HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


Something simple to teach

I am teaching a friend to cook for himself to save money. His goal is 35 dollars a week or so. He literally didn't know how to make scrambled eggs or brown hamburger meat. One friend taught him the eggs and I taught tacos ( with a seasoning packet because that's all he is comfortable with so far). Tomorrow he has requested we do something with chicken. I want to make it as simple as possible and budget friendly. He is also an incredibly picky eater. I was thinking perhaps oven baked chicken pieces and rice but I am open to suggestions. With my meat CSA I barely do anything besides a whole roast chicken anymore. Thanks for any ideas you can give me. I asked him for what chicken he likes but he didn't know.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. baked/roasted
    stir fry
    chicken and yellow rice- very tasty for no effort at all

    Baked, roasted, or sauteed, then sliced and frozen in single-serve portions for stir-fries, pasta, and salads

    1. What a good friend you are! I think a roast chicken is a great idea. Give him some ideas regarding leftovers, too. Fajitas, salads, sandwiches all are easy to make.

      1. Using the whole chicken, you can make a lot of different dishes. First, poach the chicken until it's cooked. Remove the chicken, cool and then remove the meat and reserve. Return the carcass and the rest to the poaching water and simmer for a few hours to make stock (add celery, onions, carrots, salt, pepper, bay leaf, if wanted--can be added when cooking chicken, too). With this, he can easily make:

        1) chicken soup, adding some chicken meat, cooked noodles/ rice, frozen vegetables (or fresh if he can get them as cheaply)

        2) chicken and dumplings--show him how to make the dumplings from this recipe, super easy and add to stock and chicken:


        3) make a white sauce w/ the stock, add chicken and peas and you can serve over noodles, rice or top w/ pie crust or corn bread and bake for chicken pot pie

        4) make chicken salad w/ remaining meat

        1 Reply
        1. re: chowser

          I totally second this plan. Whole chickens are cheapest and can often be found on sale. Stock is healthy and versatile and a great gateway food to get him interested in flavors and cooking more.

          The meat you get off the carcass can be frozen individually as either diced or shredded and is great in all kinds of soups, stews, pasta sauces or seasoned with a wrap or salad. Uber mega versatile!

          If you really want to do something with the breasts, you can cut them off before starting all the above and everythign will still turn out fine, hell do 2 at a time. :)

        2. The easiest way I've ever roasted a chicken is by using Marcella Hazan's Roast Chicken with Lemons. Here's the recipe: http://cheaphealthygood.blogspot.com/....

          When I'm done eating the chicken, I use it to make stock. I don't bother flavoring the stock with onions, carrots, etc. I just cover the chicken with water in an 8 qt. stockpot, bring it to a boil, then let it simmer for at least 4 hours. I take out the chicken, let the stock cool, refrigerate it.

          The next day, I remove the top layer of fat, and make chicken soup. I saute some onion, add carrots and potatoes, then cook them in the stock. Add salt. If I have a rind of Parmigiano-Reggiano, I put it in with the carrots and potatoes. When they're almost cooked, I add ditalini. When the pasta is cooked, I add some frozen peas.

          You can use any veg you like. Just give it a proper amount of time to cook. I used to use kale, but it adds a sour taste, especially on the second day, so I cut it out. If you like it, it's better to cook it separately and add it to the soup each time you eat it.

          You need to use a lot of salt -- I've never measured, but it seems like a lot to get it to taste right -- plus some pepper.

          1. You are so nice and helpful..... I would not even mess with such a picky eater. Drop them off on a desert Island and we'll see what phonies they are. Teach him how to make some jazzed up rice, pasta, potatoes baked sweet potatoes. That can take him a long way

            1. i would start with a roast, a braise, and a stir fry. if you can do those three things, ya can make a TON of chicken dishes!

              1. I would show him how to roast 2 chicken leg quarters. Show him how cheap they are ($1/lb in my area) and then put some oil on them. sprinkle some salt, pepper, smoked paprika and throw them in a 350° F oven for 75 minutes. Use a broiler pan or a jelly roll pan with a cooling rack so the fat drips away. Once he has seen that then show him how to roast a whole chicken.like Chowser says.

                Eventually show him rice pilafs and stir fry.

                4 Replies
                1. re: Hank Hanover

                  I'm with Hank. A roast chicken is great, as are leftovers, but that might be better for once he's more advanced, especially with the carving and all. And with legs and wings, he can use different bottled sauces for a variety of different meals.

                  1. re: Hank Hanover

                    Exactly what I was going to suggest. Roasting leg quarters or just thighs is incredibly easy and non-intimidating. In fact it was one of the first things I learned how to cook as a kid. Chicken thighs, rub with olive oil, sprinkle with a mix of salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder; put in 400º oven for 30 minutes then reduce to 350º for 20 more minutes. Eat. Simple.

                    1. re: Kitchen Imp

                      Perfect in theory but he refused any chicken with bones. He also basically said , white meat only.

                      1. re: melpy

                        Oven poached boneless breasts or thighs - poach in a roasting pan with carrot, onion, celery, a little wine or lemon and water or stock to cover. Cover with aluminum foil and cook about 30 minutes. Chicken wont dry out - almost impossible to over cook. Let chicken cool in the liquid if not using right away. Serve as is with pesto or your favorite prepared sauce or make chicken salad. tacos, etc.

                  2. Forget about the lesson, tell me more about this meat csa! :P

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: twyst

                      North Mountain Pastures- beef, pork, lamb, chicken, eggs, specialty cured meats. Typing from phone so cutting and pasting the link is difficult. Google it. They are also looking for help through kickstarter.com because they are fairly new.

                      1. re: melpy

                        Adding specialty meats this season: veal, goat, duck, salmon, rabbit.

                    2. For something absolutely ridiculously simple... take some chicken breasts or thighs, barely cover them in water or chicken broth, bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer to cook for 20-30 minutes. Remove, let cool, shred apart, and put them into warm tortillas with condiments of choice for some chicken tacos.

