Best minimal prep food at Trader Joe's or Whole Foods (one hand edition)
March 7, 2014 10:52 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for recommendations for the best/tastiest foods (frozen, packaged, prepared) from Trader Joe or Whole Foods that require minimal prep to prepare. I have a stove, oven and toaster oven, but no microwave (please don't suggest I buy or borrow one; can't happen right now.) I have no diet restrictions and will eat most things other than extra spicey. The big factor in all this is that they need to take minimal prep to prepare. I broke 2 fingers on my right/dominant hand (broken near where they attach to the hand), and am in a hand brace that can't get wet or get food on it (though I can put plastic bags over it.) So, to work with I have my fumbley left hand, working thumb and index finger on my right hand, and occasional use of a long hours working husband to open jars and cans for me if I plan ahead. Thanks for any help. I'm getting tired of takeout, plus it gets expensive for the month or so healing time.
posted by gudrun to Food & Drink (48 answers total) 56 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I am particularly fond of Trader Joe's frozen burritos, in particular the chicken ones. I eat them for lunch every day, reheating them in an oven each time. As so far as I can tell, they are approximately the most nutritionally complete pre-prepared food I can find on a quality per dollar basis.
posted by saeculorum at 10:58 AM on March 7, 2014

Best answer: I am a big fan of their lasagna. The family style with meat and also the "single serving" veggie kind are both great and can be easily made in an oven. There is a larger, "family style" veggie lasagna that I don't like much. The chicken samosas are great with hoisin sauce. There are various Indian food packets that are easily prepared. You just put the packet in boiling water and let it sit for a while, then pour it over whatever (rice, barley, etc) or eat with naan. The madras lentils is the only one I like. I am also a big fan of the black bean and corn enchiliadas though I can't remember if they can be cooked in the oven. I would imagine so, though I have only made them in the microwave. The turkey chili is great with rice, grated cheese and hot sauce.
posted by sacrifix at 10:59 AM on March 7, 2014

Best answer: Some of TJ's and Whole Foods' frozen dinners can be cooked in an oven; check the packaging. I like TJ's fresh pastas; buy a package of those, and one of their sauces, and a pre-washed salad, and you've got a pretty quick and easy dinner. (Opening the pasta package and dumping it in boiling water shouldn't be too difficult.)
posted by chowflap at 11:01 AM on March 7, 2014

Best answer: Trader Joe's mandarin orange chicken is their most popular item (so I hear), and it's super simple to prepare: plonk the chicken in the oven, thaw and heat up the sauce, mix together. The chicken itself is pretty non-messy, so as long as you don't spill the sauce you should have no problem.
posted by Metroid Baby at 11:03 AM on March 7, 2014

Simmer sauce! Just throw some protein in there (tofu, fish, chicken, whatever you eat) and let it simmer. I believe Trader Joe's still sells precooked rice, too, or you can pick up some naan from the frozen section.
posted by payoto at 11:04 AM on March 7, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: If you're feeling really lazy: I run through a huge stash of the Trader Joe's "Indian Fare" packets for work lunch: Toss the packet in hot water for a bit, tear open into a bowl. They're kinda like MREs, so they're great for emergency food stashes (I have the best intentions of bringing lunch ever day), tasty, reasonable amount of vegetables (even if they are preserved).
posted by straw at 11:05 AM on March 7, 2014 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Trader Joe's (note I'm in California, so we might have different items):
Check the freezer for mushroom risotto, "Melodious Blend," gnocchi, mushroom pasta, potpies, quiches, lasagna (also in fridge section), pork buns, Japanese fried rice, gorgozola and peas pasta (fridge section), cheese frusta, mini pizzas, meatloaf (fridge, just dump out a salad bag), asparagus and other frozen veggies that are already seasoned. All of the above are heat-and-eat.

The TJ's Greek yogurt is good and satisfying, too.

Based on your description, I would find the mandarin orange chicken too fiddly.

Whole Foods: Actually, WF isn't too great for prepped food, at least around here. Exceptions are the quiche and potpies in the refrigerated (not frozen) section, if you can get your husband to slice 'em up for you.
posted by wintersweet at 11:09 AM on March 7, 2014

A lot of things can easily be cooked from scratch.

