Attention Parents: MamaBear is an App You Need to Check Out

Raising children these days exposes parents to so many more challenges than the ones faced by our parents. Don’t get me wrong…I’m not saying it is more difficult. I’m just saying it is different. While we face so many challenges that have arisen due to the increase in technology, we have also gained a number of tools that can make things easier…if we know what they are and how to use them. Today, I’m going to introduce you to one that I think is amazing.

Let me begin by saying that when it comes to parenting, I don’t mind being the bad guy. My three children are 13, 11, and 5. The 13 year old is the only one with a phone (and at this point, the only one who spends much time away from us). We made it clear to her that we would monitor her phone – not because we didn’t trust her, but because we didn’t trust others.

The app I am talking about is called MamaBear. If you would like to know where your child is without having to call or text and ask….if you are concerned about what is happening on his or her social media accounts…if your child just started driving and you want to make sure he or she is not speeding…if your child rides with other teens and you want to make sure they are not driving too fast with your child into the car…if there is a particular place you want to make sure your child does not go…if you just want to know when your child arrives safely at school each day and you know they won’t remember to text you…this is the app for you. If you are worried about offending your child, this is not.

I have the feeling that most teens would be a little aggravated if you told them you were installing this app on their phone. Luckily mine was not, but let me be clear – I would’ve put it on her phone even if she was. I take this parenting thing seriously, and my number one priority is her safety.

I first learned of this app from my brother. He lives in Knoxville, and his son drives himself and his brother to school each day. I was at their house for a visit, and my brother received a text telling him that his son had arrived at school. I asked how he got the text, and he explained the basics of his app to me. I knew right away that I had to have it.

Let me explain some of the awesome features. First, you can view on a map where your child is at all times. The map is like Google maps – you can zoom in and view a basic map, or a satellite or hybrid view. You can then name the place as a “safe place” and receive alerts when your child arrives at or departs from the place. You can also send a message to your child using the app. When he or she replies, it will give you the street name of his or her location. I love the idea that I can click the app at any time and see exactly where my child is.

The app also gives you the ability to monitor quite a few social media accounts. It can monitor Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. You can have it alert you if your child adds friends/followers, if anyone tags or mentions them, if they upload a photo, and you can list restricted words to watch for and receive an alert if they mention any of those words in a post. If your child has an android phone, you can even use it to monitor texts.

The last feature that I am super excited about is the driving feature. You can set a speed limit for your child (whether they are the driver or a passenger with someone else driving) and receive alerts anytime they exceed that speed limit.

I realize this app is not for everyone. Many of you will feel like this is an invasion of your child’s privacy and that is certainly your decision. We each get to approach this parenting thing in the way that we feel works best for us.  I am simply sharing this information for the other parents like me who would find this useful. Ithis a free app, so if you think this might be something you would like, go check it out on the App Store.

If you already use it, let me know what you think. Do any of you use a different app that has similar features? I would love to hear what others are out there and what you think of them.

 

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Feel Like You Have the Flu? These Two Remedies are the Best Kept Secrets!

 My family has been very fortunate over the last few years. My husband and I both teach school, so you can imagine how many germs we come into contact with on a daily basis. My oldest child is at the high school, my middle child in elementary school, and my youngest is in preschool…so, we are collecting germs from a variety of environments every single day and bringing them into our home. 

For one reason or another, many students come to school sick. Students who are eligible for exemption in classes based on their attendance do not want to miss a day if they do not have to, so we end up with a lot of sick students walking around our campus and in our classrooms during peak flu season. I’m going to share with you today some of my tips that have worked to help my family stay well.

Let me begin by stating the obvious…hand washing is essential. There has been a trend toward the use of hand sanitizers over the last few years. I do love my Germ-X for a quick fix, but hand sanitizers are no replacement for washing hands with soap and water. I think of it like this…do I want to simply kill the germs on my hands, or do I actually want to wash them off? I prefer to know that they are gone, so I try to use soap and water as often as possible.

I also use disinfectant sprays in the classroom. Each time a student sneezes or complains of not feeling well, I make sure to disinfect his or her seat when class ends. If the student is using a computer, I get disinfecting wipes and wipe down the keyboards and desktops. Occasionally, though, we pick up germs anyway. There is no way to avoid germs in the hallways at school, so getting them is inevitable.

