Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Ask the Internet: Family Recipes for Vegetarian, Meat-Eater, and Picky Kids?

Hi everybody, and welcome to this week’s edition of Ask the Internet! Today, Andrea of A Little Bit Rock and Roll asks…

Q: I was whining about not being able to find any good recipes for my family (which consists of one vegetarian and one meat-eater in love and two adorable picky children). … If you have any suggestions on making a vegetarian/meat-eater mixed marriage work, please post!


A:Andrea, thanks for writing! The good news is, your familial issue seems to be an increasingly common one. My circle of friends alone includes a vegetarian/omnivore couple, a vegan/vegetarian couple, and several couples in which one or both people are A) very picky or B) have food allergies. And mostly, they’re getting by without resorting to takeout.

Of those folks, I know many are reliant on basic starches (pasta, potatoes, polenta, etc.) that they can customize with sauces and add-ons. Others dig the finger food approach, in which several smaller plates are set out, and eaters can pick and choose. Ethnic meals are always a good option, as well, since many global cuisines (Indian, Mediterranean, etc.) aren’t as reliant on meat as us Americans. Falafel, gnocchi, and curries could go a long way. I might also read Picky, Picky: Frugal, Healthy Menu Ideas for a Fussy Crowd for a few ideas.

But enough from me. Sweet readers, can you relate to Andrea? How do you feed your family of diverse eaters? Do you have any suggestions for recipes? The comment section awaiting your Dear Abby-esque wisdom.

Want to ask the interweb a question? Post one in the comment section, or write to Cheaphealthygood@gmail.com. Then, tune in next Tuesday for an answer/several answers from the good people of the World Wide Net.

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18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Don't enable pickiness too much. Kids won't starve to death, and while there's nothing wrong with keeping their (healthy) favorites on hand, there's also nothing wrong with saying, This is what's for dinner and no, I won't prepare an entire different meal just for you.

Jennyknopinski said...

I've posted a couple of pumpkin-based vegetarian recipes on my blog this fall. Both have proven to be very meat-eater friendly, but I can't speak to kid-appeal.
http://jennyknopinski.wordpress.com/2009/11/27/vegetarian-thanksgiving/

http://jennyknopinski.wordpress.com/2009/10/15/recipe-roasted-pumpkin-rigatoni/

Holly said...

Mushroom ragout/bolognese! I've made Rachael's, Martha's, some guy named Bill's, and my own variations. All have been great, so just find the one that looks best to you.

I also just made a butternut squash lasagna that had even the carnivores going back for more.

mk said...

I'm vegetarian, nearly vegan, and my husband loves his meat and cheese. I often make pastas, rice, ethnic dishes, or vegetable dishes and just throw a chicken breast or some sliced, grilled smoked sausage on the side or top for him. And he can add his own cheese if he likes. Other weeks, I'll make a huge meal for him, like a casserole or something, and he'll eat on that for a few days until it's gone, and I can spend my kitchen time preparing more time intensive meals for myself. It works well for us. He has even started asking for meatless meals occasionally! It's totally workable. If you want more ideas or suggestions, feel free to contact me!

Anna N said...

I'm rooting for you -- I'm vegetarian, so I think it's great that you are too, and it sounds like a challenge to cook for your family! I've never been married to a meat-eater, but here are some recipe suggestions:

Stuffed pasta shells (my mom would assemble these the day before, refrigerate, then bake)
Mashed potato pancakes
Pasta with pesto
Baked potatoes (or baked sweet potatoes) with meaty or not-meaty toppings
A vegetarian kid-friendly soup, like corn chowder, potato soup, tomato soup, or butternut squash soup, with optional meaty toppings or add-ins (eg sausage or bacon)
Breakfast-for-dinner: scrambled eggs, omelets, or pancakes with optional meat on the side

Also, you might check out cookbooks by Mollie Katzen, a seasoned vegetarian cook who's written some cookbooks for kids (eg Pretend Soup and Salad People). The recipes are more likely to be kid-friendly, plus kids usually like eating food they make themselves.

Karen said...

