Sunday, August 31, 2014

Simple, simple meals

Meals can be quick and delicious.  Don't let lack of time be your excuse for grabbing something on the way home.  Simple meals do take some advanced planning because you need the ingredients available, but a nutritious, delicious meal such as this one can be prepared in about 15 - 20 minutes.

Ingredients (use what you have available, adjust quantities as needed for your family):

1 cup grilled chicken*, straight from the freezer (I freeze meal-size portions of grilled chicken that has been torn into bite size pieces).
3 - 4 cups of rinsed lacinato kale torn into bite-size pieces (don't need to dry)
1 small red onion, diced
1 large clove fresh garlic, minced
1 Tbl olive oil
sea salt and pepper, freshly ground

This was a last minute creation for me or I would have thawed the chicken in the refrigerator the day before - but it worked great using it straight from the freezer.

Prepare kale, chop onion, mince garlic.  Heat a large heavy skillet on medium heat (I used my cast iron), pour olive oil into skillet and saute the onion and garlic for about a minute.  Add the frozen chicken. Break apart frozen pieces of chicken as the frozen chunk starts to heat.  Continue to saute and stir for 3 to 4 minutes until all chicken is separated.  Add the kale pieces and continue to stir fry for another minute or two until the kale is a shiny bright green color. Serve immediately with a raw vegetable (such as tomatoes, cucumber, carrots or a simple salad).

*Grilled chicken:  Grill the chicken outside on your grill until it is slightly blackened but not thoroughly cooked through.  Then place it in a large glass baking dish.  Cover and bake at 350 °F for an additional 30 minutes.  Tear into bite size pieces and use in soups, stews, nachos, quesadillas or dishes like this.  Cook extras to freeze for quick meals.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Week 35

Break free.

What does freedom with food look like for you?  For me, freedom is not being controlled by foods and thus being able to go places and do things while feeling great!  I want to continue to be able to enjoy 7 mile hikes through the mountains as the boys and I did in the Colorado Rockies on one of our homeschooling trips.  I do not want to be addicted to or tied down to any food(s).  I do not want to 'need' a food substance so badly in the morning that I can't function until I get my fix.  I do not want to 'need' any food during the day so badly that I will be distracted until I get my fix or will get really crabby without it.  I don't want to have stashes of food that I eat in secret.  I want to spend my money on yummy, delicious foods God has created for my body rather than on over-the-counter or prescription medications.  I want to feel my best so that I can enjoy the beautiful outdoor world God has created around me - the flowers, the sunrises, the stars ... beaches, rivers, mountains. 

Break free - break your food addictions.  This is the hardest challenge but it so important.  I think part of the problem is that food addictions are so subtle and are not recognized.  I know this was the case for me.  I was eating the typical American diet and thinking that I was unlucky to be having health problems and not feeling well.  Having a cup of coffee so you can function in the morning, having a soda or energy drink to pick you up during the day, eating a candy bar to lift your mood, or stopping at Sonic for dinner are seen as great ways in our culture to make it through our busy days.  These things are not recognized as food addictions, but they are.  Do the 'food addiction test'; if you can't go a week without the item in question without serious withdrawal symptoms or cravings, then you are likely addicted to that food item/ingredient.  

For me it was sugar, which is put into almost all processed foods.  But it was also all of the processed foods I was eating that contain just the right amount of fat/salt/sugar - engineered in precise quantities - to make me crave them.  It took many years and God's grace opening my eyes for me to realize that the food I was eating was affecting how I felt.  Acknowledging a food addiction is the first step to success as I discussed in the Week 32 Challenge 

The purpose of the weekly challenges on this blog is to gently guide you away from the typical American diet, and into a plan of eating foods created by God.  If you are not ready for today's challenge, go back through the challenges and work to make these things habits so you can succeed when starting to break free from your food addictions.  I know you may be thinking - who is she to tell me what I can eat?  But it is not what I think is best; it is following God's plan for our nourishment.  I am following the plan that God has laid out for us to the best of my ability. 

Consider Matthew 7:13-14:

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it."

This verse applies to our eternal life with God but we must follow God's way in all matters.  One cannot believe in God in his heart and live in habitual sin - stealing, killing, cheating, etc.  Why do we think our choices in food are any different?  If we know and see the effects of fast-food, man-altered processed foods, on people's health why do we think it is o.k to eat them?

