Autobiography / Cheese-y / Cry for help / Food and recipes / Relationship advice

The fastest way to a man’s heart is not through quinoa

Transitioning from a lifetime of civilian conveniences into a strictly military environment is a huge hurdle I’m preparing to jump for my impending marriage to Jonathan. What you may have guessed, however, is that this is not the only lifestyle difference we’re soon going to mesh.

I’ve mentioned that Jonathan is the gun-weilding, country-music-listening type, and I’m more of the namaste, recent-convert-from-10-years-of-vegetarianism type. So, as you can imagine, our daily diets are somewhat different.

To exemplify: Jonathan with a Five Guys burger, and me when I decided deviled eggs were too unhealthy, so I basically deconstructed them, filled them full of veggies, and refused to use mayonnaise. They still sort of tasted like food.

To exemplify: Jonathan with a Five Guys burger, and me when I decided deviled eggs were too unhealthy, so I filled them with vegetables, refused to use mayonnaise, and stuck them on some multigrain flaxseed crackers. They still sort of tasted like food.

I spend a lot of time in the kitchen, trying to find ways to turn healthy, nutritious foods into something delicious. Sometimes it works and I’m really proud of myself, and other times I end up with meals that taste sort of like grass. Because, despite my addiction to cheese and my tendency to use candy as a coping mechanism, I try to pay attention to also giving my body good things it needs to keep me alive through heaping piles of stress. (Which is why I had a bloody mary for breakfast yesterday. My body always tells me it needs vegetables and vodka on weekends.)

As my friends and family have been forced to have happily offered to bear witness over the years, I have an unhealthy obsession with quinoa. Or, more accurately, a healthy obsession; quinoa is a grain, but it’s the only non-meat I’ve heard of that contains all nine essential amino acids to qualify it as a full protein. It’s low fat. It’s low calorie. It’s filled with nutrients, and it’s cholesterol free. Hell, it’s even gluten free, because WHY NOT. When I was a vegetarian and constantly obsessed with my protein intake, this was like a gift from the gods. I quickly spiraled down the quinoa-addiction staircase, and I’ve become a weekly user. Which I think technically means my family was “enabling” when they allowed me to contribute quinoa “mac and cheese” to the Thanksgiving meal last year.

Quinoa mac and cheese

Admittedly, this tasted way more like quinoa than it did like mac and cheese. More cheese next time.

Blueberry banana quinoa

This was when I decided quinoa could also be a breakfast food, so I let Martha Stewart help me make it into an oatmeal-type dish. Also not good. Quinoa is not a breakfast food, and Martha Stewart is a liar.

Curry quinoa

This is actually one of my favorite quinoa recipes: with black beans, sweet potatoes, and served with Dogfish Head Punkin Ale because everything else is really healthy so GO AHEAD AND HAVE A BEER. YOU DESERVE IT.

Coconut quinoa

Attempt two to turn quinoa into a breakfast food: this time with shredded coconut. This was when I gave up on trying to make quinoa a breakfast food.

Curry quinoa

Curry quinoa with black beans and stewed tomatoes. Actually delicious. I fed this to my roommates and they were astonished at how little it tasted like dirt.

One semi-immediate problem with this obsession: Jonathan won’t eat quinoa.

In his defense, quinoa has kind of a strange taste, and usually I don’t like it unless it’s loaded up with spices until it basically doesn’t taste like quinoa anymore. And I understand why Jonathan would prefer to eat things that just taste good regularly.

The larger, long-term problem here is that quinoa is just the beginning. As it turns out, most of the foods I eat regularly, Jonathan has at some point in his life actively spit out. To name a few:

  • sushi
  • sweet potatoes
  • cottage cheese
  • mushrooms
  • hummus
  • arugula
  • goat cheese
  • smoked salmon

Those are all things I’ve eaten in the past three weeks. And, in Jonathan’s defense again, I think he actually swallowed two full sushi rolls; that’s way more than I was able to tolerate when I recently tried elk steak for the first time. (Retrospect: I’ve only been eating poultry for a few months; I was not ready for any kind of steak.)

The good news is that Jonathan and I actually do like a lot of the same foods. To name a few:

  • pizza
  • pancakes
  • string cheese
  • ice cream
  • cheesecake
  • pie
  • asparagus

I’m sure you see the problem for my future here. There are only so many ways I can cook asparagus and, like quinoa, none of them are good for breakfast.

