2018 Lessons

Every year brings its own set of challenges, rewards, and memories. But this year brought more lessons than I’ve ever experienced. Today, I’m reflecting on 2018 Lessons and the year that was.

2018 Lessons | AreYouKitchenMe,com

Well friends, we’ve made it to the end of another year. 2018 is winding down and 2019 is peaking up over the horizon. I haven’t been posting many recipes these days with the new job and busy holiday season. But I do want to share some thoughts and lessons I learned this year. 

Boy, was it a year of learning…. I learned to walk away from toxic environments. I learned that I don’t have to do anything that makes me unhappy. I learned I can do or be anything. I learned that all the knowledge and wisdom I need can be found within myself.

2018 Lessons | AreYouKitchenMe,com

But learning is almost always preceded by struggle. And struggle I did. Here’s an example of a lesson I learned through struggle…

For over three years I worked at a nonprofit with a strong mission, a family-like team, and mentors who pushed me to be my best. But most of my time there I was unhappy, unsatisfied. After three internal promotions/ job changes, I thought I’d finally found the perfect fit. Yet I was still miserable.

“Is it me? Am I the common denominator? Am I the reason these jobs make me so unhappy?” I asked friends. I thought surely I was doing something wrong or expecting too much. And then sometime this summer, I dipped into the worst depression of my life. I went weeks without social engagement, cried myself to sleep nearly every night, and didn’t have the energy to do the activities I love.

2018 Lessons | AreYouKitchenMe,com

I certainly didn’t want to feel this way! And I knew a huge part of my depression was job dissatisfaction. After (over)thinking about it for months, I finally decided my only option was to leave. I was beyond terrified. But what I finally realized was I didn’t have to walk into that office if I didn’t want to. So I took a leap.

When people say “it was like a weight was lifted off my shoulders”, we usually assume they’re being hyperbolic. But in all honesty, turning in my letter of resignation released years of tension from my back. I felt a lightness in my body and spirit and a confidence that I have truly NEVER known.

And so I learned that I have the strength to walk away from what doesn’t serve me.

Without a backup plan or safety net or meticulously scheduled next steps, I walked away. It was painful and scary and the hardest thing I’ve ever done but I now have a job that I LOVE and don’t spend nights trembling in bed at the thought of each next day. 

2018 Lessons | AreYouKitchenMe,com

It’s funny how much this decision about my professional life is intertwined with lessons I learned about my personal life. It’s no secret that one of my biggest struggles has been overcoming disordered eating. And this year, I made my biggest strides ever. This year, I let go of everything. I ate whatever I wanted whenever I wanted it and did my very best to not feel guilty about anything.

And you know what? It was great. I had Christmas cookies outside of December. I ate bread for 75% of my meals. I drizzled olive oil generously over my entire life. I asked my parents to stop taking about weight loss and dieting in front of me. All of these things were also scary at first, but brought me so much joy in the end. I’ll admit that it hasn’t been all positive and that I constantly feel like I’m learning how far I still have to go. But I know I will go and it will be worth it. Yet another lesson in pushing through the hard stuff to get to what really matters. 

2018 Lessons | AreYouKitchenMe,com

I’m grateful for the lessons I learned this year. And what I want you to know from reading this is that lessons are hard. And sometimes you have to trudge through piles of shit to learn them. But just know that if you’re currently knee-deep in the trenches of shit, you are learning. You are growing. And you will make it.

And with that, here’s a quick rapid-fire round up of this year’s highs and lows.

Highs:

  • sitting on a secluded beach with my love in Bermuda
  • realizing how much I can love my natural hair
  • starting a podcast (shameless plug check us out here)
  • getting over my phobia of water to spend a  week swimming and snorkeling in Mexico- potentially my new favorite place in the world- with my parents + John
  • starting a great new job and working from home 
  • relaxed Saturday mornings at the farmers market every summer weekend
  • experiencing Harry Potter world!

Lows

  • losing my grandpa, a true inspiration to our whole family
  • feeling too low to ask for help but too scared to get through it alone
  • talking down to myself when my clothes don’t fit like they used to
  • the paralyzing fear of not succeeding

Again, I’m grateful for both the lows and the highs, for the lessons and joy they brought this year. Wishing you a VERY Happy New Year and sending love and peace for the year to come. 