                      1. A pounded paillard dredged in flour with a pan sauce. You can make a bunch and freeze. (but chicken breasts can be pricey). Roast chicken can be so cost effective because you can use the carcass for stock. Which means you can teach him how to do a rice pilaf (easy peasy!).

                        1. this is a really good and really easy recipie and you can play around with the spices depending on your likes / dislikes. I have thrown in pearl onions as well. It makes a nice sauce so a loaf of bread or rice to soak it up are good sides.


                          1. Just a thought -- maybe starting with teaching him all the things you can do with a rotisserie chicken from the grocery could be a baby step, too...then when he's comfortable with soups, salads, pasta, tacos, etc.,etc., etc. - show him how to bake/roast/braise/saute/stir fry.

                            THEN show him how to turn the carcass into soup.

                            Thinking out loud, so to speak...

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: sunshine842

                              +1 on repurposing a deli rotisserie chicken. Or, consider simple garlic chicken--use the cheaper and tastier chicken thighs, about 1/3 c butter and maybe 15 cloves of garlic, s & p. Simple, delicious, and the leftovers make great chicken salad. Bless you for helping this poor starving guy!

                            2. Depending on how picky he is, he may not be willing to eat chicken with bones in it (I have vivid memories of my brother cutting up his ex-girlfriend's Cornish game hen for her one Christmas because she couldn't deal with the bones). Therefore, I would probably go with chicken breast. Show him how to cut it (demonstrate a butterfly cut for any thin/sauteed applications, or thin strips for stirfry) and then show him how to grill it and/or saute it. Hammer home the point that this works for other types of lean meat as well (i.e. pork tenderloin, flank steak, etc.). If he eats vegetables, perhaps show him how to slice up a few of those, get a decent bottled stirfry sauce and show him how to make rice. Instant Chinese takeout.

                              1. Considering his skill level, I suggest Shake n Bake....seriously!
                                I don't use it often, and always just the original one, but I just wet some chicken pieces, and toss them in the Shake n Bake. Put them on a parchment lined baking sheet, and bake at 400 until done. It really doesn't get much easier.
                                With that, I suggest some simple veggie preparation or show him how to make a good salad with a cheap, homemade basic vinegarette.

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: icey

                                  Ah, memories. My mom made Shake n Bake pork chops often when I was growing up,; we loved them--in fact, it was the only of her pork chop preparations that we liked.

                                  1. re: icey

                                    Shake and bake is a great idea. My mom would so the pork chops. I asked him about chicken with bones and he said he would eat it. I have to take him to the store and show him so we might choose as we go.

                                    1. re: melpy

                                      I was also going to suggest Shake and Bake. By the way, I use the pork one for chicken too, but the newbie is going to need the directions on the box so he should use the one made for whatever meat he's cooking. Be sure to tell him he can use just part of a packet and save the rest for another time, rather than waste it. He can pour the crumbs into any plastic or paper bag. Prick a couple of small potatoes - russet or sweet - and put them on the oven rack to bake in the same amount of time it takes to bake the chicken.

                                    2. re: icey

                                      I do that with just seasoned flour on the chicken pieces, but I don't know how easily you can convey how to season flour to him.

                                    3. If he's got budget and pickiness constraints going, I hope you're involving him in the shopping phase of things. Different chicken parts are on sale each week, and I'd start with what's on sale.

                                      Chicken and rice dishes are an obvious choice. For sheer ease and salty goodness, it's hard to trump some version of the old Campbell's Mushroom and Lipton's Onion bake:


                                      If there's room for some more effort in spicing and prep, then I'd look into arroz con pollo recipes.

                                      1. Oven baked chicken pieces is a good idea - incredibly easy, can use whatever chicken parts have been on sale (buy the bulk package and freeze for later!), can be varied with spices & herbs, served hot or cold (good for a bag lunch!). Easy variations also inc. "oven fried" (coated with crumbs before baking), or baked with a sauce, with mushrooms, etc. For extra easy goodness, vegetables can be roasted in the pan along with the chicken for a one-pan meal (root veg & brassicas are best - roasting can make even the evilest brussels sprout tasty.)

                                        1. Ok heading to the store together this evening. I think the goal is oven baked chicken and rice. My mother always made with a béchamel sauce for the rice, bit I doubt he will eat it but I will make it for me.

                                          He doesn't eat any veg that I have seen but I hope to encourage him to pick out something if he wants while we are there. I will post back results tomorrow. Maybe he will have next time's ideas ready as well.

                                          19 Replies
                                          1. re: melpy

                                            thanks for the update, interested to hear how dinner goes!

                                            1. re: melpy

                                              That sounds good. Another time, chicken noodle soup might be easy. Not too overwhelming for a beginner.

                                              1. re: melpy

                                                Ok, once we got to the store he basically made it clear that he wouldn't eat chicken on the bone. I showed him all the price differences etc. We ending up buying a pack of 4 chicken cutlets for like 4 dollars. Since the meat would come out to a dollar a meal and he isn't a big eater anyway, cost effective took a backseat to actually eating it and ease of preparation. We ending up doing breaded chicken cutlet using breadcrbs but we talked about all the different alternatives he could use. We made the cutlets two different ways, baked in the oven and pan fried in oil. He liked both and we learned a lot about kitchen safety with raw chicken and oil.

                                                Apparently he does eat plain white rice and he usually eating the 90 second in a bag rice and it ends up being three servings instead of two for him. Since the chicken thin ended up being more complex I thought that even if the cost was more than the plain rice at least he would make three meals of it. He chose a creamy cheese Uncle Bens 90 sec microwave bag.
                                                I asked him about vegetables and he said potatoes, corn, peas and cauliflower with cheese sauce. Didn't want to get into a whole thing about grains, and starchy veg etc. So we went to the frozen aisle and he chose corn , which we simply followed the directions on the back.

