Too many cooks in the kitchen

I’ve heard it said that people either like to cook or they like to bake, but they rarely like to do both.

And for me, that’s true.

Cookies, cupcakes, pastries…give me an excuse to make them and I’ll hurry to the pantry and pull out my KitchenAid. I love making gingerbread houses and desserts for the holidays, or baking cakes for birthdays. And there’s nothing like a house filled with the smell of brownies or apple pie.

But cooking? That’s another story.

It’s not that I don’t cook. I do.

And it’s not that I hate it, either. I don’t.

It’s just that I always seem to get stuck in a rut, making the same six or seven recipes over and over until I’m up to my eyeballs in things like pesto and spaghetti and chicken and taco salad and burritos and, okay I’ll admit, quesadillas or grilled cheese when we’re on the run.

And every once in a while, when I happen to read a cooking magazine or see an amazing recipe, panic sets in and I worry that my kids aren’t getting enough variety.

That’s when I get super-motivated and dig through my recipe drawer and pull out things like Pozole Mexican Soup or Zucchini Carpaccio or Roasted Red Pepper Pasta or Cannellini Salad.

Then I go to the store.

And get all the ingredients.

And spend hours cooking.

And we sit down for dinner, and…

my kids eat two bites.

I know I could force them to eat. Believe me, I’ve said the line, “This isn’t a restaurant,” many times. But I don’t want to make an issue about food, and forcing them doesn’t always work anyway.

On account of my son’s (very strong) gag reflex.

And it’s after those kinds of dinners that I resort back to the six or seven recipes I know everybody likes.

It’s an ongoing cycle, and one that I need to do a better job of figuring out how to break.

Especially because my son has gotten a little too used to the menu lately.

Most notably, the burritos.

If he had his way, he’d eat them every day.

Yes. We’re having burritos!” he said just the other night when he was helping me cook. (He had spotted the tortillas on the counter.)

“No,” I told him. “We’re having enchilada casserole.”

Casserole?” He scrunched his face up. “Can’t we have burritos instead?”

“We just had burritos. We’re having casserole tonight.”

He eyed the rest of the ingredients…olives, ground turkey, enchilada sauce, green chilies, cheese…

“But what’s in enchilada casserole?” he asked quietly.

“Almost the same thing as burritos,” I told him, “but the casserole has beans and enchilada sauce too.” I smiled. “Trust me. You’ll love it. You’ve had it before.”

He looked at me doubtfully and set the table, seemingly in deep thought.

When he was done, he came up to me. “Mom?” he said, “I have three suggestions.” (This from my seven year old.)

“Oh yeah? What are they?”

“How about we make enchilada casserole, but without the enchilada sauce, and without the beans, and without the casserole?”

Which pretty much means we’d be making burritos. :)


  1. I am the exact opposite – I would much rather cook than bake!We have 3 kids – 2 used to be picky, now just one is. I no longer cook separate/different things for picky eaters. If it is a pasta sauce they are not keen on, they get their pasta plain, and a small amount of the sauce is a separate bowl. She does not have to eat the sauce, but can choose just to have the plain pasta. If she chooses not the have the sauce she does not get any “afters” (fruit, yoghurt, cookies/biscuit).Sometimes she eats the sauce, sometimes she doesn’t, but it no longer stresses me. Thats what seems to be working in our house, and they seem to be getting the message :)

  2. I like to do both but am glad that I am not the only one that seems to just rotate the recipes. I don’t know if it is just a summer thing but I am really tired of cooking lately.

  3. I’m with you on the cooking thing! Once in a while I get inspired, but usually it’s just the standard rice/pasta/potatoes with whatever topping I can come up with.Your son has the right idea! I can tell he’ll be every waiter/waitress’s dream!And I’m no expert on how to get picky eaters to eat. The only thing I’ve managed so far is to blend up veggies and mix them in pasta sauce so they’re not distinguishable as veggies.

  4. (sorry – spelling error on my last comment. Made me twitch;)) Oh I know! Sometimes it just seems like so much work for so little benefit! I just cook what I like, and sometimes I get a little adventurous, but I’ll do half adventurous and half pretty plain-jane. As long as there’s some bland chicken and steamed carrots on the plate, they won’t starve, and they can try a bit or two of what was on the other side of the grill as well. I chuckled during this post. Very cute.

  5. I like to bake more than cook. Sorry – I have no ideas for you. I also use the same recipes most of the time.

  6. I’m a much happier baker than cooker – and the summer sure takes a hit on our family meals. I’ve started reviewing different slow cooker recipes – starting to get into my “Betty Crocker” mode that hits when I enter into the fall/school season (when things get a bit more structured).And, for the record, I have two very picky kids – which I enable as I was very picky and still continue to be….. =)I wanted to let you know that I’ve been meaning to share with my friends the website of Faith Lifts – your devotional today was the perfect inspiration to send them all the link. Beautifully written, thank you!

  7. I like to cook and bake. I am always trying to find family friendly dinners though. We have our favorites and I’m finding here lately the quicker and easier it is, the better. I’ve also tried to make different (not weird) foods for my kids to try. It seems the more I keep giving them the “normal” foods, the less likely they are to try something new. is a great resource I have found. You can trust what the people are saying about that particular recipe. I also incorporate breakfast for dinner every once in awhile. nothing like pancakes for dinner!

