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Cooking with picky teens

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wandajune6 Jul 8, 2013 03:52 PM

We recently discovered that my boyfriend's picky eater son will eat almost anything that I put in front of him. He's overweight and not an adventurous eater (most comfortable with junk food) but he likes me and gets excited about food.

I'm finding that involving him in the meal gets him open. He realized that salads aren't so awful once he helped me make a salad dressing, salmon wasn't so bad once we created a glaze for it that we liked, etc.

His dad's diabetic so I'm trying to keep carbs/sugars low. I'm not a big meat eater (though I can get over that if needed). Keeping all of these factors in mind, I'm trying to find meals that are teen-friendly but still healthy. I don't want to scare him off of this path towards a healthier diet.

To make this more difficult, quicker, less expensive dinners would be a huge help. I've had him leafing through cookbooks for ideas but would love options that aren't horribly complex.

Does anyone have any ideas?

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  1. juliejulez RE: wandajune6 Jul 8, 2013 04:11 PM

    Have you checked out the site www.skinnytaste.com? She has tons of great meal ideas that even picky eaters would like. And, they're not high in calorie either. Here's a list of good ones I've tried, you can use the search function on her site to find them, not all are low carb:

    Cajun Chicken Pasta,
    Pasta with Butternut Sauce, Spicy Sausage and Baby Spinach,
    Pepper Steak,
    Pork Chops w/ Dijon Herb Sauce,
    Bacon Topped Petite Turkey Meatloaf,
    Skinny Chicken Pesto Bake,
    Salisbury Steak w/ Mushroom Gravy (she uses half turkey, half beef, great idea for anything using ground beef to lighten it up!),
    Chicken and Broccoli Noodle Casserole,
    Broccoli and Cheese Stuffed Chicken
    Broccoli and Orzo side dish

    Also some other ideas:
    Bacon and Pea Mac n Cheese (I added chicken, not low carb) http://www.jasonandshawnda.com/foodie...

    Chicken Enchilada Spaghetti (I use whole grain pasta, not low carb of course but the kid will probably like it) http://www.traceysculinaryadventures....

    Chipotle Chicken Lettuce Wraps (use 1 chipotle if he doesn't like heat) http://bevcooks.com/2013/02/chipotle-...

    Pork Chops alla Pizzaola http://www.traceysculinaryadventures.... (I use much smaller chops than called for in the recipe, and it would be good w/ chicken too!

    )

    Another site that has a lot of interesting low carb meals is www.kalynskitchen.com

    1 Reply
    1. re: juliejulez
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      wandajune6 RE: juliejulez Jul 9, 2013 08:32 AM

      I completely forgot about Skinny Taste! I used to use it when I was doing Weight Watchers. These look like great ideas. I'm really drawn to the lettuce wrap idea too- great for this heat!

      Thanks!

    2. t
      tracytrace RE: wandajune6 Jul 8, 2013 04:18 PM

      Tacos! You can use turkey, chicken, fish, or no meat. Make your own seasoning to avoid crazy amounts of sugar and salt, and veggie additions are unlimited. You can make really healthy salsas, and creamy sauces using Greek yogurt. My daughter refuses to eat anything called "salad," but if we put it in a tortilla, she will always at least try it. Good luck!

      3 Replies
      1. re: tracytrace
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        wandajune6 RE: tracytrace Jul 9, 2013 08:33 AM

        Great idea! As they're Mexican (and I'm not), I've been trying to avoid anything at all Hispanic for fear of embarrassing myself. However, I think going pretty untraditional is a great idea- and anything with Greek yogurt makes me happy! Thanks!

        1. re: wandajune6
          juliejulez RE: wandajune6 Jul 9, 2013 09:04 AM

          A couple months ago we did a Cookbook of the Month for Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless. I found a number of the recipes to be pretty low in calorie, and they were all delicious. Here's a link to a few of them.... all quick and easy as well!

          Chipotle Meatballs (I made w/ turkey and skipped adding the chicken broth to the sauce so it was thicker) Meatballs in general are great to have kids/teens help with. http://www.cookstr.com/recipes/chipot...

          Mexican Roadside Chicken (I did with bone-in thighs, removed the skin) http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/20...

          Grilled Yucatecan Chicken (I did with grilled asparagus, vs steamed) http://robyn-cooks.blogspot.com/2011/...

