Taco Bowls

Taco bowls are a simple dinner and can suit a variety of dietary needs

Avocado cut in half on a counterI know, I know, what’s with all the bowls? Everything is being made into a bowl! But I’m telling you, bowls make dinner better! From gluten free, dairy free mostly vegan me, to my dairy loving son, and my carnivorous daughter, we have a wide range of palates to satisfy… and bowls do the trick!

You can switch up ingredients to meet any dietary challenge. Autoimmune Protocol? No problem, just fill your bowl with green leafies, and top with meat (skip the taco seasoning or make an AIP version), olives, onions, and avocado. Sprinkle it all with some freshly squeezed lime juice and a little salt, and you are AIP-friendly! Vegan? Leave out the meat and dairy and check your chips. Keto? I really don’t know exactly what you all do… Skip the carbs and eat the veggies and ALL the fats? You get the idea. Bowls are gloriously flexible.

Taco bowls are really just trendy taco salad, but they are a favorite in our home. Just put each ingredient in its own serving dish and let everyone build their individual bowl to suit!

Here are the ingredients I include:

1 lb. ground beef, browned and seasoned with homemade taco seasoning

1-2 cans of black beans (depending how many bean eaters I am having around the table) …dried beans that have been cooked, seasoned, and frozen also work great! If I’m on top of things, I make a big batch in the InstantPot to freeze in smaller amounts. Cans happen when I’m not planning ahead so well.

Lettuce of your choosing (I like red leaf lettuce or baby spinach)

Chopped tomatoes

Chopped avocado with some fresh lime juice

Sliced black olives

Frozen corn, thawed, or canned corn

Shredded cheddar or a Mexican blend of shredded cheese

Chopped green onions

Plain yogurt (our substitute for sour cream)

Salsa of your choosing

Tortilla chips

Hot cooked rice

That’s it! So simple. And everybody’s happy. Taco bowls!

What would you put in your bowl?

So much love,

~April

Simple Blueberry Breakfast Smoothies

A delicious and refreshing start to the morning

(Vegan, Autoimmune protocol friendly)

Close up of blueberries on a wooden table

The weather has been absolutely frigid for several days now… the kind of cold I can’t seem to shake, even in our cozy home. It seeps up through the tile on the floor, and seems to melt lazily in through our windows at night.

These would typically be the days when bowls of hot steel cut oats appear for breakfast at our house, filled with apples, cranberries, pecans, and chia.

(That sounds like some fairy makes these bowls for us, and they float down through the air to our dining table… just give me some wings…)

But for a short time, oats and nuts and seeds are off the table for me, so I’ve been trying to find a tasty alternative to brighten our mornings.

While this smoothie definitely does not help out with the chill (itself being quite cold), it is absolutely delicious, super healthy, and keeps us full for a surprisingly long time.

We are using coconut milk right now, but as soon as I start eating nuts again, almonds or walnuts and water will replace the coconut milk.

Here’s what you’ll need:

2 large leaves organic lacinato “dino” kale, tough center stem removed (I promise, you can’t taste the kale!)

1 organic banana, peeled

2 cups frozen organic blueberries

1 can full fat organic coconut milk

Put all ingredients in the blender, adding water as needed (I usually add about 1/2 – 3/4 of a cup). Blend until smooth and enjoy! This makes plenty for both my husband and I.

What is your favorite healthy breakfast right now?

So much love,

~A

Acceptance and Resistance

Acceptance could be the most important New Year’s resolution for all of us

Close up of praying mantis on wood siding

Let’s talk about acceptance and resistance, shall we? And let’s get real. Today I hurt all over… my left elbow, my back, my neck, my right ankle and foot, my knees, my head, my hands, my abdomen. My hands and arms tingled and felt numb. I was home with my littlest guy who wanted to jump on me, slide down my legs, hang on my arms, but everywhere he touched hurt.

It hurt my body to play with my baby.

And I have not done very well at acceptance. Nope. I have resisted this bullishly for months, and today was prime resistance material. In fact, by this evening I was angry. I do not want this to be a real thing. I do not want to feel this way. I completely sabotaged my healing diet by eating Christmas candies and cookies filled with sugar and gluten.  I drank a rum and Coke.  It is New Year’s Eve and I want some semblance of “normal.”

