Mexican stuffed shells

16 May

It’s been a while since I posted some recipes. I think it’s mainly due to the fact that I hadn’t made any recipes worth posting. But over the last few weeks, I’ve tried some new ones out and I feel obligated to share. The first one up is Mexican Stuffed Shells.

Stuffed shells are my signature dish. So when I saw my dear friend Mrs. C’s recipe for Mexican Stuffed Shells, my curiosity was piqued (also, check out her blog, Another Housewife. The cooking that this woman can do on a very strict budget is incredible).  I love Mexican food and I love stuffed shells. How could anything go wrong with that combination?

Nothing did go wrong. This recipe was amazing! I made some changes but the changes weren’t so severe that they altered the quality or taste of the recipe at all. Here’s what I did:

Mexican Stuffed Shells (adapted from Mrs. C at Another Housewife)

Ingredients:

  • 1 box jumbo shells
  • 2 c shredded hot pepper cheese
  • 1 package Morningstar Farms soy burger crumbles
  • 1 4 oz can diced chiles
  • 1 bottle Pace picante sauce (medium hotness)
  • 1 c jarred tomato sauce (traditional flavor) or 1 8 oz can tomato sauce
  • ½ c water

Directions:

  1. Cook shells according to package directions.
  2. While shells are boiling, cook soy burger crumbles and chiles. When heated through, add 1 c shredded cheese. Mix thoroughly until cheese is melted.
  3. Combine picante sauce, tomato sauce and water in large bowl. Set ¼ c of the sauce aside. When faux meat mixture is fully cooked, add to remaining sauce.
  4. Pour the ¼ c reserved sauce in the bottom of a 9 x 13 pan.
  5. Stuff the fully cooked, rinsed and drained shells with the faux meat mixture, putting each stuffed shell in the 9 x 13 pan.
  6. Top shells with remaining 1 c shredded cheese.
  7. Bake, uncovered, at 350 for 30-35 minutes.

This makes approximately 5 servings of 5 shells. For those following Weight Watchers, the above recipe (based on my calculations) is 13 points per serving.

This is what it looked like, served with a side of black bean, corn, tomato and mango salad (this is my own creation. I’ll post the recipe later in the week). I apologize for the poor photo quality; I took the picture with my cell phone:

My whole family loved this recipe. My daughter devoured 4 of the shells. My husband and I each brought the leftovers for lunch today. This version of Mexican Stuffed Shells has officially made it into my recipe binder. Kudos to you, Mrs. C! Another reason you absolutely rock!

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Fantastic Product Friday: Baking soda

13 May

I love products that are inexpensive, environmentally friendly, nontoxic,  odorless (unless they’re supposed to have a smell, like candles)and have multiple functions. That’s why today’s fantastic product is…baking soda!

There are so many ways to use baking soda:

  • In baked goods
  • Cleaning agent (my tubs are never so clean as when they are scrubbed with a paste of baking soda)
  • Odor absorber
  • Hygiene product

As I am just starting to use baking soda regularly, these are just the uses I know of. For more detailed examples, I found these:

For the record, I do find it odd that baking soda serves all these purposes and is still acceptable for food. But for about $0.50 per box, I’m not going to complain!

Exiled Care Bears

9 May

My 4-year-old daughter has recently discovered the Care Bears. I couldn’t be happier. I love the Care Bears! They’re cute, come in multiple colors, and one of them has a cupcake as his tummy symbol!

Not as sweet as they seem

Unfortunately, my brain has gone where it shouldn’t go. While reading the books and watching the DVDs, I could not help but start to think of all the poor, rejected Care Bears  that so very badly want to live in Care-a-Lot but the Care Bears, wanting to keep the seedy element in another part of town and having  a lengthy list of rules for acceptable Care Bear behavior, have exiled these wannabes to neighboring island of the Land of Misfit Toys:

Convict Bear–the local criminal element. The original exiled Care Bear. Known for assaulting others with unwanted Care Bear stares and stealing clouds. He is black and white striped and his tummy sign is jail bars.