  8. I just almost feel out of bed. This was so funny. I think there must be a generation thing with casseroles and kids because my kids won’t touch them either. Give them meat,a vegetable and a starch and they are happy….try to throw in extras and they are not hungry. :)

  9. Found you thru the Mom Bloggers Club!Like you, I love to bake, but hate to cook. My boyz’ favorite dinner? Topsy-turvy night–where we have breakfast for dinner. We do that AT LEAST once a week in our Trenches!

  10. I am in the exact same rut. And to add to my issues, cooking in the summer heat is so not fun.I also have a daughter who is VERY picky. So I share your pain.

  11. omigosh that cracks me up about the burritos. My 6 year old Aly is the same way! It’s slowed down a little recently, but for most of her life, she always wanted burritos for dinner! Every night! :) I have to admit it–I hate cooking, baking or otherwise. I just do. There, I said it, give me the worst mom in the world prize. ;) And I can so relate to trying new recipes. I slave over the stove or oven, make a mess cause it’s outside of what I’m used to, and the kids hate it. Husband will eat it, and sometimes likes it alot, but he’s pretty meat and potatos too. I like some of the suggestions I read here. I rarely make something separate for my kids. I just expect them to try something new at least once.

  12. I’d rather bake than cook, though I like trying out new recipes.I do fall into the rut, as well. And my son is picky sometimes. And he starts to get bored if we have the same thing all the time. But he always has to eat whatever the meal is – I don’t fix anything separate.I think getting his input on which new recipes to try might help. I like the breakfast for dinner idea, too – my son LOVES that!

  13. I must admit I would much rather eat the baked and cooked goods than spend the time preparing them, LOL :) !! Although I do enjoy being in the kitchen when in the right mood.Picky eaters? Yep, I got two of those. I detest food battles so I don’t push the issue too much until they are a little older, but I do always encourage them to try new things.

  14. I have two suggestions:Incorporate one or two new ingredients at a time to change a familiar dish just a little bitAnd get the kids to help you in the kitchen–every time I’ve done that, I’ve found that they are willing to be more adventurous and want to try what they helped fix. (The downside is the additional time for cooking)

  15. I could have written this post!!A fun book is Deceptively Delicious written by Jessica Seinfeld (Seinfeld’s wife).It has really easy recipes, super kid friendly, and a lot of the healthy ingredients are secret in the recipes. She mixes in purees of fresh vegetables and fruits. She also serves up vegetables and healthy things,but she knows if they take two bites it’s still hidden in the main dish.My kids are picky and two of them suffer from food allergies, so I understand variety can be an ongoing issue!

  16. I wish I had a suggestion but I am instead hoping to learn from all the other comments. I agree with the “this is not a restaurant” comment, though. We can’t be short order cooks for our kids! Can’t wait to hear what everyone says!-Carrie

  17. When you figure it out, please fill me in. My eight y.o. son is the same way. I prefer cooking over baking because you don’t have to be as precise.

  18. Hubs is the cook in our family. If he cooks I do the dishes and vice versa. By the way don’t forget about my give away this weekend.

  19. Jan

    I like to do both, although I struggle with what to make for dinner or potlucks!My oldest son, who is now 18, has always been an adventuresome eater and will try many things. But he still has his preferences that I need to work around.My younger son, who is now 16, is the picky eater and always has been. However, he’s getting better as he gets older. Spending a week at Boy Scout camp or band camp has helped cure some of his pickiness. Even if he didn’t like what was served, he ate it anyway because he knew he would need the fuel for his body and the many activities.One thing that helped me feel better was that they both liked their vegetables, and I could always get a balanced meal down them. One thing we started when they were little was the “No thank you bite”. They had to try at least one bite of a new food and then if they didn’t like it they could say no thank you to more bites. Sometimes they found that they liked the new food. And even if they didn’t like it, they had to try it again in the future, because tastes change over time.

  20. I’m going to look for that book, Deceptively Delicious. It looks great!

  21. I can totally relate. And I’ve just given up trying to be creative. Oh, I do when I get in the mood to be all Rachael Ray in my kitchen, but if they’re just going to complain about it, what’s the point? (And I have a girly with a very strong gag reflex, too. Good to know it really is a legitimant complaint. I need to share that tidbit with some relatives!!)

  22. I appreciate all the great info…I’ll have to check out that book (Deceptively Delicious) too. And that recipe website.Andrea, yes, his gag reflex is very real. Watery eyes, gagging, the whole nine yards. There are some foods he literally cannot get down. I’m hoping he grows out of it.Looking forward to more input!