I have learned to watch for the signs of impending illness, though. I have learned that if I can catch an illness at the very beginning, I can usually stop it in its tracks. At the first sign of a cold (coughing, sneezing, sore throat, runny nose), I use Sambucol Cold and Flu Relief Tablets, Black Elderberry, 30 Count. The main ingredient is Elderberry. I heard about these a couple of years ago, and I have used them each time we have felt a cold coming on since then. I love these because they are safe even for young children. They come in a very small tablet and dissolve quickly in your mouth. They even taste pleasant, so my children do not mind taking them. I rarely have to take more than one or two before my symptoms are gone.

My second line of defense is for the more serious illnesses. Any time one of us develops a fever along with cold symptoms, I immediately turn to my old standby Boiron Oscillococcinum for Flu-like Symptoms Pellets, 30 Count/0.04 Oz each. These are specifically targeted at flu symptoms such as fever, body aches, and chills. My kids know these as “mouth sprinkles” because they come in these tiny tubes and look like teensy white balls. You pour these magic “sprinkles” into your mouth, and they dissolve. They are really fun to take, so my kids never complain about them. My son began taking them when he was two years old, so they even work for young children who are sometimes hard to convince to take their medicine. Here is what the box looks like:

 

We have had flu-like symptoms and fevers many times over the years since I discovered this product, but so far since using this, none of us have developed the flu. I recommend that everyone keep a box of these on hand and take them at the very first sign of any flu-like symptoms. I am not saying to replace anything else you take (read the label for yourself but this homeopathic remedy does not appear to affect any other medicines), but I would definitely add this to my arsenal of defenses if I were you.

Do you have any other remedies that have worked well for you? Have any of you ever tried either of these? I would love to hear if they worked well for your family, too. Good luck throughout the remainder of flu season. I wish you all health and happiness!

 

What Should Kids Learn in School?

 If you have children, have you ever  thought about what you would like for them to learn before leaving high school? That sounds silly, doesn’t it? Of course in the beginning you want them to learn the alphabet and numbers. You want them to learn to write their names. Later, you want them to learn their colors and eventually how to read. You want them to learn the rules of grammar and how to write neatly, and you also want them to learn how to “do math” well. Finally, throw in a little science and history/government for good measure. You might even say that you’d also like for your kids to learn to appreciate good literature or to learn basic business skills or to study the Bible. Few of your lists would offer many more details than those (unless you knew that someone would later critique your list), but I think this is a question that more parents need to actually sit down and ponder.

If you don’t know exactly what you want your children to learn, by which standards will you evaluate their learning experiences once they have finished? I have taught for enough years to know that, if questioned, almost every parent out there would gladly offer his or her opinion of the school system his or her child attends. I would like to better understand the criteria on which the schools are being judged by the public. I teach in Mississippi, and in our state, we have a teacher evaluation tool called M-STAR. It is a 20 page rubric by which teachers are evaluated twice per year. Here is a brochure, produced by the Mississippi Department of Education, outlining the basics of M-STAR. The goal of M-STAR was to increase teacher performance and student learning. This brings me back to the question I started with, however. What do parents want their children to learn?

As a teacher, I want to make a difference in the lives of the students in my school. Most teachers have this goal. However, I believe that in order to make a difference, we have to teach much more than what is found in the curriculum. The things that students learn from observation will often carry much more weight in their lives than the things on which they are tested while in school.  This is where I think teachers make their greatest impacts upon students’ lives.

Have you ever noticed how a negative attitude can spread like a forest fire? Imagine a classroom full of smiling, happy faces. One student is missing, however. Johnny is running late today. A few minutes pass with pleasant conversation as the teacher begins the lesson. Suddenly, the door opens abruptly, slamming into the wall with such force that the Parts of Speech poster is knocked to the floor. Sally lets out a quick scream and the flying poster hits Susie in the leg, causing her to yell at Johnny. He stomps to his desk, slamming his bag onto it so hard that it tips forward. Billy, sitting in front of Johnny, turns to yell at him. At this point, the room has turned to chaos. The teacher has a choice… she can get angry and escalate the situation, or she can remain calm and diffuse it. The students are all waiting for her response, and although it is not in the curriculum, this is a teaching moment.

