Thursday, January 29, 2015

Chocolate-Covered Peanut Butter Banana Bites (made with coconut oil)

I keep seeing recipes for chocolate covered banana bites and they look so good.  But, I wanted to find some that didn't have added sugar in them, and all of the recipes I saw called for chocolate bars or chips (which are full of sugar).  So, I decided to make my own "chocolate" with coconut oil and cocoa powder.  I love how unique coconut oil is-- it can be all melty and then harden right up, which makes it great for making fudge, etc.  

So, here's the recipe!

Ingredients:

  • 2 Large Bananas
  • Almond or Peanut Butter (or any nut butter)
  • 1/4 cup Coconut Oil
  • 1/4 cup Cocoa Powder
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla
  • 1-2 tsp. Maple Syrup (optional)


Directions:

  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Slice the bananas thinly and line the baking sheet with them. You should get about 40 banana slices total. Place your nut butter on top of the banana slices and make them into sandwiches.  Now you have 20 banana bites.  


  • Place the baking sheet in the freezer for about an hour.  If you are short on time, you can just put them in for 10-15 minutes, but you want them to be chilled a little so that the coconut oil will harden on them.  
  • While the bananas are chilling, melt your coconut oil.  Then, stir in the cocoa powder, vanilla, and maple syrup until well incorporated.  
  • Take your banana bites out of the freezer and dip in the chocolate sauce.  It should harden around the bananas.  You can eat them immediately or put them in the freezer to get the bananas completely frozen (about 3 hours).  Store in freezer.  

So, my picture is NOT so pretty.  I basically just dumped the remaining chocolate sauce over the top of all of my banana bites, so they don't look so pretty.  But, you could spend a little extra time and make the chocolate smooth and even drizzle it with some peanut butter on top.  These make an awesome snack or dessert :)  