  23. Sometimes it’s funny just how similar we are! I’ll spend hours making my famous Hot Fudge Cheesecake for some event or other, but I hate if I have to fuss with dinner for more than fifteen minutes!I don’t have any magic formulas for getting my kids to eat something new. The little one really will eat almost anything (how many 1 year-olds do you know who would beg for salad with blue cheese?) With him, all I have to do is put it on my plate and he wants it.His older brother is trickier. My best “trick” with him is to separate casseroles and stuff into piles–meat, carrots, peas, etc. He’s more likely to eat the pieces individually rather than all mixed together. And sometimes I call things by their category name instead of the real name. DS claims he doesn’t like “salmon” but he loves all kinds of meat. So if I just tell him it’s “meat” he always asks for more. Semantics maybe, but it works for us!

  24. PS–Besides Deceptively Delicious, there’s a book, “The Sneaky Chef” by Missy Chase Lapine who’s been doing the same kind of thing for a long time. She’s got some recipes listed on her site that might get you started.(And I used to have that gag reflex thing too–still can’t bring myself to eat oatmeal or any other hot cereal!)

  25. I guess I cook way more than baking. But I love finding dessert recipes to bake for guests.Great blog!

  26. I am in the same boat as you. So I will have to check your comments and see if anyone has suggestions that may work for me as well.

  27. I love to cook and bake, but the time it takes and the clean up tends to make it frustrating while in this season of life… :) All too often I do the hotdogs in the microwave, or peanut butter and jelly for my boys. Poor deprived litle things. They probably would love some good ol’ caserole. :)

  28. I love to do both. In fact, I was pouring over my Cooks Illustrated magazines last night looking for recipes… I’m having a real life dinner party, girls. I’m giddy with excitement.Can’t help you with the pickiness… my kiddos are great eaters.

  29. um, what if you changed the recipe title to “Burrito Casserole” next time? do you think he’d like it? or is that too sneaky? (yes, we have a picky eater here, too.)as for me, i love to bake AND cook, just not at the same time.

  30. I know you’re gonna think I’m going commercial on ya, but Pop’rs really seem to do the trick for the kiddos. They come in 8 flavors, and turn any meal into an interactive one! One of my Bloggy Friends told me that her daughter will only eat “singing carrots” now. I’m going to be doing another giveaway soon, but if you can’t wait, I have a link on my site so you can purchase your own!

  31. I really enjoy baking, but I don't really have anyone to bake for – just me and DH. We don't need to have a plate full of brownies LOL We have just a few recipes, too and I try to make new things & I get a wrinkled up nose from DH and a comment like "Did you use any spices?" That's my hint to take it off the list LOLahhh food – we love it so much and wish it was easier.Kristin

  32. What if mom is the picky eater?! I feel like I rotate recipes too. I agree though…one menu for everyone. I have found though that the less snacking DD does in the afternoon the more likely she is to eat more dinner. I also have her eat 4 of something because she’s 4…that usually works. I’m not sure how the poor child will react to broccoli at someone else’s house…I never fix it since hubby and I don’t like it. I’m sure hubby would love more flavorful cooking, he’s not picky!

  33. found your blog from Sandy’s Reluctant Entertainer. I really enjoyed browsing your recent posts. I love to cook and bake and neither of my girls are overly picky, but sometimes don’t want to venture to trying something new. I have several dishes that I rotate. If I make something new I tell them they have to take at least 3 bites before they decide they don’t like it. Often, they decide they do. When I make my chicken and veggie tacos, instead of mixing it all together as the recipe calls for, I keep the chicken seperate so they can add what they want. Maybe having your son help you prepare dinners or look through new recipes with you and helping choose would be a good idea.

  34. Oh my word, there must be an army of us out there! My girls have NO problem eating (yet), but my son sometimes does. Living overseas and traveling alot does that. So what I do is have him help me cook- then he wants to try what he helped with, and most the time he likes it!

  35. I like so many other mom’s can totally relate…It does get frustrating trying to think of variety, nutrition, and something that everyone will love. I have a picky eater in my house, and each day is a challenge when it comes to mealtime!

  36. Same problem here. My kids even know when I change a brand of something in a recipe. Can’t do any sneaking here. They catch everything. Sorry I can be of no help. Only time will help the really picky kids and their moms.

  37. I guess I am really lucky when it comes to getting my kid to eat. My son loves healthy foods. Veggies are his favorites, so I don’t have to worry about that. He doesn’t really care for casseroles either. I think kids don’t want to eat what they can’t identify. They feel like we are trying to pull one over on them. Good luck! I think the key is to just keep trying.

  38. Ha! My guy Colton wont eat much of anything. I just limit his options to good food and then NO snacking. Then, if he doesn’t eat his meal, he’s hungry. And kids dont like to be hungry.Good luck!God bless-Amanda

  39. ok – one great trick is to have the kids cook with you, even my picky one wants to like what she made so much she really try to like it. Although I am with your son, I could eat Burritos every night.

  40. I’m right there with you. I would much rather bake than cook. Your son sounds like a hoot! :) If I’d make them, my hubby would have burritos everyday, too.

  41. time. that’s the only thing that worked in my house. (in other words, don’t ask me… i get an F in un-pickifying my little eaters)the good news is that my 13 year old son lived on air for the first 8 years of his life… and now he eats everything not nailed down… :)

  42. Too funny, I immediately thought of that old movie (Easy Rider?) where the character Jack Nicholson is playing is trying to order toast…

Comments are closed.