Our Fall Favorites: Cozy up with comfort foods the whole family will enjoy

Fall is one of my favorite times of year. In San Francisco, summer weather finally arrives in September, so we enjoy warm glorious days after suffering through fog filled, freezing summer months.

Autumn also offers some of my family’s most favorite seasonal fruits and vegetables. Here are some of our must-have’s:

Persimmons – Around here, the two most frequently found types of persimmons are the Fuyu and Hachiya. I am a fan of both, but Fuyu is a lot easier to eat – you can simply bite into it like an apple with the peel on. They’re also sweet and crunchy, so the kids love them. Fuyu persimmons are high in fiber, low in fat, and make a delicious and healthy sweet topping to everything. I add it to salads, yogurt (it’s particularly tasty with Strauss yogurt, which is a little on the tart side), or I cut them into slices and pack them into the kids lunches.

Butternut Squash – Butternut squash soup is staple for my family during the fall and winter months. I recently discovered a recipe by America’s Test Kitchen with a secret trick I never would have guessed. The key to an amazing butternut squash soup is actually sauteeing all the seeds and stringy bits in butter with shallots, this adds incredible flavor! The recipe calls for heavy cream, but to keep it healthier, I just omit it since the squash is thick enough.

Delicata Squash – I first encountered this sweet, thin-skinned squash a few years back and it’s become a household favorite. Preparing it couldn’t be easier, all you have to do is split it in half, take out the seeds, and then cut into thin slices. They are delicious roasted with a little drizzled olive oil, salt and pepper, simply flip them halfway through cooking. I love that you don’t need to peel the skin, which makes it an easy veggies option for weeknights when time is sparse. To save even more time, I slice up a few pounds at once and keep them in ziplock bags so it’s ready to go for the week.

What are your family’s favorite foods this time of year? Share in the comments below!

About the Author

Nancy Yen is the founder of OmieLife, and developed the OmieBox after realizing there must be a better way to pack lunches for her young sons. She enjoys challenging conventional wisdom, and is always looking for a better way to do things.

You asked, Ms. Wood answered: Read Full AMA Session Here

On Thursday, October 12th, Ms. Wood was available for a two-hour live AMA (Ask Me Anything) session here in Primary.

Even if you weren’t able to join the live discussion, you can still benefit by reading through the thoughtful questions posed by Primary parents and the insightful answers from Montessori educator, Ms. Wood.

Read all questions and answers below, and get your questions ready for the next AMA session coming soon.

Primary parent: I have the hardest time getting my child out of bed in the mornings. Any tips?

Ms. Wood: Some days are easier than others, especially with these changing seasons. Have you tried implementing a routine? Children love a routine. Get up, eat breakfast, get dressed, brush teeth, whatever needs to fit into the morning. When you know what to expect, it’s a bit less tumultuous.

Primary parent: I really don’t want to have confrontations with my son, but want him to understand the concept of no. Do I have to be ok with tantrums for awhile? He’s 18 months…

Ms. Wood: Understanding and being comfortable with “no” is a life skill. Tantrums aren’t uncommon when a child is on the verge of something – learning to walk, almost ready for conversational skills – because they’re acutely aware of what’s just beyond their abilities.

Sometimes it helps to phrase things differently, rather than simply “no.” For example, “The park sure is fun, but today we’re going straight home.” or “I don’t like being pulled, could you hold my hand and show me?” 18 months means not yet in control of emotions. Be patient with yourself and your child, you’re teaching an incredible concept.

Primary parent: My 19-month toddler has acquired a taste for throwing or banging things (toys, spoons, food, books, you name it!) whenever he’s over excited, bored or tired. We keep on trying to help him be gentle, more patience and careful, and end up saying “no, no, no” quite more often than we’d want…but it doesn’t seem to change anything for him. We also try to change the focus of his activity, but his mode is not really affected much by that either. Any ideas on how to manage this? Thank you!

