Calgary

Julie Van Rosendaal: Teenager feeding made easier

Parents of teenagers may be familiar with their hobbit-like eating habits: breakfast, second breakfast, elevenses, pre-lunch, lunch, afternoon snack, first dinner, second dinner and so on.

Once they hit a certain age, most kids can put away a staggering amount of food, says CBC food columnist

Julie Van Rosendaal's chicken thigh tacos. (Julie Van Rosendaal)

Parents of teenagers may be familiar with their hobbit-like eating habits: breakfast, second breakfast, elevenses, pre-lunch, lunch, afternoon snack, first dinner, second dinner and so on.

It seems once they hit a certain age, most kids can put away a staggering amount of food.

Since my own has reached six feet tall at the age of 13, and recently put away a pizza-and-a-half before asking what was for dinner, I reached out to friends for advice.

Plan ahead, most said — the advice came second to "get a Costco card."

Ravenous teenagers will grab whatever is handy, and often it's packaged snacks or cereal. I'll try to make sure the fruit bowl is full, and there are veggies prepped, but truthfully I don't expect him to go for the carrot sticks in the fridge any more than I did at his age.

A lot of my parent friends tell me their kids go through tubs of hummus — an easy enough thing to make in large quantities, which keeps well and is cheap. You can generally pick up a can of chickpeas for a dollar.

Julie Van Rosendaal's beet hummus. (Julie Van Rosendaal)

To make it, you don't really need a recipe: drain your chickpeas and whiz them in the food processor with a clove of garlic, a squeeze of lemon, a big spoonful of tahini and a pour of olive oil.

Sometimes I add a spoonful of plain yogurt, and I love tossing in some cold roasted beets, carrots or other veggies, often along with a pinch of cumin. Don't forget a big pinch of salt.

Some other great suggestions: cook a turkey (plenty of leftovers!), double the quantity of whatever you make for dinner, have extra cooked rice in the fridge to make a quick fried rice out of other scraps of leftovers (plus an egg).

Pancakes can be healthier when made yourself: a combination of flours (I like to add some barley flour to the mix, but not rely on it) with baking powder and salt, milk, egg and oil — add plain yogurt, even, and freeze leftovers to pop in the toaster or microwave.

My favourite solution so far: tacos.

My son loves them, and it's simple to cook a big batch of filling: it could be as simple as ground beef, or braised beef (I pick up a blade or other pot roast) or pork shoulder, or skinless, boneless chicken thighs.

Julie Van Rosendaal's chicken quesadillas. (Julie Van Rosendaal)

Or beans — canned refried beans or black beans, spiked with chili powder and cumin, or a big pot of whatever variety of dried beans you like, simmered and stashed in the fridge.

Fillings can be prepped and stored in the fridge all week to reheat and assemble as needed, whether you need one taco or three.

Quesadillas are also perfect — like a grilled cheese sandwich, only made with a tortilla and stuffed with whatever leftovers can be scrounged from the fridge. They can be cooked quickly and for one, or one plus friends, and are more substantial than an average snack. Perfect for pre-dinner.

Slow cooker chicken thigh tacos:

Skinless, boneless chicken thighs

Chili powder

Salsa

Corn or flour tortillas

Taco fixings: grated cheddar, feta or queso fresco, salsa, avocado, sour cream, cilantro

Toss as many chicken thighs as you like into a slow cooker, add a generous shake of chili powder and a big glug of salsa (½ cup to 1 cup) and cook on low for three to four hours.

When the chicken is very tender, pull it apart with two forks in the sauce, cool and refrigerate any that isn't eaten right away to rewarm later and scoop into tortillas with grated cheese and any other toppings you like.

About the Author

Julie Van Rosendaal

Calgary Eyeopener's food guide

Julie Van Rosendaal talks about food trends, recipes and cooking tips on the Calgary Eyeopener every Tuesday at 8:20 a.m. MT. The best-selling cookbook author is a contributing food editor for the Globe and Mail, and writes for other publications across Canada.

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