HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


Ideas for picky teens

I'm making meals in frozen portions for a friend and two teen daughters who recently lost their mom -- a good friend of mine.

The girls are a little on the picky side. Nothing too "weird," as dad put it. They like fairly homogeneous dishes like casseroles, but without too many individual ingredients. Dad says if there's, for example, chunks of zucchini or red pepper in a pasta dish, they normally pick it out or eat around it.

I'd like to do something nutritious and not insanely fatty and starchy. They like baked pasta casseroles, so I was planning on one meal being a baked ziti, using a very high-vegetable sauce (pureed, of course) and one of those multigrain/legume pastas like Barilla Plus that don't taste like whole wheat pasta.

Any other suggestions? Something that freezes well in individual servings is important. Help! I've never really cooked for particular eaters before.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I can attest to the fact that a food blender (not a food processor) is a fantastic tool for getting nutritional ingredients into foods without ever tipping your hand. A red sauce in a pasta casserole (and some white sauces for that matter) that include vegetables that have been liquified as to be unrecognizable in the sauce (as long as there isn't so much of it that the sauce becomes the liquified vegetable itself) kept my kids (and now their kids) healthy without their knowing about it. You'd be surprised how much broccoli a kid will eat when he/she doesn't see it.

    1. Chicken soup, pull out the chicken pieces and puree the veggies in the broth, then put the chicken back in. Even now that I'm older and don't mind seeing the vegetables in my soup, I still prefer it that way - more flavor in each bite.

      1. Hopefully, dad soon learns how to cook. Or they do.

        1. Firstly, condolences on losing your friend. Secondly, this board and others abound with the old puree = lying debate, of which I am NOT a fan. During this awful and awkward time, the girls and their dad (and you!) will need to look after themselves both physically and emotionally, so I say any way you can get fruit/veg into them justifies the means.

          My fave "Hide the veggie" dish is meatloaf. Zucchini grates down to pretty much nothing, as does carrot, celery, mushrooms.. all manner of veggies.

          Will they eat soup?? Maybe a big pot of pumpkin soup or minestrone will do the trick? Warming and nourishing at the same time.

          Good luck and again, my condolences to you all.

          1 Reply
          1. How about a strata with whole wheat tortillas, shredded (white meat) chicken, low-fat cheese, beans, salsa on the side... bake and cut into portions before freezing.

            Crockpot chili made with ground lean turkey and whatever else, beans if desired. Easy to freeze in ziploc bag portions. Send with some cornbread squares to freeze and have alongside as well.

            Teriyaki Stirfry with some brown rice (could supply TJ's frozen jasmine rice that comes in individual portions)

            Stuffed potatoes - puree in some cauliflower, low fat cheese, maybe some broccoli finely chopped... maybe

            Baked Oatmeal - great for quick breakfasts just nuke in microwave

            Roast a Chicken with some potatoes, carrots, celery, etc. (i do a riff on Ina's Perfect Chicken that's always really well-received and fall off the bone tender)

            Prepare but keep separate fixins' for taco/burrito bar with whole wheat tortillas

            Chicken Kabobs - find out what they will eat that you can string on besides chicken

            1. Condolences on your loss, dmd_kc. And how kind of you to feed her family.

              Will the girls eat "identifiable" vegetables if they're in something like chicken pot pie? They freeze well. I've frozen them fully cooked, including the browned crust. Thawed and wrapped in foil for the reheat, it's fine. The crust may not be as flakey as fresh from the oven, but it's just fine and won't leave your friends wondering if it's brown enough.

              Quiche is another one that freezes well, and perhaps they'd eat some spinach or broccoli if it's encased in eggs.

              A while back, a friend and I were making food to freeze for an elderly couple. The woman was both outspoken and knew good food. She was quick to tell us which of our dishes didn't freeze well. Struggling for new dishes one weekend, we decided to try TV dinners; to wit, chicken piccata, mashed potatoes, and, I think peas or string beans. We were skeptical, but she reported that it froze very well and that they enjoyed it. Chicken parm is another decent freezer choice. (Note: Yes, I know, it's better not frozen and reheated, but I don't think the poster is asking for the CH Ideal here.)

