Simple Spaghetti Squash Taco Bake

Meet my friend spaghetti squash. She’s easy to get along with and a very good influence. She should be your friend too. Ok, I’m going to drop this metaphor now that I am going to tell you how to bake her in the oven. First, preheat to 400 degrees.

Warning! If you have knives in need of sharpening (like mine), you will want to pop your squash into the microwave for a minute or two. This will soften the rind just enough to eliminate the chances of accidentally stabbing yourself. Then cut it in half the long way (“hotdog,” not “hamburger” as my kids would say). Scoop out all the seeds and slimy stuff in the middle, leaving the “spaghetti” flesh intact.

Grab a rimmed cookie sheet (a.k.a. jellyroll pan) and add a little water to it. Place the spaghetti squash cut side down onto the water. Bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes. (Meanwhile, start your taco meat.)

I have read several spaghetti squash recipes that say to cook it for 45 minutes. It has never taken mine that long, and you do NOT want to overcook it or it will be mushy and watery, so I tend to check it after 20 minutes and go from there. If you can easily stab a fork into it, and especially if you can squeeze the rind (USE POTHOLDERS!) to make the flesh pop out, it’s done. Scrape all the spaghetti out with a fork, then sprinkle it with salt to hold in the moisture and give it some good flavor.

Please note, this recipe is incredibly simple, but it can be time-consuming. If you make the spaghetti squash and/or taco meat ahead of time, this becomes a quick weeknight success. You’ll notice my family liked it so much, I only got a photo of half of it!

Ingredients:
Spaghetti squash, prepared
1 pound taco meat, prepared
Diced bell peppers
4 oz. cream cheese
Shredded cheese to preference
S&P to taste
Sour cream, avocado, salsa, crushed tortilla chips (optional garnishes)

Quick directions: Bake at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

Directions:
1. Prepare a 9×13 casserole pan with your choice of nonstick medium, then spread the prepared spaghetti squash on the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
2. Melt the 4 oz (half a block) of cream cheese into your prepared taco meat.
3. Add diced bell peppers to the taco meat. Mix well.
4. Spread taco meat mixture on top of spaghetti squash.
5. Top with shredded cheese to your preference.
6. Bake uncovered at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes.
7. Garnish with sour cream, avocado, salsa, tortilla chips, etc. Enjoy!

The Perfect Job Doesn’t Exist. Is Your Current One Close Enough?

We’re always asking kids what they want to be when they grow up. Doctor? Lawyer? Anchor on the evening news? There were a lot of different paths suggested to me when I was little. (Except from my grandpa. I mean, he believed in me, of course, but he was fairly certain that women were still only allowed to be nurses or teachers.) Anyway, the message is – your chosen profession is a central part of your identity, so pick a good one. But you know what makes that so dangerous? If you lose your job, you lose your value. And that, my friends, is a modern falsehood that must be debunked. YOU are NOT your JOB.

Your job doesn’t have to be your reason for living. Your job is a way to support the life you want to lead. There’s a strange sense of freedom when you stop pondering the existential meaning of your work and focus on enjoying what truly makes your life meaningful. If your job doesn’t define you, you make room for your passions, your service work, and your family to be the defining parts of your life. And those things don’t disappear with a lay off, cross-country move, or retirement.

Everyone always thinks there is another job just around that corner that will fulfill their every dream and ambition. But let’s face it, every job is going to have elements you don’t enjoy. It might be a certain task you despise, maybe you have no benefits, or maybe the person in the next cubicle always smells like pickles. Whatever it is, it’s proof the perfect job doesn’t exist. And rather than drive yourself crazy combing through careerbuilder.com for a job description that reads “get paid to do whatever you want,” there comes a point when it’s wise to settle. Settling doesn’t mean you give up and accept a crappy job. Not at all. It simply means you allow yourself to be content. (Note: My advice would be much different in regards to marriage. Don’t ever settle in that case.)

Here are some signs that you are “close enough” to that perfect job:
1. Your duties challenge you consistently, and otherwise give you something to do everyday.
2. Your employer pays you fairly, encourages you to continue learning, and supports your growth as a person.
3. You have a community of work people you enjoy seeing every day.
4. You have a few people you want to follow and some you want to lead.
5. You have the opportunity to try new things and, more importantly, the opportunity to make mistakes.
6. You get pats on the back for a job well done and, occasionally, donuts.
7. The schedule fits your current lifestyle well. You have the flexibility to spend time with your family and friends, take vacations, and otherwise experience life.
8. Your employer cares about you. This might be shown through an extensive benefits package, recognition from your boss, or a well-timed gift from the company, but you feel confident the powers that be know you exist and care about your well-being.
9. You are proud of where you work and its reputation in the community.
10. You are able to do your job and stay true to yourself. No job is worth compromising your morals, ethics, or values. If your job encourages you to maintain your core beliefs, you’re on the right track.