Students observe teachers’ attitudes toward their peers and administration, as well. If teachers constantly complain about those around them, the students will begin to view this as acceptable workplace behavior, but when the teachers continue to “put on a happy face” no matter the situation, we can teach a valuable lesson that will help our students in their future careers. Being able to adapt to changing management and workplace standards is a necessary skill in almost any profession. We, as teachers, have a great opportunity to model appropriate behavior for our students.

When we are faced with new principals, changing testing requirements, updated teacher evaluation models, and all the other curveballs that continue to be thrown our way, reacting in a positive manner (at least in front of the students) is an excellent way to teach them to deal with adverse situations in life. Students need to learn to coexist peacefully with people who are not necessarily “like” them. The world, just like our workplaces, is filled with people with differing opinions and lifestyles, and the better we are at getting along with one another, the more peaceful it will be.

Learning the curriculum is important, as is performing well on tests – especially if a student’s path is leading him to college. Higher grades and higher test scores certainly lead to more scholarship money and opportunities for acceptance to “better” schools. Students definitely need to learn to read and write, to perform a variety of mathematical operations, to understand how the body works and the science behind the world surrounding us, and to understand the ways in which our government is run and the historical path which led us here. These are not the only lessons students should walk out of the doors of high school with, however. Of equal importance are all the other things that are not in the curriculum.

In my next post, I will share with you twenty-five things that are not in the curriculum that I hope I am teaching my students, but in the meantime, I would love to hear your thoughts on what you think children should learn in school.

A Series of Fortunate Events

When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”   -John Lennon

I used to be a lawyer. It was brief, at times it was fun, but in the end I decided that it was not for me. You see, when I was in school, I was always one of the smart kids. I was competitive with my grades, too. I didn’t just want an A… I wanted the highest A. This determination served me well, and I ended up being the valedictorian and the STAR student (highest ACT score) of my graduating class. I had people telling me all the time that I would end up being a doctor or a lawyer or a CEO. I believed them, and when the time came to decide on a major, I began to explore my options.

I’ve never liked to simply follow the crowd, so I didn’t want to do something that all the others were interested in. That ruled out education and business. I wanted to choose a major that sounded impressive. You see, I also had a bit of a chip on my shoulder. The dumb blonde jokes were really popular, and I worked really hard to make sure everyone around me thought I was smart. I never wanted to be thought of as a dumb blonde. I researched my options and decided on electrical engineering. It sounded exciting enough, the research showed that it paid well, and I didn’t know a single person who had majored in it, so that sounded like the major for me. Right up until the end of the first semester.

Engineering, as it turns out, was not the major for me. I had the potential. I had the scholarship. What I realized I did not have was the love. It didn’t make me happy. I gave up the scholarship, researched my options, and changed my major to business…specifically marketing. My brother was working in sales and was very successful, so I decided to follow his path. I loved the classes and started to envision a future in that field. I finished my bachelor’s degree on time, but as graduation approached, I realized that I was not yet ready to get a job. Law school seemed like the logical next step. I didn’t really know that law school was the path that I should take, though. I knew some of the people who were planning to go to law school from undergrad and they all seemed so much more serious about it than I did. Still, graduation was fast approaching and I had to do something. I signed up to take the LSAT. I decided that I would not prepare at all and if I scored high enough, that would be my sign that I should try law school. I did score high enough, but there was another step that I hadn’t really considered…applying! I had less than a week to get my application ready and turned in for law school, so I buckled down and put together what I felt like was a good application minus one thing – the required references. I did not have the time remaining for those, so I sent the application in without them. Again, I trusted that if it was meant to be, I would get accepted. If not, I would find a job. I mean, surely there are always jobs available in sales, right?

I was accepted to law school, graduated a semester early, passed the Bar exam, and married an NFL kicker (whom I began dating when he was kicking in college). The next step fell into place when we were living in Jacksonville. Before he officially made the roster, we needed money. I had passed the Bar exam in Mississippi, where we were from, but I thought that surely I could find a position with a law firm as a clerk. I began researching Jacksonville attorneys online with the hope of finding one who had attended the law school from which I graduated. I found one, e-mailed him, got an interview, and was hired by the firm. I worked with them until my husband was scheduled to kick in NFL Europe for the summer (which got cancelled two weeks before we left due to a hernia surgery). My husband was released by the Jaguars the following year, immediately signed with the Broncos, we moved to Denver, and that is a story for another day.

