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New Step-Mom & picky eaters: What's for dinner?

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I'm recently wed to a wonderful man and his two sons. I can't say that the boys are the picky eaters when my dear husband is loathe to eat a vegetable. (So much for the "eat your veggies or no dessert" routine.) Years of bachelor foraging have taken their toll on this lot. I'm committed to cooking two healthy and complete meals per week for the four of us. What would you recommend for the menu?

My successes have included:
Pasta with basic marinara and meatballs (with optional cheese sauce for one)
Grilled steak, hamburger and hot dogs
Build your own soft taco night
Fruit salad -- my go to "they like it and it's good for 'em" option
Garlic toast
Sour cream ranch dip -- consumed like candy, but it's a dairy, right? I fool them with low-fat sour cream
Potato chips (haning head in shame)
Corn
Corn bread

Things that have been too weird for at least one out of three men at my dining room table:
Chicken: roasted, fried, baked, grilled, souped, BBQ'd, etc. (This makes me very sad.)
Fish
Celery and carrot sticks with aforementioned ranch dip
Baked pasta/sauce/cheese combo
Roast beef
Soup in most forms
Green beans, carrots, broccoli, potatoes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, etc.

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  1. Try to work in some pork there, so they aren't getting all of their protein from red meat. Pork chops would work (I really like Marcella Hazan's pork chops braised in tomatoes with sage) or a pork tenderloin.

    Will they eat turkey? You could try roasting a turkey breast or make a turkey meatloaf (I really like the Barefoot Contessa's turkey meatloaf).

    4 Replies
    1. re: Megiac

      Pork is considered a red meat.

      1. re: andreas

        I don't think that's true, but regardless of semantics, pork has more of its fat on the outside and therefore the fat can be trimmed off more readily than with beef, so well-trimmed pork can be lower in fat than other types of non-poultry meat. But if OP is trying to broaden her step-kids' horizons, anything that's not on her original list of things they eat should contribute to that goal.

        1. re: andreas

          THere used to be commercials with the slogan "Pork, the other WHITE meat"

          1. re: jes

            Possibly the industry's marketing is not the best source of accurate information? ;) I have read both white and red.

            What about smoked turkey?

      2. Bit of a lost cause if the guys basically do not and will not eat vegetables. My only suggestion would be pasta sauces that combine ground meat and lots of vegetables.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

          Right on. I'm not a fan of disguised food in theory, but if I suddenly became responsible for a bunch of picky eaters, I'd be sneaking in lots of vegetables into the sauce and pureeing it in the blender.

        2. Wow. That sounds pretty challenging.

          What about "build your own pizza" with homemade or store-bought dough or pitas?

          How about rice? Maybe breakfast foods for dinner? Eggs, etc?

          (as a side note: do you make separate meals for yourself? I can't imagine not eating chicken, potatoes, tomatoes, etc!!!)

          1 Reply
          1. re: marthadumptruck

            It depends. Twice a week we have a home-cooked, sit-down meal together. Some nights they eat at their mom's house after school (although that's mostly fast-food snacks, and they always want more to eat later). Some nights my husband does the short-order chef routine. Of late that's boxed mac and cheese for one and a frozen pizza for the other. I remind myself that even two sit-down meals a week is a big change for these guys. I'm hopeful. As for me, I eat as much ethnic food as I can find during the week for lunch at work.

          2. I think that first you must realize, and make them realize, that you are not a short- order cook, and that everyone will be served the same meal. You dont mention ages, but if they are young you may be able to get them to eat right; if older, they will survive. Serve a regular, well balanced meal. If someone says"I dont like chicken", tell them he doesn't have to eat it. As for veggies, it is sometimes necessary to resort to dip;blend in cottage cheese to lessen the fat, up the protein. Steam broc florets a minute or 2 and chill. Also, cuke spears and caulflower often do well. For cooked vegs, a little cheese sauce (even better, grated cheese sprinkled on), might help.
            I'm a big believer in herbs. One of my picky eaters found she couldn't get enough steamed green beans when they were tossed with butter with savory.
            Have a private talk w'ith Hubby and ask him to Please not make a big thing about food dislikes. Most everyone has 1 or 2 but Gee! One rule at my house was, you must take a taste, you can't veto something because of color,reputation or because "I just Know I won't like that!" Good luck, keep at it, remember your future daughters- in- law will thank you!

            2 Replies
            1. re: genie

              To my husband's credit, he has been a great ally in the cause. He even choked down SIX GREEN BEANS Sunday night when I announced that it would make me happy if every man at the table would eat at least one. This has been another lesson. I still serve green, but I have greatly reduced the amount I prepare. There will be great rejoicing in Kansas if I ever have to forego my veggies because someone else at the table beat me to them.

              1. re: genie

                AMEN! from this mother of five/grandmother of 17. Wiser words than Genie's were never written.

                But do remember, Larkspur, that children have far more taste buds PSI than grownups, and something that tastes just right to you can be intolerably spicy for them. This is why, back in the days when most every household had at least three generations of family members at meals, there was always an asst. of condiments on the table. As Marion Cunningham writes in the "Fringe Dishes" chapter of her wonderful little "Supper Book",

                "The old-fashioned way of rounding out flavors at table was to serve relishes and pickles with simple dishes, rather than adding many tastes and textures to a dish."

                There are so many good ready-made condiments on the market these days--Chipotle Tabasco, salsas, jerk sauces, seasoning blends/salts, etc.--that it's easy to add zest or heat to a simple basic casserole/stew/veggie dish right at the table.

                (I'm always recommending Penzey's Fox Point seasoning salt: shallots/chives/sea salt/garlic/onion/green peppercorn. Delicate, versatile, lovely on veggies/chicken/fish, most anything.)

              2. Fussy eaters can be very difficult but I think at this point not making a big deal of it is important. We have had some very fussy eaters and one thing that sometimes helps is to get them in the kitchen with you. Maybe making potato chips in the oven would be fun for them and they might eat them if they made them. I wouldn't begin with anything too far away from what they already like.

                I sometimes include shredded carrot in spaghetti sauce but with this crowd you'll want to be sure it's completely lost in the sauce.

                I usually tried to make sure there was something on the table that everyone would like but would not stop making chicken, for instance, if one or two didn't like it. Everyone knew they could make a sandwich for supper and that it was just fine. I was careful to make sure they knew no one was upset about it. This approach kept things much less stressful for all of us, really, and took the weight out of food as an issue, if you know what I mean.

                We have a friend whose son ate little more than spaghetti and cheeseburgers for years. YEARS! He's surviving and in retrospect, I think his parents were wise to remain calm about it all.
                The funny thing is that as they get older and eat at friends homes they'll try new things and then come home and say " Tommy's mom made these great spicy sweet potato fries. You ought to get her recipe." Then you bite your tongue, count to 10 and say, "Great idea! I will!"

                Good luck, and as has been said, don't give up what you like, just try to be sure everyone gets something they like most of the time. If they choose to make a pb&j 5 nights a week, so be it.

                21 Replies
                1. re: xena

                  I have to say that Xena's outlook and suggestions are smart. There's partly a "you eat what you get" message mixed with "let's get along"! :) To build off of trying to make sure there was something on the table that everyone likes... how about a "make your own sandwich" night? I'm thinking along the lines of the meats/cheese/fixings you know they like and adding in vegetables you know they like. Couple that with a few new ingredients at a time, and there could be some new-found food they would all like. You also wouldn't suffer because you could add what you enjoy to the mix. Couple that with a fruit salad, and you have a meal.

                  1. re: xena

                    as the stepmom of a chronically picky eater, i have to chortle and snort at this whole subject. why is it that the "picky" eater is never partial to anything but crappy factory food and chemical flavors? where is the "picky" kid who will only eat organic, range-fed and home-cooked? seems like a euphemistic way to say "gastronomically retarded." i have to disagree with the argument that their taste buds are OVER developed; if that were the case they would gag on the junk they eat.

                    1. re: bodacious

                      They do exist but the term for these children and adults is food snob I think. My son doesn't eat "flat cheese" or McDonaalds and he hates Man N Cheese.
                      Picky yes but in a good way.

                      1. re: bolivianita

                        I was sooo that picky kid. I hated Fish sticks I wanted "grown up" fish. Hated Kraft Dinner, and wouldn't eat soup that came from a can. It was tough because my Mum wasn't a foodie and my sibs ate all that crap. I took over the kitchen when I was 11 and introd the fam to things like *gasp* stir-fries and spinach salad. My Mum was pretty happy that she didn't have to make dinner when she got home from work but I always asked for such "odd" ingredients to be bought. LOL looking back it's soo funny. :)

                        1. re: bolivianita

                          Wow...Man & Cheese? I'm not a big fan of that, either, not being a cannibal and all...

                          ;->

                        2. re: bodacious

                          Woohoo, Bodacious! Feel better? As the mom of 5 and grandmom of 17 (ages 7-22) I can chuckle in agreement with at least one thing you say: that when kids are accustomed to "crappy factory food", real food tastes strange to them.

                          When I was visiting a daughter in FL, I one afternoon stirred up a batch of delicious homemade chocolate pudding--his favorite thing in the world-- for my 12 year-old grandson. Fine chocolate, fresh eggs, pure vanilla, whole milk, butter. He came home from school and I proudly gave him a cup of it for his snack. He ate a bite and his face fell. I said, "Don't you like it???", and he replied apologetically, "It just doesn't taste like real pudding--Jello".

                          I just laughed and said, "No; THAT is real pudding. Jello is imitation pudding. But never mind; that means more real pudding for us grownups".

                          But that he wasn't sound on pudding doesn't mean he's been raised on crap. His mother, like all my children and their spouses--and me and my mother and grandmother--were/are excellent cooks and careful and knowledgable about nutrition . His mother--maybe the most conscientious and innovative cook in the family-- has obviously not considered homemade chocolate pudding a priority. He's tasted the Jello kind at friends' houses and liked it, the little cups are convenient and probably as nutritious as homemade, so big deal.

