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Help - Picky Eater with Food Allergies who hasn't been exposed to a lot of different foods

So my brother in law just recently moved in with us for awhile. My husband is out of town working for 3 more weeks and we need to menu plan dinners for that time.

He has food allergies. Very allergic to nuts and dairy. He also can be picky but is willing to try anything once.

Things he isn't fond of.
Fish - he's tried salmon and didn't like it, he's not really a fan maybe a lighter fish he may like.

Beans - I couldn't get an whole answer on this one yet. He's had black beans but he doesn't really care for them. I don't know if he means all beans or not.

Certain textures - anything that is soft and mushy like mashed potatoes, tofu,

He likes veggies and fruit but not all. Some I know he doesn't like are: Mushrooms, Asparagus, I suspect anything out of the ordinary. He really likes onions and green peppers and corn.

We've got breakfast and lunch down. He loves turkey sandwiches and the like but when it comes to main dinner dishes we are having trouble finding some common ground that isn't going to get boring.

I've made pizza, he loves a cheeseless pepperoni pizza with onions and green pepper.
Breaded baked chicken
Spaghetti - I showed him how to make his own sauce instead of buying the canned crap. :)

He made me a dish he calls curry chicken. with a salad and it was good. It tasted like Indian in flavor and I thought maybe he'd be interested in tasting more of those flavors in other indian dishes.

I'm looking for recipes that might fit all of this. Certain things I omit the cheese for him and I'll have the cheese. We've made a cheeseless steak sub for him once.

Any ideas on what to do?

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  1. I think I'd suggest that he do the cooking. I understand that he can't do anything about the allergies, and those ARE difficult hurdles that have my completely sympathy.

    But I'm sorry, and yes, this IS harsh -- but if he's old enough to be able to make a curry chicken salad, then he's old enough to either grow up and eat adult food like an adult or to fend for himself.

    2 Replies
    1. re: sunshine842

      You're right and he does do a lot of the cooking. He's finishing up college and had a few courses on campus but most are online. So he's at the house more than I am.

      His mom, who shares the same food allergies has taught him how to cook and he's pretty good at it. I'll be getting some of her recipes soon.

      My husband and I want to be able to make several dishes and try some new things. He's just so limited by his allergies and his inexperience with foods.

      He doesn't eat leftovers very well, we are working on that too. I think a lot of it is mental and the nut allergy is very serious so I can understand why he is that way.

      Things will get easier when my husband comes back because then it will be easier to cook, and have him fend for himself if need be. but with just the two of us here it's saving some money to eat dinner together.

      1. re: Sandwich_Sister

        "His mom, who shares the same food allergies has taught him how to cook and he's pretty good at it. I'll be getting some of her recipes soon."
        that's good news. at least he'll be able to participate and you'll have a few fall backs that you know he can eat and enjoy.

        re: beans, ask him if he's tried hummus (as long as his allergy doesn't include sesame seeds)...or see if he'd be willing to try a white bean dip. if you search, i posted a recipe for one with sun-dried tomatoes and roasted garlic that even picky eaters go for - no nuts, dairy or gluten in it.

        as suggested, Moroccan is definitely a good direction - try a chickpea tagine with chicken. and for Indian, lentil dal, chana masala or a tandoori preparation.

        Dave Lieberman's recipe for apricot chicken is another crowd pleaser that usually goes over well with picky eaters.

        since he likes onions, green peppers and corn, maybe try a pork or chicken chile verde with corn on the cob (or other corn side)?

    2. this sounds as if it's going to be quite taxing for you! I would definitely try to develop the Indian theme as this is quite easy to do without dairy, and at least you've got off to a good start if he likes that kind of spice flavour - how about lamb rogan josh next? Then I think I'd be thinking along the lines of stews/braises, like perhaps boeuf bourgignonne, goulash, beef braised in beer, slow-cooked lamb shanks - all quite simple, non-threatening flavours and textures but still tasty. Also, how about roasted joint of meat / poultry with roast potatoes, veg and gravy? Perhaps things with rice, risotto/paella type things - and maybe soups would be good. I wish you success with your houseguest and hope it doesn't all lead to tears, cooking issues can be emotive!