Baked Potatoes

Baked protein with seasoning

Prepared veggies steamed or boiled, or throw them in the oven about 10 mins before everything is done to roast.

You could throw some chicken in the oven with salt, pepper and garlic powder, add in some baked potatoes and steam some asperagus. Top with TJs hollandaise. YUM!

Steaks can go into a pan. You can do bakers, or if you like, steam some rice on the stove. Broccoli and lemon juice (or more hollandaise.)

They have cubed squash, which you can bake on a cookie sheet.

Their marinated meats and poultry can be baked as well.

It doesn't all have to be prepared, sometimes it's easier to do plain cooking.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:09 AM on March 7, 2014

Best answer: Man, straw beat me to it! The TJ's "Indian Fare" packets are magic. The chickpea one is slightly spicy but incredibly tasty, the paneer one is a little milder, and there are several other options. They're great on their own (a bit saucey), and perfect when combined with cooked rice or quinoa. No need for refrigeration, decent amount of vegetables, and taste really surprisingly good for coming out of a foil packet. I get two servings from a packet, so that's $1/serving (plus rice). No jars or cans at all - you just tear the foil bag and pour.
posted by ClaireBear at 11:09 AM on March 7, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: 2nding straw's rec of Indian Fare packets. Jaipur Vegetables is my favorite. They come in foil packets that you can just put in a pot of boiling water for 5 minutes to heat up. Make some instant rice and have a delicious naan from TJ's freezer section to finish the meal.

Also good and easy at TJ:
Frozen pizza
Frozen risotto (all flavors)
Fresh ravioli (in the case near hummus, usually)
Box of soup, specifically Creamy Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper (in the pasta/canned goods aisle)
Frozen lo mein
Frozen fried rice with chicken
posted by Flamingo at 11:12 AM on March 7, 2014 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Hmm, how did I miss "no microwave"? Sorry. These things can be done on stovetop or in the oven, IIRC (please check): mushroom risotto, potpies, lasagna, Japanese fried rice and kimchi fried rice, cheese frusta, mini pizzas, "Mexican pizza," creamy polenta with veggies, country potatoes with haricots verts. Also, check the boxed mixes section for garlic couscous and other simple stovetop items. They go nicely with any entree or the boxed soups mentioned above.

If I were you I wouldn't really want to mess with raw meat, so don't feel bad about using prepared foods.
posted by wintersweet at 11:14 AM on March 7, 2014

Best answer: Trader Joe's has a few frozen items that far surpass the others. For example,

Their Indian chick peas (chana masala). You can take it out of the freezer a few hours in advance and then dump it in a pot to warm the rest of the way (way faster than the oven). You can eat it with their naan or with some rice. Also, their frozen Chimchurri rice, just heat in a pot with a bit of oil. Their new red rice with a thai vegetable sauce (I also take it out of the freezer in advance then dump it in a pot (rice separately) with some Trader Joes frozen petite peas and frozen shrimp, but it's good without the extras too). Trader Joes' Vodka pasta sauce, again I add petite peas to it. Their linguine dried pasta is delicious. Almost all of their sauté in a pan frozen pasta dishes are good too. Also, their frozen vegetable biryani in a bag (indian rice dish).
posted by Blitz at 11:20 AM on March 7, 2014

Best answer: Actually opening things is going to be your biggest problem, I think.

Get a big can or box of something heavy to hold packages down while you cut them open or learn to monkey-foot.

Also, even though you probably feel very mobile, you might be better off doing all your "prep" seated at a table or sitting on the counter. I find the extra stability of sitting helps when you're working around an injury.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 11:20 AM on March 7, 2014

Best answer: Trader Joes has a number of excellent packaged salads, I usually bring one for lunch. I recommend the Italian Chopped Salad, but you can't go wrong with any of them.

