Dinner for Two | Make It Special

A soup with chunky vegetables, a dollop of cottage cheese, and cheddar bread. Side salad.(vegetarian)
A soup with chunky vegetables, a dollop of cottage cheese, and cheddar bread. Side salad.(vegetarian) | Source
chicken breast, root vegetables (tzimmis) and pasta.
chicken breast, root vegetables (tzimmis) and pasta.

A "Novel" Approach

Cookbooks can be like novels.

They have interesting characters (ingredients), interesting plots (methods) and sometimes interesting outcomes (results).

The reviews can also be interesting.


Most days I cook for just the two of us, but I still always consider it a special occasion. I am not a chef, not a gourmet cook, just a cook.

When cooking for several people, it is usually a buffet type service or else "family style", with serving dishes being passed and people taking their own selected amount of each individual offering.

When cooking for two, I skip the serving dishes and fill both plates in the kitchen before bringing them to the table.

Planning meals with color and a variety of textures helps to make them healthfully nutritious.

I try to make the plates look attractive. Cooking is creative; it should be a focused and enjoyable pleasure.

The only problem is that cooking also involves cleaning up, and that is not as much fun. So when I cook-- which is almost every day, I try to keep it simple, so there's not so much to clean up.

Pieroges and pot roast with fresh sugar snap peas.
Pieroges and pot roast with fresh sugar snap peas.
Sauerkraut boiled potatoes and beef roulades. Culturally significant in our family
Sauerkraut boiled potatoes and beef roulades. Culturally significant in our family

Plate Pictures

My husband often admires his dinner for a second or two and then says "Did you take a picture of this?"

He has been saying that for years, so I finally decided to do just that.


After getting a digital camera recently, I decided it might be fun to take pictures.
It could be a good way to monitor our food-- and also give me something to flip through when I needed dinner ideas, or planned a shopping list.


I'm still doing something photographically wrong as to the lighting-- but these were not really meant for publication, initially.

Apricot glazed, roast chicken.
Apricot glazed, roast chicken.
Bad picture of good game hen.
Bad picture of good game hen.

Roast Chicken


Now and then whole chickens are on sale. If buy a five pound roasting chicken for less than five dollars I can make it go a long way. This one was glazed with apricot jam and soy sauce. Inside there were chopped apples, celery, onion, garlic and herbs.


The first dinner used slices from one side of the breast and thigh. After that there was plenty left for two sandwiches, a stir-fry chicken and vegetable dish, and--of course, a hearty soup.

Five dollars worth of chicken provides for the main part of at least four meals. I sometimes do a similar thing with Cornish hens-- also when they are on sale

Salmon with barley pilaf, snow peas and oranges.
Salmon with barley pilaf, snow peas and oranges.
Salmon with pasta and broccoli.
Salmon with pasta and broccoli.
Salmon with brown rice and aspara.gus
Salmon with brown rice and aspara.gus

Salmon

I try to have salmon at least once a week. My first choice is to find a center cut filet that is at least 3/4" thick, and of fairly equal thickness throughout the serving.

I place it in glass ovenware that has thick slices of onion and some olive oil in the bottom.

The onion rings serve as a rack to keep the fish from sticking to the pan. The piece of fish is placed on top of the onions, skin side down, sprinkled with olive oil or dabbed with butter, dusted with some dill, salt and pepper, (sometimes I use some lemon juice and or other seasonings).

The oven is set at a moderate temperature, and it takes about 20 minutes.

I test with a fork, to see if it "flakes". There are many other ways to cook fish. This one is easy, good and requires minimal cleanup.


I usually serve salmon with some kind of rice, pasta or grain and steamed fresh vegetable. Green ones go well with the color of salmon.

If it is on sale, I'll buy a big piece of salmon and use the cooked leftovers (planned overs) to toss in the green salad, or later to mix with celery and yogurt to make salmon-salad sandwiches.

Blurry and blah enchilatas and sides
Blurry and blah enchilatas and sides
Focused enchilatas and sides with garnishes.
Focused enchilatas and sides with garnishes.

Simple garnishes make food more appealing.

In fact, most plates look twice as appetizing when you do a little extra.


Adding a little color with an orange slice, a radish rose or a sprig of parsley can perk up a plate that might otherwise look bland.

We eat Mexican-style food fairly often. These dishes, though tasty and sometimes even a bit spicy, can be monochromatic in appearance.

In the examples shown, you can see that the top example is bland looking and disturbingly out of focus.

Adding a colorful garnish can sharpen up the look of the dish and somehow makes it taste even better. See my hints of using and keeping fresh parsley.

Romaine-- No bag. No chlorine. Any trimmings go in the compost pile or are fed to the chickens.
Romaine-- No bag. No chlorine. Any trimmings go in the compost pile or are fed to the chickens.
Everyday salad with tomato, garbanzos, olives and Asagio cheese.
Everyday salad with tomato, garbanzos, olives and Asagio cheese.
Panbroiled steak dinner, oven-roasted potatoes, mixed fresh vegetables ... and salad with avocado slices.
Panbroiled steak dinner, oven-roasted potatoes, mixed fresh vegetables ... and salad with avocado slices.