This is exactly my situation, and we wind up eating the same few items that everyone can agree on(spaghetti, ravioli, lasagna, burritos, breakfast foods) over and over again. So please, dear readers, come through with some good suggestions!

kittiesx3 said...

Re the picky kids, and building on the first comment by Anon, as my children got older I refused to turn into a short order chef. But they were also free to make a sandwich to eat at the dinner table if they detested whatever meal I'd made. After all, I am also very picky and my pickiness is my issue. So too with my children. They could work around it by fixing a sandwich.

jarkles said...

I do agree that involving the kids in meal making is a sure-fire way to get them to at least have a taste!

Linda J-H said...

When my vegetarian daughter comes to dinner, I will often use my tried and true recipes that include ground beef, but substitute with soy crumbles instead. Everyone is happy because the crumbles have the same texture as the beef. So a meaty chili, Austrian ravioli, hamburger stroganoff, casseroles, Mexican lasagna, burritos, everything is possible.

wosnes said...

I'm with anonymous -- don't enable the kids. Serve them what is being served and they have two choices: take it or leave it. This worked from the dawn of time until about the 1980s. I think the most important thing is to keep offering them what is being served. Whether or not they choose to eat it is up to them. There are foods that kids aren't going to like -- that doesn't mean we stop offering those foods. They're not allowed to say that any food is "yuck" just because they don't like it.

See http://make-your-own-damn-dinner.blogspot.com/2007/03/badgers-manifesto-on-picky-eaters.html

American cuisine is hard to vegetarianize -- it's so meat-based. Other cuisines are often far less meat based. You'll find versions of many dishes that contain meat and are meat-free.

There's a book "Vegetarian and More: Versatile Vegetarian Recipes with Optional Meat Add-Ins" by Linda Rosenweig that is available used at Amazon. I've had the book but never used it. I think that beyond what's in the book it may give you ideas about other dishes that can be made with or without meat.

NY Health Coach - Jenn Edden said...

First off, I love your blog :) It's really cool looking! I would also suggest going the Indian route. It may require you to get a few exotic ingredtients, but the results are usually pretty amazing. Try typing "Indian Cooking" into YouTube and i'm sure you'll find something that you'll love!

ajm said...

Thanks for all the great tips, everyone! I really appreciate your help with my question, CHG! I will definitely be trying some of these suggestions.

Andrea

Kristine said...

For picky kids, I suggest taking the middle road. Make new foods (or things that they don't like), and expect them to try it, but don't do it every night, and don't do it with the entire meal. Hate the main dish? make sure there is at least one side you know they will eat. Keep trying, because with familiarity comes acceptance. It takes a long time, but it does happen!

Angel said...

I agree with Kristine. I have two kids and while they're not OVERLY picky, they can certainly throw a toddler sized tantrum when they have an entirely NEW meal to look at. So yeah, I only add one new thing to a meal two or three times a week until they get used to it.

If you enforce good eating habits then kids are actually pretty adventurous. You'd be surprised at some of the things you can get them to try. And like!!

(no)more_cheese_please said...

My meat-eating boyfriend just took my 30 day carnivore challenge and his favorite recipe (of many) that I made for him was "Lentil Bolognese." It's super hearty and full of flavor.

You can find the recipe at www.meatlessmonday.com or at my site at www.tocheeseornottocheese.com

wosnes said...

I was just reading Angel's comment. I realized that kids today are often eating foods from numerous cuisines -- not just their own. When I was growing up (I'm 60) we didn't have this option. We ate either according to our region or our own cultural background.

I've done a lot of reading about various cultures and their cuisines. One of the things I've noticed is that not only do most people still cook locally and seasonally, they generally cook only the foods of their region.

Just recently, I've started to limit the cuisines I cook. I cook the foods I grew up with and a funny thing has happened. Everyone is happier with the food. I include just a little Italian and less Mexican or Asian. In addition to everyone being happier with the food -- it's cheaper!

Gezonde Voeding said...

My brother family are Vegetarian, sometimes my wife confused what recipes she have for them to eat Gezonde Voeding is my site about healthy food..and i found your blog, thanks a lot...

Mr.Volt said...

there's lots of good things to satisfy the pallets of all those involved. just follow your heart and ask everyone what they want, can't fail there :)