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Cooking for a Picky (Adult) Eater

My husband and I have very different tastes in food. I will try anything, and like most things, while he has a very strict mental list of things he will and will not eat, and he is terrible about trying new things.

Cooking is my biggest passion, so I cook almost every night, and on weekends, we usually have 3 home cooked meals per day. In some ways, I know this has spoiled him a bit, as I can't even get him to learn how to cook a chicken cutlet so he can make a real meal for himself when I'm not home.

The problem is that I get so bored. With just two of us, food waste is already an ongoing battle, so I hesitate to buy things only I like, for fear it'll go bad before I use it up. So I usually stick to things we both like, but that list is short. Meat-wise, he will only eat chicken (boneless, skinless), ground beef, deli meats & bacon. I like all cuts and kinds of meat, and I can't remember the last time I had a pork chop. The only veggies we both like are green beans, broccoli and corn. I also can't remember the last time I had snow peas or squash or sweet potatoes. He also won't eat beans or anything wheat (ie. brown rice, wheat bread, etc). I have made so many different chicken + veggie + rice/pasta meals I can't see straight, and I'm still bored.

More so than the cost and stress of buying two sets of food, on weekdays I don't get home from work until almost 7pm. Essentially I walk in the door, change out of my work clothes and high tail it the kitchen. I need to get something on the table quickly, and making two different dinners is usually not all that appealing.

He's told me that he will start to try things, but I'm nervous that we're going to end up throwing away a lot of (very expensive) food in the meantime. So my issue it two-fold: I want to broaden our culinary horizons, but I'd also like to expand my repertoire of make-ahead and/or quick meals.

What are some "safe" foods I can start to introduce to expand my picky husband's palette?

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  1. I don't cook for a picky adult but my kid won't anything unless he thinks it's on a Chili's menu. The way I've managed to get things past him is by focussing on the "other things." He LOVES bread, who doesn't? Make fresh bread and pair it with something new - I bet you could sneak a pork chop into a pannini... If left overs are a problem, make soups and stews, they keep forever, make your house smell awesome, and some can be really fun to make.

    1. quick check here - brown rice is NOT wheat. do you mean he won't eat grains of any kind? barley? couscous? israeli couscous? corn tortillas (no wheat there)?

      what is his/your stance on flavors? try cooking familiar dishes with slight twists.
      Mexican Strata/lasagna with chicken - layer tortillas, salsa, veggies of choice, cheese, chicken with green chiles, sour cream, etc. and bake
      Burger - but use fish or another meat or veggie... in a lettuce wrap if he won't eat bread

      however you like to make your broccoli or beans, next time add some other veggies that you like, and allow hubby to taste. if he likes the prep of the others, he's more likely to like the new stuff in that prep

      random ideas -
      sloppy joe's - you can include new spicing/ingredients and/or serve over something new
      enchiladas with chicken and corn tortillas
      chicken marbella? marsala? piccata? cacciatore?

      what are some of his favorite meals/flavors?

      3 Replies
      1. re: Emme

        I think maybe she means "anything whole grain" vs. "anything wheat"?

        Can you just say "I'm making X, and if you want something else, make it yourself"?

        1. re: will47

          He may not be eating starches.

          1. re: mcf

            Well, he eats corn, which is not a vegetable, but a starchy grain. It sounds more like it's random prejudice against foods that he wasn't served as a child. (And I would argue that green beans are not vegetables, but a legume.)

            The OP is describing my mother. She is the exact same way and she lives with us.

            I say cook what you cook, make enough for both of you and if he won't eat, he can get his own food. You'll have leftovers to take to work the next day if he doesn't eat.

      2. If you have time to cook over the weekend, why not make some of the dishes you love and roast up an oven full of his chicken breasts. Freeze it all and then every night, have what you want while he gets his chicken and whatever side is the easiest. Might change his mind about being so picky or he might learn how to cook. Just wondering, are these eating habits many decades old or is there still a chance to change them?

        1 Reply
        1. Lots of studies have shown that a good way to get a child to accept a food they 'don't like' is to present it to them at least 7-10 times. Don't see why it wouldn't work with adults!

          Just cook what ever you want him to get used to and put it on his plate with no fuss. If he asks what it is, just tell him straight out, without much comment and ask him to try it. No need to say, "You'll like it" or "It's really good." - don't make a big drama of it.

          Choose 1 item at a time and persist with it over a fairly short period like 1-2 weeks if possible. i've seen parents do this with avocado and at the end of the week the kid just popped it in his mouth unasked and conceded that it wasn't bad.

