Taco Casserole? Yes, please!

I love it when I remember a recipe that I haven’t made in a while. I love it even more when it’s super easy and delicious. And it’s even more perfect when the recipe is cheap to make! Introducing: Taco Casserole!

I feel quite certain that I am not the first person to come up with this, but I know I never read the recipe anywhere, so that makes it original, right?

I went shopping this afternoon for our weekly groceries, and all I could think of the entire time I was walking around the store was how much I wanted Taco Casserole. Now, if you don’t like tacos, this isn’t for you, but that should be pretty obvious. This is really only a casserole in the sense that there are layers and it has cheese on top…but what more do you need?! I didn’t decide to share this until after I ate, so I don’t have great pictures to accompany each step like pretty food bloggers do (I also have terrible light in my kitchen and just my iPhone camera) but I hope you get the idea.

TACO CASSEROLE:

Brown 1 pound ground meat of your choice in a skillet and drain (I have used turkey and beef, but I’m sure chicken would work as well)

Add taco seasoning to taste

To your skillet add:

1 can of drained Ro-Tel diced tomatoes and green chilies (Here is where you can turn the heat up or down. I use original which is sort of a medium spice, but it also comes in mild or hot)

1 can drained sweet corn

1 can black beans drained but not rinsed

Mix all ingredients together over medium-high heat until most of the liquid is evaporated and the mixture is heated through

In an 8×8 or 9×9 baking dish:

You will need 4 flour tortillas and 1 cup of cheese to complete the construction of this dish.

Spoon half the meat and veggie mixture into the bottom of the dish and cover with half of the cheese

Layer 2 tortillas over the top of the cheese (Note: They may not reach the edges, and that’s ok)

Spoon the remaining mixture on top of the tortillas

Cover with the remaining 2 tortillas and put the rest of the cheese on the top.

Bake at 400 for about 8-10 minutes or until the cheese starts to brown. If you’re impatient you can put it under the broiler for a minute or two (assuming your dish is safe to use under the broiler).

This makes about 6 good-sized servings or 8 smallish ones. Serve with guacamole and/or sour cream if you have it and like that sort of thing.

This is a good pantry dish because it doesn’t require any off-the-wall ingredients, and if you’re like me, you probably have all this stuff on hand most of the time. It costs about $7 for the whole dish, so $1-ish per serving. Not too shabby!! Plus…it’s delicious.

Behold:

I’ll admit, it’s not the most gorgeous thing in the world, but trust me, for as little work as it takes to make it, it rocks. Oh, and you may want to fight for the middle piece where the tortillas overlap…just a suggestion. Enjoy!!!

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“Momma, do you have a baby in there? Because your belly looks like a bubble.”

From the mouths of babes.

While getting ready for church this morning, I went into the kitchen to ask hubby’s opinion on an outfit I have never worn before. I wasn’t wearing the Spanx I planned to wear because, well, I was just trying stuff on. Then, Big Sister, very sweetly pokes me in the belly and says, “Your belly looks kinda fat, Momma.” I sort of smiled at her and didn’t really say anything except, “We don’t really say things like that to people” because I’ve tried really hard to not make a big deal about body weight/shape/size to her. I tried to blow it off, but then she poked me again and said, as innocently and adorably as anyone could ever say, “Momma, do you have a baby in there or something? Because your belly looks like a bubble.”

Awesome.

Now, she is 5 years old and and big kindergartener now which makes her blissfully ignorant of how words like that can dissolve grown women to tears. So I tried desperately not to even look hurt, but I failed. I teared up. Hubby looked at me and said, “Don’t get your feelings hurt by a 5-year-old…she doesn’t even know what she said.” I said, “I know” and smiled and looked away from her. They were leaving early to run an errand, so they were about to walk out the door. As I was walking down the hall, I heard hubby say, “I think you need to apologize to your momma; you hurt her feelings.” I really would have rather she just drop it, but here she came a few seconds later, slowly walking down the hall with tears in her eyes to say she was sorry. I gave her a big hug and told her that she shouldn’t feel bad! She didn’t mean to hurt my feelings, and everything was fine. She has always been very sensitive when others are upset.

The problem is…she’s not wrong. Now, I don’t think I look pregnant for crying out loud, but 5-year-olds are well-known for their honest, if politically incorrect, appraisals of other people’s appearances. As I said, I’ve really tried hard to shelter her from my body image issues as much as possible. I don’t use the word fat in front of her to describe myself or others, and I’ve learned to rein in my self-deprecating facial expressions while getting dressed or trying on clothes in a dressing room. I knew it was only a matter of time, but this was a bit of a punch in my fat belly.

