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.
So, Macaroni and Cheese. And then Butternut Gnocchi with Sage. Big heaping, warm, cheesy bowls of it. As much comfort as I can fit into a bowl, and there's always second helpings and hugs too.
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.
Cheesy Butternut Gnocchi with Sage
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.
Katrina Jackson says
I can totally relate to the heartbreak of parenting kids in school! Zoe's two best friends moved to Arizona at the beginning of summer and then we switched tracks. She was like a lost sheep for several weeks when school started. She found a couple friends but there are days when she tells me she just wandered around the playground by herself at recess and it just kills me. Keep your chin up friend...and I will too. I try to remember they are stronger than we think!
Also, this meal looks amazing! I will definitely be feeding it to my family.
I love Mac and Cheese so my ears perked up when I read your recipe for Cheesey Butternut Gnocchi with Sage ... it has the flavors of Fall and it does seem like it is much more special than just Mac and Cheese.
I will definitely give it a go.
Sherri @ Watch Learn Eat says
Gnocchi is my weakness! I order it every time we go out to eat at an Italian restaurant. This cheesy butternut version looks fabulous!! Love it!
Oh this looks amazing, Allison! Great idea to use butternut to add that macaroni color we all love, without actually to have to ass quite as much cheese. Awesome recipe! 🙂
Oh how I want to dig into a bowl of this amazing comfort food!
This looks delicious and similar to my pumpkin macaroni cheese. Am definitely going to have to try it with gnocchi.
Just as an aside...you cook the onions, but then you make no mention of them...
And I think I may be needing to get that book. Already entering the minefield that is childhood friend breakdowns. Oh my, surely I didn't cause my parents this much heartbreak!
This looks really good - so good I could have broken my diet protocols ha. Completely agree on the note about your kids though, you want to protect them from everything but sometimes life needs to teach 'em a few things too...
I make homemade squash ravioli when I have the time, but had never thought to incorporate it into a sauce. Seems like the perfect answer to having a very comforting meal when I don't have time to make it homemade....which of course is more often than not! Thanks~~~
I make homemade squash gnocchi when I have the time, but had never thought to incorporate it into a sauce. Seems like the perfect answer to having a very comforting meal when I don't have time to make it homemade....which of course is more often than not! Thanks~~~
Being a parent can be so hard. When my kids were little, I just wanted to jump in and fix every single one of their problems. Now that they are grown, I do find that a lot of those struggles have made them stronger and more compassionate people.
Comfort food like this is like a big hug in a bowl! I love this twist using gnocchi SO much...and I completely agree...DeLallo's is the best!
Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar says
Doughy gnocchi is the best! This cheesy dish looks so good!!
This gnocchi looks incredible! I need it in my life asap!
This post really resonated with me today - besides the cheesy gnocchi deliciousness. I just had parent/teacher conferences for my new 6th grader last night. He is not doing well - due to his own decisions - and it was a 'Come to Jesus' kind of meeting with him and his teacher. On the car ride home he just cried and I kept reminding myself that he has to fix this himself, that this is part of growing up and I have to let him figure it out. It's his education and he's perfectly capable of doing what needs to happen. But man, it is hard to see your child struggle. Sometimes comfort food is the only response you can really give.
Olivia @ Olivia's Cuisine says
You know the way to my heart, girl! Cheese + butternut + GNOCCHI? I just can't even! *drooling*