Pasta-Free Casserole Dishes– A Busy, Health Conscious Mom’s Best Friend

Cauliflower is my new best friend in the kitchen says the entrepreneurial wifeAs a working mom and wife, I am constantly working on improving my 5 o’clock scramble to make dinner, while maintaining healthy meals for my family. After I finally started enjoying the benefits of casseroles, single-pan dinners, freezer meals, and crock-pots, I then this year decided to cut out refined grain from our diet. That threw everything for a loop! Part of what makes single-pan meals and casseroles so quick and hearty is that pasta is mixed in to bulk it up, right?

But between my husband’s more noticeable wheat allergy and my growing wheat intolerance (tummy aches, fatigue, depression), this is something, I’d have to master, and make it good so that my family didn’t backlash. Not to mention–I’d like to lose those last 10-pounds from my recent pregnancy!

Then I discovered my two now favorite Pasta-replacements that are now staples in my kitchen for my casseroles: Cauliflower and Spaghetti Squash.

I use spaghetti squash in great mealsI’ve tweaked three favorite dishes of mine to now include cauliflower or spaghetti squash and taste AS EQUALLY delicious so that my hubby and kids love it! 🙂

1. Pasta-less Beef Stroganoff my husband’s childhood favorite dish. He doesn’t even miss the pasta and neither of us get that bloated or tired feeling after eating a big bowl. And better yet, on those real busy nights, if I don’t have time to whip up a side-salad, I don’t have to feel guilty because the dish is already filled with cauliflower, mushrooms, and onions. 🙂 Any veggie side-dish is just an added bonus. I’ve this meal up to another blog, where I give a detailed recipe of how I make it so that cauliflower base works well.

2. Alfredo Chicken Pasta-less Casserole with Mushrooms and Broccoli-As you can see, we are big mushroom fans. Our kids are not, but they are allowed to pick them out, or I try and pick them out before I give them their dish so they don’t waste them. We don’t mind: more for us. Sometimes, I’ll still add garlic bread on the side for my kids so they can enjoy the delicious combination, but because they didn’t already have loads of pasta to go with it, I don’t have to worry about all that sugar in their blood from the simple carbs of the pasta. Salad is also a great addition to this dish, but on super busy nights, no longer necessary.

3. Mexican Spaghetti Squash Casserole–If you like chili, you will definitely love this dish. It is one of my absolute favorites and super easy to make if you are willing to use a microwave to cook the spaghetti squash. If you’d rather use the oven, it will take more prep time, but can still be easy on those busy nights if you cook the spaghetti squash the night before. Best yet, it is PACKED with all sorts of veggies!

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Mexican Spaghetti Squash Casserole

Mexican Spaghetti Squash Casserole is Healthy and DeliciousI am a HUGE Mexican food fan.  But I also know that all that rice and corn and wheat can go straight to my belly, and I don’t mean just for digestion. I’m trying to lose my pregnancy weight and so eating less fattening carbs and more vegetables has been a big part of my goals this year. I’m doing well too! I’m only 2 pounds over my pre-pregnancy weight.

But no matter how much I still care about my middle, I still enjoy a good Mexican or Mexican inspired dish, especially if I can figure out how to make it healthy.

On night when I had to dig through my cupboards to figure out a meal to make, I accidentally created what we now eat as a family staple in my house. I dubbed it Mexican Spaghetti Squash Casserole. It is soooooo good. And it is healthy. Yay!

What You Will Need:

  • A large casserole dish (or you can cook it right in the spaghetti squash shell)
  • 1.5 -2 lbs of ground beef
  • 1-2 bags of frozen “fiesta style” veggies (corn, black beans, bell peppers, onions)
  • Can of red beans
  • 1 cup of chopped tomatoes
  • small jar of red enchilada sauce
  • 4 oz of sharp cheddar cheese
  • a container of sour cream
  • taco seasoning
  • ground cumin
  • 1 large spaghetti squash

Directions:

  1. Cook the Spaghetti Squash in the oven or the microwave, depending on how much time you have.
  2. In a large pan, brown the beef with some onions and add taco seasoning and cumin.
  3. Add 1-2 bags of the frozen “fiesta mix” to the meat mixture.
  4. Add the chopped tomatoes and the canned red beans to the meat mixture.
  5. Pull out the spaghetti squash “noodles” from the large shell and into the pan.
  6. Toss the spaghetti squash noodles with the meat mixture.
  7. Pour into casserole dish or spaghetti squash shells
  8. top with enchilada sauce and shredded cheese.
  9. serve warm on plate with a dollop of sour cream , some avocado slices, and some cilantro sprigs.