                          Of course most kids are "gastronomically retarded". They're kids. They are also sartorially retarded, literarily retarded, musically retarded, attention span-retarded, tidiness-retarded. And no one said their taste buds are "overdeveloped"; they are underdeveloped: tender, highly sensitive and unfamiliar with many textures/flavors.

                          That's why babies can gobble up that execrable "baby cereal" that's nothing but flour/water paste, apparently find something tasty about it. That's why young children--and I've seen this many times--will literally gag at a bite of some foods. (I'll never forget the resulting explosion when I fed a 4 year old a tiny soft oyster from my delicious milky oyster stew). And that was not psychosomatic or learned or punitive, it was a physical reflex to something shockingly alien in the taste or feel of that food.

                          And to try to force it on them prematurely is the surest way I know to make them dislike it--and probably you--forever after.

                          I'm a Depression Baby; it was "Eat what's put before you and be grateful for it" at my house growing up and I reared my kids pretty much the same way. (With a little more flexibility--more on the table to choose from--because I could afford it whereas my mother could not.) But my mother certainly tried to please the people she was cooking for; any normal mother does.

                          I feel for Larkspur as she tries to figure out how to make an existing three-person family into a functional, happy four-person one. And I don't think she could pick a better instrument for trying to bring that about than family meals. Food is about as crucial to the individual and collective life of a family as anything in the world. If family meals are pleasant experiences, chances are everything else at home is working.

                          Maybe her stepsons--and husband--are accustomed to chemical crap. That's not her fault and she's not going to change them overnight or without a lot of careful planning and diplomacy. But maybe bad food habits are not the whole problem; maybe the picky eating is the kids' way of venting about this big change in their lives--a new stepmom.

                          My youngest child, then and now the sweetest, most amiable, sensible, reasonable, healthy, active, competent, beloved-by-everyone child who ever lived, was the most incredibly picky eater of my five until she was in her mid-teens, at which time it changed almost overnight. I've thought about this a lot in the years since, and I've concluded that food-pickiness just might be the way a good, compliant child can assert his individualism and independence without rocking the family boat too much--a small subconscious statement that, "I'm me and not everyone else". Does this make sense?

                          (In which case the solution is to teach them how to make themselves a peanut butter sandwich :o)

                          Anyway, I applaud Larkspur for her courage in undertaking a job that must be fraught with uncertainty and anxiety, her consideration for her new family, her initiative in asking for help.

                          1. re: PhoebeB

                            Right on, Phoebe. What a great post!

                            1. re: PhoebeB

                              I really enjoyed that too! And in response to the earlier post, not all picky eaters are conditioned to like processed food. In my case, my I hated most processed food, and in fact my childhood vegetable phobia was brought on by being served vegetable soup out of a can in pre-school. As a kid growing up in the '70s and '80s my mother was the only parent I know of who shopped almost exclusively in health food stores and delis that made their cold cuts and breads in house. And she wasn't a hippy in the least bit! I used to dread my friends' birthday parties that were held at McDonald's because I absolutely couldn't stand McDonald's...I did however like Popeye's chicken, go figure.

                              1. re: ballulah

                                I've hated most fast food for a long time, especially McDonald's, but I also enjoy Popeye's. I still think Popeye's is way better than most fast food... especially the spicy chicken :)

                                1. re: ballulah

                                  Have you ever tasted Popeye's red beans & rice? I've tried for years to make that dish as well as they do and I haven't. Smoky, creamy, perfect, my ideal.

                                  Their dirty rice (Cajun rice, do they call it?) is a great disappointment to anyone who's tasted real dirty rice, but O those red beans!

                                  1. re: PhoebeB

                                    It's easy to replicate Popeye's beans...it just takes some lard (bacon grease will do). To achieve that degree of creaminess, you need to add an astonishing amount of fat. 19 grams per serving, to be exact (340 calories per individ. portion).

                                    1. re: Hungry Celeste

                                      Celeste, aha! I have beautiful rendered leaf lard in the freezer, but I think I'll try the bacon drippings first. My biggest hurdle has been Popeye's great smoky flavor, but maybe enough smoked bacon drippings would kill both birds with one stone. I'll try it and THANKS!!!

                                      Help me with how much of the drippings to add to a cooked pound of the beans. Half-cup?

                                      1. re: PhoebeB

                                        The amount depends on the smokiness of the bacon...some brands are smokier than others. Start by sauteeing onions, celery, and green pepper in 1/4 bacon grease, along with some diced pickled pork AKA "pickled tips" (or salted pork if you can't find pickled), then add your beans & liquid & bay leaf. Simmer until the beans are tender, then mash lightly, taste, and add more melted bacon grease until the beans reach the desired state of creaminess.

                                        Some people use butter, but I like pork fat better.

                                        1. re: Hungry Celeste

                                          If this works, I'm putting you in my will--for what that's worth :o(

                                      2. re: Hungry Celeste

                                        I make red beans and rice every other Monday (I'm a New Orleans girl) and the secret to getting creamy beans is easy (and doesn't waste all of those calories!). About a half an hour before serving, just take some of the beans (maybe about a 1/2 cup, depending on how much you're cooking) out of the pot and smush(sp) them in a bowl and then add them back to the beans. It makes the beans very thick and creamy. I've never had to put lard or bacon grease in my beans. Also, the longer you cook them the creamier they get. I start my beans at around 10 a.m. to have them ready for dinner. That's why I only cook them every other week! I just cook enough to last for 2 weeks. They freeze really well!

                                        1. re: gginnola

                                          I've tried the long cooking and smash-part-of-the-beans technique and while very good, still not Popeye's. There's a smooth creaminess I simply can't replicate. Maybe I should cook them down still longer.

                                          But as I said, that's the lesser of two problems: it's that wonderful smoky flavor that eludes me. I suspect it's just some kind of smoke seasoning rather than honest smoke flavor from really excellent smoked meat, but whatever it is it sure is good.

                                          Celeste's advice makes sense to me because I know that good Tex-Mex restaurants' divine refritos get that way by "refrito-ing" them in lard--one big reason I render leaf lard I'm lucky enough to get from a local slaughterhouse/butcher.

                                          1. re: PhoebeB

                                            The smokiness probably comes from the sausage and the ham seasoning that is used. I use both in my beans. I use any Louisiana brand smoked sausage, but I'm sure that any smoked sausage from your area would work. I lived in Virginia for a few months after Katrina and I was able to use the smoked sausage that I found up there. I saute the ham and sausage with my onions and other seasonings before adding to the beans. We do like Popeye's beans though. It's quick and I don't have to cook all day!

                                            1. re: PhoebeB

                                              Order some tasso from the Best Stop supermarket....http://www.thebeststopsupermarket.com/
                                              Your beans will be better than Popeyes!

                                              1. re: Hungry Celeste

                                                I've heard Tasso might be the key. I'll try it.

                                    2. re: PhoebeB

                                      PhoebeB, I loved your post, too, and couldn't agree more with what you said about a compliant child needing to find a safe means of expression. We experienced that here, too, and food was the outlet.

                                      Larkspur is wise and kind to care about opening up the food lives of her new family (and not giving up good foods herself!) while proceeding cautiously. There are no winners in a power struggle centered around food, particularly in a step-family, and she must also deal with the fact that an attempt to change their eating habits can be seen by them as criticism of their mother.
                                      I think Larkspur's sensitivity and desire for the best for all will win the day but it can be a bumpy ride.

                                      Larkspur, I *loved* your idea to take them to the farmers market and let them choose something to eat. How did that go?
                                      It's also not a bad idea to enlist your husband's help in ways like having him prepare a new dish for supper one night so that it's not all "New Step-Mom, New Rules". Also, he could make a meal request in front of the kids so that it's his idea once in a while, not just yours. No matter how much they love you resentments can creep in and it's nice if you can minimize that from the get go. From one step-mom to another I wish you all the best!

                                      1. re: xena

                                        Larkspur, I urge you to needlepoint on pillows two things Xena says:

                                        (1) "There are no winners in a power struggle centered around food, particularly in a step-family, and she must also deal with the fact that an attempt to change their eating habits can be seen by them as criticism of their mother."

                                        (2) ".....enlist your husband's help..."

                                        Boys the ages of yours are not impressed with anything they see as "a girl thing". They will at least try almost ANYTHING they see their fathers obviously enjoy.

                                2. My suggestion is to just keep trying to feed them different vegetables and cook them in various ways. My soon to be 30 yr old brother never ate veggies until last month when he discovered edamame.

                                  1. what about tofu as an alternative protein source? and maybe you could try some dishes from various parts of the world. Fried rice, for instance, is really easy to make and you can sneak all sorts of veggies in there and add some meat/tofu or egg for protein.
                                    How do they feel about various lettuces and greens? You could do a night of big "meal sized" salads, with strips of steak over them. I know a few vegetable haters who nevertheless love a big pile of romaine or spinach. And you can always put ranch dressing on salads!
                                    Are you somewhere where you can grill? Everything tastes better off a grill, right? You could do strips of eggplant, peppers, onions, etc...

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: rds246

                                      if you want to add tofu, you could try alton brown's moo-less chocolate pie. let them eat it and then tell them it had tofu. or just never tell them.

                                      http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/recip...

                                      oh, even better, they GET to eat the chocolate pie if they finish their 6 string beans or wahtever. hahaha.

                                      actually I am in a relationship with a person who is a "supertaster", which is basically someone who is overly sensitive to bitter/spicy tasting foods because they have too many tastebuds or whatever. anyway, apparently kids are also sensitive to bitterness for the same reason so that is why they shy away from many veggies and so they have to be gussied up with salt, sugar or fat to be palatable. However, this does not excuse the Thanksgiving turkey leg incident, and good thing grandma laid down the law. *clap*

                                    2. What about a "make your own dinner darnit" night.
                                      More seriously though maybe involing them in the shopping, preparation or cooking of the meal might help...and this includes Dad.