          Green Bean Salad with Red Onion and Salsa (I reduced the amount of olive oil by quite a bit) http://lainesrecipebox.blogspot.com/2...

          Red Chile Enchiladas with Chicken and Melted Cheese (I know what you're thinking, but 3 of these enchiladas was only 409 calories using corn tortillas and just under a pound of dark meat chicken). Plus, good for him to help with in terms of rolling them etc. http://ellysaysopa.com/2009/11/02/red...

          1. re: juliejulez
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            wandajune6 RE: juliejulez Jul 10, 2013 08:54 AM

            Those sound great. Thanks!

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        searchingforclues RE: wandajune6 Jul 8, 2013 04:22 PM

        I really liked the book "Clueless in the Kitchen, a Cookbook for Teens" by Evelyn Raab which I used when my kids were younger. Depending on the child's age, standard recipes can be intimidating. This book has easy to follow instructions with minimal ingredients for dishes that range from "Unfettered Frittatas" to "Mushrooms Masquerading as Escargots" that are surprisingly delicious.

        Despite the dorky title, all the recipes are made from scratch, using only real food ingredients (not processed garbage) and have a level of sophistication that does not insult.

        My approach was to let my child choose something that we would then make together.

        2 Replies
        1. re: searchingforclues
          carlee134 RE: searchingforclues Jul 8, 2013 08:54 PM

          I loved this book and just gifted it to my younger sister!

          1. re: searchingforclues
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            wandajune6 RE: searchingforclues Jul 9, 2013 08:34 AM

            That's exactly what I've been going for. He's a pretty cautious eater but I'm finding that he's much more open to things that he's involved in. Plus, he's a little behind with the reading so a kid-friendly cookbook is probably more likely to be successful than the things I've shown him from my current collection. Thanks!

          2. c
            cheesecake17 RE: wandajune6 Jul 8, 2013 04:23 PM

            The first thing that comes to mind is fajitas.
            Doesn't need to be traditional, just what you/he likes.

            If you have a BBQ, teach him how to grill chicken, sweet potatoes, vegetables.

            Lettuce wraps are also great

            9 Replies
            1. re: cheesecake17
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              valerie RE: cheesecake17 Jul 8, 2013 04:35 PM

              I thought of fajitas too. You can cut up the peppers and onions the night before and it's a fast meal.

              http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

              Another popular dinner in my house are these Chicken Burgers with Peanut Sauce. You can adjust the spice level if they don't like spicy foods. I don't even need the peanut sauce but my husband likes it on his chicken burger. Again, prep can be done the night before.

              http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/chick...

              1. re: valerie
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                cheesecake17 RE: valerie Jul 8, 2013 05:06 PM

                Love the idea of the chicken burgers!
                Do you use the food processor to grind? Or purchased ground chicken?

                1. re: cheesecake17
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                  valerie RE: cheesecake17 Jul 8, 2013 07:08 PM

                  I just buy ground chicken breast. Clearly turkey would work too...I just don't love turkey burgers.

                  1. re: cheesecake17
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                    ePressureCooker RE: cheesecake17 Jul 9, 2013 09:50 AM

                    cheesecake, if you want to go more inexpensive, you can quickly grind up the raw chicken in a food processor. The prices charged for ground chicken and turkey (as compared to the price for chicken or turkey) is ridiculous in comparison. Grinding your own meat is so easy.

                    1. re: ePressureCooker
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                      cheesecake17 RE: ePressureCooker Jul 9, 2013 03:29 PM

                      My food processor is parve, so I don't put meat in it. I can get ground chicken for $4/lb on sale!

                      1. re: cheesecake17
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                        ePressureCooker RE: cheesecake17 Jul 9, 2013 05:35 PM

                        Ah, I didn't realize there were kosher considerations ;D

                        But in that case, if you plan on using a lot of ground chicken or turkey, you might want to consider investing in a second (dissimilar looking, so no confusion) food processor. It'd pay for itself soon enough if you pay $1.50 - $2 per pound, instead of $4.

                        My sister started grinding her own meat after my poor little nephew contracted e coli from a burger at a popular Southern California theme park on his 7th birthday and we learned when we alerted them (not for purposes of recouping the money for the emergency room, but so they could clean up their food preparation act) that far from the happiest, they are are the nastiest, most argumentative and inconsiderate place on earth.

