Quinoa and Being Thankful

Yes, I may be listening to Charlie Brown Christmas and I may be getting weepy. And yes, I have dreams about spontaneously buying a plane ticket home to surprise my grandma on Christmas Eve. All of these things are true. You know what else is true? I am so very thankful for all that I have, both here and in Seattle. When my posts take a nostalgic, “I wish I was there” turn, it’s nice to reflect on the reasons I am thankful to be here, in this place, right now.

Here is what I’m thankful for.

1) I am close to my sister. She is my other half, the pants to my pants, the only person I trust with 100% of my secrets and heart. Living with her for this past year has been nothing short of magic, and I am so very thankful for our morning walks, our afternoon catch ups and our evening popcorn gorging. My sister, she is a light.


2) My friends. Down here, people exude friendliness. Everyone is game to try new things, meet new people, be daring and adventurous. The daily activities include bike rides and endless tacos. The friends I’ve made are from different parts of the country and bring a unique energy to my life. They’ve taught me to be a stronger, braver and happier person.



3) My puppy. I can’t make a thankful list and not add Zeppelin in here. Sure, he’s kind of a pain in my ass as he hates other dogs, squirrels, garbage trucks, buses and cats. But you know what he loves? Me. And when he runs at me wiggling his rear end and leaning up against me like he’s found true love, I know he’s worth it. This dog has been around the country with me, and my love for him is overwhelming. If you don’t have a dog, get one. Or at least borrow one for a while so you know what unconditional love feels like.


3) The sunshine. True, my skin isn’t the biggest fan of that unfamiliar orb, but oh my goodness… it feels so good. It’s currently cold and rainy, and everyone is a little disgruntled about it. I find myself complaining about the cold and then I remember where I’m from, and how there it’s nearly always cold and rainy. So yes, I am thankful for the many, many days of Texas sun.


4) in.gredients. This place. They took a chance on me. Gave me a job and told me to run with it. Allowed me to be daring and try new things. Because of this job I’ve figured out what I want to do with my life professionally, and that feels so damn wonderful. As someone who has spent the last few years wandering around, not sure where to settle, it’s so nice to at least have an idea of what my strengths are. I owe this huge step in my career to this little, sustainable grocery store. A tiny place with a lot of heart.


5) Change. If nothing else, this town has taught me that I can thrive with big changes. My life can be thrown around like a whirlwind, and I come out the other side a better person. Austin has taught me that the only thing I can depend on is change, and to depend on it means to let go of any preconceived notions of what happiness will look like. Happiness is being present in this place and letting all the new wash over me.


6) Missing people. That may sound like a strange thing to be thankful for, but being away from my family and friends in Seattle has made me realize how much I need them. When I was living there, I took their love and closeness for granted, and living in Texas has made me realize that. When I get back to them, I will hold on tight and never let go. I come from a family that is strong and supportive. I have a group of friends that are nestled into so many places in my soul. I am so grateful to know what it feels like to miss them, and to know that my place is there, with them.


There’s the start of a list that could go on and on. I am so blessed. My life is full of love, and as we come into this holiday season, it’s nice to take some time to remember that.

Vegetable Quinoa Bowl with Food for Lovers Vegan Queso

Queso is a thing in this town. Almost every restaurant has some version of it, and I’ve gone so long without eating it. Sometimes I’ll sneak a bite, because cheese is so darn good. However, if I really was to indulge in a melted bowl of cheesy goodness, my stomach would never let me live it down. That is why I am so thankful for Food for Lovers. Not only are these two people simply lovely, they make delicious vegan queso. It’s gluten-free and vegan AND it only has 10 calories per serving. Which means if I do accidentally eat the entire jar, I can’t feel too bad. I popped it on top of a bowl of quinoa, and my life was as right as rain.


  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups water or vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup black beans, cooked
  • 1/2 red pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 white onion, chopped
  • 2 cups baby spinach or kale
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 2 Tbsp vegan queso
  • 2 Tbsp salsa of choice

This recipe is basically a taco, sans the tortilla. This is my go to when I want to eat healthy, as I almost always have these ingredients at my house. It’s always nice to have quinoa on hand, as it’s a complete protein and makes for a delicious burrito or taco filling.

Start by cooking your quinoa. Rinse the quinoa in a fine mesh sieve. Next, bring the water or the vegetable broth to a boil and add in the quinoa. Turn to low/medium and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat and fluff with a fork.

