We’ve been doing the comfort food thing at our house this week. Although Macaroni and Cheese is normally the ultimate comfort food for both me and the kids, we decided that this Cheese Butternut Gnocchi with Sage is a close contender. It’s a lot like everyone’s favorite macaroni and cheese, but just different enough that it seems extra special.
I have been realizing since school started a few months ago that there has been a subtle shift in the dynamics at school. For the first time ever, all three of my girls are at school together and Esme, growing up as children do, moved into a fourth-fifth grade classroom this year. It’s school as usual with all the same routines and milestones, except it’s also a whole new ballgame.
It has finally hit me that I have three girls and with three girls comes all the female friendship dynamics. This year, already, Esme has been ditched by a friend who’s been close since kindergarten, and without any explanation. She has other good friends and one particularly close friend, and she’s indicated, in a far too grown up way, that it’s not really a big deal and friends change. But still, it feels like a really big deal to me and under her tough-I’m-almost-a-tween act, it’s probably kind of a big deal to Esme too.
There’s also the matter of the fourth grade boy that all the girls are afraid of – king of the lunch time microwave, or something like that. And Eila’s best friend at school is an adorable boy worthy of a good second grader crush, but she still felt pretty crushed last week when almost every girl in class got invited to one girl’s birthday party and she was left out.
I’m worrying and listening and sometimes remembering that all of this is a completely normal part of growing up and learning where you fit in and how to get along with other people. Some kids are mean and if I dwell on that I really want to bring them all home and feed them cookies and keep them here with me forever. But some adults are mean too and I’ve found that it takes more than cookies to get around some of the painful grownup situations too.
They must grow up and they will learn how to navigate friends and mean girls and boys and being the incredible kids I know they are, I feel pretty confident that they will find their place. Still, standing on the sidelines of their social lives might be the most heart wrenching part of parenting so far.
P.S. I’ve been reading this fantastic book about kids and friends and navigating social conflict – Best Friends, Worst Enemies: Understanding the Social Lives of Children by Michael Thompson. It covers both kids and teenagers and is very well researched. It’s giving me so much to think about and is comforting in a lot of ways.
- 32 oz gnocchi (I prefer DeLallo)
- 2 teaspoons butter or olive oil
- 1 small yellow onion, chopped
- 4 to 5 cup butternut squash, cubed (1 small squash)
- 3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup milk
- 1 large fresh sage leaf
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ⅔ cup sharp cheddar grated
- serve with black pepper and chives
- optional: top with crumbled, crispy bacon
- In a small skillet, heat oil over medium-low heat. Add onion and saute for about 15 minutes, or until onion is soft, lightly golden, and beginning to caramelize.
- Meanwhile, in a large pot, bring broth and water to a rolling boil. Add the cubed squash and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, or until squash is very tender.
- Drain squash and carefully transfer to a blender. Add the milk, sage, sauteed onions, and salt. Blend until smooth. Stir in the cheese until melted. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
- Prepare gnocchi according to package instructions. Toss cooked gnocchi with cheesy butternut sauce. Serve warm topped with freshly ground black pepper, chives, and bacon if desired.
Notes: I adapted this recipe from Pinch of Yum’s Healthy Mac and Cheese, which is another family favorite of ours! And if you are looking for really good quality gnocchi, I prefer the DeLallo brand of gnocchi. It is consistently delicious.