Ms. Wood: Sounds like looking for an exciting outlet! You’re the expert in your child, are there cues he’s getting to the point and you could redirect that energy before it takes hold? Sometimes a big “doing” activity is what’s needed when we’re seeking stimulation. Running outside, stacking or moving books, even using a handheld vacuum!

Very young children love to work their big muscles, and engage in activity that uses all their coordination and focus – the Montessori term is “Maximum Effort.” They also love to contribute and do whatever you do, such as helping with chores. Sorting flatware or putting dishes away, perhaps some scrubbing, matching socks fresh from the dryer. How might he contribute, and use that energy for Purposeful Work? Thanks for the question!

Primary parent: Thanks for doing an AMA! My daughter used to be very independent, completely content exploring the back yard alone or eating lunch in the dining room while I went outside for a moment. Lately she has completely refused to be alone outside OR inside, she seems to be afraid of being along. Any advice on how I can help this new behavior?

Ms. Wood: This can be challenging for families, especially when we’ve reveled in their independence and joyful exploration. It’s the ebb and flow of childhood! It can sometimes be paired with big life questions from a child, and is absolutely natural. We can reassure a child “I’m right here.” It’s an especially important time to follow through with promises.

There comes a keen awareness that sometimes the world has scary things, like a busy street or the dark, and it might be counterintuitive, but it’s not the time to push back toward independence. The same safety and security she felt that made her feel at ease and courageous before, can pave the way back toward confidence. “Sometimes I’m scared, too, but I’ll always be here, and I’ll always love you.” Hand-holding is just part of the process. Are there situations where she’s feeling successful, or where she’s especially tentative? Thanks for sharing!

Primary parent: My 4yo son seems to have anxiety, he’s always seeking reassurance that his father and I aren’t mad at him. How should we respond to these questions in a way that makes him feel secure while working to relive this reoccurring anxiety?

Ms. Wood: “Mad at” could also be understood as “out of relationship.” Parents are a child’s Most Important People. When these questions come out of nowhere, “I will always love you” is very reassuring. Also, asking a child, “are you worried about something?” Can open the door to an unfolding of what’s really bothering them. Conversations can lead to solutions!

Primary parent: My question is: I love the idea of Montessori for my daughter but wonder if she might need more structure?

Ms. Wood: You know your child best, trust your gut, the only bad decision is the one that doesn’t feel right to you. That being said, sounds like Montessori might be great for your daughter! Montessori is education of the Whole Child, including developing self-control and self-discipline, comfort with natural and logical consequences or limits.

The older children in a classroom help younger children grow into the best versions of themselves. It’s a really lovely dynamic. If you have the opportunity to observe a Montessori classroom, that can be a helpful decision-making tool.

Primary parent: My super son is mischievous and naughty. I am worried how he would behave in school next year? Any suggestions to prepare him. Right now I am loving his acts ;).

Ms. Wood: Aren’t we adults a conundrum? We might be worried about something, or think “hey now” about a behavior, while simultaneously thinking it’s funny, or loving a child’s impish side. Children know we’ll tolerate a lot, and they’re so adaptable. They quickly figure out what will fly at home, and what a peer will think is fun. This is one of those “trust the child” moments. As long as we’re not supporting anti-social or unpleasant behaviors, it is perfectly reasonable that some things will be appropriate for school, while others remain at home.

Primary parent: Whenever we have to put our 5 year old son in timeout, without fail, he will mischievously try to sneak away fr leave his spot. It can be soooo frustrating. Do you have any advice to build proper respect towards time out and what it represents? Thank you!

Ms. Wood: Testing limits is part of a child’s vocabulary, that’s for sure! Is this adult consistent? Do they mean what they say ALL the time? Is this still the rule today? Cool, just checking.