Eventually, we ended up back in my hometown. We were fortunate to have enough savings that we could take some time off while my husband tried out for some other teams. He never ended up signing with another team, but we had the chance to live, as adults, debt-free for a little while without working. I believe that experience was what shaped all of my future decisions. You see, after that experience, the bar was set high. I knew what it was like to be happy and I didn’t want to settle for anything less.

I realized that the only thing I loved about practicing law was the research. I loved to research and write, but everything else seemed like work. I tried to love it, but I just couldn’t. I had a daughter at this point and started to think about her education. The only thing I knew about the local school system was what I had experienced. I started to think about how I could get involved. I began to tutor and sub and realized that I actually enjoyed the job I never thought I would. I decided to make a major change and get my teaching license.

I am now a teacher. It was a move that most people could not understand. I still have students every year who cannot fathom what would make a person give up a higher paying job for a teacher’s salary. They are amazed. They think I am crazy, and they tell me so (there really is not much of a filter in kids if you haven’t noticed). They ask me to explain my decision, and I do. I know that my words will not sink in now, but I envision a future scenario in which one of my former students becomes a successful lawyer/pharmacist/salesperson/any-other-profession-that-pays-well  and he reaches a point at which he discovers that his true passion lies in some other significantly less profitable field. I see his friends’ and family’s reactions. They tell him he is crazy to give up his great job. They tell him that though the job he wants to pursue is a worthy cause and that those kinds of people are needed in the world that he is too smart for that. He is too successful to give it up. I hope when he gets that reaction and begins to waver in his desire to give up the wealth that he will remember my words and follow his dreams. I hope he will tell them all that it is actually okay and that he knows this because he once had a teacher who taught him something that wasn’t in the curriculum.

And now, here I sit, at the starting line of another dream. I’ve always loved to write, but I never really thought anyone would want to read my words (and I didn’t think I had the time because we still have to pay the bills). As I have spent time lately reading the articles written by others, I have begun to realize that it isn’t really about whether or not others want to read it. It’s about the process. It’s about doing something that makes you happy. So, I will continue down this path and see where it leads me. I don’t know what the destination is, but I know my plan. I’m going to enjoy the ride.

Not Your Typical Cafeteria Meatloaf and a Time-Saving Kitchen Tip

meatloaf recipe not cafeteria chipotle

Have you ever wondered where meatloaf acquired its bad reputation? Is meatloaf the victim of a vicious rumor? Did it show up to a party in a hideous outfit once and never live it down? Just like with people, I like to give foods the benefit of the doubt. I feel like they deserve a chance to earn their own reputation with me without any preconceived notions. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve had a couple of bad meatloafs before, but given its fair shot, I think meatloaf is a food to be loved.

My middle child loves meatloaf “more than steak” and excitedly proclaims it to be the best day ever when she hears that we are having it for dinner. Because I would hate for any of you to miss out on a potential “best day ever” I have decided to share my meatloaf recipe with you. And, by recipe, I mean the one I made last night because though my method remains the same, the recipe varies slightly from one time to the next. More about that later.

To begin with, I am not a traditionalist when it comes to meatloaf. I don’t mix meats. I know that the standard meatloaf combines different types of ground meats, and that is great, but as I’ve told you before…I like to keep things simple. Only ground chuck for me. I begin with about 3 pounds of ground chuck for my family of five. Most of the time this results in enough leftovers for a few meatloaf sandwiches (which is my favorite way to eat it!) for lunch the next day. Occasionally, when we haven’t had it in a while, we eat the WHOLE thing.

To my ground chuck, I add some type of tomato sauce-y product. Sometimes it’s a small can of plain tomato sauce. Sometimes it’s leftover canned pasta sauce or ketchup. Last night, it was Zesty Catalina salad dressing. It adds a bit of sweetness that I used to balance the chipotle peppers that were also included. I add about half a cup of whichever one I’m using to the three pounds of meat. For the heat last night, I used two heaping teaspoons of a product called Chipotle Salsa. It is the same brand as the canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, but this product is even better to me because it is already made into a sauce. It’s a little harder for me to find, though, so regular canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce would work instead. Or leave it out. It’s completely up to you.

chipotle pepper salsa meatloaf This is the salsa I use. It is found with the Mexican foods.

