One To Nothin'

Dairy-Free Stuffed Shells Simmered in Tradition

In my family, food is everything. We never pass up an opportunity to get our grub on, and we’ve pretty much got a signature dish for every holiday, event or, in my case, homecoming.
Christmas morning it’s eggs benedict, on my birthday is wiener schnitzel, for Halloween it’s fish sticks (with mayo + ketchup sauce - don’t judge) and so on. It’s a thing. I can tell you each of my family members’ favorite foods because we eat them on their birthdays every year without fail. But aside from these foodie traditions, we had a few odd snacking preferences, too.
We were far too dedicated one specific brand of frozen burrito, on an average day you could find me crunching on raw Ramen noodles (yea, I still do that), and frozen stuffed shells were my jam. My family never really cooked Italian food except for the occasional spaghetti, but I fell madly in love with stuffed shells somewhere along the way.
I started ordering them every time I saw them on a menu and while everyone else was falling all over their meaty, tomatoey lasagnas and baked ziti, I was all PASS THE CHEESE. Since discovering, ignoring and finally accepting the fact that I’m severely lactose intolerant all through college, the passionate flame started dying down. And after one extremely unfortunate calzone situation (think: a bunch of dudes + work lunch + me eating a calzone the size of my face), I no longer allowed myself to be giddy at the sight of my beloved shells.
I’d pretty much given up on them completely until all my recipe development for Does This Have Dairy? got underway, but I’m happy to report that I’ve got my shells back — without the pain or awkward next-day water cooler chats. And so without further ado, I introduce to you my newest tradition: dairy-free stuffed shells. 
1/2 c cashews (soaked overnight)
1/8 c lemon juice
2 T diced garlic
1 lb firm tofu
1 1/2 t salt
2 T olive oil
Large pasta shells
2 T chopped fresh basil
1 jar RAGÚ® Homestyle Zest Garlic Pasta Sauce
Imitation mozzarella cheese shreds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and start boiling water to cook pasta shells
Blend cashews, olive oil, garlic and lemon juice in a high speed blender or food processor until it’s thick and creamy
Add crumbled tofu and salt to the blender mix and blend until it’s a nice ricotta texture
Mix in chopped basil
Spread half the RAGÚ® bottle over the bottom of the pan
Dunk the cooked shells in ice water after draining, then stuff them with about 2 T of ricotta mixture, arranging them in the saucy pan
Top the shells with the rest of the RAGÚ® sauce and sprinkle with imitation mozzarella cheese
Bake for 30-40 minutes

Check out more RAGÚ® recipes here!
Wanna watch me make it instead? Press play!
Learn more about RAGÚ® Homestyle Sauces and discover more recipes for the family here.

What kind of foodie traditions or weird snacks went down at your house?


Merry Christmas & A Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas, friends! I spent the holiday with my family in Florida. I didn't take many photos, or dress up in pretty clothes (narwhal onesies, however..), or even stay for very long. I just loved on my family and friends, got silly, ate lots and lots of food, and headed back west. I have an extensive list of goals, to-dos, improvements and ideas I hope to get through in 2017, but I know this blog won't be a priority. Sure, I'll update when I feel compelled, but I decided that I won't let its neglect cause me any distress in the new year. That's not to say I won't be writing though. Quite the opposite, in fact. A large amount of my creative energy will be spent on my new website, and while its focus is on lactose-free living, I think you know me well enough to know I can't even write a recipe without letting some goofy ass personal anecdotes creep their way in. So I hope you'll follow along on this journey (I'm always on Instagram) and help make this year far better than the last. See ya in 2017!

What I Wore

Top: Tilly's / Shades: Ray-Ban / Shorts: Billabong / Choker: UO / Sandals: Seychelles
It’s hard to believe there was a time when I consistently posted five times a week. What did I even talk about? It’s funny how quickly we lose momentum when it comes to creative endeavors. I’m definitely not just talking about blogging.
I’m talking fancy carbs, novels started a year and a month ago and not touched since, websites that are stupid frustrating to set up, publications that disappear overnight (and never pay you for your work) and the ever fleeting motivation that comes at the least convenient, most impossible time to act on it.

