On Food & Love & Adolescence (+ Stove-top Mac n Cheese & Zucchini Lemon Bundt Cake)

On Food & Love & Adolescence (+ Stove-top Mac n Cheese & Zucchini Lemon Bundt Cake)

My son is almost 13. He loves food. He used to eat most things I made. One of the ways I show my love for people is by cooking for them. Vis a vis my son that expression sometimes feels like a fine line between loving and spoiling. “Would you like a poached egg or crepes for breakfast?” is a common question proffered on week-day mornings in our house.


These days he wants no breakfast or maybe one or two bites of something. Why? In part because he went to bed too late and has no time, in part because maybe he’s really not hungry in the mornings, and I think in part because he’s rebelling against our expectations of him, including basic caloric requirements. . .


I’m so wrapped up in feeding and nourishing people that when my own son walks out the door (in a huff often) with nary a bite and then comes home having eaten only a fraction of his lunch I wonder how he can thrive. When I ask him he says: “Look at me! I’m fine! I’ll be the first to know when I’m not!” And he is thriving, I can see that he is.  And yet it’s hard for me to just let him be. He tells me I care too much and need to chill. I’m working on it. I am!


After he left in a huff this morning (because I asked whether he was going to drink his smoothy–which he didn’t) I’ve gone about my work day. I have plenty to keep me busy but then I see an overgrown zucchini on my counter and think of the Zucchini Lemon Bundt Cake he used to love (would he still love it?!) and whether I should make it when I’m done with my work.


I think I won’t make it because I need to find different ways of showing him my love my right now. And of course I’ll keep making things I think he likes but I’m working on expanding my love/parenting tool-kit . . .  like more listening and less talking.


He does consistently like my quick stove-top Mac n’ Cheese so if you find yourself in the presence of a hungry adolescent or really anyone who needs to eat and isn’t particularly into vegetables, give it a try!


Quick Stove-top Mac ‘n Cheese



  • Add vegetables such as peas, broccoli, cauliflower or finely chopped kale or chard about 3 minutes before the pasta is tender.
  • See this cauliflower pasta and this Brussels sprout pasta for similar dishes with vegetables.

Serves 2-3


1 1/2 cups tubetti (or ditalini or small elbow macaroni)

3 1/4 cups vegetable broth, chicken stock or water (if using water you’ll need 1/4 teaspoon salt)

1/2 cup heavy cream

Plenty of freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar or other grating cheese or a combination of cheddar and Parmesan

Salt, to taste (you won’t need much or any at all if you’re broth is salty–the cheese adds salt too)

Fresh parsley, basil or chives, for serving (optional)


Put the pasta and broth or water and salt in a medium saucepan and stir well and bring to a boil, then simmer for about 9-10 minutes uncovered until most of the liquid has been absorbed and the pasta is tender. At this point add the cream and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper. Cook uncovered for about 3 minutes, stirring often, until it thickens slightly and is nice and saucy.  Stir in the cheese and adjust salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot. This quick version thickens a lot as it cools and is best enjoyed right away.

9 thoughts on “On Food & Love & Adolescence (+ Stove-top Mac n Cheese & Zucchini Lemon Bundt Cake)”

  • I found this to be a really lovely blog post! Parenting is such a moving target, and what works well one day/week/year all of a sudden doesn’t the next. I’m sure when my kids rebel, it will be refusing to write or something. Hang in there, mama, and thank you for the great recipes during this incredibly busy back-to-school time.

  • Sharon A Kaufman-Osborn says:

    Thinking of you, Katherine, as you find your way mothering your wonderful son, learning how to balance food and those all-important hours (sometimes late at night) of listening. As you know, I am the mother of two boychiks who are grown and now parenting. I still feel that food is one way of showing love. My sons and their families now deeply appreciate my help, my visits and my home cooked healthy meals that they come back to after their busy days, even more than they liked the plate lunches I made in the shape of faces. And, although they were adventurous eaters and learned to say “it’s not my favorite” instead of “yuck,” now they are grateful for everything I put on the table. May you have joy and ease. xo

    • cookwithwhatyouhave says:

      Thank you so much for all of this, Sharon! I love thinking of you still feeding your boys and their children. What a gift!

  • Poached eggs OR crepes!?! Will you be my mom, Katherine? 😉 Having a kid who lately treats me like I’m a nuisance or just not there, I know I’d love to chat about 13 year olds with you! Perhaps we could finally have that coffee/lunch soon. Lovely post, as always. Thank you.

  • Laura Mullet Koop says:

    Thank you for your reflections! I resonate so much. I regularly send two kids off to school without either of them eating breakfast (something I will never personally understand!). Parenting is such a journey of trust, discovery, and flexibility!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>