                                                He was so excited and really loved what he made. Thanks for all the advice! He is supposed to think about our next lesson so I'm sure I'll be back for more tips.

                                                1. re: melpy

                                                  Well...it's a start...!

                                                  It at least gets him headed down the road of freshly prepared foods and the ability to fend for himself (and hopefully save a little money along the way)

                                                  Hopefully he'll gain some momentum once he realizes how much better things taste when they're made from fresh ingredients.

                                                  Everybody has to start somewhere...you're a good person for helping him make a good one.

                                                  1. re: melpy

                                                    Just curious... why wouldn't he eat chicken on the bone?

                                                    Easy enough to get around like you did.

                                                    Show him how to make a rice pilaf with chicken chunks and maybe some mushrooms and peas.

                                                    1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                      I was wondering the same thing as Hank. It's hard to imagine that he's never eaten barbecued chicken on the bone (drumsticks?!?), but I suppose these days one never knows.

                                                      1. re: Kitchen Imp

                                                        Most "picky" eaters I know won't eat meat on the bone, and I know plenty of people who aren't all that picky but still don't like dark meat chicken, which is why I suggested boneless/skinless breasts upthread. Anyway, melpy, if your friend is up for it, I would suggest buying whole boneless breasts next time instead of cutlets, since they're likely to be a LOT cheaper. You can then teach him how to cut them into cutlets himself, or butterfly them to make a simple stuffed chicken dish (chicken cordon bleu comes to mind - who doesn't like ham and cheese?). I would also definitely tackle learning to make rice from scratch next time, since it's about 1000x cheaper than those packets.

                                                        For another simple lesson - does he know how make simple breakfast foods, like french toast, pancakes (from a box mix if necessary), bacon (in the oven is pretty fail-proof and makes cleanup easier), hash browns/home fries (from the freezer bag if necessary, although raw potatoes are cheaper), sausage and/or omelets? All of those should be pretty simple to teach and make inexpensive, satisfying dinners as well as breakfasts.

                                                        1. re: biondanonima

                                                          or "breakfast for dinner", which is one of the best no-guilt treats around.

                                                          1. re: biondanonima

                                                            I know hr makes bacon in the oven because he does grill burger in the summer for parties and always has bacon on his burgers when possible. I'll through out the breakfast for dinner idea and see what happens.

                                                        2. re: Hank Hanover

                                                          I know this won't be popular but I have little patience with "incredibly picky eaters" when they want help.

                                                          He wants everyones help. He wants to learn how to cook. He wants to keep his food budget under $35 a week.

                                                          He has all these irrational rules. Not eating anything off the bone doesn't even have anything to do with taste.

                                                          I can understand someone not liking the taste of something. My wife's dislike of yellow cheese makes my menu planning more difficult than I would like but if she doesn't like it, there is no sense in making a dish with yellow cheese.

                                                          He has all kinds of requirements then let him live with it. Tell him that when he becomes more flexible, you would be happy to help him.

                                                          Vegans impose a lot of food restrictions on themselves, and that's fine, but they don't come to me to help them come up with a diet they can live with. They work with other vegans to come up with dishes they can live with.

                                                          Let him find a group of irrationally picky eaters and develop some dishes that meet his requirements. When he gets hungry enough or broke enough, he will become more flexible.

                                                            1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                              +2. Mostly. With caveats.

                                                              I can understand some of these rules from children (I used to deconstruct my hamburgers and refused to eat anything containing ketchup or ranch dressing, and I wasn't terribly picky), but I don't really understand it from an adult. I can't comprehend not being able to eat things "off the bone" unless he's bothered by the reminder that he's eating an animal, in which case maybe he shouldn't eat meat.

                                                              However, I will give him the benefit of the doubt, as it does seem that he's making some effort towards changing his diet. Plus, he seems satisfied with the cooking that he has been doing, and wants to learn more. Perhaps he'll come around to foods as exotic as bone-in meat and vegetables.

                                                              1. re: caseyjo

                                                                I spoil my 6 year old grand daughter, incessantly and shamelessly but there is a point where even I would have to say: "well, you'll eat when you're hungry enough."

                                                                1. re: caseyjo

                                                                  never met someone with physical dexterity issues, I take it?

                                                                  1. re: Chowrin

                                                                    His aversion to meat on the bone has nothing to do with physical dexterity issues. However he has been unable to explain what the real problem with the bones are for him.

                                                                    1. re: melpy

                                                                      just a thought -- what about teaching him something beef stew-ish, where the meat is *supposed* to fall off the bone? Then he could just fish the bones out, and Voila! Meat off the bone...

                                                                      1. re: melpy

                                                                        I suspect he just wants things as simple as possible. A boneless chicken breast can simply be eaten with a fork and a knife. You don't have to pick around anything. You don't have to pick it up and gnaw on it.

                                                                        Unfortunately, he is missing out on a lot of flavor and economy.

                                                              2. re: melpy

                                                                For future reference: An easy but good boneless chicken breast recipe is to pound them flat, turn skin side down and put a tbsp of flavored cream cheese - either garden veg or chive/onion - in the middle, then roll up. Place skin up, seam down in a baking dish. Drape a whole or half slice of bacon over the top, bake at 375-400 for around 35-45 min depending on size and thickness. You want the bacon and chicken skin browned and well-rendered. The drippings will meld with whatever cheese leaks out, making a yummy sauce. If you use a bigger pan, you can bake small potatoes right in the same pan.

                                                                For use in salads and sandwiches, I poach a large boneless, skinless chicken breast in the microwave. Put a half cup of water into a 2-cup Pyrex measuring cup, heat it up and stir in a half tsp of Better than Bouillon chicken. Add the chicken and emough cold water to cover.
                                                                A couple of shakes of Trader Joe's 21 Seasoning Salute (which is salt-free). Cover Pyrex lightly with a plate or plastic, nuke at 50% power for 10 minutes and let meat cool in the broth.
                                                                The meat comes out well-seasoned and the broth can be used later for a bowl of soup by adding leftover vegetables and rice, or incorporated into a pan sauce/gravy.

