A Lot on My Plate – Busy Day Taco Pasta Bake

When my three boys were little, I used to jokingly say I worked from “son” up to “son” down. These early birds would greet the still-dark morning with the kind of energy it took me a couple espresso shots to ease into.  At night, I would be asleep before my head hit the pillow – that is, if I wasn’t already dozing in the nursery rocking chair. Today, these guys sleep much longer, as most teenagers who stay up late playing video games do. But, somehow I feel busier than ever with all this (ahem) free time.

From football practice and robotics competitions to trombone auditions and Boy Scout outings, I’m coordinating, managing and troubleshooting a houseful of hectic schedules that aren’t even mine!  But, there is no contrived busyness in my jam-packed days; I am not busy just to fill my time with stuff to do. Every carpool driven, every hour spent helping with homework, every disappointment patched up with a hug, every trip back to the store for yet another gallon of milk are all time purposefully spent.  My purpose isn’t to be busy for busy’s sake but instead to tackle the tasks it takes to raise up my boys into great young men.  You see, a purpose gives my time meaning and keeps me focused on a goal greater than what’s just happening in the moment.

Litehouse Kid Helper Taco Pasta Bake Litehouse Kid Helper Taco Pasta Bake

 

Offering hearty, healthy meals for my family is part of my purpose. There is noticeably less chaos and cranky moods at dinner time if I’ve planned ahead on hectic days. My recipe for Busy Day Taco Past Bake is a go-to choice for eventful evenings – it’s filling, flavorful and feeds a small army. When I know I can’t be home in the late afternoon to get this meal started, I simply prepare the casserole in the morning, stick in the fridge and have it ready and waiting for the final 30 minutes of baking as soon as I walk in the door.

Litehouse Taco Bake Finished Litehouse Taco Bake Finished

 

My purpose as a mother is also to teach my children how to become self-sufficient. This easy pasta recipe is the perfect “entry-level” dish for any budding chef – I recruit my kids to brown the ground beef, boil the noodles and assemble the dish. Since the sauce and seasonings are mostly pre-made (including Litehouse Southwest Ranch Dip and Litehouse Salsa), this recipe can be mastered by even a younger teenager. When I look at my men-in-training and this family-style meal we created together, I am thankful to have a lot on my plate -- and I mean that in every sense of the phrase!

Litehouse Taco Bake Ready to Eat Litehouse Taco Bake Ready to Eat

 

Busy Day Taco Pasta Bake

Serves 8 | Finish in 45 minutes
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Even with three teen boys and a jam-packed schedule of activities, I am thankful to have a lot on my plate -- especially with Busy-Day Taco Pasta Bake on the menu! Teach your older children how to make this flavorful, family-friendly dinner and turn the entire experience into a purposeful life lesson.

Ingredients

1 ½ lb 93% lean ground beef,
1 ¼ oz packet reduced-sodium taco seasoning,
¼ cup water,
1 8 oz can tomato sauce,
1 8 oz container Litehouse Salsa,
10 oz uncooked whole grain elbow macaroni,
1 cup Litehouse Southwest Ranch Dip,
1 ½ cups shredded 2% cheddar cheese (divided),
1 cup frozen or fresh corn kernels,
½ cup crushed tortilla chips,
1 Tbsp Litehouse Instantly Fresh Cilantro,
8 grape tomatoes

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 F degrees.

2. Brown beef in skillet over medium heat and drain. Stir in taco seasoning along with water. Mix in tomato sauce and salsa. Bring mixture to light boil and then remove from heat.

3. Cook pasta according to manufacturer’s directions. Drain. Place cooked pasta in large bowl (or pot it was cooked in) and stir in salsa and 1 cup of cheese. Stir in frozen corn.

4. Spoon macaroni mixture into a 9”x13” baking dish. Top with beef mixture and sprinkle with remaining cheese.

5. Cut grape tomatoes in half lengthwise and arrange in decorative pattern. Sprinkle on tortilla chips and cilantro.

6. Bake at 350 F degrees uncovered for 30 minutes or until hot and bubbling.


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