Flipped @ Forty – Family

Flipped @ forty family PINTERIST

Photo by mohamed taher 

Anyone want a 3-year old? The one I have is part Tasmanian devil, apparently. That or channeling Linda Blair (Millennials and younger, look that up.). So far this morning (before 8:30) there have been 3 time outs, screaming hysterically because we are going upstairs to play. The torture! Throwing a tantrum in his room because I shut the door until he can calm down then screaming and kicking “I WANT IT OPEN!” He peeks out after being quiet for, literally, ONE SECOND. After which, I tell him to wait a little bit until I come get him. He immediately screeches, you know the one – the glass shattering high pitched shrill one, then attempts to slam the door, unsuccessfully, as it slowly swings back open. Promptly followed by screaming and kicking, “I DONT WANT IT OPEN!!!!”
Fun times at the Mays house. Day drinking is “a thing” right? I may have to try to like wine.

Looking back, the four older kids were SO EASY. The two Littlest Littles, I tell you….I’m noticing more and more grey in my hair. They are all named Ezra and Isaiah. Who thought it would be a good idea to start over at forty?  Me, you say? Well, then.  Some of you need to check your “friend cards” for not warning us at least.

This time around it was supposed to be so much easier.  (Bwahahahaha! The joke’s on us.)

It ain’t easier and it sure ain’t prettier.

So, don’t you dare believe all these moms and dads who post pics of their perfect children and lives…this is the real stuff. The nitty gritty – Calgon take me away – crying in the closet – I need another Xanax – stuff.

Starting over at 42, having already gotten my two oldest children almost to the finish line, I don’t know what I thought it would be like.  We never had the traditional get married, buy a house, have babies timeline. When I was a new mom at 25, I was still in college and working.  We were broke and struggling.  Though I would have loved to have showed up and helped out in my daughter’s class, and gone on field trips and finger-painted in the middle of the day, if Momma didn’t work she didn’t earn any money.  She couldn’t ditch school either.

Those were some lean times.  I feel guilty sometimes that my now 22-year-old got the shaft.  I joke, she grew up with us.  But it’s the truth really.  We had NO IDEA what we were doing and we were doing it alone, without parents nearby. We were flying by the seat of our pants.  Those were the years that if we didn’t donate plasma, we didn’t have gas in the car to get to work to buy the food or pay the rent.  Plasma donations are what made our budget, if you could call it that, work. We would not have made it without it.  But we learned to do a lot with a little.  I could make $20.00 feed us for a week.  Not the most nutritious meals – but it was sustenance and that’s all we needed. We look back to those times and know we could survive just about anything.

And I know that about my daughter too.  I like to think that having grown up with us and struggle with us, has contributed to the vibrant and independent woman she is.  Of course, I still worry about her and I still carry some of that guilt. And because of that, I tend to say “no” far less than I probably should. But that’s normal, right?

My now 16-year old son was born during the time when my husband and I were just starting our careers.  He got to see us achieving, what we perceived as, the American Dream.  The new mortgaged house, in suburbia, two financed cars, we finally got a dog – she was free at least.  His life was much less chaotic.  There was no moving every year or two for cheaper rent.  He is my calmer child.  And that makes sense.  Life was calm then.  For a time.

Then there are the Littles.  We were both 42 when we became parents all over again.  First with Jake and then Aydyn, Ezra and Isaiah – all at the same time.  We had four little ones age three and under.  Three of them in diapers.  We had cribs everywhere. Toys everywhere.  And laundry.  Always laundry.

I like to say it was managed chaos.  It’s still managed chaos.  Some days, it’s much less managed and mostly just chaos.  Even with all the chaos – being a mom all over again in my, now, mid-forties, as opposed to my mid-to-late twenties -it’s quite a different experience.  Certainly, our external circumstances are different.  But I am also different.  WE are different, both as individual parents and as a parental unit.

Our focus has shifted. We are much more “present”.  More confident in who we are as parents.  We do not have the undercurrent of worry anymore. We are more intentional about taking the time to enjoy being parents, a luxury we did not have the first time around.  The benefit of perspective and life experience is pure gold.

That’s not to say we have got it all together.  It’s just different.  I am still awkward.  I’ve never felt I was part of the “super-mom, mommy and me, PTA” crowd.  When I pick up my boys and see all the fit 20-something mom’s in the coordinated active wear, delivered monthly, and messy buns, I feel out of place.  When I am in the check-out line at the grocery store with my boys, I am thankful when they call me “mommy” – ensuring I am not mistaken for  “Grandma.”