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

It's Hard to Love

"Love is patient and kind.  Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude.  It does not demand its own way.  It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.  It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.  Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance."
-1 Corinthians 13:4-7 
Every day I say the words, “I love you.”  I dearly love my children and my husband.  Of course it is a little bit more challenging to show love to those who are more un-loveable and with whom I don’t have a close relationship, but I know we should always seek to do that because the Scriptures tell us to.  Today, however, as I was reading the familiar “love chapter” in 1 Corinthians, it made me realize how bad I am at showing love to others, even those I do love dearly.  If I have trouble really loving those closest to me, I know I am struggling with loving those who are harder to love.  Look at 1 Corinthians with me, and ask yourself if you are struggling with loving others too. 
Love is patient
  • Ouch.  The first definition of love is convicting for me.  As Americans, we are known for our less-than-patient attitude.  I get impatient at my three year old for taking so long to get out of the car.  I can feel my blood boiling as he takes his precious time unbuckling his seat belt and stopping to admire a toy he found, and tripping over his shoe laces as he climbs out the door.  No joke-this happens multiple times a day.  And, I get the same exasperated look on my face and make the same sigh and tell him to “hurry up, please.” This is definitely not loving patiently.
And kind
  • Do I display kindness throughout my day?  Am I looking for opportunities where people could be in need of a helping hand?  Or, do I see someone in need and pretend that I don’t notice because I don’t want to be inconvenienced?
Love is not jealous
  • This one can come out when you least expect it.  I try not to look at others and want things that they have. I try to be content with what I have.  But, what about when someone else gets acknowledged for something in which I don’t get acknowledged?  Someone else gets praise for spending a lot of time on an event that I spent even more time planning, but I didn't get the praise for it?  Do I sulk and get mad that I didn't get credit, or do I participate in praising the person for their hard efforts as well?  Or, have you ever been around people who just always seem to get it right?  They must be overflowing with compliments all the time.  So, you don’t compliment them because you think they already get enough of those.  I’m learning that this is usually rooted in jealousy.  Because I’m jealous that I’m not the one who is good at everything, I’m hesitant to compliment the person who is.  What a sad way to live. I want to celebrate with others when they accomplish something, even if they seem to always get it right.  By celebrating with them, I get to share in their excitement instead of wallowing in jealousy. 
Or boastful or proud
  • The other day I was talking with someone about why women gossip. It’s easy to say we just want to vent or get advice, but I think the main reason we gossip is so that we can feel better about ourselves.  By bashing someone else, we feel better about ourselves. By putting down others and their decisions, we puff ourselves up.  This is not love.  This is pride…at the expense of others.
Or rude
  • When we’re having a bad day, sometimes it just all comes to a head right when our husbands walk in the door from work.  Instead of greeting him with a smile and asking him how his date went, it’s easy to offer a rude remark and give him a list of things in which you need his help.  This is not showing love towards my husband. 
It does not demand its own way
  • I am a bit of a planner.  When I take the time to plan something, I have expectations that it will happen, and when things don’t go as planned, it’s really hard for me to accept.  While some people never make plans and never have expectations, this can be harder for those of us who do make plans.  When things get thrown off course, how will I react?  Will I pitch a fit because things did not go the way I envisioned, or will I make the best of the change in plans?  God is really growing me in this area right now because it seems like none of my plans are turning out the way I expected.  Sometimes it’s just out of our control, and we can learn to accept that or we can choose to be a person no one likes to be around (and NOT display love because love does not demand its own way). 
It is not irritable
  • I’d love to just skip right over this one, but that’s probably the very reason it’s in here.  It’s so refreshing to be around a calm and content person. I feel like you always know what you’re going to get because they’re always relaxed and at ease.  I am not wired that way.  I am a very reactive person and my emotions are constantly fluctuating. For some of us, we just have to work a little bit harder to NOT let our emotions control us.  After all, God gave us these emotions and these emotions are what allow us to feel and experience life.  It’s okay to experience different emotions, but we can’t let them dictate our behavior.  I love this quote from Unglued by Lysa Terkeurst:
“Feelings are indicators, not dictators, child. They can indicate where your heart is in the moment, but that doesn’t mean they have the right to dictate your behavior and boss you around. You are more than the sum total of your feelings and perfectly capable of that little gift from Jesus called self-control!”
So, when our emotions are all over the place, we can decide if we are going to allow them to control us or not.  I do not want to be a moody person.  I don’t want my husband to questions what kind of woman he is going to come home to.  By reigning in my emotions, I am showing love. 
It keeps no record of being wronged
  • My dad always jokes that women have “steel-trap memories.” We can remember minute details that men usually cannot recall. When I think back to my first date with my husband, I can remember everything in detail…what we were wearing, what we talked about, the things that I thought about after our date was over, etc.  My husband, on the other hand, is doing well to remember anything about our first date.  So, when a disagreement arises, it can be easy for women to pull up the past, reminding others of their faults.  But, love is not supposed to keep a record of being wronged. How can we make it a practice not to pull up the past, but to truly put the past in the past? Is there someone with whom you are still holding a grudge? Who do you need to forgive?
It does not rejoice about injustice, but rejoices whenever the truth wins out
  • Sin is wrong and an unjust.  What sins do we try to cover up or make light of when we know we should forsake them?  Are we watching tv shows or movies that are filling our minds with junk?  Are we dressing seductively to be noticed by others?  This is not love.  Love seeks to love righteousness and truth. 
Love never gives up, never loses faith
  • What happens when life gets hard?  Do you blame God?  Do you question His goodness?  When bad things happen in life, Satan wants to use these moments to get us off track and to make us take our eyes off of Jesus.  I had a major health scare in my life about a year ago, and this past year has been filled with emotional ups and downs.  It scares me to think about leaving my children behind, and I tell God that.  I want to have the opportunity to be their mom and to serve alongside my husband, but I must choose to cling to God even in uncertainties. It doesn't mean we’ll understand everything that’s going on, but it means that we won’t give up because our love for Christ compels us to trust Him. 
Is always hopeful
  • As Christians, we have hope!  We take this for granted everyday when we grumble and complain.  It’s like we just forget about the hope that we have and instead focus on our problems.  I love this quote from Ann Voskamp:
“Unless we are intentional about giving God glory throughout the day, our days unintentionally give way to grumbling.”
Are we celebrating our hope by intentionally giving God glory throughout the day or are we allowing life’s circumstances to cloud our hope?
Endures through everything
  • Do we really love others with this kind of love…a love that will endure through everything?  What is God asking you to do right now?  Maybe you’re married to someone who is far away from Christ, maybe they are suffering with an addiction to alcohol or pornography or maybe they've even had an affair.  What is God asking you to do through this?  I am not saying you should continue living with someone who is working through these things, but I do think that sometimes we are just looking for an excuse or a way out instead of looking for love. Love endures….it stands strong, even when it is wronged or mistreated.  How is God asking you to endure? 
Love. One word. So much meaning.  So much conviction.  Each day I am convicted of how I am not loving to the fullest, loving the way Scripture defines love.   Conviction is good because it helps us see where we are not living for Christ and He can show us how to love others better...with His love. How can you grow in the way you love others?