Like this recipe? Read more from Theresa at her new blog http://mamaguts.com

Pasta-less Ground Beef Stroganoff

My husband grew up on Beef Stroganoff and trained me in how to make his tried and true recipe. By no means is this recipe the healthiest of choices, but it certainly is delicious. Yet after the new year, my husband and I both made some health goals that would require eliminating wheat from our diet. There are a number of reasons that I really should blog about, but in a nutshell– he is allergic to it, I’m intolerant to it, and it would probably help us lose that extra butter roll around our middle sections. 🙂

beef stroganoff tastes amazing with cauliflower instead of pasta says the entrepreneurial wifeStill–we refuse to be unhappy with our cooking and we want to still maintain some of those “soul-food” recipes that we find comfort in. And as a working mom, I have come to appreciate making this meal for my family because it is fast and hearty. When I come home from a long day at work and have to make dinner, I’m not interested in spending more than 30 minutes or so in that kitchen.

So I started researching what the Paleo people out there are eating for some inspiration. I had heard about Cauliflower rice but have never tried it. So I started messing around with it and have now fallen absolutely in love! Best yet, my husband loves it as well because he can still eat his family favorite meal– Beef Stroganoff and not get completely congested, plus can feel good knowing he got a big serving of veggies to go along with it.

This meal is great for busy moms because you can make it ahead of time and freeze it. Freezer meals are life-savers for busy moms. Even if you don’t freeze it, it makes an easy and relatively healthy one pan meal. For those of you who are very anti-processed food, you will want to tweak this recipe so it doesn’t include the canned soup or dry soup mix. I myself try to stay away from processed food most of the time, but given this is my husband’s favorite recipe from growing up, I stick to it. We feel that if it not a daily element of the diet, then we don’t feel too guilty about it.

Ingredients Needed:

  • 1 large head of cauliflower, chopped rice style or sliced into small florets
  • 2 lbs of ground beef
  • 2 cups of chopped mushrooms
  • half a yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 packet of onion soup mix (otherwise make your own with beef broth base, salt, and onion powder)
  • 1 family-sized can of cream of mushroom soup (or make your own with  chicken broth, mushrooms, milk, flour, and some garlic salt)
  • 2 tablespoons of real butter, olive oil, or avocado oil.

Directions:

  1. I chop up my cauliflower first in my blender on low while I’m browning the ground beef and onions in a large frying pan or wok.
  2. Then I cook the cauliflower in a big pan either butter or oil like olive or avocado along with the mushrooms. I cook it until the cauliflower is soft but not mushy (takes about 5-10 minutes depending on the size of the pan. The mushrooms turn out great this way as well–nice and soft.
  3. I then pour in the onion soup mix and the cream of mushroom soup into the ground beef and onions and stir until the soup mix is blended evenly into the meat and creamed soup.
  4. Transfer the cauliflower and mushrooms into the wok with the beef and sauce.

Mix and serve nice and hot. (Better yet–serve with a nice green salad).

I also make a great Chicken Alfredo with cauliflower instead of pasta. What are some of your tweaks on pasta dishes so that they are pasta-free? Any great and easy casserole recipes you could share with me to help my 5 o’clock scramble? Please share in the comments below and share this post with some of your busy friends who could use a break without the pasta. 🙂

Like this recipe? Read more from Theresa at her new blog http://mamaguts.com

 

Pasta-less Chicken Alfredo with Cauliflower

Using Cauliflower Rice instead of Pasta is a Delicious and Healthy ChoiceOne of my most favorite Italian dishes is Chicken Alfredo. Every time I go to an Italian restaurant, it is one of the dishes I consider ordering. My favorite way to have is it with penne, mushrooms, and add broccoli to the mix too. Add a yummy salad and some bread sticks and I am in heaven. But between the dairy and the wheat, I’m left feeling pretty tired and bloated an hour or so afterward. So I’d limit my Chicken Alfredo treat to once a month. Once a month, I’d endure the discomfort to allow my taste buds the pleasure of biting into that tender chicken and cheesy creamy sauce over my favorite pasta.