Other easy things at TJ's that seem to meet your criteria:

Wraps (Cubano is best IMO, Turkey Wrap is a close second)
Frozen Vegetable Melange with Seasoned Butter
Beef with Barley Soup
Cookie Butter
Any flavor of their hummus with Savory Thins crackers
Chocolate Cheese
Greek Chicken with Feta and Orzo
posted by Rob Rockets at 11:21 AM on March 7, 2014

Best answer: My recent Trader Joe's Without A Microwave revelation/lifehack:

Get one of those Asian bamboo steamer things. Balance it on top of an appropriately sized pot of boiling water. Fill with delicious Trader Joe's frozen items. I do a lot of dumplings, gyoza, bao zi, and the like, but it works for really anything that doesn't need to be crispy.

Their fresh pasta is also delicious.

As are the pre-packaged Indian meals.

If you hate waiting to cook rice, get their frozen pre-cooked rice. I know this is blasphemy, but seriously it turns a 45 minute dinner prep into a 5 minute one, and you basically can't mess it up. Add rice to pot over stove. Heat until no longer frozen. Add vegetables, curry, stir-fry, gumbo, or whatever other "over rice" meal option you like.
posted by Sara C. at 11:22 AM on March 7, 2014 [7 favorites]

Best answer: As an extra data point, TJs shelf-stable Indian food is uniformly too spicy for me. (I like a little bit of spice, but what Joe considers "mild" is "medium" to me.)

And: Get a pair of left-handed scissors ASAP! It's going to help you a lot.
posted by chowflap at 11:35 AM on March 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Actually, chowflap makes a good point: if you're interested in the Indian Fare option, you might want to buy one packet (or one of each flavor) to test before stockpiling. I would call them mild to medium spicy (the chickpea I think is the spiciest). However what I think is medium spicy my dad finds totally unbearable/inedible, so maybe it's a YMMV situation.
posted by ClaireBear at 11:44 AM on March 7, 2014

Best answer: Their chicken shu mai is also ridiculously good, and is my major indulgence on "I'm too lazy to even put things in a pot and stir" days. Take 'em out of the plastic wrapper, plop them on a tray, heat them in the oven, then eat the whole box without realizing it.
posted by Mayor West at 11:47 AM on March 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I love all of Trader Joes frozen gyoza/potsticker options. I make them in the microwave but they can just be thrown into a pot of boiling water for a few minutes.
posted by skycrashesdown at 11:48 AM on March 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Trader Joe's frozen naan (garlic, naturally) is pretty damned tasty and you can just throw it in a toaster oven.
posted by General Malaise at 11:51 AM on March 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: TJ's pre-packaged Indian food is awesome (it's Tasty Bite brand). They're in foil pouches that you just cut open, dump into a small pot, and heat on the stove. Most of it is probably fairly spicy but the Madras Lentil is not spicy (I am very sensitive) and really tasty. Would be awesome with TJ's fresh naan or pita bread.

Their frozen vegetarian pizzas are Amy's brand, and they're delicious.

The pre-made salads are generally very tasty.

Agree with Sara C. that the frozen rice is a lifesaver. Never thought about making it on a stove but that makes sense.

I also like the creamy soups, like butternut squash.

If you need some comfort food, their mac 'n cheese is all Annie's so it's not as terrible for you as, say, Kraft.
posted by radioamy at 12:09 PM on March 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Get a big mug. Get some tetra-pack soup boxes—the TJ lentil one is tasty. Whole foods has tons. No jar lid or can opener required. Dump into a pot, dump into your big soup mug, and you don't even have to spoon it with your left hand.

I've started seeing some tetra-pack items at Whole Foods that would normally be canned, like chickpeas and tomatoes. If you wanted to cook a bit, you can probably open one of those easier than a regular can.

Almost anything that has microwave instructions can go into a toaster oven. Burritos, meatballs, pot stickers, mini-pizzas. Just put a piece of tin foil over the rack if you're worried about dripping. Or if you've got a tiny cookie sheet that came with the oven, use that.

I'd also go make a few giant salads at the salad bar at WF. Don't be shy about asking for help. Stock up for a few days, make a few boxes. Dump on lots of protein rich toppings, since you need to roughly double your protein intake while healing bones, and keeping your arm muscles from atrophying more quickly.