5 is old enough to understand consequences, how their behaviors affect others. What types of situations evoke a time-out? In the classroom, we use a Thinking Chair, where you can think about what work you’d like to use, or how we move in the classroom, or what a better way to handle a situation might have been. When you’re ready to talk, I’m ready to listen. This gives a child Agency in their own behavior, instead of just waiting out the clock, throwing “sorry” around like confetti expecting it to fix something when they don’t really mean it, or even just being sneakier with misbehavior.

When we talk through consequences, ask a child what they think should happen, and support the learning that my behavior affects others, we’re helping them learn, no one will Make me do anything, I am in charge of my behavior, and thus privileges and opportunities, and even how others see me! Following through is so important, and so hard. Hang in there! You’re among friends!

Primary parent: My lo is 2.5 and has just started in a Montessori. She is a very sensitive child. The transition hasn’t been smooth for her. I try to talk to her about me returning after school to pick her up etc, but she still gets really nervous and cries. It’s been 7 days since we started. How to help her feel better or how should I help ease her anxieties about going to school? Thanks in advance:)

Ms. Wood: New situations can pull at the heartstrings, can’t they? While we can feel enthusiastic about a new school, and just KNOW this is the right place for a child, 7 days is still a new situation. It takes a bit of time to adjust to a new routine, to different friends and adults, to feel settled. We like to say, give it six weeks. The greatest gift we can give a child is time and space.

Additionally, this might be a moment for self-reflection. When I’m feeling stressed or unsettled, the children’s strong empathy picks up on it, and it whips through the class like a whirlwind. Their excited energy sets me more on-edge, and it’s a terrible cycle. When I can see, oh wait, I’m the problem here! And take a moment to breathe, to sit and get out of the way, the children “magically” settle back into their peacefulness. We sometimes think we’re so good at hiding our worry that a child will have a hard drop-off, or if we’ve made the right decision, or if perhaps she’s too young, but we can’t hide that from a child. What were the signs that helped you identify this was the right school for your child? Remind yourself of these, take a deep breath, and believe in your child. Wait six weeks, stay positive, and know, it’s okay. Where talking down anxiety might actually be more of a stressor, time, patience, and love might be the key to success. Keep us posted! After six weeks, perhaps you can observe your child in her new classroom. Knowing she’s well-adjusted at school might help you feel more assured in your decision, which can translate to a smoother drop off.

Primary parent: What’s your greatest joy in working with parents?

Ms. Wood: I really do love working with families. I think parenting can feel isolating and even scary, since it’s a bit unknown. Every question or concern or joy has been felt by parents for generations, and we educators, advocates, and allies can remind families, your’e far from alone! If you’re willing to put a worry into words, it mysteriously loses its power, and solutions appear.

Thanks for reading, and we hope you join us next time for a live AMA with Ms. Wood!

Do you have suggestions for the next AMA? Let us know in the comments below.

Try Cooking These Meals With Your Kids

Making homemade pizza is one of our favorite dinners, especially when my daughter was a young child. Here’s what we did.

I would line the kitchen table with newspaper for easy clean up, then we started making the dough on large cutting boards. When the dough was ready, I would give my daughter a small ball, a rolling pin and a little flour so she can roll her own pizza.

She would spend at least an hour playing with that dough! Now, she is in college and happily cooks her own meals.

If you do not want to make dough, buy store bought pizza dough and arrange for the kids to shred the cheese and slice their choice of vegetable for the topping. Then, let everyone build their own pizza. Use your homemade tomato sauce.

Another choice will be taco night. Use soft corn tortillas, chop the vegetables, make your own mashed beans and your own salsa. Let everyone build their own tacos!

Make fresh lasagna or pasta. Even if you ended up using store bought it is really fun, especially for kids.

Lasagna is an excellent choice for a dinner to freeze. When I make lasagna, I make two trays, one to eat right away and one to freeze. Make your own white sauce, basil sauce and red sauce using this recipe. Tip: Use lasagna sheets that don’t need to be boiled to save you time and headache.

Soups will be good hearty meal with garlic bread. Most soups freeze well and all that you need is a good tomato base, a couple of canned beans and a bag of frozen vegetables.