Salad Solutions

I usually have a fresh green salad with dinner. It's a good way to add vegetables, especially when the summer garden gets going. I used to use prepackaged salad greens, but have decided that the disadvantages may outweigh the advantages.

Advantages:
1. A variety of greens in one package. ( It makes an attractive-looking salad.)
2. The greens are pre-torn or chopped. (Less work.)

3. They are "pre-washed". (Again, less work-- but how does one really know.)

4. They are easy to keep in the refrigerator in their own little bag.


Disadvantages:
1. They may be wilted and "rusty ". Even if the package is dated as being fresh.

2. They may be rinsed in a dilute chlorine solution or fumigated with ozone.

3. Some of them actually recommend washing first (no work saved).

4. A modified atmosphere develops in the bags that helps the greens look fresher, because of a lack of oxygen (oxidation), but it can cause the development of off-odors and flavors. Volatile levels of compounds such as Ethanol and acetaldehyde increase after a few days.


5. And finally, some bagged greens have been recalled for serious contamination.

In addition to fresh greens, my salads usually include tomatoes, olives and a little cheese (Feta or Asagio). They also might have garbanzo beans, onion, artichoke hearts, avocado, or leftover (planned over) seafood bits.


I almost always use a homemade dressing of extra virgin olive oil and blood orange vinegar. Commercially prepared salad dressings can be the worst single thing we consume in their proportion of additives, preservatives and chemicals in our normal diet. I discussed distressing dressings in another hub linked here (click).

The quest for fresh.

As much as possible I try to use a variety of fresh foods, and there are a few ingredients I use often, such as those in my article about ingredients "beyond the basics", as seen here.

I still use some processed, and prepared foods, though fewer all the time. I think there are some good reasons for using and storing some packaged and canned foods, but finding fresher alternatives is always an ongoing quest.

More by this Author


Comments 38 comments

Teresa McGurk profile image

Teresa McGurk 7 years ago from The Other Bangor

I like salmon. And most other kinds of food. Except for sauerkraut, which, for some reason (didn't go with the Irish cabbage and bacon?) I can't take to. You make all this look easy and nutritious -- but where's the chocolate, Rochelle?


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 7 years ago from California Gold Country Author

I'm keeping the chocolate hidden, Teresa, because I thought  you might show up.

My sauerkraut is delicious-- even people who don't like sauerkraut, like it. It isn't too sour. It is rinsed and drained before I simmer it for hours with bacon, onion, apples, white wine, bay leaf, peppercorns and mustard seed.  A little Polish sausage tossed in doesn't hurt, either.


Glenn Frank profile image

Glenn Frank 7 years ago from Southern California

i can vouch for the sauerkraut. Kinda spoiled in that that is the sauerkraut I have known growing up, and sometimes other sauerkraut is just .... "nicht gut".


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 7 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Thanks Glenn, I doubt that my dear daughter-in -laws will ever try it, but they don't even like pickles. More for us.


Teresa McGurk profile image

Teresa McGurk 7 years ago from The Other Bangor

Ooh -- you're both right -- it sounds wonderful; nothing like I've been subjected to in the past! Sounds fragrant (can something sound "fragrant"?) and light -- hmmmm. I may just have to drive over there and beg some on your doorstep. . . .


LelahKimball profile image

LelahKimball 7 years ago from USA

I'm really hungry now, and I've just had dinner a couple of hours ago.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 7 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Teresa-- I wonder if I could FedEx some to you? Probably it would be considered Hazardous material if people judged it by their usual sauerkraut experience.

Thank you Lelah, I think this Hubmob topic might keep us all salivating all week.


Teresa McGurk profile image

Teresa McGurk 7 years ago from The Other Bangor

Yeah -- you might have to resort to UPS, instead.


Laughing Mom profile image

Laughing Mom 7 years ago

Gosh, Rochelle. After reading the hub and looking at these delicious dinners, I'd not ever call you "just a cook".

Can I get in on Lelah's direct ship deal?


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 7 years ago from California Gold Country Author

I'm a cook. I do it the easy way whenever possible.

As for shipping-- I might just have to use virtual shipping-- really anyone can do this. Maybe not rocket scientists, they have to measure everything.


Feline Prophet profile image

Feline Prophet 7 years ago from India

I love food hubs! And those dinners for two look very appetising...never mind the lighting! :)


DonnaCSmith profile image

DonnaCSmith 7 years ago from Central North Carolina

Thanks for those yummy looking ideas.


Jerilee Wei profile image

Jerilee Wei 7 years ago from United States

I like your perspective on cooking, and learned a couple of things reading this hub, like the clorine solution discussion. I'm afraid for me although I can do the canning, preserving, old fashioned recipes, and making wine stuff -- my meals can end up with a science fiction ending in my thinking, the minute I read the recipe -- well, that's never going to happen.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 7 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Feline--  I guess I should have said it was candle light.

