can Evaporated Milk
2 Eggs
3/4 cup Splenda
Pumpkin Pie Spices
Pinch of salt

This is basically the recipe on a can of Libby's Pumpkin, I've substituted the sugar with Splenda.

Combine ingredients and pour into a deep pie pan sprayed with non-stick spray. Bake at 450 for 15 minutes, turn down the oven to 350 and cook for another 40 minutes. Turn off the oven and let cool on the rack. Put the pie pan on a cookie sheet lined with silver foil in case if bubbles over (it shouldn't, but better safe than sorry.)

Here is something you might not have thought of to put on top of Dreamfields.

Chicken A La King

Cooked, cubed chicken (can be a left-over, or rotisserie chicken from the store)
Mirepoix (Carrots, onion, celery, can be found chopped and frozen)
Mushrooms (optional)
Frozen peas
Chicken Stock
Cream or sour cream
White wine, or Sherry
Salt, Pepper, garlic powder, thyme

Saute the Mirepoix in butter on moderate heat (not too hot) as they cook hit them with some salt and pepper. If you're adding mushrooms, now's the time. Let the veggies wilt a bit, add the chicken and turn the heat up a bit. Stir it around until the chicken is warm, then add the wine/sherry. Think of it to deglaze, it should sizzle and bubble up. You'll get a waft of winey deliciousness right up the nose. Yum! When that bubbles nicely and the alcohol has mostly burned off, add the stock. Bring that to a boil and let everything simmer for a few minutes. Add the frozen peas. Bring back to a simmer.

If using cream, warm it in the microwave. If using sour cream (my personnal recommendation) put it in a bowl and add the warm liquid from the pan to temper it. Mix until the sour cream is warm. Then add to the pan. A small sprinkle of garlic powder and thyme. Et voila! It's dinner time.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:30 AM on October 11, 2012 [6 favorites]

Meals of the shredded-protein-plus-sauce variety (think chicken salad, tuna salad, egg salad, pulled pork) make great lunches- you can whip up a big batch Sunday and parcel it out over the week. It's very easy to slow-cook a bunch of chicken breasts or big pork loin overnight (try cooking the pork in beer, mmm), then shred and add mayo + lemon juice, or BBQ sauce, or whatever sauce takes your fancy. We especially like this tarragon chicken salad recipe (just mix the almonds in and skip the sandwich-making step).

Also, eggs! Quiches and fritattas are very versatile, very scaleable, and keep beautifully for at least aweek in the fridge. If you're worried about carbs, most recipes work perfectly well cooked without a crust in a well-greased 9x11 pan.
posted by Bardolph at 6:31 AM on October 11, 2012

Google South Beach Diet recipes. I'm on it, and it sounds like I eat like your husband. Check out phase 3 recipes.
posted by freshwater at 6:54 AM on October 11, 2012

The thing that really saved me when my kid was that little was to put aside a bit of my food snobbery (I am not intending to suggest that you have food snobbery, by the way -- but I sure do have more than a bit of snobbery about making my own stuff from scratch, which was not at all adaptive to life as the parent of a high-needs one-year-old) and buy as many (healthy) shortcuts as I could at the grocery store.

So for example I bought pre-shredded and pre-sliced cheese. I bought all sorts of frozen vegetables -- not just the traditional American side vegetable ones like you mention but frozen stew and soup vegetable mixes, vegetable stir fry mixes (you can totally make non-spicy stir fry, and you can eat it without rice), etc. I paid extra for pre-cut fresh veggies -- if they were ready-to-use I was more likely to use them before they went bad. I bought flavor sauces and marinades. I bought all sorts of pre-cut, pre-made things that could be combined into quick meals.

I basically redesigned my style of cooking to be what I think of as LEGO cooking -- keep a bunch of ready-made interchangeable parts on hand, and combine at will. The same veggies could go into a stir fry or a veggie casserole or on the side of an entree. The same shredded cheese could go into a casserole or a quesadilla or scrambled eggs or a soup.

It's more expensive to cook this way, with pre-prepped everything, but it sure is faster and less thought-intensive. I never could get enthusiastically into meal planning because my stomach is prone to whims, so I don't like to be stuck with a dinner I planned three days ago when I was in a soup mood when now I am SO NOT IN A SOUP MOOD.
posted by BlueJae at 7:00 AM on October 11, 2012 [4 favorites]

I would get a slow cooker and trawl the internet for low-carb crock-pot recipes. I grabbed both of these off Amazon; I'm sure there are specific low-carb ones as well, but I found most of the recipes easy to adjust with little effort.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:08 AM on October 11, 2012

I too have two small kids and a full-time job and full responsibility for getting dinner on the table so I'm right there with you.