Porn Star Bear and her cousin, Stripper Bear–exiled for corrupting the minds and bodies of the male (and some female) Care Bears and violating the morality clause in the home owners association of Care-a-Lot. Porn Star bear is off-white and her tummy symbol is a bed; Stripper Bear is gold and her tummy symbol is (obviously) a pole.

Glam Bear–a true 80s throwback, Glam Bear loves hair band music, especially Poison and Motley Crüe. Known for driving an unnecessarily flashy car, he was exiled for dress code violations, specifically wearing spandex and way too much eyeliner. Glam Bear is blue with black zebra strips and his tummy symbol is star-shaped sunglasses.

Mullet Bear–Glam Bear’s sworn enemy. He was also exiled for dress code violations, except he prefers sleeveless flannel shirts and rocking a really awful Dee Snider mullet. Mullet Bear is mud brown and his tummy symbol is a Trans Am.

Spinster Bear–lives alone in a dark, creepy house surrounded by 1400 cats. She was exiled for never marrying or having Care Bear offspring, an essential tenet of the Care Bear Code. She is gray and her tummy symbol is a cat.

Jersey Bear–idolizes Snooki (an exileable offense in its own right). In fact, she looks like Snooki. She was exiled, like Glam Bear and Mullet Bear, for dress code violations. Instead of a regulation tuft of hair, Jersey Bear has coiffed her hair into a poof. She was originally beige but after applying way too much tanner, she is now more of an orange. Her tummy symbol is the state of New Jersey.

Smart Ass Bear–exiled for violating the cheery and sweet manner in which Care Bears are required to speak. Loves the Michael Scott phrase “That’s what she said”.  Smart Ass Bear is red and his tummy symbol is a set of rolling eyes.

Midlife Crisis Bear–this poor guy was living the perfect Care Bear life until one day, he realized that he wanted a younger Care Bear wife, a sports car and his hair was falling out. He started frequenting Stripper Bear’s workplace and was exiled for violating the Care Bear morality clause, as well as the penguin clause stating that each Care Bear will mate with only one other Care Bear. Midlife Crisis Bear is light gray, has a comb-over, and his tummy symbol is a Porsche.

Thrifty Bear–the only bear to be exiled for his financial status. Thrifty Bear loves a good bargain, manages his money and is completely debt free. This made the other Care Bears jealous and they threw him out. He has appealed the sentence and is currently awaiting his reinstatement hearing. Thrifty Bear is green and his tummy symbol is a dollar sign intertwined with a coupon.

Those the names of the exiled Care Bears that the President of Care-a-Lot will make public. I have submitted a FOIA request for the others.

The one thing that struck me was how often they were exiled for dress code violations. Kind of strange for a bunch of bears that walk around naked…

Happy Mother’s Day!

8 May

Happy Mother’s Day!

By my definition, if you are the mother to any being, human, animal, reptile or fish, you get to celebrate today. I hope that you have a day filled with no errands, no laundry, no dishes and most of all, no cooking!

Fantastic Product Friday: Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups

6 May

They say that a picture is worth 1000 words. If that’s true, then there’s no need for a lengthy explanation of today’s fantastic product:

Best candy. Ever.

April book report

5 May

Last month, I finished 2 books and still followed my attempt to read one fiction and one nonfiction book per month–Brianna Karp’s The Girl’s Guide to Homelessness and Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom. They are two books that I am so glad to have read.

Freedom was a phenomenal story, amazingly written and engaging and I totally see Hollywood trying to make a crappy movie based off of this excellent novel. I picked the book because I loved that the author turned down an interview with Oprah a few years ago after his book, The Corrections, was selected as an Oprah’s Book Club Book. However, it took forever to get through. The writing style is way more sophisticated than I’m used to and sometimes, it just became excruciatingly slow to read. But I pushed through it. I get why critics (and Oprah) love Jonathan Franzen as a writer. If you are looking for something to read that will entertain you while increasing your vocabulary at the same time, I totally recommend this book.

