SPEAKING OF FOOD: Teenage son finally has an appetite

The past couple of months, my grocery bill has really taken a beating.
And it’s not because I’ve been stocking up on holiday items or even because of the ever-rising cost of everyday staples for the pantry.
What’s happened is what I’ve been told for years was going to happen – my 13-year-old has finally developed a teenage boy’s appetite.
At the beginning of the school year, I had to fight with Patrick to eat something for breakfast. If I were lucky, I might get a tiny Jimmy Dean sausage and biscuit down him before school. Some mornings, I might send him out the door with nothing more than a small banana and a glass of water on his stomach.
For lunch, Patrick was happy with a turkey sandwich on whole wheat and some chips in his bag. At the dinner table, he’d be content with a chicken leg, a small scoop of mashed potatoes and, literally, four or five green beans.
Now, I can’t seem to keep enough food in the house for his voracious appetite.
On Sunday morning, he downed three pieces of bacon, four biscuits and a big glass of orange juice, and then he started sniffing around my plate to see what I had left. His lunch box bulges with a sandwich, chips, a piece of fresh fruit and a Nutri-grain bar.
Don’t even get me started on dinner.
Most nights, he’s known to eat a bowl of cereal or two a half-hour before we sit down to eat – and he still eats well at the dinner table, often asking for seconds.
We rarely have leftovers anymore.
So I’ve learned to cook a gracious plenty in the evenings now. Where I used to prepare meals to serve four or five, I now fix enough for eight to 10, just so we’ll have enough.
This recipe for Baked Cheese Spaghetti is one that fills Patrick up every time.

Baked Cheese Spaghetti
1 package frozen Pictsweet Seasoning Blend (a mix of peppers, onions and celery)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound lean ground beef or turkey breast
1 (26-ounce) jar pasta sauce
1 (15-ounce) can Italian-style diced tomatoes
1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
14 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese, divided
1 pound whole wheat spaghetti

Sauté seasoning blend in olive oil until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add ground meat and cook until brown and crumbly. Add pasta sauce, tomatoes, tomato sauce, Italian seasoning and bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to simmer and let cook at least 30 minutes (more is OK).
In a large Dutch oven or pot, boil pasta according to directions on the package. Drain pasta and return to pan. Add cooked spaghetti sauce (remove the bay leaf) and stir until noodles and sauce are nicely combined. Add 1 cup cheese and stir again. Pour mixture into a large greased casserole. Top with remaining cup of cheese. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until cheese is melted and casserole is bubbly.
Serves 8 to 10.

Ginna Parsons is the Daily Journal’s food/home/garden editor.

Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal