Everything I Now Believe About The Long-Term Project Of Cooking For Two People


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You asked me to report back with findings about how to cook for two, in retirement. OK then! Cooking isn’t my usual writing realm, but I do love a high level analysis of a carefully observed process.

To optimize anything, one must first understand both the desired outcomes and the constraints.

Desired Outcomes, AKA What We Like In This House

  • One of us prefers a main dish + sides model, the other would rather multiple smalls
  • One enjoys meat fat, the other does not, both try to avoid it for the most part
  • One of us wants to reduce meat consumption to save the planet
  • One insists on green, orange, and every color vegetables, the other would be happy living on onions, mushrooms, cabbage and tomatoes
  • Both have a metabolic need for a lot of protein
  • Both care about weight management
  • One of us needs sauce in a meal, the other, not so much
  • One really likes soup, the other, not so much
  • Both of us like Italian and Asian foods, neither of us care overly for Tex-Mex or French
  • One of us would love to learn how to cook Peruvian food but never has

Process constraints, AKA, Life Is Not A Bowl Of Cherries, Per Se

  • One of us works long and demanding hours, one has a flexible schedule of blogging, consulting, and volunteering
  • One of us likes to cook, nobody likes to clean up (AKA I do almost all the cleanup, it is my job)
  • The kitchen is part of of the living room. Ain’t no closing up that kitchen and forgetting about it.

High-Level Takeaways

  • Here’s what I can sustain: I cook 2 nights/week multiple dishes for a really good dinner; 3 nights/week something to add to leftovers or make a basic meal; once a week we eat out; once a week we take home, often from Whole Foods. I can’t “cook” more than that, at least not with equanimity.
  • I like to start the prep in the early afternoon whenever possible. Somehow just making sure my kitchen is clean and the pots are ready soothes my soul. I also take anything that should be at room temperature for cooking out of the fridge.
  • (Cleaning the kitchen in the morning, BTW, is my new thing. Thanks guys. Never could do stand to do it after complex dinner prep.)
  • Time spent finding good and repeatable new recipes is useful: so is time spent learning basic skills and cooking truths. In other words, read or watch YouTube videos on things like how to roast low and slow, or how to get a good wok sear. The more technique you understand, the less you then have to rely on recipes. That is obvious to those of you who have been a daily home cook for a long time. Since I was a good dinner party cook who relied on a sensitive nose to choose recipes, and fast reading to execute them, I’m still learning.
  • You can use up almost every bit of food you buy.
  • Cook soy sauce and chili paste on the wok, not on the food. It tastes better.
  • I flirt with non-refrigeration and reboiling for soups and stews. Not recommended, per se, but it does reduce the amount of pot washing.
  • If you are halving a recipe with a lot of fractional quantities, write down the new measures. Math over a hot stove is tricky.
  • You don’t have to plan every meal of the month, or even week, to find your own rhythm.
  • Great tools are a great help.

An Archetypal Week Of Cooking And Kitchening In This New World – Spring Weather Version

  1. Saturday. Grocery shop with my husband. Buy ingredients for 2-3 dinners, without a recipe in mind. Meat, dark greens, grillable vegetables, bones for soup. That night, grill some meat and asparagus with mustard vinaigrette, make rice noodles with a dipping soy/vinegar/mustard sauce, add a can of chopped tomatoes to the beef bone broth with meatballs that is sitting in a pot on the stove from yesterday.
  2. Sunday. Simple stir-fry of chicken breast cut into 1/2 inch cubes, cooked fast in a wok with soy sauce or chili paste, chicken removed to a colander, some kind of vegetables thrown into the same wok, reheated, chicken added back, then a dash of black vinegar or soy. Steamed rice. Final serve of beef soup.
  3. Monday. Flank steak with chimichurri sauce (I use more oil than they say, and an immersion blender), seared in a cast iron skillet on the stove and finished in the oven. Steamed broccoli or a salad. Pasta with simple sauce of carmelized onions, oregano, wine, and canned chopped tomatoes.
  4. Tuesday. Stop by the fishmonger’s after yoga. Madhur Jeffrey’s fish curry, sauteed spinach, basmati rice. A smidgen of leftover steak.
  5. Wednesday. Out to dinner.
  6. Thursday. Another Whole Foods run. Baked chicken breasts (best juicy chicken breasts ever), fried leftover rice with leftover vegetables and maybe some added leftover sausage or ham from last weekend if I have it, stir-fried celery with soy sauce. Because there’s always celery.
  7. Friday. Take out from the local Hawaiian barbecue place, plus leftovers, plus a bowl of pasta with frozen peas, garlic, and parsley from the chimichurri. Foraging, in other words.
  8. Imaginary Day: An actual week might be a little less optimal than this imaginary calendar. I’m now trying to build in more capacity for meal change and improvisation, to compensate for how little I enjoy planning a full week.