Stews and pilaf are also good choices for freezing. When you take the stew or soup out of the freezer make fresh rice or mashed potato to go with the stew.

Get everyone involve in planning the weekly menu. You do not have to cook everyday. Choose a few recipes and build around them. Food and meal time should be fun for the whole family!

About the Author

Sanaa Abourezk is a Gourmet Chef, Restauranteur, Author, Nutritionist, and Blogger. She’s passionate about the art of cooking and enjoys sharing delicious recipes.

Sanaa owns and operates a popular Middle Eastern Restaurant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. She earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Agricultural Engineering and a Masters degree in Nutrition.

How to Choose Healthy Snacks

Let’s face it, we do have a problem with snacking. I do not know where we get the idea that we have to eat every time we watch TV, every time we go to the movies and anytime we drive. I believe, no I know for certain, that we can last few hours without eating.

The problem with snacking is that we do not count it as food! Yet most snacks are loaded with sugar, fat, artificial flavors and colors that contribute a lot of empty calories that stress our body and digestive system.

When kids play in a soccer game for example, the whole idea is to get them to move their bodies, get fresh air and move away from TV or video games. So we’re actually working against ourselves when we pack a container full of fake fruit juice that is loaded with sugar, sugary snacks, chips or celebrating the 30 minutes of activity on the field by taking a trip to the ice cream shop afterwards.

Having said that, I do recommend stacking your pantry with good healthy items for when the occasion arise for snack.

I recommend getting three types of good granola bars, the ones with no corn syrup, artificial anything or strange ingredients. Also try baked pretzels, popcorns, and whole-wheat crackers.

Make sure that you have carrot sticks, fresh crispy apples, nice grapes, and celery sticks in your refrigerator. Keep hummus in the refrigerator and fresh peanut butter available anytime!

When the kids come home from school, have a tray of cut apples, celery, carrots and a dish of hummus or peanut butter ready to go on the counter. The kids will reach for and enjoy these high fiber, high nutrient and high protein choices.

If the kids are going somewhere, let them pack any snack from the pantry. After all, kids tend to eat the foods that they choose. In this way, kids have only healthy choices to choose from at home, get to make a decision over what they eat, and will learn from a young age what a healthy snack looks like!

About the Author

Sanaa Abourezk is a Gourmet Chef, Restauranteur, Author, Nutritionist, and Blogger. She’s passionate about the art of cooking and enjoys sharing delicious recipes.

Sanaa owns and operates a popular Middle Eastern Restaurant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. She earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Agricultural Engineering and a Masters degree in Nutrition.

Choose Healthy Meals AND a Night Out with Family

We all enjoy a night out to good restaurant. A good tip for enjoying your meal is to choose well for the family!

For example, when you go to a pizzeria, choose pizza Margarita. It is usually made with fresh tomato, little cheese and fresh basil. Do not choose pizza with extra cheese, pepperoni, or extra of anything.

If you go to a hamburger joint, order regular burger on whole wheat buns with tomato and small fries. There is no need to add bacon, extra cheese, and fried onion rings.

Italian restaurants are always a good choice. A pasta dish with tomato sauce will be a good choice. Add a salad bowl with olive oil and vinegar dressing for an excellent dinner. By the way, there is no need for soda, you know we humans survived centuries just enjoying a good glass of water!

Make sure you go to restaurants that offer healthy choices. Make this the norm so kids grow up learning good food choices and habits from you and they will not feel deprived.

If they order dessert, share it so it is no big deal. After all, we go out to have a good time as a family, not to fight battles.

About the Author

Sanaa Abourezk is a Gourmet Chef, Restauranteur, Author, Nutritionist, and Blogger. She’s passionate about the art of cooking and enjoys sharing delicious recipes.

Sanaa owns and operates a popular Middle Eastern Restaurant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. She earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Agricultural Engineering and a Masters degree in Nutrition.