And as I brushed my teeth, grumbling about the unfairness of life, melting into my own pity party like it’s its own New Year’s celebration, Eckart Tolle’s words came loudly into my mind… “whatever the present moment contains, accept it as though you had chosen it…”

Chosen it?!?? What would it look like if I had chosen this? Why in the world would I have chosen this???

And then, quietly, like a silent tidal wave, I was overwhelmed once again with a realization (because I simply don’t catch on quickly, my friends, not at all)… this whole thing is an invitation to take care of myself like I never have before. To notice my body, give it what it needs, move it, feed it, sit it only on soft seats, and give it many pillows. It is a chance unlike any other to nurture myself.

I know that self-care is important as a caregiver. I have tried to practice good self-care for many years. But this thing takes it up a notch… or ten. This thing is demanding my attention and forcing my focus on deep self-care. I cannot be the caregiver my son needs for the rest of my life if I don’t take care of myself now, figure out this body of mine, and give it what it needs.

So, this year, my New Year’s resolution looks a little different. This year, my goals are not big in the traditional sense. This year my goal is to fully accept this thing… to listen to and care for this one body of mine.

We all have ways in which we resist ourselves, turning away from our deepest needs as if they aren’t real. For some of us, it is the need for emotional connection that scares us most. For some of us, our need for food gets ignored. We kick against our needs as if somehow being human is itself wrong or a nuisance. We work harder, longer, faster, and get exhausted, but we can’t pause long enough to really refuel. We resist being the vulnerable, limited beings we all are.

But somehow it is really those very vulnerabilities and limitations that we need. We need the humility. We need the realization of how much we need others. We need the unity of understanding how connected we all are. We need the openness, kindness, and compassion these things can grow in us.

We need acceptance.

Acceptance of ourselves in all of our glorious complexity. Acceptance of our weaknesses and the things that make us tender. Acceptance of others, in all of their complexity, glory, and flaws.

Tonight we celebrate the end of a year and the beginning of a new one. Whatever the past year has held, it is closing. We are being given a fresh start, a chance to try new things, to begin again.

We have an opportunity to practice acceptance rather than resistance. To move peacefully instead of reactively.

How do you want to begin again? In what ways do you need to accept yourself and your needs? Who or what motivates you to do that well?

So much love,

~A

Vegan Lentil Masala

Close up of orange and yellow carrots and a bunch of tomatoes on a table

(GF, oil free, sugar free)

This recipe is adapted from Red Lentil Masala with Spinach from naturallyella.com

This is a meal I would make weekly. It is SO good! SO GOOD. The key is pinch of yum’s masala paste, found here: pinchofyum.com/life-changing-30-minute-masala-sauce

I always have some of this masala paste in the freezer to make cauliflower masala, veggie tikka masala, pinch of yum’s vegetarian meatballs, and before I started the vegan thing, chicken tikka masala. Lindsay was not exaggerating when she called this “life-changing.”

Here’s what you’ll need:

1 “puck” frozen masala paste (about 1/3C.)

1 small red onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup diced tomatoes

1 cup chopped carrots

1/2 cup lentils

1 cup vegetable broth

1/2-1 teaspoon salt

2 cups fresh spinach, packed

Hot rice

Combine all except coconut milk and spinach (and rice, of course) together in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Stirring occasionally, bring to a boil, then add coconut milk, reduce heat, and simmer at least until lentils are soft. Turning down to low and allowing it to sit on the stove for a while is even better. About 30 minutes before serving, cook rice in a separate pan. A few minutes before serving, add spinach to the masala, allowing it to wilt, and stirring to incorporate.

This recipe doubles well and tastes even better the next day!

So much love,

~A

Pasta Bowls!

Close up of tri-color rotini pasta

This has been a fun meal my whole family enjoys. Again, with the bowls. Seriously. Flexible, simple meals free of complaining.

This particular bowl is highly adaptable… choose your pasta: regular, gluten-free, egg, shapes… You can do Alfredo bowls or Marinara bowls, or olive oil and herb bowls, or offer all of those as toppings.

I like to sauté some mushrooms, onions, spinach, shrimp, and fresh tomatoes all separately and with some minced garlic for additional toppings. You can offer some grated Parmesan cheese as well, or even try a vegan Parmesan option.