Then 2015 rolled around and my hubby and I were feeling very motivated to make those necessary dietary changes in our lives. We wanted to lose weight; we wanted more energy; and we wanted to be free of allergies and intolerance. So we decided to go wheat free. We try to lean toward paleo for the most part which makes it easy, but we are not hardcore. We will still do potatoes from time to time and still enjoy some rice here and there as well or some quinoa crackers.

mushrooms are absolutely necessary for any delicious meal. Especially Chicken Alfredo. But one of the big paleo trends is to use cauliflower instead of pasta in certain dishes. When I heard of this, I decided to experiment a bit with my beloved Chicken Alfredo. What I created ended up being AMAZING. And I can honestly tell you that this pasta-loving gal does not even miss pasta in this dish anymore. I didn’t eliminate the dairy, but getting rid of the wheat made it so much easier on my belly, both inside and out. 😉

For a quick but delicious recipe, just buy pre-made Alfredo sauce. Otherwise use your favorite Alfredo sauce recipe instead.

Ingredients Needed:
  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 1 lb of chicken breast tenderloin
  • 10-15 whole white or crimini mushrooms
  • 10-15 broccoli florets
  • Alfredo Sauce (1 jar or 1.5 cups)
  • 1/2 stick of butter
  • spray olive oil
  • some garlic salt
  • 1/4 cup of Parmesan or Romano cheese
chicken alfredo is guilt free when served over cauliflower instead of pastaDirections:
  1. Bake or pan fry the chicken ahead of time in olive oil or avocado oil and some garlic salt and chop up into bite sized pieces.
  2. Wash and chop up the cauliflower into rice (I chop mine up real quick in my vitamix blender on low)
  3. Slice or dice your mushrooms
  4. Begin steaming the broccoli florets.
  5. While broccoli is steaming, Melt butter in a pan and saute the cauliflower and mushrooms together until both are soft and moist.
  6. Make or warm up the alfredo sauce.
  7. Pour sauce over cauliflower and mushroom mixture and then add in the steamed broccoli and chicken. Stir.
  8. Serve hot and sprinkle with parmesan or romano cheese.

Even better if served with a side salad.

Like this recipe? Read more from Theresa at her new blog http://mamaguts.com

Want more ideas for gluten free cooking? Check out these gluten free cookbooks! 🙂

Morning Shake for the Busy or Working Parent

super greens, flax, and chia are great additions to a morning shake

super greens, flax, and chia are great additions to a morning shake.

A lot of people ask me how I can maintain a figure while being so busy. Between working a full-time job, running 2-4 writing jobs on the side, raising 4 kids, and being a wife– one can wonder how I’m able to still eat healthy. We all know how much easier it is to run by a fast-food restaurant or to microwave a Cup o’ Noodles when we have only so much time for ourselves. And I know plenty of busy parents who just don’t eat breakfast– a hot cup of coffee is all they want or have time for.

I myself have been there. Coffee for breakfast. Cup O’ Noodles for lunch. Yep.

But it’s not healthy. We all know it. But how do we add more minutes to our day? I certainly don’t have time to sit down for a morning bowl of oatmeal, let alone an omelette.

And then I decided to try the morning shake. Now this works! The issue has been finding the right type of food to put in my shake so that I get the nutrition I need and remain full enough to only need a snack around 10 until my lunch at noon. But also is simple enough so that I don’t spend longer than a couple of minutes to make it before I run out the door and drink it on my way to work.

Some mom’s I have talked to just put fruit and veggies in their morning shake. I cannot do that I don’t recommend it for most people. That will just shoot up your glucose levels and send them crashing down within 2 hours. You will feel weak, disoriented, and tired.

You need protein. And believe it or not, you need fat for satiety and energy. Do not skip these in your morning shake.

Here some staple ingredients I put in my morning shakes: 

2-3 Handfuls of Super Greens (kale, spinach, chard)

Don’t worry, you won’t even taste these in your morning shake if you add the protein powder or meal replacement later. I get mine from Costco because it’s a huge bag and is triple washed. To make sure it lasts through the couple of weeks it takes me to go through it, I stick it right in the freezer. Then I grab the bag in the morning and pull out 2-3 handfuls of the frozen leaves and throw it in my blender. Added bonus– less ice needed, if any. 🙂 If you choose not to use protein powder or meal replacement, I recommend adding Stevia, Monk Fruit, or Agave to sweeten the shake up a bit and cover the earthy flavor this will provide if your palate does not care for green beverages.