Love is what sets a Christian apart from the rest of the world.  It is more important than faith and hope.  Read what else 1 Corinthians says about love:

"If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn't love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn't love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing. Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.  It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.  Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance...three things will last forever - faith, hope, and love - and the greatest of these is love."

-1 Corinthians 13:1-7,13





Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Homemade Chicken Salad (made with Greek Yogurt)



I've always loved chicken salad...it's so good on a sandwich or atop a green salad.  But, then I learned how fattening it is and that it is loaded with lots of unnecessary ingredients.  Just look at the list of ingredients from Chick-fil-A's site for their chicken salad:

Chicken (seasoning [salt, monosodium glutamate, sugar, spices, paprika]), chicken tenderloins (seasoning [salt, autolyzed yeast, maltodextrin, spice, natural flavor, chicken fat, garlic powder, sugar cane syrup, onion powder, paprika, molasses, sodium diacetate, tomato powder, silicon dioxide {anticaking agent}, sugar, oleoresin paprika {color}, citric acid, smoke flavor, caramel color]), seasoned coater (enriched bleached flour [with malted barley flour, niacin, iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid], sugar, salt, monosodium glutamate, nonfat milk, leavening [baking soda, sodium aluminum phosphate, monocalcium phosphate], spice, soybean oil, color [paprika]), milk wash (water, egg, nonfat milk), peanut oil (fully refined peanut oil with Dimethylpolysiloxane an anti-foaming agent added), mayonnaise (soybean oil, water, egg yolk, distilled vinegar, high fructose corn syrup, salt, spice, calcium disodium EDTA to protect flavor), diced cooked eggs, celery, pickle relish (cucumbers, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, vinegar, salt, xanthan gum, mustard seed, calcium chloride, alum, potassium sorbate [preservative], natural flavors, polysorbate 80, dehydrated red bell pepper, turmeric), 

 And, this list is just for the chicken...it's not including the bread!  Now, I do love me some Chick-fil-A, but I can't understand why so many ingredients have to be used!

So, tonight I made a recipe for some chicken salad that only has a few ingredients, and the ingredients are actually good for you!  Hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Ingredients:
  • 2 Large Cooked Chicken Breasts or the cooked white meat from a small rotisserie chicken
  • 1/8 Cup Crushed Pecans
  • 1 apple, diced
  • 1/4 Cup Dried Cranberries
  • 3-4 Tbsp. Plain Greek Yogurt
  • 1/2 tsp. Sea Salt 

Directions:
Cut the chicken into smaller pieces and place all ingredients into a mixer and mix on low speed until combined.  If you do not have a mixer, you could do this by hand, but the chicken won't be as shredded.




Monday, January 19, 2015

Tomato and Feta Cheese Chicken Bake


Chicken covered in a homemade tomato sauce with feta cheese, garlic and herbs.  So good!  And, it's made with fresh ingredients that are actually good for you!

I made up a recipe for some chicken tonight and the kids loved it.  They called it pizza chicken because it smelled like pizza.  Enjoy!

Ingredients:
5-6 boneless chicken breasts.  I used 5 large chicken breasts.

For the marinade:
  • 2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. Oil of Choice (I used avocado oil)
  • 1 Tbsp. Lemon Juice
  • 1 Tbsp. Minced Garlic

Topping:
  • 10-12 small tomatoes, quartered 
  • 1 Tbsp Italian seasoning blend
  • 1 Tbsp. Lemon Juice
  • Oil of choice for pan (I used avocado oil)
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese (I used the garlic and herb blend)

Combine marinade and pour over chicken. Put marinated chicken in fridge.  If you're in a hurry, you can just let it soak for a few minutes.  If you have the time, let it soak all day.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Quarter tomatoes.  Heat skillet over medium heat and add oil and minced garlic.  Once oil is nice and hot, add tomatoes and seasonings.  Cook for about 5 minutes, until tomatoes are nice and soft.  Remove from heat and stir in feta cheese.