I’ve been trying to collect recipes on Pinterest that I think Jonathan and I could both tolerate for a meal, but since I’m drawn to a lot of recipes with soft cheeses, whole grains, and quinoa, sometimes this method backfires.

That’s how I came up with this weekly-wrap-up game I play, called “Things I’ve Pinned That Jonathan Would Sooner Eat Glass Than Let Me Cook for Him!” On this week’s wrap-up:

Goat cheese spinach quinoa! In this recipe, Jonathan hates a total of all three main ingredients! Triple score!

Goat cheese spinach quinoa! In this recipe, Jonathan hates a total of all three main ingredients! Triple score!

A healthy alternative to a Snickers bar! Things Jonathan will end up eating instead: A SNICKERS BAR.

A healthy alternative to a Snickers bar! Things Jonathan will end up eating instead: A SNICKERS BAR.

Roasted chick peas, four ways. Congratulations! Jonathan hates the main ingredient in all four recipes! Achievement unlocked: your husband will offer to cook, and will serve you a rare steak with a side of bacon.

Roasted chick peas, four ways. Congratulations! Jonathan hates the main ingredient in all four recipes! Achievement unlocked: he will offer to cook, and will serve you a rare steak with a side of bacon.

Games aside, the realism is that, in several months, Jonathan and I will be cooking together in one kitchen, on one budget. So it’s time to crack down on the recipe search.

Healthy eaters out there: Any advice for relatively healthy, nutritious, red-meat-free recipes that are friendly across many palates? Also, Jonathan has this problem with eating weird textures (which explains why cottage cheese is on the forbidden list), so if the recipe is chunky or slimy, that’s also off limits. This is my life.

0 thoughts on “The fastest way to a man’s heart is not through quinoa

  1. We’ve cut a lot of meat out of our diet the past few years (and trust me, B is like Jonathan and really really likes meat and really isn’t a huge veggie guy) and here are some of the tried and true healthy options we agree on:

    -Veggie tacos/enchiladas/quesadillas. Instead of meat, use any combo of things you like instead. We like zucchini, onions, peppers, and black beans in particular, but I’ve also made delicious kale and red pepper tacos that he willingly ate.

    -Pan-fried polenta with black bean salsa on top.

    -Homemade veggie pizza. Favorite combo so far involves basil, thin-sliced yellow squash, leeks, and peppers with buffalo mozzarella and red sauce.

    -Veggie chili. Load it up with extra beans, carrots, and peppers instead.

    -Veggie curry. Sometimes I use sweet potatoes or butternut squash if it’s a sweeter curry, but I also like lentils and zucchini.

    -Quiche with leeks and gruyere. Soooo good.

    -Frittata with any vegetables that we have on hand. I like putting kale, carrots, peppers, onions, and squash up in there with some good shredded cheese and eggs.

    Apparently, looking over this list, we really like squash. We also do a lot of grilled cheese paired with veggie soups, because YUM.

  2. I actually have had this exact same problem since moving home. Have you tried mashed cauliflower? On the flavor scale, it’s somewhere between mac n cheese quinoa and actual cheesy mashed potatoes so you might have yourself a win there.

    Also, chicken breast, covered with greek yogurt, rolled in whole wheat bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, garlic/pepper/etc. Baked. You will be very popular.

    • I keep seeing that cauliflower recipe! Unfortunately, cauliflower is in the “would rather eat glass” category for Jonathan, because he likes to be difficult.

      Will definitely try the chicken recipe though! Have you tried substituting Panko?

      • Great blog, Aileen. As a person who hasn’t found many foods I don’t like. Is there a reason you couldn’t cut some of the meals with some meat?

        After all, in reasonable portions, even artery hardening stuff like fat back and pork belly are tolerable.

        I love Quinoa, but, like you say, without loads of spices and some oils it’s bland.

        One newest thing I’ve picked up is making crusts for things like pot pies and pizzas out of zucchini and squash. Only qualm is the process is pretty labor intensive.

        • You’re definitely right–I have a completely unnatural fear of meat (that’s what she said), and I need to get over it. I’m baby stepping right now. I’m at least three years away from pork belly.

