The Twentysomething Taste: 5-Minute Vegetarian Chili

Hello and welcome to my first ever recipe for the Twentysomething Taste on Twentysomething Months!

For this week, I want to introduce my 5-Minute Vegetarian Chili.

12540074_10153309469492555_1246975642_nIt’s super tasty and perfect for a cold winter night. And, the best part, it literally takes five minutes. It’s low in calories and high in protein…it’s a win-win. This recipe is also great for single people like me because it only serves one. But if you are feeding more than yourself, just double or triple the recipe. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1-1.5 cups of canned beans (I like 1/2 cup each of black beans, red kidney beans, and white navy beans)
  • 1 cup canned diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Ready for the instructions? Great, me too.

  1. Mix it all in a bowl.
  2. Microwave until hot.
  3. …that’s it!

Calories per serving: 437
Protein grams per serving: 52

I hope you enjoyed this Twentysomething Taste!



New Year’s Prep: Saying Goodbye to “New Year, New Me” and Hello to Reality

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! Happy New Year!

It’s an exciting time in the world as the stockings are hung by the chimney with care, presents are unwrapped, and the new year is just around the corner. Christmas was beautiful here, and I hope whatever holiday you choose to celebrate was spent in good company with good food, creating many new memories.

But memories aren’t the only new thing coming up…with the year ending in four days, 2016 is knocking on our doors, begging to be let inside. And if you think I was feeling some type of way about Christmas, New Year’s is a whole other story.

There is a sense of hope in the air around this time of year. “NEW YEAR, NEW ME!” people scream. If I hear that one more time, so help me…



You get the point, right?

The reason I’m not a fan of “New Year, New Me,” is the exact reason that is stated in the Leonardo DiCaprio meme. What does a little ball dropping in New York City have to do with who I am as a person? The clock striking midnight has no impact on my own self and who I am. And time is a relative concept, anyway.

So for this New Year, I’m going to try a few new things:

  1. Set Goals
    • Throw out the idea of “New Year’s Resolutions.” And don’t ask me what mine are because I won’t have any. The word “resolution” evolves from the word “resolve” which means to solve. Therefore, a resolution aims to fix (or solve) a problem in your life. I’m going to the gym because I’m too fat. I’m going to spend more time with my family because I am distant and disconnected. No. Instead, try setting goals. SMART goals. Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-sensitive. The difference is that resolutions look to resolve an issue, whereas goals look to focus on areas of improvement and growth. Resolutions are based in thought, whereas goals are based in actions and positive change.
  2. Reflect and Reevaluate 
    • Margaret J. Wheatley said, “Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful.” I have no idea who Margaret J. Wheatley is, but damn, if she wasn’t talking about New Year’s, she could have fooled me. The whole point of a New Year’s resolution is to achieve something that may or may not have been achieved before in your life. Yet, before setting our goals this year, reflection is a key first step. Without it, it’s impossible to know what comes next. Reflection can take many different forms. For my fellow introverts, sometimes all you need is a quiet space and a blank journal. For others, reflection can be with a group of people sitting in a noisy coffee shop, chatting about previous life experiences and hopes for the future. There’s no one right way to reflect.
  3. Let the past guide your future
    • I saw a really good friend of mine over this break, and one of the first questions she asked me after I ranted and raved about my current life was this: “If your 10- or 15-year-old self saw you now, would they be happy?” Well, wow. That one caught me. On SO many different levels. But I think it’s a good indication of how we might want the new year to look. I think my 10-year-old social self would’ve wanted more of a social scene, so that is something I would like to focus more on in 2016. The past can also guide your future in terms of life experiences. I know some things happened in 2015 that I will try my best to avoid in 2016. Some call those things mistakes, others like myself call them learning opportunities.

And with all that said, no matter how you choose to celebrate the new year (I’ll be in Brooklyn with some great friends!!!), I hope everyone has a very happy, healthy, and safe New Year!!!



Skipping Christmas?

I just need to preface this week: I am not a Scrooge. Although, in previous years, I may have said I was.

And yet, with Christmas just around the corner (THIS WEEK!), I’m still finding my excitement for this holiday season a bit lackluster. When I first started to feel this way, I simply thought that I was just a Scrooge. Someone who, all of a sudden, hated Christmas. Let’s set the record straight, that is absolutely not the case. I absolutely love Christmas!