                                                                If this guy is serious about eating for less than $35 a week he is going to need to use fewer shortcut staples like boil-in-bag rice, or vegetables packaged with cheese sauce.

                                                                1. re: greygarious

                                                                  That was my concern about the short cut good. But cooking for one versus going out for fast food with some short cuts that serve more than one mealnfor him might be worth it to start. We do price comparison at the grocery store every week so he can decide I time, effort or money is worth it.

                                                            2. Picky in what way? Is he a salt and pepper only type picky eater?
                                                              Oven baking is very easy - preheat, salt and pepper and bake. Optional, brush on bbq sauce for the last 10 minutes of cooking.

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: dave_c

                                                                Here is how I do chicken and rice:
                                                                Brown chicken parts in a little hot oil, just get good color on them don't worry about done-ness.
                                                                Take up chicken and keep warm.
                                                                In the hot pan, saute some diced onion,celery, carrot,garlic, mushroom. Any, all, or none of the foregoing depending on your taste.
                                                                When the vegetables have softened up, add however much uncooked rice you need and continue to cook and stir a few more minutes.
                                                                Add the appropriate amount of liquid, stock, water, wine or combination thereof. Give a good scrape and stir to deglaze the pan.
                                                                When it comes to a boil, place the chicken pieces on top, cover with a lid and bake at 350 for about 45 minutes.

                                                                1. re: kengk

                                                                  +1 Simple and sounds delicious

                                                              2. There's a recipe somewhere on CHOW for Roasted Chicken Breast with Pan Sauce that's easy and truly delicious. There are step-by-step instructions for both the chicken and the sauce. The thing is, I have no idea how to provide a link to that recipe. I downloaded it and it's a PDF document, but a recipe search doesn't get me anything but confused. I found it originally from one of those recipe links on the right hand side of a CH page.

                                                                1. Soy-braised chicken. The sauce can flavor rice and veggies too. It's cheap (drumsticks) and no-fail, not intimidating for a total beginner.


                                                                  1. This takes me back to the mid seventies when I left the dorms and moved into an apartment. The only cook book was Joy of Cooking. My skills were the ability to break down a chicken, pancakes from scratch, salad dressings, and no fear. Cooking and chemistry are twins. 6 guys studying marine biology or oceanography, so at the minimum we had two years of chemistry. We knew how to follow directions.

                                                                    Just add water pancakes and a bottle of his favorite syrup. American omelet in a teflon coated fry pan. Breaking the egg yolks is the idea, not cause for a panic attack. A favorite for test nights was egg noodles, with a can of tomato soup when cooked, and velveeta cheese. Cheese wiz is a good alternate. They both melt.

                                                                    Salads are so easy with all the bagged opportunities. Including pre cut celery and carrots. Get a jar of dressing or have him make his own. Oil, vinegar, salt, pepper and an herb out of a jar. We are starting with an adult, so he has preconceived notions. It's not like teaching your kid.

                                                                    And desserts can be simple also. A pie from the freezer section. Jello. Any fruit cooked in syrup and poured over ice cream.

                                                                    I realise my suggestions are not hound worthy, But once you have some degree of comfort, chances are you will expand your horizons.

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                                                                      Doesn't have to be hound worthy! Thanks for the ideas. Sadly he won't eat salad so that is out.
                                                                      He claims he is not picky but I can't figure out what you might call it otherwise.

                                                                    2. Ok, so he's chosen the next thing he wants to make. We are going to do homemade Mac and cheese ( although money wise I think the box might be cheaper). He wants to make it for a vegetarian friend but he doesn't feel it is enough of a meal. What vegetarian dishes go with Mac and cheese? I would suggest salad buy he doesn't eat that. Plus you saw his vegetables he will eat list. I am not sure what to go with. Broccoli casserole? Any ideas for our next "lesson" of Mac and cheese plus ? are appreciated.

                                                                      13 Replies
                                                                      1. re: melpy

                                                                        how about roasted vegetables? I'm thinking roasted carrots and broccoli would be rocking alongside the mac and cheese.

                                                                        1. re: melpy

                                                                          Well, if you're teaching him to make homemade mac and cheese, there are several lessons to be learned there - how to cook pasta, how to make a basic white sauce, which cheeses are good for melting, etc. - and with those tools he can make any type of casserole, including tuna noodle, things that include leftovers of the chicken and/or corn he learned to make last time, etc.

                                                                          I definitely agree with sunshine that roasted vegetables would make a good side for the mac and cheese - and you can teach him that the technique can be used on just about any vegetable, even those that he doesn't like (if he's cooking for other people regularly). Has he shown any interest in learning to make desserts? A simple fruit crisp or something might go well with the mac and cheese.

                                                                          1. re: melpy

                                                                            Steamed vegetables go nicely? I wouldn't do a veggie casserole alongside, since then you have two heavy casserole-y type dishes. Steamed broccoli, if he likes it, is simple but takes someone showing how to watch for doneness. Green beans or cauliflour are also good?

                                                                            Maybe add homemade garlic bread?

                                                                            Alternatively, if he's interested: teach him lasagne! Store-bought no-pre-boil noodles, store-bought sauce, store-bought shredded mozzarella, store-bought ricotta, done. Again, green vegetable, steamed or roasted, and bread or garlic bread on the side -> entire meal.

                                                                            1. re: melpy

                                                                              Make Alton Brown's Stove Top mac and cheese because it's super easy and very cheesy. Cook up cauliflower and puree. Add to it and he won't be able to taste it. It's perfect for picky eaters. This comes together in the same amount of time as boxed mac and cheese.

                                                                              1. re: melpy

                                                                                Maybe incorporate small pieces of steamed broccoli into the mac and cheese. Then it's basically broc and cheese sauce, with pasta. Or if it needs to be on the side: steam broc then ice water bath; when ready quickly sautee with olive oil & garlic, a squeeze of lemon, s&p.

