Cooking creatively for picky eaters

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MegB
Cooking creatively for picky eaters

I've recently declared my emancipation from cooking increasingly boring colonialist-based foods. The endless parade of stew with dumplings, pot roasts, Yorkshire puddings and biscuits has me bored to tears, and I really love to cook. It's been years since I've made West African yam and peanut soup, borscht, biriyani, etc. So I have vowed to cook at least one meal per week that is what my family might call exotic. My husband has a few dislikes but is essentially an organic garberator. My youngest would be happy on a diet of PB&Js, Mac and cheese, and fish and chips. Last week I started off with east Asian cooking, combining Thai favourites with Chinese dumplings and won ton soup. Apart from a request to ease up on the napa cabbage (flatulence-inducing), the food was greeted with enthusiasm - even by my picky eater. Next stop, African and Carribean (neither of which I've cooked in a decade or more). Any of you out there have a hard time feeding people creatively?

Issues Pages: 
Slumberjack

I've been hooked on Iranian food for years.  A little saffron goes a long way in many dishes, the wide variety of stews, and there's a particular stew made with pulled chicken, simmered in a pomegranate reduction sauce and poured over basmati rice with a little crunch at the bottom of the rice cooker for added texture.

MegB

Oh man, I'm drooling. Pomegranate reduction sauce? Saffron and pulled chicken? I must try that!

Did you know that saffron was as valuable as gold at one point? A brick of it could buy half a kingdom, or as many mercenaries it would take to conquer one.

Slumberjack

Yes, it's still a relatively expensive spice by comparison, but luckily my ex and I are on good enough terms that an occasional gift will find its way from Iran to my cupboard via in-laws.

MegB

Turmeric is a poor substitute for saffron, but it's probably the closest, if you can't afford saffron.

When you think of it, the harvesting of crocus stigmas is so labour-intensive, it's no wonder it's so expensive. I've cooked a number of dishes that ask for saffron and have done without it or any substitute and the result is still very good.

Slumberjack

Yes, we've used turmeric as well when we were plumb out of saffron.  Actually the type of saffron they sell hereabouts in the one natural foods shop we have is an even poorer substitue for turmeric.

6079_Smith_W

Best pomegranate salad. It's from Turkey:

Even quantities of pomegranate, walnut chunks, and green pimento olive, with the marinade.

 

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

I am lucky that none of my family are picky eaters.  I concentrate on good fresh local ingredients first and it has been my experience that most things turn out well. I found that to be a winning formula when it was just me and my boys.

Now that I am married again and my boys have moved out I cook all the week day meals but on weekends when my wife wants to cook I turn the kitchen over to her since she has the cooks training in our house. The coop we live in is very multicultural so we have gotten a fair number of South Asian recipes and yes there is nothing like saffron.

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

Does saffron taste like tumeric? I didn't know that, as I've never tasted saffron. I have tumeric here, but don't use it often.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Heh. The only picky eater in my household is fifteen months old. Just a matter of weeks ago he would eat literally anything we put in front of him. Now all the hits of yesteryear lie squandered and abused in tragic smears across skin and highchair. If it's not some combination of toast, peanut butter and cream cheese--no thank you, we're not interested.

Now we haven't tried saffron-scented rice and minted chicken, mind.

lagatta

Saffron tastes nothing like turmeric (which I find quite bitter - I take pills containing it) Saffron is wonderful.

Boom Boom, hard to believe you've never tasted saffron, living in Ottawa. Silk Roads? Or was that after your time?

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

Yes, Silk Roads was after my time. I actually lived with a family from India while I attended Carleton one year - never had saffron then, either.

Michelle

Yeah, I've never understood substituting turmeric for saffron either.  They are completely different taste-wise.  And yet, as Rebecca says, it's often recommended as a poor but closest substitute.  I'm assuming the replacement is made for the colour, not for the taste.

MegB

Probably colour, since the two taste nothing alike. 

I think it's time for me to cook Afro-Caribbean dishes again. My faves: yam and peanut soup, rice and peas, fried plantain, jerk anything-that's-no-longer-moving (or mooing, for that matter).  After that, maybe Indo-Caribbean.  There's no such thing as 'too much curry and chutney'.

Caissa

When I was taking a French course at George Brown College, I developed a taste for jerk ox-tail at a near by restaraunt.