While the quinoa is cooking, chop your veggies and heat up a small pan with a splash of coconut or olive oil. Saute the onions for 5 minutes, and then add in the red bell pepper. Let cook for another few minutes until everything is soft. Add in some salt to taste. Warm up your black beans, and chop the rest of your veggies. Once the quinoa is down, mix in the black beans and sauteed veggies. Put the two cups of spinach in the bottom of the bowl and spoon in your quinoa mixture. Top the bowl with the cilantro and avocado, spoon on the queso and salsa, and call it a day.


Mac & Cheese and Family

Is it cliché to claim fall as my favorite season? If seasons can “trend”, fall is definitely the new summer (gross. I apologize). Regardless, fall has been my favorite season since I was little, as I come from a family steeped in tradition.

With the return of fall comes all of those things that make me feel warm inside. It starts with a trip to Craven Farms with my dad to get pumpkins, spending far too long in the fields with apple cider and sugar cookies as our sustenance. We each pick out a few pumpkins and line them up, like a casting call. When I took an old boyfriend of mine to the farm I had to warn him that it’s not just a “go out into the field and pick whichever gourd looks okay” situation, it’s serious business.


Pumpkins lead us into changing leaves at Greenlake and cold morning walks. From there it’s grandma’s kitchen for Thanksgiving, the window perspiring as we warm up the kitchen with the smells of home. After that? That is when the magic really happens. I’m entirely obnoxious when it comes to Christmas. I watch Elf on repeat, force those around me to listen to holiday songs, and spend hours making a wide variety of christmas cookies and crafts.

See? Obnoxious.

One important detail: all of these traditions are from my life in Seattle. I am not there. Instead, I am sitting in the Texas sun in November and it’s 80 degrees. Don’t get me wrong, this weather is relatively spectacular, and I understand why people are happier in sunny climates. But as a girl who grew up with seasons, mountains and warm coffee in mittened hands, I am just not sure how I feel about a holiday season without my family. This will be the first time in 26 years where I am not going to be home for Christmas. I am not going to go see the nutcracker with my uncle, not going to wake up early to open my stockings, not have Christmas breakfast with my mom. Yes, yes, I am getting weepy as I type this.

It may seem trivial to care so much about the holidays, but it’s more than that. My traditions, regardless of how silly they are, are why I am who I am. I grew up with an extremely strong and supportive family. There was never a lack of love, a lack of understanding or a want for anything. My family, they are my people. Not being around them (well, most of them, thank heavens my sister lives with me) has made me realize how blessed I am to be so close to them, how lucky I am to have so much of my heart in one place.

What I’m trying to say is… Take me home.

Butternut Squash Vegan Macaroni and “Cheese” with Kale

From: Oh She Glows

When I get nostalgic, I cook. This means I have been whipping up all kinds of creations in my kitchen in the past month. Oh She Glows has become one of my favorite blogs, she’s got so many delicious healthy recipes on the website. Seeing as macaroni and cheese used to be staple in my childhood diet, my cravings for something similar have been pretty intense. If I made traditional macaroni and cheese, I would have a stomach ache for eternity. Instead, I made her butternut squash macaroni and cheese and used gluten-free macaroni. It RULED.

  •  1 fresh butternut squash
  • Extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper
  • 1 Tbsp Earth Balance
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened, unflavored almond milk
  • 1 tbsp arrowroot powder (or cornstarch)
  • 6 Tbsp nutritional yeast, or more to taste
  • 2 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1/4-3/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2- 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp salt (to taste) & ground black pepper, to taste
  • 4 servings gluten-free pasta (I used quinoa macaroni)
  • Mix-ins (I chose kale and spinach, gotta get your greens!)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees and mix your chopped squash with olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Roast for about 40 minutes, uncovered, or until tender. Keep your eye on the squash to make sure it doesn’t burn.

While your squash is cooking, prepare the sauce. Over low-medium heat, melt the earth balance. In a bowl, whisk together the milk and arrowroot powder (or cornstarch) until clumps are gone. Add into pot and whisk. Stir in remaining ingredients (nutritional yeast, dijon, garlic, lemon and salt & pepper) and whisk over low heat until it thickens (about 5 minutes).

Cook your pasta according to package directions. The sauce will make enough to cover 4 servings of pasta. In a blender, blend the sauce with 1 cup of roasted squash. Add cooked, drained, and rinsed macaroni into pot, along with your sauce and mix-ins. Heat and serve.

Promise me, you’ll add this recipe to your collection… it’s amazing.