                                                                                1. re: melpy

                                                                                  When I make mac and cheese, I usually add a bag of frozen California blend vegetables to it. I make a basic cheese sauce (butter + flour, whisk in milk until it thickens, then add cheddar. I also add cayenne pepper and ground mustard powder to my sauce, but maybe that's more than he'd like). Then I add the vegetables and let that simmer while the macaroni is cooking.

                                                                                  I'd stress the importance of buying a block of cheese and grating it himself rather than buying pre-grated. It's more affordable, but the pre-grated cheese doesn't melt as well, either. You could also suggest the possibility of trying whole wheat pasta, or at least an enriched white pasta to help him get more nutrition. When he's not feeding a vegetarian, he could also add diced ham steak (a little goes a long way, so it's fairly affordable) or some leftover chicken.

                                                                                  1. re: writergeek313

                                                                                    Important lesson (learned the hard way...) -- pre-shredded cheese is typically coated with some sort of starch to keep it from clumping in the bag (it's usually cornstarch or similar).

                                                                                    That extra starch? Makes a cheese sauce seize up into a globby, greasy ball. Pleh.

                                                                                    1. re: writergeek313

                                                                                      I would definitely NOT suggest adding vegetables to the mac and cheese. I'm not a picky eater, but mac and cheese is somewhat sacred to me, and vegetables have no place in it. I know my husband's extremely picky daughters wouldn't touch mac and cheese with vegetables mixed in, and picky eaters in general often don't like things with too many ingredients, especially if some of those ingredients are mysterious vegetables.

                                                                                      1. re: biondanonima

                                                                                        I suggested mixing them in since the OP says her friend likes cauliflower with cheese sauce. I was thinking it might not be too far of a stretch from something he already knows he likes. I could see how a picky eater might have a problem with a casserole-type meal with everything mixed together. Though I wasn't too much of a picky eater when I was younger, I was really picky about the different things on my plate not touching.

                                                                                    2. re: melpy

                                                                                      I have to say: your latest description of your friend is making me want to offer snarky comments, which I normally resist. I have to assume that this person somehow makes up for this combination of passivity, pickiness and neediness.

                                                                                      That said, I agree with biondanomina that mixing any veg into Mac and Cheese is courting trouble with a picky eater, as is most anything uncommon.

                                                                                      1. re: Bada Bing

                                                                                        I agree w/ you and biondanonima about any visible vegetable. I've made spinach lasagna and was surprised that someone could eat around chopped spinach. I suggested the cauliflower because you can't see or taste it. I see the pickiest children eat it.

                                                                                        1. re: Bada Bing

                                                                                          Yes, if the insertion of veg is indetectable, then you're surely right. But don't you suppose a lot of pickiness is psychology? This guy would have to MAKE it, not just find it indetectable.

                                                                                          My experience with picky eaters--I have a couple as friends--is that there's no predicting what will work for them when something's new. Seems to depend on applications of a loose rulebook from the past, whether they're in love (endorphins), their mood in general, how hungry they are, etc. They can be great people, but they're not reckonable about foods.

                                                                                        2. re: melpy

                                                                                          Make a vegetable from the list he likes (potatoes, corn, peas and cauliflower with cheese sauce). Since you're already making mac and cheese, how about frozen peas and roasted red potatoes with (or without) rosemary?

                                                                                        3. My husband also hates chicken with bones and prefers white meat, which is a challenge for me! Recently I made an easy pasta dish with chicken breast. You just slice the chicken into 1/2-inch pieces, season w/ S&P, and saute them in olive oil until browned. Remove from pan, then saute about 1/2 a thinly sliced onion and some garlic until brown. Meanwhile cook some rotini, drain, but save about 1/4 cup pasta water. Put about 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth into the pan with the onions and let it reduce to about half. I like hot chile flakes, so I put that in there, too. Then you add back the chicken, the pasta, and a bunch of thawed frozen peas. If it seems a little dry, drizzle in the pasta cooking water to make it more saucy and thick. Stir in a generous amount of finely grated parm. Season with more black pepper if you want. Also, you can throw almost anything in here - sun dried tomatoes, toasted pine nuts, sauteed zucchini or red bell peppers... it's a pretty simple pasta dish and you don't have to worry about perfectly cooking the chicken and its versatile! Good luck!

                                                                                          1. Perhaps as your friend learns to cook -- and begins to discover how good fresh food tastes, he'll begin to widen his self-imposed restrictions and learn to eat a wide variety of foods.

                                                                                            Sometimes children start to like foods if they've had a hand in the preparation and cooing...maybe your friend will, too.

                                                                                            (Not intentionally saying he's childish -- but I wouldn't call his issues particuarly mature, either..you get extra karma points for putting up with him and hopefully helping him expand his options)

                                                                                            3 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                              I too find the "no bones" thing mystifying, but I know from reading various blogs that it's not uncommon. To go with the mac and cheese, I would suggest peas if he already likes them, or maybe simple steamed green beans.

                                                                                              I was going to suggest showing him that he could do "barbecued" chicken breasts (baked with barbecue sauce) to go with the mac and cheese, but that wouldn't work for his vegetarian friend--so you are really limited to some kind of simple vegetable side, because almost anything more elaborate will seem redundant with the mac and cheese--more cheese, or more pasta, or something.

                                                                                              Unless the friend is actually one of those "vegetarians" that eats fish?

                                                                                              Am trying to think of something smoky that is also vegetarian. Because that would be a good combo. . . .

                                                                                              1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                I know he won't eat salad, but how about individual raw vegetables? I'm thinking of something like sliced cucumbers with a bit of vinegar. I won't even suggest pickled beets.

                                                                                                1. re: Cliocooks

                                                                                                  Sometimes I think people refuse to eat certain foods because the only time they have had it before it was disgusting.

                                                                                                  I think I may have already pointed this out up-thread but it's not that unusual for non chow hound types to not like meat on the bone. And, boneless meat is not garbage, maybe a lot of us think it is less good but it can still be delicious.