Serve this with a fresh green salad, maybe some French bread, and just about any human could sit down at your dinner table and find a way to enjoy filling their belly.

Each of the following components can be placed in a serving dish for folks to fill their own bowls. As you fill serving dishes, they can be placed in the oven to keep warm as you sauté the next ingredient. Amounts will vary based on the number of people you want to serve and what those people love to eat. The good news is that leftover bowls are great for work lunches the next day, so when in doubt, make more 🙂

Components of Pasta Bowls:

Pasta of your choice, cooked, drizzled with a bit of olive oil, and stirred through to keep the sticking to a minimum

Alfredo Sauce (recipe below)

Marinara Sauce (recipe below)

Olive oil with oregano, basil, thyme, salt, and pepper (I don’t actually measure here… you do you)

Shiitake, cremini, or baby bella mushrooms, sautéed with minced garlic

Onions, chopped or sliced and sautéed (or, if you have time, caramelized!)

Baby spinach sautéed with minced garlic

Fresh tomatoes, chopped and sautéed with minced garlic

Shrimp sautéed with mince garlic

Grated Parmesan cheese

Vegan Parmesan cheese (recipe below)

For the Alfredo sauce:

In saucepan, melt 4T (1/2 stick) of butter over medium heat. Stir in 1 can of condensed milk and 1/2C. Parmesan cheese, continuing to stir until cheese is melty. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Note: if you prefer Alfredo sauce that doesn’t separate, add a couple tablespoons (or up to 1/4C.) of flour… simply place flour in the saucepan at the beginning and stir to combine it with the melting butter.

For the Marinara Sauce:

18oz. tomato paste

4-6C. water

2tsp. of each, basil, oregano, and parsley

1tsp. of each, salt and sugar

1/2tsp. thyme

1/4tsp. pepper

1 bay leaf

1/4C. red wine (optional)

Combine all together. This can sit all day on low on the stove or in a crockpot. Taste and season more as desired.

For the vegan Parmesan:

(From Minimalist Baker — http://www.minimalistbaker.com)

Place 3/4C. cashews, 3T. nutritional yeast, 3/4tsp. salt, and 1/4tsp. garlic powder in food processor and process until everything is a fine meal. Store in refrigerator to maintain freshness.

I hope you and your family enjoy pasta bowls as much as we do!

So much love,

~A

The Human Garbage Disposal

Caregiving is complex, both in the reward it offers and in the toll it exacts

Plate of spaghetti Alfredo with Parmesan sprinkled on top

Several years ago I called myself the human garbage disposal… it was sort of in jest, but like all jokes, had a pretty solid thread of truth.

Two of my kids were quite little and not only did I rarely have a moment to myself, I frequently didn’t have time to sit down and eat. I was busy preparing and serving food, cutting it up, and helping my kids eat, only to become the referee, or the bath-giver, or the naptime rocker almost immediately after they were done. When I had a chance to eat, it was what I could grab easily, and since I hate wasting food, it was most often the things my kids hadn’t eaten.

The result was a pretty sad food existence… Not only was I not eating the things I wanted, I had diversely picky eaters dictating the food I prepared.

Don’t get me wrong, I have thoroughly enjoyed a good homemade mac’n’cheese in my day, but we all know that a steady diet of refined carbs and dairy does not a happy body make.

Through the years I have frequently resolved to treat my body better by eating more veggies, less sugar, and only whole grains, but my resolutions have consistently failed in the face of uneaten food that I can’t bear to throw out (hello, awful-day-old-cookies-sitting-out-in-the-open-on-the-cooling-rack-getting-stale). But with the birth of my youngest son a couple years ago, my body decided to stage a sit-in and get my attention.

It started in my hands as I was driving long distances for work: sharp pain around my thumbs. Then numbness and tingling in my hands and up my arms. Then in my feet and legs. My body needed my attention.

“A whole-foods plant-based diet is great,” my doctor said, “try to reduce your stress and get some exercise as well. Yoga would be good.”

So while my doctor is running tests, I am trying to eat better. I cook oil-free vegan food every chance I get and research kid-friendly options for my picky eaters. I throw away more things that they aren’t finishing, and have just about eliminated added sugars and caffeine.