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: bolivianita

                                        I love "Make Your Own Dinner Darnit"! That is worth pursuing.

                                        I have thought about rounding everyone up for the Saturday morning farmer's market. It's quite a do with live music and lots of vendors. Maybe they would be more inclined to try things that they picked out from the farmer's themselves.

                                        1. re: larkspurKC

                                          I think "make your own" and the farmer's market are excellent ideas. These guys aren't thinking of shopping/cooking/eating as an enjoyable activity, but you can show them the way. Give 'em all some cash, let 'em pick out whatever they want, and then make a meal of the parts (no matter how mismatched or odd). They need to feel some ownership of their mealtimes, as well as some engagement with food production to realize that it's more than what appears on their plates.

                                          Any chance of planting a small backyard garden? Even a few tomato plants in pots can make a big impact...cherry tomatoes, or romas that they can tend, then harvest and make into ketchup for fries.

                                          And start taking them out for ethnic food...if they see lots of other people eating "weird" things, they just might try some, too. I've had great success with kids & all sorts of "strange" food with the promise that if they don't like what they order, they can choose something else on the way home. Takes off all the pressure, and they're free to investigate and enjoy without worrying about being hungry or having to finish up something they really don't like.

                                          Good luck...it can be done, but it takes patience. My merguez-eating, thai-manaical better half wouldn't eat onions when we first met 15 years ago. He subsisted on Popeye's chicken and boxed mac-n-cheese, but now he wants pho for breakfast every Saturday. He still won't tend the garden, but he finally knows the difference between corn & sugarcane growing in the field.

                                          1. re: Hungry Celeste

                                            omg if you do get a tomato plant, you gotta try this one orange cherry tomato called Sungold. it's really sweet and I knew it was good when my veggie hating SO sat on the ground and stripped the plant clean. The Sungold plant is extremely productive too (huge plant), there must have been like a hundred ripe ones that day.

                                            1. re: choctastic

                                              I was just thinking about tomatoes in relation to the fact that they prefer fruit to veggies. Actually, I do too, and I love tomatoes. I would just amp up the fruits, and see about emphasizing savory fruits like tomatoes. I am a supertaster, btw--so great to finally find out why other people were able to drink grapefruit juice and I couldn't!

                                      2. how about lo mein? quesadillas? ribs? have you tried lamb?
                                        also, how about cooking up a spaghetti squash- but not revealing what it is, as they'll think it's pasta. my husband loves when I make it!
                                        breakfast for dinner is great if they like breakfast foods!

                                        1. You're on the right track with the "build your own" soft tacos. My kids aren't picky eaters (thank God!) but they do especially love anything that they can personalize. We occasionally do a "build your own" salad night, with a mini salad bar on the table. You can have strips of steak, roasted chicken, lots of veggies, chickpeas, and other things for them to choose from. We do a similar thing with baked potatoes, so we put broccoli in cheese sauce, chili, salsa, and a variety of other toppers on the table. Another chowhound suggested personal pizzas, which we also do. There are also soups, like Vietnamese pho, that each diner can personalize to their liking. Maybe you could also make omelets one night, with each choosing their own filling. Giving them a feeling of control over what they're eating, even if they're all eating the same basic meal, really helps with getting kids to try new things. Good luck!

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: AmyH

                                            This seems to be a winner at our table. As long as there are enough options with a dish, everyone seems to be happy. And I am adapting to the theory that "this is what's for dinner, eat what you will, but value this time together around the table." Last night I served BLTs, corn on the cob (I brazenly abandoned the chip!), assorted pickles and olives, and the ever present fruit salad. They ate, not what I thought they would, but they ate.

                                          2. A friend's daughter was a notoriously picky eater. As I spend lots of weekends with them, and am usually the chief cook, it was really frustrating to watch her eat frozen ravioli yet again, while we ate healthy, balanced, and, if I may say so, delicious meals. When I discovered that she liked brightly flavored, even spicey food, some doors started to open.

                                            Vegetables that she'd usually not touch would get eaten if I tossed them with pesto. Alu gobi, Indian cauliflower and potatoes, was a hit.

                                            We'd grill plain chicken breasts (doesn't sound like an option for you), and I'd make three different dipping sauces. A soy/honey/chipotle blend was a big winner. As was the aforementioned pesto. Even fun for us grownups. I also learned that she'd at least try a dish that she "didn't like," if it was beautifully presented. Chicken breasts were fine, but she wouldn't touch roast chicken...until I waltzed into the dining room with Zuni Roast Chicken, atop a big, beautiful bread salad. She didn't eat a lot, but wanted to sample it, and did eat what she'd put on her plate. When I made Ina Garten's roasted vegetable torte, she took pictures, and tasted the dreaded pepper/eggplant/zucchini combo.

                                            She's a teenager now, still somewhat picky, but with a greatly expanded palate. And a willingness to try things she used to shun. She even likes to get in the kitchen from time to time, and help cook. Last summer she planned and cooked, with measuring guidance only for the most part, her own dinner menu. Ina again. Nicely balanced, for both nutrition and flavor.

                                            Guess I'm saying there's always hope. And read between their lines. It's hard for those of us who are adventurous eaters to understand those who aren't. Be patient and keep trying. Good luck...especially getting good nutrition into the boys.

                                            1. okay...they like hamburgers, they like meatballs...what about a plain meatloaf served with both tomato sauce and brown gravy on the side, with plain spaghetti and plain (even boxed) mashed potatoes...a build your own concept/theme...and cole slaw made with ranch-style dressing with some peanuts on top...carrot cake (call it a spice cake) with a cream cheese frosting

                                              baked bologna...just a giant hot dog

                                              mac and cheese

                                              asian-style cold sesame/peanut butter noodles

                                              various types of tempura...meat, shrimp and veggie

                                              grilled cheese and bacon sammies

                                              build your own personal pizzas with a variety of toppings, including pineapple chunks

                                              mexican layered salad with scoops

                                              just take what you know they eat and stretch them, don't break them just yet...you may discover even just one or two new things they'll eat, then build on that

                                              if not, pb&j them ino submission!

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: kleinfortlee

                                                Ok...so growing up I was a very, very, VERY picky kid. I'm still a rather picky eater - there are things that I just won't eat. Anyways, when I was growing up (only about 10 years ago!) the rule was what was for dinner WAS what was for dinner and that was that I hate fish, but I always choked down my salmon. I can't eat brocolli (it produces a gag reflex that is just horrible) and I always ate a small piece of brocolli cheese pie. Basically, in my family it was a matter of respect. My stepmom had worked very hard to make a meal for the entire family so I needed to eat it.

                                                I know it sounds like tough love, but I agree with the poster who suggested you talk with your husband about the issue. These kids maybe picky, but they also need to eat. They may not like it, but hey...that's life. Believe me, they'll forgive you - I promise! ;)

                                              2. just thought of "impossible pies" using bisquick...you could really vary what ingredients to use...they're fun, fast, and easy to sneek stuff into (just chop things up into little pieces, and don't tell what's in them...just say it's impossible!)

                                                1. Welcome to my life.

                                                  My step kids won't eat my chicken 'cos it doesn't "look" like chicken..**insert eye roll**

                                                  In their home, chicken is crumbed, shaped like a square and comes out of a box.

                                                  They live on nuggets, frozen pizza, oven fries and Nutella out of the jar, right off the spoon (because they don't eat bread)

                                                  I feel this overwhelming urge to feed them something with basic nutritional value... And while I understand the "give 'em what they want" rationale, I simply can't bear the thought that they live on crap.. so for 2 nights a fortnight, they eat whatever the hell I choose to serve, or they go hungry.

                                                  So, while I don't cook the way I normally do for Mr goddess and myself, I do cook things like meatloaf (with all the vegies pureed into the meat), pasta sauces (same puree), soups (again with the vegie puree). I also find my step kids will eat dips.. so they don't eat vegies but the love tzatsiki and hoummos and baba ghanouz. My kids will also eat roasts and vegies.. sometimes... so a lamb roast with baked pumpkin and potatoes is always good. Stirfries SOMETIMES work, depending on their mood... can you tell they';re all teenagers???

                                                  Dining out has helped them diversify their food tastes... they will eat Indonesian noodle dishes at restaurants now.. but not at home, of course!!!... and Beef rendang and roti... but not at home!!!

                                                  So, in a nutshell, I lie about foods ("there are no beans in hoummos!!") and hope that some day, some way, they will learn to at least TRY different foods and flavours and no die of obesity related causes by the age 20.

                                                  And if they do, my conscience is clear.

                                                  10 Replies
                                                  1. re: purple goddess

                                                    pg, gosh, just a thought out of the blue. Why not try the many dishes that combine meats and fruits--to improve their diets?

                                                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                      BWHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!

                                                      Sam, you crack me up, man!!!!

                                                      If I thought they'd eat a vegetable if I smeared with with chocolate, I'd try it!!!

                                                    2. re: purple goddess

                                                      Wow. We should start a support group. My guys are 11 and 13 and are home with us all but 4 nights a month. I remind myself that I'm working against more than a decade of bad habits, and that it will take FOREVER to see any change, but that providing them healthy balanced meals in a loving and hospitable environment is always worth the challenge.

                                                      Up to this point (dating, engagement, one month into marriage) I've tried to find out what they will eat and to build menus around that. I do think it's time to branch out a little. Mr. Larkspur reminds me that the chef's whimsy always trumps the picky. I've been hesitant to own that, but it is time. I need to unpack my spices and vinegars anyway...

                                                      1. re: purple goddess

                                                        The meat loaf with veggies in it is amazing!! I do it all the time. You can get mushrooms,carrots and zucchini in there without changing the taste at all. I also put in a little red bell pepper, but you can taste that. Throw in a couple of eggs and use oatmeal as the binder/filler. I also make a mixture of chili sauce, ketchup, sweet mustard and use it to glaze the top. My whole family really likes it and my two boys don't realize that I'm giving them extra veggies with their meal.

