Oven Baked Tacos

As I’m preparing for dinner the other night, I asked Son # 3 to hand me a can of black beans. He proceeds to root around through the canned bean cubby in the pantry.

Son # 3: Mom, why did you buy garbage can peas?!?!
Me: Huh?
Son # 3: (holding up a can with a look of utter disgust) Garbage. Can. Peas. 
Me: Read that again. It says garbanzo beans.
Son # 3: Oh. Well they still sound gross.

You can’t make this stuff up people!

This was a fun new twist on our regular tacos. Usually, when I make tacos I bake the taco shells separately in the oven for 10 minutes so that the shells are crispy. When you add the ground beef and beans to the picture it’s a whole new story. They’re this perfect mix of crunchy and soft in all the right places. If you want to ensure an even crunch over your entire shell surface area, let more of the liquid evaporate out of your meat mixture. I topped my tacos with chopped roma tomatoes, taco sauce, and some lettuce. Sour cream, salsa, & guacamole were served on the side, because those are Mexican must-have for us. And, of course, no Mexican night is complete for us without some yellow rice. Everybody was happy. All tacos were served toasty and everyone’s cheese was melted to perfection before adding the toppings of their choice. Don’t like pre-made hardshell tacos? That’s ok, too. You can easily sub flour, or even corn, tortillas in instead. Who knew oven-baked tacos were the way to go?!

And for those of you with an eagle eye, we can all just ignore the dirty burners. While they stay on the proverbial to-do list, I’ll be honest in saying they only get cleaned twice once a year.

Oven Baked Tacos

4 Sons 'R' Us: Oven Baked Tacos

2 lbs Ground beef, lean
1 head of lettuce
1 onion
1 tomato
1 can re-fried beans, or black beans
1 jar of salsa
6 oz tomato sauce
3 tablespoons taco seasoning
12 taco shells
cheddar cheese
sour cream


1. Brown ground beef and drain. Return to pan.
2. Add taco seasoning, beans and tomato sauce.
3. Stir to combine and then heat until the flavors have blended.
4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
5. Spray a 9×13 baking dish with oil.
6. Spoon taco filling into taco shells and stack them side by side in a pan.
7. When shells are filled, top each with shredded cheese and cilantro, if desired.
8. Bake for approximately 15 minutes, watching so they do not brown much.
9. Serve and top with remaining ingredients, if desired.

Sous Chef Sunday: Chicken & Waffle Sliders

Mmm. Chicken, and waffles. Two seemingly unrelated things, but when put together make a food-gasmic combination. The sons, yet again, were skeptical. Four identical sets of little arched eye-brows as I got out just 3 ingredients. When, oh when, will they learn to trust me in the kitchen?! The sons followed the super simple recipe all by themselves, although with supervision since they were using the oven. The older sons can handle it, but Son # 4 gets so excited to be involved in the process, I worry he might forget hot things lead to burned fingers. Each son, in turn, took one tentative bite, and then proceeded to scarf them down. They looked like squirrels packing away food for winter. There was even a brief skirmish over the last two and who deserved them MOST. A chicken and waffle combo may have sounded weird to the more traditional tastes of the Sons, but they all agreed UNANIMOUSLY (might I point out this almost never happens!), that these little suckers are finger-lickin’ good.

Chicken & Waffle Sliders

4 Sons 'R' Us: Chicken & Waffle Sliders

frozen mini waffles, fully toasted
chicken tenders, cooked
{real} maple syrup


1. Slice your cooked chicken tenders in half. Break your toasted waffles apart.
2. Sandwich one piece of chicken between two cooked waffles. Secure with a toothpick.
3. When all the tenders have been ‘sandwiched’, drizzle them with maple syrup and serve warm.

Italian Alfredo Tortellini with Ham

It’s quick, easy, and oh-so creamy. This Italian Alfredo Tortellini with Ham makes a yummy lunch or dinner. It’s perfect for busy weeknights, or even on lazy days when you need to serve a crowd. However you choose to serve it this Italian Alfredo Tortellini With Ham is a simple meal that’s seasoned to perfection.

Italian Alfredo Tortellini 2

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Hamburger Steak with Onions & Gravy

I’ve had Hamburger Steaks (aka Salisbury steak) before, but I’ve never really liked it. I thought I just ‘wasn’t a fan’, but then I got to thinking. I love meatloaf. I love gravy. Something was always missing for me…flavor. On a whim, I decided to try my own hand at this classic dish. It still seemed like ‘Mission Impossible’. After my family’s first bite, we all agreed: Mission Complete! Not only were the ‘steaks’ jam-packed with flavor, but so was the simple gravy. And where can you go wrong with caramelized onions?! Take it from me, serve these juicy ‘steaks’ with mashed potatoes. You won’t want to waste a drop of gravy.