Donna--  Sometimes finding the right idea is the hardest part.

Jerilee-- There has always seemed to be something different about that lettuce. I don't think they all are that way, but I'm tending to go back to the unpackaged kind. I'm afraid the produce department is starting to go the way of the meat counter-- More and more stuff is being wrapped in plastic, and has had something unnatural doe to it.


Iphigenia 7 years ago

They look delicious - nice to see a good veggie selection. I eat fish once or twice a month and the salmon with asparagus looks like one I will try.

Your photos are really good, food is notoriously hard to photograph and you done good with your new digital camera.


LondonGirl profile image

LondonGirl 7 years ago from London

what a wonderful hub!

Food that looks good always tastes better - I completely agree with you.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 7 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Thank you London Girl. Food necessarily has wide appeal.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 7 years ago from North America

Where do you get your cheese bread - no matter what type I have purchased, and no matter how much cheese I put into a recipe, the bread does not taste like cheese. I've only tried American and Cheddar - would a combination produce more flavor - maybe some Swiss or Parm-Reggiano added?


marisuewrites profile image

marisuewrites 7 years ago from USA

What great pics and meals. Can I come over?? I, too, am just a cook, but I think You've got me beat!! my stomach is growling!


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 7 years ago from California Gold Country Author

It's fun, Isn't it? but I do need somone to clean up.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 7 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Patty-- My favorite almost-purpose cheese is Tillamook extra sharp cheddar. It is made in Oregon and i remember visiting the place where they make it when I was a little kid.

I also like Asagio. I buy a wedge and grate it myself. I never buy pre grated-cheese any more. I think it has less flavor. And American-- no thanks, I can't taste that at all.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 7 years ago from North America

Thanks very much! I will try those types and grate it myself. Makes sense!


Christoph Reilly profile image

Christoph Reilly 7 years ago from St. Louis

And did you bring enough dinner for everyone, Rochelle! Sure looks like you did with all those beautiful servings. Now I'm hungry and it's midnight! Guess I'll have to wait until morning and make breakfast. Thanks for all the great ideas!


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 7 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Thanks, Christoph. I usually keep breakfasts fairly simple (like cereal and fruit). Lunch is often a little soup made from previous night's leftovers.


gwendymom profile image

gwendymom 7 years ago from Oklahoma

Wow Rochelle, your are multi talented. Will you adopt me?

I'm tired of cooking. I've been doing it so long that I just don't care too much anymore. Thank goodness my family has low dinner expectations. LOL.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 7 years ago from California Gold Country Author

I get tired of it sometimes, too, but I try to do a couple of things that can be "restyled" a couple of times a week-- plus one extra easy dinner. Eating out once a week is also usually a necessity.


Dottie1 profile image

Dottie1 7 years ago from MA, USA

I love the food pictures. Everything looks so appetizing. I'm with you on eating out once a week. It's nice to have someone else do the cooking!


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 7 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Thanks Dottie-- Yes, even though i enjoy it-- I could get burned out, too.


mayhmong profile image

mayhmong 7 years ago from North Carolina

I'm glad that you listened to your hubby and took pictures of these food! I wish that you were my mama and would cook something like this every night! Yum!


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 7 years ago from California Gold Country Author

I do OK-- but I don't usually plate it myself, if there are more than two of us.


Melody Lagrimas profile image

Melody Lagrimas 7 years ago from Philippines

Love your recipes, they simply look yummy and appealing.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 7 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Thank you, Melody.


RGraf profile image

RGraf 7 years ago from Wisconsin

I'm hungry now - thanks for making me want to get back into the kitchen.


Janet21 profile image

Janet21 7 years ago from New York

You say you are not a chef or gourmet cook, but I have to tell you that your finished dishes look much fancier than mine ever do. Your roasted chicken looks yummy! I love personal photos shared on hubs. Keep them coming. :)


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 7 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Still experimenting with the photos, since I haven't had my camera long. It's been fun. Thanks for the comment.


awsydney profile image

awsydney 7 years ago from Sydney, Australia

HI Rochelle, I love cooking and to claim that you're not a gourmet chef, you are doing very very well. I love salmon and thankfully, we get some of the freshest salmon here in Sydney, especially from Tasmania. I like to sear the fillet skin side down for about 8 minutes, it never burns and then flip it over once, the skin is fantastically crispy and all it needs is a little salt, cracked black pepper and lemon juice over it! Thanks for sharing your wonderful ideas here.


Tamarii2 profile image

Tamarii2 7 years ago from NEW YORK

Enjoyed reading your hub.I got hungry reading.Stopping now to snack.Very informative.Keep enjoying your journey writing.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 7 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Thank you Awsydny-- (I haven't revisited this one in awhile)

And thank you Tamarii2, too. Seems that my meals are a little simpler during the summer-- especially with eating all the garden produce, salads and such.

Now "cooking season" is about to start, when the weather cools and the kitchen warms up a bit.

Thanks for the comments.

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