About a year ago, when I could still sort of blame my fluffiness on my second child, a student (an idiot male student who really REALLY should have known better) asked me if I was having another baby. To be fair, I was wearing an empire-waisted top that I had worn while pregnant, and he was in my class while I was pregnant…but still! You don’t ask those kinds of questions, and the women who were in the room when he asked were like, “Dumb ass!” You would think that would have been enough to get me on the road to pre-pregnancy fitness. But here I am, more than a year later, and I can still wear that outfit.

I’ve been talking about losing weight on this blog for, oh, I don’t know how long and I really don’t care to check. I start and stop. I lose and regain. I’m not making another sweeping declaration because those don’t work for me; however, I am going to get back into the routine that was slowly working to whittle away my “bubble belly” so that maybe in a few months it won’t be so pregnant looking.

Thank you, sweet, innocent, blunt child for pointing out my biggest source of embarrassment and shame. (She also likes to point out when I, a 31-year-old woman, have blemishes…charming.) She was the main reason I got to my goal weight after she was born, so maybe I can do it again.

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Really? It sounds like you already feel a little guilty

Sorry — You Can’t Guilt Trip Me About Bottle Feeding My Kids.

This post appeared on Jezebel today. The same argument appears over and over again in different forms all attempting to justify bottle-feeding as an equal choice to breastfeeding or in some way less stressful. I will be the first to admit that some “lactivists” (and I honestly don’t like that word) do actually use tactics that are borderline inappropriate and often ineffective if not counter productive. However, feeling the need to shout from the rooftops “you can’t guilt-trip me!” sounds like someone already did.

To Sarah Fister Gale (author of the piece): I’m very sorry that you had such a horrible breast-feeding experience. It must have been extremely stressful, and by comparison bottle-feeding probably did seem like an easier alternative. Everyone has the right to feed however they see fit, and everyone’s experience is valid, but the entire tone of this piece is troubling to me. You’re discounting decades of scientific research from extremely credible sources, recommendations from ALL leading global  medical entities, and in essence doing the same thing that was done to you but in reverse. You may have felt bullied, and that is unfortunate, but trying to influence you to feed your child the substance that was made for them to ingest, that helps protect them from disease before they are able to be vaccinated, and helps you recover more quickly from your birth experience is not necessarily bullying though there are some who can come across that way.

I cannot understand the defensiveness that comes up from women who choose to bottle-feed. Yes, you made that choice…make it then. If you feel defensive is it possible that you feel guilty? One of the first ingredients in formula is corn syrup. How is that in any way healthy for an infant?  Especially a premie. I can’t imagine what it’s like to deliver a premie, but the benefits of breastmilk for them is especially noticeable and may have been the source of your doctor’s apparent annoyance. This post, while possibly validating some women who had a similar experience, probably also scared some others who were on the fence.

Breastfeeding is amazing. Yeah, it hurts sometimes. Yeah, you are the kids’ sole source of nourishment. But why can’t women find that empowering instead of limiting? YOU are your child’s lifeline! YOU are capable of supporting that child the same way you did when it was in your womb. If you make the choice to bottle-feed, cool. But please don’t try to make it sound in some way righteous. I was bottle-fed and I have a Ph.D., so yeah, people who say that formula-feeding will cause your child grievous harm are not necessarily correct. Saying that breastfeeding is the only way to bond with your baby is also incorrect, but it sure helps. My main issue with this argument (that is regurgitated in different forms all the time) is that trying to say that formula-feeding is on par with breastfeeding IS simply incorrect, and formula companies have been getting in trouble for making that claim for decades. Is it hard? Sure. But how is it easy to get up in the middle of the night a heat a bottle? And if husbands or others tell you they feel left out, give them diapers or tell them they can burp the baby. Feeding is not the only way to bond with a child.

I combo-fed my second child, and it almost broke my heart. The first time I bought formula I cried. I looked at the ingredients and put it back twice, but I was in so much pain because of her poor latch that I felt like I had no choice. I didn’t know what resources I had available to me for support. I didn’t realize that there were several people I could go to to help me with the issues I was having. But, in order to move past the guilt, regret, and sadness I felt, I have now made it my mission to help women understand what resources they have available and to be one of those resources. Yes, breastfeeding requires a commitment, but I do not understand the ridiculous notion that it is somehow “anti-feminist” or “being strapped to your child”. Hanna Rosin is the “feminist” who is most often credited with the argument that breastfeeding is a step backward for women, but she is definitely not the only one. How is nourishing the child we chose to bring into the world “anti-feminist”? How is doing the most we can to insure our child’s health and well-being a step backward?

