Post # 1
I’m a cooking nut – my FI and I are both vegetarians and make almost everything from scratch. My FILs, on the other hand, are McDonald’s/Stouffers type of people, and FMIL asked me to help change that. I’m so excited about that, but of course this means
a) dealing with the picky eaters. I’m not going to cater to them all the way (FBIL won’t eat anything naturally red. Odd much?) but the basics are this: no fish, no chicken with the skin on, and nothing too “out there.” (Meaning my type of food, I suppose!)
b) dealing with a vegetarian (myself) which means that while I can cook basic meats, I’m not a deboning type of girl and
c) dealing with my own issues in cooking – which means I’d rather go the extra mile in making the homemade soup than doing canned, etc. I can totally improvise my own base recipes into simple ones if you have any great ideas though!
The most important thing, in my mind, is to show them that healthy eating can taste good, and is more than salads or dry chicken. I’d like to work them up to vegetarian main dishes besides something with cheese in the name! But for now… I’ll cook meat if that’s what I’d have to do.
So, cooking blogs or awesome recipe ideas? My current stomping grounds are Smitten Kitchen, Sunday Suppers, and Epicurious plus a few cookbooks like Good to the Grain and Sunday Suppers. I have a few ideas, but not nearly enough. Any help would be greatly appreciated!
Post # 3
I’m currently doing the same sort of food re-training with my husband, and have found that the Martha Stewart Everyday Food blog and website are very helpful.
The dishes are a bit more adventurous than what most folks have for dinner, but aren’t hugely time intensive to prepare or “out there.” Some recipes are healthier than others, but all of them are nutritious and none take more than 45 minutes to cook from start to finish.
(Why, why, why don’t people eat fish?!)
Post # 4
I subscribe to Cooking Light magazine, and I love their recipes! They do a lot of what you are trying to do – cook more from scratch and make a great tasting meal more healthy. I’d recommend picking one up and checking out their recipes!
Post # 5
Hubs and I went through the same thing, although we were retraining ourselves, not the ILs 🙂
As a first step, I’d encourage them to think of ways to make their favorite meals healthier. Switching to ground turkey instead of ground beef, using low-fat cheese, drinking skim milk, etc. They might be willing to try more “out there” food after they get over the intial shock of changing their diets.
My favorite super-fast meal is browning ground turkey with some seasonings (usually chili powder, cumin, cayanne, salt, and pepper), stir-frying some veggies, and then making “tacos” out of lettuce leaves. I credit this meal with getting my husband to eat vegetables.
Post # 6
Ditto cooking light, and their website is great too. And everyday food has some good stuff: http://www.pbs.org/everydayfood/recipes/. I think they have little food booklets that come out every month as well–I always see them by checkout at grocery stores, and they have really yummy stuff and include the nutritional facts for everything, which I find helpful .
Post # 7
How fun that they asked you to help them expand their palates!
If they are truly McDonald’s and Stouffer’s people then I would stick with the basics at first. Look for the highly rated recipes on allrecipes.com, these tend to be simpler than the ones at Epicurious or other cooking sites. I love the blog annies-eats.com for everyday dinners too.
How exactly will you be helping them? Giving cooking lessons, helping with menu planning, or actually doing their cooking? Either way I’d start with what they DO like and show them how to make it at home. Then slowly branch out into new foods.
When planning my menu I like to switch up my proteins every night, so each week we will have one chicken night, one beef, one fish, one pork, and two or three veggie nights. That might be a helpful way into it for your in laws.
Post # 8
Also, with regard to more vegetarian meals: I’d suggest sandwiches, soups, pizzas, and pasta dishes as a starting point. My meat-eating hubby doesn’t miss it as much when the food category itself is more familiar.
Post # 9
I also love many of the websites and blogs suggested. I just want to suggest portobello mushroom because it has a meaty taste and feel, which is good for meat-eaters who are not used to vegetarian dishes. You can simply saute the mushroom in some olive oil and serve it over brown rice and spinach and topped with pesto.
Post # 10
I second all of this advice. Another good site to try is http://kalynskitchen.blogspot.com/ – it mostly a South Beach Diet blog, but I love her recipes, and most are low-carb, which is always a good plave to start when trying to up your healthy food intake.
One of my absolute go-to items in the summer is grilled chicken. I take boneless, skinless breasts and cut them in half, then marinate them in a little bit of oil, red wine vinegar, lemon juice (fresh or bottled), salt and pepper, herbs (whatever I have on hand – fresh or dried), and some some seasoning (I love Greek seasoning and Bob’s Red Fish blend, sometimes I just add some cumin or paprika if I don’t have anything else on hand). You mix the marinade in a jar or bowl, then pour over the chicken and refrigerate until you are ready to cook (at least an hour, but I have left it over night before if my plans changed). Heat your grill to about 450, and then cook for about 5-6 minutes/side. This chicken is DELICIOUS – we eat it hot off the grill with sides, then use the leftovers in salads, mixed up in chicken salad, cold for lunches, etc. It is a great healthy protein to have on hand and never gets dried out.
