Sunday, March 15, 2015

Healthy Individual Brownie Cakes

I just love chocolate.  It's my downfall when it comes to healthy eating.  I can say no to fried foods and packaged foods, but I'm going to cheat a little if there's a warm, gooey brownie in front of me.  So, in my attempt to find something healthy to satisfy that craving, I experimented today.  I'm really shocked these turned out so good, and the kids ate one and loved it too.  You'd never know there's NO FLOUR, OIL, OR SUGAR IN IT! A-mazing.




Ingredients:
  • 1 Tbsp. Apple Sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. Peanut Butter or other Nut Butter 
  • 1 Tbsp. Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  • 1/2 Tbsp.-1 Tbsp. Pure Maple Syrup
  • 1/2 Tbsp.- 1 Tbsp. Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips
  • few drops of vanilla
  • Tiny pinch of baking soda
Directions:
  • Mix all of the following in a small microwavable, single serving bowl.  Small ramekins are the perfect size. Heat in microwave for 1 minute and 25 seconds. Viola!  You're done and you have yourself a yummy treat that's not bad for you but is still delicious!  Can you tell I'm excited about this!?
Note: I tried it with Almond Butter and Peanut Butter and thought it was a little dryer with the Almond Butter, but it was still good!

If you've never used Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips before, give them a try.  They are gluten, nut, soy and dairy free, but they taste wonderful! Buy them on here for a cheaper price (this is for a 6 pack of them).

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Roasted Vegetables (Beets, Potatoes, Carrots, and Apples)





Beets.  They are one of those vegetables that just don't sound too appealing.  Am I the only one? They just look like a lot of work, and I don't know what to do with them. I tried making something with them once, they didn't taste very good, so I kind of just gave up on them.  Until recently.  My aunt made some roasted vegetables when we went to her house for dinner a few weeks ago.  They were great, and beets were part of the medley.  She said that roasting them is the best way because it caramelizes them and gives them a great flavor.  So today, I roasted some beets!  Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 Beets, Peeled and chopped small
  • 1 Bag of Baby Carrots, cut into small chunks
  • 3 Large Red Potatoes or 2 Large Sweet Potatoes or combination of both, diced 
  • 2 Apples, diced (I didn't peel them)
  • 2 Tbsp. Oil of Choice (I used Avocado Oil.  Coconut oil or Olive oil would work great too.)
  • Generous sprinkling of a high quality sea salt.  Here is a good choice.

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  • Cover baking sheet with parchment paper. 
  • After all of the vegetables have been diced, toss in oil and sprinkle with salt.  Place on the baking sheet and bake for 45-55 minutes, stirring half-way.  


The apples give the vegetables a slightly sweet flavor.  Yummy!


Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Natural Beauty Products


It can be frustrating to find beauty products without all of the bad stuff in it.  Many times, it is much more expensive than the stuff you can buy at Walmart and Target and a lot of the time it just doesn't work very well.

But, did you know that companies are allowed to use almost any ingredient that they want?! The U.S. government does not review the safety of products before they are sold!  Toxic ingredients are used in many of the beauty products available today.  These toxic ingredients are endocrine disruptors that can lead to cancer, autoimmune diseases, and other illnesses.  Our skin absorbs 60% of any topical product we use, so that's why it's so important that we are not putting these harmful toxins on our body.

Have you ever used the Environmental Working Group database? You'll want to check out this website if you haven't already.  Their mission is to protect human health and the environment by creating online safety profiles for cosmetics and personal care products. You can search for a brand of make up and it will tell you the ratings (as far as safety goes) for your beauty product.

For example, if you searched for Burt's Bees Baby Nourishing Lotion, you would see a rating of a 5, which is a moderate hazard. You want your rating to be as close to 0 as possible.  I was pretty upset to see that the expensive lotion I was buying and that I thought was healthy for my baby, was actually full of bad things that are toxic for my baby.  I might as well buy the cheapest brand possible.

So, yes, it does take a little extra work to find products that are not toxic. But, I definitely don't want to be putting harmful things into my body.  Here is a list of products that have worked for me, and I hope they'll help you too.

Note: I am not a sales rep for any of these products, but some affiliate links are below.  If you purchase through an affiliate link, your costs will be the same, but I will receive a very small commission.  Thanks for your support!