Wide and broad is the road of food that leads to poor health, excess weight, and diminished quality of life.  Don't be a victim of your food.  It is sad that the people who have the most options with food typically make the worst choices.  The poor, indigenous peoples of the world, unless without food and starving, typically eat real foods from God because they don't have access to man-altered, processed foods, and thus they enjoy better health than most Americans.  Why is this so hard?  Because man-altered, processed foods are manufactured to make you crave them, to make you desire them, to deceive you and trap you.

So this week, start to break your addictions.  I say 'start' because I know how hard this can be.  I know that you might have a day or two of success, or even a week or two, and then slip back into the typical American diet.  Do give up if this happens, just start over again.  And again, and again until you are successful.  This is a journey.  Keep your eyes on your end goal (hopefully your 100 % approach); plan out your meals; clean out your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer;  and celebrate your successes without beating yourself up and giving up when you stumble off course.

How to accomplish this?  That will vary and you need to decide what works best for you.  I think everyone needs some substitute foods, but you must decide how much transition you need and how quickly you will proceed.  Here are three possibilities:

1.  Cold Turkey.  This is the approach I have used and the only one that works for me.  I don't have good enough willpower to gradually cut down if I plan to quit completely.  If you have tried unsuccessfully in the past to break a food addiction, it may be that you thought you could gradually cut down but that you need to go cold turkey.  I often find those who say they will gradually cut down are not really convicted to completely quit.  This is perhaps a mind-game you play, knowing you don't really plan to conquer your addiction.  Of course, that is part of the addictive power of the food over you.

For my sugar addiction, I know when I go cold turkey that I will have one week of INTENSE cravings that I have to actively fight with prayer and willpower.  After that, I will have another one to two weeks with occasional small cravings, and I must stay alert and prepared.  My chances of not succeeding come at moments of tiredness or weakness (when I am emotionally upset about something for example).  It is crucial that you have a 'replacement' food available in these moments.  Not something that you mindlessly eat (as in the first week), but something that will be a replacement for those tough moments when your willpower is weak.

After about three weeks, the cravings stop completely.  I can easily pass up something with sugar in it.  YEAH!!!  Oh, but if I think I can have just one serving - it starts all over. 

I can't remember the last time I 'cheated'.  It has been several years.  I have been in the cycle too many times and it just is not worth that 3 weeks of fighting cravings to me anymore.  And I can still have sweets, those things I make that are sweetened with fruits, raw honey or maple syrup, so I am not being deprived and thus there is no reason for me to cheat. 

It is wonderful to have victory - to break free.  You too can do this and I promise you will be so filled with joy after accomplishing this goal!

2.  Gradually Cutting Back.  This approach might be needed if you drink large quantities of caffeinated drinks or eat excessive amounts of sugar.  In fact, this might be the safest, healthiest option.  You know that you will experience withdrawal symptoms - those cravings that are so hard to fight.  With these cravings are actual physical affects on your body.  If your addictions are severe, don't completely shock your body by going cold turkey.  This would not be healthy and could even be dangerous if you have other disease problems.  But come up with a concrete plan.  For example, the first week you will strictly limit yourself to half your current consumption.  The second week, cut it in half again.  This gradual reduction is also necessary if you cannot rest adequately when you start to break your addiction.  Your body needs more rest as it 'recovers' and starts to heal.  If you know you will have a massive caffeine headache and you need to be able to think, then you must slowly cut back to minimize your reaction.

3.  Transitioning.  This step is necessary for many people so take advantage of it, especially if you are addicted to multiple things.  For example, if your addiction is to soda, then you are probably addicted to caffeine and sugar.  In this case, you might want to switch from a regular conventional soda (Coke, Pepsi, Dr. Pepper, etc.) to a caffeine-free natural soda that contains raw cane sugar. This transition will eliminate the caffeine and HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) from your diet, and once you have mastered this you can tackle the sugar addiction by either going cold turkey or transitioning to Izzie sodas.  (Izzie sodas are still a highly concentrated sweet and thus should be an occasional treat, not a daily drink.)

