Monday, February 24, 2014

My new diagnosis...

I have recently diagnosed myself with "Spiritual Attention Deficit Disorder"...It is truly "SADD"!  (How's that for coincidence and a play on words? Ha!)  Let me just recap my week for you.  It was a doozie in terms of commitments.  I mean, I may not excel at taking pictures of food, or keeping a perfect house, but I am a rock star at over-committing, stressing, and stretching myself so thin I'm practically transparent.  I know I'm not alone in this, because a lot of my friends are right there with me.  Just modern day Gumby dolls being pulled as far as our arms can reach.  I think a lot of it is the culture we live in, but I digress, I am the one saying yes, so I can only blame myself. 

So, rewind all the way to a week ago Sunday.  On the way to church we were talking about the 10 Commandments and the kids were trying to see if I knew them all from memory (surprisingly I did, but definitely not in order).  When I got to the one on the Sabbath, my 7 year old stopped me and asked me what it meant, and why God would make that one of his "favorite rules".  So, we stopped to discuss the importance of taking time for God, and thanking him for all of our blessings.  Coincidentally the sermon that day was about the Holy Spirit that lives in us and walks with us as our guide, and how important it was for us to "pay attention", and have quiet time to stop and listen for direction. 

That night, out of nowhere, my daughter brings up that she wants to do a family devotion "like old times" at dinner.  We go through phases when we are really good at incorporating it, but currently we were in an "off season".  She randomly flipped through the book and chose one called "Time Out".  It was all about how on the 7th day of creation God rested, and how important it was for us to do the same. (Are you seeing a theme yet...)

Just a few short days later I was doing my Bible study homework at 4 am on Tuesday because I couldn't sleep, and honestly, confession time here, we were meeting later that morning and I was WAY behind. Care to guess what the topic was.... yup, that's right....  resting and observing the Sabbath, taking time to relax, breathe in life, exhale stress, and reflect on our blessings.  I was starting to catch on, but in my busyness continued to operate in "survival mode" the rest of the week. 

So, yesterday was Sunday again, and we finished up the sermon series on the Holy Spirit, focusing on his role as "communicator" and how important it is to be still and QUIET to listen, and the importance of carving out time to commit to doing just that... SIT and LISTEN.  Let's be honest, God in all of His infinite wisdom does not need my "to do list" or "tattle tale sheets" in the disguise of prayer requests, and as I reflected back on the times I had done "quiet" time, the last thing I would describe it as was quiet.  So last night I picked up my other Bible study (that I actually lead) to "refresh" (I mean complete) my homework and readings.  My eyes welled up with tears when I realized it too was about slowing down and resting.  If Jesus had a megaphone, it is pointed right at me.  But no, He doesn't shout.  He just continually pursues me, even in my disobedience, with frequent gentle reminders that "I am here.  Come and sit with me.".   He never gives up on me, and His love never fails me.  His grace is more than I can even begin to understand and that right there is enough to bring me to my knees. 

That brings me to this morning.  I have the absolute pleasure of meeting with some pretty amazing women, and even though I am the leader, they are constantly teaching me new things and sharing wisdom that has grown and blessed me beyond measure.  As a measure of accountability I asked them to check-in on me with my quiet time, to ensure that I was following through and turning off the "static" of life, and the accessibility of my ever-ringing/dinging phone.  Just like a workout at the gym, it is going to take time to build up resistance to the constant thought process of "What's for dinner?, Who has what activity tonight?  Did I switch the laundry? Did I even start the laundry?  Is it trash day?  How long has that cob web been there?" and the list goes on and on.   

When I got home this morning from my study and a few errands, I received a reminder text from one of my absolute favorite friends telling me it was time for me to take a "time out".   And that's exactly what I did.    For the first time in as long as I can remember I sat in silence.  It took me about 20 minutes to still my mind, and it only lasted about 20 minutes, but it's a start.  I won't be cured of my "SADD" in one day, but slowly in time, I hope that I can find peace in the stillness.

Be still, and know that I am God.
Psalm 46:10

I also came to this realization this morning.  I do not have to say yes to every opportunity presented to me.  If I say no, it does not mean it will not get done, it simply gives someone else the chance to serve and say yes.  That may sound simple to you, but it was incredibly freeing for me.   


Recipe Remix

I don't know about you, but I tend to get stuck in a dinner rut.  About once a month I try to infuse some new recipes into our dinner rotation, but sadly I always find myself falling back to my good ol' standbys, especially when my husband is traveling for work.  After helping three kiddos with homework and shuttling them around to various activities every evening, the last thing I want to do is "negotiate" dinner.  Seriously, you know you have those nights when you feel like you're playing a poker game rather than eating a meal.  Your child asks, "How many more bites to I HAAAVE to take?", you in turn throw out a number, and the negotiations start until someone folds. Therefore I have 2 standbys that I know I can always go to that will ensure happy plates and faces all around.... tacos & pizza. 