                        1. re: ePressureCooker
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                          cheesecake17 RE: ePressureCooker Jul 10, 2013 09:25 AM

                          Oh no, I hope he recovered.

                          Honestly, I don't think grinding my own meat would be worth it. Chicken cutlets are sometimes more $$$ than ground. And I've never seen kosher meat that cheap!!

                          1. re: cheesecake17
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                            ePressureCooker RE: cheesecake17 Jul 10, 2013 10:18 AM

                            Oh I was referring to taking bone in meat (such as chicken breasts, which are really easy to de-bone and then grind up), not cutlets, but you're right, from my own past shopping experience, you're not going to find kosher chickens at the same price as the regularly available commercial chickens. Maybe you could save SOME money, but not as much of the price difference I mentioned, but IIRC you had mentioned price was a factor, so I was trying to help on that score. That advice might still be helpful to others reading this, perhaps.

                            As for the nephew, yes, he recovered, but spending the evening of his 7th birthday in an emergency room screaming how he wanted to die is not something his mother will soon forget (she still has nightmares about it, two years later). And after the response we got from the theme park in question, and the hospital physician telling my sister how many kids *he* personally had seen get sick from e coli or something else after eating there, my nephew spent his last two birthdays at Knotts Berry Farm instead. (Illness free, I might add)

                            1. re: ePressureCooker
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                              cheesecake17 RE: ePressureCooker Jul 10, 2013 12:24 PM

                              Yup, kosher chickens are pretty pricey. I'm pretty good at buying meat on sale and freezing it. I make a lot of hamburgers and chicken burgers to freeze.

                              Thank goodness your nephew recovered.

              2. Soul Vole RE: wandajune6 Jul 8, 2013 09:09 PM

                I second the tacos idea. Many possibilities there for creativity and expanding his cooking repertoire -- marinating and grilling meats, preparing seafood, making salsas, guacamole, ... Lots of territory to explore. Fun and delicious.

                In a similar vein how about spring and summer rolls? This has been a recent thing for me. Like with tacos there's so much room for creativity and exploration, both with the fillings and the dipping sauce. Fill with chicken or shrimp or fish or whatever strikes your fancy, rice noodles or shredded cabbage or what have you. For the sauce start with a basic soy and rice vinegar, then experiment with sesame oil, ponzu, Sriracha, oyster sauce, fish sauce, peanut sauces... Or go in other directions. The other night I rolled up chicken, romaine, and Parmesan and served it with a Caesar dipping sauce. The possibilities are infinite and it tends to be quite healthful food.

                3 Replies
                1. re: Soul Vole
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                  wandajune6 RE: Soul Vole Jul 9, 2013 08:36 AM

                  I make spring rolls all the time. I was afraid that they would be too adventurous but you're probably right. Plus, if I start with more mainstream ingredients, it's probably less scary.

                  My go-to in the summer is spring rolls with lots of tofu, veg, and sriracha but I could make this much more kid-friendly. Thanks!

                  1. re: wandajune6
                    Soul Vole RE: wandajune6 Jul 9, 2013 11:04 PM

                    Spring rolls are a new thing for me (and yeah, the first few attempts were a little awkward, but you get the hang of it). Unfortunately I missed it as Dish of the Month back in April but I'm having so much fun now playing with the concept and possibilities.

                    If somebody had introduced this to me when I was a boy, I would have gone nuts with it. :)

                    1. re: Soul Vole
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                      wandajune6 RE: Soul Vole Jul 10, 2013 08:56 AM

                      I have a Vietnamese friend who showed me how her family did them- treat it like a taco night. Lots of bowls of fillings on the table and a big bowl of warm water in the middle. Everyone can soak their rice paper then assemble on their own. It was a ton of fun, pretty easy, and no big deal if it's a mess. Plus, I would always throw all of the leftovers into a bowl and eat that as a salad for lunch the next day.

                      I'm loving this idea!

                2. m
                  mike0989 RE: wandajune6 Jul 9, 2013 09:43 AM

                  Pork loins are very budget friendly and also fairly lean. Roasted whole with a mustard, olive oil and garlic coating makes a tasty, simple meal. Chicken thighs are also one of my go-to items. They lend themselves to lots of simple braises and fricassees. For something different, Google John Ash and Mexican Pot Roast. This is a wonderful budget friendly dish.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: mike0989
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                    wandajune6 RE: mike0989 Jul 10, 2013 08:57 AM

                    Yum. Good idea!