We need to reframe the argument.  Breastfeeding is power. Breastfeeding is something that only women can do. Breastfeeding is the absolute best source of nourishment for a growing brain and body. Breastfeeding is normal and beautiful. Change the message. Claim your God-given power to see that your child has the best start in life. Sure it’s hard! But didn’t you just have a baby?! THAT was hard!

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Universal Health Care: Well Done Supreme Court

I’m not a political or Constitutional scholar. I’m a social scholar. Maybe that’s why I find the motivations behind people’s political opinions to be far more fascinating than the opinions themselves. If you have read this blog before you probably well know that I am not a Republican. I have been lovingly (and not so lovingly) called a “bleeding-heart liberal”. I don’t, personally, take that as an insult. I think if more people had bleeding hearts we might be a little better off, but I digress.

The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the “Individual Mandate” of the Affordable Care Act was met, as always and expected, with diverse reactions. And, lucky for me, I have diverse Facebook friends to give me the rundown of what those opinions might be! Yea!!

I generally abstain from making comments on things unless I feel I can do so in a temperate and non-judgmental way…or I particularly agree with the post. Usually, when things make my blood boil, I stay quiet. Right or wrong, I don’t really care. I don’t want to engage in caps-lock warfare online with people I don’t have similar conversations with in person. Therefore, I will put my opinion here! Ah, the joys of blogging.

I really only have one question: What is the big freaking deal? Besides people who have fundamental objections to any involvement in the healthcare field (i.e., Christian Scientists or people who rely on holistic remedies) or those who object to anything Obama suggests out-of-hand just because he said it (which frankly pisses me off with regards to the whole political system and makes me fear for the human race), why should anyone take issue with the idea of universal healthcare? We no longer have Sarah Palin spouting nonsense about death panels, so everyone should have had a chance to step back and think about it. What is so wrong with forcing people to have insurance? We’ve been forced to have “state-minimum” auto insurance for years, and that’s not a national controversy. I mean we have The General and Norm McDonald peddling SafeAuto. What could be better than that? I’m sure there have been lawsuits, but they didn’t make it to the supreme court (to my knowledge). So, on that logic, what is so wrong with “federal minimum” health insurance? Is it an adolescent “nobody’s going to tell me I have to wear a seatbelt” thing? If so, that’s lame. We are not on our way to becoming a socialist republic with a fascist dictator who raises communist statues to himself and forces us all to grow pot on our hippie communes. (There is possibly some confusion of political systems there, but who’s counting.) We are a democracy. We have a free-market economy, but I whole-heartedly disagree with the notion that whatever we do must serve the economy first. We must serve the people first.

If you are independently wealthy, good for you. If you have worked Dave Ramsey’s steps with gazelle-like intensity and have no debt and a fully-funded 6-month emergency fund, good for you. But I hate to break it to you, you are in the extreme minority. I have, thankfully, never been without health insurance. I have never been unwillingly unemployed. I have the terminal degree in my field. But if by some twist of fate I or my husband were to lose our job or become unable to work, we would be, for lack of a better word, screwed. The good-old-days that many look back to with fondness are gone, my friends (if, indeed, they ever existed). We cannot go back to the days when we didn’t need health insurance. There was a time when people just paid when they needed a doctor. The “free-market” healthcare system has killed that idea. We can’t go back. I don’t have $150 for a nurse to administer a vaccine to my child. I don’t have $200 for a doctor to look in my child’s ear and confirm the infection I already knew was there. I don’t have $50 for an ibuprofen in the hospital. What I do have, is health insurance. Even with it, I paid well over $3000 to bring each of my children into the world in the manner that our culture has deemed necessary. If, heaven forbid, I had not had insurance I would have had to declare bankruptcy.

Do you want to know what I see in the future if we have universal healthcare? Fewer cans on the counters of grocery stores asking for money to help a premature baby. Fewer parents who cannot support their families because they missed the early stages of an illness and by the time it was caught it was too late to do anything. Fewer people choosing to claim disability because they can’t afford the treatment for a preexisting condition that keeps them from qualifying for insurance in the current market. And more money being spent in the free-market because less will go to exorbitant hospital bills.

