I need modular food
August 30, 2017 1:19 PM   Subscribe

Please give me ideas for meals that can be broken down into individual components in order to accommodate a range of needs. I am cooking for one person on a low-carb diet, one person on a vegetarian diet, and two small picky eaters. Example 1: Beef fajitas with green peppers and onions, black beans, rice, and tortillas. Low-carb person can eat beef and veggies with a few beans. Vegetarian can eat everything except the beef. Picky eaters can eat rice and tortillas. Example 2: Pasta with meatballs and tomato sauce. Low-carber can eat meatballs, sauce, small amount of (whole-wheat or alternative) pasta. Vegetarian can eat pasta with sauce. Picky eaters can eat plain pasta.

Please forbear from telling me not to accommodate these differing needs, some of which are medically based.
posted by bq to Food & Drink (23 answers total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
 
I've read of a soup party, where you prepare a broth (vegetable based because of the vegetarian) and then smaller bowls with individual items (cooked) that can go in soup. So you could have meat, beans, tofu, various vegetables, pasta, rice, etc. Put whatever is desired in each person's soup bowl, then pour broth on top. People who aren't eating low-carb can have bread to round out the meal.
posted by FencingGal at 1:28 PM on August 30, 2017 [1 favorite]


Taco bar

Big market salad with chicken strips, hard-cooked eggs...

Build your own baked potato (or just eat the toppings without the potato)

Roll-up sandwiches (lavash bread for those who will eat it, romaine lettuce leaves for those who won't)
posted by dywypi at 1:28 PM on August 30, 2017 [1 favorite]


You haven't ruled out soy, so you're golden! You could even use seitan/gluten-based protein, or mycoprotein (Quorn), based on what you've written here. I suppose it's possible that the kids might be wary, but it they start out with tiny pieces in a delicious sauce or soup, maybe they'll take to it.

That said:

My first idea is a pho-type soup. This generally seems to be a hot broth -- you can use veggie broth -- with lime, served hot, then you get a basket of vegetables and other stuff to put into the soup. The veggies usually include fresh mung bean sprouts, basil, and peppers, but could be whatever you want as long as it doesn't need to be cooked too much. I'd suggest celery leaves, thin-sliced carrots, snow peas, Napa cabbage, and possibly thinly-sliced mushrooms. For you, I'd also include proteins. You could make the broth with veggie bouillon cubes, saved ramen packets, miso, soy sauce, or my favorite: nutritional yeast, soy sauce, and onion powder.

Second idea: it's healthy party food! Put out small plates of whatever seems good (Olives, steamed asparagus, veggie hot dogs, salad, crackers, hummus), and let people serve themselves; probably put some kind of "You must take N proteins, Y veggies, and Z breads" rule in place if the kids are young.
posted by amtho at 1:34 PM on August 30, 2017


Make-your-own pizzas would work with a couple low-carb crusts in the mix and a variety of toppings.
posted by LKWorking at 1:36 PM on August 30, 2017


We love doing all kinds of rollups using a variety of foundations including romaine lettuce, spring roll wrappers, seaweed sheets, tortillias (usually just using one of these per meal) and offering a variety of suitable stuffings.
posted by KleenexMakesaVeryGoodHat at 1:36 PM on August 30, 2017


Similar concept to the soup party and taco bar, another idea would be a make-your-own-spring-roll station. Just get a bunch of these wrappers, veggies, tofu, noodles, etc. It's a lot of fun to make--you just submerge the paper in hot water and it softens enough to roll it.
posted by roll truck roll at 1:37 PM on August 30, 2017 [1 favorite]


Mediterranean feast: toasted pita, roasted eggplant peppers and onions, herb-heavy tabbouleh, hummus, olives, roast chicken breasts with lemon zest and oregano (do one plain for the picky kids), garlic sauce, lemon wedges, fresh tomato, cucumber, and romaine leaves. A lot of this can be purchased or made ahead of time.
posted by Mizu at 1:41 PM on August 30, 2017 [6 favorites]


Omelets and/or scrambled eggs. Can do veggie sausage alongside these (cut into coins and lightly pan-friend is good)
Paneer and egg bhurji is a nice Indian preparation like this
Tofu scramble with whatever veggies or meats