The food part of taking care of my body is going a whole lot better. But the exercise? Not so much.

When does one fit such a thing in? 4am seemed like my best bet. By 5am my middle son is almost always awake. My youngest is a natural night owl, so by the time we outlast him with the bedtime routine I am a virtual zombie, unable to walk up stairs let alone get into some at-home exercise routine from YouTube.

Getting up ridiculously early didn’t work. My body was also telling me it needed sleep, the rarest gem in my life for over a decade. My next idea was to exercise during my toddler’s naps on the days I was home. That went well for about two weeks.

Last Saturday I sat on the couch with my husband and started to cry. “What is the balance?” I asked, tears streaming down my face. “How do I balance taking care of everyone else and taking care of myself?”

Like the good man he is, he listened. He heard the whole thing… all the reasons why cooking is so hard and exercising is even harder… all the struggles to take care of our family and not slowly kill myself in the process.

You know there’s some octopus (maybe all octopuses??) who lays her eggs and spends all she has left nurturing them into being. Then she dies.

Melodramatic me feels like that octopus sometimes… like raising these kids is going to take everything I’ve got. They’ll grow up, move out, and I’ll be dead.

Totally over the top. Untrue.

Maybe.

The honest truth is raising kids is hard. Special needs ups the ante. How do we, as parents, do this well and not die trying? Even better, how do we truly, deeply enjoy the life we are living? I want to thrive!!

But there are many times when taking care of ourselves is in direct opposition to taking care of another. How do we manage that? Is there such a thing as balance?

Caregiving is complex, both in the rewards it offers and in the toll it exacts.

So I come back to breath. I come back to this moment. Today I ate wonderful, healthy vegetables. Today I fit in exercise by playing with my toddler. Today my kids enjoyed their food and, most importantly, they enjoyed being with their mama.

It is not as simple as putting the oxygen mask on my own face first, nor is it as sad as being a human garbage disposal. It is a dance… a moving, flowing creativity of caring for myself as I care for my babies, constantly changing and growing with each other. Rough patches and false starts interwoven with deep connection and overflowing hearts.

We may not be able to make a fixed plan that works like a charm, but we can be attentive to ourselves and our loved ones in each moment and discover new ways for everyone to have all that they need.

So much love,

~A

Spinach and Self-Care

True self-care begins with kindness and compassion for ourselves

My toddler LOVES candy.  Not just a little bit.  Like, if I would let him, he would eat candy exclusively.  I’m not even sure he would get sick.  He would be the one child who can eat mounds of sugar in every form and feel the best.  And even if he wasn’t that child, he would sure like me to let him try.

Sadly enough for him, I set limits to his inhalation of all things sweet.  We talk about healthy food, and what foods are actually healthy.  We talk about how our bodies need healthy food to grow and be strong.  We talk about how delicious healthy food is at meals and snacks all day long.  Every day.

And this has gotten me thinking… healthy eating is really an act of self-care.

I don’t know about you, but when I hear people talking about self-care, it usually goes something like this, “Wine and Netflix in my pjs!  Self-care night!”  And just like my son with candy, if given the opportunity, I would not turn down a night of wine and Netflix in pjs (though I might modify the wine part to some decadent chocolate dessert… the apple really doesn’t fall far from the tree, my friends).

And while this sounds like a great night, the unfortunate news is that’s not actually self-care.

I know. Bummer.

Wine (or chocolate truffle cheesecake, if you will) and Netflix are like our adult version of all the candy.  We like it, we might even crave it, it might be difficult to stop, but it’s not helping us.  It’s not self-care.  In fact, if we allowed ourselves to have wine (or chocolate lava cake) and Netflix every night, we would not be healthier.  We would not feel better.  Ultimately, we would feel a great deal worse.  With time, our bodies would feel the effects of our sedentary consumption and not work as well.  Our souls would be uncomfortable, our emotions low.

Self-care isn’t about what feels good in the moment (like fudgy mocha brownies) and eventually makes us sick.  True self-care is about doing things for ourselves that promote our emotional, physical, spiritual, and mental health.

True self-care begins with kindness and compassion for ourselves.