Go-to recipes for me that fit your needs:

* throw an arm roast (or chuck roast if you like fattier) in the slow cooker with barbecue sauce of whatever kind you like (I use ketchup, mustard, vinegar, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, and chili powder. I'm sure a sugarless version is fine, and if the amount of cayenne in chili powder is too much, just use cumin. Then forget about it for six to eight hours. I know that doesn't sound like "quick prep" but the point is that these six to eight hours can happen while you're asleep!

* Buy a big filet of salmon, mix up some soy sauce, chopped scallions, garlic and ginger, put that stuff on the salmon, wrap the salmon in baking paper, bake it at 350 for about 20 minutes; this can be on the table a half hour after you get home. (Oh, but if your husband's sensitivity to onions extends to scallions, you might want to do a different sauce -- cumin + slices of lime + a little beer works well for this too!)

* Re veggies -- yeah, roasting. This is the time of life where nobody will (or at least nobody should) judge you for buying pre-cut vegetables at the store. Here is the recipe. Rip open bag, pour veggies on baking sheet, pour olive oil and a little salt on veggies, roast at 350 for, I dunno, an hour for most things, less for sensitive things. I make like three or four pounds at once, put in the fridge, and then I've got side dishes for several days.
posted by escabeche at 7:13 AM on October 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

If you have some relatively easy way to chop up the cauliflower, like a ricer, pizza becomes an option.

If your husband has no problem with almonds, this supereasy to make cake for dessert might help with the "still hungry after salad" phenomenon. It can be tweaked to make savory breads and other flavors, too.
posted by gnomeloaf at 7:16 AM on October 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Beef up the salads by adding protein - hard boiled egg, cheese, tuna, poached chicken, salmon, etc ...
posted by yarly at 7:44 AM on October 11, 2012

I was impressed by the idea of this menu planning newsletter, Fresh 20 when I read about it. The service lists 20 ingredients for a week's worth of menus, so that you only shop once. Most easy prep menu planners don't factor in the amount of time it takes to gather disaparate ingredients for a week's worth of meals. I haven't tried it, but it does sound ideal for people with hectic lifestyles who want to eat healthier by making meals at home.
posted by Elsie at 7:52 AM on October 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure how you're heating up the veggies in the microwave, but I have a microwave steamer, which I've found has been amazing at making quick fish and veggies.

I like getting big bags of frozen white fish filets, usually hake or tilapia, which are quite economic at Costco. The filets defrost quickly under running water, or you can put them in the fridge the morning of. I just squeeze lemon juice and sherry/rice wine and then add salt, pepper, garlic (which you can buy minced and ready to use), ginger and cut scallions. You can of course cut back on any of these aromatics or try different sauces. I'm a single twentysomething, so I'm on the other side of the cost vs. time equation from you, but you could literally just do salt, pepper and lemon juice and it would come out fine.

Add some vegetables -- precut is a great idea -- and then put the steamer in the microwave. If you're using filets, the entire meal will cook in a quick 4-5 minutes and since it's not on the oven, you don't have to worry about water boiling over or anything. I find it's the fastest way to cook fish, and also one of the healthiest.
posted by andrewesque at 8:13 AM on October 11, 2012

We limit our carbs and have tons of dietary ristrictions in my house- no "hot" spices, virtually no dairy, blah blah.

What we do for fast, easy dinners:

Tacos (fish, beef, whatever) piled high with mild salsa, tomatos, greek yogurt (way better for you than sour cream, and i can't even taste the difference) and wrapped in lettuce takes all of fifteen min to put together and can be spiced to taste like tacos by adding a good portion of cumin (no hot stuff nec!)

baked chicken- bake up a family pack one day a week and you've got quick protien for tons of stuff.

1. chicken and italian veg-
Cube a couple chicken breasts, take a can of choped tomatos in tomato paste, add a bag of frozen italian vegitables, add some basil and heat through. Sprinkle with some parmesan if you're feeling fancy.

2. Bbq chicken-
tear up a couple of chicken breasts, add a little bbq and reheat in the oven.

3. chicken salad
mayo, pickles, celery or whatever is in your fridge- mix and go.

4. add mild salsa on top of reheated chicken and add a side of steamed frozen veg.

We've found it helpful to make a bunch of meals at the same time- like if i'm going to spend an hour on dinner tonight- I'm going to multi task and make a couple days worth of lunch, too. I am also going to make a double portion of whatever side item i'm makeing (mashed cauliflower is the low-carb-bomb) so we can have it the next day with whatever we're eating for dinner tomorrow.