Lots of prepared Indian food in the supermarket - can put a jarred curry over paneer or tofu chunks and/or chicken, the kids can have just rice and protein while the adults have the spicier sauce. Can do cauliflower rice with this to accommodate your low-carb person.
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:43 PM on August 30, 2017 [1 favorite]


salad/sandwich bar - a lot of the same stuff goes into making either, so you can just chop up a bunch of veggies, cheeses, cold cuts, put condiments and dressings on the table and everyone gets to build their own. If you have a sandwich press put that out too
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 1:43 PM on August 30, 2017 [1 favorite]


Almond-flour pancakes are another low-carb vegetarian standby, if you want to do a breakfast-as-dinner night.
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:51 PM on August 30, 2017


Lavash or some other gluten-free flatbread (assuming everyone eats cheese). You can supply little bowls of nuts, cooked or raw vegetables, and diced meats. Everyone constructs their own favorite, tops with shredded cheese and then put under the broiler until the cheese melts and bubbles. Yum.
posted by dancing_angel at 1:55 PM on August 30, 2017


Rice bowl - batch of rice, assorted roast veggies, protein, and whatever other toppings you have - avocados, nuts, sesame seeds, soy sauce, scallions ... everyone makes a bowl with whatever they like. With or without ride and protein.

Same thing for salad. Greens, chicken, pears or apples, walnuts, cheese, edamame, carrots ... go crazy.
posted by bunderful at 2:36 PM on August 30, 2017 [1 favorite]


Also larb gai
posted by bunderful at 2:36 PM on August 30, 2017 [1 favorite]


Steal these Mediterranean mix-and-match bowl ideas from Cava's menu.
posted by Room 641-A at 2:41 PM on August 30, 2017


Build your own burger bar, with regular and veggie patties? Low-carbers can wrap the burger in lettuce. Vegetarians build veggie burgers. Picky ones can have plain burgers of either type.
posted by cgg at 3:07 PM on August 30, 2017


Cold noodle salads, a la soba noodles with omelette or sesame noodles? Both have a basic starch but can add modular veggie/protein toppings to satisfy other criteria. Love the Mediterranean ideas up top, too. Hummus/pita/falafel/tabbouli/cucumber salad/other mezze are always crowd pleasers.
posted by stillmoving at 3:09 PM on August 30, 2017 [1 favorite]


I have similar needs, and one of our standard dinners is "Rice And." One of us has rice and kimchi and scrambled eggs. One of us has rice and black beans. One of us has rice and chicken (already cooked, usually a Costco one). One of us has rice.

Pasta also works well: one of us has pasta with butter, one has pasta and cheese and Trader Joe's turkey meatballs, one of us has pasta and sauteed greens, and the fourth has more of that chicken.
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:10 PM on August 30, 2017 [1 favorite]


Breakfast for dinner - eggs (with cheese on top if you want), bacon or sausage or skip meat, toast or pancakes, fruit.

If the picky eaters are ok with stir fry, you can cook the vegetables in one pan and the meat in another (or just do tofu). Cook rice separately for those that eat it.
posted by insectosaurus at 4:22 PM on August 30, 2017


Dinner: A Love Story calls this sort of concept "deconstructed dinners". The only problem with her recipes is they can be a bit meat-heavy, but you might still find some useful ideas? Here is her Top 10 Deconstructed Dinners post, and here's an Indonesian Pineapple, Chicken and Spicy Peanut Salad with an example of how to deconstruct it for a child.
posted by fever-trees at 5:59 PM on August 30, 2017


Another place I steal mix-and-match ideas from is Sweetgreen. In addition to the seasonal ingredients you can change the location to see regional variations.
posted by Room 641-A at 8:11 PM on August 30, 2017


Baked potato bar? Vegetarian chili, cheese, sour cream, butter, bacon bits, chives. You could add some hot dogs so that the meat-eaters could make chili dogs if they wanted.
posted by Ostara at 5:42 AM on August 31, 2017


FWIW, special gluten-free breads, crackers, etc. very often have _more_ carbs than regular breads.
posted by amtho at 6:09 AM on August 31, 2017


2nding stir-fries.

I'm also a big fan of grazing meals - nibbling on lots of random no-cook things. Fresh fruit, dried fruit, raw bite-sized carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, cucumbers, jicama; nuts, cheese, crackers, potted meat of some kind, hummus or goddess or ranch dressing (for dipping), etc.
posted by bunderful at 3:55 PM on August 31, 2017


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