Speaking Of Tools In My Kitchen, Old And New, Stuff So Useful It Inspires Affection

Cookbooks And Blogs In Rotation

A Recipe For Galbijjim Optimized To Dirty As Few Pots As Humanly Possible (Adapted from Korean Bapsang and “Growing Up In A Korean Kitchen”)

Marinade Ingredients

  • 1 Asian pear, peeled and grated, or, half a green apple, half a Western pear, and a little lemon juice
  • 4 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons corn syrup or 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3 green onions, white and pale green part only, minced
  • 2 cloves minced or pressed garlic
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 8 toasted walnuts, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper (freshly ground)

Other Ingredients

  • 3 lbs lean beef ribs cut into 2-inch chunks
  • Vegetable oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 carrot in 3 pieces
  • Bay leaf
  • Peppercorns (10? 20?)
  • 1/2 sweet potato, diced 1/2 inch
  • 1/2 daikon radish, diced 1/2 inch
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced 1/2 inch

Cooking

  • Soak ribs for 1 hour in ice and cold water in medium-large heavy stockpot or Dutch oven. This removes the blood and impurities. Rinse ribs, wipe out pot
  • To make stock, cover ribs in water in same pot and boil for 1/2 hour, adding a bay leaf, 12 peppercorns, 2 squashed garlic cloves, 1 long carrot, ~ 3 tablespoons, one long piece of kelp or 1 oz rehydrated dried shiitake mushrooms
  • Take ribs out, rinse, put in bowl covered in plastic wrap
  • Get rid of vegetables etc. in stock, cool it in a bowl in fridge for a couple of hours, then skim off the fat (if you do this overnight, pour the stock over the ribs and let them cool together, so the ribs don’t dry out)
  • Use 2 ribs to render some beef fat in that same stockpot, take them back out
  • Cook in the rendered beef fat 1/2  sweet potato in 1/2 inch dice and 1/2  yellow onion in a 1/2 inch dice
  • Make marinade
  • Add ribs to the pot
  • Add marinade
  • Add 3 cups defatted stock
  • Simmer for 1 1/2 hours
  • Add radish, and cooked sweet potatoes and onions, simmer for additional 1/2 hour uncovered to reduce sauce

Serve with steamed rice, and some kind of sauteed greens. This recipe has all kinds of flexibility. You can use anything from cabbage to dates, yes, dates, in place of sweet potatoes and radishes. The key is to play with levels of umami and sweetness, so the dish becomes your own.

I hope I get better at cooking daily, but, if not, we’ve reached Good Enough. Helpful tips always welcome.

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38 Comments

  • This reminds me of how much Asian food I used to cook when I lived in SF. Something in the air? Now that I grow some of my own vegetables and visit the Portland famers’ market regularly, my cooking has become quite attuned to the seasons…

    Italian cookbooks are tricky for me. I do like Vegetables from an Italian Garden, from Phaidon.

    Another reliable blog source for recipes is Tuesday Recipe, by Tori Ritchie, who has done a lot of work for Williams Sonoma. Last time I checked, though, things were “under construction.” And there’s always 100 Cookbooks, by Heidi Swanson, for the vegetarian/vegan focus. Both are based in SF!

    05/05/16
    7:43 am
    Lisa said...

    @Jean S, Thanks for the new resources. Asian food has been my favorite for decades – now the access to authentic ingredients is so much better. The air, maybe so:).

