Tag Archives: Practical Info

Taco Soup (Recipe!)


Taco Soup with toppings. (Food and Photo by Ashley Jones)

The holidays are finally upon us and, if you’re like me, you’re dreaming of your mom’s dressing, your aunt’s pecan pie, and an extra slice of pumpkin pie. However, by the time Christmas comes, most of us are “turkeyed out,” looking for something with a little more flavor. And since it’s turning cold out there, it needs to be nice and warm.

This time of year, the go-to meal in our family is my mother-in-law’s famous Taco Soup. She made it the very first time I went to visit them, and I’ve been making it ever since. Although it’s called a soup, it’s hardy enough to be a chili. The ingredients are simple and inexpensive, it tastes great heated up the next day, and it would keep well in a crockpot if you want to take it to a potluck. Oh, and it’s gluten free. You just can’t lose with the Joneses’ Taco Soup!




  • 1 lb. hamburger meat
  • Onion, chopped
  • 1 can pinto beans
  • 1 can “Ranch Style” pinto beans *
  • 1 can whole kernel corn
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 can Rotel tomatoes with peppers, regular heat
  • 1 package taco seasoning mix, mild or regular heat
  • 1 package Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing mix


  • Fritos corn chips
  • Shredded cheese
  • Sour cream

* Ranch Style beans are seasoned pinto beans. If you can’t find them in your grocery store, just use two cans of regular pinto beans.



Brown the hamburger meat with some of the onion and taco mix. In a large pot, add the remaining soup ingredients to the hamburger and simmer until ready (about 30 minutes). You may want to add a little water, but the consistency should be between a soup and chili.

Serve in a nice crock bowl and let each person add their own cheese, sour cream, and Fritos.

Depending on how spicy your ingredients are, this can be a medium to hot dish. Have something cool and sweet ready for dessert.


Helpful Hint

Did you know you can freeze soup in Mason jars? Just leave about an inch at the top for the liquid to expand and use a regular lid. Wait for the soup to cool before placing in the freezer, and freeze the jar upright.

Defrost the jar in the fridge or in your lunch bag if you’re at work. You can even heat the jar in the microwave, but be sure to defrost it and remove the lid first.

WARNING: A rapid temperature change can cause any glass container to shatter. This is why it’s important to defrost the jar before heating it in the microwave. Similarly, you shouldn’t place hot glass (like a coffee pot) in cold water.

Healthy Living


Healthy Living

I’ve always been rather slender. From high school to my late twenties, I took that as a license to eat whatever I wanted – hamburgers, fries, pizza – you name it, I ate it.

Like most college students, I tried to balance a day job with nights filled with homework, and years full of one change after another. It wasn’t surprising that I was tired much of the time, but I became concerned when the fatigue outweighed my energy and I began to have persistent pain in my arms and legs.

God’s Intervention

Fortunately, God gave me the strength to persevere, culminating in a graduate degree and a professional career. I then met Robby, and we were married in 2011. But just as everything was coming together on a personal level, my health continued to deteriorate. Doctors kept pushing medicine, but I wasn’t able to take any of it, and I didn’t feel it was right for me, anyway.

Once again, God intervened and led me to a chiropractor in town who specializes in nutritional care. It was there that I learned that I am…drum roll please…sensitive to wheat gluten and sugar! I know, it seems ridiculous, doesn’t it? It turned out that my health problems were a result of my body trying to process food that it simply wasn’t able to handle. All those years of eating whatever I wanted had caught up with me.

The Decision

For me, it was a no-brainer to stop eating those things that were harmful. I felt like a new person within three days of avoiding gluten, and even better when I reduced my sugar intake, eventually switching out my sweet tea to unsweet. I now have more energy and better overall health than I’ve ever had. I’ve made a lifelong decision to eat those foods that are healthful and to avoid those that harm me – a decision I reaffirm every time I take a bite.