                                                        You can also put the pureed frozen squash in the tomato sauce it just blends right in without any significant change in flavour. Finely grated zucchini also melts away it just leaves a few tell tale green specks.

                                                        Good luck with these ideas! We follow the you need to have just one bite of everything on your plate rule. My youngest loves Indian butter chicken and Jamaican Patties because he had to try something unfamilar just one time. Hopefully you'll be able to convince everyone to start trying something new whenever you cook. They don't have to finish if they don't like it but they at least have to try it.

                                                        1. re: chefbec

                                                          I'd say don't sneak bell pepper in on picky eaters, it is distinctive and very unpleasant to some.

                                                        2. re: purple goddess

                                                          question: where do you get crumbed chicken shaped like a square. i swear i am not looking to buy it. i've just never heard of this and am very curious.

                                                          1. re: choctastic

                                                            i think she's facetiously referring to chicken nuggets.

                                                            1. re: ennyl

                                                              oh my bad. for some reason i had a vision of fried chicken squares, like the filet o fish.

                                                              1. re: choctastic

                                                                Don't laugh.. you can get that too, here in Oz. Processed chicken loaf, wrapped around cheese and ham.. ubiquitously called Chicken Cordon Bleu.. otherwise referred to as Chicken Gordon Blech.

                                                                1. re: choctastic

                                                                  Oh lord - they DO make those in the States. I used to room with 4 other women in a house back in the 80s, and one of them ... EVERY SINGLE NIGHT ... pan-fried a frozen breaded chicken patty that was a 3x4" rectangular shape for her dinner. (She then later "purged" it, but we won't get into that.)

                                                                  My ex-boyfriend asked her one night while walking through the kitchen "What are you cooking sponges for?" LOL So for the rest of us, they became "chicken sponges." :-)

                                                          2. I may not have children, but I do remember eating as a child. My mom was not the best cook, and I had to deal with reheated fish sticks, overcooked veggies, salty meats, and pretty much every other Irish food stereotype.

                                                            We did not have the option to eat a sandwich. When I was a kid, I resented this. But now I am so happy about it. As I got older, went to college, worked in restaurants, traveled for work, and had to organize catered events, I became more aware and even happy about the food I had been 'forced' to eat.

                                                            Now I am adventurous and have been for years. I would rather have the funkiest ethnic cuisine rather than the safest meat and starch combo. I hate it when I see my nieces/nephews refuse food at the table and be allowed to eat a hot dog instead. I'm not saying anyone needs to create a huge ruckus, but I think kids need to know they are part of a family and you all eat together.

                                                            Don't make special foods for picky palates. They can pick and choose as they get older. It is more important to be a family.

                                                            4 Replies
                                                            1. re: mojoeater

                                                              I was lucky lucky lucky to be exposed to the old food-ways of my Southern family, with the freshest vegetables right out of the garden, prepared lovingly by my grandmother.

                                                              But I agree with Mojo: prepare good, balanced meals and dare them to starve to death. Picky eating is a health handicap, and the only way past it is to learn better. Nobody can possibly make a case for the life-long avoidance of vegetables. I remember several times as a young kid seeing friends do without dessert because they wouldn't eat their veggies; they quickly learned to eat their veggies, every time.

                                                              1. re: uptown jimmy

                                                                I see where you're coming from, and to a point I agree, but I think you're a little harsh, uptown jimmy. And I think that kind of I'll-make-it-anyway-they-can-eat-it-or-go-hungry stuff is a dangerous road to travel down with kids who may have food issues that need to be understood before you can coerce them into eating better. It can make kids completely dread meals. It can give kids terrible hang ups about food.

                                                                As a baby and toddler I ate nothing that wasn't made (and often grown, including the beef and poultry) by my mother on our farm, and I ate absolutely everything. My second day at pre-school I was given something to eat that I didn't like (it was disgusting Campbell's vegetable soup), and my pre-school teacher mistook it for me being a picky eater. She wouldn't let me get up from the table until I finished. My mother picked me up from pre-school a few hours later, and I was still sitting at that table crying into the cold bowl of soup. She was furious with the pre-school teacher, took me out of that pre-school, and dealt with me having nightmares about choking on a pea for weeks and weeks. That's about the time I stopped eating vegetables and started having panic attacks about food, which in combination with the pretty normal kid issues about food turned me into a freak about eating. Every single day of first, second, third and fourth grade I took a ham sandwich to school. I both dreaded sleepovers and loved them, dread because I was always afraid I wouldn't like what the rest of the kids were given to eat and everyone would think I was weird, and love because what kid doesn't love a sleepover. I was horribly embarassed. My mother was extremely patient with me, she never forced me, she always made things that I like, even if I hardly ate a vegetable between ages 2 and 16, and she introduced me to things slowly. She noticed that I loved the smell of homecooking, even if it wasn't something I liked to eat. And somehow along the way I started to try more and more and get more adventurous, it was such a gradual process I have no idea what changed or when it happened.

                                                                Now I'm in my 30's and there is very little I won't eat, although the idea of offal makes me squeamish. I finally overcame my dislike of tomatoes in their raw and sliced form last summer when I discovered heirloom tomatoes.

                                                                A gentle hand, a lot of patience and a healthy measure of creativity will get you through it. I'm sure it will be frustrating to a large extent. After college I worked for a short while as a nanny, and my mother used to laugh at my stories of cooking for fussy 2 and 3 year olds and the justice of it. I used to look at meals as an interesting challenge to see what I could get the kids to eat, and if they wouldn't, so be it.

                                                                The ideas above to get kids involved with the preparation of meals and the shopping and the gardening are wonderful.

                                                                1. re: ballulah

                                                                  Well of course that was just abuse on the part of the teacher. Different story altogether, and I know whereof I speak, having had a sadistic day-care lady make me miserable for a year or so. Really mean woman. I was allergic to cow's milk from birth, and had an aversion to milk products because of it, but she loved to make it very hard for me to avoid mac and cheese. And I won't mention the semi-sadistic step-mother who tortured me with a runny cheese soufle one long, long evening when I was only four years of age...shudder....

                                                                  I'm not advocating emotional abuse, just gentle, firm reason. Don't provide alternatives to good, healthy food in the house. Make sure they have access to well-prepared, healthy food, instead. If you indulge, do so in a relatively natural way, like homemade biscuits and gravy (yes, I'm Southern).

                                                                  An adult man should have the sense to learn to at least tolerate vegetables. And growing young boys need proper nutrition, and shouldn't be allowed to dominate the culinary atmosphere of a household with post-modern, overly picky, junk-food predilictions. One doesn't have to be punitive to be healthy. Vegetables taste good when properly prepared, and if a particular person doesn't agree, they need gentle, firm, loving education. Just my 2 cents. But it helps if the food being served is prepared by a good cook, of course. ; )

                                                                  Man. One thing. Modern Americans have been totally hoodwinked with those awful, mealy, never-ripe store-bought tomatoes. Of course many of us don't like tomatoes. We've never been served a real one. Real tomatoes are one of life's greatest pleasures. Most home-grown veggies are. Put a garden in your back yard and watch your picky eaters become a great deal less picky, that's for sure.

                                                                  1. re: uptown jimmy

                                                                    I didn't think you were advocating emotional abuse, uptown jimmy! Haha. Just something you said brought a bad food memory bubbling up for a second and thought I'd tell it from the perspective of a once pathologically picky eater!

                                                                    My wise and fabulous pediatrician, Dr. Greenwell, a Kentucky doctor in a small small farming town was progressive beyond reason. He said it best, I think, "Food should never be about punishment." I think all of us Chowhounds here take a different path to get to the same sentiment.

                                                                    Keep up the good work, larkspurKC, they'll come around.

                                                            2. I'm sorry for your struggles... It's so odd that chicken is "undesirable," and I don't know if turkey goes w/ it too.

                                                              I might try making stuff w/ funny names that might encourage tasting... Toad in a Hole, Pigs in Blankets (use whatever meat and breading you prefer, not necessarily dogs in buns), S**t on a Shingle, Bangers and Mash, Spotted Dick, Bubble and Squeak, etc.

                                                              Quinoa is a great supergrain, and you might try couscous salads. What about lentils as a protein as well, or garbanzos, navy, limas, soya, etc. for extra protein. TVP would also be good to add to chili.

                                                              As suggested, breakfast for dinner, esp in the form of egg (white) omelettes. Or oatmeal pancakes, nutritioned up w/ protein powder or cottage cheese. Blintzes, as well as sweet and/or savory crepes, might be fun. Sweet/savory waffles too.

                                                              My picky picky picky grandfather likes noodles tossed w/ cottage cheese, salt, and pepper.

                                                              Yogurt as a base for pasta sauces might be another good way (or pureeing cottage cheese to add) for proteinizing cottage cheese.

                                                              A little more intensive, but fondue or shabu shabu, simplified down.

                                                              Calzones
                                                              Potstickers
                                                              Panzanella
                                                              Build Your Own Burritos
                                                              Pot Pies (lightened up)

                                                              As others have said, I wouldn't make different dishes; make one, require three bites, then allow them to go make whatever they prefer (be it pb and j or nuggets).

                                                              5 Replies
                                                              1. re: Emme

                                                                the one thing my step kids WILL eat is turkey legs.. because I tell them that their from Giant Chickens.. it's the novelty factor.

                                                                1. re: purple goddess

                                                                  Oh, yes... The Great Turkey Leg Incident of November 2006. The whole family headed our way for Thanksgiving last -- his family and mine. Did this intrepid bride-to-be demure from the challenge? Nay! There was research. There was planning. There were test recipes. There were assurances from the husband and boys, "We like turkey! We like stuffing! We like gravy! We can eat our own weights in pumpkin pie!" The youngest filled his plate with a turkey leg and nothing else. I didn't even try to reason with the fellow. He'd only ever eaten white meat before. He took one bite. That is all. A silent tear slid down my cheek as I watched the perfectly roasted leg being hurled into the trash. The child was then introduced to the wrath of his grandmother.

