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Cooking first time for girlfriend. Help!

Howdy guys!

Hopefully I can get some advice on a nagging concern I'm having. It's been years since I've actually made a homemade meal for a love interest and I'm rather rusty, but I would like to try to make something for my current girlfriend.

Long story short, I have a lapband and she is rather picky of an eater. I keep mental notes when we go anywhere. She will not eat onions, tomatoes, or any kind of peppers. However I feel that if it was blended up and well hidden she wouldn't mind them (but can be risky). She loves Italian food and Chinese food. I have several recipes for both however I had been really bragging on my grilling skills and she has been pressing for a day out on the grill.

She loves burgers and I originally thought of a homemade grilled burger (which I have a mean recipe for) however she's recently got on a diet and exercise kick. Also red meat is rather hard to eat with my band. I usually eat chicken for my protein.

I have yet to try my homemade burger so I don't really know if it would even be hard to ingest. Being as how airy and juicy a homemade burger can be. I figured I could make that and some baked potato wedges. I know she would love that, but due to the above issues I'm unsure.

She's also hispanic so she has her fill of Mexican food and thus doesn't every really want that. She also likes seafood, so perhaps she would rather prefer grilled shrimp, fish, and scallops. This sounds like a healthier option but I don't have any recipes for that.

I'm 26 and not a professional cook at any means, but I appreciate any advice or tips.

Thanks for reading guys!

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  1. keep it simple and make things you can prepare ahead - so you are presenting food but not stressed out cooking it - you want to be paying attention to her, not a collapsing soufflé

    Since it sounds like you are health conscious and looking to stay away from red meat a poached salmon dish could work like this

    http://www.food.com/recipe/poached-sa...
    - easy to make ahead, fairly healthy and pairs well with other stuff - make a sour cream dill sauce to go with it - you could serve this alongside a simple pasta - perhaps as simple as an aglio-olio http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aglio_e_... or a simple rice and vegetable pilaf like this http://www.thekitchenwitchblog.com/20...

    for starters maybe some crostini or something to pick on - you could even buy some tapenades to make life easy or grilled vegetable antipasto like this http://www.williams-sonoma.com/recipe... edit to omit any offending veggies

    avoid soups or green salad as they are messy/slupy and not very romantic to eat

    fresh strawberries and cream cant go wrong as a desert

    note the recipes I posted for example are just to be descriptive they are not vetted by me at all

    1. I have a soft spot for chicken marsala since my husband made that for one of our first dates (and we've been married 20+ years). Something like this:

      http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ty...

      1. She loves Italian food but will not eat tomatoes? Is fresh tomatoes that she will not eat, or tomatoes in any form like sauce (don't tell my wife that I didn't call it 'gravy').

        I assume that garlic is also out of the question? I was going to suggest a simple pasta dish that my late mother-in-law made on Christmas Eve. However it involves the use of garlic. It was spaghetti with oil in which garlic was sauteed. The flavor was just a hint of garlic.

        Maybe if eggplant is substituted as an aromatic vegetable, the pasta could be topped with oil and sauteed eggplant that was cubed.

        ...Or make scampi with shrimp and top the spaghetti with it.

        In bocca al lupo (Good luck)!

        1. Keep it simple so you're not so caught up cooking that you can't pay attention to your GF.

          "She also likes seafood, so perhaps she would rather prefer grilled shrimp, fish, and scallops. This sounds like a healthier option but I don't have any recipes for that."
          _______
          You barely need a recipe at all for that kind of stuff.

          To grill sea scallops (ideally dry packed): dry them, salt them, put them on a hot grill for 2 minutes per side, serve with something tasty - maybe some grilled vegetables or a salad. You can find many youtube videos where this kind of thing is demonstrated.

          Shrimp: more or less the same thing, though you might want to skewer them if they're small enough to fall through the grates.

          Fish: some fish grills better than others (tuna, swordfish, salmon, halibut works well; flounder and other delicate white fish can be a little trickier). You can marinate it if you want, but don't have to. Be a little extra careful about sticking. But again you don't really need a recipe.

          In any case, there are sauces you could make in advance if you want to go for a more impressive effect while adding very little extra work at the time of the date.

          Keep the cooking simple and quick so you can focus on your date, and if you buy good ingredients and don't mess them up, the food will taste just fine.

          1. bake a whole chicken with small potatoes underneath.... its easy and in the hour it takes to cook you can have wine and cheese or salad

            1. Blend up cilantro, mint, garlic, ginger, and olive oil. Use as a marinade for chicken thighs. Grill, slice, and use on a salad.

