[VEGAN] Red Lentil Chili with Basmati Rice on the Instant Pot

Another great vegan recipe for you guys! This is a vegan take on the classic chili. You do need an Instant Pot, at the very least a slow cooker. Here is what you need:

(Makes 4 Servings)




  • 1 cup of freshly cooked corn (off the cob) -or- 1 15 oz can of corn, undrained.
  • 1 cup of fresh tomatoes cut into small cubes -or- 1 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes, undrained.
  • 1 cup of cooked black beans or red kidney beans -or- 1 15 oz can of black or red kidney beans, undrained.
  • 1 15 oz can of tomato sauce.


  • 1 cup of red lentil beans, dry (Sprouts | Whole Foods) -or- 1 cup of regular lentils, dry.
  • 2 cups of basmati rice.

Other Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon of minced garlic.
  • 2 teaspoons of ground chili powder.
  • 1 tablespoon of garlic powder.
  • 1 tablespoon of onion powder.
  • salt and pepper.
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
  • 6.5 cups of water in total.


Make the rice, preferably in the ceramic non-stick insert of the Instant Pot, but if you don’t have that you will have to empty the rice into a glass mixer bowl and cover it.

Combine the 2 cups of basmati rice, 3.5 cups of water, olive oil, salt, and pepper to taste in the Instant Pot insert. You can sprinkle a bit of garlic powder in as well (about a teaspoon or so) and stir everything up.

Close the lid, making sure to turn the seal to [SEALING].

Use the [RICE] setting on the Instant Pot, natural release for 10 mins after the timer ends.


If you have the additional Instant Pot insert, skip down to Step Three.

After the 10 minutes have passed, using pot holders carefully pull the insert out of the Instant Pot.

Carefully transfer the cooked rice to a glass mixer bowl, cover with either a large plate, saran wrap, or the corresponding lid (some mixer bowls do come with lids).

Thoroughly clean the insert of the Instant Pot with cold water and soap.

Return the insert to the Instant Pot.


Combine the corn, beans, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and lentils all together in the insert. If you are using canned corn, beans, and diced tomatoes do not drain them.

Add the spices:

  • 1 tablespoon of minced garlic.
  • 2 teaspoons of ground chili powder.
  • 1 tablespoon of garlic powder.
  • 1 tablespoon of onion powder.
  • salt and pepper to taste.
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional for a little heat, more for a lot of heat).

Add 3 cups of water (2 cups if you are using canned corn, beans, and diced tomatoes). Give everything a good stir.

Close the lid, making sure to turn the knob at the top to [SEALING].

Use the [BEAN CHILI] setting on the Instant Pot.

SPECIAL NOTE: You may see the [BURN] warning on your Instant Pot, ignore it. It’s very sensitive and even if just a small amount of food is sticking to the bottom, it will beep and display that warning. DO NOT TOUCH the pot or turn it off.

Once the timer goes off, do a MANUAL release — meaning carefully set the knob at the top to [VENTING]. Watch out for the steam and make sure the pot has enough clearance vertically.

Serve the rice in a bowl, add as much of the Red Lentil Chili on top of the rice as you’d like. Salt and pepper as you’d like, if needed.


[VEGAN] Thai Summer Low Mein in Peanut Sauce

This dish is amazing for all foodies. A superb way to start switching a few meals to either vegetarian or vegan in a way that doesn’t skimp out on good taste. Let me show you how! Here is what you need:

(Makes 4 Servings)


  • 2 glass bowls.
  • 1 two or four cup large glass measuring cup.
  • A large iron-cast skillet or stainless steel non-stick skillet.
  • A large sauce pan with lid.
  • A large spatula for tossing veggies in the skillet.
  • Measuring cups and spoons.
  • Small whisk.



  • 1/4 of a red onion, cut into small squares. (Bowl 1)
  • 2 medium sized scallions/green onions (sliced diagonally). (Bowl 1)
  • 1 Poblano pepper, cut into small squares. (Bowl 1)
  • 1 Zucchini cut into thin circles then cut again into half-circles. (Bowl 1)
  • 1 Yellow Squash cut into thin circles then cut again into half-circles. (Bowl 1)
  • 1/2 of a bunch of fresh spinach, washed and stemmed. (Bowl 2)
  • 1 pack of baby bella mushrooms, washed and strained. (Bowl 2)

Other Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon of minced garlic.
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
  • 1 package of Simply Asia Low Mein Noodles.
  • Pam spray or similar (can drop some olive oil into a paper towel too).