I’m going to try to stop asking people What do you do? But instead, Who are you? (Not literally. That would be a very strange question to ask people.) For instance, What do you do in your free time? Where are you from? What are your hobbies?

Work is one of many ways to connect with people, but our common ground is often not found in our jobs. It’s found in our love of chocolate, Game of Thrones, or Pinterest. Connections are made when we talk about our kids, our vacation mishaps, and our mutual acquaintances. What does your job really tell me about you? In my opinion, not as much as we think it should.

Mexi-Cauli One Pan

I don’t know, you guys. I think it’s impossible to make a bowl of ground turkey and cauliflower rice look appetizing. I tried my best, but you might just have to take my word for it. It’s delicious.

I am a huge fan of cauliflower rice. You can prep a ton of it ahead of time, and it is super easy to cook in a hurry. It adds body to any recipe, and takes on the flavor of whatever you cook it with. My favorite is to throw it into Mexican cuisine.

This particular dish is extremely versatile. I actually don’t know if what I’m writing here and what is in this picture are exactly the same because I’ve made it 100 different ways. This recipe is a good starting point, but feel free to get creative with whatever you have handy.

Ingredients:
– 1 pound taco meat, whatever that means to you.
– 1-2 cups sliced or chopped peppers – any color bell pepper, serrano, and/or jalapeño, as preferred.
– 1 can corn
– 3 cups cauliflower rice
– 1 cup salsa (or 3/4 cup enchilada sauce or 1/4 cup adobo sauce)
– 3 oz (or 1/3 of brick) cream cheese
– Optional garnishes: Avocado, tomatoes, lettuce, tortilla strips/chips, lime wedge

Directions:

1. Cook up some taco meat. I personally use ground turkey, but I know others prefer hamburger. You do you. (If you don’t have a prepared taco seasoning on hand, combine: cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper instead.)
2. Add in peppers. I typically have bell peppers of some color on hand, but you could easily use Serrano peppers and even some jalapeños if you want some kick.
3. Add in corn.
4. Once your peppers get tender, add in the cauliflower rice, mix, and cook all of it together.
5. Next, add in 3 or so ounces of cream cheese.  Melt down and stir in well.
6. Stir in 1 cup of salsa (other options: 3/4 cup red or green enchilada sauce or 1/4 cup adobo sauce – dice up some of the chipotle peppers it usually comes with as well).
7. Serve alone or garnish with tomatoes, avocado, lettuce, a squeeze of lime, and/or tortilla strips.

To Make the Cauliflower Rice:
If you want to prep it ahead of time, go ahead and grab a few heads of cauliflower. Cut it into florets and wash it. Once you’ve got your clean cauliflower florets, it’s time to rice them. I have a super cool contraption that does it in like two seconds, but I don’t get paid to advertise for them, so I’m not telling you what it is. 🙂 Feel free to use your own super cool contraption, or a food processor or blender. (If you are ricing by hand with a cheese grater, I’m really sorry, but I bet your forearms will look amazing.)
Bag up 3 cups at a time and freeze flat. When you’re ready to use it, just dump it directly into a pan to steam. It takes maybe five minutes to cook. (Side note: when using with a curry dish, cook it with a few tablespoons of canned coconut milk – the thick part. Mmmm…)

Bonus Tip: Washing Cauliflower
Let’s talk about washing fruits and vegetables for a second. It’s a pain, am I right? Here’s a tip: Fill up your salad spinner with water and add 1 cup of vinegar (white or apple cider). Soak your veggies and fruit in there, then pull out the colander part and rinse them in there. And yes, I said VINEGAR. It’s a fantastic natural cleaner, and I promise it will not make everything taste like sauerkraut.

Adventures in Potty Training

I’d read all the books and had tricks up my sleeve
I knew she would do it if we’d all just believe.

The neighbor boy was trained starting at 1.
His mom told me, straight-faced, “Don’t worry, it’s fun!

And you have a girl? Oh yeah, what a snap!”
But I’ll tell you one thing – She was so full of crap.

We started with “boot camp,” then stickers and charts
Bribing with candy – each one a false start.

Pull-ups, bare bottom, or fancy underwear,
She went where she wanted, she just didn’t care.

“What’s wrong with you?” I’d scream. “You’re almost 3!”
“Seriously, Mom, who cares where I pee?”

(Ok, this isn’t word for word
But basically, that’s what I heard.)

Then one day, I’m inspecting a wrinkle
When from behind me, I hear it – a tinkle!

“Baby! You did it! This is more than sublime.”
“Yeah, like I said, Mom, all in due time.”

Enough (part II)

Your bald head fit perfectly in my palm,
and the first time you opened your eyes,
you saw me.

I had just awakened from a dream
I’d been having my whole life
to find that it was true.

It was you.

My world tilted to meet
the lazy lean of your head,
and I used my wrist as your neck.

You yawned,
the jet-lagged yawn of birth,
not yet knowing what it is to be awake.