              1. If you want to stick with the burger theme, how about these chicken burgers? A poster here made these recently and raved - they're on my menu for tomorrow night. If your GF wants lighter, omit buns and wrap in lettuce leaves.

                http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/20...

                1 Reply
                1. re: tcamp

                  Shrimp or bay scallops will make a nice burger as well if going the seafood route

                2. If she is looking forward to the grill grill some chicken parts or fish fillets or scallops or shrimp
                  As above. Make a nice salad, baked potatoes on the grill. Voila

                  1. Make grilled chicken sandwichs instead of burgers and you should be all set.

                    1. Grilled shrimp appetizer with a pineapple or mango salsa, beer can chicken, grilled peaches for dessert.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: mcsheridan

                        Thumbs up to this. You can grill, so grill for the lady! Beer can chicken is awesome, but you can also grill chicken parts for the main.

                        You can grill veggies that aren't tomatoes/peppers/onions if she doesn't like those (are you *sure* she's Hispanic? :-) joke!) No, seriously, lots of veggies are great grilled--sweet potatoes, portabellos...and grilled peaches are an awesome suggestion!

                        1. re: pinehurst

                          What a great BF to respect her food preferences!

                          Agree with other posts re: keep it simple, do as much prep as possible ahead, DON'T hide/blend the foods she doesn't like, etc.

                          Asparagus is a good vegetable to grill. Second grilled portabellos. If she likes stinky cheese a grilled portabello with some bleu cheese on top is delicious.

                          Love grilled peaches. Also grilled pineapple.

                          Grilled pear is also delicious and easy. Some cracked black pepper, a drizzle of honey and marscarpone cheese (just a little since you're health conscious).

                          Good luck! Enjoy!

                      2. not a specific suggestion, but a general rule:

                        DON'T go to the category of foods that have to be "blended up" or "well hidden."
                        imho, this is not the time nor place for that.

                        1. Make chicken burgers with ground chicken instead of beef. The good thing about burgers is that you can garnish them according to one's taste, so she can top hers however she'd like. I like to do them indian style, with garam masala, chopped onion, cilantro and chopped serrano peppers. Serve on warmed naan or a bun with lettuce, tomato, fresh sliced onion, cucumber slices and raita (yogurt with cucumbers) instead of ketchup and mustard. To make it healthier, put the cooked burger on a bed of the veggies and omit the bread. Use the raita as a dressing.

                          I also make chicken burgers Greek style, using oregano, dill, salt and pepper, then putting the burgers on buns with sliced cucumbers, sliced onion, crumbled feta and tsatziki. Sometimes we add pepperoncinis if we have them.

                          If you prefer to go seafood, you can marinate some salmon in some soy sauce, a touch of brown sugar, and some sesame oil and red chilli flakes. Grill until done, and then serve with white or brown rice and some sauteed veggies.

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: boogiebaby

                            You know he is 26 and not a pro...but your suggestions seem pretty simple...minimal preparation with many the ingredients that can be pre-purchased already prepared...

                            After all he just wants to feed her a simple meal!

                            Desert...I am sure he will figure it out!

                            1. re: PHREDDY

                              Dessert: Bananas Foster! Or another fruit, like fresh apple, peach, or pineapple, if it looks especially good. Melt butter and brown sugar together in a nonstick pan, cook sliced fruit in it a few minutes, flame with rum or other booze, smother, spoon over vanilla ice cream.

                                1. re: greygarious

                                  If the grill was on, place slices of pineapple or peach halves on the warm grill until nicely marked. Serve with vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt. One of my favorite post-grilling desserts.

                                  1. re: FlyerFan

                                    grilled peaches, pears, apples, etc. are also great with cheeses, especially blue. You can even briefly grill grapes if you have a basket for the grill. I've never tried grilled pineapple with cheese, but it is amazing....as are grilled mangoes

                            2. I've made the sheet pan roast chicken and vegetable dinner, which was either on Cook's Country or America's Test Kitchen, a bunch of times. You can take apart a whole chicken, or just buy parts: breast halves, legs, and thighs are used, the rest saved for the stockpot but you could just do thighs or breasts if you prefer.

