There’s something undeniably magical about watching your pre-adolescent children savour every bite of their food. It makes dinner-time feel like a scene from Little House on the Prairie. As much as I love cooking however, there’s something undeniably unmagical when you’re the one responsible for filling those bottomless pits.
If they’re not swinging from the kitchen cupboards while you frantically whip up the next meal, then they’re snarling at you from the fringes as you toss loaves of bread, hoping for a moment’s peace. Running out of food is seen as a betrayal of the mother-son relationship. It’s met with much huffing and puffing and declarations of injustice like, “Mom. You just don’t understand. I’m so hungry my knees hurt!”
Usually we don’t go anywhere without supplies – a hike, a car journey, a bicycle ride, a trip to the beach, all require the forethought of food. But today something went wrong. A walk along the beach at low tide (with dips into the Mediterranean-like turquoise ocean, the discovery of a new cave, miles of beautiful sea flora that washed up onto the beach) yielded unwelcome complaints because the only thing we’d packed to eat was an apple and two nectarines. Being hungry, my youngest was unusually repulsed when the see breeze stirred up the smell of rotting kelp. I suggested he ignore it and think of something else. “Okay then I’ll just think about how hungry I am,” he said.
While all of this might sound supremely ungrateful, I think they’re genuinely hungry. The holidays have given these young males growth in height, deeper voices and muscles I never noticed before.
So, besides for my food fail on today’s hike, here are some of the snacks I prepare for the hungry young cubs that roam around our house. If any of what I’ve said resonates with you, then perhaps some of these ideas will work for your brood too.
- Apples go well with sticks of cheese, or a hard-boiled egg, or smothered in peanut butter. I find the addition of protein and fat the most important bit; otherwise a bag of them could disappear in a day.
- Banana smoothies fill the gap if I add a spoonful of Greek yoghurt and crushed ice. And maybe some almonds if I have them. A variation of this is banana ice-cream, which is just frozen pieces of banana whizzed together. As a treat I might add broken bits of peanut brittle or pretzels before serving. Yum.
- Cheese. In all its forms. Cheese and almonds, toasted cheese and ham sandwiches, cottage cheese and crackers, cheese and fruit. Surprisingly even grated cheese (parmesan if you can afford it) over popcorn is filling and reduces the need for lots of salt.
- Our investment in a bread maker was a seriously good one and it churns out a daily offering of additive-free sustenance in the shape of pita bread, naan bread, focaccia or just an ordinary ol’ white loaf. #lifesaver. Team this with a toaster and homemade hummus and you’re styling.
- A little trick I learned with loadshedding was to keep cooked pasta and boiled baby potatoes in the fridge. Leftover pasta sauce or grated cheese are good enough to add flavour.
- Raw vegetables cut into strips in a see through container are crunchy and colourful and hard to resist, especially dipped into homemade hummus or a combination of mayo and Greek yoghurt with a dollop of pesto.
- When cooking rice I always make a bit extra to keep in the fridge. Add tuna, lentils and salady-type stuff. We like to give it flavour with fresh coriander and lemon juice or a pesto & mayo dressing. Olive oil, avo, feta cheese or mixed seeds add the feel-full-for-longer fat content the boys desperately need.
- Because we find store-bought muesli rather sweet (and expensive), I make ours from raw oats, mixed seeds, chopped almonds and raisins. If I have dried fruit or dates I chop them up too, but most often it’s just the basic one that the boys snack on with a little bit of juice or milk or a combination of the two.
- Greek yoghurt with berries is delicious, but more often that not we don’t have berries so my children chop up a banana and drizzle a bit of honey over the top instead.
- Mixed nuts are a firm favourite but they’re pricey. I’m told that roasted spicy chickpeas are a tasty and inexpensive alternative, but I haven’t tried them yet.
When I don’t have the time or couldn’t be bothered to prepare any of these things, I give the boys free reign with the fruit bowl, veggie drawer or bread bin. Let’s face it, there’s nothing wrong with a good old peanut butter sarmie.
If I don’t do that they lurk. And I don’t like lurkers.
Meeting the need for nutritious, easy, satisfying and relatively inexpensive food for hungry pre-teens is challenging, so if you have any ideas to add to the mix, tell us in the comments.
Yours in snacking, sister,