Chat Leftovers Make Good Lunch

A bunch of questions from yesterday's What's Cooking chat was left remaining at the bottom of the pot, begging for attention. Below, a few to whet your appetite for leftovers.

Silver Spring, Md.:
I have two different friends who recently had babies, and I'd like to bring them a dish they can eat now or freeze and have later. It's not really lasagna weather, so I'm a little stumped. I'm looking for something without red meat or (lots of) mushrooms.

Upon reading this question, I immediately wondered, "How would the Fonzes respond?" Aka Sarah and Alfonso, the Fonzes are our former neighbors who became parents for the first time in February. True warriors though they are, they were grateful for any crumbs I sent their way during the first few months, when baby Aaron woke up at all hours of the night (We know first hand; the walls are that thin!). The idea of dinner at 7 faded fast, and culinary donations from friends such as yourself are coveted.

So you've got an audience that is sleep deprived but also hankering for something tasty. The less work required to get food into the mouth, the better. I wouldn't recommend a dish that needs assembling. Reheat or pull out of the fridge and eat is about as much as these poor souls can take on. I agree, it's not quite lasagna weather, but comfy and cozy should still be part of the equation. I might whip up a quick batch or two of hummus, which lends itself to sandwiches and the 'snack plate,' a perennial of Mister Mighty Appetite. This time of year, there's nothing more refreshing than a quick cup of gazpacho, which will keep in the fridge for about five days.
As you can see, I'm choosing meatless items for their longevity in the fridge. Look at the many ways you can whip up lentils and the little time it would take to make your pals a bowl of Asian-style seat-of-your-pants cold noodles. If meat is on your friends' wish list, I'd do a whole roasted chicken, that they can pick on throughout the week.

Finally, don't forget dessert. New parents need rewards and love, too. Consider a homey blueberry buckle or
equally cozy fruit cobbler, and right now, you've got peaches, cherries and blackberries to chose from. Yowza. Ah, yes. If you really love your friends, fix them a batch of granola because for new parents, breakfast is the most important meal of the day and somewhere in the 3 a.m. haze, it gets kicked to the curb.

Falls Church, Va.: Hi Kim, are there any cookbooks geared toward singles? Almost all the recipes in most cookbooks are for serving four people or more.

My question back to you is: Does this mean you don't like leftovers? A little extra in the pot means lunch the next day or dinner deja vu. If it's a time management issue or finding ways on making leftovers interesting, you may want to consider "Cooking for the Week" by Diane Morgan, Kathleen Taggart and Dan Taggart. But back to your original query. Yes, indeed, there are cookbooks for singles. My vote goes to "Solo Suppers" by Joyce Goldstein and "Cooking for Two: 120 Recipes for Every Day and Those Special Nights" by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough because you never know when you might want company. I've used Goldstein's other titles focusing on parts of the Mediterranean and Weinstein's ice cream and candy books, so I think you'd be in good hands.

While sleuthing around online, I came across two more titles that intrigue: "Vegan Cooking For One" by Leah Leneman and "Serves One: Simple Meals to Savor When You're on Your Own" by Toni Lydecker. I'm particularly interested in checking out the vegan title, as a vegan diet lends itself to solo venturing, particularly if your partner doesn't share the same palate.

North Carolina: Renting a house at the beach in July for a week with my extended family. Since we don't want to spend the week cooking, we are each going to bring the fixings for two dinners. I am thinking some sort of chicken enchiladas and then lamb for souvlaki. How do I do it? Do I cook everything and then freeze it? Cook the enchiladas but take the lamb raw? Can I freeze a marinade? How do I transport -- in a cooler with ice? Dry ice? And here's the kicker: It's also my daughter's first birthday, and I would like to find a recipe for a nice cake with natural ingredients. Any recipes? I'm thinking just plain whipped cream for frosting. Can I whip the cream at home and freeze that too? Ack!