I'd also go look for "mezze/cheese board" type items at WF, though this can get kind of pricey if you're not careful. Mozzarella balls, dolmas, salami bites, rolls/crackers, sliced cheeses, fruit. No prep, and all can be eaten one handed too.

Any chance you can get the hubs to make a big batch of a grain salad, egg salad, chicken salad, one night, and portion it out for the rest of the week for you? Same with some kind of trail mix, granola.

And as a fallback, individual serving cups of yogurt will basically keep you well fed, work for any meal, come in lots of flavors, and you can probably open the lids with your teeth and good hand.
posted by fontophilic at 12:12 PM on March 7, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: It's really easy to make a fast meal with the following:

Trader Joe's Curry Simmer Sauce
Trader Joe's Light Coconut Milk
Trader Joe's Frozen Veggie(s) of Your Choice (I like broccoli and peas and carrots)
Trader Joe's Garbanzo Beans (or other beans of choice - Optional)
Tofu or Meat (Optional)

Combine. Heat. Serve over Basmati rice or with some Trader Joe's Naan.

Another meal idea:

Trader Joe's Arrabiata Sauce
Trader Joe's Polenta (or Pasta of choice)
Frozen or Fresh Veggies of Choice (Zucchini or eggplant go well here)

Bake or pan fry the Polenta. Combine veggies and sauce. Heat. Pour over polenta cakes or pasta.

And another:

Trader Joe's Chimchurri Rice
Trader Joe's Frozen Broccoli Florets
Trader Joe's Frozen Shelled Edamame
Protein of Choice (I like shrimp but TJ's Italian Sausages work well here too)

Cook your protein first. Then heat Broccoli florets until tender. Add Rice and edamame. Cook until done.

TJ's also has the following quick-snack things I'm really fond of and are easy to make:

Frozen Vegetable Pakoras
Frozen Mexican Pizza
posted by stubbehtail at 12:16 PM on March 7, 2014 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I love the frozen Indian food (not the pouches). Many come with rice, so nothing else to do but maybe heat up some of their frozen naan. I suppose you could have trouble removing the plastic from the top, but barring that, a good option. The mandarin chicken is also great, but there's some pouch cutting and other manipulation involved so keep that in mind.
posted by schoolgirl report at 12:17 PM on March 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh, forgot to mention that being asked to open say, a jar of salsa, or slice a salami for someone in an arm brace, is probably the least weird thing a cashier/cheesemonger/customer service desk person has been asked to do for a customer.
posted by fontophilic at 12:17 PM on March 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Many many great suggestions, thanks so much! Also, left handed scissors, will give that a try.

I can rig cutting bags and packages open ok, and husband can pre-open jars and cans for me and leave them in the fridge. Just can't really slice things up safely with my left hand, or cut steak. Doing yogurt for lunch for the forseeable future I think, as I can pull or cut off the lids, so dinner is the big issue. Husband is a good cook but currently working crazy hours.

Clarification, I'm normally a cook from scratch person but it is just not possible now, trust me on this. I just did this to my hand by falling on Sunday and hand is swollen/bruised in addition to the breaks. I don't think fresh raw meat handling is possible/desirable at the moment. Direct from freezer to oven will work. That is to say frozen lasagna, TJ Mandarin orange chicken in oven, popping stuff like pouches or pasta in boiling water and heating sauce and soups are possible.

Stuff like this is a nice suggestion but would take hours (and a bit of pain) with current limitations so too much for me right now (this simple meal actually takes a fair number of steps, some hard to do one handed): You could throw some chicken in the oven with salt, pepper and garlic powder, add in some baked potatoes and steam some asperagus. Top with TJs hollandaise.

Thanks so much again for the help. Stepping back out.
posted by gudrun at 12:27 PM on March 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

The Whole Foods near us has a hot bar and a salad bar (fairly expensive, but not take-out expensive) with fairly healthy options, plus I think the the box containers (or maybe even the lidded soup cups) would be easy to open with one hand. You could get, for instance, a bunch of cooked green beans, a huge box of salad, a small amount of a high-fat but yummy entree, and some brown rice -- and you're done (unless you want macaroni & cheese also). When hubby gets home, actually, he can open boxes, make plates, and put them in the microwave. Go, look at it creatively, and consider.