Remove chicken from fridge and pour tomato and feta cheese sauce over chicken.  Bake, uncovered for 45-50 minutes.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Booklist of 2014


It can be hard to carve out time to read a book when life is constantly busy with little ones. But, I've come to realize that books greatly influence my spiritual life.  By reading from others about what God has taught them, it can motivate us, inspire us, and challenge us to get out of our comfort zones.

I've also discovered that is is so important to make sure and read from Christian authors when it comes to topics where we are wanting advice or counsel.  When we are trying to learn and apply something, we want to make sure that we learn from someone who is pointing us to Christ.  When we hear from non-Christians on topics such as parenting, marriage, etc., we have to be very careful because their chief concern is not pointing us to Christ. They are just giving us their opinion and opinions come and go, but the "Word of Christ endures forever" (1 Peter 1:25).

Disclaimer: it can be tempting to put great books ahead of God's Word and this is a huge mistake that we should guard against.  NOTHING can replace God's Word and it has to be top priority.  If I try to replace His Word with a book, it will always fall short and I will not be able to grow in my walk with Christ as much.  If, however, we use books in conjunction with God's Word, we get the best of both worlds.  We get the infallible truth from Scripture and the personal insight from others that can help us live for Christ.

Here are some challenging books that I've read this past year.  I hope these books challenge and encourage your walk with the Lord as they have mine.  Blessings!

Bible:
I got a new Bible for Christmas that I'm really excited about.  It's set up with a devotional for each day along with a passage out of the Bible. Though it does not contain every chapter and verse from the Bible, it offers a complete view of Scripture without being overwhelming.  It skips material that appears more than once, giving a stream-lined look at the entire Bible.

It's called the Women's Sanctuary Devotional Bible

Spiritual Growth:
The Church Planting Wife by Christine Hoover
Seven by Jen Hatmaker
Makeover: Revitalizing the Many Roles you Fill by Jen Hatmaker
Unglued by Lysa Terkeurst
Follow Me by David Platt
Mindset for Moms by Jamie Martin
Mom Enough (FREE on John Pipers site)
Radical by David Platt
Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus by Nabeel Qureshi and Lee Strobel

Raising Children:
Hands-Free Mama by Rachel Stafford
Shepherding a Child's Heart  by Tedd Tripp
The Strong-Willed Child by James Dobson
Am I Messing Up My Kids? by Lysa Terkeurst
Don't Make Me Count to Three by Ginger Hubbard
The Mommy Manual by Barbara Curtis
Treasuring God in Our Traditions by Noel Piper

Marriage:
Sheet Music (only for married couples ;) by Kevin Leman
What's it like to be Married to Me? by Linda Dillow

Misc:
The Grain-Free Family Table by Carrie Vitt
What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty (this is a fiction, non-religious book, but it was kind of an eye-opener for me to remember to love your family and not get caught up in worldly things)

Saturday, November 15, 2014

My Weekly Planner



See link to PDF download at bottom of page

It's so much easier for me to be productive when I have something written down each week.  And, it's so much easier to write something down when it's on cute paper!

I plan to use my weekly planner by putting it on a clipboard and hanging the clipboard on the wall where I can easily see it, make changes to it, etc.

Feel free to use my weekly planners for yourself too.  I made a Christmas one and a regular one. Hope it helps keep your week more organized!

For my weekly planner, I have included the following:

  • Weekly Menu: It's so much easier to cook at home when I have already planned out our menu for the week!
  • Memory Verse: I think it gets even harder to memorize with age, but I know it's so important to commit to memorizing more and more Bible verses.  
  • Goals: I have this broken down into 4 sections:
    1. Health: What goal do I have this week that can make me healthier (ex.Cut out sugar this week)?
    2. Relationships: What is one relationship I want to strengthen this week?  This doesn't necessarily have to be an estranged relationship, but just a reminder to reach out to others.  Maybe you can reach out to a new co-worker or neighbor, etc.
    3. New Habits: What new habit do I want to incorporate into my life?  This is just a great reminder to keep working on things.  An example might be to intentionally read a book to the kids for 30 minutes, etc.
    4. Other: Any other goal you want to work on/accomplish (ex. pick out a paint color for the bathroom)
  • Housework: Each day, list a household chore you want to accomplish.  Monday might be laundry and bathrooms, etc. 
  • To Do: Write down daily schedules such as soccer practice, lunch appointments, etc.
  • I am thankful for:This is just a reminder to be thankful.  It's hard to complain when you are cultivating a thankful heart.  1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, "Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus."
Download the Weekly Planner here.
Download the Weekly Christmas Planner here.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Sins that Sneak Up on Us