A Half a Cup of Fruit

My favorites include frozen blueberries or strawberries or banana. I also really like butternut squash! (Add some cinnamon!) While fruit certainly adds vitamins and other nutrition to the shake, my big reason for adding it is for the flavor variety it offers. Try not to put too much in though, because fruit does have a lot fructose in it (Blueberries and butternut squash offer the least); however, if you do not use protein powder or meal replacement (which usually is sweetened) then add more fruit to balance the green superfood and make it more palatable.  Whatever the fruit option is for the week or two that I have it, I make sure that it is in a bag, frozen in the freezer. I buy the berries already frozen from Costco. Bananas take just a few minutes to peel and chop on a Sunday afternoon. Then I throw them all in a freezer bag and I’m set up for the week.

A Tablespoon of Chia Seeds

Again, I buy a big bag of it at Costco and I store it in my fridge to make sure it lasts. One bag lasts me a couple of months. Chia seeds are packed with protein and omega 3’s to punch up the healthy benefits of my morning shake. Note– don’t let your shake sit for too long.Drink it down because Chia gels after a while and will turn your shake into pudding (which is not bad if you want a healthy pudding option!) but not so easy to drink if that was your original intention. 🙂

A Tablespoon of Flax Seeds

I put mine in whole, but I have a Vitamix blender which can blend it. If you don’t, I recommend buying them already ground. I buy mine at my local natural foods store from the dry bins. Its cheaper that way and fresh. 🙂 These are packed with protein, more omega 3 fatty acids, and add added fiber to your diet. This is great for cleansing and detoxing!

A Tablespoon of Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is a medium-chain saturated fat. Don’t get scared about the saturated fat part. If it is medium-chained, it goes straight to the liver for instant energy–and is not stored in your body. It will help you stay full longer, give you added energy, and as a great bonus– coconut oil is a natural anti-viral, so it will help keep your immune system strong. The coconut flavor is a nice addition to the morning shake as well. 🙂 Don’t forget– fat is essential for hormone balance, ladies! And it takes fat like this to burn fat. Don’t skip on the fat! You need it! 30% of your daily calories should actually be from healthy fats. Now it doesn’t take much of it to make up 30% of your calories so don’t go overboard. But don’t buy into the lie that you need to go fat free to get slim. It just ain’t true. 🙂 Costco (Do you see a pattern here? ) sells a great quality Coconut oil that is organic, virgin, unrefined, and cold-pressed– all important for the health benefits of coconut oil.

15-30 Grams of a Protein 

I get this from a variety of options: Whey powder, Greek-Yogurt, Peanut Butter, and/or Raw Egg.

Whey Powder–This is my favorite. You can get a whopping 25-30 grams of protein which is ideal for your breakfast launch into the day. They come in great flavors like chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry. I prefer vanilla because its more versatile. And its the quickest way to get the protein in your shake and you out the door. But if you don’t like that option–there are some whole food options I also enjoy–they just add a few more time. I’m not advocating any particular brand. There are many good ones out there. And you don’t need whey if you don’t like. There is pea powder, soy powder, creatine…so much variety out there. I prefer whey because it is affordable, tasty, and doesn’t hurt my belly like casein, and doesn’t add estrogen like soy will.

Greek Yogurt is also a great option. In one cup of Greek yogurt, there is 20 grams of protein. Most come non-fat, but you can find some with low-fat or full fat. If you get the full fat or low-fat, you may not need the coconut oil (although it won’t hurt).  I usually find this much yogurt too much for my shakes, so I usually cut it to half a cup and then add peanut butter to cover the flavor a bit.

Peanut Butter--There is 4 grams of protein in every tablespoon of peanut butter. So supplementing the yogurt with 2-3 tablespoons of peanut butter work too. This takes more time than the whey powder, which in one scoop is done– no tablespoons or measuring cups needed.