My bones and muscles get sore much more quickly.  And It seems really, really unfair to have age-spots appearing and greying hair while my youngest is still in pull-ups.  It should be a rule that can’t happen.  Those things should only happen when your children reach a certain age – no matter how old YOU are.

And then there are the days like today, where all HELL has broken-loose.  (Not H-E-double hockey sticks – but HELL, all caps HELL.) These are the days where I question what business I have being a 47-year old mom of preschoolers.  A day when in the midst of questioning my abilities as a Momma, I’m met with parenting suggestions from someone who does not have children – and it almost sends me over the edge.  She meant well and is a fabulous woman – but it’s comments like hers that underscore my own insecurities as a parent.  Days when I am doing it all wrong.  That something must be wrong with ME, that my kids aren’t the Angels that everyone else’s kids appear to be.

Where there is the slightest fear that I might be raising little serial killers.  It certainly appears that way when the second I am taking a business phone call and have to step out of the room, the two Littlest Littles proceed post-haste to actually attempt to murder each other with their bare hands.

(That’s sarcasm folks.  Don’t get your panties in a bunch. My kids are fabulous and well loved.)

And then….divinely inspired kind words float through the time and space of the Interwebs and my mom-tribe encourages me….  “You are not alone.” “Been there.”  “It will pass.” It’s like fresh air.  Calming my trembling spirit.  I am truly not alone. And we are certainly not the only ones who feel as if they are failing at this parenting gig most days.

Age has given such perspective in so many areas of my life.  In my career, in relationships.  I am so much more forgiving.   Willing to freely share what I know with others.  A desire to reach back and grab as many people as I can on the journey.  So why is it so hard to be that confident as a parent?

We are certainly not perfect.  Not by a long shot.  But there are perfect moments.  When my four-year old climbs up into my bed to give me a hug and squeezes me as hard as he can.  When my seven-year old excitedly shares with me a book he wants to get at the book fair, remembering that I told him it was one of my favorites as a child.  Sitting down for dinner and looking across the table and seeing all of my children together enjoying just being together.  It’s the moments that make all the difference. Oh, how I would love to freeze each and every one of them so I don’t forget them. Forgetfulness….another side-effect of aging (sigh).

And all the other times, in between “the moments”, I am grateful that I have my own tribe of “super-mom’s” on stand-by to reach back and carry me forward.  It almost makes me forget about my age-spots and grey hair.

Love and Prosperity 

Your Girl.FI.day 

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Flipped @ Forty – Flipping the Script on my Career

Flipped @ forty.png

Gosh, when I was 16, forty was Old!  Not just old…but Ooooooooooold.  And here I am, not just forty, but on the upswing to fifty.  At the  time I am writing this, I will be celebrating my 47th birthday next week.  It’s almost incomprehensible to me.  And it makes me appreciate the cliché that, age is just a number.  I get it now.  Like, I really, REALLY get it.  I would never go back to twenty. Or even thirty for that matter.  Because, for me, life really started getting exciting at forty.

But it didn’t begin there.  In fact, in several areas of my life, the beginning of my forties began with a lot of heartache, despair and a feeling that I just didn’t know where or who I was anymore.  I understand why people have mid-life crises. Because that was me.  I didn’t go out a buy a convertible Camaro (Red.  With a back stripe down the hood and a black top with black leather interior – I didn’t get it, but I certainly did think about it an awful lot.) Instead, I got a red convertible Beetle.  The car I dreamed about when I was 16 years old but could never afford. I named her Lola Beatle and she was my mid-life crisis car. Have you gotten yours yet?

In this series of posts, I would like to share with you how I was able to flip the script on my forties.  My hope is that if you are at or near your forties and feel that it’s too late to start –you will realize that your forties do not have to be the beginning of the end, but simply the beginning.

For me, for my family, we started over in three significant areas of our lives in our forties.  We started our family over at forty, we began to really turn our finances around in our mid-forties and I started a new career recently, nearing 47. These were all BIG changes.  Changes many would never make at this stage in life for a lot of reasons, fear, complacency, or simply not knowing how.  Change is hard.  Change is scary.  REALLY really scary sometimes.  But doable.  SO DOABLE.

