Squash, Comfort and the Holidays

This post is part of the Food and Mood series.  Today’s guest author is Dr. Bridget Engel.  Welcome, Dr. Engel!

I love Thanksgiving! There is something really special about getting together and celebrating a cozy day and all that we have to be grateful for, without the pressure and sometimes chaos that other holidays may involve. Plus, I love fall food, especially Thanksgiving food with all the fixins’. Sometimes, I wish they weren’t all so heavy and filling though. That is why I’ve started adding in a nice green salad with butternut squash that goes great with the turkey, and with the leftovers!

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Oh the sweet nuttiness and bright, cheery color of a Butternut Squash! However, one of my first feelings I experience when making Butternut Squash Salad is frustration. I find cutting squash to be difficult and tedious, even if our knives have been recently sharpened. But keep reading; its worth it. I’ve found that using a peeler sometimes works better when trimming the skin of a squash. Once I get that off, then my twin girls can help, and they love to be in the kitchen together.

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Cut up the squash in chunks and then toss lightly in extra virgin olive oil. For a whole squash, I use 1-2 tablespoons olive oil. Sprinkle with two teaspoons rosemary. If you like a garlic flavor on your salad, you can add it a bit of that now too.

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Spread in an even layer on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for about 20 minutes, at 375 degrees, stirring half way through. I like my squash to be a little bit caramelized, so sometimes I flip again and put the pan back in the oven for five more minutes or so.

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By now, I am usually feeling cozy and content. I love the smell and color of squash, and I feel good that I’m providing something healthy for my family. Squash of course, has vitamin C but also lots of vitamin A and B. There is no doubt that squash has good fiber, plus potassium!

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I’ve played around with a variety of vinaigrette dressings for this salad, and the good thing is that you can do what sounds best to you. I usually cut up and puree some fresh, juicy tangerines. Remember to pull the seeds out first. Those little buggers sometimes have three or four seeds! I think the citrus flavor is what makes this salad light and refreshing, alongside your mashed potatoes or stuffing.

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Puree those in a blender, adding in one teaspoon of fresh rosemary and a tablespoon of olive oil. Sometimes I add in a pinch of sugar or a half teaspoon of lemon juice to make it more sweet or more tart.

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Before you blend, try to get as much of the skin and the white stuff (what’s that called?) out so that you can get a nice smooth texture. You may need to blend for three to four minutes.

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Gently top warm squash on a bed of spinach, and then sprinkle with dried cranberries and freshly grated pepper. Sometimes I also add kale, or the fall flavors of nuts and seeds too to vary the texture a bit. I’ve always used dried cranberries, but I wonder how fresh cranberries would taste. Or add in some fresh cranberries to your tangerine vinaigrette! Butternut Squash Salad, alongside friends and family, makes me feel joyful and happy for the holidays. I am always excited for the weekend after Thanksgiving too because leftover squash makes for some delicious little salads for lunch.

Avoiding Schoolwork Battles

Today’s post is written by Dr. Bridget Engel, clinical psychologist in Erie, CO.  Dr. Engel specializes in working with children, families, and couples.  She is also the author of Counselor’s Corner, a mental health blog.  Dr. Engel’s post is part of this week’s series on student information systems.  

Here we are.  We are already a month plus into school.  The new-ness of the school year is starting to wear off and most everyone is settled into the familiarity of fall.  And I have already spoken with parents who’ve had to wage war with their son or daughter about missing assignments and poor grades.  That’s an age old conflict that goes back many generations.  What’s new is that many of these parents now have access to Infinite Campus technology, hosted through their school district, to stay up-to-date and informed about their child’s academic progress.

Image by Thisischris.com

While Infinite Campus and other tech-based information tools are wonderful in allowing parents to stay engaged in their child’s education, many parents I’ve talked to describe emotional arguments with their kids sprinkled with excuses, debates about it’s accuracy, and circular clashes about how recently it’s been updated by various teachers.  So are you ready to reduce the family feud about homework and missing assignments?  Here are some things to think about:

● Infinite Campus is technology, and only that.  It doesn’t replace a relationship built with your child’s teacher.  Your child’s teacher is the one that spends seven hours a day with your son or daughter.

● Your kid may be right.  Academic databases are often incorrect.  Don’t forget that there is an overwhelmed person behind Infinite Campus who is busy teaching your child.  Sometimes they don’t get all the grades entered.  Be careful about wearing your combat gear at the front door waiting for your child to come home, armed only with what you’ve seen on the computer.

● Be careful about becoming dependent on computer-based technology as your academic babysitter.  Whether your child has missing assignments or not, technology does not replace real life skills.  If your child is struggling to get homework completed or turned in, focus instead on teaching your child how to become more organized, self-sufficient, and independent.

● Watch for warning signs that you are power struggling with your kids about school assignments and grades, especially if it is happening frequently.  Do not get lulled into thinking that lecturing your child or monitoring every move from Infinite Campus is helping them.  Lecturing helps parents feel better;  It very rarely creates behavior change in kids.  Challenge yourself to step back and examine your approach, your goals and your values.

● Think about the whole, rather than the parts.  It’s easy to get focused on the small details and converge on every single assignment.  Would you want your boss to examine and challenge you on every single paper that crossed your desk at work?  Few people grow when micro-managed.  Highlight the end product instead.  Your child is an individual and may do things differently than you.  As long as they are learning something throughout the year and earning acceptable grades, perhaps it’s ok to remark about those missing assignments but refrain from waging war at the dinner table because the Huckleberry Finn poem didn’t get turned in.