The final note I leave you with is a conundrum I feel with this whole mess: why are many healthcare professionals so adamantly against universal healthcare? Many of the provisions will make your jobs easier. You will no longer order unnecessary tests because you’ll have access to the MRI Joe Blow had 2 months ago because of centralized medical recording. You will know if I’m allergic to penicillin. You won’t have to worry about whether or not you can treat me because you will know that I have some form of health coverage. You will be able to declutter your waiting area walls by taking down some of the signs that tell us what insurances you take and don’t take. And you will be able to better carry out your oaths to do no harm and care for the ill and injured.

Will it be an adjustment? Damn straight! Will there be hiccups? Definitely? Can we as a nation continue to subsist in the current system? No way.

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What do you do when your kids annoy you?

Don’t pretend like your kids don’t annoy you. And if you don’t have kids, don’t pretend that some kid in your life (niece/nephew, sibling, student, kid you babysit) doesn’t honestly annoy the crap out of you from time to time. This e-card really got me thinking this week:

My kids are in weird stages right now. It could be argued that ALL stages are weird in their own ways, but having a 5-year-old and a 2-year-old is really borderline insanity.

I’ve just navigated the second night in a row of a screaming 5-year-old and a calm 2-year-old going to bed. No, I didn’t write that backward. Since the 5-year-old turned 5, about 3 weeks ago, she has been a certifiable nut job. She wanted to sleep with us. Apparently her bed, that she’s had since she was 2 1/2, is suddenly extremely uncomfortable. It took about 40 minutes to get her to calm down, and another 40 to get her to sleep. Twice in these last 3 weeks, I’ve had a teacher at school tell me that she spent the entire afternoon crying because she thought I was coming to get her early (which I actually did), but not early enough to suit her. She took a full 10 minutes to walk from the car to the pool Monday for her first day of swimming lessons because she was nervous, and then took another 10 to get into the pool (where she was actually physically placed by the swim coach), and then another 10 minutes to get into the car with her swim teacher who was taking her back to school (after being in the pool for approximately 5 minutes).

Seriously?! What the frick is going on around here? I honestly think my child has cried more in the last three weeks than she did in her first 5 years. She has never been a crier. Even from birth she has never really cried much. Now, I will be the first to admit that part of why she didn’t cry much is because we didn’t let her, and I think that’s why she’s crazy now. If she started crying, I pretty much just stuck a boob in her mouth or soothed her in some other way. I’ve never been a fan of letting kids cry when there’s no reason they should. I honestly don’t have a problem laying in bed with my kids until they go to sleep. I used to. I used to think I was doing something wrong because “everyone else’s kids” just get into bed and go to sleep! Of course, then I found out that that was crap, and it made me feel better. I sort of figure, they’re only kids once, so why not soak up all the kid-dom you can. But mother-of-pearl sometimes I want to run away from home when they really get going.

Two weeks ago, we had a melt-down situation while heading to the doctor’s office for a check up. She had actually been looking forward to it, which I thought was weird in itself, but when we got there it was like her butt grew roots and she wasn’t going to budge. “I’m not going to the doctor!” It was quite hilarious to the people in the waiting room, and bless Little Bit’s heart, she just drank her juice and watched her “Big” sister like she was nuts. She threw in the occasional “She’s cryin'”, but that was it. I had to physically remove her from the car because it was well over 90 degrees, and Little Bit and I were in direct sun. The car was getting hotter and hotter, and I refused to even pretend like I was going to leave her there. I told her that I was going to cancel her appointment and we would come back another day, but that didn’t make a difference. Then I had to man-handle her across the street at which point I told her to sit on a bench outside the office so I could talk to her. She apparently thought I was going to leave her there and go inside which just started a fresh round of hiccup-crying. After telling her “there is NO WAY I’m going to leave you out here all by yourself on a bench!” I left her all by herself on the porch and went inside. She finally dragged her sobbing self through the door I had left open, and sat down on the chair next to me. Everyone in the waiting room was smiling and trying to hide it, but they didn’t do a very good job. Then, after about 5 minutes of ignoring her she grabbed my arm, snuggled next to me and said, “I’m sorry, Mommy.” Well, melt my heart! I said, “Thank you, baby. Are you going to be a big girl and go to the doctor?” Nods.

Almost immediately after that, the nurse came out to get us, and then Little Bit started! She had been cool as a cucumber the whole time, and then it was like someone flipped a switch. Luckily, Big Sister had calmed down enough to reason with her, and she agreed to go first. That was all it took. Everything went better than I would have ever expected after that. It was actually quite bizarre to watch. So, we just went through 10 minutes of complete crazy to be completely calm and cooperative at the place you said you weren’t going to go? Really?!