      2 Replies
      1. re: flashria

        Lamb is on the list. He has never tried it before. My husband wants to cook it for him. He did a full leg of lamb for my cousin who had never tried lamb which sent my cousin into bliss with a now full blown lamb addiction. lol.

        The good news is that he does know how to cook and he does have some of his mom's recipes he likes. So if its a stressful day for me at work, he has a few things he could could.

        Chicken and Steak seem to be his go to meats although we can't afford to eat steaks that often. So I've thought about using chicken and introducing some Indian flavors with that as the protein. He loves rice so that shouldn't be a problem.

        He likes spicy too and he loves spanish style rice so maybe there is an avenue there as well.

        I eat just about anything, I'm really good about eating leftovers. There really isn't any stress here and some nights when I eat a late lunch I we have a fend for yourself night.

        Which is also good for him.

        Thanks for the ideas. :) I'm writing them all down.

        1. re: flashria

          I just found a chicken vindaloo recipe on epicurious that I might try.

        2. Yeah, if he's into curry, that's the direction I'd go. What if you did one new kind of curry or similar dish each week, maybe including one veggie or other ingredient he's unfamiliar with? That universe of curries is so massive that you'd get to the end of his stay long before you got to the end of the dishes you could make!

          But my number one suggestion would be to get his butt in the kitchen to help you cook!! :) Not just because he's a grown man who needs to learn to take care of himself, but because sometimes that's the only way a person can conquer his/her food "issues". If he has to put in the effort to make something, I bet he'll eat it.

          In all seriousness, you shouldn't feel like you *have* to cater to him, but it's great that you're seeing this as an opportunity to help him branch out! You're clearly a much more understanding sister-in-law than I'd be! :)

          Good luck!

          1 Reply
          1. re: LauraGrace

            That's a great idea about the curries. Just to start building off of that.

            I forgot to mention in my post that he does cook. He has some recipes he likes, it's just a small number and we'd like to expand that. He wants to be able to enjoy food more and not feel like he has to work around everything all the time. I think by expanding his horizons he can find some more variety.

            Well the nut allergy he has is pretty serious while the dairy isn't quite as bad but I get it and it's budget friendly to work together.

          2. I've often found that people with serious allergies often become picky eaters. From their perspective, so many things make them sick or remind them of things that make them sick that they develop a strong allegiance to certain familiar foods. So, I'd go a little easy on him and try to introduce foods and flavors to him slowly. Also, he might not have the desire to eat the same variety as you --his "survival" skills probably include the ability to eat the same thing over and over--so you might ease up on pressuring YOURSELF to come up with these constant new creations that meet his requirements. While you might desire variety and don't want to eat the same thing every day, he might be content to eat the same thing for a few days in a row.Perhaps consider making foods he does like to eat in big batches and freezing them etc. That way, if you feel like branching out into something he may be unfamiliar with (even if he's not allergic to it) , he can have something he's comfortable with.


            1 Reply
            1. re: The Dairy Queen

              Very true and something I didn't think about. Previously to this he was living with his parents, his mom who has the same food allergies, he would just eat what she eats. So I'm planning on gathering some recipes from her. She's a good cook,

              She makes a great Italian beef for sandwiches, I can make a double batch of that and freeze half. I understand why he is the way he is this way and I really like that he is willing to try things but I agree that sometimes even trying them isn't enough to get past the mental block.

            2. I love a challenge - fortunately I come from a family where no one is picky and we have very few allergies. But your request got me thinking. You might try Vietnamese food - there's a cookbook called Into the Vietnamese Kitchen that has some great recipes - there's a beef stir-fry with crispy potatoes that's really easy and delicious too. There's a grilled chicken that I serve with a ginger lime dipping sauce (recipe's in the back of the book). Both are nut and dairy free and would expose him to new flavors without being too bold.