Next, it is meatloaf after all, so it needs some bread. Here, you have options again. Sometimes I use a couple of slices of sandwich bread soaked in just a bit of milk. Sometimes I have Italian breadcrumbs on hand and use those. I have also used oats and crumbled crackers. Last night I had Panko bread crumbs in the pantry, so that’s what I used. I put about half a cup of those into the mixture along with two eggs. I finished the mixture off with the seasonings. I used salt, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, seasoned salt, and pepper.

I usually use my KitchenAid mixer to mix it all up, but you can certainly use your hands if you don’t have a heavy duty mixer. Once it is all combined well, put it into a dish to bake. Again, I’m not a traditionalist here, so even though I’m calling it a meatloaf…I don’t actually make it into a loaf.  Nope. I like more of a sauce to meat ratio, so I pack mine into a glass casserole dish so that it is not so thick when it finishes cooking. Put it into a 375 degree oven and cook it until it is done – usually about an hour.

meatloaf panko ground beef chuck cumin chipotleThe ingredients and the meatloaf, ready to go into the oven. 

Okay, get ready because you are about to find out one of my favorite time-saving ideas in the kitchen! Once your meatloaf finishes cooking, you’ll have the grease in the pan that cooked out of the meat. Gross! Nobody wants that on their plate or clogging their arteries, so you’re going to need to pour that off before adding your topping. You can’t pour that grease down your drain, though, and if you are like me, you don’t want to clean it out of a bowl later, so here’s my tip: line a bowl with aluminum foil (just stick the foil in it and leave foil hanging over the sides), pour the grease into the foil, and let it cool completely. Once it has cooled completely and hardened (I usually leave it until the next morning), you can just pull the foil up around it, twist it tight to seal it, and throw it in the trash.

kitchen tip grease clean timesaverSee how easy that is?

Once the excess grease has been drained, you’ll want to add a topping. I mean, seriously, the topping is my favorite part. Without a topping, you’ve just created one huge hamburger patty, and that’s not exciting at all. The topping is what makes or breaks a meatloaf, in my opinion, and plain ketchup just won’t cut it! I start out with ketchup, but I add in some dijon mustard, worcestershire, more of the chipotle sauce, and either brown sugar or honey to balance the spiciness of the peppers. I have a great friend who, along with her husband and children, bottles honey from their bees. I love local products, so their honey was my choice this time. Mix it all together, spread it over the meatloaf, and put it back into the oven for about fifteen minutes.

ingredients ketchup dijon honey The topping ingredients.

For the sides, I made smashed potatoes and roasted fresh corn on the cob. If you’ve been a meatloaf hater all your life, give it a shot. I’m making no promises, but you just might find that you like it. At least give it a chance. I mean, come on… haven’t you ever walked out of a public restroom with your skirt tucked into your tights and wished everyone would forget about it? Wait, maybe that was me. Either way, don’t judge meatloaf by its past. Let this one make its own impression. If you give it a shot and still hate it, at least it was judged fairly. 🙂

Not Your Typical Cafeteria Meatloaf

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 3 lbs. ground chuck
  • 1/2 cup Zesty Catalina salad dressing
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons chipotle salsa
  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs (can substitute Italian breadcrumbs, cracker crumbs, oats, or slices of sandwich bread soaked in a little milk)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon onion powder (or 1/4 a chopped onion if your family doesn’t mind it in their meatloaf!)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Topping:

  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1 Tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon chipotle salsa
  • 1 Tablespoon honey

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix all ingredients in a heavy duty mixer or by hand. Pack firmly into a glass casserole dish and cook until done all the way through, about an hour. Mix the topping ingredients together. Drain excess grease and cover with topping. Cook for an additional 15 minutes. 

How to Earn a Vote for Mom-of-the-Year (the Easy Way) and a Simple Boredom Buster for Kids

 Let me begin by saying that I am NOT mom-of-the-year. I do a lot of things wrong. We don’t play enough games together. We make messes and don’t immediately clean them up. We don’t take the kids on individual dates. Though I am improving, my house doesn’t stay clean. We don’t invite friends over as often as we should, but when it comes to being a mom, I try. I really, really try.