          And I am now obsessed with the idea of making crust out of vegetables. I really like the idea of tricking Jonathan into eating vegetables.

      • Yes I have, that works, too!

        At least try the cauliflower on your own then. I’m telling you, I hate it in any other form, but for some reason mashing it removes all the gross cauliflower-ness.

        • I’m convinced. And now I’ve decided that I will fill my job-less time when I move to Tennessee with tricking Jonathan into eating vegetables using recipes like this. I’m excited about my new life.

  3. I would suggested the cookbook Deceptively Delicious by Jessica Seinfeld. It might not be exactly what you’re looking for, but there are plenty of recipes where vegetables are hidden as healthy alternatives, such as using sweet potato in cupcakes instead of sugar. Also, the recipes work and they’re really tasty!

  4. I AM READING MY LIFE IN YOUR BLOG. All of those foods he won’t eat are delicious, so I can see why you have a problem here. The quinoa with black beans and sweet potatoes looks amazing and I would like to eat it. Most anything wrapped in foil or parchment paper and then baked is a good go-to for me, as I also compromise with cooking. Chicken and fish work nicely. Try chicken with black beans, corn, and salsa, all baked in foil. Also, as you know, simple substitutes like yogurt instead of mayo or cream can serve the same purpose as their unhealthy counterparts, but still offer good flavor for the picky eater, and peace of mind for you. And you know, you can always make quinoa (or whatever you prefer) for lunch for yourself and have something you both like for dinner. Either way, I think it’ll be exciting for you two to explore menus together. You both might learn something new!

    • I love your undying optimism. You are a little blond ray of sunshine.
      Somehow I’ve never thought of baking things in foil…all the flavors! Wonderful advice. Thank you, Katie.

  5. This is not at all helpful to you but my boyfriend is the same way! He nearly vomited when we went to a sushi place and a lot of times we default to pancakes or waffles for breakfast and pizza for other meals which is obviously not healthy at all. He gets bonus points for eating vegetarian meals with me a lot, those meals are pretty simple though. I make a lot of vegetable stir fry, black bean soup, rice skillets, etc. Mostly bean- centric meals. But he has a texture issue too and with my meat restriction and his hate for seafood (which I still permit), things can get difficult.

    Sometimes we compromise by doing separate but together meals (same base food, then he might make chicken or some meat to put on his own plate) and it works out. But anyway, we live together and we’ve made it work and so will you.

    This post gave me some serious meal ideas and I’M SO EXCITED so thanks!!

    • I’m glad to know I’m not alone! I like the idea of doing a vegetarian base, with the option of adding a meat protein; I can think of a lot of dishes I currently make that would work this way (i.e. brown rice stir fries, fajitas, and even salads)! As for the cooking of beef or pork, however, I think I’ll leave that part to him for a while 🙂

  6. Ugh, Chase does this, too. I was crazy excited to get a slow cooker from the wedding, and then I had to figure out what he would eat from it, because he can’t stand anything creamy and delicious. We seem to have different tastes for everything. I don’t eat pork, and he has to have bacon and pepperoni. He can’t stand eggs or anything having to do with eggs, and I consider them a vital food product. We’re doing better, especially with help from Pinterest, and it’s really about gradually helping the other person try new things, in a way that’s acceptable. I know Chase’s absolutely-positively-not-eating-that foods, and he knows mine. Then I try taking something that he likes a lot (like buffalo sauce) and making something I want (healthier chicken strips, perhaps) and slather them in the sauce for him. He hates soup, but will eat chili, even if it’s a little thin. So I’m working toward veggie chili.
    Probably doesn’t help much, but I can say with confidence that it gets easier.

    • Chase doesn’t like EGGS? IS HE HUMAN?

      It’s actually really great to hear about other new marriages that are working on conquering this problem. I have so much hope. And so many boards on Pinterest.

  7. Ha I really like quinoa for breakfast with honey and agave (possibly too much of both to really make it ‘healthy’) and berries! No dice for you?!

    I like Molly’s suggestions of making existing meals he’s familiar with – tacos! burgers! chili! – and substituting more veggies over time. One of my favorite quinoa meals is quinoa burritos, which is pretty much quinoa substituted for rice and then any other delicious burrito elements you want.