                                                                  1. re: larkspurKC

                                                                    Just wanted to say also that Rachael Ray did an interesting "Baked Corn Dog" http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/recip... the other day that might be of interest to you... and you could use healthier turkey dogs... Serve as suggested with sliced thin baked potatoes, low fat coleslaw, and baked apples with a little caramel on the side.

                                                                    I know no fish, but crab cakes, in which you could puree some veggies.

                                                                    Or do a "Nacho Platter." Slice tortillas into pieces (whole wheat if you'd like), some cooked lean ground chicken or turkey or whatever meat you prefer, some beans, some cheese, dare I say guacamole, and of course salsa and sour cream...

                                                                    1. re: Emme

                                                                      Thanks for the corn dog tip. Son 1 actually requested a dog over the weekend. His dad had stocked them in the freezer previously and then prepped them in the deep fat fryer.

                                                                      Did I mention my husband has a 2 qt. deep fat fryer? Sigh. However, I'm jockeying postition on the counter for my Kitchen Aid.

                                                                      1. re: larkspurKC

                                                                        Deep fat fryer! The plot thickens. How about vegetable (carrot, eggplant, sweet potato, bell peppers, zucchini, string beans, mushrooms, ...) tempura?

                                                              2. What about a chili of some sort? Sneak in some corn, diced carrots, and or beans for extra nutrients. Also, have you exhausted all chicken options (I thought of Ck Parm)? Are they daring enough to try enchiladas where you again attempted to add a veggie or two, or at least some salsa?

                                                                How old are they? My brother was the WORST about trying new things, but the year before he went to college my mom was determined to teach the guy to cook. 2 or 3 times a week she'd give him about 5 simple ingredients and told him to make dinner for the family. She always stuck around to guide him through the entire process. The idea was to get him to cook obviously. But you'd be surprised what a person is willing to try if he made it himself. Increasing their involvement might also increase the variety of things they'll try.

                                                                1. If they like potato chips, instead slice potatoes very thinly and bake till crisp with a little oil and S/P. You can do this with root vegetables as well.

                                                                  1. As a child I was a ridiculously picky eater, but my pediatrician told my mother not to force me and not to make food a big issue and eventually I'd come around. And boy did I ever, there isn't much I won't eat anymore, and I love my vegetables. What is the most common complaint of your finicky eaters? For me texture was all important, that and "clean" food. Anything that had a squishy and simultaneously crunchy texture was OUT (which is most vegetables). And by "clean" I mean that I had to see and recognize all the separate components of my meal and I didn't like things mixed together or even touching (so I can see where I would eat meatballs in marinara, but forget about a baked pasta dish that was a nightmare of mish mashed textures and God only knows what else! haha). The more I talk to picky eaters both past and current, the more I see that everyone has/had the same complaints.

                                                                    That said, I have a few ideas for you...

                                                                    Someone above suggested cottage cheese in your ranch dip, and that's a great idea, but if your picky eaters were anything like me the texture would have freaked me out 5 ways before Sunday. BUT, if you process the cottage cheese in a Cusinart and break the curds down until it's smooth you'll probably have more luck.

                                                                    Make friends with a Cusinart, and you'll be able to sneak things in much more easily. Make a turkey meatloaf and stick a couple of onions, carrots and celery ribs in a Cusinart and puree the hell out of it and add it to the meatloaf mix, it'll keep the turkey moister too. Maybe experiment with different veggies, peppers, zucchini, yellow squash etc. When cooking for picky little ones, I usually puree onions, carrots and celery and add as a sofrito to tomato sauce. Just make sure you cook for a bit before adding the sauce.

                                                                    And someone suggested tofu as a possibility, you can make little tofu "meatballs". Process firm tofu in (what else) a Cusinart, throw in a rough chopped red pepper and some scallions and process until the whole mixture is combined and the veggies are unrecognizable, add a little miso paste to moisten. Make little balls and roll them in rice flour and fry them. I like these with hot hot hot sauce and brown rice, but let the guys walk before they run. Maybe pair them with an improvised Asian influenced sauce and a funky Asian noodle of some kind...but not too funky!

                                                                    Do your guys like fish STICKS at all? Try to get them to eat fish by making homemade fish sticks and patties. Use a...Cusinart (haha) and pulse the fish and whatever else you think you can sneak in. Use a nice bland white fleshy fish (cod maybe). Coat those suckers in tons of breadcrumbs and bake or fry. Let them douse the whole thing in ketchup.

                                                                    What is it about soups they don't like? Have you tried totally totally smooth blended soups? When I was a brat in my picky heyday you couldn't have paid me $5 million to eat a chunky soup, my whole body would have gone rigid and my eyes would have bugged out of my head.

                                                                    Good luck!

                                                                    1. I've been involved with a group of kids living in a group home, who consist on a diet of Mac-and-cheese, McDonald's (when they have money), and fried this or that (I think I've seen frozen collards over there). Every time I've been there for dinner, I always go hungry, because there's never anything I can bring myself to eat.

                                                                      A few months ago, I made dinner for all the kids -- stuff that I eat: chicken with some sort of mustard glaze thing; Indian rice with all sorts of spices, peas, and peanuts, and an arugula salad with mandarin oranges, toasted pecans, and a balsamic/red wine vinaigrette. Oh, and fondue with strawberries. Would you believe that every time I've been over since, they ask for arugula and that salad again?

                                                                      So last night we had our first ever Salad Night: I got two of the kids to help, and we made that salad again, plus a broccoli salad with mustard vinaigrette, a cantaloupe salad with fresh mint, lime juice/zest, honey, and ginger, and couscous with corn and chives. They all LOVED it -- and these are kids who don't even know what parmesan is, or who have never seen a fresh herb in their lives (never mind any kind of lettuce other than iceberg). They also really liked chopping (good thing I'm getting my knives sharpened this weekend), and were surprisingly into the chemistry of it all (ie, that toasted nuts taste better than untoasted; that ice water stops broccoli from cooking; that the mint becomes more pronounced after the salad has sat in the frig for a while).

                                                                      It was really an amazing experience, with kids who have had little exposure to any sort of vegetables or preparations other than fried. Bottom line is, they now want to make Salad Night a regular thing, and as they have some of the ingredients and skills to make the dressings, hopefully they'll start to eat more vegetables and fruit on their own.

                                                                      My advice would be to start with salads that use "sweeter" ingredients, like dried cranberries or balsamic vinegar, or fruit salads. The couscous was a real winner, and you can certainly incorporate vegetables into that. The fondue was also a real hit, and a good way for them to get some fruit in.

                                                                      1. My heart goes out to you. I am married to a picky eater, I even posted a meesage in the General section about it, and it makes my life miserable. Then I saw this segment on the Today show that showed some sneaky tricks to get veggies into their foods without them knowing. Here is a link for you http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17874025/

                                                                        One thing I found I could get away with was making turnovers, then I could mix all kinds of stuff, very finely chopped, with the meat, wrap some pastry around it, and he never knew what was in it. I think I got the recipe from Pillsbury.

                                                                        Good luck!

                                                                        1. I now have one off at college and the youngest ready to start college but when they were young both were picky eaters and one liked the other hated. I can't give good advice because I would make 3 dinners if needed. Some days I felt like a short order cook but I love cooking for my wife and kids. Watching the look on their faces when eating something they love was worth it.

                                                                          1. Well my kids are picky too so I can empathize. How about Caesar sald with croutons. My kids like my homemade version or one with bottled dressing and store bought croutons. Have you tried breakfast for dinner? Tonight we are having pancakes and turkey bacon for something different. It is too bad about the chicken thing. Good luck.

                                                                            1. I use this kid-friendly Giada recipe when I babysit--Italian Baked Chicken and Pastina. I remember as a kid that texture was a dealbreaker for me, especially with meats. If the chicken is bite-sized maybe you'd have more luck? Or, substitute pork loin for the chicken. Good luck!

                                                                              http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/recip...

                                                                              1. So many good ideas here already. I've used some of them for my boyfriend's daughter. Before they met me, I'm not sure they had eaten a non-processed food (she was amazed that the strawberry jam in my house had strawberries in it). The make-your-own thing is really great. The illusion of choice is key for kids -- give them some choices in the overall context of a healthy meal. You can try make-your-own pizza -- you can use pizza dough from the store, or even english muffins or pitas. With us, the deal is that you pick one topping from column A (pepperoni) and at least one from column B (the veggies -- mushrooms are actually a big hit with her, and she discovered zucchini this way too). Take a similar approach with make-your-own omelets, and even pasta with a few sauces or stir-fries with several protein and vegetable choices. All of these let the kids participate, and that's a great way to spend time together. Someone mentioned fondue, and it is a great idea, as are grilled foods on skewers -- for some reason, food tastes better on sticks. We do shrimp (another surprise kid favorite), chicken, veggies, steak. And multiple dipping sauces are a hit with the skewers.

                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                1. re: djdebs

                                                                                  Great idea with the "one choice from column A, one choice from column B." I can incorporate that playfully.

                                                                                  Wish me well. The family unit is off to the farmer's market tomorrow morning. Everybody get $5 a few guidelines on spending. Dinner tomorrow night should be VERY interesting.

                                                                                  Thanks everyone for your feedback. This has been tremendously helpful!!

                                                                                  LarkspurKC

                                                                                  1. re: larkspurKC

                                                                                    Please do report back to us how your dinner went. It's a great idea to take them to the farmers market and have them choose vegetables. My son became a fan of brussels sprouts that way. They were selling them still on the stalk, and my son carried around that stalk like it was a sword and thought it was the neatest thing ever.

                                                                                2. At our house, being a picky, fussy eater was not an option. Mother cooked for our family of six, plus three or four hired hands and was not going to put up with any whiny nonsense. She would not tolerate any self-centered dining table dramas - if you don't like it, just leave it alone and be quiet about it. I think she had the right idea.

                                                                                  Is it possible that the guys' weird food taboos are gender-image based? Like, "veggies are for wusses"? If there is some odd psychological thing going on here, they need to get the message about the relationship between good nutrition and strong bodies. Do they have any sports heroes? What's on their training tables?