In this first post, I want to share how I started my career change.  Out of all of the areas of my life this is the one that took the longest.  It was a seven-year journey, full of hills and long, deep and sorrow-filled valleys.   The journey was long, but the moment I knew I needed a career change is vividly clear.

At the time, I had just begun a law partnership with a someone I considered one of my best friends.  Mistake number one.  We were two very different people and, while that was great for a friendship, not so much for business.  We were six months into our partnership and my family was on a short vacation in San Diego.  I was sitting on a beach reading a book and something in the book caused me to recall a negative comment my partner had made to me about our choice to adopt.  In that moment, I knew that I had to leave the partnership.   That our differences in family commitments, personal beliefs and business dynamic were already so far apart, that it was not going to last.  That the sooner we dissolved it, even if painful, the better.

And it WAS painful.  My partner did not understand, though I tried to explain.  She was hurt.  And I get that – I would have been too if the roles were reversed.  She had no idea it was coming.  Sadly, we never recovered.  And even now, it is a loss that still hurts my heart.

At the same time, I began to be dissatisfied with practicing law.  I was in the beginning stages of burnout.  Though I was making a decent income, enjoyed my colleagues and running my own practice immensely – I knew that the end of the runway was coming.  What followed was four years of soul-searching.  Knowing that I needed to find a new career – but unsure of what “that” was.  I combed the internet for careers.  Thought long and hard about what I thought I was good at, what I thought I wanted and I arrived at entering corporate America as an executive.  I was certain I would be successful and if I played my cards right, I would land a position in a company that allowed International travel – which was a huge bonus.

I was accepted into the Executive MBA program at my alma mater, Arizona State University, which had an International component and I began my studies.  It was exhilarating.  I enjoyed being in a learning environment – I thrived engaging with my classmates, many that were already executives and feeling that I belonged.  I had found my place.

The year prior to my entry into the MBA program we adopted our first foster-child.  He was almost two years old when I began the program.  I was in my second month of the program when our world was rocked upside down with the news that my son had two little brothers in foster-care – it was a sucker punch we never saw coming.  CPS wanted us to take them.  It changed everything.  They were 13-months old and a brand-new three-week old baby.  When they asked, there was no hesitation.  Our choice was clear, we had to take the babies.  Our son deserved to know his brothers and they deserved to know him.  The whole adventure of their arrival and departure was one of the most precious and grief-filled periods of my life and too much to go into detail here, this is, after all a post about career-change…(you can read about it, though, if you want to HERE.) but I digress…

Getting the babies meant I had to choose.  And I chose them.  There was no other option.  I could not run my law practice, care for three babies under 2 and also continue pursuing my MBA.  Though the choice was clear, but I was still devastated.  I was SO SURE.  I was SO SURE I had found my path.  I had prayed and prayed for answers and so when I was accepted into the MBA program – I believed that was the answer.  It was not.  That realization was painful, so very painful.

Our lives were consumed with the babies and after the babies left, two more babies came to us by the grace of God.  They ended up being THE answer, but I was still so filled with grief about the loss of Jaycob’s brothers and having to give up on my MBA, that I did not know that my boys were going to lead us to the answer at the time.  (If you are lost about the growth of our family – I know, it IS complicated – start here and read all 6 parts.  It will all make sense.)

It was during that whole tumultuous time that I realized all I wanted was to have more time with my kids.  I missed out on so much with my older two that I knew I wanted it to be different for our little boys.  The quandry was that I was still the bread-winner and our family relied on my income.  The pull to be home with my boys became almost unbearable.  It was then that I began researching how I could both have my practice and be at home.  I applied for a contract that would allow me to largely work from home.  Several months later I was excited to learn I had gotten it.  I was now able to earn the income our family was accustomed to – but also allowed me more time with my children.  It was perfect.  Almost.

We were now at year five of my mid-life career-crisis journey.  By this time, my husband had found a position in San Diego, something that we had dreamed of for years.  We were delighted to also learn that due to his increased income and health benefits, we were in a much better position financially.  And because I was primarily working from home, we were able to relocate to San Diego without a significant decrease in our income.  I continued to work my practice in Phoenix, making the drive between Phoenix and San Diego whenever I needed to.

But we were miserable, not with our life in San Diego – that was near perfect, but with the drain my traveling took on all of us.  I was also at the breaking point.  I was approaching full burn-out and my practice was suffering.  My mental-health was affected.  My children were impacted every time I had to leave.  The travel was straining my marriage.  It was time to do something.

