Baked spaghetti… Paula D, Betty C and me.

I’ll be honest.. I hate following recipes to the T. I follow my mom’s and grandma’s examples and barely measure anything.. I just put in what looks or smells good. I do follow exact measurements for baking, though. I’ve had some messed up cookies before!

I found this recipe from Paula Deen, but considering it’s a Friday night and didn’t want to spend almost 2 hours cooking after working out, I decided to check out what Betty Crocker had to say. This recipe is a mix of both of those, plus a few added touches (like spinach). I’m not used to writing my recipes down (just like my mother!) so bear with me.

What you’ll need:

About 2/3 lb. ground beef (I separated my 1.6 lbs into three parts for separate meals)

One can diced tomatoes, any kind

One can tomato sauce (or you could use Ragu, whatever you have in your pantry)

Half a medium onion

Half a green pepper

A generous handful of spinach

1-2 cloves garlic, chopped

Seasonings of your choice (I used onion salt, Mrs. Dash, crushed red pepper, black pepper and a couple bay leaves)

Two eggs

About 4 oz. uncooked spaghetti (I use whole wheat, and you really could use a different kind of noodle.. whatever you have on hand)

One 8 oz. package mozzarella cheese (I also had a little feta left.. I incorporated that too)

1/4 c. milk

Okay. So. As you can see, I just use whatever sounds good, and whatever I have on hand. I did shop for this meal, but sometimes you have to improvise.

Instructions:

1. Cook ground beef in skillet. I bought 97% lean, so there was no grease. Add onion and garlic (we had a few mushrooms left so I added those too). Preheat oven to 350.

2. Add chopped green pepper.

3. Add tomato sauce and diced tomatoes.

4. Cut up spinach (I use kitchen scissors) and add to sauce. Add seasonings. Mix together and let simmer over low-medium heat for 5-10 minutes.

5. In the meantime, spray 8×8 glass pan. Break uncooked spaghetti noodles in half and place on bottom of pan. About a quarter size is what you need.

6. Mix together eggs, cheese and milk in separate bowl. If you don’t have mozzarella, you could use ricotta or even cottage cheese.

7. Spread cheese mix over noodles in pan.

8. Add sauce mixture on top and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese.

9. Bake in oven for about 30 minutes.

It was a great success! We both loved it. We sprinkled parmesan cheese and had bread and butter on the side.

Where I need to be

I’ll admit it: when I quit my job teaching high school Spanish, I was bitter about having to leave. I thought I would be swept off my feet to join my husband in Korea for three years, and it all fell through. I felt like I quit my job for nothing. I was sad to leave that place… I loved my students, my coworkers and (most of) the hustle and bustle that comes with being in high school. (No lie, sometimes I just shut myself off to the outside world in the morning before classes started! Sometimes it was scary in that hallway, haha.)

But I was sad. My kids were sad. Yes, most of the 100 of them. I gained a good deal of useful experience for the future, both in teaching and and in being a decent human being.

I said, “Well, I may not go back to full-time teaching, ever.” What?! Was I crazy?

I love school. Like, love school. I don’t think most can comprehend the level of nerdiness I am capable of. I love learning, and textbooks, and writing notes with my very best chicken-scratch handwriting. I love the newness of the first day, with new outfits, new shoes, and new pencils. I love all those things as a teacher, too. I love seeing kids I’ve had before in class come into my room, comfortable, happy and ready to start a new school year (most of the time).

I love seeing the look on a student’s face when he understands, finally, how to conjugate ser in the present tense. Or the sense of rapport when a student is struggling with a personal issue and I’m able to help her through it. I love making jokes and laughing with my students. Sometimes we laugh so hard we cry. (For us, it was Napoleon Dynamite quotes. Dorky, I know.)

I went to a school yesterday for an interview. [I’m currently pleading with Jesus to give me this job.] As I was waiting for the principal, I was witnessing the (semi)controlled chaos of the end of the day. Students of all ages milling around, talking to friends, listening to their iPods, even a group playing Magic the Gathering. I love the craziness that it brings and I wasn’t annoyed in the least by loud voices and feet stomping.

School is where I’m supposed to be. Having my own classroom again would be akin to heaven on earth. I love that in those four walls, I am responsible for what happens. I’m the boss (but not a boss like “Like a Boss”, so don’t worry.) I’m also the mentor, big sister, friend, parent and tutor. I make split-second decisions hundreds of times a day. I inspire and encourage.

Now, this view of education wouldn’t really mean a whole lot coming from an idyllic green graduate. I’ve been around the block a couple times, and I know the downsides of education. I hate dealing with the politics and busy work. I hate the national mandates that make absolutely no sense because the people writing them usually have never stepped foot in a real classroom.

However, I choose to make those four walls my sanctuary. Our sanctuary, that’s free of bullying, put-downs and bad self-esteem.

I am a teacher.