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                    susan1353 RE: wandajune6 Jul 9, 2013 09:52 AM

                    Having him feel like he's more in control will help him to feel more adventurous in his eating and lead to good decisions. Can you bring him shopping with you? He'll be able to peruse the produce and pick something new to try each week, and he'll see the cost of food, too.

                    Make-your-own salad bar, baked potato bar, fajitas/tacos all work so that he can try a little something without having to make a commitment. Roast a chicken and work together to come up with ideas for the leftovers. You're doing a great thing for him!

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: susan1353
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                      wandajune6 RE: susan1353 Jul 10, 2013 08:58 AM

                      I haven't been able to pull off taking him shopping with me yet. So far, he's always coming in halfway through the preparation- our logistics haven't worked so well. I like the roast chicken idea too- he's seen me do that with a Costco chicken (not ideal, I know) but there are so many more options!

                      1. re: wandajune6
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                        susan1353 RE: wandajune6 Jul 10, 2013 12:28 PM

                        WIth teenagers, getting them engaged is half the battle! If he thinks it's his idea, it's a good one.

                    2. DuchessNukem RE: wandajune6 Jul 9, 2013 11:17 AM

                      Glad to hear you're engaging this kid, and sensitively. It's so hard for overweight kids.

                      Not so much meal ideas but two easy blended ideas for snacks or appetizers:

                      -Zucchini hummus (serve with veggie dippers or romaine leaves) -- it was hard for me to believe at first but this tastes wonderfully akin to chickpea hummus, at much less carb cost. I make it on the fly but here's a recipe (proportions are good but just throw it all into a food processor/blender, don't fuss on the recipe details or the 'raw organic' stipulations):
                      http://sacredsourcenutrition.com/raw-...

                      -Tomato/cucumber "gazpacho" -- my favorite summer starter. Whatever combo of those you have (peel the cucumbers) plus a big squeeze of fresh lemon juice, lots of chopped fresh parsley if around, a pinch of salt, ground black pepper - blend until mostly smooth, serve as a drinkable cold soup or give a spoon.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: DuchessNukem
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                        wandajune6 RE: DuchessNukem Jul 10, 2013 09:01 AM

                        Thanks! I'm not exactly skinny myself but my issue has always been portion control, not junk food. I grew up with hippie-ish parents so we ate completely differently from what he's used to. I'm not opposed to junk food but like to think of it as a treat rather than an expectation.

                        The zucchini hummus sounds great. With the tahini and garlic, I could see it tasting pretty similar. I wouldn't have thought of that myself- love it! The gazpacho could be fun as well.

                        Thanks!

                      2. a
                        aasg RE: wandajune6 Jul 9, 2013 08:39 PM

                        What about homemade pizza? Whole wheat crust, lots of vegetables as toppings, and leaner meats as toppings. Cheeses like feta or aged cheddar would give a good taste of cheese without having to add too much or pushing his culinary comfort level too far. If you are looking for really quick, whole wheat pitas could be used as a crust and that also gives everyone the chance to make their own pizza with their own choice of toppings.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: aasg
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                          wandajune6 RE: aasg Jul 10, 2013 09:01 AM

                          Great idea! I took that off my list because I don't want to turn on the oven in the summer but that could also go really well on the grill.

                          Thanks!

                        2. girloftheworld RE: wandajune6 Jul 10, 2013 10:48 AM

                          when I was little I use to go through magazines and put stickie flags on things I wanted to cook. Then I had a notebook that my mom had make a grocery list in by copying from the recipe. We would go to the store and get the stuff and she would read the recipe( couldnt read very well yet because I was 5-6) and help if I needed it. Family time in the kitchen is still specail. We talk and are relaxed. I think it will be a great opportunity to get to know him. If he doesnt like leafing cook books he might like more of computer stuff... Maybe Pinterest? Or some other food site with pictures....

                          1. Atomic76 RE: wandajune6 Jul 10, 2013 04:38 PM

                            It's pretty easy to make copycat versions of Chipotle's food at home. There is a web site called Chipotlefan.com that has a lot of them. The easiest one is their chicken - just open a can of chipotle in adobo and empty it into a zip loc bag, then add the chicken and let it marinate overnight. Throw it on the grill and that's it. The cilantro lime rice is also dead simple to make and the fresh corn salsa comes together quickly too.

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