Natalie

Creamy Butternut Squash Pasta with Balsamic Roasted Mushrooms

When you’re short on time, high on hunger, and looking for a satisfying vegan, gluten free dinner, Creamy Butternut Squash Pasta with Balsamic Roasted Mushrooms is the way to go! Just 10-ingredients and 30 minutes are all you need to make this delicious dinner happen!

Creamy Butternut Squash Pasta with Balsamic Roasted Mushrooms | AreYouKitchenMe.com

Hey pals! Been a while, eh? Somehow life happened and it’s already almost Christmas and my head is spinning! I’ll spare you the gory details but basically I started a new job, have been dealing with major hormonal issues, and am trying to prepare for Christmas despite my general dislike of gift buying. Life’s a trip.

Moving right along…. I know you’re busy and so am I and that’s why I’m certain you are going to LOVE today’s recipe. It’s quick, easy, comforting, healthy, warm, and perfect for this time of year. To be honest, this time of year is when I bake cookies every night instead of dinner and carryout becomes a major food group in our house. No complaints, I like not fussing over dinner sometimes.

Creamy Butternut Squash Pasta with Balsamic Roasted Mushrooms | AreYouKitchenMe.com

But on days when I do want a home cooked meal but don’t want to spend hours stirring a bubbling sauce or chopping a million vegetables, 9 times out of 10 I turn to pasta. And lately, I’ve been using Tresomga gluten free quinoa pasta.

Now, let me stop you right there. I do not follow a gluten free diet nor do I think you should unless you have Celiac’s or are allergic. Gluten is cool y’all. BUT, that said, part of eating a varied diet is switching things up so I was stoked to try these new quinoa noods on for size.

Creamy Butternut Squash Pasta with Balsamic Roasted Mushrooms | AreYouKitchenMe.com

Gluten free pastas have let me know in the past. They can be soggy, squishy, sticky, and downright icky. But the world is changing and many brands have come a long way but these Tresomega noodles are some of the best I’ve ever had. They ended up perfectly al dente, which if you’ve ever had GF pasta, you know is a feat.

Creamy Butternut Squash Pasta with Balsamic Roasted Mushrooms | AreYouKitchenMe.com

But we’re not done yet. The noodles are incredible but the star of the show is most definitely the creamy, silky, luxurious, yet somehow totally vegetable-y sauce. What I love about this sauce is that you just have to add a few ingredients to turn humble butternut squash into a decadent blanket for tender noodles. Ohhh that sounded sensual…

Creamy Butternut Squash Pasta with Balsamic Roasted Mushrooms | AreYouKitchenMe.com

Ok that’s enough rambling I know you’re just here for the butternut squash pasta recipe. You want my (not at all) professional opinion? You should DEFINITELY double (triple?) this recipe and bring it as a side for Christmas dinner. Then proceed to sit back and watch smugly as your family devours a gluten free, vegan, oil free serving….. bah humbug. 🙂

Creamy Butternut Squash Pasta with Balsamic Roasted Mushrooms

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 3-4 servings

When you're short on time, high on hunger, and looking for a satisfying vegan, gluten free dinner, Creamy Butternut Squash Pasta with Balsamic Roasted Mushrooms is the way to go! Just 10-ingredients and 30 minutes are all you need to make this delicious dinner happen!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups butternut squash cubes
  • ½ cup cashews
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened almond milk, plus more to thin
  • 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 Tbs. miso paste
  • ¼ tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/8 tsp. onion powder
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • Balsamic Mushrooms
  • 8 oz. sliced mushrooms, I used shiitake
  • 1 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbs. soy sauce
  • Salt + pepper to season

Instructions

  1. Steam the butternut squash in a colander over boiling water for 10-12 minutes, until fork tender. Then, add to the blender with the cashews, milk, nutritional yeast, miso, and seasonings and blend until smooth, 1-2 minutes. Set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, toss the mushrooms in the balsamic and soy sauce and bake them on a parchment-lined baking sheet in a 400° oven for 10-12 minutes. Season with salt and pepper as needed.
  3. While the mushrooms are cooking, bring a pot of heavily salted water (it should taste like the ocean. trust me please.) to a boil and drop in the pasta. Stir once and then boil for 11 minutes, until al dente.
  4. Drain the pasta, return to the pot, and combine with the sauce. Serve topped with mushrooms and an extra drizzle of balsamic. Enjoy!
https://www.areyoukitchenme.com/creamy-butternut-squash-pasta-balsamic-mushrooms/

I was provided with products from Tresomega in exchange for this post. All opinions are my own and I would never share a product with you that I didn’t love! 