Raw Egg is another great option. Don’t be afraid of all those “raw eggs are bad for you” crap. Did you know that you don’t even need to refrigerate raw eggs when in the shell? Yes–we are still listening to wives tales. Do the research. Or trust me– raw eggs in your shake are just fine. Just drink it in a timely fashion. Don’t let it sit all morning and then drink it. There are 6 grams of protein in a large egg. So again–this works as a great supplement to the yogurt or peanut butter.

A Good Meal Replacement Powder (Optional if you do all of the above) 

While the above is certainly enough for a good morning shake, my husband finds that by adding the meal replacement powder, it gives him added satiety and more nutrition from the additions it brings in. There are a lot of good brands out there that work– Shakeology is the most expensive, but whole-food based and very delicious. Juice Plus is also non-GMO, whole-food based, and delicious. Herbal Life I finds keeps me fullest the longest and has a lot of really delicious flavors–although it is not whole-food based so you will get synthetic vitamins added in and GMO based nutrition.

All in all– it takes me about 3-4 minutes to make my shake, so I’m out the door real quick. If you can’t take the 3-4 minutes then wake up 3-4 minutes early. It is worth your health!! No excuses. ) 

  1. I grab the bag of frozen super greens, throw in 2-3 handfuls.
  2. Then I grab the bag of frozen fruit and grab a handful of that.
  3. Next I grab the two bags of seeds out of the refrigerator and open the bags and grab about a tablespoon out of each using my fingers as a scooper.
  4. Next I grab my protein powder and scoop out a serving using the scoop the brand provides and do the same for the meal replacement.
  5. I finally add some non-fat, sugar-free rice milk or almond milk (1-1.5 cups if I’m making it just for myself, and 2.5-3 cups if I’m making it for my hubby too). I blend on high until it’s all blended and the seeds disappear. I quickly poor it into a 16-20 oz cup, rinse out the blender real quick in the faucet and then head out the door. I drink on my way to work.

What are some of your favorite quick morning shakes for breakfast? Check out these great morning smoothie recipe books for other options!

How to Make a Spirulina Drink That Actually Tastes Good

spirulina powder, mint-flavored chlorophyll, a 20-oz cup of water with a straw, and a stevia sweetener.

spirulina powder, mint-flavored chlorophyll, a 20-oz cup of water with a straw, and a stevia sweetener.

I’m always researching information related to health and wellness and trying to incorporate my newest findings into my repertoire of diet and supplementing. On one such quest, I discovered the super food, Spirulina. An algae turned into powder and bottled up in the vitamin section of your nearby health food store, this super food is packed with vitamins and trace minerals, with testimonials claiming that it boosts immunity, fights free radicals, helps digestion, and supports cardiovascular health. I decided to try it out, especially after hearing about its high amount of iron and calcium. By little boys don’t really care for milk or any milk-alternative and don’t really care for meat—so I’m always looking for ways to increase their iron and calcium.

Well, when I bought the powder and brought it home, I excitedly scooped out a teaspoon of powder and dumped it into my cup then poured my water into it and stirred. When I took the first sip, I gagged. This was disgusting. It truly tasted like pond scum, no way around it. I began to drink quickly, fighting off my reflex to gag. When I finally finished the last muddy sip, I recovered by the sink, dry heaving, and praying I could keep it all down. Thankfully after a few deep breaths and some fresh water to take the taste from my mouth, I was able to regain my composure and jump onto the internet to find some recipes that would help the taste. I could NOT do that again!

The recipes, I found, however, just didn’t meet my needs. Almost all of them either required a juicer or a blender and involved incorporating fruit and other veggies to mask the flavor.

I don’t have time for this.

I want a quick drink that I can chug down and be done with. I don’t want to cut up or wash fruit and I certainly don’t want to pull out my juicer or Vitamix blender. Those are great. But I don’t have time to make this a daily routine, and I do want spirulina to be a daily supplement.

Tonight, I figured out a way to make a quick spirulina drink that actually didn’t make me gag. It actually tasted good! I’m so excited about it that I had to share it with those out there also looking.

I first put the powder into my cup, then added the water, then topped that off with the mint-flavored chlorophyll and the stevia sweetener. Then I mixed it thoroughly with the straw until all was blended and ready do drink.

It tasted great! It was mildly sweet and earthy with a touch of mint.