I watched in wonder as you slept,
your first real breaths
an imperfect rhythm.

Nine months of doubt
were cast away in a moment
as my knuckle brushed your velvet cheek,
and for the first time,
I trusted myself not to fail.

Enough (part I)


I hold your bald head in my hand,
your cheekbone pressed against my palm.
I wipe away the line of sweat
from where your eyebrows used to be.

A new sun begins to creep
through the blinds.
We made it through another night.

I tear yesterday from the calendar,
knowing the ripping won’t stir you
from your drug-soaked sleep.

The calendar marks the 20th day
of many yet to come
away from home, retching in your sleep,
fighting in your dreams the
relentless cells the doctors call “cancer.”

If only one word could summarize
the relief I wake to when I see
your chest rise and fall.

Your ring doesn’t fit anymore.
Your fingers swelled exponentially
as your legs began to atrophy,
so I brought a picture of us at sunset
the day we took our youngest to college.
It will never grow too big for the frame.

Your friends call, say How is she? and
When is she coming home?
My optimism chokes me, and I cry,
if I can, when I’m alone.

Should I go to law school?: 10 things to consider before taking the LSAT

I’m a lawyer. I earned a law degree from an accredited institution, and I passed the bar exam in my home state. My license to practice law is hanging in a frame on the wall of my office where I work as in-house counsel for a financial institution. That license is a symbol of one of my life’s greatest achievements and a source of significant pride for me. But if I’m totally honest, if Warren Buffett walked into my office and said, “give me that frame and I will pay off your student loans,” I would leap over my desk like a rabid snow monkey to rip that thing off the wall and hand it to him.

I can’t say I regret going to law school. It has given me an ability to understand and analyze the inter-workings of our society in a way that typically only trained attorneys can or bother to do. It was three years of my life in which I grew up, fell in love with the law (as well as my future husband), and worked harder academically than I ever had to before. And yet, with the benefit of hindsight, I am fairly certain I would make a different choice if I had it to do all over again.

If you are considering going to law school, here’s my advice to you.

Do NOT go to law school if:

1. You want to help people for a living.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not in any way insinuating that lawyers don’t help people. They do. Every. Single. Day. But if what moves you is using your own two hands to make a difference in people’s lives, I would warn against a law career. For me, the ‘helping people’ part ended up feeling too tenuous and, by design, driving change within the law is slow and difficult.
2. You have to take out student loans.
This is the one that really makes me want to go back in time and slap my younger self in the face. Student loans are not free money! They have to be paid back, and the payment amounts often offset any increase in salary a law degree might get you. Get scholarships, convince your rich relative to pay, save up before you go. Just think long and hard and put pencil to paper before you put on the golden handcuffs of student loans.
3. You are trying to prove you are smart.
Yep, it’s magical. Once you get into law school (and even more so after you pass the bar exam), people automatically think you’re a different degree of smart. Some refer to it as “the presumption of brilliance.” Okay, I just made that up, but I promise it is a real thing. This is not a reason to go to law school! There are so many (much cheaper) ways for the world to know you’re smart.
4. You don’t know what else to do.
Ah, the old credo, “you can do anything with a law degree.” I fell for that one. I had a B.A in English and didn’t want to teach. People said “lawyers do a lot of writing” and “a law degree is never a bad thing to have.” They weren’t wrong, but the kind of writing lawyers do is a style all its own, and while a law degree isn’t bad, see #2 above.
5. You thrive on creativity.
Of course, there are ways to use creativity in a legal career. However, if you’re like me and feel called to create, studying law may stifle that calling, at least temporarily. Personally, I think I shut down the right part of my brain during law school and a few years beyond. A big part of that was just not having the time or energy to tap into “the muse.” It wasn’t until I took deliberate steps to get it back that I realized how much I missed it.

One the flip side, DO go to law school if:

6. Someone else is paying for it.
If this is the case, just do it and disregard everything I just said. Seriously.
7. You have shadowed or interned for various types of attorneys.
If you have seen the day to day life of an attorney up close and personal and you can see yourself being fulfilled by that work, then you are making an informed, eyes wide open decision. I support that.
8. You are taking over the family practice.
My husband and I are both the first attorneys in our families, so I have no idea what this would be like. I can imagine, though, if law is a family tradition, and you have the opportunity to walk into a successful business with a plethora of family support, it might be a no-brainer.
9. You want to run for political office.
Being a lawyer is not a prerequisite for running, but I think it would be extremely helpful if your goal is to hold political office.
10. It’s your dream.
I am fully supportive of people following their dreams. I feel incredibly lucky that my dream, being a writer, is completely within my control. All I have to do is write. Check! If your dream is to be a lawyer, or if you have always just wanted to go to law school, chasing your dream gets way more complicated. If it truly is your dream, then do it! Just don’t do it blind. Understand that your dream may not align with reality.

As for me, I will continue to be as proud of my law license as I am frustrated by my student loan payments.