Brussels Sprouts Au Gratin

A new classic to introduce at Thanksgiving this year- Brussels Sprouts Au Gratin is as comforting as the traditional casseroles with a fun new spin! They’re sprOUT of this world!

Brussels Sprouts Au Gratin | AreYouKitchenMe.com

Thanksgiving is next week and, unlike previous years, I don’t have a plan yet. Ah! I have an idea of what I’ll be making to bring to my parent’s big feast but the one thing I know for sure is this Brussels Sprouts Au Gratin.

Now, traditionally we don’t eff with the Thanksgiving meal. My family can be adventurous when the time is right but Thanksgiving is not that time. Our kitchen island spread always includes classic creamy mashed potatoes, traditional green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, cranberry sauce, and of course a big bird. Leave it to me to inject some novelty into the classic table…

Brussels Sprouts Au Gratin | AreYouKitchenMe.com

When I transitioned from vegetarian to vegan, I started veganizing some of the classics so that I could enjoy the meal with my family. I also started to slide a few new recipes in here and there… And they’ve been a hit! Some of my additions have been Creamed Kale, Apple Quinoa Fall Salad, Mushroom Gravy, and Sweet and Spicy Brussels Sprouts. Not exactly traditional but I didn’t hear any complaints.

So I’m back with another NEW Thanksgiving recipe! The good news is, this dish feels like the creamy, comforting, ooey-gooey recipes we’re all used to at the holidays. No wisecracks about “rabbit food” around here!

Brussels Sprouts Au Gratin | AreYouKitchenMe.com

I picked up all of the ingredients for this recipe at my favorite grocery store, Lucky’s Market! Every Saturday after hitting up the Clintonville Farmer’s Market (which has its last market this weekend- *sobs*), we stop into Lucky’s for the things we couldn’t get from the farmers. Their slogan “Organic for the 99%” speaks to all the things I love about this brand. They are committed to healthy, organic food but at prices you can afford without a trust fund.

Lucky’s also happens to have the juiciest, plumpest, most perfect Brussels sprouts this time of year. Seriously, I skip over the dinky sprouts at the market every time to hold out for these. I also hold out for Lucky’s brand products- ALL with a high-quality standard and great pricing. For this recipe, I grabbed their crispy Panko Breadcrumbs to add a little crunch and texture atop the creamy base. Oh, and I use their app to earn rewards and save seriously good money!

Brussels Sprouts Au Gratin | AreYouKitchenMe.com

Do you cook traditional dishes for Thanksgiving? Try switching it up with creamy, dreamy, and deliciously healthy Brussels Sprouts Au Gratin this year and let me know what you think!!

Brussels Sprouts Au Gratin

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

A new classic to introduce at Thanksgiving this year- Brussels Sprouts Au Gratin is as comforting as the traditional casseroles with a fun new spin! They’re sprOUT of this world!

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. Brussels sprouts, trimmed + halved (3 lbs. before trimming)
  • 1 Russet potato, peeled + chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, lightly smashed (mostly whole)
  • 1 cup raw cashews
  • 1 Tbs. salt
  • 1 Tbs. nutritional yeast
  • 1 Tbs. miso paste
  • 2 Tbs. refined coconut oil (optional)
  • Vegan Parmesan (store bought or from this recipe)
  • Lucky’s Panko Breadcrumbs

Instructions

  1. Add chopped potatoes, garlic, cashews, and salt to a pot and cover with 1½ cups of water. Bring to a boil over high heat then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes, until potatoes are fork tender. Let cool.
  2. Meanwhile, heat oven to 425F and lightly grease an 8x8 or round baking dish.
  3. Add contents of pot (including the cooking water) to a blender with nutritional yeast, miso, and coconut oil. Blend until completely smooth, scraping the sides as needed. If the mixture is too thick to blend, add a few tablespoons of water and try again- you want it very thick though, as the sprouts release liquid when cooked.
  4. Add the Brussels sprouts and the blended mixture to prepared pan and toss to completely combine. (You could do this in a separate bowl and then transfer to the pan if you don’t mind dirtying another dish.) Top generously with breadcrumbs and vegan parmesan.
  5. Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 10 minutes, until top it beginning to brown.
https://www.areyoukitchenme.com/brussels-sprouts-au-gratin/

Lucky’s provided me with gift cards in exchange for social media posts. As always, I would never promote brands or products I don’t love and truly believe in. Thanks for supporting the brands that make this blog possible!

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