  • Beloved tells me all the time “not everyone has the knack for cooking that you do.” I suppose that’s true; I can’t even remember the last time I had to “think” about cooking every day. We eat out maybe twice a month, and get takeout (either from the Chinese place down the street, a local pizza joint, or just sushi and salad from the local market) maybe three times a month. What you call foraging, we call “fend for yourself” and do that two or three times a month, as well; it’s great for cleaning out the fridge of leftovers that we didn’t consume for lunches.

    If you want a new rice cooker, try an Insta-Pot – it also serves as a pressure cooker and yogurt maker, and I believe is all stainless steel.

    My flat-bottom wok hasn’t left my stove since Beloved went out of town on business Sunday – I love me some stir-fry. I can’t do the “clean the kitchen tomorrow morning” thing – Beloved is an OCD A-type and that drives him crazy. I’ve been trained to clean as I go, and finish after dinner.

    05/05/16
    7:45 am
    Lisa said...

    @Jan, I still miss your cooking blog:(. Have you tried the Insta-Pot? The thing is, I don’t know that I’d use the pressure cooking/yogurt making features.

  • I love this post! Helpful hints indeed. Many find that Marcella Hazan is a good resource for Italian cooking.

    I tried doing a weekly menu, but found that generalities work better for us. So, if it’s Tuesday it must be fish, cause chicken is Wednesday. Nothing written in stone, of course. My husband is easy to feed, grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup is a treat for him. I have to be careful and not get too adventurous with him. This isn’t as boring as it might first appear. Besides, he loves salad. A whole meal salad is a great way to use up leftover protein.

    Dunno of any real hints, but look forward to reading what others do.

    05/05/16
    7:46 am
    Lisa said...

    @Mary anne, I’m edging towards generalities, i.e. choose the proteins and the vegetables in advance without knowing per se how I will prepare them.

  • I think I am in a recipe rut!
    Need to explore and expand my repertoire…the lack of inspiration can create monotony in the kitchen and one repeats the same meals far too often…you have spurred me on to try some new dishes.
    Thank you Lisa!

    05/05/16
    7:47 am
    Lisa said...

    @Bungalow Hostess, You are very welcome! It is a balance between finding recipes that are repeatable and getting bored out of one’s mind:).

  • I love to prep in the afternoon as well. I have dishwasher drawers so I keep 1 drawer open and throw in prep stuff as I’m done with each item. That leaves so much less mess after dinner. Usually I run the first drawer while finishing dinner prep! So easy. I highly recommend the dishwasher drawers for a small kitchen and/or family! No more big long door in the way!

    05/05/16
    7:50 am
    Lisa said...

    @Denise, That sounds great. I have never liked those dishwasher doors, or, at least, my shins have never liked them.

  • Several thoughts from a passionate cook:
    Now that the New York Times has the Cooking website with thousands of recipes and more added every day with notes, some of my friends have given up cookbooks entirely. I am getting more and more used to it and see its advantages.
    Secondly, a friend taught me to type a list of ingredients into my search engine. I type what I find in the frig and want to use up (onion, garlic, asparagus, chicken for instance) and see what comes up in a recipe.
    Since I’m recently retired, but have a husband who still works long hours, I feel that the least I can do is to come up with a good homemade meal every night we’re home. I go to the supermarket almost every day. That’s just the way I’ve always done it .
    For entertaining, I’ve come to love and depend on the Barefoot Contessa for solid, good, reliable recipes everyone loves.

    05/05/16
    8:24 am
    Lisa said...

    @Katherine Holden, I have begun to do as you suggest, looking for recipes for ingredients vs. the other way around. I could not enjoy a daily trip to the grocery store – but I am sure my cooking would be way better if I took that approach.

  • After 46 or so years of cooking full time, I can safely say that anyone can live on green leafy something, nuts, fruit and and bread!

    05/05/16
    8:25 am
    Lisa said...

    @Valentine, I bet they can. But, will they, that’s another question;).

