Feeding Teenage Boys: An Update (Recipe: Quick Mushroom Ragu)

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.

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A quick appetizer: Mediterranean Stuffed Mushrooms

I have a love/hate relationship with appetizers preceding a holiday meal.

Ideally they should tantalize the tongue, awaken the palate, and leave the guest eager for dinner, but we can all probably agree that they are often carb-heavy or cheese-laden. This type of fare can leave us feeling bloated as we gather around the table, with Gougères being the light and fluffy exception to the rule.

That said, I don’t think we should do away with the appetizer. The cocktail hour is a wonderful time to socialize, and I arrive starving, that plate of nibbles can be a lifeline and prevent me from crashing while awaiting the meal. If I’m being absolutely honest!

Instead, let’s serve more pre-dinner snacks that are gluten-free and vegetarian, leaving room for turkey or roast lamb with dinner. Today’s recipe for Mediterranean Stuffed Mushrooms are kind of what I have in mind.

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Butter Roasted Mushrooms & Ramps with Lemon

Did you get out in the beautiful spring sunshine yesterday? I tell you what, after the excitement that was last week, I enjoyed a quieter weekend outdoors, puttering in the garden and searching for wildflowers in the forest with the children.

Today there’s an ache in my shoulders I haven’t felt in a while, the result of turning the soil in the raised beds with a spade, and raking the last of the old leaves. It feels good.

With the arrival of warmer evenings, no doubt you are as excited as I am to move away from the kitchen stove and stand over the grill for a change. We scrubbed off the patio table and dined al fresco twice on the weekend, keeping thing simple with steaks and sausages – and a side of buttered mushrooms with ramps.

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Coq au Vin and the Julia Child 100

Last week we had the opportunity to welcome six young laying hens to our little homestead and, as a consequence, we ‘harvested’ our older, non-laying hens. Conveniently, this week’s recipe in the Julie Child 100 club was Coq au Vin, a a classic French recipe that turns tougher, less-desirable cuts of chicken into a delectable dish.

Boy, did I have the chicken for that dish. I froze the breasts from the hens in a buttermilk & dijon marinade, turned the carcasses into stock, and that left just the legs for braising.

I simply couldn’t pass up the opportunity to prepare Coq au Vin for the 100 club, especially with our own homegrown chicken. Read on to find out more about the JC100…and how it all turned out for me.

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A Vegetarian Dinner (Recipe: Leek & Mushroom Bake with Polenta Crust)

We tend to eat at least seventy-five percent vegetarian during the week, yet for some reason when I entertain on the weekends, I often feel obligated to serve up a big slab of meat. It might be a roast chicken, filet of salmon, or lamb curry, but seldom is it vegetarian fare.

As I was assembling this mushroom and polenta gratin, I wondered to myself why I always chose a protein as my main dish and why didn’t I indulge my friends in some of the healthier and more adventurous dishes that we eat day to day?

Whatever the reason – expectations, tastes or tradition – it became apparent as I dished up this gratin around our dinner table that I had created something well-worth sharing. Meat-lovers, or no meat-lovers.

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