You might also want to look at the many threads from people wanting to prepare a lot of stuff on the weekend and re-heat it during the week. You would probably do well with a bunch of rice & beans with tomatoes, if your dude could cut up some tomatoes for you & wash the pot afterward. Note: you do not have to measure cumin & salt for chili _exactly_; just put about a tablespoon (or whatever's recommended) into a small tumbler & dump it in.

On edit: it's great for lunch, also. Don't even try to get a tray & plate; just put what you want in a little box, have them weigh it, and eat it out of the box at your seat.
posted by amtho at 12:29 PM on March 7, 2014

Best answer: I like the Indian Fare pouches from Trader Joe's too. I find them fine to eat cold, or I'd empty the pouch and heat in a pot. Even if the foil can go into boiling water, that seems a bit skechy to me--why heat up that plasticky foil? And then you don't have to go fishing the hot packet out of boiling hot water so you can open it up.
posted by needs more cowbell at 12:33 PM on March 7, 2014

Best answer: Both Trader Joes and Whole Foods sell "soup to go" in their refrigerated section. A Coworker is particularly fond of Trader Joes Lentil Soup with Ancient Grains.
posted by oceano at 12:43 PM on March 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Yep, that soup that oceano mentions is incredible - the Trader Joe's "ancient grains" lentil soup (fresh-ish, not frozen or canned). Just as a word of warning: I lived on it for an autumn when I found it, and then my store stopped stocking it - they told me it is seasonal, by which I think they mean autumnal. It may already be gone for this year.
posted by ClaireBear at 12:45 PM on March 7, 2014

Best answer: Oh, and another upvote for the Trader Joe's garlic naan (just pop it in the oven). It's incredible, especially to sop up the sauce of their Indian ready-meals. If you can't make rice, the naan should do you. I think you may get four pieces in a package? The Trader Joe's Indian frozen meals are excellent too, but I'm not sure whether you can cook them without a microwave...
posted by ClaireBear at 12:50 PM on March 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I really like Trader Joe's frozen Mac and Cheese. (It's my traditional New Year's Eve treat.) I heat it in the oven in a corningware-type dish. About halfway through, I stir in a little butter and milk and then top with more shredded cheese and diced crispy bacon a few minutes before it's done. It's not even remotely healthy (obviously), but it's very comforting and yummy.
posted by at 12:57 PM on March 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

A friend of mine is fond of freezer skillet meals, a food that wasn't really on my radar before. I've realized that there is a wide range of quality and tastiness, and the good ones have really come a long way with flavor and freshness. Many of them are real food (as opposed to having corn syrup / preservatives / fillers, etc.). I mention this because you might have more options at a regular grocery store than you might think, rather than just keeping it to Trader Joe's and Whole Foods (although you could be doing this for entirely different reasons).

Also, you might think about using an xacto knife to get into plastic packaging. If you can hold a bag down securely with your right hand/arm, applying a sharp pokey blade might be more effective than trying to wrangle scissors or a knife. Just an idea, please don't get maimed!
posted by jessicapierce at 12:59 PM on March 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Both stores have good sausages, which don't require the kind of manipulation that a raw meat does. I just brown them in a nonstick pan on each side for a few minutes, then pour in a cup of water and lid it for 10m, turn, 10m. Those things will fancy up a salad, pasta, or can of soup or chili.

One of my go-to super-emergency hot foods is a bag of frozen mixed vegetables (I like broccoli/cauliflower/carrot but TJ's has that frozen zucchini and eggplant mix that would be good) cooked in a jar of tomato pasta sauce - either in the oven or in a big nonstick skillet. That's another place the sausages would be good.

Little fingerling potatoes will roast whole in the oven in about 35-40 minutes. You can have your husband get them into a gallon ziploc with a glug of olive oil, you just dump them out in a dish and sprinkle salt and pepper when you're ready. (This could also be done with brussels sprouts or broccoli florets or trimmed green beans or other ready-to-cook raw vegetables you usually find near the bag salad.)