I went back to the drawing board.  I took inventory of my skills and what I wanted out of a career.  Becoming a full-time stay-at-home-mom was not an option, nor a desire if I am 100% honest, though I knew that if I did not figure something out soon – I was not going to be able to make the choice to quit, it would be made for me.  So, I sat again on the beach.  That is MY place. I took mental note of all the things I knew I wanted. I wanted to be my own boss, I wanted a career that I could have unlimited income potential and one that I would not have to spend a fortune going back to school for.

Real Estate!  Becoming a Realtor checked every box for me.  I had briefly been licensed in Phoenix, but had not done much with it.  I knew that I could do it, if I was focused, and cimmitted to treating it as a business. So, I purchased the courses, studied extremely hard and got my license.

I am now six months in to my real estate career and I am seeing it grow every single day.  I am slowly winding down my law practice and anticipate I will be able to retire it after I have completed the handful of cases that remain on my caseload.

I turn 47 next week.  Just a year ago, I saw the end of the runway approaching faster and faster.  I was running out of time and catastrophe was ahead.  Today, I am hopeful.  I am invigorated.  I am excited to grow my real estate business.  I foresee the future we have planned for our kids.  I am home with them and they are thriving.  I am also fulfulled as a working mom, an entrepeunuer.  I get the best of both worlds.  The best ME in both those worlds.  And it’s just the beginning.

If you’re scared.  I know.  Starting over is scary.  Scary hard.  Fo-shizzle!  But – the one thing I learned through this tumultuous journey is this…stand firm.  When your whole world is crumbling around you, and you are full of fear.  Stand firm in it.  Because it will pass.  The fear will subside and it will be replaced with resolve.  And as soon as you find your resolve – then you take action. You are in charge of your life – it is up to you to change it.

Love and Prosperity,

Your GirFIday

Friday Night Under Five – Crockpot Seafood Gumbo-laya

Seafood Gumbolaya PINTEREST

GUMBOLAYA:

Not quite gumbo and not quite jumbalaya….but as tasty and best served over a heaping cup of white Basmati or Jasmine rice.

We made ours without sausage, but I can tell you from past experience, this is one occasion where I almost threw caution to the wind, and added the sausage anyway.  BUT we didn’t – this was seafood only. Don’t get me wrong, it was still incredibly delicious  – just a little twinge of longing for some really good sausage. Of all the meats – I miss pork most.  (wink)

Crock Pot Seafood Gumbo-laya

1/2 onion diced

1 green bell pepper

2 TBS minced garlic

6-8 cups of veggie stock

4 stocks of chopped celery

4-5 diced potatoes

2 1/2 TBS of tomato paste

1 can petite diced tomato

1 TBS paprika

1tsp cumin

1/2 TBS salt

1/2 TBS pepper

1/2 TBS Anthony’s creole seasoning

1-2 bags of uncooked med to large peeled and deveined shrimp

1 bag of scallops

Crab legs/meat

1 TBS flour

4 TBS butter split (Vegan “butter”)

3-4 cups of rice

2 limes

Add all ingredients except shrimp scallops and crab, butter and flour into a crock pot and let cook on low for 5 hours or on high for 3. (If you choose to add sausage it can go in the crock at this point as well.)

Cook your rice. (We use a rice cooker) Once your rice is cooked add the juice of three limes, mix and set aside.

An hour before you are ready to serve, add in the crab.  Then heat 2 TBS of butter on medium heat and put scallops in the pan flat side down. Let them cook for about 2 minuets and flip. If you like you can season them with paprika and salt and pepper. Once scallops are MOSTLY cooked add them (excess butter and all) into the crock pot. Stir and cover. Next do the same with your shrimp but DO NOT cook them all the way. Only cook them about half-way. Sprinkle the flour and (and optional seasoning) into the shrimp and mix well, coating the shrimp. Once the shrimp is half-way cooked, add to the crock pot. Let it sit for another 30 minutes and then it is ready to serve. The flour coated shrimp will help thicken the stew.  Serve over fragrant rice.

There is something about a hot bowl of soup or stew that just speaks comfort.  In our home, weekends are made for relaxing; putting on Netflix while the house slowly fills with the aroma of dinner.  At this moment, I am listening to the rain through my open windows.   The scent wafting through the house makes it really difficult to wait a few more hours to pour a hot bowl of goodness.  A near perfect day, if you ask me.

