Everglades Day and Majorie Stoneman Douglas- April 7, 2019

Shero. Activist. Inspiration. Legacy.

All words to describe a woman I grew up revering as a modern goddess, in the sense of maternalism for wetlands.

Today, is Everglades Day and more importantly, Majorie Stoneman Douglas’ birthday. I learned about her greatness while in elementary school. Everything I know today about the importance of the Florida Everglades is a combination of living here and reading the work of Majorie.

While in law school, I wrote a paper about restoring the Florida Everglades. Majorie is one of the people who inspired that vision, but also brought to light why we MUST protect this wetland. Today, I would like to honor her by asking you to donate to the Friends of the Everglades Fund. They continue to fight for protection of the wetlands.

The Everglades is a one of a kind ecosystem, found only in Florida. Yes, there are other wetlands. Yes, there are other marshes. However, there is only one Florida Everglades. An ecosystem filled with so much biodiversity. Where the limestone and the aquifers are vital to the survival of Florida’s fresh drinking water. The animals and plant life depend on the restoration of the flow south.

The mangroves of the everglades acts of the first sign of defense when a hurricane wants to make landfall. Those roots are meant to dig deep into the ground and act as a natural barrier. The animals work together to carve the paths of the river and it flows and brings forth all the nutrients for plants and animal to survive.

Rapidly, we have destroyed the Everglades. Taking more and more land for development. By removing more water. Adding invasive plant and animal species which are destroying this once vibrant ecosystem. Lack of water flow from Lake Okeechobee is stifling the “River of Grass”, making it a barren wasteland.

The history stems all the way to the Army Corp of Engineers. I could sit here and talk about their involvement and the fact they destroyed the everglades creating all of these canals for waterfront properties. Also, the other culprits are those involved in “Big Sugar”, which is heavily lobbied here in Florida. Sugar = Poison. Yes, you read that correctly. Did you know the US subsidizes the price of sugar, just like they do gasoline! Mind-blowing. The East Agricultural Area is located right outside of Lake Okeechobee and that is where the water must be restore. Dilemma, that water is tainted and polluted. This is actually also the cause of the lovely Red Tide, I think you’ve heard of it. (The dumping of polluted water of the east and west coast of Florida, pouring into the estuaries. – FYI estuaries is where ALL baby sea life start, great start, poisoned water, but I digress).

What will you do to change your impact? We must stand up and speak to our government. Hold them accountable for the environmental atrocities and reckless negligence forced upon the Everglades.

I am doing my part, now it is your turn!

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Meatless Monday Chronicles: Who Say’s Salads are Boring?!

Okay, I’ll admit it, I hate salads. Yes, I said it!! I was a ballerina for so long that I was forced to eat salads all the time. However, going meatless does not necessarily mean you HAVE to eat them all the time. It does mean that you can make them more fun!

I know I have been away for a while and I apologize if anyone is still out there!! I have another post that will explain my disappearance.

Salads, what do you use for the base? Well, anything that is green and leafy. You can use regular romaine lettuce, ice berg lettuce, spinach, kale, chard, and more yummy greens!!

Now, that you have your base, just sprinkle on the toppings!!

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • Base: I used Romaine Lettuce
  • Morningstar Buffalo Chik’n Patty cooked via package directions (this is the only item we are cooking which takes about 20 minutes)
  • Carrots
  • 1 Mandarin (Orange or any other citrus fruit)
  • Strawberries
  • Golden Kiwi ( I did not even know this was a type of of kiwi until last week lol!!)
  • Chia Seeds
  • Walnuts

Dressing:

  • 2 Tbsp Raspberry Balsamic Vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp Agave
  • 1 Tsp Salt
  • 1 Tsp Black Pepper
  • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil

Process

  • Cook the chik’n patty
  • Lay down the lettuce (or whatever green of your choice) in your bowl or plate.
  • Peel the mandarins and slice the strawberries
  • Add the walnuts, strawberries, mandarins, chia seeds, carrots and chopped chik’n patty.
  • Combine all the ingredients for the dressing and whisk together.
  • Boooom! Just like that the salad is ready to assemble!!