  • I am an enthusiastic cook who rarely follows a recipe, but I’d like to put in a plug for Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbooks, Plenty, Plenty More, and Jerusalem (written with Sami Tamimi). The first two have only vegetable-based recipes, and the third highlights the cuisines of Jerusalem. I am one to curl up with a good cookbook, and these are gorgeous books regardless of the quality of the recipes, which have been pretty reliably good. I have trouble finding some of the ingredients out here in the sticks, but I’m sure where you live you could find anything you want. I’ve got one teenager still at home, so I’ve got a built in dishwasher. However next year, I see my recipes needing to use fewer pots. Also, we are big fans of the mid-week smorgasbord to use up the contents of the fridge.

    05/05/16
    8:37 am
    Lisa said...

    @Kristina, I have heard from many that Ottolenghi’s cookbooks are wonderful. Question – are the recipes complex and full of effort?

  • Marcella Hazan’s Classic Italian Cookbook is the best on all aspects of Italian cooking but i also love Alice Waters Pasta,Pizza and Calzone, brilliant for last minute what’s left in the fridge suppers.
    To expand a repetoire from Chinese, i recommend Terrific Pacific by Anya von Bremzen which requires a bit of effort to assimilate the recipes but really repays in flavourful healthy interesting food.
    As a daily home cook i enjoyed preparing supper for my three sons all week provided they choose what to eat and did the tidy up.
    My recently retired husband and i are now empty nesters and take not very strict turns to cook but now the cook cleans up after themselves as we have different standards of clean up as you go along!

    05/05/16
    9:43 am
    Lisa said...

    @Melissa, Terrific Pacific looks to be Asian fusion dishes? I know that doing my own cleanup has really changed my approach to cooking;).

  • We have a similar ratio of eat/carry out to cook at home meals.
    What do you eat for lunch? My husband works at home while I travel to work and I find that I need to prepare an extra meal’s worth to cover that. Otherwise I’ll arrive home intent on a leftover based meal and find that it has already been eaten and none is left or he doesn’t want to eat that again.

    05/05/16
    9:47 am
    Lisa said...

    @RoseAG, Since I cook and clean and also am mostly at home throughout the day, I’m both the maker of and the eater of leftovers for lunch team so it works out.

  • Hawaiian BBQ? Sounds amazing.

    You mentioned your immersion blender. Best thing ever made!

    05/05/16
    9:49 am
    Lisa said...

    @pigtown*design, It can be awesome. It can also be the ultimate junk food;). And I love my immersion blender, it’s true.

  • Oh, I’m going to have to try that recipe! I don’t LOVE cooking either, though sometimes I enjoy it if I have plenty of time and no pressure. Working full-time at the moment, that’s rarely the case. I do try to whip up some salad or steamed veggies nightly, but that’s generally as far as I get. Rotisserie chicken is a lifesaver at this point.

    05/05/16
    10:14 am
    Lisa said...

    @Susan B (une femme), I know the mode well. xox.

  • I used to love cooking dinner because my son and husband were such great eaters, but now that my nest is empty and we’ve moved into the city it’s too easy to go out when I’m uninspired, which seems to be happening more and more. We go out at least 3 nights a week. Like you, I (try to) prepare two good meals and we forage on our own once each week. If one of those home-cooked dinners is particularly inspired I’ll invite friends over. I love having leftovers for lunch.

    05/05/16
    10:38 am
    Lisa said...

    @Leslie K, Oh, living the city, where one can walk to a neighborhood place, sit at the bar, eat a light meal, chat with the bartender – such a pleasure. I too sometimes have leftovers that I really cherish;).

  • Yes I started Italian cooking with Marcella Hazan but found her too scolding ” You must never , never substitute/use less or more etc ” & too expensive . All this alongside stuff about the easygoing/relaxed nature of Italian food ! I now mostly use Claudia Roden’s “The Food of Italy” .
    I’m curious that no one mentions using a freezer – is this now not gourmet or labour-intensive enough ?!

    05/03/16
    10:33 am
    Jean S said...

    Apparently Marcella was, shall we say, overly dependent on alcohol and nicotine. Her long-time editor, Judith Jones (who famously edited Julia Child), has said some fairly scathing things about Marcella’s unreliable taste buds. Yikes.

    05/05/16
    10:40 am
    Lisa said...