Body Wash: 
Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps -Peppermint
This body wash contains organic certified ingredients and can be used for cleaning the body as well as used to make natural household cleaners.  I like the peppermint oil because it creates a tingly-cool and increases vitality and clarity.
Dr. Bronner's Baby-mild Liquid Soap  (no essential oil scent)

To make it last longer, you can also dilute with water.  We usually add 1/2 water to it and the 32 oz bottles lasts a LONG time!

Tear-free wash for Kids:
Nature's Baby Organics Shampoo & Body Wash
This is a tear-free formula without all the bad stuff.  It has a calming scent from essential oils.

Face:
Derma e, Soothing Cleanser 
I like this face wash.  It's gentle and fragrance free.

Toner:
Heritage Rosewater & Glycerin With Atomizer 
I LOVE this stuff.  See this article to learn more about it.  It's a great price and it can bring benefit to all skin types.

Eye Gel:
derma e Pycnogenol Eye Gel with Green Tea Extract
This eye gel helps diminish the look of undereye puffiness...not that that ever happens to my eyes ;)

Make-up Remover:
Nutiva Organic Virgin Coconut Oil
I use coconut oil.  I love this brand, and we use it for cooking all the time too! I put some in a small container and just dip a cotton ball in it to remove my make-up each day.

Face Lotion:
Aim 2 Health Face and Neck Cream
For dry spots or when you need something extra moisturizing, I love using this.  The aloe is very soothing.

Make-up:
Elegant Minerals
I found a new make-up that I really like.  It's similar to Bare Minerals, but the prices are a little better. You can also order samples on most of their products for only $1.  I love their clay masks as well.  From their site:
Elegant Minerals Makeup is free of all potentially harmful ingredients found in many commercial brands, such as: preservatives, talc, synthetic chemicals, carmine, parabens, artificial dyes, fragrances, bismuth, cornstarch, and various fillers. We do not use micronized minerals. We are confident you will love our mineral makeup and offer a 30 money-back guarantee.
Mascara:
My favorite non-toxic mascara is actually from Target and it is the Boots No. 7 Brand.  It gets a lower rating of 2 on EWG, although it is not a 0. I like that it costs under $10!

Epsom salt:
Epsoak Epsom Salt 
In thinking about toxins, an epsom salt bath is excellent at removing toxins from the body.  See this article here.  This is, by far, my favorite brand, and it's well worth it to buy the 20 lb. bag, because you'll need to use 1-2 cups per bath.  This has become a treat for me, and I try to take an epsom salt bath several times a week.

Skin Brush:
Yerba Prima Tampico Skin Brush
Read about the importance of skin brushing and how to do it here.

What are your favorite non-toxic beauty products?



The Key to Your Life



This morning, I read Deuteronomy 30.  The title for the chapter was A Call to Return to the Lord.  Moses is speaking to the Israelites and imploring them to return to the Lord.  He urges them to make the right choice.  He presents them with two options: choose life or choose death.  Even after the Israelites had turned away from God so many times, God still extends His mercy and grace to them.  God wants them to have life and He knew that they could not have true life without Him.

The Lord your God will change your heart and the hearts of all your descendants, so that you will love him with all your heart and soul and so you may live! Deuteronomy 30:6

This verse is so encouraging because it shows that God wants to change our hearts...He wants to replace our desires with His desires and help us love Him with all our heart and soul.  And the result is so that we may live!  He knows that to truly live is to live only for Him.  When we live for ourselves, we are not living at all.  We are taking...taking from others, taking from this world to try and satisfy a longing that will never truly be satisfied.  

Sometimes we can get a distorted view of God.  We can feel like He is so out of reach, so intangible, a standard that we can never attain.  We can feel like since we know we'll never measure up, we shouldn't even try...that He is going to be disappointed no matter what happens.  But this is so untrue.  Deuteronomy 30 reminds us that His commands are not too difficult for us to understand:

This command I am giving you today is not too difficult for you to understand, and it is not beyond your reach...No, the message is very close at hand; it is on your lips and in your heart so that you can obey it  (vs. 11, 14).

Yes, we are all sinners and we will not always make the right choice.  But, His Word is there to guide us and bring us back to Him.  God doesn't want us to fail.  He wants us to cling to Him, to forsake everything else and to choose life.  When we are tempted to think that His standards are too high for us to ever attain, may we remember that it is not too difficult for us to understand.