                                                                                  Also, is it possible that these three bachelors have a cooking aversion, and wouldn't be caught dead fixing their own meals? Like, getting too close to the stove might damage their masculine equipment, if you get my drift? This guy-thing food preparation phobia, I've found, is very common. Such fellows are a mainstay of the fast food industry and TV dinner manufacturers. So, now that they have a woman to do the kitchen stuff they're having a good time jerking her around, perhaps?

                                                                                  It's obvious these guys have their own little subculture, and this needs to be changed.

                                                                                  If it were me, I'd say ".... is what we're having for dinner. If you don't want that, there are some sausages/hamburger/meatballs in the fridge that you can cook for yourself."

                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                  1. re: Sharuf

                                                                                    Although I don't have kids, I am an administrator for an assisted living facility. We have our share of extremely picky eaters, and introducing new recipes can be dicey - we are trying to please 40 different palates.

                                                                                    A lot of the issues seem to come from having a choice and/or control of what is on the plate. Make your own pizza is a big hit, as well as baked potato bar meals. Dipping sauces are another way we have been able to please the majority - plain baked chicken with barbecue and sweet & sour dips on the side. We have had less success with asking people or families to create a menu, however, in a smaller venue like your family, it could work well - especially if you choose 1 item from column A, 1 from B, etc...

                                                                                    Can't wait to hear how the Farmer's Market goes - that's a fantastic idea!

                                                                                  2. Joking - make them nothing but Spam and uncooked eggplant in aspic for every meal for a week see if they come around.

                                                                                    Serious:

                                                                                    What about Chinese food? You can always disguise vegetables in there.

                                                                                    If they are carnivores how about ribs? Chili? They've gotta like chili. Heck you can even use chicken in chili - I suggest shredded but that's just me.

                                                                                    Deer meat? Goat? Rattlesnake? Buffalo? Emu? Rabbit? Gator? Shrimp?

                                                                                    They don't like lasagna?

                                                                                    What about egg dishes?

                                                                                    Salsa? Salsa is vegetables.

                                                                                    Don't give up, I've known quite a few straight and narrow eaters who now don't run screaming from salads.

                                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: hooliganyouth

                                                                                      Don't knock Spam for kids. My 17 grandchildren--even the picky eaters, even the several of them who don't like ham or sausage patties--LOVE it. One of them coaxed a friend who'd never had it to come to my house for a Spam sandwich. He loved it too.) I slice it ~1/4" thick, grill in butter for a crisp brown glaze on both sides.

                                                                                      Spam is a quality product: beautifully, subtly seasoned (try the 25% less sodium variety), so lean you almost have to oil the pan you fry it in. Just don't think of it as "Ham"; it doesn't even pretend to be.

                                                                                      I think its bad rap must have come from its often being the only meat available during WWII and maybe some people had too much of it. Not me: I was a WWII kid and I've never stopped liking it. I always keep it in the pantry for an occasional change from (or when I'm out of) my beloved crisp bacon or Jimmy Dean's Hot sausage for breakfast. And a grilled Spam sandwich with good sliced tomatoes, butter lettuce, thin-sliced red onions, Beer 'n Brat mustard, is about as good as it gets.

                                                                                      1. re: PhoebeB

                                                                                        I just had to eat too much Spam growing up so I have a bit of an aversion to it or any form of meat in a can - except fish and other tasty sea creatures.

                                                                                        1. re: PhoebeB

                                                                                          When I was a kid my mom would take a can of spam, slice it, and fry it in a skillet, and that was dinner. I was never a fan. But my husband loves the stuff. He somewhere along the line got a recipe for Spam kabobs--chunks of Spam threaded onto sticks with onion, pepper and pineapple, then cooked over charcoal--and that I'd eat about every day if I could get by with it.

                                                                                      2. Good luck at the Farmers Market. You've gotten a lot of great suggestions and I'd just like to add my own comment, raising 4 sons. I basically cook for me, because I love to cook. I find that my children will try vegetables if I have them around long enough (all will now eat asparagus and broccoli and veg. sticks) but I don't force them on them. My pedi told me that as long as they were eating fruit, they were okay and they love fruit. If I am making a more involved dish that I know my three younger won't like, I provide a basic of the protein ie. pan fried pork chops instead of with vinegar and peppers...I do request that they all try whatever I may make that is new, usually they will say "Yuck!" but at least they've tried it. I won't make other dinners so they get peanut butter sandwiches that they have to make. I truly believe, that if the food is around them long enough, they will eventually eat many of the items...I grew up around fresh veg. and homemade baked goods in the age of frozen veg. etc. (70's) and I now love all vegetables, even the ones I gagged on as a kid. Just for what it is worth, veg. in meatloaf are delicious...my kids won't go near a meatloaf with anything other than my usual recipe ditto for anything else I make, they can sense and sniff out anything!!! And kids don't like things mixed up, I think it is a kid thing. If I make a great casserole, they pick out each item individually, same with soup!!

                                                                                        1. Pureed broccoli with cream added does the trick in my household. It's not the healthiest ever, but it works. And slowly, you can wean them to half and half, and then to whole milk, and then to 2%.

                                                                                          Chili would be a great way to disguise veggies. Have the ground beef as usual, along with fresh tomato, green, red, and yellow peppers, corn, and maybe even squash. To disguise it further, you could serve on a bun as a sort of sloppy joe-like concoction.

                                                                                          Carrot cake might be a possibility, too, and 100% fruit juices. The Bolthouse Farm stuff is great. Or quiche with veggies. Or zucchini chips made with olive oil, sprinkled with adobo, and served with a blue cheese dip.

                                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: cimui

                                                                                            If I was served a sloppy joe with corn in it as a kid I would have vomited at the table. Most kids have radar and can spot foreign substances a mile away, and texture is usually an issue too.

                                                                                            Things that can be pureed are usually easier to disguise. I saw a recipe for mac and cheese a while back that had pureed butternut squash mixed into the cheese mixture. The color is right, and sharp cheese would cover up the mild flavor of the squash.

                                                                                            You said that at least one of the guys wouldn't eat the foods on the second list, right? But the rest will? I say serve what you want, chicken, pasta, whatever, and make sure that there are at least a few side dishes that each person will eat, healthy ones, not chips. If one of them only likes the cornbread and fruit salad at a particular meal, let him fill up on that; just make sure that the next night's meal includes a protein that that particular child will eat. No one is going to die if they only eat carbs and fruit for a meal.

                                                                                            1. re: lulubelle

                                                                                              I agree that pureed veggies are much easier to hide... what about puree'ing veggies into mashed potatoes? My mom's "string bean gratin" (string beans, potatoes and parm, pureed and baked) was definitely my favorite green vegetable as a kid...and just because you're adding carbs and fat doesn't mean they're not still getting important vitamins.

                                                                                            2. re: cimui

                                                                                              I wouldn't load on the cream for the OP's DH, but neither would I shun it for the children unless they're overweight. Children need fat. So... I like your idea. :)

                                                                                              Another similar thought would be to do steamed broc or cauliflower with cream sauce or cheese sauce. Cheese sauce makes everything better! In fact, if I had seriously anti-veggie kids, I'd probably try making broccoli and cauliflower trees and letting the kids DIP them in the sauce. Most kids LOVE dipping.

                                                                                            3. I'm told by my mother-in-law that she used to add pureed carrots into the gravy for pot roast back when her children did not eat vegetables.
                                                                                              You don't say the age of the boys but is there any chance you could enlist them in cooking with you? You might start with things like home-made apple sauce or zucchinni pancakes. Not only are children more likely to eat the finished product if they played a role in preparation, but they may also snack on the raw ingredients while they are preparing them. Have them peel or grate carrots to help you make a salad for yourself; maybe they'll take a bite while they are helping. When my son was small, he would not eat cooked string beans, but if I had him help me trim them, he'd eat them raw.

                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: masha

                                                                                                Helping in the kitchen is awesome. I vote to start with baking.

                                                                                                Along the lines of what Masha says above, you can pretty easily puree carrots, garlic, onions, mushrooms celery and tomatoes (or sundried tomatoes) in something like pot roast gravy, or pork roast sauce. Nice flavor, especially if they're browned first. Okay, I'm making myself hungry now! :)

                                                                                                Along the lines of the dipping ideas above, how about trying to figure out what flavors the kids like - vinegary, salty, sweet, garlicky, whatever, and offering that kind of dip; slowly increase the number of things to dip in the favored flavor.

                                                                                                One other thought: cuteness. Most children like small things and sexee marketing/plating. Things chopped into cute little shapes, or even tiny, finger-sized cubes are very desirable.

                                                                                                I'd head for the nutritionally-dense foods, like sweet potatoes, egg yolks, dark leafy greens, and market the hell out of them. Sweet potatoes can be cubed, broiled, and sprinkled with salt or tossed with butter and maple syrup. Dark leafy greens could go in nice, cheesy little mini-quiches. Mini muffins can be absolute fiber-bombs with wheat germ and oat bran added. Carrot is a natural sweetener, as well as apple juice concentrate.

                                                                                                This may sound nuts, but you might want to try reading Super Baby Foods, or maybe Whole Food for the Whole Family. Lots of kid-friendly, nutritionally-dense recipes. And, of course, kid cook books, cute cookie cutter shapes, and special kid cooking gear!

                                                                                                Definitely make sure there are some sure bets and some healthy goodies so you don't become the Purgatory Food Lady in their minds.

                                                                                                linkies: http://www.allheartchefs.com/chefkids... <-- kid aprons for less than $5!
                                                                                                http://kidsthatcook.com/ <-- 'nuff said
                                                                                                http://www.childrensrecipes.com/
                                                                                                www.superbabyfood.com

                                                                                                1. re: Mawrter

                                                                                                  As to helping in the kitchen, I would shy away from baking -- at least not desserts like chocolate chip cookies, etc. The idea is to get them to eat things that they currently will not eat and/or get them to snack on the raw ingredients as they cook. Also, if they are not enthusiastice eaters, they may not be that interested in a cooking project that involves a lengthy commitment. But, if you are in a situation, for example, where they are saying, "when are we eating," you may be able to get them to help cook by suggesting that dinner will be on the table sooner if they will help with some task -- chopping vegetables, grating cheese, stirring the sauce, etc.