          1. Folks, we've removed a number of posts from this thread. The original poster hasn't asked for relationship advice or suggestions to make her husband do the cooking, she's asked for suggestions on recipes to make. Moreover, relationship advice is off-topic here. We've emailed the posters whose posts had a mix of off-topic advice with food advice, so they can edit and repost.

            If you've got recipe ideas, please go ahead and post them, but please leave out your opinions of the OP's husband and his food preferences.

            1. I think there are ways to make 2 different versions of the same meal that aren't so time consuming. Buy a club pack of chicken breasts and a club pack of pork chops (steak, fish, whatever). Freeze them in individual packages and thaw one of each and cook them up with the same sauce/sides. When I make lasagna, I often make one half with a lot of meat and the other half with some extra vegetables and just a bit of meat, so that my SO and I are both happy.

              I don't think it would be any more effort to make a regular baked potato for him and a baked sweet potato for you than it would be to make 2 regular potatoes.

              Also, (and I hope big brother won't find this too close to relationship advice) why not buy a bunch of good (white) bread and deli meats and cereal and he can fill up on that stuff if he tastes a 'new' meal and doesn't like it. You can eat the leftovers for lunch if he didn't finish his share (just serve a small amount on his plate to start). That might help to ease the hunger/food waste in the beginning. If he likes them, creamy dips (e.g., buttermilk ranch, blue cheese/bacon dip) might help some raw carrots, peppers, and snap peas go down.

              1. he has said he's willing to try new foods, but you're afraid they will go to waste? i work odd and often long hours. it's totally unreasonable to work all day, get home at 7, cook 2 meals from point a, and then eat and clean up. are you still doing dishes at 10? that's gonna get old very fast.

                i am somebody who loves to cook and even though my b/f and i keep separate apartments, i basically do all his cooking. he fills in with cereal, sandwiches, scrambled eggs. and that is absolutely because he is dead spoiled by years of me stocking his fridge and freezer.

                this sounds like more than just his issue, but also a time and financial management one for you.

                practical cooking for only 2 (or 1, kinda) means being conservative at the grocery store. much fresh produce only stands up a few days in the fridge anyway, so don't buy big packages of anything. learn to work your way around frozen veggies like spinach and artichoke hearts that can be really versatile. instead of 6 scratch meals on the weekend, take a few hours to make bulk dishes. a big pack of chicken that he can nosh on all week; stews, braises, soups, lasagnes, quiches, whatever. stuff you can then portion and either freeze or refrigerate to re-heat for dinner.

                what some of us may consider safe, others may not agree. but if he'll eat ground beef, why not try ground pork or ground lamb? even ground dark meat turkey? experiment with cheaper cuts too, like pork butt, instead of pork loin. almost all vegetables are delicious with butter, cream or cheese. maybe he's only had them cooked to death by poor cooks in his childhood?

                you may want to consider channeling your love of cooking into entertaining and having friends over. invite over a few couples, cook what you like and enjoy the night.

                1. You have my sympathy because this is a really difficult situation for anyone that loves food.

                  I had a similar battle a few years ago and was able to win a few fans.

                  Consider adding a new meat or veg into something he already likes - a bit of pork in some fried rice with chicken and shrimp. Something he can ignore if it doesn't work for him but won't waste the entire dish.

                  I managed to take a very large bunch of guys who had lived on junk into a group of good eaters. A newer ingredient served in a familiar way is a good start.

                  1. DH is super-picky when it comes to eating, especially vegetables. I could have written this post except that he loves pork and it sounds like your dh doesn't? Just remember - there's no law that says the two of you have to eat exactly the same plate, even if you're starting with the same basic ingredients. If we're having a dish that I can add extra veggies too, I'll cook it plain and add my own veggies at the end. (eg. he gets chicken-and-rice with some carrots and sweetcorn cooked into it, and I add baby peas to my serve.) A hot bowl of broth or saucy food will easily thaw/warm some baby peas, and if you're in doubt stick the frozen veggie in the microwave for a minute before you dish.

                    Sweet potatoes are great cooked in the microwave too - you can easily stick one in for yourself and cook it in five minutes without having to make him eat it.

                    You say he doesn't like pork. Have you tried him with boneless pork loin? It's very mild and he might find it acceptable. How about bbq sauce or other dressings on the side? DH will eat most things if you give him a ramekin of ranch dressing or bbq sauce to dip them in.

                    1. Might he consider spaghetti and meatballs? That's can be as easy or as complicated as you choose to make it, and will help him get his veggies. Meatballs and sauce reheat easily, and pasta takes about 12 minutes or so to cook. You might also consider meatloaf which also reheats very well; I'm a big fan of the Martha Stewart recipe. Finally, what about breakfast for dinner? Would he enjoy a nice omelette for supper?