 

I hope you guys enjoy the salad!! Let me know about any variations you decide wit the salad toppings!! Check out the pictures below!! Happy Meatless Monday!!

 

 

Meatless Monday Chronicles: It’s Grillin’ Time!

Most of the time people think grilling is only for carnivores. Well, that is not true! Anything and everything can be grilled. I absolutely love grilling veggies. It equals zero fat. No oil, no butter (if you’re just vegetarian or trying something new). It is literally just the fire, some water in a spray or squeeze bottle.

I know I have not been on in a week and I apologize! My life kind of took over and I needed to focus on some outside matters. Trying to get my posts where there recurring frequently on their own! Woot woot, trying to be tech savvy.

Today’s menu: Grilled veggie skewers, grilled corn, smashed potatoes and a grilled veggie burger! Yum-a-licious and protein packed.

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of Broccoli and Cauliflower cut in big chunks
  • 2 ears of corn (or more if you’re doing a larger group)
  • 1/2 pound of petite creamer potatoes
  • 1 Boca Burger Veggie Burger
  • handful of small baby bella mushrooms
  • 4 wood skewers for shikabobs (Soaked in cold water- the longer the better!)
  • Dill weed (dry seasoning)
  • salt and pepper

 

Process:

  • Turn your grill on to medium/hight heat!
  • Turn the stove on and fill a large pot with water and bring to roaring boil.
  • Add the potatoes to the boiling water.
  • Meanwhile, take the ears of corns and peel the harder husk away, leaving a thin layer.
  • You always want to put the corn first on the grill because it takes a longer time to cook.
    • *cooking tip: If you are pressed for time, boiling corn is the fastest way to cook them!
    • *cooking tip: If you don’t have a grill, but still want to infuse flavor. Peel the corn entirely and coat with olive oil and some seasonings then wrap in foil and bake in the oven for 20 minutes!
  • Now, grab your skewers that have been soaking in cold water.
    • *why!? to prevent the skewers from burning! Typically you want over 2 hours of soaking, but a good 15 minutes soak works as well.
  • Take your rinsed, clean veggies and stack them up on the skewer.
  • Now, put them on the grill, near your corn that is still cooking.
  • By now, you may be freaking out because the husk has caught on fire. That is OKAY! Just grab your spray or squeeze bottle of water and saturate it. This will also help with the steam effect to help cook the corn.
  • Also, great time to add your Boca Burger to the grill (spray lightly with cooking spray so it does not stick or fall apart when you flip. Make sure you use a spatula and not tongs-I learned the hard crumbly way lol!)
  • Don’t forget your potatoes that are boiling! (Isn’t cooking fun!)
  • Stab them with a fork to see if they are tender, if so, strain them in the sink! (Good way to get some anger out!)
  • Throw the potatoes back in the pan and get potato masher and just do a quick hard smash. Here, I added the dill weed with a little salt and black pepper. (you can add butter here if you want or some olive oil).
  • Cardio time! Run back out to the grill. Your corn, skewers, and Boca Burger should be done!
  • Best part…ASSEMBLE and Eat!!

 

I hope you find my recipe fun and entertaining. Yes, I do speak the way I type with excitement. It truly is my personality! Let me know how you like this simple, grilling creation.

 

Check out the pics belowwww!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meatless Monday Chronicles: What’s that Quinoa Thing?!

Hey everyone! Sorry for the late start, or late post. It has been one heck of a Monday! I have been a little under the weather, so my food is kind of like comfort food today.

Today,  I used quinoa. I know what is this weird grain thing that all veggie and vegan people eat. I literally put it in everything from, “fried rice”, pancakes, eggs, brownies, I mean pretty much anything. It truly is a fantastic grain. It has a lot of antioxidants, which are great for your skin and fighting free radicals in the body. There is also a lot of protein in this enriched, ancient grain. The ancient people of Peru utilized this grain.

The dark truth of quinoa’s ever growing popularity, is that this food source was once a staple in Peru. However, today this grain now costs more than rice in their country because it is of only high demand in the United States and other more advanced countries. This has hurt the populations because they now lack access to their own natural food source. How do you make the right choice? Look for free-trade brands when you are shopping. It is the best for the environment and the surrounding people. Remember this is all our planet and we all deserve the riches she provides.

