Ethan turned one in September and because the first year of life rapidly boiled away, I've been trying to keep things simmering on low for a while. I catch myself staring at the boys with melancholy. If only I could press a mental record button and remember them forever this way-- Ethan with his arms up, teetering ever so sweetly around the house, his big brother behind him, imitating his swagger. But things change daily, before our eyes.
Some time ago, I published Roman's favorite meat sauce and it continues to grow in popularity, amongst family and friends. I make bigger batches now that we have two growing boys. The recipe has changed, as have our lives since we went from three to four.
If you're currently feeding a baby, my advice is to let your baby take the lead. Babies should be allowed to hold a spoon or fork, eat off a real plate or bowl, and drink from a cup with no cover. They are perfectly capable, with practice. By 9 months, Ethan could feed himself with a spoon. Eating is a sensory experience, and babies need to learn to chew and develop those important mouth and jaw muscles (purees don't teach them that). Babies are capable of so much and shouldn't be underestimated.
The same could be said for feeding older children. I try to respect Roman's right to listen to his body, to know when he's hungry or full, and to tell me what he likes and doesn't like. He often surprises me. Last week he asked for spinach in his chicken noodle soup last week and begged for whole branzino instead of fish filets.
And so we go on, each day another chance to try something new, to like it or dislike it and to respect choices. Pretty important with a four year old. It's all a learning process, for me as much as for them.
Bolognese, Part II
These days, our bolognese has a ratio of at least 4 cups of vegetables to 1 lb. of meat. I never make it quite the same, but this is our favorite family meal because it pleases even the harshest of little critics.
The amounts below for vegetables are suggestions. This is made to be adapted. Add spinach and kale, red pepper, or whatever you have in your refrigerator. I have made probably fifty versions and no one has ever said 'yuck'. Here is one of our favorite combinations.
1 yellow onion
3 garlic cloves
2 stalks celery
1 yellow squash
1 cup broccoli (the stalk)
1 box button mushrooms
1-2 teaspoons herbes de provence
1 to 1 1/2 lb ground beef, or a combination of pork, beef and veal
1 box Pomi (Italian brand) strained tomato
1 cup water
salt to taste
Using a food processor, finely chop the onion, garlic, carrot and celery. In a large pot, cook these over medium heat for five minutes in a Tablespoon of olive oil. Continue to process the rest of the vegetables in batches, adding them to the pot to cook. Add the herbs and some salt if you desire, and cook for about 7-10 minutes. Push the vegetables to the side of the pan (or you can take them out if your pan is not big enough) and add the meat. Brown the meat for several minutes, breaking it up with a wooden spoon. When it is browned, combine the vegetables into the meat and pour in the strained tomato and water. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook for about 1 1/2 hours, stirring every so often so it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pot. It is done when the liquid has mostly been absorbed. Serve with your favorite pasta and top with fresh parmesan.