I’m the kind of person who gets sadder and sadder the closer Christmas gets because that means it will soon be over. Christmas itself isn’t my favorite holiday, but when people ask me what my favorite season is, I confidently answer: “The Christmas Season!” I love the joy it brings people. I love the hope that floats around in the snowy streets and the dreams that sparkle in the tiny white lights in strings around the storefront windows. But then, why am I feeling so Scrooge-like?

I have a theory.

When I was a kid, I LIVED for Christmas. I loved everything about it. And even as a young adult, knowing that Santa Claus wasn’t a real physical person, I still loved everything about it. I just felt it in the air. It wasn’t until I started becoming a real adult with real responsibilities that I started feeling meh about the holiday. Gifts translated into dollars, shopping turned into crowded malls and congested parking lots. It’s not a good feeling. But I still remember all the holiday traditions I used to partake in every year, without hesitation. Hanging the stockings on the fireplace, decorating the tree, baking Christmas cookies. But now, not so much. And looking forward, I see all these parents replicating these traditions with their own children…but what about the single twentysomethings? No longer kids that celebrate in the same way, but not yet parents to celebrate with their own children/family.

I’ve thought: is being a parent the magic key? Is that what needs to happen for me to keep believing in the Christmas Miracle? Don’t worry mom and dad, I quickly realized that becoming a parent was not the only way to believe in Christmas again. However, it makes me wonder, is the twentysomething time a period of “skipping Christmas?” Because really thinking about it, who am I going to celebrate Christmas for? Myself? I could bake dozens of Christmas cookies, but who to share them with? I could put up a tree, but who would enjoy it other than me?

Don’t get me wrong, I think there is value in partaking in these celebrations, even if it is only for myself. I just don’t think it’s the same when you are living hours away from your family, and don’t yet have a family to call your own.

It’s not the most absurd idea in the world…skipping Christmas. Christmas with the Kranks and The Year Without a Santa Claus all had similar ideas. What would happen if we just skipped Christmas for one year?

Well, I was talking to a few friends a few days ago about this exact question, and an interesting answer arose. They responded with another question: “Who is Santa, anyway?” We all know he’s not a real person. There’s no North Pole and no elves or Santa’s sleigh. It’s a bit depressing, really, when you admit the reality of it. And yet, Santa is so much more. Christmas is so much more. It’s not about the tree or the cookies or the sleigh rides.

(And no, this isn’t the part in the blog post where I continue to launch into a religious sermon about the true meaning of Christmas as the birth of our Savior Lord Jesus Christ etc etc).

In a secular sense, Christmas represents the good in everyone, the joy of humanity. And Santa is the figurehead that represents that. And with all of the hateful and upsetting news that is flashing across our screens this year, maybe it would be nice to have a little extra Christmas cheer…especially for all the twentysomethings out there.

Dear Mr. Legend

You may not know me, but I would like to open this letter with a warm, heart-felt, and gracious thank you.

Earlier this month, you attended the University at Buffalo’s Distinguished Speaker Series as our Student Association’s featured speaker. And after hearing you speak to the entirety of the UB community, I applaud the decision of the Student Association, not only to bring you to campus, but to chose you as their featured speaker of the year.

You see, the week you came to campus, I had three final papers looming over my head. I’m a current graduate student, in my second year, in the Higher Education Administration program. These final papers, ranging between 15-30 pages each, seemed like the only thing that mattered…until, a fellow graduate student asked me, “Hey, are you going to John Legend tonight?”

Please don’t be offended when I say that I completely forgot you were coming to campus. I knew you were coming on December 3rd, but I didn’t realize that day was December 3rd. It’s been one of those semesters, you know?

Anyway, I went up to the ticket office with two of my friends…”Hello, I know it’s incredibly last minute, but do you have any more John Legend tickets?” And to all of our surprise, the older woman at the desk pulled out three crisp tickets with your name printed across each one. “The last three!” she exclaimed, and handed them over to us. It was fate.

Little did I know how drastically things would change for me that night. You see, two days earlier, I was in my office, a graduation countdown ticking away on my desktop, staring blankly into a computer that wasn’t giving me any answers. I wanted to figure out my future, my passions, my dreams. Lofty goals to figure out in just one afternoon, wouldn’t you say? Regardless, I sat at my desk in my square office, looking at blank index cards with a pen poised in my hand. “Michael,” I told myself, “Just write something. Anything.” For each index card, I wanted to write down a potential career. Something to pursue. A dream to chase. And after thinking to the point of brainache, I resigned. I put the pen down. I collected the index cards and put them in the recycling bin.