MegB

Mama Becca's Jerk Oxtail Soup

1 1/2 – 2 lbs oxtail cut into 1-2 inch pieces.

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 1/2 lbs yams

2 medium sweet potatoes

4 eddoes (about 1 lb) (can substitute taro)

3 medium potatoes

2 scallions

3 sprigs thyme

4 tablespoon chopped cilantro

  salt to taste

2 tablespoon tomato paste

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 bay leaf

3 cloves of garlic crushed

1 large onion diced

1 large carrot sliced

8 cups of water

Caissa

Now all I would have to do is convince the picky eaters in my house to eat it.

Timebandit

When we were in Tobago, there was a little restaurant that had goat curry as the special one night, so we all tried it.  My gods, was it good!  I've managed to replicate it somewhat at home.  We even fount stewing goat at Superstore.  Mmmmmm.  Rice and fried plantain on the side.

MegB

Caissa wrote:

Now all I would have to do is convince the picky eaters in my house to eat it.

Can't help ya there :)

6079_Smith_W

Wow, it's the diet of my people:

http://boingboing.net/2012/11/15/the-fabulous-french-fry-and-ha.html

Oh, and here's another one:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-11864290

and @ Timebandit

That with a bit of kuchella on the side sounds like heaven.

 

 

Michelle

I was trying to expand my cooking horizons by finding videos on YouTube on how to poach an egg.  I've never done it before.  Anyhow, after watching a few videos (and I think I get the idea - just have to practice now), I ran across this amazing video of a breakfast preparation at a Japanese restaurant in Hiroshima.  I have no idea what all of the ingredients are, but it sure looks good!  Looks like one of those things could feed four people, though... :)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QyYlACBVKeU&feature=related

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

I've been cooking poached eggs for almost 60 years - it's easy. Boil water, then slowly drop the egg into the water. When cooked, remove egg from water. Smile  I don't care for them much, though, because you get a watery plate.

Caissa

Ms. C. uses an egg poacher. She has poached eggs at least once a weekend.

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

In my family, I am the egg poacher. Wink

Michelle

I have to say, the poached egg I made for myself this morning was ABSOLUTELY PERFECT.  What did we ever do before YouTube?  I did it with just a pot filled with water with a touch of salt and vinegar, and a slotted spoon, and it worked very nicely.

I've been home recovering from surgery for the past little while (I have a few more weeks to go) and I can finally eat some interesting food again.  And I have time to play in the kitchen here and there between resting.  So I'm looking forward to getting a little more creative in the kitchen myself.

MegB

I love soft poached eggs on rye toast.  I used to have an egg poacher, but it's just not the same as a pot of boiling water ...

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

An egg poacher does not poach eggs. It steams them. The only way to poach is to crack the egg in the water. I use Michelle's technique, although occasionally I use the French whirlpool instead. I love poached eggs: if I'm not benedicting them up as a treat, I just put them on toast or a bagel with a bit of salt, pepper and paprika. A delicious, simple and healthy breakfast!

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

Hope you recover fast, Michelle. Poached eggs are a comfort food at times of injury or illness - they're a breakfast staple at our hospital here on the coast.

Michelle

Thanks Boom Boom, I am recovering quite nicely and on schedule. 

I'm not sure what you mean by a "French whirlpool," Catchfire, but I did use the whirlpool technique of swirling the hot water in a circle before slipping the egg into the water.  It worked nicely.  But some of the videos I saw showed people poaching without bothering to swirl the water in a circle first and they seemed to work okay too.

Timebandit

I made coconut pudding for dessert tonight.  It's basically a blancmange with some coconut milk substituted for part of the milk, a splash of vanilla for fun.  It's one of Ms T's favourites.  Served warm!

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

I make rice pudding (with or without raisins, depending on what I have at hand) once a month. I love the stuff. Better than the commercial varieties.

Caissa

There are some nights it is good to having picky eaters. I am making garlic shrimp for me and Ms. C. this evening. Our picky eating sons are having hot dogs.

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

Shrimp is a food I can't eat, along with oysters, mussels and lobster. I can barely stomach clam chowder.  Frown

Caissa

As a Maritimer, I could subsist on the food you can't eat Boom Boom.

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

Fortunately I can eat some food available to me locally: snow crab, cod, and halibut. And, mackerel - on those rare occasions when it's available.

MegB

Glad to hear you're doing well Michelle.

