comfort food.

This past Tuesday, Preston rolled out of bed at 7:30 a.m., kissed me goodbye, and went to campus for his basketball class. I woke up around 8:20 to find a text from the UT alert system on my phone saying that an armed subject was at the library, right across the gym where he was. I sent him a text but knew he wouldn’t get it until he got out of class.

Twenty minutes later, I got another text saying not to come to school. Immediately I turned on the news. At the time, no one knew much, but they did know that someone had opened fire on campus, running down 21st street with an AK-47, and gone into the library. I called my mom in a panic. For the next hour, I watched the news and tried to reach Preston. As I was dialing his mom’s number to let her know, he called me.

We found out later that the shooter’s name was Colton Tooley. He committed suicide in the library, but there were no other casualties. Though he fired shots, it was clear that he didn’t intend to shoot anyone.

I know this is a bit heavy for a post on this blog, but before I am a foodie, I am a human being with real feelings (and, of course, a Texas Longhorn). And the knowledge that people I love, including my boyfriend and one of my best friends, were in danger cut me to the core. Though it shouldn’t take a student’s alarming suicide to wake me up and realize that I appreciate my loved ones more, it did.

That evening, all I wanted to do was rest and eat comfort food. So tonight, I made (and vegetarianized) a favorite from my childhood. Mom’s been cooking it for as long as I remember, and it was my brothers’, sister’s, and my favorite food of all time. Like all good food should, this dish makes me happy. This is food I want to share with people I love, because it was shared to me by someone who loved me very much.

It’s not terribly healthy, but it’s warm, delicious, and comforting. Eat it with family.

Vegetarian Mexican Stuffed Shells, adapted from my mom

20 jumbo pasta shells
2 1/2 c. TVP (textured vegetable protein – find it in your bulk aisle)
8 oz. Picante sauce
8 oz. tomato sauce
1/2 cup water
1 can french-fried onions
1 cup grated Monterrey Jack cheese

Mix the TVP with an equal amount of water; let sit for 20 minutes. Mix picante, tomato sauce, and water together. Add to TVP: 1/2 cup of sauce mixture, 1/2 cup cheese, and 1/2 can of french-fried onions. Boil pasta shells according to directions on box, then drain. Pour 1/2 of sauce in 9 X 13 baking dish. Fill shells with meat mixture and arrange in dish. Pour remaining sauce over shells, cover dish with foil, and bake 30 minutes at 350. Remove foil, sprinkle remaining cheese and french-fried onions over shells and return to oven (uncovered) for 5 more minutes. (To make it with meat, use 1 lb. cooked ground beef instead of TVP).


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