Roast vegetables are also a WONDERFUL side that tastes great the next day- cold or hot. Cold roast brussels sprouts for lunch on top of my salad? glorious.

and ditto on adding protien and fat to salads to make the "full" feeling last longer. A little goat cheese goes a long way.
posted by Blisterlips at 8:57 AM on October 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

It can really help to find new ways to cook vegetables. We'd been doing them plain, or like you, with a little salt and pepper, for ages. And it's fine, but boring. Recently I made some of the meals in Jamie Oliver's "Meals in Minutes" and one of the vegetables was frozen peas cooked in a little olive oil, with chopped romaine and mint leaves. It was really simple, and I felt sort of dumb for how surprised I was that it was easy to make peas different than "cooked with salt and pepper."

Also, we eat a lot of salad with chicken on top because it's easy. I keep a bag of chicken breasts in the freezer, put a couple in the fridge in the morning, pop them in the oven later, while I'm making salad, serve sliced on top.

And I *love* my crock pot and am always looking for something new to do with it. I adore how easy it is because I am a lazy, lazy cook.
posted by upatree at 10:15 AM on October 11, 2012

One way to vary things up is just with flavorings -- for example, in graduate school, I used to buy a bunch of chicken breasts, open them up, and then fill them with either lemon and pepper, or barbeque sauce, or herbs and wine, pesto, etc., then wrap in tinfoil and freeze. Then, you can pop one (two) in the oven when you get home (325 for 45min-1hour) and by the time you're done pulling the rest of your life together, dinner is ready!

Another thing to do is to make various sauces that you like -- pesto, or a tomato sauce, or some kind of curry -- and freeze it in ice-cube trays (then pop out into a container for storage) so that you can easily thaw a couple to mix into your meat, vegetables, or pasta to mix things up a bit. Even once in a while can add variety to your tastebuds.

I also like to cook in batches over the weekend -- a hearty meat dish that includes a nut-based sauce or lots of veggies, so it's almost a meal by itself; a casserole or quiche; some low-carb bread or muffins -- that can then be combined in various ways for a few of the hectic dinners. I keep a paleo diet, which is low in carbs, beans, and lentils (as well as dairy), so it would probably work for your husband, and there are tons of recipes out there on both the Internet and physical cookbooks, in case you need ideas for more things to fit the bill.
posted by acm at 10:31 AM on October 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

When my mother was on a very low carb diet, the vegetables that she could have included any number of tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, sweet peppers, celery, spinach, kale, collard greens, swiss chard (these last three stirfry well - I use olive oil and good quality soy sauce like Kikoman). I hate raw celery, but it's really nice when cooked and it makes an excellent substitution for onions and/or potatoes in stirfrys or for bulking up stews and curries (I'll also use the stalks from broccoli or kale/collard greens). Bonus for kale and celery (my two basics): they last well in the fridge and it doesn't matter if they wilt since they'll be cooked. I'll have kale or celery in the fridge (in the crisper) for 1-2 weeks.

Tofu is low carb, as are eggs (my mom was on egg whites only, but maybe because of the fat content of the yolks). Omelets are fast and nutritious; hard-boiled eggs might make a salad more substantial, same with meat (obviously).

I don't know whether nuts affect your insulin levels, but nuts are a very good source of protein and healthy fats -- and again can make a salad more substantial or be cooked into a stew.
posted by jb at 10:46 AM on October 11, 2012

I second quinoa: we've eaten it all the time at home since my dad went on a huge health kick a few years back. I believe it's a seed (?) from South America, and is high in protein, but filling like a grain. As the commenter above said, you can eat it with dinner, almost like rice (but with more protein and fewer carbs), or you can eat it for breakfast, etc. Highly recommended!
posted by UniversityNomad at 11:44 AM on October 11, 2012

We mince up cauliflower and saute it to make"faux rice" for stir-fry. I'm not sure if you can find a pre-made sauce excluding what you need, or if you'd have to mix up your own. Some people just use broth and cornstarch, plus any spices you like. We love the Costco bag of asian vegggies and cherry-pick things out of it for other dishes.

Costco also sells precooked strips of chicken breast, if you need to go for easy over cheapest.

For salads: I agree with piling on the protein. Raw veg is a good thing to eat. I seldom put in lettuce now, so the bowl is packed with more-filling food. Some stores (regrettably not Costco) sell shredded carrot, which lasts in the fridge for...a long time. Buy cherry tomatoes so you don't have to slice them, some mild peppers (which also last well in the fridge) and splurge on plenty of healthy-ish dressings and salad sprinkles.
posted by Anwan at 1:59 PM on October 11, 2012

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