You can either have your husband crack a dozen eggs into a jar or buy carton egg whites for making scrambled eggs.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:03 PM on March 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: TJs has these little bags of grains (barley, farro, kasha) which you cut open with scissors, dump in a pot and then add the suggested amount of water or broth to and cook for approximately ten minutes. We use them with TJ's broth and they're pretty quick and easy.

As mentioned above precooked sausages are nice protein additions - you can cut them up with scissors instead of a knife if necessary. And then any form of frozen veg can be dumped in the pot of grains as well.

I've sometimes done the grains thing, dumped in a quarter jar of salsa, sausage and some frozen veggies and that's been dinner.

We also like the frozen steak burritos and the sweet potato fries.

I hope things heal quickly.
posted by sciencegeek at 2:07 PM on March 7, 2014

I like Trader Joe's Cobb Salad.

I don't know Whole Foods well, but they have a pistachio-crusted chicken fillet I like a lot. All you have to do is bake it at 350 for 20 minutes or so. It's in the meat department (at the one I go to, anyway).
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:14 PM on March 7, 2014

Best answer: I've had similar experiences. You will get less clumsy! These good folks in Missouri have some old fashioned advice. But the number one tool I found was the wooden spoon I gripped in my teeth. This let me hold things down enough to use my off hand productively.

Following the advice above, you can pour stuff on quinoa, couscous, or rice noodles—which are all "cooked" by dumping in boiling water and then sitting there for 6 − 20 minutes.

I found using a ladle (instead of a serving spoon) was much easier with my off hand.

Best wishes!
posted by Jesse the K at 4:37 PM on March 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Just went to Trader Joes and was reminded of a few things I forgot earlier ( I knew there were a lot more). So I recommend their creamy Polenta in a bag (super yummy), their mushroom risotto, asparagus risotto (they also have a new butternut squash risotto I've not tried yet), and their vegetable panang curry.
posted by Blitz at 5:44 PM on March 7, 2014

I lost a lot of use of my non dominant arm and often hand this week. If this was going to be a long term issue, I'd learn ways to do scratch cooking. But I'm guessing the OP is like me and isn't looking for a triumph of the spirit, she's looking to feed her family expediently.
posted by wotsac at 5:46 PM on March 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You have just asked the question I was born to answer!!! I live offa Food Out Of Boxes these days. Downside: I don't have a Whole Food or Trader Joe in town, so my suggestions are the sorts of things you'll find in a regular supermarket, possibly in the "Organic" section. Upside: I refuse to use a microwave, because everything tastes better in a conventional oven.

AMY'S makes the most filling, tasty, not spicy, convenient boxed food. They come in cardboard bowls whose tops you will have to cover in aluminum foil before baking. At some point you'll have to take the foil off the bowl -- I usually use a fork for this, prying at the edges of the foil, while my other hand only holds the bowl in place -- so I know you can handle it. Once it's finished, stir like a mofo, mixing and bashing everything together. Eat with the same fork straight out of the bowl.

My favorite: Tortilla Casserole and Black Beans. After I eat this I spend the rest of the evening thinking "do I want to eat anything else? no I don't, my meal is still sitting in my stomach sending out warm waves of happiness." Also really good: Santa Fe Enchilada, Mexican Casserole, Individual-size Pizza. Sometimes I run into other fans in the frozen food section and we dish about how much we love Amy. Recommendations I have gotten: Broccoli & Cheddar Bake, various Enchiladas, Quinoa & Black Beans.

KASHI makes interestingly-flavored boxed dinners that cover areas most other companies don't. The main problem for you will be that many of their entrees require that you take the package from the oven halfway through, peel back the cover, stir the food, and re-cover. Some of them don't need that (these have tough glued-on covers you just have to cut away).

My favorite: Mayan Harvest Bake. This is a mix of New World crops like plantains, kale, black beans, amaranth, polenta, and sweet-potato in an ancho/pumpkin-seed sauce. (Doesn't require the mid-cooking stir.) Also really good: Southwestern Style Chicken, Pesto Pasta Primavera (both require the stir). At the end, you should either scrape the food out onto a plate, or just make sure you mix it all up in the plastic tray really well.