You may be wondering how Robby has taken all of this. Well, it turned out he’s sensitive to gluten, as well, though not to the same extent as I am. Early on, he offered to eat whatever I ate, helping us to avoid preparing two different meals every night. Sometimes he reaches for a “glutinous” dessert, but he readily agrees that our new diet has benefitted his health as well as mine.

As Robby and I have shared our story with folks, we’ve been amazed how many people tell us they have experienced something similar. Now, don’t get me wrong; I don’t believe wheat is “bad.” In fact, the Bible tells us God made it (along with everything else), and the New Testament records Jesus and His disciples eating it. However, there are a lot of studies out there that indicate the wheat varieties readily available to us here in the US are not the same as they were thousands, or even hundreds, of years ago. Add to that the impact of modern pesticides, and we’ve got a food product that many of our bodies can’t process easily. 

Start Off Right

I’m telling you all of this to encourage you to be healthy, regardless of where you are in life.

If you’re healthy now, good! But it takes effort to stay that way. Many healthy people still consider themselves under some kind of stress, whether it’s starting a new semester, dealing with family issues, or staying up nights with a new baby. Stress in your life means stress in your body.

The first thing we want to do when we’re stressed is to skimp on regular, nutritious meals. We also head for the pastries and pastas because they give us a quick (and cheap) sugar rush. However, I caution you against this “just fill me up now” mentality.

Instead, plan ahead so you have good foods available to grab in a rush. I keep gluten-free Kashi or Kind bars in my purse at all times. See below for other snack suggestions.

Also, stop and think about the messages your body is sending you. Do you get sick or sluggish after eating certain foods or at certain times of the day? Does your nose run or your sinuses drain after eating? Are you able to eliminate waste easily every day?

If you have any concerns, be your own advocate! Western medical doctors aren’t trained in nutrition. (I know, it’s crazy but it’s true!) Do your own research of nutritional topics from various resources so you can formulate your own opinions and decide what kind of diet works best for you. Be sure to take into consideration your personal taste, habits, budget, and commitment. And, if one is available to you, see someone trained in nutrition for more information and support.

(Disclaimer: I am a student of the Bible, not a doctor. My testimony is real, but my medical degree is not.)

Scales don’t tell the whole story. (Photo by Ashley Jones)

Scales don’t tell the whole story. (Photo by Ashley Jones)

Don’t Give Up

Second, if you’re dealing with health issues now, take heart! I believe my story is proof that God does work miracles.

Yes, sometimes God heals in an instant – and don’t we all want that kind? But often He calls upon His people to help one another, to act as a doctor or a counselor for someone else. How gracious is God that He would allow us to be the method to carry out his healing!

In my case, my doctor and his partner are both wonderful Christians, and God has used them to lead me down a healthy path so I could be well. This has enabled me to live a whole life; have a full, happy marriage; and have enough energy to write this little blog to you after working all day at the office.

Keep praying for your healing, and be open to whatever method God may use to get you there. No matter how the healing comes, we give God the glory!

Food Suggestions

From time to time, I’ll post some gluten-free recipes here that you might find useful. In the meantime, here’s a short list of some of the basics Robby and I eat during the week (and we love all of them!):

  • Eggs, bacon or sausage, and a bit of fruit for breakfast
  • Stir fry on rice (we like it with turkey kielbasa)
  • Chicken and yellow rice with black beans (one of my favs!)
  • Meatloaf and mashed potatoes (using gluten-free bread crumbs in the meatloaf)
  • Baked fish, especially wild-caught salmon
  • Beef or pork pot roast with veggies
  • Taco salad (see my blog Serving Taco Salads for the recipe)
  • Taco soup
  • Sausage and bean soup
  • Leftovers for lunch (There ain’t nothing wrong with that!)

For a morning snack, I like Greek yogurt with sunflower seeds. My 3-o’clock “gotta stay awake” snack is usually apples with cheese and gluten-free crackers or almond butter. The key is to include a protein with each meal, especially since gluten-free flours may spike the blood sugar more than wheat flour. However, when I’m on the run I’ll grab a Kind snack bar made of fruit and nuts or a Kashi bar made of popped rice and chocolate.