And then, two days after that, I found myself with a John Legend ticket in hand. I find it important to mention that I work in our Intercultural & Diversity Center. When you talked about social justice issues, advocacy work, and the importance of education, I felt as if there was a golden cord of resonance that was beaming between your podium and my seat in the very highest section of the highest bleachers.

From that night, I learned two things from you:

  1. We’re just ordinary people, maybe we should take it slow.
    (A beautiful reminder, but I already knew this one), and
  2. Passions are the things that keep you awake at night.

Let me say that again for everyone else. Your passions are the things that keep you awake at night. The things that you care so deeply about, so intensely about, that you literally and metaphorically cannot sleep because you have so much passion for these issues.

Well, damn.

Please allow me to explain. Within the recent weeks, especially with all of the events happening in the world, I haven’t been able to sleep very well. I toss and turn, I get anxious about things I’ve never thought about before, and to be honest, I’m scared. I said it. I’m scared for the world around me. Now, I know I can’t live my life thinking this way, but I’d be lying if I said these things haven’t been keeping me awake at night.

You informed me that the things I initially saw as my fears, the things that scare me the most, the things that keep me up at night, are my true passions. Education. Social justice. Advocacy. Diversity. You restructured my entire perspective. You gave me hope, regardless of the circumstances.

And for that, I say thank you.

A Taste of Life: Tapas Style

Hello from Barcelona! I am posting this ~special edition~ twentysomething post all the way from Spain, my first ever international post. My parents decided to treat the family to a sure-to-be-amazing European vacation, cruising our way through the waters to explore cities in Spain, Italy, and France. I wasn’t sure if I’d even have wifi to post this week (which was making me anxious as it was), but here I am! And considering my special location this week, I wanted to make sure it was something relevant to the trip.

I’ve been in Spain less than 24 hours at this point, and I already feel like I could write a novel about it. Everyone looks like they’ve stepped out of an H&M catalog. The European architecture sprawls up into every corner of every building for blocks and blocks. In Barcelona, I haven’t done much except stare in awe at the beauty and amazement of being in Europe. The highlight was walking around an open market for hours…fresh fruits, thinly sliced meats, brightly colored bouquets of flowers, and the chattering chattering of so many languages around us. Being in a new country allows you to notice things that you’ve never really noticed before—in particular, languages, people, and foods.

Tonight for dinner, the family was looking for two things:

  1. Somewhere inside to escape the “winter” cold in Spain, and
  2. Something authentically Spanish

Surprisingly, the first criteria was more difficult to find than the second. And although we were tempted more than once by “Hard Rock Café: Barcelona,” we decided against it for a two-story tapas restaurant glowing bright with hanging lights and cheering soccer fans crowded around the inside bar.

There was only one problem: no one in our family had ever had tapas before. We didn’t know how it worked, how to order, what to order, how much to order, etc. etc. The only “tapas” we had ever had was the appetizer platter from Applebee’s, and that doesn’t really count. And our selection was so drastically different than the usual mozzarella stick and potato skin. We were so confused, we almost walked out of the restaurant. How many Italians does it take to figure out a plate of tapas…?

Anyway, we ended up staying and enjoyed a random little assortment of authentic Spanish tapas (I use the word “enjoy” lightly, here). And as a true twentysomething blogger,  I was thinking: “What can I write about for tomorrow’s post?” And it hit me then. Living a twentysomething life is a lot like going to a tapas restaurant for the first time.

  1. At first, you have no idea what you’re doing.
  2. You’re waiter is supposed to be helping you, but at the end of the day, you have to be the one to make your own decisions.
  3. You’re overwhelmed by the choices in front of you (all of which have equal potential to be both amazing and dreadful).
  4. When you are unsure about something, it’s easier to talk through it with the people sitting around the table.
  5. Trying new things can be an exciting new adventure, but it can also leave you hungry and wanting more.
  6. Don’t give up on something after one time.

I think these Tapas Life Tips are useful to anyone, not just those in their twenties, but I thought they were especially useful and relevant to those of us who still feel like we may be trying to “figure it out.”

I like the idea of tapas more than I think I like actual tapas. In my mind, appetizer-type foods are meant to be before a big meal, not actually the meal itself. BUT I’m glad that we at least tried it. And now, having had an authentic tapas experience, I would be much more likely to try it again. I guess that speaks to life a bit, doesn’t it?