My approach to feeding my family has completely shifted focus over the last year as my boys have grown from tweens into young teenagers.
Their lives have changed along with their growing bodies, forcing a natural shift in our family’s approach to meals and food. A few years ago, I was petty confident I knew how to deal with ravenous appetites and the multiple meals my tweens required each day, and while I did well in that season of parenting, nothing prepared me for the days of packing school lunches for a 175-lb. child.
Please don’t be confused; my children are big and healthy, and the ample weight is evenly matched by the height, as my 13-year-old currently stands tall at a striking 6’1”. He’s the tallest person in our house right now; heck, he’s taller than anyone in our entire extended family, and his appetite just might be bigger than his body.
I’ve replaced traditional lunchboxes with food storage containers, and despite my best efforts to keep a well-stocked freezer and pantry, there are many, many days when I’m ill prepared for what the kids need to eat, especially when they show up at home with three to five friends, all of whom are equally as hungry as my own kids.
Apples, veggies and dip, and small cookies no longer keep these boys satiated; they’re looking for warm, filling food for snacks, and even bigger portions of something similar for lunch and dinner. And lest you think I’m exaggerating, their pediatrician has stated that for my son’s size and activity level (he plays competitive hockey five times a week, plus school hockey and basketball) he should consume 3400 – 4000 calories per day. Per day!
Naturally, I’m feeding them more pasta and rice then I ever have, although if it were up to them, they would dine on meat for every meal. At this particular age, vegetables don’t hold a lot of appeal, but it’s not because of the taste, but rather that they don’t seem plentiful enough for the boys, both of whom want to see mounds of food on their plate.
So the compromise between feeding them a little of what they want, and a little of what I want for them, seems to have been found in this simple mushroom ragu. The meaty texture of the mushrooms provides a little more substance to their plate, which pleases them. I’m happy to use the veggies as a vehicle for other foods they love, like orzo and bread, which ultimately makes this a meal we can all agree on; I assure you, it doesn’t happen often.
At this stage, I’m a little less concerned about what makes it on the table each meal, and more focused on actually getting my kids there, as their lives are filled with more distractions, commitments, socializing and technology. Serving plentiful portions of filling food that the kids want to eat ensures they come to the table as often as possible, which is just as important to me as what they actually eat.
This mushroom ragu is a meal I feel good about making for them, but I’m also okay serving up pizza and chicken wings on a Friday night. If I cook what they crave, and lots of it, they’ll want to eat at home often, and even better, they’ll bring their friends with them. I’ll just need to make sure I have enough food on hand to feed them all; it’s a good thing mushrooms are readily available and reasonably priced.
|Quick Mushroom Ragu|| |
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons salted butter
- 1 lb. cremini or white button mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed and thickly sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 shallot, finely sliced
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1/3 cup white wine or chicken/vegetable stock
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
- Sea salt and fresh black pepper
- Heat one tablespoon of the olive oil and one tablespoon of the butter in a large wide skillet set over medium-high heat.
- Add half the mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until all the liquid released has evaporated and the mushrooms begin to caramelize. Transfer to a dish and repeat with the remaining oil, butter and mushrooms.
- When the second batch of mushrooms is nearly cooked, place the first batch back in the pot. Add the garlic, shallot, thyme leaves, and balsamic vinegar and cook, stirring for a minute or two.
- Add the wine and cook until the liquid has almost completely evaporated. Add the cream; lower the heat and stir until the sauce comes to a simmer. Season well with salt and pepper to taste.
- Note: My favourite way to serve this ragu is to toss it with orzo and garnish lightly with fresh chopped parsley and grated Parmesan. The tiny rice-shaped pasta is quick-cooking and yields a similar taste to a risotto only with less work. Recipe adapted from The River Cottage Veg cookbook.
Are you feeding any teenagers these days? Are they eating as much, and as frequently, as mine are?