who's in the kitchen

Spinach lasagna and the 1st day of school


Back to school: three dreaded words. To kids, that is! (most parents can be seen dancing in the streets come the first day of school). Of course we, as parents, deal with all the issues leading up to that first day. Will our kids be with their friends? Will they have the best teacher? Will the kid that tormented them last year, hopefully, be put in another class? 

When my eldest started school, I never thought I had to be on top of what class, which friends and which teacher he would have. Don’t you worry, by the time my second son started two-year nursery two years later, I was a pro. I learned the ins and outs of what I had to do, and when. My kid was going to have the best teacher — after all, there were scissor skills, finger painting techniques and playground monkey bars to master.

Everyone has first day school stories, some more eventful than others. Take my husband, Jerry. After eight years at Yeshiva Rambam, his mom decided it was time for a fresh start. At Rambam, he was sent home so many times, his mom decided to help serve lunch, since she was there to pick him up anyway. When he entered BTA (Brooklyn Torah Academy, Yeshiva University High School for Boys), as a freshman, she wanted him to start out on the right foot.

So there he was staring at the outfit she wanted him to wear the first day at high school: dress slacks, white button down shirt and tie (everyone wore clip on ties in Rambam, so why not here). Those of you familiar with BTA know that slacks and ties were not the norm. Jerry found that out the first day when he entered the school and was roughed up by a bunch of seniors, who said, “Hey look at that one.” The next day, and all those that followed, Jerry would change into jeans, and work shoes (borrowed from Joe Sprung), which he kept in his locker. Of course, on occasion, when he would bump into his mom, while out on Avenue M, he had some “splainin” to do.

When my eldest, Daniel, was in third grade and my second, Jeremy, was entering first, the night before the first day was right out of a Larry David episode. Daniel threw all of his supplies in his knapsack and was done in less than five minutes. Jeremy, on the other hand was still working on his pencils 20 minutes later. Daniel walked over and after watching him for a minute asked what exactly he was doing. Jeremy explained that he was standing the pencils on their erasers and then sharpening each pencil so that all the pencils were the same height. Daniel, in a move ala Ralph Kramden to Jeremy’s Art Carney, said, “Give me those pencils”— and proceeded to shove them in a pencil box, saying, “No one is going to care if your pencils are the same height.”

Jordana, my youngest, was a bit nervous for her first day of school, but in no time learned to charm the teachers and learned the ropes. She was the only student I know who could read the inside flap of a book and receive an A on her book report. She also worked her magic on me. What started out as “Jordana, you can do it, you’re smart, just reread the question,” turned into, “you have to read the information first before you can try to answer the question, try again,” which ended up as “just go to sleep. I’ll finish it for you.”

To this day, I think if I were able to see her face as she bounded up the steps, I would see a smile of victory on her face. Not the case when she forgot a book three days in a row that she needed to study for a midterm.

On the day before the test, I called the secretary and asked if she could call Jordana to the office and remind her to bring the book home. Upon returning home she said, “I can’t believe you called the school and had me paged to the office to remind me to bring the book home.” I said “At least you brought the book home, that’s what matters. You have a test tomorrow.” After a few moments of silence, I said “You did bring the book home, right?” So there we were, trying to find a way into the locked school that night to retrieve the book.

Years later, all those first days, first tests, and first projects are way behind them. One is a lawyer, one is starting his second year of law school and Jordana is still up to her tricks every now and then.

Although she manages to maintain a high index in college, she still gets lazy every now and then. Take last week, when she texted me the following: “Jerry is going to love my philosophy class and he’s going to have a blast writing my paper on Aristotle and Plato.” Good thing she was kidding, as Jerry is not as much a pushover as am I. You were kidding, weren’t you, Jord?

Whether you have kids starting pre K, elementary school, high school, college or grad school, here’s an easy, filling recipe that is sure to put a smile on their faces — until, of course, they have to start their homework.

Spinach lasagna


•2 cups ricotta cheese 

•3 cups marinara sauce of your choice (I like Gefen’s, it has a slightly sweet taste kids love)

•1 cup part skim mozzarella cheese

•1 tsp crushed dried basil

•24 oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed & drained well 

•8 whole wheat lasagna noodles cooked al dente 


•Combine spinach with ricotta and basil 

•Place drained cooked noodles on a piece of wax paper 

•Spread spinach mixture over each noodle leaving about 1/4” at one end.

•Roll each noodle into a roll.

•Spray 2 11x7” baking dishes with non-stick spray.

•Spread a few spoonfuls of marinara over bottom of dish.

•Place pasta rolls seam-side down in baking dish leaving about 1/2” between rolls.

•Top with marinara.

•Sprinkle with Mozzarella 

•Bake for 25 minutes at 350 F

This column originally appeared in 2012. Judy will be back with a fresh report next week.