I'd do a little homework first. How long is the drive to paradise? And what's available when you arrive in the way of grocery stores and markets? With that information squared away, you can make a game plan. If your drive is five hours or more, I would minimize perishables, particularly at this steamy time of year. A big cut of meat such as a leg of lamb I'd take in an uncooked, frozen state. And that brings me to another really important point about handling: Keep all meat products together, separated from all other non-meat perishables. Dry ice is the least messy option, but you may also want to explore some of the fancier insulated coolers and bags as extra protection. And please, do yourself a favor and refrain from freezing whipped cream for frosting. You'll be very sorry. If you're unsure about how well stocked the kitchen will be with tools and equipment, I'd pack an electric beater just in case, as well as your favorite knife and a large roasting pan.

Now it's your turn. Got advice for the single cook, the traveling gourmand or the nice friend of new parents? Share your luv in the comments area below.

By Kim ODonnel |  June 20, 2007; 10:07 AM ET Chat Leftovers , Family
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New Parent Dishes: Potato Salad, Macaroni Salad, Pasta Salad, or Macaroni and Cheese. Banana Pudding would be a nice dessert. For the Beach Goer: Fruit is always extra good at the beach, especially if you have been swimming in the ocean. Grapes, watermelon, pineapple, berries, etc. are great for a fruit salad that can be served with a meal or as snacks and don't take a lot of time to prepare. Does your vacation spot have a grill there? Grilled fish or steak are good too.

Posted by: Southern Gal | June 20, 2007 12:54 PM

Weight Watchers cookbooks are treasure troves of recipes in smaller quantities. Because their current food plans are structured in "points" values or "core" members are frequently searching for recipes with low points value. Smaller quantites equals smaller points values. So far, their recipes have never failed!

Posted by: Cooking for one | June 20, 2007 1:02 PM

I agree that many recipes are unsuitable for singles. It's not a matter of being opposed to leftovers. I don't mind having leftovers that I can take for lunch for a day or two, but many recipes yield 4 or 5 meals! I've had good luck with simply halving or even thirding many recipes to a suitable dinner plus one leftover lunch.

For baking, there's a cookbook I believe is called Baking for One (or Two) by the Cake Mix Doctor. The recipes include things like eggs by the teaspoon rather than whole eggs to make mini cakes, a half dozen batch of cookies, etc.

Posted by: Single in Silver Spring | June 20, 2007 2:20 PM

Frozen meals for summer. I have a stuffed pepper recipe from Cook's Illustrated that you pull from the freezer and bake (takes about an hour). I also have a recipe where you cube pork and season it with taco like seasoning and then saute with onion add a can of chopped toms simmer till cooked through. I freeze it and it is good when thawed, you might add corn bread that could go with it. Finally, my Cooking Ligth mag came yesterday and suggested that pulled pork freezes well. If you check your library for books like "once a month cooking" you will likely find some other summer options.

Posted by: late to the party | June 20, 2007 2:43 PM

The grocery store options will vary from beach to beach. Food Lion will probably be the "top of the line" store in most beach communities. Years ago when our kids were younger, I used to cook and freeze EVERYTHING. This included hamburgers, hot dogs, lasagna, etc. That way I could just "thaw and read." It always worked well.

I do suggest that you plan to buy fresh fish and seafood at the beach for at least a couple of meals.

Special bonus if you're headed to Emerald Isle: There is an unbelievably fantastic wine section at one of the convenience stores. The owner is also a developer who built a lot of the $5000 a week houses. He figured that if people could spend that much on rent that they'd probably also spend for wine. The store (sorry I don't remember the name) is on Highway 58 as you cross the bridge from the mainland into Emerald Isle, at the split with Coast Guard Road.

PS - Driving tip: The NC Highway Patrol is now using laser technology to catch speeders, especially in work zones so I suggest turning on your cruise control.