Love and Prosperity,

Your GirlFIday

ALDI Meal Challenge – Final Week 4

Aldi Challenge Week 4 (1).png

We made it! A week late, but still here.  Sickness while trying to keep all the various plates I have in the air AND not go completely mad is near impossible.  So as not to slip all the way into the crazy-pond, I gave myself permission to rest a bit this week.  I hope ya’all can forgive the delay.

So, here we are at week four of our ALDI Meal Challenge, and honestly, what started as an experiment, has helped us develop a very good strategy for meal planning while saving both money and time each week.  It also forced my daughter and I to sit down, take inventory of what we had and create a good variety of meal options around that.  I would have been happy to simply see a savings in our grocery bill – but to also reduce waste, eat better, save time and ensure my whole family came together at the table every night, are benefits that compound in value exponentially.

What was also really cool is that I did this with my 22-year old daughter.  She lives with us, as she has just finished an esthetics program and is getting ready to get back to work full-time.  In the meantime, as a trade-off and to contribute to the household she has basically taken over most of the meal preparation in this house. With is SUPER AWESOME for me as I am balancing two businesses, mom-in-chief of Team Mays, this blog and trying to get another passion project off the ground.  It allows us time to bond when we sit down and meal plan together, make the grocery list and shop with one another.  She helps me take pictures of most of the meals and also helps me write down each of the recipes.  So, I really do need to give her a HUGE amount of credit for seeing this challenge all the way through.  Momma thanks you bunches – Baby Girl!

So here is our final meal plan…  Madison did not disappoint this week.  I have a favorite!  The stuffed shells.  100% Vegan and, honestly, I don’t think there was a dirty plate left – they had all been licked clean (figuratively – not literally. Well, not literally for most of us.  I cannot vouch for all of the Littles).

Meal 1:  Honey Garlic Salmon, with Asparagus and Steamed broccoli

Meal 2:  Battered Fish Tacos on corn Tortilla, Shredded Cabbage, Limes, Chipotle Lime-sauce, with beans, rice and fresh salsa.

Meal 3: Stuffed Pasta Shells (recipe here)

Meal 4:  Taco Casserole **

Meal 5:  Pizza Empanadas **

Meal 6:  Super Nachos

Meal 7:  Gumbo-laya **

I’ve said this before, but in case you are new here…I am not a chef or a foodie.  I don’t have ANY aspirations of becoming a food blogger.  I am just a working mom, trying to manage my menagerie.  When I want to make a dish I usually search the internet for a recipe to base most of my ingredients on and then make adjustments depending on what I have or what I think would taste better.  I have tried to provide as many recipes as I can – because I know not everyone is as comfortable in the kitchen as others.  Even so, please bear in mind that most of the time I am just winging it here and the meal suggestions I have – are mostly just that – suggestions,  a guideline for your to create your own meal plan and to do so on a budget.

TACO CASSEROLE:

(This is very similar to the Tex Mex Corn Casserole previously posted with some slight variations in the ingredients and the “cheese” sauce.)

4-6 potatoes

1 can refried beans (pre-heated and thinned)

I pound ground meat (or no-meat crumbles.  We prefer Gardein.)

1 can of corn, drained

1 can pinto or chili beans, drained

Vegan “Nacho cheese”

Shredded Cheese (or Vegan Shreds)

Sliced Black Olives

Paprika to taste

Salt to taste

Pepper to taste

Cumin to taste

Chili powder to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Cube potatoes and boil in water until they are almost cooked through. Strain and set aside.

Cook your “nacho cheese” and “meat” and set aside.

Once potatoes are strained and mostly dry, put at the bottom of a casserole dish. Add seasonings to your liking. Next pour “nacho cheese” over the potatoes. Then layer the pre-heated and thinned refried beans on top. (You can heat the beans up in the microwave and then add a bit of veggie stock and mix to thin them out) Next, layer the cooked “meat”. On top of the meat, add corn and chili beans. Next, sprinkle with cheese and, lastly, top with sliced olives. Pop in the oven at 400 degrees for 20 minuets and serve.