Post # 11
My fiance is super picky and sounds alot like your FILs. He’s made huge strides in the past 4 years and eats things he would never have touched when we met. The key was keeping things familiar, if I wanted to try something new, I’d put it with chicken – because chicken was his safe food. 🙂 Cooks Illustrated is my friend, simple food, not to exotic (or exotic at all) but they use few processed foods and their recipes always come out well. Also, Elie Krieger’s the Food You Crave book is a favorite of mine, although I still can’t get him to eat very much out of it. It’s helped adapt alot of what I do cook to be healthier.
Post # 12
Thanks for all the great, helpful comments! I’ll try to address the questions in case anyone has further advice:
I’ll be cooking for them. I’m not quite sure what the long term solution is to this, but they simply don’t have the time/energy to cook for themselves. FMIL works two jobs, a full-time RN in a hospital and the nursing director at their nursing home. And she works overtime on top of that PLUS they have a few residents with them at home who are like family to take care of. FFIL works one full time job, but does most of the maintenance at the nursing home/around their home and one other property they own. So while they might occasionally have time to cook on weekends, I think the showing them how to cook the dishes will only be effective if I can get them to truly love what I’m making.
To give you an idea of how picky – they laugh at our portobello mushrooms! We make them in olive oil and sea salt, and then stick them on a whole wheat bun. Perhaps without the bun? But I think that’s a little tough for the three older men that are there right now unless I cut it up for them.
I got three or four recipes from the Martha Stewart Everyday, and I’m heading over to Cooking Light. I’m also thinking that some Alice Waters recipes might be good as well? I never go around to buying her cookbook, of course, when I meant to.
Post # 13
I tried to learn a lot of healthy versions of some of my favorite foods in an effort to lose weight. here are some things i make:
1) fake-out chicken fingers–use egg whites and crushed cornflakes and bake
2) zucchini fries– cut zucchini into strips and coat with a little oil and spices, bake still crispy and dip in low-fat ranch dressing.
3) chicken parm — i use egg whites and panko breading and bake rather than fry. add sauce, fresh mozzarella, and basil. mmm.
4) grilled chicken sausage sandwiches with peppers and onions
5) ham and potato casserole– i use ore-ida homestyle hash browns, ham, fat free sour cream, 2% cheddar cheese, sauteed onion, and bread crumbs on top.
6) chicken stir fry–this is a great way to pack a bunch of vegetables in–i like to add pineapple too. yum.
7) chicken fajitas with peppers, onion, lime, cilantro
8) for a veggie dish–i love this veggie parm
9) roasted butternut squash– i like to add paprika and roast them still they’re crispy on the outside. how can anyone not like that?
Post # 14
You are so nice to cook for them! It sounds like they are very busy and overwhelmed.
I just wanted to give you a couple veggie recipes that my picky H actually likes– he grew up eating like three different meals on rotation and has a very limited palate– I know you said you want to get away from lots of cheese but these could be a starting place.
And here’s a meatloaf recipe that’s half turkey/half mushrooms and my H likes it just as much as the all beef version:
Post # 15
I second Everyday Food magazine! A subscription costs around ten dollars and provides tons of great recipes, most that are lighter/healthier than normal recipes. For example, they have a lighter meatloaf and mashed potatoes meal in there that is so good! It is made with ground turkey and you process celery and carrots and onion right into the meat. It is better than any meatloaf I have ever had. A lot of their recipes are like this: healthy twists on old classics. They also provide a lot of recipes featuring in-season veggies and quick lunches. It is where I would say 90 percent of our meal choices come from.
Post # 16
You are such a sweetheart, teaching them to cook! I wish someone like you would have been around when I first moved out on my own!
DH and I aren’t vegetarians, but we do try to limit our red meat intake – which was hard for him! He’d eat roast beef and mashed potatoes every day if I let him. 🙂 I really like Sanda Lee’s Semi-Homemade. Every recipe I’ve made of hers comes out very yummy and is super simple. http://www.semihomemade.com/cooking/
I second the http://www.allrecipes.com suggestion. I get TONS of ideas there. Oh! Crockpots are good for beginners. Just toss a bunch of stuff in, let it cook all day, and dinner’s ready! Make-and-freeze meals are good too. You can make a huge casserole, and then freeze it into meal-sized portions. I just Google “meals to freeze” and there are literally hundreds of websites with recipes.