Enough of my soap box. What do you do with quinoa?! Well, you can cook it as the package instructs with water. This is best when you are going to use the quinoa for some other purpose. Such as pancakes (I’ll teach this recipe soon!)

For today, I used it in its normal form, a grain or a starch for my meal. Let’s start!

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • Quinoa 1 cup
  • Vegetable broth 2 cups
  • 3 big Idaho potatoes (or whatever you have on hand)
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 tablespoons of a diced onion
  • half a bunch of asparagus

Seasoning for Potatoes (Perfect side as wedges/fries)

  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dill weed
  • you can always add more if you prefer more flavor!

 

Process:

  • Heat the oven to 375 degrees for the potatoes.
  • Cut the potatoes long way to make nice even strips or wedge shape.
  • To prevent from turning brown, place potatoes in a bowl of ice water. This helps remove a lot of starch and helps in the cooking process.
  • Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray.
  • Place your wedges on the sheet and add the seasonings.
  • Mix them up with your hands and then throw in the oven for 15 minutes, then flip and return for 15 minutes.

 

  • While the potatoes are cooking let’s move on to the rest.
  • Chop your onion and throw in a medium sized skillet.
  • Peel the carrots and cut on a diagonal and cut the ends off the asparagus.
  • Then rinse the carrots and asparagus.
  • Bring the onion to a nice sauté and then add the rest of the veggies.
  • Meanwhile, in another medium size saucepan. Heat some olive oil.
  • Add the 1 cup of quinoa to the pot and let it get toasted, like you would pasta or rice. Gives it an extra earthy flavor.
  • Then add the 2 cups of vegetable stock. This also adds new flavor to the quinoa, which is a lot like a sponge and absorbs what ever flavors you put in it.
  • Let it boil and then simmer until all the liquid is absorbed.

 

Serve:

  • Throw the quinoa at the bottom of your dish.
  • Add the veggies on top and the potatoes, there is your quick and easy  beginner quinoa meal!!

 

Check out some photos of the process. Let me know what else you like to put quinoa in!

 

 

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Meatless Monday Chronicles: Butternut Squash Soup!

I am still figuring out this whole blog website thing…however, I want to create a recipe corner! (Just not sure how to make the menu thingy work). I am always concocting new creations. I have been obsessed with the kitchen since I was five. My mother said the first thing I learned was to push the dining chair into the kitchen and get to the counter. She would catch me peeling and stuffing boiled eggs in my face.

Then elementary school summer break came along, guess who loved reading books of all kinds?! Yup, cookbooks too. Very first, unsupervised thing I made was fudge. Boy was it delicious! My mom was impressed, yet terrified because I was cooking and boiling hot sugar…of course, I did not do that unsupervised again. I did learn to be really messy in the kitchen, which did not go so well with mom either. What can I say, I live by organized chaos! (I’ve learned to clean more haha).

My inspiration for this recipe is my mom. She has been vegetarian for over 30 years, maybe longer. As I got older, I perfected meat dishes for my dad (do not cook meat anymore), but I wanted to create unique things for my mom too. So, I combined a lot of my favorite orange things and thus called it soup!! Yup, as creative as it gets sometimes lol.

My mom is from the beautiful small island of Trinidad and Tobago, so, making a “Butternut Squash Soup” was definitely not a normal thing, but she was excited to try it! I have been making it the same ever since!

# of ingredients: 5

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 45-50 minutes

Ingredients:

  • Butternut Squash (1/2 pound)
  • Sweet Potatoes (2 medium size)
  • Carrots (3, peeled)
  • Veggie Stock (homemade or store bought – 3 cups)
  • Olive Oil Spray (or mister if you have one)

 

Directions:

  • Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
  • Cut the butternut squash, sweet potatoes, and carrots into similar size chunks.
  • Spray a baking sheet with non-stick spray.
  • Place all the orange veggies on the sheet. Bake for 30-35 minutes.
  • Use a long wooden skewer to pierce the veggies. If it goes through, they are ready to come out of the oven.
  • Heat a pot with 1 1/2 cup of veggie stock and bring to a boil.
  • Add all your veggies, (here, you can add some other fresh veggies like onion or fennel to give a different flavor!)
  • Bring to a nice simmer for about 10 minutes.
  • Turn the stove off, and get your blender ready! I have a NinjaChef, which was an awesome Christmas present!
  • I used the soup setting first and yes it will look like small lumpy mashed veggies, that is okay!
  • Don’t forget that reserved vegetable stock! Start to add that liquid to your veggies to help them move around the blender.
  • I do it in half portions to not exceed the “hot liquid” warning and to ensure smooth soup texture!
  • Once, all has turned into mush, add the last 1/2 cup of vegetable stock to the blender and put on the puree setting!
  • It is like magic, no more mushy, just silk smooth soup!
  • You can store in a freezer proof container for up to a month! I always divide my portions for lunch, dinner, and a lazy day in the future, i.e. freezer.

Below are some pictures from my Meatless Monday Chronicles! Tune in next week for another fun creation!

Remember, there is nothing to being an amazing home chef! Healthy meals are quick, simple, and low maintenance ingredients, they also do not have to break the bank!

Notice, there was no salt or sugar in this recipe! You get all the natural sweetness from the sweet potatoes and the carrots. Also, the butternut squash gives you amazing flavor and texture. This is a sure fire healthy meal, whether you are on a diet, trying to be vegetarian or vegan, or just want to try something new!

 

Hope you enjoy!! Come back for more Meatless Monday Chronicles!!

 

~Elizabeth Gosein-Vasquez

Mentor from Afar, Dr. Jane Goodall

I became enamored with Dr. Jane Goodall as a child, watching her on television. I thought how remarkable her career must be to study animals for a living and traveling the world. Her passion inspired me to want to make a difference in the world. To be the change I wanted to see. She instilled something within that I have since tried to follow.

Dr. Goodall may not even know the impact she has had on my life or my choices, but everything she stands for is what I believe in. She made groundbreaking strides not only for women in a male dominated field, but for animals. The Chimpanzees are very lucky to have an advocate like her in their corner. Dr. Goodall also brings the protection of local and indigenous people into the realm of protection. We must educate the masses on their vital role to protecting wildlife. The local people are very much part of the problem, but also they key to the solution when provided with the proper tools.

Not only is she a brilliant scientist, but a phenomenal world leader. She is known for being a peacemaker around the globe. According to her website, she “travels the world, writing, speaking and spreading hope though action, encouraging each of us to use ‘the gist of our life to make the world a better place’.”

I may not have followed in her footsteps, but I have continued to follow her work. I may not have become the scientist my parents wished, but I instead chose to take the law into my own hands and pursue a career in the protection of the environment and animals.

Many people do not believe they can make a change, but Dr. Jane Goodall is the perfect example of one person “being the change they wish to see in the world.” She is the ultimate “shero”, most definitely one of my idols. My dream is to one day meet her in a world where animals are given rights to exist and coexist with humans. I aspire to one day achieve the incredible accolades Dr. Goodall has over her lifetime as a pioneer in the animal rights community. Thank you for everything you have done, Dr. Goodall. Wishing you the most fabulous 84th Birthday. Here is to many more, and one day meeting you.

One of your biggest fans, Elizabeth ❤

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Sometimes We just Have to Let Go…

This post is a little more personal today. Especially, since it is Valentine’s Day. A day that is supposed to represent love, however, love should be expressed everyday that you are present on this earth. Love is not just felt from one human to another, a significant other, or family, but friendship too. Love is felt through all aspects of life. Some people even love inanimate objects, fictional characters, a person from history and most importantly, animals and nature.

The love of friendships is one of the most difficult loves. As the saying goes, “friends come and go”. Friends are supposed to be people that you care about, you care about their success, their happiness and health. Friends are the people you choose to be a part of your life. These people become your extended family. They make the choices to stay actively involved and you make the choice to keep them in your life.