Vegan Nacho Cheese

2 tablespoons vegan butter

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon curry powder

1/4 teaspoon paprika powder

ground pepper

1 pinch garlic powder

1/3 cup nutritional yeast

1/2 cup veggie stock

Melt “butter” in a non-stick pan on medium heat. Once melted add in all ingredients EXCEPT veggie stock and whisk together. (It will be clumpy) then turn your stove to low heat and mix in the veggie stock, continue stirring with whisk, until nice and smooth. Serve asap.

(if you let the cheese sit it will thicken and will be a little hard to get off the pan.)

PIZZA EMPANADAS:

These are basically mini calzones…Just switching out the dough…

Make an Empanada Dough of your choice. (There are several easy ones if you Google it.)

Stuff with meat (meat alternative), sauce, and cheese (cheese alternatives) of your choice.

You can put just about any filling you like in these.  Ground beef, turkey, shredded beef, pork, even fruits for a yummy dessert.  They are a fun treat and changed up our Pizza Friday!

GUMBOLAYA:

Not quite gumbo and not quite jumbalaya….but as tasty and best served over a heaping spoonful of white Basmati or Jasmine rice.

We made ours without sausage, but I can tell you from past experience, this is one occasion where I almost threw caution to the wind, and added the sausage anyway.  BUT we didn’t – this was seafood only. Don’t get me wrong, it was still incredibly delicious  – just a little twinge of longing for some really good sausage. Of all the meats – I miss pork most.  (wink)

Crock Pot Seafood Gumbo-laya

1/2 onion diced

1 green bell pepper

2 TBS minced garlic

6-8 cups of veggie stock

4 stocks of chopped celery

4-5 diced potatoes

2 1/2 TBS of tomato paste

1 can petite diced tomato

1 TBS paprika

1tsp cumin

1/2 TBS salt

1/2 TBS pepper

1/2 TBS Anthony’s creole seasoning

1-2 bags of uncooked med to large peeled and deveined shrimp

1 bag of scallops

Crab legs/meat

1 TBS flour

4 TBS butter split (Vegan “butter”)

3-4 cups of rice

2 limes

Add all ingredients except shrimp scallops and crab, butter and flour into a crock pot and let cook on low for 5 hours or on high for 3. (If you choose to add sausage it can go in the crock at this point as well.)

Cook your rice. (We use a rice cooker) Once your rice is cooked add the juice of three limes, mix and set aside.

An hour before you are ready to serve, add in the crab.  Then heat 2 TBS of butter on medium heat and put scallops in the pan flat side down. Let them cook for about 2 minuets and flip. If you like you can season them with paprika and salt and pepper. Once scallops are MOSTLY cooked add them (excess butter and all) into the crock pot. Stir and cover. Next do the same with your shrimp but DO NOT cook them all the way. Only cook them until they are about half way cooked all the way through. Sprinkle the flour and (and optional seasoning) into the shrimp and mix well so that the shrimp is coated. Once the shrimp is half way cooked, add to the crock pot. Let it sit for another 30 minutes and then it is ready to serve. The flour coated shrimp will help thicken the stew.  Serve over fragrant rice.

I truly hope you have enjoyed both the shopping challenge and the meal options we have suggested.  Feeding a family on a budget can sometimes be frustrating and can get out of control.  What I hope we have shown is that, if you are a bit more intentional about both your shopping, and meal planning/prepping – you can make significant room in your budget – without sacrificing the joy that a good cooked meal can bring!

Love and Prosperity,

Your GirlFIday

Friday Night Under Five – Stuffed Pasta Shells

Pasta Shells PINTEREST

The Vegan version of these shells are seriously OFF.THE.CHAIN delicious.  I was surprised we had leftovers.  We would not have if my daughter had not made two huge pans (pictured above).  It’s when we have wonderful, filling and flavorful meals like these that I know we can live this (mostly) plant-based lifestyle for the rest of our lives.

If you are new to a plant-based diet or simply trying something new.  My advice is to keep trying new recipes.  Sometimes one person’s take on a recipe is just not a match to your taste-buds.  Make some modifications or try a different recipe.  Expand your horizons.  If you had told me, even just two short years ago, we would be eating a predominantly plant-based diet, I would not have believed you.  It is only because we have been willing to try, to venture outside of our comfort zone – that this has worked. You may just be pleasantly surprised if you give it go.