                      1. Homemade pizza! Make two personal pizzas, and you can each have whatever toppings you want.

                        How about a Thai curry? You can use whatever meat and vegetables you want. Strong flavours, but really not so different from any other chicken-and-veggies-over-rice dish. And I've known many a generic curry-hater to be swayed by the tang of the fresh spices and the creaminess of the coconut milk. Make your own curry paste, and you can even control the amount of heat in there. Just don't tell him about the fish sauce. My fish-hating boyfriend doesn't ask, and I don't tell him. No complaints from anyone.

                        If a curry is a bit ambitious, you could start small with the spices. Try introducing some cumin or a touch of hot chili to regular mac and cheese.

                        And I agree with the others who have said to make sure you have the ingredients for sandwiches (or something else easy that he likes) on hand. It may take some experimenting to find new things that both of you like, and he may end up eating some sandwiches, and you may end up eating some leftovers in the meantime. I imagine that it will ultimately be worth it for both of you though.

                        1. I feel for you, as the fellow spouse of a pick(ier!) eater.

                          The way that I somewhat expanded the range of what we eat at home is to keep things really simple. When I start cooking complicated dishes with lots of ingredients, my husband turns his nose up at it.

                          We do a lot of pasta -- he gets a very plain tomato sauce for his, I'll do a small portion of something more adventurous for me. Other than that, we often end up fixing 2 meals (he fixes his and I fix mine). The best advice that I can give is to start off with very simple dishes and move on from there. Good luck!

                          1. I had a picky ex, and I found it helpful to make familiar favorites with slight modification or additions. For example, he loved Chinese food, so I'd make different stir fry variations, adding a new veggie each time. Like I would do one and add bell peppers, but the next time I made it, I might put in mushrooms instead, etc. I would make fried rice with brown rice instead of white, but since it had the bits of egg and veggies, plus soy sauce, he hardly noticed the color of the rice.

                            Another fun thing I did was make his favorite fast food dishes at home, from scratch. (The KFC bowl thing with the layers of fried chicken, corn, and mashed potatoes was a big hit.) It wasn't gourmet, but was certainly healthier, and with quality, whole ingredients. It didn't necessarily expand his experience, but got him used to eating (and tasting!) home cooked food, and make him more open to trying new things later on, as he saw I was trying to accommodate him.

                            I also tried to introduce completely new foods a few times a month, and since it wasn't too often, he would be polite about trying it. He was sometimes surprised to find he liked it! Over the course of our marriage, he went from a junk food junkie to someone who would eat vegetables, be more adventurous with food, and generally ate better. I'm not sure I ever converted him to real food, per se, but at least got him to point of trying things and being helpful at the table rather than disdainful.

                            1. I find that although I originally tried to please my SO with his dinners that he has learned to try and like many things. Some thinks he forces down like Brussels sprouts but I find if I mostly cook what I want he makes an effort. I use butternut squash instead of tomato sauce for stuffed shells, lasagna or over pasta with some hot turkey sausage. Stir fry has gotten him to try lots of things like peppers, mushrooms in tomato sauces. I'm not supporting "hiding" food but making setting more familiar or palatable can help. Some things that have less taste like jicama can spice up mexiacn food. Before I met my SO he had never had most ethnic foods, we started him on Indian but with a plain chicken tikka, all white meat no sauce, comes out sizzling like a fajita. He worked his way through all if those and now he had branched into things in sauce such as goat Rogan
                              Josh. This is give years later mind you. If he hates what I make he tends to find something on his own and I note that he doesn't like it. My dad didn't eat beans either, until he started with some heavily season hummus. Roasting most veggies makes them taste delicious and can make a believer of most people. Here are some things he has enjoyed: homemade fish sticks made with tiilapia, fettucine bolognese with different types of ground meat, maple mustard glazed salmon (although he did eat canned salmon when we met so it mint not count) cooking light's BBQ rubbed pork chops, pizza's with various odd toppings ( his favorite became pear and blue cheese pizza, but in pizza he has eaten sweet potato, leeks and zucchini), cooking light kafta burgers to introduce middle eastern flavors using pita instead of a bun, risottos (using barley instead of rice as he get comfortable with them), you can try quinoa but personally I don't like the taste, vegetable purée soups (squash, potato, artichoke, pea, asparagus), making fritters or latkes with other vegetables, recreating restaurant favorites at home, falafel, gnocchi, kibbe( bulgar filled with ground beef) .