    @Rukshana Afia, I have a freezer, but it’s just a little one, at the bottom of my fridge. I never have much luck with freezing stuff and reheating. I’d have to consciously make that part of my process, but, I certainly have no bias against it.

  • I literally can not remember the last time I cooked something. Maybe Thanksgiving?

    Husband cooks 4 nights a week, Saturday night out for sure, Friday could be take-out or go-out. Usually my choice. Usually wine & sushi.

    So, my advice is useless :)

    05/05/16
    10:41 am
    Lisa said...

    @Patsy, Your wisecracks, however, are priceless.

  • Great post! Thank you Lisa. I was a very passionate home cook and my family always is/was appreciative. My husband dislikes cooking. He still works so I feel guilty not creating something 2-3 x weekly. On the ‘other days’ I make frittata, quiche or pizza. I make pastry and pizza dough in advance and freeze it.. I call my leftover dishes ‘wonder pots’. I do a lot of advance prep. I also get weekly grocery delivery except for meat and some fish, as my love of grocery shopping has waned. It’s the best thing I ever did.. Deciding what to cook is my dilemma now. I loved reading the responses perhaps this will help me.

    05/05/16
    6:32 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Susanna, Quiche and pizza don’t quite fit our high-protein low-cal preferences:(. Although I’d love to make quiche again some day. Ah, the memories.

  • So interesting. Thank you. I’m a much more basic cook. I like a salad of arugula or spinach, with chives, and sometimes pine nuts or hazelnuts, and a simple vinaigrette. I love a piece of broiled fish, or an occasional spicy chicken sausage if the chicken is from a humane, local source. Vegetables taste best to me in a simple saute, if I’m using greens such as my beloved spinach, with olive oil, garlic, and chili flakes, or roasted in the oven until crispy and browned, if I’m using such things as Brussels sprouts, asparagus, and cauliflower. I use a lot of beans. A piece of wild salmon, gently broiled so there is still a tiny bit of pink at the center, an arugula salad with a walnut vinaigrette, and cannellini beans sauteed in olive oil and garlic, smushed with the side of a wooden spoon as a mashed potato stand-in is a favorite meal. I make a pot of black beans (organic beans from tins) with cayenne, turmeric, and garlic, and use it by the half cup as a base for a poached morning egg. My doctor recommended a soup of miso, shiitake mushrooms, garlic, ginger, and a green for immune system health. I love miso, so I make that periodically. There is a local hole-in-the-wall Japanese place I love. I get miso soup, spinach with sesame seeds, and a spicy hamachi hand roll. My house host is a good cook. He loves vegetable stir fries with either chicken or spicy chicken sausages sliced up in a assortment of sauteed vegetables. I don’t like chopping vegetables, so I avoid that. I clean as I go, and since I cook simple fare, there is not that much clean-up anyway. I love Food52, Sam Sifton, and Mark Bittman for simple meal ideas. When Bittman was the NYT Minimalist he wrote 101 Simple Meals Ready in 10 Minutes or Less. It’s a 2007 article I still refer to for inspiration: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/18/dining/18mini.html

    05/03/16
    2:22 pm
    dottoressa said...

    @Katherine C. James, Katherine C.,I really like your menu. I could be happy with all you mentioned here
    Dottoressa

    05/04/16
    10:14 am
    Patsy said...

    @Katherine C. James, My father sent me that article!

    05/05/16
    6:33 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Katherine C. James, Your food sounds amazing. And I should definitely try that mashed cannellini trick

  • We are fasting (eating just 500 calories) 2 days a week so it’s fish over grilled onions and peppers on Tuesdays and Thursday. This is so great because I don’t have to figure out all those meals :) As young empty nesters, it takes awhile to figure it all out. I also love my mini crockpot and mini rice cooker! Not stainless but it’s small and fits in the dishwasher!

    05/05/16
    6:38 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Jana Miller, Fasting two days a week. Sounds like a good practice. I guess my version of that is a bowl of cereal and an apple for dinner;).