On the other hand, I read The Girl’s Guide to Homelessness in 48 hours. I was so excited when it came in the mail that I actually preempted my completing of Freedom so I could start it. And I was not disappointed. I could not put this book down. I spent every spare moment reading this book. What Brianna has experienced in her life is mind-boggling; just one of the experiences could traumatize and incapacitate a person for life. Yet her determination is inspiring and it makes you want to keep rooting for her continued success. She’s a terrific writer–funny, serious, self-deprecating, and eye-opening all at once.  She really makes you think about homelessness. I often wonder if I would have half the resolve and resourcefulness that she demonstrated. This book should be on everyone’s must read list, especially if you like memoirs.

Coming up in May…Gazelles, Baby Steps and 37 Other Things Dave Ramsey Taught Me About Debt and Still Alice.  I really need to put together an aggregate list of all the books I’ve read so far in 2011.

Couponing crazy or Crazy couponer?

3 May

Like so many others, I have been watching the new TLC series “Extreme Couponing” with both fascination and disgust. I was originally inspired by the one hour special to try a now failed coupon experiment but now I’m just…well, I don’t know what I am. I think I’m just confused.

I get the allure of coupons, I really do. If you use them properly you really can save a ton of money. But the amount of time, energy and space that these women waste  spend on their coupons is insane! Yet for some reason, I keep watching.

When I’m done with each episode, I dissect it in my head (and sometimes out loud, with my husband), going over the merits and downfalls of each couponer (and, for the record, the word is pronounced “coo-pon”. This “cue-pon” nonsense drives me batty) and her strategy. There are some who I’ve decided are coupon crazy for a valid reason, like the woman who has a husband that only works seasonally and then there are some–most, really–who I’ve decided are just straight-up crazy. I’m also failing to realize the difference between some of these couponers and some of the featured guests on another favorite show of mine, “Hoarders”. So, I’ve invented a little list to help me differentiate:

  • If you buy 62 bottles of mustard even though no one in your house eats mustard but you have a coupon, you’re probably a hoarder
  • If an entire shower stall is filled to the ceiling with toilet paper and your family of 7 only has 1 functional shower, you’re probably a hoarder
  • If you’ve had to build an entire room for toothpaste, you’re  probably a hoarder
  • If you’ve spent money installing a specialized storage shelf in your garage to house all of your canned goods, you’re probably a hoarder
  • If you rummage through garbage or steal from other people’s driveways just to get more coupons, you’re probably a hoarder
  • If your coupon binder weighs more than you do, not only are you probably a hoarder but you also need to eat a sandwich
  • If your husband breaks into a sweat hauling your purchases into the house because you went into coupon overdrive, you’re probably a hoarder
  • If you buy 3 years worth of diapers for a child you have not even conceived, you’re probably a hoarder
  • If your stockpile can take you through the year 2485, you’re probably a hoarder (on separate yet similar note, a stockpile that  is organized, meticulous and “beautiful” does not mean it is not akin to hoarding).

    This is not normal. This is hoarding.

 

Please don’t get me wrong. I am all for having a stockpile and using coupons. It does help save money and get you through when times are tough. I also understand that many of these couponers donate their items, and that’s a great thing. But what this show is doing is detrimental to people who, quite frankly, use coupons like normal, sane people. It’s putting out there a misconception of those who are frugal and are careful to plan their shopping trips around sale prices and match coupons to those prices and purchase a reasonable quantity of food/hygiene items (I don’t care what anyone says, 800 packages of hot dogs is not a reasonable quantity. Unless you are feeding every player in Major League Baseball at once).

I realize that TLC is purposefully sensationalizing the people on this show. I realize that TLC is trying to make a point about using coupons and how, if you’re meticulous enough, you can save mad money with coupons. I also realize that the featured couponers on the show are edited to look crazier than they are. But the stockpiles speak for themselves. And what they say to me is “I’m one shopping trip away from Hoarders”.

That is not healthy.

Maslow and Swanson: A pairing of pyramids

26 Apr

In 1943, Abraham Maslow published his groundbreaking theory on the hierarchy of needs. This theory described human motivations, starting from the most basic and moving up to the more advanced. As you satisfy the bottom needs, you will work your way up the pyramid towards satisfying the more advanced. The ultimate goal was to get to the top of the pyramid, self-actualization, or the desire to realize one’s full creative potential.  