However, as time moves forward, so do people. People most definitely change. We adapt through our experiences, both good and bad. Some people become more loving and forgiving, while others close up and no longer want to trust. Life is an eternal balance, one we have to live for ourselves. The balance of friendship is not the easiest. Some people get wrapped up in their significant others, while others are wrapped up in their work. These circumstances change the way we perceive ourselves and the people we once knew.

Sometimes these changes do not come at a time where we would like them to be. Nor do they come with a manual on how to accept the changes. Friends may sometimes think they have your best interest at hand, but may not execute it in the right way. Or they are just dealing with their own battles and are projecting their issues in their advice to you.

If you are currently going through a struggle in your life and the people you once depended on are not there for you. It is okay. They may have served their purpose in your life at a different point. You cannot force some one to stay in your life or to love you the way they once did. You may have noticed a change in their behavior towards you and that makes you no longer want to be around them, and that is okay too.

So what if you have mutual friends, in the grand scheme of things we are adults, we are human, and we are entitled to be around only those that care to be around us. You are allowed to let go of people that were once the best people in your life. If they no longer are the person you remember or their changes are ones you do not agree with, then let go and move forward.  No one has the right to make you feel bad about your struggles, about your choices, or how you handles challenges. That is a person who needs to self reflect on their actions, maybe they will, maybe they won’t. Either way that choice is not yours to make or to dwell on. We have to do what is right by us and what will make us happy.

Our society is too focused on what other people perceive of us and we are too concerned with how to act for the sake of others. The world will not stop moving because a friendship has come to an end. If these people are meant to be in your life, your paths will cross again. If not, do not wish them ill, just send positive thoughts for their life and move forward.

Most importantly, never stop loving. Love yourself first, love and come in tune with nature, the savior of life. Through all darkness there is always light and love. Be true to yourself. Happy Valentine’s Day.

 

Philosophical Moment: Just Stop and Listen

Have you ever just stopped to listen to the sounds all around you? To inhale and exhale the scent of the earth? Yes, the earth has a unique smell. In the morning, when the ground is full of dew, there is a certain scent. Then as the day wears on and the sun is beating down, there is a different more neutral scent. At dusk and nightfall, the earth yet again, smells different with the coolness of the air.

As the morning comes, the earth is stirring during feeding time for most creatures. Listening to birds as they sing to each other. Right now it is Spring in Florida. I am lucky enough to live in an area where we have “woods” in the back. In the rainy season there is a creek that forms and we get to see turtles, frogs in every stage of life, to predatory birds, babies that are bunnies, birds, small fish, and so much more. On my runs, with Tolkien of course, we spot eagles soaring above us. They are indeed majestic.

When I run, I use that time to reconnect with nature. I block out everything from the day, all the stress of the modern world. I just allow myself to literally become one with nature. I find myself just as inquisitive as my pup, as we go on trails. We both look for alligators (duh, it is Florida), in the canals, or different fish and even snakes! This is time to listen to the wind as it moves through the trees. I’ll get all “Pocahontas” for a minute…I do “Listen to the colors of the wind” and (“Listen with your heart” is tattooed on me). Something about the meaning behind that song has always resonated with me since I was a child. It is a beautiful story the earth has to speak to us, we just have to listen.

Even with the cars on the street driving by as we run, it is easy to tune them out and just focus on my breathing and what the earth has to offer. When I listen to the sounds of the wind, rustling of the leaves on the ground, the crunching of sticks and brush by animals hidden from sight, it brings a sense of awareness. We are not alone. Other sentient beings exist and live among us. It is very easy to forget that in our mundane lives. Just because you have a pet, it does not equate to connecting with your inner soul and the earth. Most of our animals are our family and are given a sense of privilege already, so they do not count.

Take at least one day a week to go outside and just, listen. Listen to the sounds of the earth. If you do not live somewhere where you can just go in your yard, then go to the park, beach, river, lake, forest, whatever natural area you can find. Take a notebook, and just sit and listen. Write down what you hear.  Write down how you feel. Is there a new sense of self? Sense of awareness? Awareness of yourself or of other things? Sense of peace and harmony? I would love for you all to come back and write on this post and share what you experienced. It is amazing what one day in nature can do for your sanity, hectic life, and just a self-love project.