                              Oil a sheet pan, or foil-wrap it, then oil the foil. Preheat oven to 475F. Cut into generous inch-"ish" chunks: carrots, potatoes, turnip, sweet potato....your choice of root veg. I sometimes add quartered apple, or chunks of plantain. Halve some peeled large shallots, or quarter a peeled onion, leaving a bit of root so it holds together (it flavors the drippings, even if GF won't eat it). The show called for about 12 oz each carrot, potato, shallot, and Brussels sprouts. They halved the larger sprouts. Put the veg in a large plastic bag, or a bowl, tossing with olive oil, salt, and pepper (I use garlic powder too). Spread on the sheet pan in one layer. If using Brussels sprouts, move them all to the center of the pan, Ditto chicken breast halves (nestle down in the sprouts. These cook fastest so the center of the pan protects them a bit. Put the legs and thighs in the corners, which get the most heat. All meat skin side up. Brush onto it a mixture of melted butter, with your choice of herbs. S&P. Into the oven for 40 minutes. Check at 30 min. If edges are very brown, turn off the heat for the last 10 min. This is a quick and easy meal that is just scrumptious.

                              Another thought - Pad Thai. If she will eat chopped scallions. It can be made with shrimp, chicken, or a combination. If the chopped peanut topping is a problem for you to eat, peanut butter mixed in is great.

                              1. How about turkey burgers? They are a lot leaner, and would work for you. If you get ground breast, be sure to add some moistening ingredients to it. I like to add honey mustard as I like to flavor my turkey burgers as I really don't want them to taste like turkey. Other times, I have flavored them with sun dried tomatoes and Italian vinaigrette, or use bottle dressing if that's easier. They need a lot of oil so they don't dry out and they won't stick to your grill.

                                Other things you could grill would be shrimp to add to a spaghetti with a lemon garlic butter sauce, like scampi. My family loves that meal. And then complete it with a salad and bread and you're done. You could do kebabs with the shrimp, or scallops for that matter. Clams are easy to do on the grill also, in a aluminum pan with chopped shallots and white wine or beer. Any grilled fish is yummy too. We do a lot of swordfish on the grill. I marinate it first in a sheet pan with lots of olive oil, then dried oregano, lemon peel and dried garlic. Salt and pepper before grilling. Then grill on medium low, so as not to over cook. I think my husband does about five to seven minutes a side. You can serve with couscous (boxed and so simple) or some pasta. Even mashed potatoes.... And again a salad and you're done.

                                How sweet of you to cook for your girlfriend....trust me women ADORE men who will cook for them.... At least I do! Good luck!

                                1. I honestly did not expect so much in such a small amount of time. You guys rock!

                                  Thank you guys so much for all the ideas. I know she'll love whatever I decide on but I still would like to give it my all. I know the first meal won't be the last so hopefully I can whip up each of these.

                                  Again, I appreciate it so much!

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Scottayboi

                                    Speaking for myself, it was my pleasure!

                                  2. Grilled fish can be tricky if you haven't done it before since it likes to stick...
                                    What about kebobs? Use soaked wooden skewars and make a few that are all marinated medium/large sized shrimp (they will cook faster than veggies), and then veggie kebobs that have veg that takes about the same amount of time to cook on each skewar. Mushrooms, zucchini, eggplant, asparagus, etc.
                                    serve with a lemony yogurt sauce or thinned hummus and some quick grilled pita or naan.

                                    Honestly you could make her burnt toast and she would still be thrilled you took the time and effort to cook for her ;)

                                    1. My advice is to do something you're good at that you've done a few times before (preferably recently). The last thing you want is to find out that some step in a new recipe takes far longer than you'd imagined and get stressed.

                                      Also, prepare as much as you can in advance.

                                      1. Pesto is impressive and incredibly easy (assuming she is ok with garlic) Plus, it looks pretty! You will have to have some sort of food processor though. I never use a recipe, just a large handful of basil, a tablespoon or two of pine nuts, lots of parmesian, a few cloves of garlic. Start the processor, then start adding olive oil. You want it oily enough to coat pasta. It's nice with penne. Not really diet friendly though :)
                                        Serve with a salad. Simple arugala dressed with oilive oil, salt and lemon juice. A little garlic in there as well. If you both eat it, then you will both have garlic breath. It's a meal that looks incredibly impressive, but is super easy. Really difficult to mess up. Just don't have a heavy hand with the garlic in the pesto and you will be fine!