For Peanut Sauce

  • 1/4 cup of creamy peanut butter.
  • 1/4 cup of soy sauce.
  • 1 tablespoon of ground ginger.
  • 2 tablespoons of maple syrup.
  • 2 tablespoons of toasted sesame seed oil.
  • 1 tablespoon of minced garlic.
  • 1 tablespoon of rice vinegar.
  • 2 tablespoons of lime juice.
  • a pinch of ground cayenne pepper.
  • 2 tablespoons of water.


In the large sauce pan, bring 6 qts of water to a boil with a pinch of salt and a pinch of olive oil.

Cover with the lid.

When water is boiling, add in the Low Mein noodles, cook uncovered for 7-8 minutes or until preferred consistency.


In the large skillet heat up the 2 tablespoons of olive oil over high heat.

Stir in the contents of Bowl 1 from above.

Toss the vegetables consistently so nothing sticks or burns.

When onions are fully cooked and translucent, lower the heat to medium.

Stir in the mushrooms and cook for 4-5 minutes until they are tender and browned over.

Stir in 1 tablespoon minced garlic. Cook for 2-3 minutes.

Stir in the spinach. Cook until it’s fully wilted into the veggies.

Lower heat to a simmer.


(NOTE: This is something your partner or older kids could do while you cook the veggies.)

Using your Pam spray (or similar), spray one puff into a 1/4 cup measuring cup before putting your peanut butter into it. Make sure the cup is covered by the spray and put your peanut butter into it. This keeps the peanut butter from sticking to the measuring cup. Drop it into your large glass measuring cup.

Add the sesame oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and water to the large glass measuring cup. Stir all the ingredients together with a whisk.

Add the maple syrup and lime juice, keep stirring.

Add the ginger and cayenne pepper, whisk everything together.

Pour over the veggies in the skillet.


Once your noodles are cooked, drain them and add them to veggies in the skillet.

Stir everything together and serve.


IT Management in Today’s World

Everyone thinks IT Management is this lucrative unattainable thing that they can dream about but not ever really snag. Well folks, that’s just simply not true. But what is does take isn’t hard work, but SMART work.

See I started my IT career when I realized that I couldn’t be the real-life Lara Croft and find the rarest, most sought after treasures of the world. I went to school in pursuit of that very dream. My naive self thought Cystic Fibrosis wouldn’t hit me like it had hit others; my whole life until that point I had pretty much avoided the complications that came along with it. What archaeology required of me was non-stop travel, and thousands of hours of on-site hands on experience. Lara Croft didn’t have Cystic Fibrosis; a very harsh reality that shook me to the core. So I had to reinvent myself. And that I did.

What started off as junior level web design, landed me here… at Program Director level, hell more like CEO level because I did run a very successful consulting practice for 14 years. And that wasn’t because I worked hard for it… don’t get me wrong I did put in the hours no doubt about it. But I worked SMARTER! By that I mean I questioned everything, and sought answers to all the problems that came my way. I didn’t just sit in front of talented managers and vice presidents trying to sell them something, I learned FROM them. I would ask questions about what they did in the day to day and what pain points they had. I wrote is ALL down! Or would record the sessions with (wait for it) my micro-cassette recorder.

So my education in IT came through those people, from the project manager I worked as junior web designer under to the CEO of a major banking corporation. That’s what I mean by working smarter. You have to approach every project with the attitude of “what can these people teach me”…. and yes even sometimes you end up on the other side of that coin. With a chance to teach someone that’s hungry enough for it something you’ve learned.

I can say that I learned so much from the team I was honored to be a part of at CA. On the top of that list, I would say I learned the most from Joseph Velliah. Boy, when I say he is super talented, I don’t do it enough justice… he’s incredible. And he HUNGERS for knowledge from his peers. I know he must of learned at least a few things from me as well. Super exceptional architect… if he’s not doing software architecture and leading a development team as manager, they are SEVERELY under utilizing him.

Alex Geslani is another one that I learned a lot from. When you come across someone that’s humble and super chill yet unbelievably talented… wow. That’s a hard combo to come by! Alex has that in droves… if he’s not leading a network management team, again he’s under utilized. His ability to look at a system and find the BEST most EFFECTIVE way to run it against a set of business requirements is bar none boys… bar…. none. And that also comes from his ability to not just hear his co-workers out, but LISTEN. Really listen.