Hamburger Steaks with Onions & Gravy

4 Sons 'R' Us: Hamburger Steaks with onions & gravy

1 lb ground beef
1 egg
1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1/8 tsp black pepper
1 tsp seasoning salt, divided
1/2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp Montreal Steak seasoning
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup finely diced onion
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 cup beef broth & 1 tbsp cooking sherry


1. In a large bowl, mix together the ground beef, egg, bread crumbs, pepper, salt, onion powder, garlic powder, Worcestershire sauce, and steak seasoning. Form into 8 balls, and flatten into patties.
2. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Fry the patties and onion in the oil until patties are nicely browned, about 4 minutes per side. Remove the beef patties to a plate, and keep warm.
3. Sprinkle flour over the onions and drippings in the skillet. Stir in flour with a fork, scraping bits of beef off of the bottom as you stir. Gradually mix in the beef broth and sherry. Season with seasoned salt. Simmer and stir over medium-low heat for about 5 minutes, until the gravy thickens. Turn heat to low, return patties to the gravy, cover, and simmer for another 15 minutes.

Serve & enjoy!

Mexican Chicken Spaghetti

My kids love spaghetti. Seriously, I have four spaghetti monsters. It’s a great quick, easy meal when we have a busy evening of activities ahead, or when I just don’t feel like spending all day in the kitchen. It’s also perfect for the evenings when my boys have dinner duty. That being said, as I’ve mentioned before, I love finding new ways to re-do our traditional favorites. This spaghetti offered all the ease of a traditional version, but with a nice Mexican feel and a little ‘kick’. Everybody, including my husband (the pickiest of the bunch) came back for seconds. My husband may, or may not, have had three helpings.

Mexican Chicken Spaghetti

4 Sons 'R' Us: Mexican Chicken Spaghetti

  • 8 oz angel hair, or thin spaghetti, pasta
  • 2 cups cooked chicken, chopped
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 1, 10 oz, can of diced tomatoes and green chiles, undrained
  • 1 cup sour cream, or greek yogurt
  • 1 cups shredded Mexican blend cheese


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Boil pasta according to package directions. Drain.
  3. In a large bowl mix together the chicken, soups, tomatoes, and sour cream, stirring until evenly combined.
  4. Add in the cooked and drained pasta, stirring until evenly combined.
  5. Transfer to a 9×13 baking dish.
  6. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes, or until hot and bubbly.
  7. Sprinkle with cheese and return to the oven, uncovered, until melted.

Homemade Spaghetti O’s

All of my boys love any combination of pasta and pasta sauce. Like thousands of children before them, and after, they developed an instantaneous love of all things Chef Boyarde or that same canned style. Ravioli, Spaghetti-O’s,  Beefaroni…if it had pasta, sauce, and required a can opener they were all about it. However, things like that are not factored into my budget. Instead, they’re the kind of things Nanni keeps stocked in the pantry just for lunches for the boys when they visit. When I found a recipe for a homemade version from Seeded At The Table, for literally pennies per serving, I knew my kids would never forgive me if they found out I hadn’t tested it out. Just a heads up, this recipe will make a lot. We’re talking 8-10 adult servings, depending on how generous your helpings are. However, I split the finished product in two, and the second meal went in the freezer. It froze and defrosted beautifully, tasting just as delicious after a quick warm-up on the stove.

Homemade Spaghetti O’s

4 Sons 'R' Us: Homemade Spaghettios

  •  1 lb ditalini pasta
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic, mince
  • generous pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2, 15 oz, cans of tomato sauce
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp granulated sugar
  • 8 tbsp unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded


  1. Cook pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water until al dente.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, heat olive oil in a Dutch Oven over medium heat.
  3. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, cooking just until fragrant.
  4. Stir in the tomato sauce, water, tomato paste, salt, pepper, sugar, and butter.
  5. Heat while stirring until the butter is melted.
  6. Slowly stir in the milk, and turn down the heat to low, simmering for about ten minutes.
  7. Stir the shredded cheese into the ‘soup’ until melted.
  8. Drain the pasta and transfer to a large bowl.
  9. Pour the sauce over the pasta, then stir to combine making sure all of the pasta is evenly coated.
  10. Serve, enjoy, and remember to freeze any leftovers to enjoy again for another meal.