February 11, 2014 at 4:50 pm

Maureen Tisdale

Let's Talk Food: One-ingredient, two-dish ideas

Fajita meatballs got made the same week as Italian meatball soup. What are your coordinated menu ideas? (Maureen Tisdale / The Detroit News)

Part of the time my friend Amy and I chatted during our awesome, food-filled weekend I told you about was while I was baking apples, mixing my son’s yogurt, making turkey and rice for my husband and purple potatoes for me. Amy said all this batch-cooking reminded her of a friend who every Sunday put one dish in the oven, one on the stovetop and one in the slow-cooker to have three meals on hand going into the week.

That reminded me I wanted to get back to telling you about how my friend Jessica does her food prep.

You might remember Jessica from the Let’s Talk Food on Ziplist — she and her husband Kirk turned me on to that website and app, which lets you select or input a recipe and coordinate grocery lists for the needed ingredients. Months later, it has become a regular part of my life.

Jessica, to me, is an uber-mom. She gets up 4 or 4:30 a.m. most mornings (“how else do people get stuff done?” she asked — I so relate!), squeezes in workouts three times a week and works full time outside the home on top of being a mom. Yet she and Kirk, who also works full time, prioritize having family dinners together and real, from-scratch cooking.

I admire those priorities — and I know they come with a pricetag. I wanted to have kids for years and love being a mom, but I didn’t — couldn’t — anticipate the exhaustion that comes along with this way of life, and I find cooking a way to regroup.

Jessica and I relate on this point.

“When you’re crazy busy up early and collapse into bed, it’s easy to focus on the negative. I think cooking is therapeutic,” she said, citing the repetitive motions and creating new things. “With cooking you get to express yourself in a different way. People who can’t sing, can’t draw can create different things.

“And you get feedback. So it makes sense.”

So Jessica batch-cooks regularly on weekends. She usually makes three dinner meals a week, doubling the recipes where needed — typically two in the morning on Sunday, one at night on Sunday for dinner. Some gets frozen for later in the week.

The morning I visited, Jessica had found two different meatball recipes — fajita meatballs and Italian meatball soup — and decided to plan around those.

As she put the meatballs for both recipes in the oven, Jessica explained: “I am always cooking two recipes at the same time, so I find things I do together. … But we’re not just having meatballs, one’s in a soup. Soups are fast.”

A few things interested me in Jessica’s methods. One of the biggest was her dual use of ingredients, which I think is so smart; in fact, it can be a factor in how I choose recipes to appear in Eats & Drinks (sometimes I’ll coordinate a page by a common ingredient, or if there’s an unusual ingredient in one recipe, I’ll try to find another featuring that item so a reader can have more than one reason for purchasing that ingredient).

Kate goes that way, too, at times; for example, she featured homemade ricotta in her Simply the Best column the same week it was a necessary ingredient in the Lentil Ricotta Meatballs in her main meatball story.

And meatballs aren’t the only example Jessica offered me of coordinating cooking around similar ingredients. When I was there, they had a ton of apples on hand from going picking and being given some after having already bought some. So they had a bunch of apple recipes to make that week; you may remember I shared the German Apple Pancake Kirk was making right after the visit, and other plans included apple crisp, apple bread and raspberry apple jam, some for themselves, some to share.

Jessica also cited the below, all of which you can find searching Ziplist.com (sometimes there are more than one option by recipe title, so Jessica gave the authors, too):

■Cheesy Tomato Quinoa Casserole (Cooking Quinoa) and Chicken Enchilada Quinoa Bake (Prevention RD)

■Cauliflower tots (Skinnytaste — her two boys, she said, “ate these like they were the only thing left on Earth to eat”) and Cauliflower BBQ Chicken Pizza (Closet Cooking — “best to eat on the same day you cook it”)

■Curried Roasted Butternut Squash Soup (Kitchen Confidante) and Butternut Squash Enchiladas (Skinnytaste)

The way life has of running away with time made me forget for a while about trying Jessica’s one-ingredient-two-dishes methods (and recipes) myself, but revisiting them has got my brain cooking a bit.

Do you have any one-ingredient-two-dish ideas to share?
We’d love to hear about them in the comments below. You need a Facebook account to add comments, but they’re easy to sign up for, and free. Over the next few days, Detroit News Food Editor Maureen Tisdale will respond to comments or questions. You also can follow her on Twitter @reentiz. Join the discussion!

My friend Jessica popped two different types of meatballs in the oven the ... (Maureen Tisdale / The Detroit News)