LUVO (formerly Lyfe Kitchen) has this schtick where it cooks inside a bag, then you cut the bag open and carefully shimmy the contents out onto your plate -- and it comes out as an arranged (plated) meal. Do you think you can manage this with 1.5 hands? If you can, try the Chicken Chile Verde. I've just discovered them since I can only find them at Target, of all places.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 2:00 AM on March 8, 2014

Best answer: This is one of my favorite minimal-prep meals which hopefully your left hand will be capable of: I get a tortilla, spread an even layer of refried beans on it (sort of like you'd spread peanut butter), sprinkle shredded cheese on it, bake in the oven for around ten minutes at 350℉, then fold in half and cut into triangles, to eat with sour cream.
posted by XMLicious at 10:18 AM on March 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I really like the chicken skewers at TJ's. Also, that they have bags of already washed and cut up broccoli, cauliflower, and squash if you're feeling up to steaming or roasting it. (They also have jars of garlic, if you want to throw a spoonful or two of that in too.) I hope your hand feels better soon!
posted by Margalo Epps at 4:34 PM on March 8, 2014

Best answer: Trader Joe's has this amazing wild mushroom and black truffle flatbread in the freezer section which is bake-and-eat. I do normally slice it up after cooking, but you don't have to (as long as you're willing to be a bit undignified while eating).
posted by anaelith at 6:48 PM on March 8, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks so much all. I'm going to mark best the things I think are feasible with current limitations. From helping husband make meatloaf yesterday I know it is hard to do raw meat safely even with plastic bags (i.e. without making hand brace a swamp of bacteria) so really want to avoid raw meat handling. I think I can manage sausages with tongs, barely, but need to save simmer sauces (other than for veg.), meat skewers and such for when I'm better or when husband is around and can handle any meat.

Contributing my own thoughts, I have tried the Mandarin orange chicken, which I like quite a bit, by baking on a nonstick cookie sheet (or oiled regular one), heating sauce slowly in nonstick pan and then adding chicken to sauce in pan to combine and serving with rice. The Trader Joe’s (Maitre Pierre) Tarte D’Alsace is billed as an appetizer mainly but we've eaten as a pizza, and is quite tasty (we baked a bit longer than the recommended time.) I also think the family size vegetarian lasagna is pretty good, though not like homemade of course. TJ Edamame hummus is addictive. Also, Trader Joe's frozen eggplant cutlets are really good. We baked them (and unlike the directions we thought it worked best when we flipped them halfway through the cooking time). We ate them with some grated cheese and pasta sauce, but they seem pretty versatile.

We have no car and don't drive and Trader Joe's and Whole Foods are what I can walk to. (Cousin with car is off in Africa for 3 weeks for work.) WF has Amy's and Kashi so I will try some of those. The closest regular supermarket is not a full size one, so only has a bit of these things, have to take a subway to get to a big one so will wait on that till hand is a bit better.
posted by gudrun at 10:04 AM on March 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Oh, also, for anyone else in my situation, I'm too klutzy with an exacto knife, but I have a great pair of washable titanium kitchen scissors which are coming in handy.
posted by gudrun at 10:19 AM on March 11, 2014

Best answer: Oh, I love those eggplant cutlets! Haven't had them in ages and should get them again. Their chicken or beef mini-tacos also bake up really nicely. Salsa, sour cream, guacamole, a bag of their roasted frozen corn, and maybe a can of seasoned refried beans or black beans = dinner and leftovers for us. :)

Hang in there!
posted by wintersweet at 11:23 AM on March 11, 2014

Just wanted to let you know that the chicken skewers are fully cooked, you just warm them up in the oven.
posted by Margalo Epps at 4:44 PM on March 12, 2014

Response by poster: Just adding one more thing to this thread. The Trader Joe's frozen Spinach and Ricotta Ravioli is very tasty. We like things saucy so added a bit of Rao's tomato basil pasta sauce to it while we heated it very slowly in a pot on the stovetop.
posted by gudrun at 7:38 AM on April 10, 2014

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