"But maybe I need to view my trials in a new light because trials show us what is in our hearts..."

Sins can have a funny way of sneaking up on us.  Just when we think we are overcoming one sin, we notice a different sin in our lives.  It can be discouraging because it feels like a battle that we always lose.  When we focus all of our attention on overcoming sins, two things can happen:


  1. We realize we cannot win, and we are overcome with guilt and shame.
  2. We rely on our own power and start to gain victory over a certain sin.  We become filled with pride and look down on others for not having the power to overcome as we have.

Both of these things happen because we begin to take our eyes off of Jesus.  We try to overcome the sin with our own power and we either fail or allow another sin (pride) to take its place.  Instead of focusing on Jesus and using His strength to replace the sin, we try to overcome the sin ourselves.

When a trial comes my way, I often see new sins pop up in my life that I have never had to deal with before.  For example, I never really struggled that much with anger until I had children. I may have looked at people who struggled with that sin and thought they just didn't know how to manage their emotions and pride had settled in my heart.  But now, years later, I see that, in the right situation, we are all capable of ANY sin.

I didn't know that I would struggle so much with the sin of fear and unbelief until my health was threatened and I became terrified of leaving my family behind.
I didn't realize how much I loved material things until we sold our house and moved into an apartment.
I didn't realize how much I loved my children above God until one of our children was very sick and we were afraid he had a life-altering disease.
Sins creep in our lives so quickly.  Many times we notice this happening when we are under extra stress or going through a trial. Sometimes we are in denial that they have crept in, and we try to push them aside, without ever acknowledging or confessing them.

Trials. are. no. fun.  I want out of them as soon as I enter them, and I am always looking for a way around them.  But maybe I need to view my trials in a new light because trials show us what is in our hearts. If a new sin surfaces when I am going through a trial, it is an opportunity for me to cut off a part of my life that is not looking like Christ, a part of me that I may not have seen if I had not gone through a trial.  I was probably struggling with that sin all along, but it didn't come to light until I opened up my eyes to see the stronghold it was having in my life.


As new sins sneak up on us, may we use them as an opportunity to cut off whatever it is in our lives that doesn't look like Christ.  Is my mouth causing me to sin by constantly complaining and arguing?  Then, maybe I need to talk less until I can train my mind to say things that are encouraging and uplifting.  Is fear keeping me from joining a home team and being around new people?  Then maybe I need to make myself join a home team and push past the fear.  Is pride keeping me from making things right with my husband when we got in an argument?  Then, I should humble myself and apologize so that the relationship can be restored.


May our sins be used:

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Pumpkin Breakfast Porridge


What a great time of year to have something pumpkin-y for breakfast.  I saw a post the other day for a breakfast porridge, but decided to adapt it for our family.  We had it this morning, and I got thumbs up from my kids.  

The great thing about this recipe is you can change it up however you want.  Don't like one of the fruits in this recipe? Substitute if for another one! It was nice to serve something different for breakfast, and the pumpkins and apples are always a treat for fall.  

Ingredients:
  • 2 bananas
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin (make sure pumpkin is the only ingredient)
  • 1 cup coconut milk (any milk will work)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp. coconut flour
  • 1 apple, diced
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • walnuts or almonds, crushed (optional)


Instructions:
  • Use an immersion blender or regular blender to blend the bananas and pumpkin puree.  Add the milk and eggs and blend to combine.  
  • Pour into pot and heat over medium heat.  Add butter, vanilla,  and cinnamon and stir constantly.  
  • Once warm, whisk in coconut flour and keep stirring until well incorporated.  
  • Spoon into bowls and top with diced apples, raisins, and nuts.  
  • Makes 4 bowls