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: schrutefarms

                                          Forget grilling any fish. Even the 'experts' get it wrong most of the time.
                                          Grilled chicken burgers/patties. There's hundreds of recipes for 'chicken burgers/patties out there. Served with a German style potato salad and grilled asparagus.
                                          Gently sautee/precook the patties and set aside in the fridge. Use a temp. probe to guarantee the chicken is properly cooked. Doing this will help ensure you won't give her salmonella food poisoning by serving undercooked chicken.
                                          When it's time to 'grill' crank up the grill and gently grill the patties until they have those cute grill marks. Do the asparagus at the same time. Lightly char the asparagus. Don't put an oil on them. Just a sprinkle of salt.
                                          'Time management' is very critical when cooking/entertaining.
                                          By making the potato salad in advance for instance you've saved a lot of time better used entertaining.
                                          Recently I had six adults over for dinner.
                                          I had pre-made the 'apps'. (Artichoke bruschetta).
                                          Pre-made the beef bourguignon, the roast garlic creamy mashed potatoes. (These were just ready when the guests arrived). Pre-made the fresh fruit salad for dessert. (This is one of my own creations: Used a small 'melon baller' I used four types of fresh melons and poured a small amount of warmed honey/fresh lemon juice/tiny pinch each of cinnamon/mace/allspice over the melon balls. Into fridge. Served with pizzelle cookies.
                                          Point is I had everything pre-made so it only took minutes to serve the food instead of hours in the kitchen when the guests are sitting in the living room. Starving.

                                        2. It sounds like your lap band requires that you only eat 1/2 cup of food at a meal. That is rather small if you are serving burgers. Seafood is great on the grill and it would allow you to make her a bigger portion while still eating within your guidelines.

                                          Calamari is wonderful grilled and very healthy. Pretty much pure protein. It would make a wonderful first course or a main dish served over a salad.

                                          How accomplished of a cook are you? You could wash and prep your salad components before she gets there and make up a vinaigrette the night before. Then all you would need to do is grill and assemble.

                                          If you are up for multi courses, you could wrap some thinly sliced melon in proscuitto, serve that with Prosecco or whatever white wine she prefers.

                                          Then move onto the grill. Maybe grill some citrus glazed shrimp. Serve it with a dipping sauce.

                                          Fish en papillote can be assembled early in the day and popped in a pre-heated oven just before eating.

                                          It this sounds up your alley, let me know and I'll compile a few recipes for you to look over.

                                          1. grilled salmon with mango or pineapple salsa? lots of sides as options......asparagus.....grilled veggies ( you DO want to impress her with your grilling skills).....grilled artichokes to start?

                                            1. As another thought, grilled seafood is not entry level stuff..but.....Perhaps some clams or mussels placed directly on a hot grill till they are done, as an appy with some hot sauce or other pre-purchase condiment is simple, easy and natural as they come. A glass of some wine with this and you should have a great start.
                                              Leaving the grill in the picture on low, consider some grilled chicken breast that has been marinated before, lo-cal, packs a lot of flavor, pair it up with some grilled asparagus or zucchini, also easy to prepare first and quick grill time, and either some couscous, brown rice, a spot of red wine and you should be good to go.
                                              Sometimes simple is very romantic. After all you want her not to remember how much she ate, but the warmth of the evening, your care for the preparation of the meal with her in mind.
                                              Many here have suggested some great possibilities! Please let us know successful you were!

                                              1. Ah, love. ain't it grand. Here's two cents from someone with an RNY.

                                                Start with what YOU can eat comfortably and branch off from there. .
                                                So, if your heart is set on making her the perfect burger, think about making sliders of several varieties. Buns optional of course. And if you started with grilled tequila-lime marinated shrimp and a platter of, say, grilled zucchini, carrots slathered with the same marindae and perhaps a few raw veggies as well. just leave a plate outside your door for me :).

                                                Again, for sides, start with what works for YOU. that might mean a black bean and potato salad rather than baked potato wedges

                                                BEST dessert for a barbecue: chocolate fondue. make iit up ahead of time, and keep it warm on the grill. grill some fruit [pineapple, for example], and perhaps a couple of slices of pound cake. add to a platter of fresh strawberries, melon, plain cookies, and you're done - and completely un-involved with anyone's diet

                                                enjoy! and here's to love

                                                1. Tilapia fillets grill really well. You can play with the seasoning. Hollaindaise makes it heavenly.

                                                  You can also grill squid very easily. Does she like middle eastern food? Grilled squid with lemony couscous makes a lovely meal. Add some tossed salad or grilled veggie for a round up meal.