Trying to incorporate wheat-free and healthier alternatives made me put on my thinking cap to give these two family favorites a much needed make-over.  I had a light bulb moment while strolling through the produce section of my favorite grocery store.  Portobello mushrooms would be my new pizza crust!  Why had I never thought of this before?!?!  It is absolutely my new favorite go to lunch and the kids love it too.  "Make your own pizza" nights have always been a huge hit in our house and cleaning a few mushrooms and snapping off the stems is much easier, healthier, and less elbow grease, than kneading pizza dough.  And bonus, dinner is ready in minutes with little to no prep work!

Portobello Pizzas


Preheat oven to 500 degrees.  Clean & remove the stem of the mushroom.  Place on a baking sheet, top with pizza or marinara sauce, mozzarella cheese, and favorite pizza toppings.  Bake for 5-8 minutes or until cheese is bubbly.

The taco make-over was a little more tricky.  I have been substituting turkey for our tacos for over a year and the kids have honestly never caught on.  However, getting rid of the tortilla or mound of chips my kids eat the meat on was a little more tricky.  I have found that with children, at least in my household, presentation is EVERYTHING, starting with what I call dinner.  For example if I say we are having turkey taco meat on avocado, I would immediately get resistance and groaning, but simply by eliminating the turkey reference, and calling the avocado a "boat", voila, they are instantly excited to try something new and think outside the "taco shell".  I came up with this little gem of an idea last week, and honestly I can't wait to have it again.
(ps.  To address the 2 questions that must be at the front of your mind... Yes, I do have other dishes, and no, I do not have a professional food stylist.  I know, you're shocked.  Lol!  These are my actual dinners that I have taken a picture of with my phone no less.  If they are blurry, it is because I was in a hurry so that I could dive in to my meal.  Remember, this is the beginning, and I'm keeping the "expectations" bar low.  Ha!) 

Taco "Boats"
1 pound ground white turkey
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder, or dried minced onion
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 & 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper (or for a spicy kick, add a pinch of red pepper flakes)
1 tablespoon coconut flour
3/4 cup hot water
4-6 ripe avocados
Garnish: shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, shredded cheddar cheese, salsa, plain greek yogurt (tastes just like sour cream, but so much better for you!)
In a large skillet brown turkey meat until cooked through, stirring as needed.  While meat is cooking, combine chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, paprika, cumin, salt, pepper, & flour in a small dish. When meat is browned and cooked through, drain off any grease and return pan to burner.  Add seasoning mixture to meat, and stir to evenly distribute.  Pour in hot water and continue cooking on medium heat (stirring occasionally) until sauce is thickened. (About 5 minutes) 
Slice avacados in half, remove seed, and fill with turkey taco meat.  Garnish as desired.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Better Batter Brownies

It has been an exhausting day, but I wanted to post this because well, this is the first (of hopefully many) recipe I have ever written and I can not wait to share it with you!  It is by far one of my new favorite things to eat, and the fact that it's healthy definitely makes me feel less guilty when I eat it every day.

My family recently went "wheat free".  Well, technically I did, and my family has followed suit, with a few compromises.  Nonetheless, that really narrows the field when you take grains off the plate, especially when it comes to sweets.  To help aid in the transition I decided to start with sweets, and have slowly started incorporating wheat-free items into the breakfast rotation.  Those are the two areas we have the most wheat impact in our house.  I have several muffin, breads, & pancake recipes still "in progress", but there is one recipe that I have figured out, and it is the "healthy brownie".  I have to say, my passion for the kitchen was reignited when we, I mean I, decided to make this dietary change.  I had many reasons for doing so, that I will discuss another day, but the catalyst was the encouragement of my personal trainer to read "Wheat Belly" after a lengthy discussion one day.  I have to admit, second only to the Bible, I don't think another book has changed my life so drastically.

I'm sure the most ideal scenario would be just to eliminate all sweets from your diet, but I'll be honest with you...that's never going to happen.  I grew up having dessert after every meal.  My mom swears it's part of our German heritage.  I searched the internet, even tested the waters of Pinterest, and checked out several books from the library for recipes that looked delicious enough to try.  Sadly they only resulted in many attempts and complete disappointment of making creations that claimed to be "the world's best healthy brownie", "most delicious melt-in-your-mouth cake", and coming up with things that tasted nothing short of a baked banana rolled in cocoa powder, with expensive ingredients no less.  A single pound of almond flour runs about $10.  Compare that to a 5 pound bag of enriched white flour that runs less than $2, so you're looking at about 40 cents a pound, and I'd say that's a pretty significant difference.  And that's just one ingredient!

So, without further ado, here is my recipe debut!  I wish I had some kind of catchy name for them, but I don't.  This recipe has been my baby for over a month.  I've been tweaking it and  after I stopped making things that tasted like sour bananas, my family gladly offered to be my taste-testers.  I knew when my husband said he would eat this version every day and then helped himself to one after lunch AND dinner this weekend, it was a done deal.  I hope you enjoy them as much as we do.  I am sure you can modify them to make them even healthier, I just have not had the time to test out all the variations.  We are happy with this combination in our home, and after all, they are brownies, and a dessert.  So, in my book that makes a little sugar ok.  Hey, I'm new at this & I never claimed to be a health expert. :)

"Better Batter Brownies"
(these are wheat-free, gluten-free, and dairy-free)


1/2 cup almond flour
1/2 cup, plus 3 Tablespoons cocoa powder
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon coconut oil (I prefer unrefined here)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup Medjool dates, pitted (about 6-7)
1/4 cup chocolate almond milk, or coconut milk (updated 4/2014)
2 Tablespoons ground flaxseed
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 large egg whites


Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Line an 8x8 inch pan with parchment paper.