  • I like to cook large batches of soups, stews and pasta sauces, then freeze the leftovers to have a week or two later. If I have enough in rotation, that gives me a couple of days off each week. We also go out at least once a week, and several times a month eat dinner OYO (on your own) to clean out any leftovers not consumed by lunch. I’m lucky in that my husband is retired as well and takes care of the dishes. Twice a month, I get a box of organic seasonal vegetables from our local CSA, and use whatever we receive as a basis for meal planning. I never cooked much when I was working (long hours), so now I rather enjoy the process of finding and trying new recipes.

  • We are two, but I always make more so we have leftovers. I knew someone whose husband did not “allow” leftovers. I would have divorced him so fast his head would have spun.

    My husband still works so I try to get shopping done during the week. A plus is that it’s less crowded then.

    We’re switching from winter food to summer food and it takes me awhile to get in the groove, so all I can think of is grilling outdoors. Later on when our vegetable garden starts to produce, we eat a lot of squash, tomatoes and beans. Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone really comes into its own then.

    I thought Mark Bittman had quit the NYT to go to work for a food delivery company.

  • You do love to look at things in depth! This was fun. I do all the cooking,…it’s a hobby I love. He does all the cleanup. My new goal is to reduce waste and use everything I buy. Meal planning is critical for that. I’m not nearly as organized as you. Bravo.

  • Consider Staub instead of Le Creuset. I have both and prefer Staub. No staining on the inside of the pot, no need for non-scratching spatulas or other tools if you use Staub. Comparable price.

  • PS…I am not affiliated with Staub in anyway! : )

    http://www.staubusa.com/

  • I’ve lost my long comment:-)
    Anyway,great post! I like your approach!
    Dottoressa

  • I am an almost-daily cook* (4-5x a week, plus lunches when I am at home), also cooking for two, with similar cuisine preferences and some parallel dislikes. A thing I rely on is to try to have something prepped in the fridge that can bridge several meals. This could be cooked farro or quinoa or short-grained brown rice, or roasted cubed butternut, or a pot of black or white beans. These can be the beginning of a stir-fry, or fried rice, or a cold salad. Generally I find it helps to not start every ingredient from zero at every cooking session. I try also to always have a clamshell of baby spinach in the fridge, and “you could put an egg on that” could be my motto.

    I have to say though, this — “I flirt with non-refrigeration and reboiling for soups and stews. Not recommended, per se, but it does reduce the amount of pot washing” — worries me. I apologize to be Scary Disease Girl here (though it is my job), but this is a hazardous practice. Warm meat broth is a bacterial growth medium — literally, that is what it was used for in 19th-c labs. In home-kitchen conditions, it is difficult to get liquids that have been sitting out for a while up to a hard enough boil long enough to kill everything, especially if there is something else in them (meatballs??), and still have the liquid be palatable afterward; which in practical terms means people usually don’t boil things long enough, and then something nasty slips through. I wish you would rethink this.

    05/04/16
    8:45 am
    Noelle said...

    @maryn, I always put the whole pot of soup or stew in the fridge, and then took it out and put it on a burner. If you do that instead of transferring it to a storage dish, there is no extra clean up.

    I was also beginning to flirt with non-refrigeration for soups that were heated up a couple of time a day, but I guess I’ll stop that!

  • Newly back at home full time with two babies (well, a 3 month old and a 2 year ol – she feels like a baby to me!), I do almost all my prep in the morning or at “nap-time” (*hollow laugh* There’s often not much napping, but even “reading in the cot” time helps).

    Like other commenters, I’ve been cooking daily for so long that I don’t meal-plan or use recipes – it’s more a process of working out what my constraints will permit on any given day, taking into account activities, crankiness (mine and children’s!) and most importantly these days, what’s in the garden. About 80% of what we now eat is what we grow, including sheep for lamb and the veggies that a poly tunnel permits in a cold and frosty climate. Eating seasonally has its downsides – we are pretty over kale by spring, and even the allure of asparagus wanes by October – but I love how it’s largely negated the perishables from our grocery shopping!

    When my husband and I were both working and caring part time, the person at home made sure that dinner did for two days – that way there was a meal ready when we stumbled inside on our two daycare days. Lots of stews, stirfries and pasta sauces – less steak. We’ll return to that after my 12 month maternity leave is up, and I’m frankly looking forward to sharing the load again. I do more over all, since the weekend meals are normally me – but he’s excellent about doing the dishes regardless.

