Sunday, July 24, 2011

A Midsummer's Afternoon {reflect}

It's time to face the music. Summer is mid way through. It seems to me that summers are a short, and unique season for us. Even those with full time jobs that no longer get the luxury of a "summer break", there's something about staying up extra late and squeezing every ounce of fun from a lovely summer day.

Perhaps is the added Vitamin D that allows us to relax and step out of rigorous routine for a moment...or two. This has prompted me to seriously consider buying a tanning bed. Just think- year round Vitamin D bliss! Just kidding. Don't do that. :)

These past few summers I have noticed a trend, maybe you will be able to relate. It starts like this:

The start of summer is always trying to wind down my brain and my schedule. Still feeling the "afterglow" of highlights from the past year that carry with it a powerful hope for possibilities for the upcoming summer. Because of high hopes, it's like being on steroids sometimes when opportunities come. Whether it's serving, spending time with people, joining someone in some short term "venture." It's like my mind is saying no, but my body is so jacked on "what if's" it twitches as I subconsciously nod "YES!" "Pick me!".

Although the passion is very real, and the commitment there, it always seems to strike me (about midsummer) that things aren't working out quite as planned. Some things are better than expected, and some things seem to completely drop off to the way side.

I miss understand my lingering passion and lack of rigorous routine for a lack of spirituality and faith. Unfortunately in the past this has taken me some time to figure out. I tend to feel discouraged, positive that something is wrong with me. "I'm just not seeking God like I did this year. How come my city isn't all worshiping Jesus yet? How come I haven't seen any crazy miracles this summer?"

Haha. Am I the only one who thinks like this? Join me as I put an end to the trend...

Breath. Take in the moment right now. Take in the view on the other side of this screen. Ready?

No matter what we feel God is always there. Always.

I give them eternal life, and they will never die. No one can steal them out of my hand. John 10:28

If you have committed your life to Christ, no matter where you are, what you do, how you hurt, if your heart is set on Him, you will not fall from His hand! You see, my mind and my heart were in different seasons, and warring against each other. Causing an internal battle that led to anxiety, unrest, and depression. A farmer doesn't harvest in the Spring, or plant in the Summer. This would be very inefficient, and certainly not profitable!

As I take some time to reflect, I am reminded of this Truth. Why am I trying to reap the harvest, when I am supposed to be tending the field?

I am happy to tell you that I have "nipped it in the bud". I am doing what God has called me to this summer. Resting in His Love, and soaking in His Truth He has revealed. Since then, oh boy, I wish I could describe the freedom and almost silly ecstasy of His presence and unexpected plans. Not always a feeling,(in fact recently nothing really emotional at all) but a deep assurance of being in the palm of His hand. He promised me that, He promised you that.

I encourage you to recognize or remember what God has called you to this particular season. Rest? Direction? Relationship? Work? Simply acknowledge it, ask for forgiveness for contradicting His ordained "season" for you. Take joy in focusing on just that thing.

Remember no matter what circumstance surrounds, or what your heart feels, know that God is greater than your heart and He knows everything. NoTHING can snatch you from Him.

That's how we know that we hold to the truth. And that's how we put our hearts at rest, knowing that God is watching. Our hearts may judge us. But God is greater than our hearts. He knows everything. 1 John 3:19-21

Reflect today. Enjoy today.

PS. What is your favorite summer song?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Blackberry Peach Cobbler with Almond Crust

It was a rainy Friday afternoon, and my outside summer plans had been foiled. So I pulled the old "let's try a new recipe!" card. I "Pandora'd" some Dave Barnes (great baking music), lit some candles, and browsed through a few favorite blogs, and found a perfectly do-able recipe ready to be brought to life and enjoyed.

I adapted this recipe from the Roost Blog. I modified some of the ingrediants, and procedures, but I think it turned out okay... (the poor cobbler didn't even last to the next day).

Blackberry Peach Cobbler with Almond Crust

For the Crust

  • 1 1/2 cups almond flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 cup melted ghee (or butter or oil of choice: grapeseed, canola...)
  • 1 TBSP honey
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • cinnamon for dusting

Preheat oven to 350F. Mix dry ingredients in a bowl. Mix wet ingredients in a bowl. Combine wet and dry ingredients and form into a ball using a spatula. Lay down a piece of parchment paper and place your dough on top. Place another piece of parchment paper on top of dough and flatten in a disk shape with your hand. Using a rolling pin roll out dough until it is wide enough to drape over a 9-inch pie pan.

Once rolled out place in fridge for 30 minutes.