              Another cuisine you might try is Moroccan - I make a bunch of chicken and lamb tagines that are easy and have simple flavors but are exotic at the same time - there's one I love that's simply chicken with green olives, lemon and thyme. There's a small book called Tagine by Ghillie Basan that's great.

              Best of luck!

              1 Reply
              1. re: ladyberd

                oh that sounds amazing. Vietnamese and Moroccan. We have a Vietnamese part of town here. I could take him to the Viet grocery store.

              2. Hey, Good Lady,
                That's awfully nice. Good on you for taking in a family member and trying to do right by him within his parameters. You will need much patience and ingenuity.
                You can make a chicken and dumpling or chicken/rice stew using broth and roux, no milk or cream. You might try braising a pot roast with bell peppers and onions, since he enjoys those, and serving with corn. Also, the corn and peppers and onions make a righteous succotash, especially if combined with cubed zucchini. Re: the Indian flavors: a very easy and delicious curry (lamb, chicken or fish) can be made with coconut milk and broth, obviating the need for paneer or other dairy products. You can translate those tacos into burritos and enchiladas, too. One thing you might try is making a meatball/veg. minestrone soup with cooked pasta and beans thrown in at the end: the vegies cut small enough not to be obnoxious to him, and just a good cupful of beans and pasta for ballast. A go-to would probably be to just keep roasted chicken pieces around, either to munch on as is or make salad out of (Chinese chicken salad? would that work for him?) and never forget breakfast for dinner, a lifesaver in many cases. Good luck. Sending best wishes.

                2 Replies
                1. re: mamachef

                  thank you. very true. I did ask him about coconut milk and he said he likes it. I think chicken would be a great way to introduce him to some new flavors. Since he knows chicken he would be more apt to try it.

                  I'm going to have him try zucchini, he doesn't like cucumber and because zucchini's look much like a cucumber even though their flavors are different it may be hard.

                  thank you for the ideas. :)

                  1. re: Sandwich_Sister

                    Well, two suggestions for that. You can peel the zucchini and seed it and dice it, all out of his range of sight, and he'll never know what it is. Number two: Shred the washed, trimmed zucchini with carrots and give them a quick turn in unsalted butter in a saute pan with a little ks &p. Virtually completely disguised, visually, and delicious to boot.
                    That being said, and no insult intended, this could be a good thread for a person trying to feed an insanely picky kid, too...

                2. I have very severe intolerances, so I know how difficult it is to prepare good food from scratch. The biggest key with allergies/intolerances is to build from the starch, not the protein in the meal. Which is directly backwards from the majority of cookbooks/instructional manuals which have most things listed by protein.

                  Does he like pasta, rice, potatoes? You can build a wide variety of meals with just those three.

                  Like you, I use chicken a lot for the protein. For the quickest meals it is imperative to get yourself what I call "halfway there" with the prep. That means buying what's on sale (chicken breast, thighs etc) popping them in the slow cooker with a bit of salt and pepper. If your chicken is precooked, you're halfway there to a quick weeknight dinner. Bacon, I do the whole package in the oven-that way I have nice crisp bacon to throw into a pasta or baked dish. Carmelize a few onions or roast garlic ahead of time and store in the fridge. They will elevate simple dishes to fancy in no time and reheat rather well. If I don't have time to these on a weekend, I will usually do one after I make dinner.

                  Since you mentioned he likes onions and green pepper more ethnic cuisine would seem the way to go. I would suggest carribean influenced style rice dishes, italian pastas with sausage. Mexican food (fajitas, carne asada) uses these quite a bit as well.

                  As far as direct substitutions, it comes down to analyzing the final dish. What is the dairy there for? A salty contrast? You can use bread crumbs, nutritional yeast to replicate the flavour. Is it cool down the dish? If he's not allergic, coconut milk or soy creamer?