                                                                                                  Plus, no vegetable in mac and cheese, its just wrong.

                                                                                              2. Something else I just thought of: you might invite your friend over and prepare a variety of roasted vegetables. Finding out how different the flavor and texture of many vegetables are after they've been roasted was a huge discovery for me as I was learning to cook. I detested brussel sprouts when I was younger, but I love them now as long as they're roasted. Roasting is also a really easy technique, and it's very affordable, too, since you don't need a lot of additional ingredients. Plus, it adds some extra warmth to the kitchen, which can be nice this time of year!

                                                                                                You could prepare things you know you and/or your family likes and have him try just a bite of them. That way, nothing will go to waste if he doesn't like them.

                                                                                                1. Flour the chicken, toss it in a skillet with a small amount of oil and butter to brown it, pour a little wine or apple juice in, add herbs if desired, put on a lid, and turn it down to a simmer. It is ready when the rice is ready if you use the 15 minute kind. You can use this formula with most any similar sized meat, like chops. You can add vegetables if you like. If you really want it easy, toss two cups of broth and a cup of rice into the same pan with the chicken or chop. This dish is awesome done with pork chops and adding sage.

                                                                                                  7 Replies
                                                                                                  1. re: tim irvine

                                                                                                    Thanks Tim. This might be a good variation with real food for us to try after mac and cheese night.

                                                                                                    Just an update. He tried the chicken on his own. He bought crispy shake and bake and also used an egg wash ( which I though was uneccesary with shake and bake but he said it worked. I don't know if he baked or fried it but he said it came out a little Under done but he ate it anyhow. We talk about making sure chicken is cooked but he said he didn't get sick so he didn't care. It was just tough to chew.

                                                                                                    I think trying a few beg both steamed and roasted so he can try new things is a good plan. I'll make an orzo pasta salad out of all the leftovers so not to waste anything.

                                                                                                    1. re: melpy

                                                                                                      Thanks for the updates, this project of yours is oddly fascinating. Agree that you get boatloads of karma points for undertaking this!

                                                                                                      1. re: melpy

                                                                                                        An instant read thermometer is way easy to use. I have a CDN digital one. It was cheap and has proven much more durable than Taylor. If you get a feel for preferred doneness and the correct temp, you will find it easy to manage that sweet spot between underdone and overdone, meaning things like chicken and pork will be done enough to not yuck you out but not so done as to be dry. Btw, on the subject of vegetables, either brussel sprouts or asparagus, tossed in a little olive oil, salt, and pepper and roasted in a hot (450 F) oven until just beginning to turn brown, served with a squeeze of lemon, will please even a confirmed carnivore. Takes about as long as rice. Also, if they aren't a hit and are too much for you, they are great cold, tossed into salads. Good luck. I agree with Gretchen on the karma points!

                                                                                                        1. re: tim irvine

                                                                                                          I showed him how to use the instant read thermometer when we made the chicken cutlets at my house but with the trying to save money, he wasn't too interested.

                                                                                                          1. re: melpy

                                                                                                            I have never been able to justify the nearly $100 for a Thermapen or other instant-read. I have a cheap one with a dial and arrow - it takes under a minute to settle on a reading, which suits me fine. I don't think it was over $10. I also have an also-cheap, metal one with a glass tube, made to be used inside the oven, but I like my other one better.

                                                                                                            1. re: greygarious

                                                                                                              My instant read cost less than 30, maybe even less than 20 if I remember. I got a free metal one with the roasting pan but by the time it reads anything the outside of the meat is cold (my house is chilly).

                                                                                                            2. re: melpy

                                                                                                              if he's only going to eat boneless cuts, the thermometer is considerably less of an issue anyway.

                                                                                                      2. Hello all, back to give a recap of what we have been doing.

                                                                                                        He learned how to make Mac and cheese and he ended up cutting up hot dog in it which I realize isn't veg friendly but this was at my house. He found my BF's dogs in the fridge and away hebwent! Personally I had never tastes that so it was interesting.

                                                                                                        Then we moved on to a cheese omelet to which I added sautéed mushrooms for mine and he asked why he didn't have them for his. So we can mushrooms to the list of things he eats. I shared the mushrooms which he loved (sauté in butter with salt pepper, garlic powder, and adds a splash of red wine vinegar and a pinch of sugar).

                                                                                                        We have done tacos with the seasoning packet and the box of hard shells (neither of which I make at home). He then had people over and made them himself, he wanted to try soft tacos but ended up buying corn tortillas not flour and hated it.

                                                                                                        He wanted another ground beef recipe so next we made meatloaf which he loved. I think he plans in the instant boxed potatoes although I made real mashed at my house. He said henisn't getting a hand mixer and can't get them lump free by hand.

                                                                                                        This week we are doing boneless pork chop. He wants to use shake and bake again. My
                                                                                                        Mother uses to make those with normal chops but not with the bone. How much would that affect cooking time? I never bake boneless chops. Package says 15 min or until done. Anyone disagree with that?

                                                                                                        Thanks for all your help so far. Hopefully he will continue cooking!

                                                                                                        10 Replies
                                                                                                        1. re: melpy

                                                                                                          Excellent! Sounds like he's off to an awesome start.

                                                                                                          Extra points to you for being patient and helpful.

                                                                                                          1. re: melpy

                                                                                                            He can add cut up sausage to the mac and cheese. It would taste better. Even cheaper than hot dogs is Vienna sausages although I would find some smoked sausages at the store.

                                                                                                            If he wants another hamburger dish that is easy, he can saute some onions (that, unfortunately, takes some time). Saute some hamburger patties then add a can of "Golden Mushroom Soup", 1/3 of a can of water and those sauteed onions. It is a reasonable facsimile of Salsbury steak. The onions store in the refrigerator so he could make a big batch and keep the leftovers in a ziploc bag.