Resource Suggestions

Gut and Psychology Symptom introduces the GAPS diet. This was more extreme than even I needed, but it’s a great background resource and helps to explain the various functions of the body and why certain foods might trigger a negative response. By Natasha Campbell-McBride, MD of neurology and nutrition.

Fiber Menace explains the author’s theory about how products with supplemental or man-made fiber cause dysfunctions and diseases of the gut. I’ve had my gall bladder removed, so I have some experience with this myself. By Konstantin Monastyrsky.

Scripture References

1 Corinthians 6:19-20, NAS  Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.

James 5:16, NAS  Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.

Top 4 Things Your Interviewer Does NOT Want To See

Getting ready for an interview: black suit, pearls, and black heels.Classic and pretty. (Photo by Ashley Jones, 2015.)

Getting ready for an interview: black suit, pearls, and black heels.Classic and pretty. (Photo by Ashley Jones, 2015.)

Top 4 Things Your Interviewer Does NOT Want to See

During an interview, the people interviewing you will ask a lot of personal, detailed questions. However, there are really three primary things they want to know before offering you the job:

  1. That you are going to show up on time, ready to work.
  2. That you are going to do the job, and do it well.
  3. That you can handle yourself around customers and other employees.

There are only so many questions an interviewer can ask, so they have to rely heavily on their gut feelings. The way you dress and carry yourself tell the interviewer a lot about you. They don’t need to know that you’re a weekend dare devil, or the life of the party, so downplay those characteristics by dressing more modestly. It’s not about lying; it’s about not distracting the interviewer from what you really want them to see – you.

Here are the top 4 things the person interviewing you does NOT want to see…

1. Too much skin

  • Remember the dress code from middle school? No skirts above your fingertips.
  • No low-cut blouses, meaning no cleavage at all.
  • Nothing with cut-outs, such as an open back (even if it’s covered with see-through material).
  • No open-toed sandals, even if they have a heel.

2. Anything too revealing

  • Don’t wear anything see-through. If you’re not sure, wear a proper tank-top, camisole, or slip underneath or find something else to wear.
  • Don’t wear anything tight, especially leggings. If you’re not sure if it’s tight, it’s tight. Find something else.

3. Anything too distracting

  • Avoid extremes, such as earrings as big as bangle bracelets or dark, evening-style makeup.
  • Don’t wear anything you think makes you look “sexy,” such as thigh-high boots or 4-inch stilettos.
  • Animal prints can give off the wrong vibe, so avoid them, too.
  • Hide your tattoos. Many businesses don’t allow them to be visible in the workplace.

4. Anything too casual

  • Don’t wear the clothes you throw on to run to the store. That means no jeans or shorts, even the ones with matching blazers.
  • No casual shoes, such as tennis shoes, deck shoes, or – especially – flip flops or sandals.
  • Nothing with writing on it, especially advertisements or large logos.

Remember, this is about putting your best foot forward. Let the interviewer see all those great qualities that will help you be an asset to their business. Good luck!

What to Wear to an Interview


What to Wear to an Interview

It sounds corny, but “dressing for success” really works! I actually nailed a good job once solely because I dressed up. I had on a nice pant suit when I applied in person at a department store. One of the managers saw me turn in my application and raced after me to the elevator. She began to tell me how her sales area paid commission, and I realized she was pitching to me! She asked my name, went back and pulled my resume from the pile (which they’re not supposed to do), and then offered me the position. Later, she told me she wanted me on her team because I looked like a go-getter. I eventually turned that job into a secretary position for the same store, which I did (and loved!) for over a year.

Last week, we looked at how important interviews are personally and professionally. This week, we’re going to start with the obvious – what to wear on a job interview.

First, let me say that it doesn’t matter what the actual dress code is for the job you are applying for. Your main goal is to put your best foot forward. You’re essentially selling yourself, so make it good, whether the job is at Lowe’s or Wal-Mart.