Excuses, of course. Some bloggers wake up at 4am to work out, spend all day doctoring children or something equally difficult and draining, then shoot, write and edit beautiful content while taking care of a family and still have time and money to travel the world. Those people are not me, unfortunately.
I get overwhelmed by three dishes in the sink. I fail to do laundry for three weeks at a time. I don’t buy a new bag of dog food until the last one is completely empty. I’m still in shock from the election (and cry when I go on Facebook). I Googled “Is it bad to take old lady vitamins?” last night after realizing I bought Centrum Silver. I don’t exactly have my shit together, but hey! Sometimes I find pretty walls to take photos in front of. And sometimes I find crop tops I don’t hate that are on mega sale. Sometimes I run marathons and other times I watch all of the new Gilmore Girls episodes in one day, hungover on the couch. But I pretty much always find a way to have fun, and one day I’m confident that I’ll miss the days when it was pretty okay to not have my shit together. 


26.2 - My First Marathon

I DID IT! I ran 26.2 miles. The distance I've thought about, dreamt of, dreaded and thought maaaaybe I'll get around to it some day; I friggin did it. I can finally check "run a marathon" off my bucket list. In the past four months I ran for hours and hours, grimaced over my rough AF feet, listened to around eight audiobooks, jammed to 457 billion songs, ate SO many carbs, run over the Golden Gate Bridge, moved sloth-like up hills, had off days, felt on top of the world and wondered if I'd ever be ready to run 26.2 all at once. My BFF and fitness partner-in-crime, Eva, and I drove down to LA last Thursday night after coordinating outfits (side note: @runningonboba). We nommed on candy the whole way there and in between singing Taking Back Sunday at the top of our lungs, we obsessed over who will be there, how fast, how hot, why did the time change already and omg-I-can't-believe-we're-actually-doing-this.

Our race was in Ventura, The Surfer's Point Marathon, even though we were staying in Venice Beach leading up to the race. We'd never been to Ventura and were realizing in the weeks prior to the race how small of an event it was actually going to be. We were also realizing that, although we didn't exactly train in cool weather, we were about to run in real-life southern California heat just one week after the time change, meaning we'd be finishing the race right around the hottest hour of the day. Cue the panic. The night before we stocked up on Gatorade, Gu, coconut water, sunscreen and, of course, doughnuts and went to sleep at 9pm. All night I dreamt about getting to the starting line late and missing the race/melting to death in the heat, but we woke up with plenty of time to eat almond butter toast and bananas, braid our hair and snap a few photos at the start. From there we started our pre-formulated playlists (here's mine) and began the longest run of my life.

It was 80+ degrees the whole time as we ran along the coast at Surfer's Point -- a 13.1 mile "loop" twice -- so we had gorgeous views of the beach, the mountains and all the other runners finishing their 5ks, 10ks and half marathons as we soldiered on. I walked through all but one water station, eventually taking two cups at a time, one to dump on my head and the other to drink. I was completely soaked by the time I finished, but despite the heat and the zero-turnout cheering section (I did get a few yells as I crossed the finish line, but no one else even knew there was a race going on), my mind stayed positive throughout. After I hit mile 18 (the farthest I'd gone in training), I vacillated between being high on how far I'd already gone, and being terrified that I was going to hit an impenetrable wall. Every time I started to reel at the though of eight more miles (I literally said out loud, "Just eight more miles. YOU can run eight miles."), six more miles (a whole hour??), three more freakin' miles?!, I'd say, "Don't you dare get overwhelmed now."

If you've read this blog for a long time (and I mean looong time), you probably know I'm not always the kindest to myself on runs. I used to be straight up RUDE. I called myself names. I told myself I was weak. I threatened myself when I felt like giving up. I didn't want to do that this time around. Throughout training I didn't worry if I needed to walk. I listened to books instead of songs that would keep my pace up. I ended runs (and sometimes stopped in the middle of them) with boba tea or fried chicken or whatever my body started craving as I willed it to keep moving for hours on end. Sometimes I skipped runs because spending time with friends felt more important. I had fun.

