A Day in the Life of LifeByZen: Random Thought on Life Lessons

When certain situations happen, people often ask,” What was that about?”, “What is really going on”or more commonly “Why me?”

A recent situation had me ask those questions and more. As I often do, I looked for the lesson but was only more confused as there did not seem to be any at all.

This morning, I woke up and thought that maybe there really are no lessons for me in this situation but perhaps I am merely the conduit of the lesson for those involved. As I thought further, I recognized that if it weren’t for the lessons I learned in the past, I would have handled this situation differently and likely would have made the same mistakes before. Also, I recognized how much I evolved wholly as a person and consequently, now able to serve a purpose of guiding others through their own life lesson.

I do not have any final thoughts or feelings on the situation but do extend well-wishes to those involved.

When situations happen, how often do you take the time to the recognize lessons and consider how you contribute to the problem or solution?

Cooking with LifeByZen: White Chicken Chili

January in Boston means wintry mix of bone-chilling temperature, snow or cold rain. White Chicken Chili is a part of my winter meals rotation. It is simple, easy to make and a great alternative to beef chili. Ground turkey can also be substituted for the chopped chicken. If substituting with ground turkey, skip step three of adding water to the chicken to make the broth and add broth of  your choice as base for the chili. I use ground white pepper for presentation purpose but freshly ground black pepper can be used.

o   2 tablespoons olive oil

o   2 onions, chopped

o   4 cloves garlic, minced

o   4 cooked, bone-in chicken breasts

o   1 jalapeno pepper cored, seeded and chopped

o   2 teaspoons ground cumin

o   kosher salt, to taste

o   ground white pepper, to taste (If unavailable, freshly ground black pepper can be used)

o   2 teaspoons dried oregano

o   1-2 bay leaves

o   1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper

o   5 (14.5 ounce) cans great Northern beans, undrained

Optional Toppings:

o   chopped green onions

o   chopped cilantro

o   lime wedges

o   cheese

o   sour cream

  • Directions
  • Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add chicken and brown on both sides then remove from pot.
  • Add the onions and garlic and saute for 10 minutes, or until onions are tender.
  • Add the chicken back to the pot and water enough to cover the chicken then bring to a boil. This will make the broth base for the chili. *Skip this step if using ground turkey. Instead, add 4-5 cups of broth or more as needed.
  • Once chicken is cooked through, take out from pot and set aside to chop.
  • To the broth, add the jalapeno, cumin, oregano, and cayenne pepper. Reduce heat to low and add the beans. Simmer for 30 minutes, or until heated thoroughly then add the chopped chicken.
  • For creamier chili, press some of the beans against a ladle then stir. Or, quickly pulse a ladle full  in a blender then add back to the pot.
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Pour into individual bowls and serve with side of topping choices.



As I put away the groceries I bought yesterday, I was mindful of my privilege and grateful to have the means to restock my pantry and deep freezer with food while others have so little to none.

2014 Dorchester Winter Farmers’ Market Kickoff!

Mark your calendars for the 2014 Dorchester Winter Farmers’ Market Kickoff on Sunday, January 5 from noon to 4:00 PM!

The Dorchester Winter Farmers’ Market is open every Sunday from January to March at the Great Hall in Codman Square located at 6 Norfolk Street in Dorchester.

Participating vendors:

Visa and Mastercard are accepted. Also, get up to $10 of farm fresh food free when you use your SNAP EBT card.

LifeByZen’s Holiday Gifts of Giving

Gifts I enjoy giving for any occasion are ones with meaning or helps give back to the community. Proceeds from gifts purchased help some of the listed non-profit organizations to continue to offer key services such as job training or housing to those in need.

Haley House Bakery Cafe helps men and women by providing several transitional opportunities such as job-training and housing. The following gifts are available for purchase here: Haley House Holiday Gifts

  • Gingerbread Box with 20 Gingerbread Men
  • Cookie Variety Box with 4 Chocolate Chip, 4 Oatmeal, 4 Coconut Shortbread, 4 Gingerbread, and 1 Decorated Star Cookie
  • Pies are available in Pumpkin, Apple Crumb, Sweet Potato, Blueberry Crumble, and Pecan
  • Wild Flavor cookbook by Haley House Founding Chef, Didi Emmons
  • Haley House T-shirts available in green and brown

Rosie’s Place works closely with poor and homeless women. The Women’s Craft Cooperative has a great selection of pins, cufflinks, bookmarks, keychains crafted by women artists who earn salaries from their creative pieces. To view their wide selection of gifts, please visit: The Women’s Craft Cooperative

Pine Street Inn provides outreach, housing, and stabilization to almost 10,000 men and women annually. Holiday cards are available in individual boxes of 10 cards with envelopes. Customized cards are also available here: Pine Street Inn Holiday Cards

Another great holiday gift of giving is to donate directly to a non-profit organization with a cause close to the recipient’s heart. Non-profit organizations accept donations in honor or on behalf of family and friends.

How will you be gifting this year?

A Day in the Life of Lifebyzen: Unscented Memory

This has been an excruciatingly long week for so many reasons I will spare you the boring details. It is after 8:00 PM, my daughter is watching a pre- recorded “Elf on the Shelf” and I am on my bed decompressing. I look around my room and eyes spot on my footboard an item I forgot to put back in its place this morning, one of my favorite perfumes.

Then it occurred to me, I don’t know my mother’s favorite perfume, if she even had one or wore any at all. This broke me to pieces because it also occurred to me that all I know of my mom are secondhand accounts from families and friends. I do not and will never have any first hand experiences with my mom. As a mom, this is difficult but makes me more conscious that every moment, experience and memory counts with my own daughter.

As the holidays draw closer and time with family and relatives take place, I wish you peace, love and light with your loved ones including the challenging ones.

How The Case Of Aaron Hernandez Hits Home

Originally posted on Pa'lante Latino:

By Efrain Nieves

Aaron Hernandez’s life and upbringing, in many aspects, is similar to ours with his stellar athleticism being the one variant setting him apart. From early on, he had all the numbers to beat the odds: he was ahead of the pack. For those reading this blog, that like me grew up poor, forgotten and marginalized in all ways possible, perhaps can relate to why for many boys that grew up in the hood, Aaron Hernandez gave us hope. Particularly for those of us that are of Puerto Rican descent, like him.

Without any intent of generalizing, if we ask boys growing up in the inner cities what success means to them chances are that they will answer “playing football like Victor Cruz, Ray Lewis and Lawrence Taylor or playing basketball like Dwayne Wade and Carmelo Anthony. But yet there are some boys whose role models are not…

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