I’m really not much of a girly-girl. I’m most comfortable in jeans and chacos or my running clothes. My hair is rarely seen down, and the only makeup I wear is mascara and a bit of eyeliner so that my eyes don’t completely blend in with the rest of my face. I have two daughters who are a lot like me. The oldest is an athlete. She doesn’t wear makeup and thinks that dressing up is wearing a pair of jeans with one of the cross country shirts she has won instead of Nike shorts. The younger does like to experiment with clothes, but by experiment, I mean see how many days in a row you can wear the same clothing a without getting in trouble!
Here’s the thing though…we are still girls and girls occasionally like to play dress up.

They each invited a friend over to spend the night last night, so I came up with an idea. I would pull out my old formals, buy some cheap makeup and temporary hair color, and we would have a contest. The girls would each, with my assistance (if they wanted it), do their hair, makeup, and clothing to see which one could best replicate Lady Gaga’s style. Whether you love her or hate her, you have to admit that Lady Gaga has a style of her own. My favorite of her quotes is, “You laugh at me because I’m different. I laugh at you because you’re all the same.” I don’t want my children running around in dresses made of raw meats or outfits made entirely of caution tape, but I do want them to feel comfortable in being who they are.

There is so much pressure these days to be like everyone else. Though this has always been true, in the past it took a lot more work to find out what “everyone else” was doing. You had to sift through Teen magazines and watch countless videos on Mtv, and spend hours studying every episode of Full House to figure out what “they” looked like. Today, most kids have access to all these things in their hands or pockets at all times. With more knowledge of what the celebrities are doing comes more pressure to conform. You might say that I’m promoting that with this contest, and you might be right. I hope not, though. I hope that what I did was show them that 1. It’s okay to be yourself, 2. It’s okay once in a while to dress up and put on crazy makeup and clothes, and 3. When you want to do these things, you can invite me to go along for the ride.

Once they were all at the house, I went over the rules. They would each choose a dress, grab some makeup, and head to separate rooms. I would come around to the rooms as they prepared and offer assistance. Once the makeup and clothing was complete, they would each come to the “hair room” where we would discuss options and I would help each girl style her hair however she wanted. Once each was done, we would have the big reveal. The girls looked over all the glittery makeup options, chose a couple of favorites, grabbed a dress, and off they went.

They each did their own makeup aside from a little help with fake eyelashes and eyeliner. I expected them to need more help with this, so with the extra time on my hands… I decided to join in on the fun. I worked on my own makeup and hair while going from room to room checking their progress. Once each of them finished, they came to me and we worked on hair.

Finally, a contest isn’t a contest without voting, so I posted pictures on Instagram and Facebook and asked friends to vote. The votes are still coming in today, and I’d love for you to weigh in… take a look at what we came up with and tell me in the comments which one you think is the most Gaga-ish!

The big reveal….

Contestant Z

Z, pose number 2

Contestant M

M, pose number 2

Contestant C

C, pose number 2

Contestant L

L, pose number 2

And….I’m not part of the contest, but here is what I came up with!

 the aftermath…..

As I sit here the morning after and reflect on last night, I am reminded of a few things. I’m reminded of why I don’t wear much makeup. I’m reminded of why I don’t curl my hair, tease it sky-high, and hold it in place with Rave hairspray. I’m reminded of why I don’t wear fake yellow and purple hair color and fake eyelashes. I’m reminded of why I rarely dress up in fancy dresses. But I’m also reminded of how much fun it can be when I do. Your kids are only young once, so while you have the chance, make memories with them. Don’t be afraid to make a mess or make a fool of yourself along with them. And always, always be yourself – unless you can be Lady Gaga for a night. 😉

My Thoughts on Quick Lunches and a Simple Shrimp Pasta Recipe 

simple shrimp pasta recipe I love a quick lunch and pasta is our go-to around here. I teach, so most summer lunches are at home. Having sandwiches every day just won’t cut it for someone who loves food as much as I do, so I always keep pasta and a few staples on hand.

First, let’s start with what you need to always have on hand for a quick meal. I keep a variety of pastas at all times. You can use whatever you like (or what you find on sale). I put all my packages into a plastic tub with a lockable lid and keep them on the floor in my pantry. They are a great starting point for so many meals. If all else fails, cook a package up in salty water, drain, coat with butter or olive oil, salt and pepper, and Parmesan cheese, and you will please most of the pickiest eaters! This will work for a quick lunch or a simple side.