I've loved running for a long time, but it hasn't always been the same kind of love. I think there's a reason I racked up six half marathons before finding the strength to sign up for a full, and I think I needed to go easy on myself. I trained hard, I got stronger and I finished the way I wanted to, but I was kind. I didn't force myself to do more than I was ready for. I didn't (usually) berate myself for missing a run. I didn't say it on here, but my goals for this race were to finish under five hours and to feel strong doing it. My official time was 4:28 and even though my hips are still pretty unhappy four days later, I do feel strong. I'm so incredibly grateful for my body that allows me to run, for Eva who pushed me, inspired me and agreed to run it with me, for all of my incredible friends who texted me, called me, asked me how it went, congratulated me on finishing and didn't unfollow me when all I did was blast social media with marathon updates. Every time I got a message from you guys it made me that much more determined. Knowing that my friends and family believed in me made me believe it, too.

I love you all so much, and I'm freakin' stoked call myself a marathoner.

Which one should I do next? ;)

Here are some other posts I've written on the subject of running:


Shirt: Target / Jeans: Zara / Booties: Target / Ring c/o Labradorite Magic
As a child I found it oddly necessary to have a favorite in every category.

Favorite song? “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad” by Meatloaf. Favorite movie? Grease 2. Favorite food? Wiener schnitzel. Favorite hobby? Roller blading (in the garage while singing Allure at the top of my lungs).

It felt important to be able to rattle off these answers with immediacy and certainty. You know, just in case I was ever in a life threatening situation that required a zero-hesitation-tolerated answer to "WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE TV SHOW, 10-YEAR-OLD MACKENSIE?"

I can proudly say none of the aforementioned faves still apply, but color? That category has remained. Green was, is and probably always will be my favorite of the colors.

I was fascinated by other people’s number ones as well. I could name every person in my family’s preferred color, even when they were waffling between two. I’d pick out their colors on my stuffed animals and imagine how that color must make them feel. I couldn’t imagine pink, yellow or red giving someone else the thrill I got from green, but I tried. When all the other markers were streaking or coming out in meek, textured smears, the green one was always lush and full of juice, filling the page effortlessly with its vitality.

Growing up in one of the greenest places in America probably helped. Everything is green in Florida. It means it’s alive, lush, healthy. The rain never stays away for long, and plants have no reason to wither away or emulate the golden hue of California’s hills. It’s bright and playful, fresh and versatile. It can be water or plants, juice or mold, health or sickness, eggs or ham.

Just like I needed answers to anything the words "what's your favorite.." could end with, I often pondered the color of my irises. My eyes contain several colors and often change depending on my clothes, mood or scenery, but if for nothing but my driver's license, I needed to pin it down. I always felt like "hazel" was a cop out, but grey-blue-orange-green is never a box to check off.

The colors change, but I like them best when they’re my favorite color. And sometimes all it takes is a little shirt, ring and post-rain landscape coordination to make it happen.

Oh, and that ring? It's a Labradorite gem, a magical stone said to have released the Northern Lights into the night sky after being crushed by an all-powerful being. It's a "fire stone" that locals believed contained igniting powers to rid stress and increase energy. Things have been a little tense over here, so I definitely appreciate the extra stress release, energy boost and reminder of magic. Thanks so much for introducing your beautiful jewels to me, Labradorite Magic.

PS: Upon listening to some of 10-year-old MacKensie's favorite songs, I noticed conflicting and strangely relevant lyrics. Meatloaf says, "but you've been cold to me so long, I'm cryin' icicles instead of tears," and Allure says, "my tears will burn the pillow," and "my tears will cause an inferno." Coincidence? Or does this dramatic little Leo love the juxtaposition of hot and cold and songs that make her cry?


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