              Pot roast, which my mom has frozen for years when she couldn't resist a big piece of chuck. Easy enough to hide some pureed vegetables in the sauce or gravy. I have never been able to tell much difference between hot-out-of-the-oven and the frozen leftovers a month later. It leads me to believe that other braised meat dishes might be good options too. As we did with the chicken, you could compose a TV dinner with mashed potatoes and a vegetable they're likely to eat.

              Are you up for individual pizzas? If you have a local bakery that sells pizza dough, it's not so much work. And I've seen some discussions here recently about a commercially available pizza dough that folks like. You may not be able to push vegetables, but you can make it healthier by using a light hand on the cheese.

              And I second others' suggestions of soups. If there are better places to hide healthy food than soup that don't involve sugaring them up, I don't know what they are.

              1. Roasted chicken, shredded off the bone, packed up with lots of gravy, maybe carrots that were roasted with the chicken. Serve over toast or bread for an open-faced sandwich, over noodles or a baked potato (baked sweet potato even better).

                Stuffed cabbage freeze well, and if you use Savoy cabbage it doesn't seem as strong. I use ground chicken, sometimes mixed with hot Italian sausage, and bake in chicken stock. Then make gravy with the drained cooking liquid. An alternative to tomato sauce which is probably going in lots of pasta dishes you're thinking of.

                Meatloaf baked in muffin tins or meatballs. Mac and cheese with ham chunks. Do they like any vegetables? Green bean casserole, black bean and corn soup. Maybe they would eat a salad alongside, even if it's just lettuce and dressing or a chopped up cucumber.

                1. Condolences on losing your friend. It must be a hard time for you as well. In addition to preparing some meals, add in a few healthy snacks for the kids and dad. You can send over a box of melba toast packets and individual containers of hummus or black bean dip. Apples, bananas, peaches, pears are all good on the go fruits.

                  You can make mac and cheese (lowfat milk and cheese) in individual portions. Mini quiches, meatloaf, baked ziti, eggplant/zucchini parm all work well in small portions. Make pizza calzones and freeze as individual servings.

                  Another tip- label each item with what it is and the cooking time and method. Specify if it should be covered or uncovered, stirred halfway through, or transferred to another container before microwaving. Also, you can add a suggestion to some of the meals. For a pizza calzone, write a note "goes great with a green salad + italian dressing." Takes the guesswork out of preparations for a family who is going thru a tough time.

                  1. kids usually enjoy making their own taco or fajitas, maybe do the meats up and freeze in small portions (salsa, cheese,shredded lettuce or carrots etc stays in fridge long). Also, freeze up small pizza pies with instructions on adding their own stuff. I would think quesadillas freeze up nice too, hide vegies in there as well.

                    Your a good friend.

                    1. You folks are all great. I have multiple great ideas here. I think I'm going to end up making three things: The aforementioned baked pasta, mini-meatloaves with a vegetable/squash quick bread frozen separately, and pot roast. Dad says the traditional vegetables that cook alongside that are A-OK. It's the "gross" combination they don't enjoy.

                      Thanks again. With Dad working long hours, they'll be really appreciative of your ideas for food that isn't sandwiches or manufactured frozen meals.

                      1. Maybe you can get a bunch of choppd fresh fruit and some yogurt and a blender if they dont have one and they can experiment with different smoothies- a great way to get fruit into a diet.

                        1. Lots of good ideas so far. I would add that teens are notorious for not eating at the meal and then hunting down "snacks" later. Individual portion items like empanadas, cookies like previously mentioned that can double as breakfast (oatmeal, dry milk powder, ground nuts), hummus and crackers as well as other dips with whole grain dippers, cut up fruit. The dad may not be used to stocking the pantry and fridge so you can help in that regard with good snacks. I also find that clear and bold labeling is essential. Basically a bright colored label (I use the blue painter tape) that explains the item and what it can combine with or a "guide" posted on the fridge. That guide can also include for example: flour tortillas are on the second shelf of the freezer and grated cheese in the fridge door- microwave for "x" to get a quick quesadilla. Best wishes.