For the Filling

  • 5-7 peaches, peeled and sliced (this will vary due to size so just eyeball it)
  • 1 pint of blackberries (again, just eyeball it if you need to add more or less)
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped and pod discarded
  • 2 TBSP melted ghee or butter
  • 1/4 cup honey ( I used just a "sprinke" of honey instead, and it did the trick!)
  • *optional: chopped pecans,walnuts, or coconut for an added crunch

Toss (I think it is easiest to use my clean hands) all ingredients into a 9 inch pie pan until well incorporated. Remove pie crust from fridge and carefully drape over filling. This dough is delicate so if pieces fall off just stick them back on. Carefully tuck the edges in. (If you want "thinner" pieces I like using a 9X13 inch pan. The recipe makes a generous amount of crust can be rolled to size.)

Dust cinnamon over the top and place in the oven for 20-25 minutes. Because almond flour is made of almonds the crust will turn golden brown quickly, this is normal and adds so much flavor so don't think you are burning the crust :)

After that place some foil over the top and allow to cook another 10 minutes.

Remove from oven and allow to cool for 30 minutes. When you cut into the cobbler it will be very juicy. Normal cobblers typically have flour mixed in the filling to absorb some of the juices but in our case we obviously leave this out. The juices add so much flavor and though this cobbler doesn't produce "pretty" slices, the taste is delicious! So just scoop some up in a bowl, brew a pot of coffee and ENJOY!

*Note: Almond Flour:

You can buy almond flour at a local health food co-op, or even in the "organic section" in most grocery stores. It tends to be quite expensive unless you buy in bulk or make your own. I have been making my own in a magic bullet or my coffee grinder. It seems to work well!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

What I Eat

farmers market salad by sevenworlds16
farmers market salad, a photo by sevenworlds16 on Flickr.

Many of you have asked me..."what do you eat?" Or, "why?!"

This is my open ended conclusion after studying, failing, growing, asking, and pondering the “right way” to a healthy lifestyle and diet. I have been hassled and sometime criticized for the way I eat. Probably because what I eat is a very foreign concept to the average joe. Some may think it’s a fad, or an obsession. Both are wrong. I am fascinated by God’s marvelous creation of the body. It is designed to heal itself and has the capacity to do amazing things if we treat it right. No longer will I be bashful about the what I eat, in fact, like every good thing I discover I desire to help others in their quest for optimal health.

Let me preface with the obvious, everyone is different and has different habits. And I certainly do not have all the technical terms or diagnoses for you. (However I have many resources to share.) But I do have a brain, a highly functioning body, and a desire to live a long adventurous life. Do you know what that requires? Health! Like normal blood pressure, low cholesterol, a sharp mind, high energy, healthy weight and an absence of any mysterious growths.

In a culture completely obsessed with “health food” jargon, and a bazillion studies and supplements, diet everything, I wanted to cut to the chase. Just like I know where I stand in my faith and am not swayed by any other “way”, I wanted to have a clear guide in my outlook on nutrition so that I would not get swept along in the massive tidal wave of the American Pop Culture Diet. These new Pop Culture Diet’s are accompanied by luring promises. Many people have mistaken this ‘tidal wave’ for a joy ride rather than what it truly is, a deadly force.

Though this rant could get quite extensive I will try to condense it into a few main points that I (and someday hopefully my family) will happily live by. This is what I eat.

1.) I eat fat.

-Do you know that your brain is made up of 50-60% of structural fat? Or that your brain takes up 2% of body weight but consumes 18% of its energy?! And that your neurons that transmit messages in order for your body to preform any function are made largely of fat? Therefore a “low fat” diet is robbing your brain and is probably making you crazy! I will never settle for lackluster low fat, high sugar foods again. You know what’s coming’s all about the “good fat” right? Right. There is Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids. Most of processed foods have large amounts of Omega 6 fats. What American’s lack is a healthy ratio of these two fats. An over production of O-6 is the cause for most diseases effecting everything from insulin resistance (your body’s natural full feeling) to high blood pressure. A healthy ratio between the two is less than 4.

-I finally figured out that low fat usually means high sugar. High sugar makes you more hungry, never feeling satisfied. It’s virtually impossible to overeat healthy fats! I finally know what it means to feel satisfied because I’m not afraid to cook with Olive or Canola Oil, or slappin’ my corn-on-the-cob with a hunk of some natural butter.

-I enjoy fats like, walnuts, almonds, avocados, guacamole, red meat, eggs, full fat yogurts, olive oil, canola oil, organic butter, coconut oil, or dark chocolate (75-90%)

2.) I eat gluten-free.