God wants to give us a new heart to obey Him in place of our former stubbornness. This new heart will teach us how to love the Lord wholeheartedly.  Thank God that He can replace our sinful hearts with a new one so that we may have life.  But, are we willing to let Him have control of our lives, to surrender our old heart's desires for His new heart?  It may be hard to let go of our pursuits, our dreams and our goals.  This world has a way of making our desires look so attractive.  The enemy wants nothing more than to see us choose our own way of living instead of His way of living.  But the sad part is that when we choose our way of living, we really are not living at all.  Because He is the key to our life. 

You can make this choice by loving the LORD your God, obeying him, and committing yourself firmly to him.  This is they key to your life...(vs. 20). 

This whole chapter is so full of verses that remind us to forsake our old way of living. Take time to read Deuteronomy 30.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Discipline is Not Enough



Psalm 73:25-26
I don't have anyone in heaven but you.
I don't want anything on earth besides you. 
My body and my heart may grow weak.
God, you give strength to my heart.
You are everything I will ever need.   

I've always been somewhat of a disciplined person.  If I feel convicted to do something, then I intentionally think of ways that I can accomplish the task and I set about accomplishing it. Of course there are times that I may cheat (ex. eating something unhealthy, not going to the gym, etc), but I know that in order to accomplish a task, it takes self-control and discipline. While it's good to be self-controlled and disciplined, God is showing me that I can't just make a "check list" and expect my heart to magically be in the right place.

Recently I have noticed that my attitude has been a little less than stellar (to put it nicely).  So, I began to think of ways I could fix this.  I started developing my check list:

  • I'll get up earlier and spend more time reading my Bible
  • I'll post Bible verses everywhere 
  • I'll try to do thing for others throughout the day
  • And the list goes on...

Of course, none of the things on this list is bad.  It's good to spend more time reading my Bible and memorizing other verses.  But, a check list cannot change my heart.  I so wish it could. I wish that I could just write "love Jesus with all my heart" on a list and it would be taken care of.   I can't just make a list of things I need to work on without first asking God to search my heart and forgive me for the sinful way that it is.  God is showing me that I need to repent more often.  Repentance is not fun. It takes time and it can get messy.  If I'm really being honest, sometimes I don't want to take time to really look at my heart because I don't want to know what all is there.  It's a lot easier to not deal with it and just pretend that my heart is in pretty good condition. But, if I sit still before the Lord and ask Him to reveal to me sin that is in my heart, He might show me some stuff that I didn't know was there (or tried to pretend wasn't there).  He might remind me of some bitterness in my life or reveal to me my pride, my fear, my insecurities.

Sometimes it's just easier to keep going through the motions, keep reading my Bible and singing the praise songs but not dealing with the state of my heart.  When we do this, it's so easy to compare ourselves to others. We feel a nudge that God wants us to come before Him and search our heart, but we begin to become filled with pride as we look at others. We begin to list off all of the things we are doing for God, trying to justify the fact that we are doing so much for Him.  But that's the most tragic part of all because I'll never do enough...I can never make a good enough to do list.  Why? Because I'm a sinner and because my heart is deceitful and because each day I am facing a battle against my flesh.  And, I need Jesus.  I need Him to reveal to me where I am weak and I need His help to show me where I am not like Him. If I don't take time to come before Him and repent of my sins, then I am only relying on my own strength to cross items off of my to do list.  See what Paul has to say about the power of sin in our lives:
But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?  Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin. Romans 7:23-25
I want to rely on Christ's strength and be filled with a new heart as I see a new sin surfaces in my life.  I don't want to rely on my own strength because then I will never really overcome it.  And, as easy as it is to do sometimes, I don't want to just pretend sin is not in my life.  In order to become more like Christ, I must repent and ask Him to help me turn from my sinful ways with His strength.
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts.  Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life. Psalm 139: 23-24
Instead of making a to-do-list, my prayer is that I will ask God to search my heart first and help me rely on His strength.  Then, I will rely on His power instead of my power.  I love this quote by Matt Chandler about how we can be a great wife and mom:
You don't have to be a perfect wife to be a great wife. You don't have to be a perfect mom to be a great mom. 'Where's that line?' That line is confession, repentance, and getting back up and staying moving. We take on the perfection made available to us in Jesus Christ, his righteousness, not my righteousness, not a false veneer righteousness of my own. Not my strength, his strength. Not my perfection, his perfection. We rest in that. Then we walk as best we can every day.
Repentance takes time. It will probably be messy because it's when we see how evil our heart's desires truly are.  But, when we repent of these sins, we are agreeing with God that we hate them, that we want to turn from them. And, when we come before Him with a humble heart, He. will. hear. us.  So, why would I not repent?
Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land. My eyes will be open and my ears attentive to every prayer made in this place. 2 Chronicles 7:14-15