    • Oof. I was able to choke down the quinoa breakfasts (also loaded with fruit, honey/agave, and maple syrup), but it wouldn’t be my first choice for breakfast whenever I have a simple box of granola sitting on my shelf. Sugary, delicious granola.

      I can’t say I’ve ever put quinoa in a burrito, but I love the idea of substituting it for rice! I’ve made quinoa with Mexican-inspired seasonings before, and it always ends up tasty.

  8. I’ve come to believe that you can only love someone with the exact opposite palate as yours. I’m still a vegetarian, and while my fiance is remarkably willing to eat a mostly veg diet, the problem is that HE HATES VEGETABLES. Well, most of them. So I’ve had to get creative in the kitchen too. Some of my go-to quick recipes include quiche with whatever veggies are on hand and lots of cheese, nachos loaded with veggies and beans, soups (which are great because you can throw anything on the banned list into a broth, process it, then “forget” to mention its presence while further masking it with loads of lentils and veggies), stir fries, and variations of risotto with whatever herbs/veggies/grains I have on hand. Another food compromise we’ve come to rely on is the casserole – again, whatever veggies and pasta we have on hand, mixing it with alfredo sauce, then topping it with lots of cheese and crunched up potato chips. Not the healthiest option, but when we’re in the mood for comfort food, it’s fabulous. We also eat kale chips at least once a week, which are super easy and never get old since you can season them differently each time.

    I do use the food processor a lot to deal with texture issues – he doesn’t like any veggies that get remotely mushy, and I HATE the texture of mushrooms, so the food processor comes in handy. I’ve made a mediterranean dip using quinoa, chick peas, red pepper, and cilantro, which is super healthy and turns everything into a smooth, creamy dip.

    I do get a lot of ideas from cookbooks too, and so far by favorites are the Moosewood Restaurant cookbooks. Hester bought me one a few years ago and it was fabulous so I’ve gotten a few more. If you find any good vegetarian recipes or cookbooks, please share!!

    • These are all wonderful suggestions, Lyndsey! Once Jonathan is home, I will be sure to chronicle the ways in which I’m able to trick him into eating health foods with minimal repercussions.

  9. As a 13-year vegetarian married to an extremely carnivorous male (who I am pretty sure makes up for at LEAST my share of non-meat eating existence)- who also will only eat 5 vegetables, yes, literally just 5 (onions, peppers, asparagus, uncooked spinach and corn- and corn is up for debate given it’s a starch)- I sympathize with your dilemma. Unfortunately i have given up on trying to get him to eat mushrooms or quinoa or broccoli and we pretty much eat 2 separate meals like, all the time. BUT ANYWAY- you are a stronger woman than me and so in that vein, there is a book called “The Sneaky Chef” (I realize it is actually “The Sneaky Chef: Simple Strategies for Hiding Healthy Foods in Kids’ Favorite Meals” and we aren’t talking about children… but…) that my friend really found useful with her husband- maybe you will too?

    ps. I’ve been reading your blog for a couple months now and you are a hilarious writer- i really enjoy it!!

    • Thank you so much, Jen! I figure Jonathan is like my test subject in case our kids hate food the way he hates food (and, according to my parents, the way I also hated food when I was a kid). So I’m adding the book to my list, but realizing the two-separate-meals system will probably still be regularly employed. There’s only so long I can go without goat cheese.

      P.S. What is it about asparagus that attracts these carnivore types? I mean, I like it, but I’d never choose it over broccoli. Broccoli for life.

  10. UGH HE DOESN’T EAT SUSHI?! Oh well, more for you and me. And mostly me. Because I’m not sure they even have sushi in Kentenessee or wherever it is that you’re going to end up leaving me for. And even if they do, they sure don’t have Koi Koi, so you’re pretty much screwed either way. Oh well, guess that means you have to stay.

  11. I know you don’t love meat, but I make creamy chicken tacos. They are awesome. Just chicken breasts (probably 1 large or 2 small breasts for just the two of you), cream cheese (1/2 a block), 1 can of each drained: yellow corn, black beans, and rotel. 1 or 2 dollops of sour cream.

    cook in crock pot on low for 4 hours and check the chicken. Shred with a fork when it’s cooked through and put it on tortillas. You can add shredded cheese to the tacos and he’ll love it. He’ll love you even more for trying something outside of your usual element.