Next, I always keep onions in a basket in a dark cabinet and bell peppers (a variety of colors) in the freezer. Buy them when they are on sale (or if you’re lucky enough to have a farmer-friend, offer to take the end-of-season ones off their hands), chop them into large chunks, put them on a waxed paper lined baking sheet and freeze them. Once frozen, dump them into a gallon sized freezer bag and keep them until you need them. You can pull out the amount you need and slice them into the sizes you want without even thawing them. My husband doesn’t really like onions and peppers, so I usually leave them both large and either remove them before serving or blend them with an immersion blender. I also keep fresh garlic because I love the flavor, but garlic powder will work in a pinch.

As far as proteins go, deli ham is a good thing to keep in the refrigerator because it can be used for sandwiches, to add to scrambled eggs, or for a variety of pasta dishes (more of those in later posts!). Frozen shrimp is good to have to make a quick, impressive meal for guests. I also usually have bacon because, well, who doesn’t love bacon? A few extras that I add to many of my pasta dishes are black and green olives, banana peppers, crushed red pepper flakes, and herbs (fresh when I have them and dried when I don’t). Last, but not least, I keep olive oil and unsalted butter on hand at all times. The olive oil adds a hint of flavor, and the butter goes into everything from breakfast to dinner to dessert.

Okay, now that you know my basics, let me show you a quick meal we threw together for lunch today. It’s a simple shrimp pasta dish that is easy enough for a lunch with the kids or impressive enough to serve to pop-in guests. The first thing you’ll want to do is to get a large pot of water over high heat to bring it to a boil. It takes this step a little while, so I always start my water first.  Grab a bag of frozen shrimp and start to run them under cool water today thaw. You’re off to a great start! Dinner should be on the table in about 20 minutes.

Get a large skillet started over medium high heat and add about a tablespoon of olive oil to it. Take two or three slices of bacon and chop them into one-inch pieces. Add them to the skillet and stir to coat them in the oil. Mince a clove of fresh garlic if you have it. I first smash the garlic with the side of a butcher knife, peel it, then dice it finely. Slice about 1/4 of an onion and add these two items to the skillet. Your kitchen will immediately smell delicious. This is when the kids start to arrive and ask if lunch is ready. I also pulled a couple of chunks of bell pepper from the freezer, sliced them, and added them at this point. You could leave these out if you don’t like them. It’s your meal. Make yourself happy. 😉

Your water should be boiling by now, so add a tablespoon of salt to it and add in about a pound of pasta. I used thin spaghetti noodles today. Stir them and get back to your skillet. Your shrimp should be thawed, so shake off the excess water to avoid oil splatter and add them to the skillet. Season them with the Cajun seasoning of your choice and a little Old Bay if you have any. Stir them occasionally until they are cooked through. You’ll know that they are done when they are pink. Throw in a tablespoon of butter for good measure.

It looked like it needed a little more liquid, so I  added about a half cup of chicken broth, but you could use chicken bouillon and water or just a bit of the pasta-cooking water if you don’t have any. To finish it off, I added the juice of half a lemon and a little fresh Italian parsley, but both of these are optional. Drain the pasta and add it tintype skillet. Give it a stir to coat it well, then serve it to your husband and kids, your neighbor, your boss, or if you’re home alone…serve it to yourself.  This was delicious, pretty, and most importantly…fast!

20 Minute Simple Shrimp Pasta

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 16 oz. thin spaghetti (or pasta of your choice)
  • 1 lb. package frozen, peeled and deveined shrimp (raw)
  • 3 slices bacon
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 onion, sliced
  • 1/4 bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
  • Juice from 1/2 small lemon
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth (optional)
  • 2 Tablespoons of chopped Italian parsley (optional)
  • Salt

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Put olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the diced bacon. Once it starts to brown, add the onions, garlic, and peppers. Stir until the vegetables start to soften. Add the shrimp and Cajun seasoning. Stir until the shrimp turn pink.  Once the water boils, add a tablespoon of salt and the pasta. Give the pasta a stir to prevent it from sticking together.  Once the shrimp are done, add the chicken broth (or a bit of the pasta water), the butter, and the lemon juice. Drain the pasta when it is done and add it to the skillet. Stir quickly to coat. Add the parsley, if using, and serve.