I'm doing Asian again tonight: miso soup, fried rice and Thai spring rolls. TMI moment - the napa cabbage is flatulence-inducing, but it's a must for the spring rolls. Oh, and oyster sauce is my new favourite condiment!

lagatta

I love seafood, and am very happy when I can get the wee nordic shrimp aka crevettes de Matane. However, I don't like raw oysters - love them stewed. I can certainly eat lobster, but prefer snow crab. 

I'm making a duck tourtière - don't know whether that is particularly creative, and I don' t have to please any picky eaters. It will be frozen and left in the fridge of the friend at whose house it will be eaten. (she is in Cuba now). 

 

 

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

I had snow crab sandwiches for lunch today, and this evening fried halibut.

Michelle

We had baked halibut - yummy.  Fillets baked with dill, pepper, salt, and lemon slices on it, with lemon pepper dill sauce on the side.  :)  Maybe not that creative, but it was good!

RevolutionPlease RevolutionPlease's picture

I'd be happy with some good Kraft dinner right now.

RevolutionPlease RevolutionPlease's picture

Where do the hungry chime in?

RevolutionPlease RevolutionPlease's picture

Or, pardon my language, those without food?

 

Isn't this a silly mulberry bush, that we're better than?

 

Don't take me wrong, I'm the worst waster of food. But, I think we should think about this topic. I'm not comfortable.

RevolutionPlease RevolutionPlease's picture

And what's wrong with picky eaters?

RevolutionPlease RevolutionPlease's picture

You all sound like you have sous chefs working for you. Kidding.

RevolutionPlease RevolutionPlease's picture

Just thought we should remember how may children are in poverty and NEED Kraft dinner.

RevolutionPlease RevolutionPlease's picture

Hopefully, we can get back on track  and get rid of child poverty.

lagatta

I don't believe in child poverty. Poor children live in poor families (unless we are talking about those who are actually street children). 

Kraft Dinner is actually rather expensive for what it is. You can get several times the plain pasta, of a better quality (high protein durum flour) for the price of a box. Yes, I know poverty can mean utterly empty cupboards with nothing to put on the pasta. But it would be better to ensure access to better-quality food, no? And especially to enough income for all to choose what they want to put on their plates - including Kraft Dinner if they like it - many people do, and not all are poor. 

Revolution, I think you'll find that many people involved in this conversation are long-term activists who have fought for labour and social rights. We still have to cook dinner. That is even more complicated if we have limited incomes - I am VERY far from wealthy. Or picky eaters in our families. 

Sineed

Cooking creatively isn't necessarily a luxury and doesn't have to be expensive. One of my favourite meals is mjeddrah, a Middle Eastern lentils and rice dish topped with fried onions that costs pennies, especially if you buy the Mr. Goudas products. I'd make it more except I seem to be the only one in the house who likes lentils, speaking of picky eaters.

Though the picky eaters in my house do go for chick pea curry. A 99 cent can of chick peas and rice on the side feeds our family of four, though we're not very big people and none of us are manual labourers. Cheaper than Kraft Dinner, and it's almost as fast to make.

My mum was a fan of Kraft Dinner casserole in the 70s where she'd throw in a can of tomatoes and maybe some cut up sausages, and top it with grated cheese and bread crumbs. If I'm making Kraft dinner for the family, one box isn't enough, but rather than just making 2 boxes, I bulk it up with supplemental pasta and some grated Parmesan. Chopped onions and celery also make it less boring.

lagatta

Oh Sineed, I love mjeddrah (there are may transliterations from the Arabic). Middle-Eastern friends taught me to make that and lots of other yummy dishes, many of which are cheap to make. 

I've also made a very tasty curry from frozen lima beans. 

There was no Kraft Dinner in our home - my mother wouldn't allow it ("junk"). Just real pasta. 

6079_Smith_W

My favoutire veggie burger recipe is lentil-based, with onions, nuts, and brewers yeast. Way more umami even than meat burgers. I don't really go for lentils in other things. Never have been much of a fan of dahl.

And speaking of rice pudding, my sister has never been able to stand cooked raisins because she said they remind her of swollen woodticks. No idea where she got that from.

 

 

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

I received the snow crab as a birthday present from our seniors/50+ Club, and the halibut in return for a favour I did. Snow crab and halibut come from our fishermen - no money changed hands.

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