When we are kind to our bodies by feeding ourselves nourishing food, we are practicing self-care.

Think about that for a moment…  How much easier does self-care become when it is embedded in the very food we eat?  Have some berry-banana oatmeal for breakfast and practice self-care!  Have some carrots and hummus as a mid-morning snack.  Self-care!  Have a roasted fall vegetable salad with maple-tahini dressing for lunch.  Self-care!  An apple.  Self-care!  Spinach.  Self-care!

Kindness allows me to pay attention to my body, noticing the foods that make me feel good (even long after they are consumed), and choosing those over the foods that make me feel sick, sluggish, or give me headaches.  Kindness also offers me grace when I do choose chocolate peanut butter pie, and it allows me to smile at myself instead of berate myself for my choice.

Kindness extends to others as well, helping my toddler enjoy delicious healthy food, and also allowing him to have some candy sometimes, because he is human, just like me.

It doesn’t have to be complicated, and it certainly shouldn’t be about deprivation, but when we shift our perspective and think about being kind to ourselves with our food choices, we open up a whole world of small things that add up to big time self-care, nourishing our whole selves for long-term wellness.

In what ways can you offer yourself kindness through nourishment today?

So much love,

~A

Spinach and Self-Care

My toddler LOVES candy.  Not just a little bit.  Like, if I would let him, he would eat candy exclusively.  I’m not even sure he would get sick.  He would be the one child who can eat mounds of sugar in every form and feel the best.  And even if he wasn’t that child, he would sure like me to let him try.

Sadly enough for him, I set limits to his inhalation of all things sweet.  We talk about healthy food, and what foods are actually healthy.  We talk about how our bodies need healthy food to grow and be strong.  We talk about how delicious healthy food is at meals and snacks all day long.  Every day.

And this has gotten me thinking… healthy eating is really an act of self-care.

I don’t know about you, but when I hear people talking about self-care, it usually goes something like this, “Wine and Netflix in my pjs!  Self-care night!”  And just like my son with candy, if given the opportunity, I would not turn down a night of wine and Netflix in pjs (though I might modify the wine part to some decadent chocolate dessert… the apple really doesn’t fall far from the tree, my friends).

And while this sounds like a great night, the unfortunate news is that’s not actually self-care.

I know. Bummer.

Wine (or chocolate truffle cheesecake, if you will) and Netflix are like our adult version of all the candy.  We like it, we might even crave it, it might be difficult to stop, but it’s not helping us.  It’s not self-care.  In fact, if we allowed ourselves to have wine (or chocolate lava cake) and Netflix every night, we would not be healthier.  We would not feel better.  Ultimately, we would feel a great deal worse.  With time, our bodies would feel the effects of our sedentary consumption and not work as well.  Our souls would be uncomfortable, our emotions low.

Self-care isn’t about what feels good in the moment (like fudgy mocha brownies) and eventually makes us sick.  True self-care is about doing things for ourselves that promote our emotional, physical, spiritual, and mental health.

True self-care begins with kindness and compassion for ourselves.

When we are kind to our bodies by feeding ourselves nourishing food, we are practicing self-care.

Think about that for a moment…  How much easier does self-care become when it is embedded in the very food we eat?  Have some berry-banana oatmeal for breakfast and practice self-care!  Have some carrots and hummus as a mid-morning snack.  Self-care!  Have a roasted fall vegetable salad with maple-tahini dressing for lunch.  Self-care!  An apple.  Self-care!  Spinach.  Self-care!

Kindness allows me to pay attention to my body, noticing the foods that make me feel good (even long after they are consumed), and choosing those over the foods that make me feel sick, sluggish, or give me headaches.  Kindness also offers me grace when I do choose chocolate peanut butter pie, and it allows me to smile at myself instead of berate myself for my choice.

Kindness extends to others as well, helping my toddler enjoy delicious healthy food, and also allowing him to have some candy sometimes, because he is human, just like me.

It doesn’t have to be complicated, and it certainly shouldn’t be about deprivation, but when we shift our perspective and think about being kind to ourselves with our food choices, we open up a whole world of small things that add up to big time self-care, nourishing our whole selves for long-term wellness.

In what ways can you offer yourself kindness through nourishment today?

So much love,

April