In 2011, Ron Swanson, the greatest boss on TV,  debuted the Swanson Pyramid of Greatness. This pyramid is a set of life  instructions and qualities with each level built on the other designed to help one reach the top of the pyramid–Honor.

Originally, I thought I had to figure out which pyramid was more relevant in today’s world. But it’s hard to put these two in a battle against each other. They each offer valid points and provide insight into our lives. Rather than competing, I think they can go hand in hand in perfect harmony, like Ebony and Ivory or peanut butter and chocolate or unicorns and glitter (thanks, Flo!), and provide us with a comprehensive way of looking at life. It’s nice to have guidelines, like speed limits and daily caloric intake.

Plus, Swanson’s kind of funny.

Fantastic Product Friday: Seventh Generation dish detergent

22 Apr

Since today is Earth Day, today’s fantastic product is Seventh Generation dishwashing detergent.

My family tries to be as environmentally conscious as we can, and we began using ecofriendly dish detergent several years ago. Unfortunately our dishes never got quite as clean as we would have liked. There were always those little annoying spots that said “yes, they tried to clean me and they almost did!” It was embarrassing as well.

Then I heard about Seventh Generation. I was hesitant at first, because that’s how I always am when I hear about a new product. Then I saw a review at Keeper of the Home of the Seventh Generation laundry detergent and I figured why not give the dish detergent a try (I’m working my way to the laundry detergent. For now, All free and clear will do the trick)? I did and my dishes have never been so clean! The spots are gone and when I wash my dishes, I am confident that I am not washing (as many) chemicals down the drain. Clean dishes, clean conscience. It’s a winning combination!

Oh, and before I forget, I do use some  homemade, Earth-friendly cleaners as well. I’ll discuss those in another post.

What Earth-friendly products do you use?

Books, part 2

19 Apr

Several weeks ago, I posted about my problem finding good books to read. I got some great recommendations and assembled quite a queue. I’m pleased to report that since that post, the number of good books I’ve read has grown exponentially (thankfully). I am also extremely excited for the next few books I have in waiting. I will be sharing those with you, but first, I’ll discuss the books I did finish.

In my previous post, I said that I was in the middle of Brady Udall’s The Lonely Polygamist. I couldn’t finish it. I found it boring and way too difficult to get through. I have made the decision that the time I do have to read is too precious to waste on books I don’t like, so that one went right back to the library. Next came Kathryn Stockett’s The Help. Awesome, amazing, wonderful, easy to read, great story. I can not say enough good things about this book. In fact, I think everyone should read it.

After that, I read Susan Wilson’s One Good Dog. I picked this book because, ever since I read The Art of Racing in the Rain, I love books with dogs as main characters. I had never heard of this book, saw it on sale in Target, bought it, took it home and read it in a weekend. It’s a terrific, modern and relevant story paralleling the lives of a man and a stray pit bull–I’m beyond glad I read this book. Then was Jodi Picoult’s new book, Sing You Home. It was a book in true Jodi Picoult fashion and while the story was interesting, I felt that it was told at a rather frenetic pace.  It was not her best but certainly not her worst (that honor is reserved for The Tenth Circle). I am now in the middle of Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom. I’ll get back to you about it when I’m done.

So what’s next? Yesterday I went on a book buying/book reserving spree. A quick note about when I buy versus reserve. Whenever possible, I try to get books from the library. However, there are times when books I want to read are not in any library in my entire state (to be fair, I live in a small state). It is in those instances, and I want to really, really read a book, that I will buy a book. OK, having cleared that up, here’s what I reserved/bought yesterday:

  • Bossypants by Tina Fey
  • Room by Emma Donoghue
  • Still Alice by Lisa Genova
  • Gazelles, Baby Steps and 37 Other Things Dave Ramsey Taught Me About Debt by Jon Acuff
  • The Girl’s Guide to Homelessness by Brianna Karp (you can also follow her blog)
  • Stray Dogs, Saints and Saviors: Fighting for the Soul of America’s Toughest High School by Alexander Russo

I like to read a combination of fiction and nonfiction books. While this list is a little nonfiction heavy, it’s a nice balance to the fiction books that I’ve just finished.

Have you read any of these books? What did you think?

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