And Chrystie Seidl, who honestly could have done the VP job over and over again three times around, backwards, with her eyes closed. She also learned quite a bit from the people around her. I know she learned a lot with me (not just from me) when it came to navigating working with someone with a grave illness like Cystic Fibrosis. There were times we both cried on the phone over how tough it was to be stuck in a hospital. Give that girl a medal, I say because not only did she have me to deal with but there were two members of her team dealing with terminal chronic illnesses.

This is basically the real problem in IT. Yeah you may see these incredible salaries and the job postings out there, but there is so many people that apply to those jobs that it is overly saturated. So talented people that otherwise should be in those roles are having to take lesser jobs that under utilize their talents because… you guessed it… they have to feed their families. It’s that simple.

So IT management in today’s world is flooded by people that probably shouldn’t be there, and have people reporting to them that could literally run circles around them and then some. Everyday we see thousands of IT jobs being posted on LinkedIn, Glassdoor, ZipRecruiter, etc. but there are hundreds of people applying to each post. So what can we do?

To be honest? Nothing. This is how it’s going to be in our future. Technology companies are popping up left and right, so there will be job postings thrown left and right. But how likely are these new companies going to have the longevity of some of the bigger names in IT like Microsoft, Google, and Amazon? Not much. Unless we start coming out with exceptionally unique technology.

That’s where we should come together to get our own small businesses. Those of you applying for lesser jobs, go ahead do what is needed to feed your families but don’t pour your heart and souls into that work. Instead grab you other talented buddies and start something of your own! That would be working SMARTER, for sure. #BeYourOwnBoss #WorkSmarterNotHarder

The Importance of Enabling the Disabled at a Corporate Level

Since the announcement of Broadcom’s takeover of CA Technologies in July of 2018, I have applied at nearly 1,000 different jobs. Many times I have gone through several interviews over the phone and/or via Skype and they absolutely love me, my talents, and my achievements. However, when I get to that face-to-face interview, I often either have to walk from a parking lot that’s pretty far away and then walk through a big office building to get to the interviewer’s office, which 9/10 times leaves me either a) gasping for air or b) having to tote my portable oxygen concentrator with me. Either of those two things always ends up in the company, that until that moment loved me and was definitely interested in bringing me on board, never calling me back. 5/10 of those times I get a courtesy email that says they’ve chosen another candidate…. the other 5, in absolute silence.

Every company that operates out of the United States is bound by the laws set forth in the American Disabilities Act of 1990. So they cannot by law discriminate against you based on your disabilities, but does that extend to the interview process? I am not sure it does in practice, even though the Act does include job application and hiring processes. Besides, does anyone know how hard it is to prove discrimination? It’s nearly impossible!

But… that’s neither here or there. What I want to talk about is educating our US-based companies to think differently, think outside of the box, and instead of “just complying” with the laws, do more than just be compliant. How can we start to educate the corporations of America to do more? By talking about it! That’s one sure fire way. Another is to provide tools (like videos, ebooks, checklists, classes, etc.) to corporations that can be easily accessed and distributed.

One of the best ways to accommodate our disabled brothers and sisters is to provide a strong remote-work program as part of your hiring process. Almost every job, with the exception of construction work, landscape design and maintenance, and a few others, can be done by use of a strong internet connection. The problem there is that this is what corporate executives think remote work looks like….

… but in fact it actually looks more like this….

… yes, most if not all remote workers I know will work way past that 6 o’clock clock-out time and into the wee hours of the night. Why? Because we’re hyper focused on the work we’re doing? Yes… and no…. mostly it is because our brains associate the drive home with a clear separation and as remote workers, we don’t have a commute to keep that delineation alive. So sunset comes and we don’t even notice. ESPECIALLY when it’s work we enjoy doing. But most of us are in fact much more productive in a work-from-home environment than we ever are in an office setting. There are Stanford University studies to confirm that.

At this point you might be asking yourself, “Well, what can I do? I already have a job.” Or “What can I do if I am looking for a new job?” Simply talk about it. Even if you do not have a disability, but maybe you know someone that does. Talk with your HR department and ask them about referrals for people you may know. Talk with your disabled friends, maybe help them put together a resume. A lot of us are AFRAID to get out there and look because rejection has become such a part of our lives. If you are bold enough and have a good relationship with your HR representatives, ask for a meeting to talk about your disabled colleagues and forward some information over to them.