Pasta Shells (Vegan and Non-Vegan Variation)

1 jar of Marinara or Spaghetti sauce

Ricotta “cheese” (See recipe below) (or a 16 oz. container of part-skim ricotta cheese)

Vegan “meat” crumbles (We prefer Gardein Crumbles) (If using real meat – a pound of ground meat of your choice)

A Bunch of Cooked spinach (You can either chop and boil fresh spinach until just tender or buy a small package of frozen and defrost and heat in the microwave) (A bunch as in a bushel not as in A LOT.)

1/4 finely chopped medium onion

1-2 tsp. Paprika

½ tsp. Salt

¼ tsp. pepper

1-2 tsp. Garlic powder (or minced garlic)

Large shells (you can use jumbo shells or manicotti shells )

Vegan Mozzarella “Cheese” (or Mozzarella Cheese)

Parmesan Cheese (Optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Boil large shells in a large pot with a splash of oil in the water so they don’t stick to the pan.

While water is heating and shells are boiling cook your meat or meat substitute. Add a bit of water to keep it moist and season with salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, and 1/4 a chopped onion. Add more seasoning to taste.

Once the “meat” is fully cooked, turn off heat and mix the cooked spinach with the meat. Once all of that is mixed add-on the ricotta. Make sure all three ingredients are fully mixed. (You can add a bit of Parmesan cheese here or a Vegan parm substitute.)

Once your shells are soft drain the water in a strainer and run cold water over the shells until they are cool to touch.

Get a glass pan and spread half the Marinara on the bottom.

To fill the shells a quick hack is to get an extra large zip block bag and cut off one of the bottom corners. (Don’t make it too small or the ricotta mix won’t come out) put the zip block bag with the cut tip down a large cup. Fold the sides of the bag over the cup. Then spoon the ricotta filling into the bag. Once the bag is full you can use just as you would a “frosting bag” and squeeze the filling into each of the shells.

A spoon works well too – just a little messy.

Use your “frosting bag” to fill your jumbo shells with the ricotta stuffing until your pan is full.

Use the remaining marinara sauce to top the jumbo shells then sprinkle some mozzarella over the whole dish. (Optional: sprinkle with additional parm. or parm. Substitute.

Bake for 20 minutes or until heated all the way through.

Serve with green veggies and garlic or hot crusty bread.

 

Ricotta “cheese”

2 cups boiled/ softened raw cashews

3 TBS lemon juice

1 TBS minced garlic

1 TBS maple syrup (you can also use Agave)

1/4 cup non-dairy milk (we use unsweetened almond)

1 1/2 TBS olive oil

1 tsp. pepper

1 tsp. salt

Basil and parsley for taste

Blend till smooth. Be sure to scrape the sides

 

 

Friday Night Under Five – Tex Mex Corn Casserole

Tex-MexCorn Casserole PINTEREST

This was a new recipe for our family recently.  You know how those go. Sometimes putting foods together, in theory, sounds delicious…but the finished product tastes nothing like what you thought it would.  This one, however, is not one of those.  This one is a winner.  Its hearty comfort food, stick to your ribs, make a pig of yourself, delicious.  It is now on permanent rotation in our house. Easy to make, inexpensive and full of good stuff.

Tex-Mex Corn Casserole (Vegan friendly)

4-5 Large Russet Potatoes (Scalloped)

Vegan “Cheese” sauce (see recipe below)***

2 Cans Corn

2 Cans Black beans

1/2 Red Onion

1 Can Green Chilies

1TBS Paprika

Salt to taste

Pepper to taste

1tsp. Cumin (or more if you like.  I tend to be generous with the cumin)

¼ Shredded “Cheese” (Vegan Cheddar shreds or dairy, whichever you prefer)

Layer scalloped potatoes at the bottom of a pan and with seasoning. You can scallop your potatoes in a food processor or with a traditional cheese grater.

Mix together corn, black beans, red onion, and green chilies together and then set aside. Pour  all the “cheese” sauce over potatoes evenly. Next layer corn mix. Then layer cheese on top and bake at 400 for 20 minutes or until heated all the way through.

***I would not substitute out a nacho cheese sauce for the “cheese” sauce below.  The consistency, texture and taste will not be right.

 

Easy “Cheese” Sauce

1 Cup Boiled Raw Cashews

1 Cup of Veggie Stock

1/4 Cup of Nutritional Yeast

1 TBS Paprika

1/2 TBS Minced Garlic

Unsweetened Almond milk to thin out of desired

Blend all together in blender or food processor until smooth.