“Mexican” Stuffed Shells

I found this recipe on Facebook and have seen it pinned all over Pinterest.

It’s a lot easier to make than it sounds. Trust me.

I tend to use the mild taco seasoning/salsa/taco sauce because some people aren’t into spicy. But if you want medium or hot, go for it!


1 pound ground beef
1 package low-sodium taco seasoning
4 ounces cream cheese (remember when Philly came in 4 oz packages?)
16 jumbo pasta shells
1 1/2 cups salsa (I use a 24 oz jar)
1 cup taco sauce (I use an 8 oz bottle)
1 cup cheddar cheese
1 cup Monterrey jack cheese (instead of cheddar and Monterrey jack, I use a Mexican blend my supermarket has.)
For toppings:

  • 3 green onions
  • sour cream
  • sliced black olives


  • Preheat oven to 350°.
  • In a pan brown the ground beef;
  • add taco seasoning and prepare according to package directions.
  • Add cream cheese, cover and simmer until cheese is melted.
  • Stir together and mix well.
  • Set aside and cool completely.
    While ground beef is cooking, cook the pasta shells according to package directions; drain.
  • Set shells out individually on cutting board or baking sheet so that they don’t stick together.
  • Pour salsa on bottom of a 9×13 baking dish.
  • Stuff each shell with 1-2 tablespoons of the meat mixture.
  • Place shells in 9×13 pan open side up.
  • Evenly cover shells with taco sauce.
  • Cover dish with foil and bake for 30 minutes
  • After 30 minutes, add shredded cheese and bake for 10-15 more minutes with the foil removed.
  • Top with green onions or olives.
  • Serve with sour cream and/or more salsa!


Homemade Cookies

We rarely had store-bought cookies when I was growing up. Except for Oreos, of course. Mom was a full-time homemaker and there were almost always fresh-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookies when we got off the school bus. My grandmothers were cookie makers, too. I still have Grandma T’s recipe for half-moon cookies. And I was traumatized because of Grandma C’s oatmeal raisin cookies–my uncle’s dog wanted my cookie; Grandma baked them for ME. He won. I have the scar on my nose to prove it.

One holiday season, Mom found a new cookie recipe in one of her magazines (Redbook? Ladies Home Journal? McCall’s?) that became a staple. When I was single, I would bake and frost dozens of these cookies for my co-workers. One year, after I’d moved to another apartment with a smaller kitchen, I learned my cookie sheets wouldn’t fit in the oven. “Bring them in. We’ll use tin snips on them so they’ll fit,” one of the guys at work told me.

Then I got married. My husband came from a family that purchased birthday cakes and cookies from the bakery. When our children were young, I tried the cookie baking thing with them, but it didn’t go over well. That was my fault. I was not a full-time homemaker. I dropped some of the balls I was trying to juggle.

Fast forward several years. A critique partner brought the most amazing ginger cookies to critique one night. I got the recipe. X-Chromo, who was in high school at the time, enjoyed helping me bake a batch. She’s not a fan of chocolate, so I looked up a recipe for molasses cookies. She was hooked. She made molasses cookies throughout her college years.

Sometimes, it’s the little traditions that mean something.

Happy National Homemade Cookie Day!



National Kids Take Over the Kitchen Day

I tried to teach my children to cook before they went to college. I think they got the basics down pat (although I’m certain they were much better at doing laundry). One summer, I decided that each week each child would find a recipe, make sure we had all the ingredients on hand, and cook the meal. I actually stole this idea from my friend Kris Fletcher. Her children were (and are) far more cooperative than mine were.

But X-Chromo became the Campus Molasses Cookie Queen at her college.

And Y-Chromo  found and made one recipe that has become a keeper.

Encourage your children to take over the kitchen. Cooking is a survival skill, and it’s never too early to learn.

Hot Diggety!

It’s National Hot Dog Day.

I love hot dogs. Good hot dogs. Good hot dogs cooked right.

My favorite hot dogs are Hofmann. Yes, they are local, but the company is working to go national. (I do try to support local businesses, too. See my previous post about ice cream.)

But even Hofmann hot dogs need to be cooked correctly. The ball park mostly steams the ones they sell. That. Is. Disgusting. My mom used to boil hot dogs. Ugh! (Although sometimes she boiled them in tomato sauce, and that was good!) A perfectly cooked hot dog will have crisp, somewhat blackened skin. Grilling is the best way to achieve that. I use a grill pan on the stove when I have to.

Some people (TV Stevie) gunk up their dogs with sauerkraut and mustard. Or onions. Now, I’m not opposed to a Texas Hot once in a while, or a chili dog, but for everyday eating a great hot dog needs nothing but the roll.


One of my primary goals in life is to be content. And being content, for me, is not being bogged down by…stuff. Things. Physical belongings. Chores.

But I have a lot of physical belongings. There’s a lot of stuff in this house. A lot of dust, too.

Now that the Chromos are grown and (mostly) gone (although their stuff adds to the disarray), many things have become simpler.  One of the biggest is meal planning.

My children each had their eating foibles. I had to cook nutritious food they would eat, meals that were quick and easy because there was dance, jazz ensemble, religious education, play rehearsal etc. Much of my time was spent planning and executing.

I like to cook, but as I get older I realize I’d rather spend my time on something like writing that will last longer than a great meal. When TV Stevie and I were planning our mutual lives, he told me straight out: “I do not expect dinner on the table every night.” He doesn’t really care about food. Doesn’t like to spend money on “temporary,” which is what he considers food. Dinner on the table every night was something I grew up with. But Mom was a full-time homemaker, so dinner on the table when my dad walked in the door was part of her job description. It was never part of mine.

So now I buy pre-made salads and keep them on hand for quick lunches and/or dinners. On the weekends I’ve gone back to doing what I did when I was single: I’ll make a batch of something, then graze on that throughout the week.  TV Stevie’s work schedule has always been erratic. I no longer wait for him (except on nights when he’s bringing home the pizza) if I need to work at my author life.

It’s simpler this way.