If you happen to be in my same boat, where you are disabled and have been unable to find new opportunities, join me in posting articles, perhaps writing an ebook or hosting a class here on LinkedIn Learning. Just keep talking about your experience! If you brave enough, get on the TEDx talk circuit and give public speeches on how to enable the disabled. We are not the sum of what we cannot do, we’re the culmination of the vast things we CAN DO. Remember that!

The Problem with Unemployment

Back in November I received the news that my position at CA Technologies, where I had been for nearly 5 years, would come to an end due to the acquisition by Broadcom. Back in July of last year, we got the news that we had been sold. So I wasn’t shocked at the hammer coming down in November. I had polished up my resume, worked on my LinkedIN Profile, and started revamping my portfolio page (found here on this site) to showcase my talent in business analysis, project management, and more.

Its now been months since my position was eliminated and I was laid off. And I have applied at over 900 positions, been on countless interviews, some that even took me into multiple interviews, and two prospects that I really honestly thought would turn into full time positions. That’s way more than most of my colleagues that got laid off with me back in November. I am now out of severance, and had to file for unemployment assistance, which in Arizona is only $240/week. That doesn’t even cover my prescriptions.

Luckily, we did find a house that charges $1450/month, a huge savings for us from our original apartment that cost $2150/month. So that’s a big help! But aside from that, there isn’t much we can save on. Especially when it comes to having a chronic illness like Cystic Fibrosis. My doctor’s visits and clinics are astronomical without health insurance, as you can imagine. The CFF does help with the clinic visits but I absolutely hate going to clinic for the small stuff. I’d much rather visit my primary doctor, Dr. Ortiz, who is AMAZING with my CF and works very well with my CF Pulmonologist, Dr. Liao. Dr. Ortiz is one of those rare doctors that actually LISTENS to the patient and works with you to educate not only you but himself too. He’s a knowledge seeker, and has really enjoyed seeing me because its an opportunity for him to learn more about Cystic Fibrosis and pulmonary diseases. As an internist, he WANTS to know as much as possible. That’s truly something unique.

My BIGGEST problem is the reality of my CF. I do not KNOW when or for how long I would need to be admitted to a tune-up or to clear up an infection or just be too sick to work. I’m not a mind reader to know that, but it would be irresponsible of me to NOT let my future employers know that I have a disability that requires us to be more flexible than you would with someone else. And I would feel awful to hide that from possible employers. Its just not in me to be that way.

I hid my CF most of my life because of THIS very reason —- we’re treated differently. My parents really did not want me to be treated differently so they instilled in me a sense of silence about CF. None of my friends knew I had this growing up…. NONE. They would ask about my lungs and coughing and all that and I would just say I have chronic asthma. But many years ago after running into Claire Wineland, I decided it was time to let it all out, and just like she did, live proudly with the fact that I have this illness that I was born with and its hard and its life-altering and its life-shortening. I’ve never looked back from that. And I wouldn’t hide this part of me, part of who I am, from anyone. You are either going to appreciate me for ME, do so for all of me, not just the parts that you want for yourself.

This has led to me the reality that even though we have all these technological advances, the accommodations for people like me — not just CF’ers, but anyone with a chronic illness — is limited if even really offered. This HAS TO change. Just because I occasionally get sick, doesn’t mean I do not have the capability or capacity to continue my work and bring value to the companies I’ve been applying for. I know that we all have value to contribute to any one of these companies. And the thing is we’re probably more inherently grateful about someone giving us the opportunity, thus we are probably more loyal than most.

No lie, my job at CA Technologies was stressful at times and there were times where it left me thinking if I should quit and move on, but because I had fought so hard to get the accommodations that I had, I ALWAYS stuck it out. And once my relationship with my boss got personal and more genuine, I wouldn’t have traded it for the world because I worked with some really talented people that GOT ME. This made me so appreciative for all the things I knew I was getting in return for the work I did for them.  I ultimately felt valued and appreciated.  There is no greater feeling than having a company CHANGE THEIR STANCE because they learned through you how to provide better work-life balance to people with disabilities, and I felt I worked really hard to do just that with CA.  Unfortunately, that’s not the same case with the company that acquired CA.  They are far far less accommodating. 