Combine almond flour, 1/2 cup cocoa, sugar, baking soda, salt, pitted dates, and flaxseed in a food processor.  Pulse until combined and dates are processed.  Pour this into a medium mixing bowl, and set aside about 1/2 cup of this mixture in a separate mixing bowl.

If you've never pitted a date, this is what that looks like.  I had never touched a date before I started eating cleaner, and now I have a constant supply  in my fridge.  Sometimes I start to panic if my "stash" gets down to my last container. LOL!  Costco is a great source for these if you're lucky enough to have one near you.

To remove the "pit" from a date just gently slice it down the middle and remove that seed-looking thing.
In a separate medium-sized mixing bowl, beat the egg whites until medium to stiff peaks form.  About 1 minute with a hand-mixer on high.  You should be able to lift the beaters from the foam and see "peaks" on the end.
Okay, we are going to get just a few more dishes dirty before putting this whole thing together.
Take the reserved 1/2 cup of the date mixture and gently fold it into the egg whites.
If you've never "folded" eggs before, just stir softly until it looks about like this. :)

Spoon 1 Tablespoon coconut oil into a separate small microwavable dish.  Heat until melted.  It usually takes about 1 minute for me.  I prefer unrefined coconut oil because it still has a hint of coconut flavor, but refined is good here too, or you can also use olive oil, but you would just skip the melting step.  Once it's melted stir in the remaining 3 Tablespoons of cocoa powder.  Add this mixture to the remaining date mixture (not the egg whites).  Stir in the almond milk and vanilla until a smooth paste forms. 
You could stop right here and eat this straight out of the bowl!  It would make a great dip with a little more milk or you could roll it into truffles.  Remember, this bowl is egg free so far.  You better believe that's my finger and I ate that.  Hey, "quality control" right?!?! LOL!
Now it's time to put everything together.  Gently stir (or fold) the egg white mixture into the date mixture until it's combined.  Pour into your 8 inch square pan that is lined with parchment paper and smooth it out until it's somewhat even.

Bake for 20-22 minutes at 325, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  This is a dense, chewy brownie, so it may not be completely clean when you pull out the toothpick, but as long as it's not ooey-gooey and well, brownie like.
And the beauty of the parchment paper is you can lift it straight out of the pan, no mess, and enjoy!  Store these in an air-tight container.  My favorite way to eat them is with a heaping pile of berries on top (my family prefers sweetened whipped cream too).  Absolutely delicious!!
Nutritional Information: (approximately), 12 brownies
Serving: 1 brownie
Calories: 103
Fat: 4.5g
Fiber: 2.3g
Protein: 3.25g
Sugars: 9.5g

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

In the beginning....

Nothing makes you feel old like technology...can I get an AMEN?!?!  I look at my little blog and try not to be embarrassed, we all have to start somewhere right?  So, I ask for your grace and patience in advance as I stumble my way through trying to figure out this whole blog thing.  I also would welcome any tips, tricks, & feedback. 

I would not consider myself "technology challenged", but I seem to have reached that age when my kids are already teaching me shortcuts and tricks on all the devices in our home.  My 7 year old daughter is constantly wanting to ensure that my phone and all of my "apps" are current, and that I do not have any updates to load.  And my 11 year old son is just one of those gifted people that "gets it" and he's constantly showing me how to navigate my way around our laptop & ipads.  Speaking of the laptop, just this past weekend I had to sit through "personal training" for Windows 8. hour of "training" for some 19 year old kid to tell me how to use our new computer.  Granted I probably brought it on myself for texting my husband about how much I hated said computer every time I have logged on for the past 4 months.  Or, maybe it was the long grunts, sighs, and stomping fits that would ensue if he happened to be in the vicinity while I was trying to accomplish something on it.  Obviously I'm too old to keep up with technology, but not too old to throw a good ol' fashioned temper tantrum.  Regardless, my sweet husband is such a peace-maker, and bless his soul, extremely patient with me.  He scheduled this session after I called him, on Valentine's day no less, to vent again about how much of a waste of money I thought this machine was.  Thankfully now I am a little more "tech-savy", less stressed, and much more pleasant to be around when on the laptop. 

So, this is the beginning...a starting point.  Hopefully no where to go but up right??  I have a full day today, but I am literally giddy thinking about coming home this afternoon and whipping up my absolute favorite recipe so that I can post it soon with pictures.


Monday, February 17, 2014

Here We Go!!!!

I've been debating this blog for months now.  To blog or not to blog....that was my question.  After much encouragement, and a leap of faith, here I am.  Please do not be misled, I am by no means an expert on absolutely ANYTHING, nor am I trying to be the next "pioneer woman".  I am just a passionate southern girl that is living the dream out here in the Midwest.  Every once in a while I come across something pretty special and I figured it would be fun to share it.