In the last weeks of August, it's tempting to close the windows halfway at bedtime, to start thinking about picking apples instead of berries and to dream about making soup. Despite these autumn yearnings, I try to stretch summer out as long as I can. But it's impossible to avoid the event that essentially ends the season: the first day of school.
At the Burlington Children's Space, where I work preparing food for toddlers and preschoolers, we spend that final week of August getting ready to transition kids into new classrooms. Older preschoolers take off for kindergarten, and babies arrive in the infant room. It's an exciting time, full of possibility. But it can also be anxiety provoking for kids and parents.
I keep this in mind in the kitchen. During those first few weeks, I make comforting favorites for lunch to help everyone settle in. A new place seems friendlier when you can fill your belly with something warm, tasty and familiar.
Macaroni and cheese — from scratch, of course — always seems to do the trick. The dish hooks even the pickiest eaters and goes well with just about any vegetable that's in season.
It's tradition to kick off the BCS school year with a big family dinner in September. We invite the kids and their families to relax and get to know each other over a shared meal. Macaroni and cheese gets everyone to fill their plates, and never fails to break the ice. I serve it with a big salad and fresh bread, just as I do for my own family.
This year, for the first time, I'll drop off all three of my kids on the first day of school. Sadie, 3, heads to Integrated Arts Academy with her big brothers — Eli, 10, and Cal, 7 — for preschool. I'm not sure what I'll do that morning, alone for the first time in seven years. Most likely, I'll mope just a little, then start thinking about making this for dinner, to welcome everyone home.
I learned to make basic, from-scratch cheese sauce from the Betty Crocker cookbook my mom gave me when I got married. This recipe, which I created, feeds my family of 5, with leftovers for lunch the next day.
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