                                                                                                  As to the OP's original question, I cannot believe you cannot get them to eat chicken. Have you tried chicken parmagiana? If they will eat meatballs and spaghetti, I'd think they might go for that. In the same vein, how about eggplant parmiagiana or lasagna? If you are trying to reduce the red-meat content of their diet, ground turkey or turkey sausage can be used in red-sauce Italian dishes.

                                                                                                  I'm not a big believer in clean plate edicts or turning dinner into a power struggle. I would think this would be especially true of a stepmother. I'd try to get most of the junk food out of the house, so they are not snacking on unhealthy food between meals, and then serve a variety of healthful dishes at dinner. If they are active kids, they will eventually come around to eating at least some of what is served for dinner. I'd keep making myself salads, and putting some raw vegetables -- carrots, red pepper slices, etc. -- out on the table. If they go untouched, you can add them to your next day's salad.

                                                                                              2. I noticed you said that you made pasta with marina and meatballs and optional cheese sauce for one. Well, first thing: I don't have a problem with attempting to gear your meals to the family's tastes (after all, I did the same thing) but once the meal is chosen everyone should be served the same thing. Don't do the short order cook thing, and don't make special sauces for one kid. If he doesn't like the marinara it won't hurt him to eat the pasta plain.

                                                                                                A few words: First, I've mentioned it before but I think its worth repeating: with the kids, we had "Grandpa's Rule" when they were growing up (so named because it was coined by my dad.) Its simple: "Eat it and shut up about it, or don't eat it and shut up about it." In other words, they sit at the table and eat what they like out of what is served, but they don't complain and you don't make other food. Sooner or later if they are hungry enough they will either cook their own food or eat yours.

                                                                                                Second: Remember, this too shall pass. I had a picky eater growing up, and sometimes I think we catered to his likes too much. I know my husband did. But now that he's a young adult, he is a much more adventurous (and healthy!) eater. His girlfriend is from Japan, and he eats anything she cooks for him. I once saw them in a grocery store and "spied" on them for a minute (neither one saw me) as they had a mini-spat because she didn't want to get potato chips and insisted on something healthy instead. And I notice the kid eats a LOT more vegetables than he used to when he's at my house for dinner (He used to follow Grandpa's rule and just not help himself to veggies, now he does!). I knew things were going to be ok for him food-wise when he asked "Mom, have you tried that new Indian restaurant on Virginia St? The buffet is pretty good for lunch!" (and it is!).

                                                                                                1. When I was a kid, we had a (loosely-enforced) rule that everyone could pick one food that they didn't like, and no one would make them eat it. Even Mom and Dad. Didn't mean it didn't show up on the table now and then, but you didn't have to eat it. Of course there was fudging on this, and the "one thing" changed regularly as we got older - but it got the point across, which is that you don't have to eat everything, but you have to eat most things. Mine was asparagus for a while, probably tomatoes for a while. My brother's was peas, if I recall. Grandma's was cucumbers.

                                                                                                  Of course in your household it might have to be "everyone can pick 3 things they hate"!

                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                  1. re: dubedo

                                                                                                    We had that rule for awhile too. And it worked pretty well. But then my father read a book that contained the rule that would become "Grandpa's Rule" and decided he liked it even better!!

                                                                                                    My older sister picked peas. She still hates peas. Something about stems on them. Mine was of course bananas...and for awhile it was kasha (buckwheat). I remember my mother making kasha, and I hated it. Not sure why.....

                                                                                                  2. Probably too early in your equation, but...when I was a kid, my siblings and I got increasingly picky, to the point where dear mom gave up, carved up the food budget for each of us and allotted each kitchen time, telling us to try it ourselves...to her delight, actually, we learned the lesson, and all became pretty good cooks...!

                                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: tdo ca

                                                                                                      That's a cool idea. Smart mom! How old were you at the time, just out of curiosity.

                                                                                                      1. re: cimui

                                                                                                        about 10-11 iirc

                                                                                                    2. It sounds like you are on the right track. Try not to get discouraged, because you really are doing them a favor!

                                                                                                      I wasn't a picky eater (lima beans and beets were all I refused to eat), and I still look back on frustration at the fact that I didn't like lima beans but we ate them routinely b/c my parents loved them... whereas I loved brussels sprouts but since my mother hated them I had them ONCE as a child. It just didn't (and still doesn't!) seem fair to me... I mean, it wasn't like I was asking for a Snickers! So my 2 cents on this subject is that it shouldn't be a big deal, but I think that the kids should know that you are making food sacrifices for them. Don't beat them over the head with it, but it might be helpful for them to know that you enjoy different food but are making things to try and suit their tastes. I guess this fits with the teamwork/getting their buy-in arguments already made by other posters.

                                                                                                      My husband was a picky eater as a child; McDonald's burgers, hotdogs and chocolate were the extent of his diet. He says he was this way until eating dinner with the family of his first girlfriend - he didn't want to make a scene so he ate what they served and actually liked it. Now he'll eat just about anything... so there is hope for you! The only problem is that his mother gave up making meals for him and everyone else, so it was a free for all... it is a nightly struggle to get him to the table to eat with me.

                                                                                                      1. Wow larkspur, you've got your hands full. I have three teens who are somewhat picky- no fish, limited veggies. I was terribly picky when I was younger and now eat almost anything. Keep heart. I read somewhere that kids need to see something at least 15 times before they consider it "not weird". So keep plugging and keep bringing healthy food to the table. Eventually the teen male appetite will kick in and they will be starving enough to try some new things.
                                                                                                        When grilling their meats, slice some potatoes and combine with oil, a few onions and some seasoned salt and throw them in a covered foil pan alongside. The smell is delicious and even my onion haters love the grilled potatoes, especially if they get crispy like fries.
                                                                                                        With my youngest son, telling him something was similar to what he liked helped. I told him if you like stuffed shells, you'll like manicotti, same stuff different shape pasta. If you like tacos, eat taco soup and don't eat the beans. I cooked a honey chicken stir fry because they knew they liked honey. Somehow going into it knowing it was somewhat familiar, bought me a few more choices for the table.
                                                                                                        Also, it seems most teens like the teriyaki sweet/salty flavor. If you can get them to try something like teriyaki beef on a stick from a Chinese restaurant, they might be willing to try other teriyaki style items like chicken grilled with a low-sodium teriyaki marinade. I have a great teriyaki pork chop that you bread and bake that they love.
                                                                                                        As with the others' suggestions, get them cooking, slicing and dicing. My youngest is a work in progress but when he cooks something, he eats better and is also more interested in expanding his repertoire.
                                                                                                        And as a last tip, if you can get them a job in a "real" restaurant as soon as they turn 16, do it! It's where I was exposed to new and different foods and learned to try new things. Good luck!

                                                                                                        1. This may be over-thinking it (not that I would evvvvver do that!) but have you had any discussion about why they don't like various things, or categories of things? Sometimes it's not good to get into it, because once it becomes a point of discussion, the kids feel the need to maintainthey don't like something to save face. Their opposition hardens once there's all that attention on it and it seems to be a power struggle.

                                                                                                          But if you were able to get this information - maybe by observing instead of relying on self-reporting - it might help with figuring out what to avoid or how to make something palatable.

                                                                                                          For example, my son recently has started noticing pepper everywhere and it's often too spicy for him. He also is in a stage where he doesn't like food with a trace of heat (spice heat, not temperature). This is useful information to me, because I can leave the pepper off his XYZ and then he likes it again. I think he'll come round again to liking things with spice, but I'm respecting this preference so that it doesn't become a power struggle.

                                                                                                          One of his little buddies has big issues with texture. She also prefers bland food and doesn't want to try anything new (both pretty common with many kids). I can really appreciate the textural issue ... my idea of an okay texture is much wider than hers, but anything outside of it really disgusts me (wiggly food, like non-firm eggs, jello, etc. is just nasty to me. Oysters on the half-shell are okay, although I had to work up to it).

                                                                                                          Meat fat, bone and gristle and unknown floaty items in mixed food (like soups, risittos, stuffings, etc). can really turn off people, especially children, especially people who have been accustomed to highly processed foods where all that stuff has been edited out in a factory somewhere. I know people who claim they don't eat meat just because they don't want to get a surprise moutful of something inedible. When I was a little kid, I used to say I didn't like fish because it seemed every other bite was a bony mess, ugh. I find that straining broth, picking over meat and fish really, REALLY well, can be very reassuring to picky eaters.

                                                                                                          It's hard, I think, to get kids to articulate why they don't like things. It's hard to pinpoint and might not be worth putting so much emphasis on it (instead just cheerfully offer good choice after good choice) but if you can parse it out form their preferences you might have better information to tackle the problem. What a nice stepmother. :) This supbject and all the replies are so interesting to me!

                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                          1. re: Mawrter

                                                                                                            Emril has a great Taco Pie recipe that could be alterred slightly (i.e., take out the red peppers) but since it is baked in a pie crust might go over better. That recipe calls for salsa which might be an acceptable "tomato substitute", especially if you find finely chopped salsa so there are no large tomato chunks. I make it with ground turkey but for the first time you could make with ground meat, next time (if they liked it the first time) you could make half meat/half turkey and slowly move to all ground turkey.

                                                                                                            Since they like the meatballs, maybe try ground chicken or turkey instead of the meat to get them used to the taste of the chicken that way. Of course, don't tell them...

                                                                                                            Smoothies are an awesome thing - for some reason cold and blended taste so much better (and add a straw and it is even better!). You can sneak in all sorts of things in a smoothie without them knowing (tofu, carrot/orange juice, even spinach - yes, I know sounds weird but you I learned this trick that you can put in raw spinach (just chop of the stems) in a smoothie and it doesn't change the taste - although it can alter the color a little so that may be hard for you).