    I’m fascinated to hear that you don’t classify yourself as a past daily home cooker – what was your arrangement as a working mum of your two gorgeous children?

  • I’m in a real routine at the moment and very happy with it. We go to our local Farmer’s Market every Sunday morning, and buy a lot of different fresh vegetables for the week. Usually some fish, bison, and chicken as well. I’m a huge cast iron pan fan, and generally chop various vegetables in the morning, put them in a cast iron pan with olive oil, and various seasonings and roast them for dinner. Some protein on the side as well, and usually quinoa or roasted potatoes for my husband, I try to stay away from the carbs at night. I also make a lot of pureed vegetable soups, and throw roasted sliced chicken sausage in, and eat that a few nights in a row. I always make too much – it is hard to cook for two I find. We try to eat very healthy and somewhat low cal at home, so we can eat what we want when we go out. I think that’s sort of normal now.

  • If you’re interested in a rice cooker with a stainless steel insert, you might want to check out the Instant Pot. It is more expensive, but t’s a multifunction cooker that is also a pressure cooker, slow cooker, and yogurt maker (in addition to cooking rice). I have to confess, I haven’t tried the rice cooking function yet but it seems to get good reviews. (I have the 7-in-1 6qt version from Amazon) What I love is that you can tell it was designed by geeky engineers who had their way with the product and incorporated the features they really wanted.

  • I love to cook, but love it also when my boyfriend cooks. We eat everyday fresh vegetables and we eat organic. My favorite food is Asian!

  • Ever since our children left the nest, my strategy for cooking dinners has become more relaxed and less dependent on everyone’s schedules. Both of us are retired so we can go food shopping any day at almost any time. Even though I have more time to cook, we are eating out at least once a week – almost always at the Whole Foods seafood bar/restaurant in our area (they know us and our preferences now!). Although I have certain recipes that are family favorites, I enjoy trying out new recipes about once a week or every other week. Our diet has become more plant-centric and we seldom have any red meat or pork, so our protein of choice is usually chicken or some seafood, most often salmon. I also look for recipes that are simple and utilize mostly whatever is currently in my pantry and refrigerator. I tend to cook (husband does not cook and does not like leftovers) what is seasonally available and look forward to the opening of the farmers’ market in the spring. We both are looking to lower our cholesterol so heart healthy foods are a priority. Weight is not a problem for either of us as we have a natural predisposition to being on the slender side, but because of cholesterol, aim for less unhealthy fats and sugar.

    I loved reading about your strategies for cooking for two. Also, loved all the comments here. I must admit I was puzzled about the soup or stew in the pot. I did not know you can leave that out overnight without refrigeration. Anyway, great post!

  • So interesting to see your methodical approach applied to cooking. My father cooked for a living; my mom cooked to keep all of us (a very large family) fed, and I helped with that from, probably, 7 or 8 (even if just peeling veg). Ditto me feeding my own four, and then one of my daughters trained as a cook, worked in the industry for 10 years, and married a guy who did the same. Neither of them cook professionally anymore but they’re still plugged into all manner of foodie stuff and happy to teach the rest of us.

    My big goal for retirement, kitchen-wise, is to reclaim a patch of mine, once we’ve moved and set up our next home. My husband has done most of the provisioning and cooking since he retired, and now that I’ve left the paycheque behind I’m wanting to get back to a more evenly shared kitchen. Do you think your patterns will change much when your Significant Husband retires?

  • Lisa – am a huge fan of yours!

    A couple of things that might be helpful:

    I keep a stock of salmon in our freezer from Vital Choice – prepackaged, just defrost and you can grill, bake, poach. This is SO helpful for nights when I am rushed – just add a salad or some grilled asparagus and you are good to go. https://www.vitalchoice.com

    I LOVE Food52 – their articles and recipes are contributed by home cooks. Lots of great ideas. http://food52.com

    Lastly, I try to do one more complex meal each week – kind of a project. Need to think thru the steps and timing, etc. Always learn something! Last week I made a pine nut and pistachio crusted halibut. https://food52.com/recipes/38874-yotam-ottolenghi-and-ramael-scully-s-pistachio-and-pine-nut-crusted-halibut

    It also strikes me that your analytical mind might love Kenji Alt-Lopez’s The Food Lab book – so much analysis and testing!