So, what is going on at my house? My hubby thinks Big Sister has been jealous since her birthday that she was no longer the center of attention. I think that has a lot to do with it, and it DEFINITELY has a lot to do with the last 2 days (Little Bit’s birthday was yesterday…post to come), but I don’t think it explains everything. Developmentally, she’s going through a lot…they both are! They are both capable of doing things they weren’t capable of doing in the very recent past, and that is a lot to adjust to. But seriously, if they don’t settle into some reasonable facsimile of normal human children very soon, their father and I will be forced to pretend that they do not belong to us which, considering that they are mini versions of us (Big Sister is my mini-me, and Little Bit is his), that will be very difficult to pull off.

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It’s Not What It Looks Like

Thank God it isn’t what it looks like, because THIS is what it looks like:

Like I said…thank God it’s not what it looks like. Little Bit decided she was going to paint her toenails. Yea! Now don’t ask me why she could reach nail polish because that would incriminate me.

I was in the kitchen recovering from a customer service call about something for work, and I started smelling nail polish. Unfortunately, it didn’t register what I smelling until Big Sister called “Momma! She’s painting!” I came in from the kitchen and what I was smelling finally made sense. I said a little prayer that she had just painted her nails and maybe gotten some on her clothes. I really didn’t expect what I found. Normally, her sister would have been on this like white on rice. She would have yelled “No! No nail polish! Momma!!!” But my extra set of eyes is not feeling well, so she was curled up on the couch and missed it all.

Here is the scene of the crime:

She was very thorough, as you can see. She painted herself, the chair, the ottoman, the couch, the floor, and even the poor hamster who was just minding his own business. She was so proud of her work too! She said “I paint!” In the interest of my own sanity, I took pictures instead of having a conniption. Based on her work I think she just poured the polish on her foot instead of taking the time to use the brush. She also added some nice artistic swirls! It was very impressive, actually. It took a LOT of nail polish remover, and she STILL looks like she’s been injured!

I’ve had a touch of baby fever lately. This is when it started after Big Sister, so I was sort of expecting it, but we have decided 2 is perfect. I think this was God’s way of reassuring me that 2 kids is, indeed, perfect for us. This second kid is going to be a whole different challenge than her sister was.

Here she is when we were about halfway finished with the cleanup. Look at that face. A chair is a chair. Our couch was already stained with the traces of living with children. This face is what I will remember from this experience. It’s hard to be upset with that face. I mean seriously…look at that face. Mwah!

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“The BIBLE SAYS if you vote for a democrat and were to die thereafter you would go to hell”….Does it really?!

The BIBLE SAYS if you vote for a democrat and were to die thereafter you would go to hell | Conservative Byte.

He has got to be kidding.

First off, who is this man to say to ANYONE that they “think they are Christians” but, apparently cannot truly BE Christians based solely on how they vote?!

2Thessalonians 2:12 (cited in the piece) says “They will be condemned for enjoying evil rather than believing the truth.” In my humble opinion, many far Right-Wing Republicans (especially those who talk the loudest) enjoy evil far more than many liberals I know. But that, of course, is just my opinion.

I will never understand the Right-Wing obsession with the particular “sin” of homosexuality. Jesus himself said “Let he who is without sin among you cast the first stone…” (John 8:7). Everyone sins. It is ridiculous to say that voting for someone who does as Jesus commanded by loving others as he first loved us (e.g., guaranteeing all citizens of a democracy the same rights, privileges, and obligations) is going directly to hell. You don’t get to make that call, Mr. Marcellino.

I am a Democrat and a Christian…they are NOT mutually exclusive, and I find the suggestion that they are extremely insulting. The narrow-mindedness of your (what was it?) warning to your “Christian brothers and sisters” is the epitome of bigotry and hate-mongering. You frame it as helpful. You imply (or state outright) that people who don’t think like you (AKA: the right way) are doomed to eternal hellfire and damnation. I’m terribly sorry, sir, but liberals do not have a monopoly on “strife, deceit, slander [political soundbites (…um, hello Rush Limbaugh!)], gossips, idol worshipers (Wall Street, anyone?)”. They may have more representation of “homosexuality and lesbianism”, but, I dare say, they don’t have a monopoly on that either; and the greater representation is probably a reflection of willingness of liberal politicians treat sexual minorities as full citizens. As far as “God-haters and atheists” go, you may have a point there, though I’m sure there is the odd one who votes Republican.

Bottom-line: The very savior you claim to serve is my savior too, and I don’t interpret his words in this way. You focus on the hate all you want to, but I think I’ll focus on what he actually said: “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples” (John 13:35).

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