I recently read a daily devotion about the dangers of shortcuts.  Phooey!  I love ‘em.  (Though I do realize that a shortcut in your personal life may not work as well as they do in the kitchen.)  I know it’s all the craze now to make everything from scratch: plant & pick your own wheat, grind your own whole wheat flour, make your own crackers, etc.  But I love a good shortcut from time to time as well.  Because I simply don’t have the time (& won’t spend the little I do) to do such manual labor in the kitchen.  I am all for eating simple, whole, healthy foods on a regular basis.  But every now & then, I love me a shortcut.
Whether it’s using frozen meatballs & putting them in the crockpot with a few cans of deliciousness or stuffing manicotti with a piece of string cheese vs. laboring to scoop in a mound of ricotta that my husband won’t touch with a ten-foot pole, count me in.
Here are a couple of my favorite shortcut recipes.
Easy-To-Stuff Manicotti
1 box of manicotti pasta shells
1 lb. ground beef or Italian sausage
1 jar pasta sauce
1 pkg string cheese
1 ½ C shredded mozzarella cheese
Boil pasta as directed on box.  Drain & let cool on a piece of waxed paper.  Brown beef or sausage; add sauce.  Spread ½ the sauce mixture in a 9×13 pan.  Stuff pasta shells with one piece of string cheese each & lay on top of the sauce in the pan.  Spread the remaining sauce over the pasta shells. Sprinkle cheese on top.  Cover & bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.  Uncover & bake for 10 minutes or until cheese is melted.
Crockpot Meatballs  (Thank you new sister, Jess, & the Snyder family for this amazing recipe!)
1 bag frozen homestyle meatballs
2 cans golden mushroom soup
1 can tomatoes (I use petite diced)
¼ C soy sauce
¼ C cider vinegar
¼ C brown sugar
Mix last 3 ingredients together; pour over other ingredients in crockpot & stir well.  Cook on high for 2 hrs & low for 2-ish.  Serve over cooked rice. (Could substitute cube or round steak for Salisbury Steak instead of the meatballs.)  Double for a large crowd.  (We like it extra saucey, but if you don’t, just add more meatballs without anything extra.)
Crockpot Potato Soup
1 bag frozen cubed hashbrowns (not shredded)
1 can cream soup (mushroom, chicken or celery)
8 oz cream cheese, softened
½ lb. cooked crumbled bacon or ham
3 14.5 oz. cans chicken broth
1/3 C chopped onion (or onion flakes)
Mix together in crockpot (with liner).  Cook on low 8-10 hrs / high for 4-5 hrs.
Creamy Chicken & Wild Rice Soup
Bear Creek Creamy Wild Rice soup mix
Cooked, cubed chicken breast (can buy in packages at store, already cooked & cubed)
Line crockpot with liner.  Add soup mix & amount of water as directed on soup mix package.  Stir well.  Add chicken.  Cook on high for 4 hours.  Stir well. 

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