  • About non refrigeration of soups etc…when I moved to the UK I was shocked that my lovely mother in law did this. I was sure we’d all get ill or drop dead. But no harm was done. I have no qualms at all about leaving a covered pan overnight (just overnight). Been doing it for 16 years now with no problems.

  • I love this post and your analytical approach.

    When I think that for most of my marriage I planned menus, grocery shopped and cooked full meals every day, and lunches too the last few years (although we did rely on more leftovers once I added a lunch burden to the mix), I wonder who that woman was.

    I’m not convinced I could do it again, although I do know I’d be willing to cook more if I was cooking for someone other than just myself. Cooking for myself is something else altogether. My flat-bottomed wok is a life-saver and I tend to have a lot of stir-fries and simple grilled or roasted meats, either with vegetables or on salads. I’m still working out the balance between occasionally wanting to actually cook something special and just getting a meal together.

    I have Marcella Hazan’s first cookbook, and although there are some dishes I will probably always have in my repertoire, I find that most of her recipes, at least in that older book, are too heavy and rich, too laden with cream and breading for the way I want to eat now.

    I’ve found myself increasingly turning to Ed Giobbi’s Eat Right Eat Well the Italian Way for food I want to eat now. Alas it is out of print, and since it was marketed mostly as a heart-healthy book, I’m sure that didn’t help. But Giobbi concentrates on simple fresh food and doesn’t compromise on flavor. With his emphasis on fish, poultry, meat and vegetables, and the kind of simple fresh Italian cooking I adore, I tend to turn to him when I want

    05/04/16
    3:25 pm
    Mardel said...

    @Mardel, when I want Italian, as most Italian restaurants here are heavy on the cheese and cream and pasta, and not so much on simple flavors. But it could be that I’m so used to what I do, that I just adapt to suit myself.

  • I am cook nightly for just my husband and myself. I find it incredibly stressful, thinking about what to fix for dinner and having all the ingredients at hand. Our meals are simple and healthy but I still feel I spend too much time and mental energy thinking about meal prep. I love vacations from cooking.

  • As always I enjoyed this post, with your analytical approach – which echoes many of the issues I deal with in my kitchen. If you haven’t yet discovered Rachel Roddy’s website, https://racheleats.wordpress.com I can recommend it, and her book, My Kitchen in Rome, with wonderfully practical recipes and photographs.

  • LOVED THIS!

  • This may very well shock you but I eat high protein low carb usually and my go to for anything from entertaining to lunch alone are seared vegetables in a cast iron skillet. You either need a large skillet (mine is 17″) or to do small batches. The vegetables cannot be on top of one another and each and every piece needs contact with the skillet. Ratio is about 1 bunch of asparagus (cut in thirds) to 3 bell peppers (cut into sticks) to 1/2 onion (red onion for color, cut latidunally from the root) to 2 cloves of garlic. It can be expanded and multiplied or shrunk. A little olive oil, a little balsamic (about 1 teaspoon of each), some cumin and chili powder or cayenne. Mix in BAB (that’s big ass bowl), let veggies come up to room temp, preheat skillet about 3-4 minutes and throw veg on. Let them sear very well on one side then toss a bit with tongs and they’re done. Also you should get a sous vide. You could prep all your meat for one week in 2 hours and be done with it. Also I don’t know exactly what kind of Asian you lean toward as of course it varies so dramatically but it would afford you the ability to contrast long stewed, tenderized meat with fresh barely cooked vegetables as is often a wonderful thing about Asian food. But instead of long stewing yourself, your sous vide will do it for you. You also have the ability to buy larger roasts or chickens and divide them into smaller meals. It’s a investment to get started as the sous vide is about $200, the tank is about $25, the vacuum sealer is $50-150, and the (yes BPA free) bags are $15 per box. But if you were to spreadsheet its cost when factored into lifestyle and nutrition you would see it’s worth every penny and more. If you have any questions I’m happy to answer as I still can’t believe sous vides are not in every kitchen.