                                                                                                            !5 minutes sounds about right for boneless pork chops. I like to bread and fry mine to brown the breading and finish in the oven but shake and bake works. You might show him how to make white gravy. Pork chops bought on sale and frozen 1 or 2 at a time is very economical.

                                                                                                            Show him a rice pilaf and that you can add any combination of mushrooms, chicken, sausage, frozen peas, chicken broth, broccoli, or asparagus.

                                                                                                            1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                                                                              The dish with the mushroom soup (although generally something I avoid) sounds like it might be up his alley. I'll see if what he says. Not sure about his opinion on onions if he knows they are there (meatloaf we made had no veg chopping), I feel like he doesn't get onion when we go out for cheesesteaks.

                                                                                                              Truth be told I would have breaded the pork and fried it or done the same with this dry rub I like. We'll see how this week goes and maybe next week will have another update!

                                                                                                              1. re: melpy

                                                                                                                I guess he could skip the onions. He could add more mushrooms. The soup only has a few.

                                                                                                                While I have done away with Campbell's cream of Mushroom soup, I still use their Golden Mushroom soup on occasion. It probably still has too much salt but this guy isn't going to make a roux, add some beef broth and a little tomato paste to it and stir.

                                                                                                                A handful of frozen peas would work well.

                                                                                                            2. re: melpy

                                                                                                              I would have thrown up my hands long ago, murmured something unkind about pearls before swine, and gone home to enjoy some bone-in, skin-on roast chicken. You are truly kind to be so non-judgmentally helpful, and how wonderful for him to finally learn to feed himself.

                                                                                                              1. re: jvanderh

                                                                                                                For the folks singing my praises, I am a high school Spanish teacher by day so patience ad close-mindedness is dealt with on a regular basis.

                                                                                                                1. re: melpy

                                                                                                                  When you say potato, do you mean baked potato? If so, what does he like on it? Salt? Pepper? Butter? Sour Cream? Etc. Does he eat the skin?

                                                                                                                  How does he like a roast? Cooked forever (like I do) or pink and juicy and tough?

                                                                                                                  How does he like his burger? Does he buy frozen burgers? Charcoal or gas?

                                                                                                                  Fried rice is easy.

                                                                                                                  My son is 13 so I know what you are going through. I enjoy it. The changes are incremental at first.

                                                                                                                  I have a buddy who's oldest boy is picky. I can't fix this but I try. My buddy is a great taste tester when I am in the experimentation mode, but I always have dough on hand that day so I can make a really plain cheese pizza cooked on a stone to perfection that the picky eater loves. Then I can make my latest experiment for the rest of the people.

                                                                                                                  On one occasion, I also made homemade potato chips and he wouldn't try one. No thanks.

                                                                                                                  My son, who I can trick to help in the process, will at least try it once. We watch ATK or CI or DDD's, and if we see something good, we make it.

                                                                                                                  He hates onions. All of them. I convinced him to split a Big Mac and he loved it. I made a great steak on the grill and I made fries and onion rings. He hates onions. He now loves onion rings.

                                                                                                                  The more he likes to cook, the easier my job is.

                                                                                                                  I invite people over for testing foods. It is hard to make the greatest hamburger in the world without making it over and over again. So when we think we have developed something special, I invite people over and we get to test our skills and build up our repetitions.

                                                                                                                  As soon as he replicates the skills that you are teaching him ... to other people, your job gets easier.

                                                                                                                  Palates need to evolve.

                                                                                                                  1. re: ArtH

                                                                                                                    Will he eat red lentils or brown rice, or canned beans? if so, 1 lb of Goya red lentils = $1.80, 1 can of pink beans = $1, 1lb long grain brown rice = $1, 25 oz. Philippo Berio light olive oil =$4-5 at restaurant supply stores, onions are not expensive, give him a peeled one from your store, and carrots are 2lbs for a $1, lemons ditto, parsley, chicken broth = Knorr cubes or Better than Bouillon. Some spices, a garlic bulb.

                                                                                                                    Wash half a lb. lentils, set aside. Saute half onion in a heavy saucepan, add a bit of garlic, some spices if you wish like cumin and/or coriander powder, then the lentils, stir around until color changes, add some tomatoes, fresh or canned, and a few carrots, for good health, cut into chunks. Stir around. Add water, and chicken cube if you wish. Plain water fine too. Cook until lentils tender, covered. Use a small handblender, [a cheap slim good one costs $20 will last for years] to immerse in soup and create a chunky broth. Now enliven the lentils with chopped fresh parley, grated lemon rind, and lemon juice. Great with brown rice, and some cheese, and even avocadoes.

                                                                                                                    Brown rice, long grain: place in non-stick sauce pan, add some olive oil, and the other half of the chopped onion. Cook over medium head until opaque. For 2 cups rice, add 2 cups water, and cover tight, bring to boil, then simmer. When you open rice will be hard. Fluff, then add more hot water, and steam again with cover. This twice-over process is better than going for broke, because it lets you control texture better. Leftover rice makes super, super fried rice, with tofu, mushrooms, eggs, and whatever you fancy, plus few drops of teriyaki bottled sauce fried in a non-stick pan.

                                                                                                                    In Cninese grocery, find "fried gluten' in small cans, great addition to fried rice. has enough oil it, and a sweetish taste, get absorbed in the rice. About $1.29 a small can, enough for 2 batches, and serves at least 4. So, I cup rice to be served with lentil soup and cheese, and the other cup of cooked rice reserved for fried rice.

                                                                                                                    Of the 1 cup raw rice apportioned to accompany the lentil soup, 1/2 cup can be taken and mixed with 1 can of pink beans, and made into a great chili casserole, with cheese.

                                                                                                                    How many meals has that made? By my count, 2 rice & lentil meals, 2 rice & bean meals, 2 fried rice meals. 6 meals for 7-10 dollars, using greens, mushrooms, tofu, etc. for the fried rice goodies, or go to $12-15 even. So, 18 meals will bring us to $36, doable, with breakfast items like oatmeal, milk, fresh fruit, and good bread.

