In search of... some meal plans.
August 5, 2014 1:45 AM   Subscribe

I used to be a pretty good cook and I enjoyed cooking, but haven’t done much of it in the last few years for various reasons. Now, I have an awesome boyfriend who makes me great food, and I want to do the same for him. What I need are some ideas for full meals—not just single recipes but main and sides, etc., and specific recipes or links to specific recipes to accompany them.

I used to have lots of meals in my repertoire and enjoy reading through my cookbooks coming up with meal combinations, but I don’t have my cookbooks anymore, the internet is leaving me uninspired, and I am short on time these days for poring over cooking websites.

I've searched other meal plan type questions on here, but none quite match what I'm looking for and a lot of them point to entire websites for searching which is not what I need. I also have some special considerations:

-I am primarily looking for things that can be done fairly quickly (under an hour) and inexpensively.

-Absolutely no seafood (he’s allergic) and no fish.

-Lower-carb is good but by no means a requirement. Same goes for healthier dishes.

-He prefers lean meats and loves boneless skinless chicken breasts, which I consider a culinary abomination, but whatever, so meals that incorporate those would be good.

-He doesn't like runny-textured things along the lines of runny eggs.

-He's not much for leftovers, so meals that pretty much serve two and are done are fine. (I, however, will happily eat them for lunch, so if there are SOME leftovers, that works too.)

-This cooking happens in London. But I'm not going to be out sourcing special ingredients for the most part, so using things I can pick up at Sainsbury's or whatever is good.

He makes really lovely simple meals. Examples of things he’s made me, to give an idea of his tastes:

-roast chicken
-beef roast with onion gravy
-gnocchi with homemade bolognaise
-homemade potato and leek soup
-pork with mustard sauce

He often serves these with vegetables simply prepared (sautéed greens, cumin carrots) and sometimes potatoes.

So, hive mind, can you come up with some nice, tasty, not too expensive or time-consuming dinners for me to cook? I’ll reiterate here that I need a menu plan with recipes, not just links to main-dish recipes or suggestions of dishes without recipes included. Thank you!
posted by tiger tiger to Food & Drink (4 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
For about a year, I subscribed to The 6 o'clock Scramble. It's a newsletter that does what you are looking for -- you get 5 meals a week, with sides and recipes. You pick the meals you want, and it even automatically generates a shopping list. You could sign up for a month, and even if you didn't need to cook every night, at the end of the month you'd have a bunch of meal plans and recipes.

The food was simple and easy to make, although most recipes do make 4 servings, so you'll end up with leftovers. I find it easy to cut recipes in half (literally, just divide all the measurements by 2, unless it's an egg or something, in which case I chuck in the whole thing), but I know that not everyone is comfortable doing that.

There are other similar services, like eMeals and Fresh20, but the only one I've personally tried is The 6 o'clock Scramble. I like the interface of Plan to Eat.

You might also consider a diet book. Not that you need to diet! I'm not suggesting that! But the foods you listed that your boyfriend likes reminds me of the South Beach Diet. I have this book, and it includes recipes and meal plans for all phases of the diet. If you aren't trying to lose weight, just pick phase 2 or phase 3 and look at the meal plans and menus. Again, I'm not suggesting that you follow the diet, just that it's a good source for meal plans that include simple, freshly-made food.
posted by OrangeDisk at 6:47 AM on August 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I came back to suggest the dinner I made last night. It was awesome! I cooked:
Italian pork roast
The tomatoes from this oven-dried cherry tomato pesto recipe (I didn't make the pesto, just dried the tomatoes and kind of tossed them in with torn-off hunks of the Italian pork roast)
Steamed broccoli with mayo

Another meal I cooked recently was:
Pan-seared then roasted pork tenderloin (I don't bother with a sauce for this)
Roasted asparagus (note that the oven temp for the pork and asparagus is the same, so you can start the asparagus in the oven at the same time that you start the pork on the stove top. If the asparagus finishes before the pork is done, it's ok to serve it at room temperature.)
Peeled, sliced cucumbers with a bit of salt

And one more:
pan seared salmon (doesn't have to be wild or sockeye, but should be skin-on)
green beans with bacon
a simple salad of just greens with dressing

One of my tricks for making these meals look great is to serve them on 9-inch luncheon sized plates instead of 12-inch dinner plates. It makes them look more generous and more like restaurant meals where the whole plate is filled up.

[My default meal plan is: 1 hunk of meat, 1 hot cooked veg, 1 raw or previously cooked veg. That way I only have to coordinate two things to be ready at the same time.]
posted by OrangeDisk at 11:39 AM on August 5, 2014

For a while, I subscribed to emeals - they would email me a weekly menu (dinners only) with a shopping list for the week. The menus were sane amounts of food (6 servings, we're a family of five so it worked out perfectly leaving a serving left over for a packed lunch - you can choose the serving size/amount) and ingredients were frequently re-used. I mean that if a recipe called for half of an onion one day, the next day the other half of the onion would be used.
They have several menu types, like low-calorie or low-carb.
posted by Mr. Big Business at 12:54 PM on August 5, 2014

We do Fresh20. I can't eat seafood so I sub that day with boneless skinless chicken breasts (recipe modification is included).
posted by saradarlin at 4:04 PM on August 7, 2014

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