The basics for GUYS:
A simple dark suit, button-down shirt, and a simple coordinating tie (no funny stuff!). The shoe color should match the belt. No matter how cool it is, do NOT wear Adidas shoes with your suit. I shouldn’t have to say this, but jeans are utterly unacceptable.

The basics for GALS:
A simple dark suit is a must, whether it’s a pant suit or a skirt suit with a blazer. Either a button-down shirt or a simple blouse is fine, but it shouldn’t be distracting or low-cut. If you wear a skirt, be sure to wear pantyhose and a slip (yes, seriously!). Shoes should be simple and closed-toed, not too high or too flashy. Jewelry is fine, whatever goes with the outfit.

Hair should be well-kept. That doesn’t mean it needs to be pulled back, but that wind-swept beach look isn’t going to cut it. Wear a little makeup to show you care, but don’t try to look like you work at the MAC counter (unless you’re applying for the MAC counter).

Yes, you want to be distinctive, so a pop of color or a unique necklace is fine. However, the key here is to keep it simple. You want the spotlight on you – your smile, your energy, your confidence.

Next week, I’ll share a funny list of things NOT to wear to an interview (or to work in general, for that matter).

After being interviewed all day at a writers conference, I enjoyed spending time with new friends at a banquet. This is author Kristen Hogrefe who taught one of the classes.

After being interviewed all day at a writers conference, I enjoyed spending time with new friends at a banquet. This is author Kristen Hogrefe who taught one of the classes.

Intro To Interviews


I don’t know about you, but there’s rarely a week that goes by that I don’t learn something new that I wish I had learned in high school. I won’t go into the state of our public education system, but I’m going to assume you feel the same way.

Instead of bemoaning the state of affairs, though, I’ve decided to do something about it. I have a Masters degree, a professional designation, and over a decade working in the business / insurance industry, and I’m going to use all of it to drop some knowledge on you.

One of the most important things for anyone to learn is how to ace……the dreaded interview. I always figured that these were so few and far between that I could basically cram for it like a history test, get the awesome job, and be done with it already. Unfortunately, that couldn’t be farther from the truth! I’ve put some thought into this, and I’ve realized that most memorable moments in life involve an interview of one kind or another. For example:

· When you apply for college, especially for Ivy League schools, you’ll need to write a paper and sell yourself, telling them why they need you at their school. If you pledge a Greek house (fraternity or sorority), they’ll put you through a next-level kind of interview process.

· Of course, when you apply for a job, you’ll need to interview. However, after you get the job, you’ll eventually want to get more out of it, like a better position or more pay. To get that, you’ll need to take on more responsibility. You’ll need to ask for things, such as permission to attend an out-of-state conference or to take continuing education courses, and you’ll have to explain why they should spend more money on you.

· Your actual job may involve interviewing people – mine does! I regularly ask directors and VPs about their projects and initiatives and look for risks that could keep them from achieving their goals.

· As an adult, you end up having to interview people you want to hire, like contractors, lawn care workers, even hair stylists and doctors.

· Even first dates are like interviews – but hopefully more fun! (If all goes well, you’ll have the future-mother-in-law interview. Good luck with that one.)

You’ll also continue to be interviewed by other people. A couple weeks ago, I sat down with six different agents, editors, and authors, pitching my book ideas in 15-minute time blocks. Now, those are straight-up interviews!

To me, an interview is an opportunity to advance yourself, whether personally or professionally. Since it’s that important, and we can’t avoid it anyway, we should embrace it and conquer it! In the next couple blogs, we’ll focus on job interviews and look at how you can put your best foot forward to get that job!

After being interviewed all day by editors and agents, I got to meet journalist and best-selling author Todd Starnes. Glad I dressed nice!

After being interviewed all day by editors and agents, I got to meet journalist and best-selling author Todd Starnes. Glad I dressed nice!