                                                                                                            There is this great book called "Sneak It In" or something along those lines. I actually bought it for myself because I'm the picky eater. There are some amazing hints on line you can find - supposedly you can steam the heck out of cauliflower and then puree and use it in mac n cheese and you can't tell.

                                                                                                            Purred veggies are amazing... you can sneak them into a lot of things.

                                                                                                            We also make Yam Fries - which are just yams, peeled and cut into French fry shapes. Toss with some olive oil and cinnamon and sugar and then bake on a cookie sheet at 400/425 for about 10 minutes on one side (until browning) and then turn over and bake for another 10 minutes or so. Actually pretty tasty. This may be one of those things at which they'll put their nose up, but you can say they must taste it before they decide they don't like it.

                                                                                                            Good luck!

                                                                                                          2. I had this problem with a little gal I use to watch. She started coming around at age 9. Her mom didn't cook and they ate most meals out. It was my opportunity to teach her to cook. After about 3 visits, I initiated her into making pizza, dough and all, she picked the toppings. Other visits, I would get out my cookbooks and ask her to help me plan a meal for all of us. I would have her usually from Friday evening until Sunday late.So what a great thing it was to teach her about food and as much as I could and know about different ethnic meals using spices and herbs she had never heard of.

                                                                                                            After awhile she became very comfortable in the kitchen, and then she would eat anything we prepared. She lost her pickiness. My favorite day was when I asked her to help me clean out the refrigerator on a Saturday morning. She and I made soup for our lunch. Her parents didn' t cook, but she went home that weekend and cleaned their fridge out and used whatever she could find all on her own.

                                                                                                            You are doing the right thing and building a wonderful bond by getting your step-children involved in the process!!

                                                                                                            1. Wonderful suggestions, and I have one idea that might help chicken go over better. These are a sort of healthier version of fast food chicken tenders. Buy chicken tenderloins or cut boneless skinless breasts in strips (the latter might be better if they'd be weirded out by the little strip of tendon in the tenderloins.) Wash and pat very dry, then coat in s&p'd flour, then in a beaten egg, then in honey panko. Let them sit for about twenty minutes to help the crust stay on. Spray them thoroughly on one side with olive oil spray and then place on a heated cast iron griddle or skillet, over medium high heat. Cook 2 minutes per side, then slide into a preheated 400 degree oven for 4-5 minutes to finish a golden brown. Cooking time will depend on the size of the pieces. Don't overcook them, as they should be juicy inside. I've known kids to like these with ketchup, which baffles me. Adults might like tonkatsu sauce or honey mustard.

                                                                                                              1. Any updates on how things are going? How did the Farmer's Market go?

                                                                                                                4 Replies
                                                                                                                1. re: enbell

                                                                                                                  Update from Larkspur -- The Farmer's Market

                                                                                                                  It's awfully early in the year for a market in Kansas. The food pickings were slim -- mostly asparagus and spring onions. No takers there. However, the boys really got into helping husband and I pick out herb plants and tomatoes for the garden. I used the same principle -- anything you want. I now have an invasive chocolate mint plant in the garden which will likely take over the yard, but by gosh, the 11 year old thought that was the coolest thing ever. (And yes, I asked that it be put in a pot instead of the ground, but that wasn't cool.) After the market we went around the corner to Penzey's spices, and again, anything you want. We purchased cinnamon sticks and one of the spice rubs for grilled meats. Any ideas out there for creative cooking for this crowd with cinnamon sticks?

                                                                                                                  Thanks, all. This has be *tremendously* helpful.

                                                                                                                  1. re: larkspurKC

                                                                                                                    LOL! Yes, that mint will take over the yard, but it'll smell great when you have to mow the lawn! :-) I'm glad to hear the boys were adventurous enough to at least try the farmer's market and try new things. Hopefully that can expand as more things are available in your area.

                                                                                                                    As for the cinnamon sticks - I've got a recipe for Orange-Clove Rice that my mom always made with a chicken dish (I know, no chicken with this crowd!). But perhaps that might be one way for them to get using the cinnamon. You could omit the cloves, although I don't think it would be all that bad for the boys. The basic recipe is this:

                                                                                                                    1 cup of regular rice cooked in a pan of 1 cup of orange juice and 3/4 cup water. Bring to a boil, then turn down to simmer and add 1 Tbsp. of dried minced onion (stir after adding dried minced onion), 1 cinnamon stick and 10 whole cloves dropped on top (do NOT stir after adding the cinnamon and cloves - you'll lose them!). Cook for 20 minutes or until the top of the rice is dry. Remove from the heat; let it sit for 5 minutes. Remove the cinnamon stick and 10 cloves, and stir to fluff.

                                                                                                                    1. re: larkspurKC

                                                                                                                      You might let them use cinnamon sticks to stir their hot chocolate or chocolate milk.

                                                                                                                      1. re: larkspurKC

                                                                                                                        You know what? If they are at that "oh neato" phase of their existence, where things that are weird are immensely appealing, like the chocolate mint plant, you might want to make a foray into Mexican mole sauce. I believe there is cinnamon in that too. But what could be weirder to 11 year olds than a CHOCOLATE based sauce for chicken? Even if they don't like chicken, I bet they will get into this one. Call it Chocolate Chicken and have them help you make it!

                                                                                                                        BTW, have they plucked the leaves of the plant and sucked on 'em? I used to do that in my aunt's garden when I was about that age.

                                                                                                                        You could also make an Indian style mint chutney and make lamb burgers for a change of flavors. Toast some pitas, make some mint chutney, shred lettuce and chop tomatoes, make some lamb patties and start a DIY pita assembly line. Get them to help you make the mint chutney. I have a recipe from Julie Sahni's Intro to Indian Cooking that is easy and tasty...she also has a recipe for little lamb patties that are the size of slider burgers.

                                                                                                                    2. great recipe....take chicken breasts and place in bowl....cover with wish bone italian dressing and dip into cornflake crumbs and bake till crispy....kids willl love it and so will you...at Passover I dip into matzoh meal...was a real hit!!

                                                                                                                      1. For those of you who don't have access to the New York Times, this from the Wednesday food section (some of my favorite reading, by the way) . . .

                                                                                                                        http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/30/din...

                                                                                                                        Food for thought . . .

                                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                                        1. re: bebevonbernstein

                                                                                                                          Already on food media and news board

                                                                                                                        2. UPDATE:

                                                                                                                          A break through was made last night. I made grilled BBQ chicken (which was quite fine if I say so myself), roasted white and sweet potatoes, and a tomato salad. We've still got issues with meat on the bone, but the boys couldn't argue with the flavor. The oldest gobbled up his potatoes and then asked, "Can I pick the orange ones out of the pan?" Holding back a tear in my eye, "Yes. Yes, you can." He doesn't know it was a sweet potato. He doesn't know it could have been a yam. It was an orange potato, and he ate it. Hope springs eternal.

                                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                                          1. re: larkspurKC

                                                                                                                            Truly a morsel for you to savour. You've been awfully kind and sensitive here and to see results so soon is wonderful! Great job all around.
                                                                                                                            Orange potatoes. cute.

                                                                                                                          2. Bless your heart, honey. I'm step-dad to one of the pickiest eaters on the planet, and every meal with him is a trial and usually ends up with him nuking a mac and cheese dinner from the freezer or frying up a hamburger patty after he has his "no thank you bite" (eaten under extreme protest, of course, complete with rolling his eyes, frowning and gagging.) I think he's ready to call CPS on us, so we tell him the food's a lot worse in foster care!

                                                                                                                            Like others, I recommend flying in some veggies under their radar, although it's not a perfect solution. Since they like sandwiches, what about BLTs? Load up the bacon and mayo, then slide in a tomato slice or two and/or use spinach leaves for the lettuce. (You may get better results trying only one of these maneuvers at a time.)

                                                                                                                            A big bowl of ambrosia is a great dessert, lots of fruit, and it's not obvious you're eating sour cream. (In a large mixing bowl, dump in several cans of fruit cocktail packed in juice. Sprinkle in a few handfuls of mini-marshmallows, add a pint or two of real sour cream. Add shredded coconut if you like. Mix and cover, chill for 30 - 60 mins. Serve. The marshmallows will be a bit mushy, but that makes a great texture.) Avoid making ambrosia with whipped cream--it will be cloyingly sweet. This introduces them to sour cream.

                                                                                                                            Another great, simple dessert is a fruit crumble. In a greased baking pan, dump in a bag or two of frozen fruit or cans of fruit pie filling. Fill the pan about 1/2 full. Scatter 1/2 tsp of salt over the fruit. In a bowl, mix instant oats, 2:1 ratio of brown : white sugar. Sprinkle this heavily all over the top of the fruit. Dots of the top of the dessert with pats of butter. Lots of butter. Bake at 350 F for 20-30 minutes. Remove and let cool for 5 minutes, serve. This will introduce them to oats.

                                                                                                                            Never underestimate the power of Cheez Whiz. A large, warm flour tortilla covered with cooked, seasoned ground beef; fresh diced tomatoes and onions; seeded, cleaned and diced jalapenos if they want spicy, and add a layer of CW and cover with another tortilla. Instant Taco Bell-like quesadilla.

                                                                                                                            Steamed broccoli or rabe spread with CW is a good way to go. If they like this dish, begin using less and less CW per serving, albeit making the adjustment in small increments.

                                                                                                                            If they like hot dogs, they may like sausage. There's lots of sausage made with chicken or pork. Those could be introductions to those meats.

                                                                                                                            Since your husband has a deep fat fryer, the whole world of fair food is open to you. Chicken fingers, fish sticks, fried zucchini, stuffed peppers, fried cheese sticks, et al. Offer your men these fried goodies, and after a bit, change to oven-baked versions if the men will accept them.

                                                                                                                            Hope this helps.