-I know that I have an intolerance to grains. A large percentage of people do, but will never know it until they go with out for a period of time. My body gets achey, I have low energy, and high inflammation when I eat grains. Generally speaking, grians are harder for your body to digest and gluten is highly allergenic. At first it seemed daunting to go without bread or grains, but now it doesn’t even phase me.

-I eat plenty of quinoa, which works as a substitute from everything like rice to oatmeal. I also bake with different flours such as almond, coconut, or substitute with flaxseed.

-Do you know that often the thing you crave, is what your body is actually allergic too? So for me, carbs like bread (even whole grain) and pasta was a no-go.

3.) I eat late at night.

-The myth of late night eating has been drilled into our head as a subconscious “no-no” somehow or another. Either from grandma, or that “health nutty” friend. Studies have been done however that completely debunk that myth. The reason late night eating gets a bad rap is a mix up of correlation vs causation. Most Americans that eat late at night have odd work shifts and turn to fatty, processed foods, and have a lack of exercise. People that “skip” breakfast and become overweight probably have an unhealthy lifestyle and make up for it with unhealthy food later in the day.

-I usually eat in an 8 hour shift. So if I skip breakfast, that’s fine I just start my meals at lunch and usually have three generous meals throughout the day. It works for me not to think about food so often, and I get a lot done! It doesn’t matter if I have my last meal at 8 or 9 at night. Just 8 hour eating periods. Simple. Against many standard American nutritional suggestions...but the more I learn, I don’t give much weight to what the USDA says about food consumption anyways...WHAT SO EVER. No longer do I fall for most magazines or the general public stances on health. Because it’s driven behind advertising, sales, and hype. It’s important to find out for yourself what works for you and what is healthy. Not only in nutrition, but be discerning, and wise! Don’t make the mistake I made of being spoon fed a bunch of pureed bologna of the general health trends.

4.) I eat whole.

-Because I eat whole, real foods, I eat a lot. No calorie constricting or worries. Just like healthy fats, have you ever over eaten on apples or carrots?

-I eat lots of fruit, veggies, hummus, walnuts, tea and coffee, jerky, and milk (mostly soy or almond), and my own protein smoothies.

-There is so much added sugar to a vast quantity of our foods including yogurt and cereal. I have loved learning ways to cook without it and certainly feel much more energy when I avoid added sugars. When I make treats I will use honey, molasses, or stevia sparingly. I’ve noticed that as I became used to no added sugars, natural sweetness is much more sweet!

-No I don’t feel deprived-I make some mean alternative treats that are WAY better than that double stuffed oreo you just stuffed in your mouth. Checkout the other blogs I follow for amazing recipes. Here is one I made recently. Brownies!

5.) I eat meat.

-I believe in high protein! Plus everyone, and I mean EVERYONE likes meat. Satisfaction Guaranteed: even a vegetarian’s mouth waters when the waiter place a sizzling juicy fajitas order in front of their friend.

-Meat and slow absorbing protein like eggs and cottage cheese satisfy and give you energy! Energy to do cool things. Energy that doesn’t leave you feeling like you want to eat the rest of the box of those sugar laden protein bars. (AKA candy bars in disguise)

-With my love of meat I am currently trying to cut down on my ketchup consumption. I am like a 3 year old... needing ketchup when meat is served. But ketchup is really just sugar. Unless you make your own...

PS. I will never again calorie count

PPS. I didn’t even touch on artificial sweeteners. I understand they are ravenous on your body. Not going to lie, sometimes I can’t say no to a diet A&W or 7UP. But most of the time favored sparkling water does the trick.

PPPS. I hope this helped some of you, at least maybe you understand my somewhat strange habits a little better. I would love to answer any questions, share recipes, or advice. Not to mention my extended personal story of my nutritional “journey.”

Like I said before, I believe we are meant to live incredibly amazing, purposeful life. We are three parts, mind, body, and spirit. Balance is absolutely necessary, and each part is vital. I hope this note helps to strengthen all three.


Monday, July 11, 2011

A Brown {photoshoot}

It was an ideal Minnesotan summer day. A tad bit overcast, but it didn't dilute the 'sunshiney' demeanor of the Brown family. These little munchkins were sure not camera shy. We were at my aunt Pat's house where there is no shortage of fun props and picturesque scenery to make for golden photo opportunities.
Thank you Greg and Katrina for being so gracious and letting me capture some of your family memories. This photography journy is somewhat of a new-found venture, however, once I get behind that lense it sure is invigorating!
Here are a few favorites...

They loved these vintage props!

Sweet little Tess..

Why so serious?

Make a wish!

Little toes never get old.

So in love.

Bless you Brownies!