So my endeavor is to try to educate companies through the foundation I created, “Appreciate Every Breath” on how to best accommodate people with Cystic Fibrosis and other chronic illnesses where perhaps some SIMPLE accommodation (with the help of today’s Cloud-Based world) could open the door for some of us to GET OFF social security disability income and start contributing our smarts and our talents to companies that value us, IN SPITE OF our illnesses.  So this part of our care isn’t as far as I know been a topic of discussion, and its a much needed one.  As CF’ers start pushing into adulthood and the very real daunting task of providing for ourselves becomes more and more the norm, we need to address this issue. 

So while Appreciate Every Breath will continue to still help CF’ers deal with the mental weight that’s placed on our shoulders,  a huge part of that is the stress of having to provide for ourselves, having to secure health insurance, having to pay co-pays and prescriptions, and medical equipment — on top of rent, cable, electricity, car payments, etc.  That is a VERY VERY real point of mental anguish for us with chronic and/or life-shortening illnesses.  To help the PERSON all around achieve a balanced mental health, we need to not only enlist the help of mental health professionals but also convince companies to take a chance on us, by allowing remote work, Skype conferencing, working from hospitals during admissions, and making that a NORMAL thing!  Together we can help the OVERALL person.  It just takes education!

Fly Little Butterfly

I look up at the sky,
so blue, so bright,
so full of air, so full of life,
wind blows with such might,

A beautiful butterfly,
starts to take flight,
emerged from its hidden place,
filling the world with grace,

Fly little butterfly,
to the heavens, up high,
in shades of purple,
with such great purpose,

Soar with the wind,
your beauty will never dim,
we’ll remember in kind,
our hearts forever grim,

But we will carry your dreams,
to find the cure for all,
united with all our means,
we will never let you fall,

So fly little butterfly,
to the heavens, up high,
you did your best,
and we’ll do the rest.

Written by: Maria Espino
Dedicated to: Claire Wineland

Claire’s Place Foundation

Change the lives of so many that are fighting to just breathe for another day. Claire’s Place helps families with every day expenses like car payments, electric bills, rent, etc. while their loved ones are in the hospital due to Cystic Fibrosis.

Earth and Sky

What is a mother?
Many will say she’s a creator.
Many will say there is no other.
I say she’s a gift, of value no greater.

Like the Earth is a gift,
One that gives life,
A seed that’s planted and enriched,
One that grows despite the strife,
Read more

The Death of My Mother

There is one truth universally accepted. A mother has the most profound effect of anyone on your life; be it positive or negative. So let me share with you just how true that fact is for me.

I had just turned 17 when my mother died. She was diagnosed and dead in less than six months from ovarian cancer. That’s why the fight against ovarian cancer is so dear to me and I’m hugely involved in prevention and early detection of this absolutely deadly silent killer.

There is no one is my life, besides maybe my father and we’ll get to him later, that I have learned more from. My mother, Reina Isabel, was as close to a saint as the world will ever get. Her compassion, her emotion, her selflessness, her devotion to God, her courage, her sense of humanity, her unbiased look at the world, her ability for forgiveness, her openness, and her capacity for love are all traits that reside in me that came from her. In the very short 17 years that I had her that’s the impression she undoubtedly left on me. But she was not infallible.
Read more

Q: How do you keep a good marriage?

Asked by: Lisa D. of Boca Raton, FL.

Q: How do you keep a good marriage?

A: One word… FORGIVENESS. But that can only come if you have another word… BOUNDARIES. And boundaries can only be set if you have another word… RESPECT. And respect can only be achieved if you have another word… COMMUNICATION. And communication only happens when you… LISTEN. And to really listen you have to have… TRUST. So there is your cocktail for marriage!

Most marriages fall apart when one of these key basic things is missing or communication breaks down.  You have to be HONEST too in your communication.  Can’t be hiding the fact you went on a shopping spree with your credit card and put $500 on it from your husband!  Can’t be hiding the fact that your buddy’s bachelor’s party is going to have strippers!

Dishonesty breaks everything down. The less details you tell each other, the easier it becomes to be dishonest and you loose the cornerstone of it all — trust. If you don’t trust someone, why would you listen to them? If you can’t listen to them, how are you going to communicate? If you can’t communicate, how can you respect them? And if you don’t respect them, how are you going to keep boundaries? If you don’t keep those boundaries, how are you going to expect to be forgiven?

So you see how it works? Work on improving the individual elements every single day.

~ Maria

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