    Or you can always try ground turkey. I’ve been using it for the last 2 years and no one knows the difference. Except me, because there’s NO GREASE! Try it with taco seasoning, spaghetti, even meatloaf.

    • Reason to get a crock pot number…I’ve stopped counting 🙂 It’s very happily on the top of my registry.

      I’ve actually just started cooking with ground turkey! I totally see tacos in my future. Many, many tacos.

  12. I have a strong distrust of people who don’t like sushi. “I don’t like the taste of raw fish!” they say. Well, I have news for you, sushi haters–It doesn’t really taste like fish! The stuff sushi rolls full with so much avocado or cream cheese and rice and other amazing things, it tastes not at all like fish and mostly like a small piece of healthy heaven!

    So where does one buy quinoa? I have a huge interest in trying it, but I shamefully do most of my grocery shopping at Wal-Mart and it’s not really a place for “exotic” food.

    • I will gladly help you over to the dark side of quinoa. You can get it by the box at Trader Joe’s, and even at Safeway (I’ve usually found it around where they keep the cous-cous, or sometimes in the “international foods” section…which makes little sense, but I’m not a grocery store layout professional, so I won’t judge). You can also buy it by the scoopful at Whole Foods, where they keep the bins of other grains and granolas. I’ve only ever cooked with white quinoa, but there’s red quinoa as well. So many options. So many amino acids. So much love.

      As for the distrust of sushi haters…I am completely with you. I was pretty convinced that Jonathan only disliked sushi because he’d never really tried it. So I made him try it. And then I realized–nope. He definitely doesn’t like it. It’s not really the fish taste that bothers him as much as it is the texture of the fish, and the taste of the seaweed. Which are a bit hard to avoid when ordering at a sushi bar. Luckily he likes hibachi, so I can order some raw fish while he’s distracted by that onion volcano.

  13. Hi! Your website was linked from Pinstrosity, and they had your entire blog post there. I found that I like your writing, so I came to your blog, and ended up reading your most recent posts (right till this one).

    I don’t know if you’ve heard of this blog, but she’s vegan, makes healthy but sinful food. Hope this helps!

    There isn’t only chocolate on her website, but if you do love chocolate, you’ll love er 😉

    • Oohhhh, yes, I have a well-hidden chocolate addiction. My waistline doesn’t thank you, but the rest of me does!
      Thanks for reading, and for the link. Hopefully none of my chocolate copycat recipes will warrant another Pinstrosity submission 🙂

  14. Just for my kids the other day I make sloppy joe’s but used a lb of hamburger and the same amount of cooked lentils and they could not tell the difference and LOVED it.
    P.S. My husband used to be like your fiance, but now he eats everything. When he is home he is just happy it isn’t Army food.
    I chop up lots of veggies real small in my spagetti sauce and let it simmer
    I use quinoa as the base for veggie fried rice and add protien if wanted/needed
    The other thing is my husband got a pintrest account. He even admits it to people. Anyways he pins all the recipes that look good to him and then I can look and make them or adapt them (hehe) for him when he is home. It’s kinda fun.

  15. Oh and I can put tons of stuff in turkey/chicken meatballs! My kids make their own recipes. Apple/cheddar/turkey meat balls were a raging success (the 8 year old made them). We use a large cookie scooper and put them on a cookie sheet and bake in the oven (so flippin’ easy)
    and turkey/spinach/garlic the other day and we made them with the tiny cookie scoop so they were heavely in some italian type soup. Or cover them with BBQ for app and there ya go 🙂
    Next up is jalepano/cheddar ones 🙂
    Oh and quinoa bites from here: well that is just the search but I have made a bunch of them…the cheddar ones are the kids/my picky Dad’s favorites. Husband hasn’t tried yet as well, damn they don’t travel real well over seas.

    • Too funny–I actually made baked turkey-spinach meatballs and quinoa with cherry tomatoes and balsamic for lunch today. THANK YOU for helping me realize that I can literally put a ton of things in the balls (balls pun intended). Jalapeno/cheddar and apple/cheddar sounds so effing good. WHY did it not occur to me to put cheese in them? I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHO I AM ANYMORE.

      You should write a cookbook! I would buy it so many times.

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