Like more recipes and articles like this? Check out more from Theresa at her new blog, http://mamaguts.com

 

It’s Raining, it’s Pouring: how to make Colombian hot chocolate

200236712-001My son this morning stared in awe at the wonder before his eyes. Water was falling from the sky and Kanan wanted to know what the heck was going on. His little mouth fell open and he kept pointing out of the car and saying “whats that?” He also did not like my windshield wipers going back and forth until I started moving my right arm in the same motions and saying “wipe” everytime it sprung back to position. He laughed and laughed.

I love the rain. It makes me think of childhood. Here is a link to a little story I wrote a couple of years ago about rain and childhood. I hope you enjoy. 🙂

Oh and after reading the story, and you would like to make this lovely chocolate beverage here is a simple recipe.

Colombian Hot Chocolate

  1. break up 1 block of colombian chocolate (70% cocao)
  2. bring desired amount of milk to a boil (how manycups of chocolate you want will be dependent on the ounces of milk).
  3. Add chocolate chunks into milk
  4. add desired amount of sugar
  5. whisk with a molinillo (a wooden whisker specifically for chocolate)
  6. simmer until melted, whisking as you go
  7. pour into a mug
  8. add one chunk of queso blanco into the center of your hot chocolate and let melt
  9. enjoy!

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How To Make Colombian Hot Chocolate

I sit here on this rainy afternoon, smelling the wet cement outside my classroom door, looking down at my hot chocolate sitting in my coffee mug. I take a sip and feel the sugar crystals melting in my mouth and a mild nostalgia takes over me-bittersweet. I am reminded of my youth in San Bernardino County. It was during the year it rained and rained and rained. So many kids hated the rain. But rain always reminds me of my mother’s Colombian hot chocolate-of my brother and sister. Of an innocence and glee for life, which has begun to crust and separate now- like cheap hot chocolate after it sits too long-how I yearn for the chocolate of my youth again.

My mother got huge blocks of Colombian Chocolate from her mother every time she went back home to Bogota to visit our family. Family I have never met and hope to know one day. She took out the block and put it on a cutting board and broke it with a kitchen hammer. Then she poured the bittersweet chunks into a big pot with sugar and milk and boiled it until the chocolate melted and then simmered it for a long time, whisking it with this giant wooden whisker she called a molinillo, letting the happy chemicals in the chocolate saturate the milk. To pass the time, she sent my brother, sister and I outside, bundled up in winter clothes to go play in the rain. We ran around wildly, taking our umbrellas not for protection, but to use as buckets as we filled them up with rain-water flowing down from the drain pipe off our roof and then laughed as we dumped it over our heads. We soaked ourselves clear though our long johns and gleefully shivered. We jumped in the puddles that formed in the streets, laid on our bellies and dared each other to lick the rain off the cement driveway. We played hide and go seek, and between games tilted our heads back, tongues completely out, tasting the semi-sweet, earthy flavor of the sky.

After about 45 minutes, the cold would no longer feel good and my mother knew this, prepared and all. She called out our names and opened up the garage, still warm from the heat of the washer and dryer. She pulled out fresh clothes for us, hot and smelling of Mountain Fresh scented drier sheets. We undressed and changed right there, giggling and telling our mother of our adventures so quickly, I’m surprised she could even make out our words. Then she opened the door leading into the house and handed each of us each a steaming cup of Colombian hot chocolate with at a drop of queso blanco floating in the center. We smelled the sweet aroma, carefully walked to the living room, taking short steps which barely lifted our feet from the carpet, so as not to spill the chocolate. There in the living room awaited a blazing fire in the fireplace, the smell of the burning wood, mixed with the steam of the chocolate, and I sunk easily into the moment-comfort’s womb. The three of us sipped our hot chocolates in silence, and with chocolate mustaches and peace in our eyes, took out our coloring books, and colored right on the brick step of the fireplace. My mother sat on the couch, watching us in silence as well, a satisfied smile on her face. I remember glancing back at her and watching her sip her chocolate drink long and slowly, closing her eyes. I like to imagine, it was in that very moment she was dreaming of her childhood in Los Angeles and the family adventures in Bogota, Colombia-the country where she grew to understand love and family-and where she would gain the wisdom to teach us these things.

My mother doesn’t get Colombian blocks of chocolate anymore. But when I finally get to visit for the first time that country of my blood, I will buy enough to last my lifetime.