Sunday, February 1, 2015

2-Week Menu Plan


I am putting together our family's menu for the next few weeks and thought I would post it here for my own reference and in case anyone else wanted some meal ideas.  Some of these recipes are mine and many of them came from other healthy blogs. I have made all of them and they have turned out great!  I have included the links to them if I got it elsewhere. To print your own weekly planner, see here.

WEEK ONE

Notes: For the roasted potatoes, I just chop potatoes and combine them with a little olive oil, garlic powder, salt, and paprika.  I put them on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper and lightly sprayed and bake at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes.
Notes: I used a spiralizer to make the zucchini pasta.  After I spiralize it, I put it in a skillet over high heat with some oil and salt and whatever spices I have on hand.  I let it cook for about 5 minutes and then serve the meatballs over it.  I love my spiralizer!  See it here.
Notes: For the apple muffins, instead of grating my apples, I just diced them.  I also added 1/4 cup of raisins.
Notes: I have several substitutions/additions for this recipe. I use 3 sweet potatoes, but I bake them instead of boiling them.  I also add 3 cooked chicken breasts to this.  I use a can of diced tomatoes instead of fresh ones. I also add sauted fresh spinach to this as well.  You can't even taste it and it's a great way to get in some extra veggies.  I use 6 peppers for this recipe.
Notes: I actually have not made these rolls yet, but everything I have made from this site is delicious, so I can't wait to try these!

WEEK TWO

Notes: I make a homemade salad dressing that consists of 2 oz. balsalmic vinegar, 6 oz. olive oil and 1 Tbsp. Honey
Notes: I used a gf flour for the heatlhy sweet potato casserole, or you can just leave it out altogether.  
Notes: I added 1 Tbsp of Almond Flour to the pizza crust to make it hold together a little better. I like to top my "pizza" with lots of veggies and some fruit: spinach, peppers, broccoli, zucchini, tomatoes, pineapple, etc.

SWEET TREATS:

Grain Free Cobbler (made with Coconut Flour)
Notes: This cobbler is so good!  I used 2 1/2 cups of frozen berries (raspberry, strawberry and blueberry blend with two chopped apples). It did take a lot longer for mine to cook- about 55 mintues instead of the 35 minutes that the recipe says.  This makes a great breakfast for the kids too!

Chocolate-Covered Peanut Butter Banana Bites

Grain-free Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge (made with coconut oil)





Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge (made with Coconut Oil)



This fudge is so yummy, it's hard to believe there is almost no sugar in it!  It's great to satisfy a craving without feeling guilty!

Ingredients:
1/2 cup coconut oil (softened)
1/2 cup natural peanut butter
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. vanilla
1-2 Tbsp. Maple Syrup

Directions:
Place all ingredients in an electric mixer and mix on low-medium speed until well combined. Line a small pan or baking dish with parchment paper (this step is important)! Pour into the lined pan and place in the fridge for about 30 minutes.  Cut into small pieces and put in a sealed container and store in fridge.  So yummy!

Oven-Baked Green Beans



We eat green beans a lot.  It is one of the vegetables our kids enjoy, so I try to take advantage of that. This is a great way to change up the taste a bit. My husband and I can almost eat a whole pan by ourselves because they taste so good!

Ingredients:
  • One Bag of Fresh Green Beans (washed and trimmed)
  • 2-4 Tbsp Oil of Choice (avocado, olive, or coconut are great)
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
Directions:
  • Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Combine oil and spices in a large bowl.  
  • Add green beans to bowl and toss to coat.  
  • Arrange green beans on a baking sheet that is covered in parchment paper or foil.
  • Bake for 30-40 minutes, depending on how well-done you want them to be.