Posted by: holleahock | June 20, 2007 5:03 PM

For the toddler birthday cake, anything you make from scratch will be much healthier than a supermarket cake. I made a banana cake with cream cheese frosting for our son's first, carrot cake would be good too. Plain whipped cream is more likely to melt on you, and I don't know how well it would freeze. I would make the cake at home, freeze, and just whip up frosting when you get there--take a hand mixer along.
You could also just leave frosting off and serve with ice cream for the adults--your daughter won't know it's missing.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 20, 2007 7:14 PM

So, the North Carolina people are going to tote a weeks worth of dinner "fixings" to the beach? If it is enchiladas that you want, go to the local grocery store and buy the packages of already-cooked chicken (Purdue or Tysons, for example) and the fixins and make them fresh! It will taste so much better than frozen. Don't try to buy a weeks worth of groceries ahead of time, especially fresh produce. The initial overload to the fridge may not keep the contents at a cold-enough temperature for the first 24 hours. Find the local grocery store in the middle of the week and get fresh ingredients for the next couple of dinners. You and the others may have chaned your minds by then and you won't be stuck eating a pre-planned dinner that you would rather not eat. Like a previous post stated, seek out locally caught seafood. After all, you are at the beach (unless someone has a seafood allergy). For the birthday cake, a pineapple upsidedown cake is yummy and very easy to make. Most important of all, have fun and let the dice fall where they may.

Posted by: Mountain girl, myself | June 20, 2007 8:30 PM

For the Beach we take a crockpot. BBQ and taco meat went over really well. (Course I own about 6 of them, so they get used a lot here too)

And for the new couple: Appetizer-y things go over really well. They can be easily carried around and are gone in a few bites.

Posted by: JJ | June 20, 2007 8:45 PM

For the birthday cake, chocolate wafer cookies layered with whipped cream is easy as can be, and delicious. Another option, an ice cream cake from a local ice creamery.

Another suggestion for the single diner: Small Batch Baking by Debby Mangans Nakos. Believe she may be working on a dinner cookbook as well.

I haven't had a lot of luck with cookbooks for one or two. I'd rather stick with tried and true recipes and downsize or freeze the rest. Here's a recipe for lettuce wraps that goes together easily, is open to variation, and will last in the fridge for a few days:
Wonder if this would be a good pick for the new parents too?

Posted by: rose | June 21, 2007 6:42 AM

When we rented a beach house for the summer last year, I went to Thyme Out - one of those assembly cooking places - and made meals for the week. It's already packaged and ready to go and we just put it all on dry ice for the drive down.

Posted by: Cooking at the beach | June 21, 2007 8:36 AM

I'd suggest a cool quinoa dish for the new parents. Quinoa is super healthy and has more protein than most grains. I like to make a couple cups of quinoa, chill it, mix it with some fresh basil and parsley, feta cheese, roasted cashews, grapes (cut in half) and dress with olive oil and lemon juice. Yum! And it lasts in the fridge for a few days.

Posted by: Amanda | June 21, 2007 10:05 AM

For the new parents, please remember to avoid any cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, kale, etc.) since it often gives breastfed babies terrible gas.

Posted by: One parent who still remembers the chicken-broccoli casserole with a newborn | June 21, 2007 3:49 PM

New Parents - A few weeks back Kim did a Jamaican Meat Patties recipe. I made several bunches (using ground turkey) and froze them. When I prepare them I take them from the freezer to a prehated 425 degree oven and bake on my pizza stone for about 15 minutes. This might be nice for the new parents. It would go well with a sweet potato casserole that could come out of the freezer as well.

Posted by: late to the party | June 21, 2007 7:26 PM

There's nothing wrong with lasagne in the summer time. Think about making it veggie instead of using ground meat. It will still be hearty, but less heavy.

Who says you have to celebrate your toddler's birthday with cake? Make a birthday cobbler with fresh fruit and serve ice cream. If you have to have cake for the candle, buy a cupcake at the local bakery.

Posted by: LisaLuvs2Cook | June 25, 2007 12:10 PM

For recipes for singles check out *3 minute* meals for one person. how easy is that?!

Posted by: Jessica | June 26, 2007 4:37 PM

For singles cooking, there's a terrific Williams-Sonoma book that seems (sadly) to have gone out of print, but is still available on Amazon ( It's called Cooking for Yourself, and it's worth to try to track down a copy. The recipes are fantastic and easy, and got me through many a singleton night before I met my husband. In fact, I liked the book so much that not only have I made almost every recipe in there, but even now I often double those recipes so my husband can enjoy them too!

Posted by: Groggie | June 29, 2007 9:27 AM

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