                                                                                                                    1. re: GTM

                                                                                                                      Not sure if he eats beans. I will investigate. We haven't had a lesson in a while. Not sure what we will cook at the next one.

                                                                                                                  2. re: melpy

                                                                                                                    Well, then the youth of America is lucky to have you too :-)

                                                                                                              2. Back again- last meal we made was from the Hunger Games cookbook that a friend had given him. Katniss' cottage pie (which was a recipe for shepard's pie due to the meat suggested but due to availability we made cottage pie). It was a cross between pot pie and cottage pie because it used a pie crust on top. We went pre packaged. He loved it and couldn't believe how easy. He has learned to make a roux for several meals now and he was tickled about the roux/Rue character connection.

                                                                                                                We are now about to watch the last two Harry Potter movies and will probably make it a weekend marathon while making two recipes. Any thoughts on theme recipes that fit the rest of the requirements. Money situation has improved so I don't think the 35 is the limit any longer. Thanks for the help in advance!

                                                                                                                4 Replies
                                                                                                                1. re: melpy

                                                                                                                  I'm sure you will have fun with a Harry Potter theme! Glad the money situation has improved because there are lots of festive holiday foods he could start learning to make in the next few months.

                                                                                                                  As for Harry Potter, if he's into sweets, and with Halloween coming up, there are lots of online recipes for the candies featured in the earlier HP books, he may enjoy making toffee or fudge (good gifts!)

                                                                                                                  He may like to try to make butterbeer, which you can either use to teach caramel/butterscotch sauce making, or just use purchased butterscotch topping, cream soda and heavy cream (or icecream depending if he wants it chilled or hot). There are tons of recipes online and many discussions on which is the best, so I won't detail one here.

                                                                                                                  Not necessarily as directly evocative but would suit the theme:
                                                                                                                  -shepherd's pie (since he already did this for the Hunger Games theme, you could try it without the pie crust or with a different meat to show how flexible the recipe is. I don't know which "big game" meat substitution you used, but if you didn't use ground beef for it, this could be an excellent candidate for giving him more ground beef recipes. The instant mashed potatoes he likes would also work well as a crust here.)
                                                                                                                  -savory chicken/beef/mushroom pasties (another way to go from the skills learned with Katniss' pie)
                                                                                                                  -sweet pumpkin pasties (if he likes pumpkin pie, he'll probably like these and you can just make the filling and use purchased pie dough- the kind that are rolled out flat but not already shaped in pie tins)
                                                                                                                  -oven roasted potato wedges (with rosemary if he's feeling up for cooking with a strong herb like that)
                                                                                                                  -since he knows out to make roux now, perhaps a gravy lesson with a roasted turkey breast or pot roast (thus avoiding the "bone" issue and being a good holiday-friendly recipe to know)?
                                                                                                                  -warm spiced apple cider
                                                                                                                  -corned beef sandwiches (assuming he knows how to make sandwiches, perhaps you could practice baking bread buns with this one?)
                                                                                                                  -stuffed mushrooms
                                                                                                                  -fruit trifle (either use to show how to make a custard or just use jello pudding, store-bought pound cake, whatever fruit he likes, whipped cream)

                                                                                                                  I wish that everyone had a patient and generous friend like you to teach these things. I had friends in high school who didn't know how to boil water or were scared to turn on a stovetop burner. Sounds cliche but true.

                                                                                                                  Hope you have a great time!

                                                                                                                  1. re: greymalkin

                                                                                                                    Thanks! This is great. I sent him a link to all the food mentioned in HP for him to look at. So far I'm thinking a pot roast of some kind, so he can freeze and eat the leftovers, maybe with Yorkshire pudding (more likely I will use a muffin tin and do popovers but it's the same idea.

                                                                                                                    Butterbeer is probably fun and is like dessert without so much work since this is definitely stepping up a notch for him.

                                                                                                                    Haven't set our date for it yet. Trivia with him and my SO tonight. Hopefully next week.

                                                                                                                    1. re: melpy

                                                                                                                      Pot roast would be a great fundamental for him to learn. Cooking large cheap hunks of meat and making them yummy is a valuable skill! Yorkshire puddings sound like a great idea too. Hope you have fun!

                                                                                                                      1. re: greymalkin

                                                                                                                        +1 on "cooking large cheap hunks of meat and making them yummy"

                                                                                                                2. You can purchase boneless chicken breasts when on sale. If you put them in the freezer for about 30-40 minutes you will have an easy time making cutlets out of them which really stretches the meat. I use cutlets breaded or lightly floured and then fried in a bit of oil served with vegetables or rice. You can even add some kind of creamed sauce to them to extend them even more. As well for the meat, if he likes meatballs that might be an option for him as you can purchase a large quantity, make them and freeze them. I have volunteered in a shelter and with one large package of ground beef you can really make a lot of meals. Some might frown on the red meat aspect but it is one the most economical proteins to eat.

                                                                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                                                                  1. re: Ruthie789

                                                                                                                    Thanks. We have done chicken cutlets and they were a hit. Looking for theme recipe now. See post from Oct. 4.

                                                                                                                      1. re: Zalbar

                                                                                                                        I keep updating the same thread. The Oct. 4th post is three above your post.

                                                                                                                  2. I do a similar exercise with blind people. When the grocery store rotisserie chicken is on sale for $3.99 it works well (even when a raw chicken would cost half that) as it's convenient and provides a lot of meat to be used in tacos, sandwiches, or just eaten with a plain baked potato or baked sweet potato. A more ambitious cook could of course put a raw chicken in a baking dish and bake it in the oven for a set time. I applaud your use of impromptu tacos---works well for a non-cook. Canned refried beans are a blessing.

                                                                                                                    1. soup
                                                                                                                      braised chicken (i used to have a cookbook with 100 chicken recipes all based on sauteeing chicken pieces and then baking them in different sauces)