Please remember that it takes more than a strong willpower.  With willpower, you might succeed for awhile but you will probably fall back into your old habits.  It takes a change of heart, a change of perspective, that only God can give you (if you ask Him).  Ask God to change your heart and your perspective.  Ask God to take away your desire for the foods that have you trapped - those foods that man has created to trap you.  Those foods engineered to make you crave them so you will eat more and buy more.

1 Corinthians 10:23-24 says:  "Everything is permissible - but not everything is beneficial.  Everything is permissible - but not everything is constructive."  And then 1 Corinthians 10:31 says:  "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God."

Are you eating and drinking and living for the glory of God?  If you are addicted to processed food, if you binge on junk food - are you honoring and glorifying God with this addiction?  Make a conscious effort to choose God's foods that will nourish your body and thus glorify God with your food choices.  Start today - and trust God to help you!  Believe God's promises in Matthew 7.

"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.  Which of you if his son asks for bread will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?  If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!"   Matthew 7: 7 - 12

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Week 34

Find at least one replacement food you can have instead of a food you are addicted too.

If you are going to be successful breaking your food addictions, this is a necessity.  While you may have great willpower, it helps tremendously to have a substitute item to eat when your cravings are strongest.

Some suggestions:

If you are addicted to chocolate:

1.  Cocoa Energy Chunks (Whole Foods and Natural Grocer - be careful, get the type that does not have sugar in it).  My favorite are the 'Organic Chunks of Energy Cacao Goji'.

2.  Make some chocolate peanut butter or almond butter cups (make mini ones) and put them in the freezer.  Or make one of the other chocolate desserts, such as brownies or decadent chocolate custard.  Cut the brownies into small chunks and freeze them so you can grab one when craving some chocolate.  Or our favorite this summer has been chocolate pudding with chocolate milk.

If you are addicted to sodas (caffeine and sugar):

1.  This one is harder to break because of the caffeine withdrawal symptoms.  But find something else to drink, like Izzie sodas or another fruit-juice sweetened soda.  

2.  Better still, make yourself some homemade herbal ice tea, such as mint tea.

3.  Or make another fun drink such as water with essence of fruit in it or a spritzer with fruit and sparkling water.  Freeze some organic strawberries, or orange slices, or other fruit you like to add to your fun drink. 

If you are addicted to sweets:

1.  Make and freeze some cookies.  Remember to make small bite-size cookies.  

2.  Find a dried fruit you like, such as dried mango (one of my favorites), dried apricots, or dried figs.  Be sure to buy organic dried fruits since conventional ones are treated with sulfur.

3.  Buy and eat lots of fresh fruit (know which to buy organic).

If you are addicted to salt:

1.  Make some air-baked popcorn, topped with good quality butter and sprinkled with a good quality seasalt.  Place in small Ziploc bags.  This is a great addition for kids lunches.

2.  Have some organic tortilla chips with salsa.  This is a really excellent snack with fresh salsa.

3.  Buy some sesame sticks or dried veggie chips to munch on.

I hope this gives you some ideas.  The important thing is to find a replacement food(s) to have on hand.  If you only have good quality snack foods available, then that will help you not eat the addictive, heavily processed, poor quality ones that wreck havoc with your health and weight.  Be sure to stock up on some of these replacement foods this week so you have them readily available next week.  They will, of course, not be a direct replacement and fully satisfy your cravings (because the foods you are addicted to have man-made chemicals and engineered combinations of sugar/fat/salt to make you crave them), but they will help tremendously as you break your addictions.

Be in prayer about your addictions too, because next week we will start to work on breaking them.  It may seem like an insurmountable task at the moment to you, but I know you can do it if I could do it.  It takes some will-power, some support and encouragement, and definitely the conviction to succeed, but I am confident that you will look back and rejoice at your accomplishment!

I believe in God's promises in the Bible.  If you think that there is no way that you can do this on your own - I would agree.  But as it says in the Bible, with God, all things are possible.  So give it to God.  Tell God you know you can't do it and tell Him that you need Him and with God, you CAN overcome your food addictions!

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”  Matthew 19:26

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Roasted Butternut Squash

One of our favorite ways to prepare starchy vegetables is to oven roast them.  Butternut squash, used in this recipe, grows well in north Texas but you need a large garden area to accommodate it.  We planted butternut squash, spaghetti squash, pumpkin, and a new variety of winter squash called orangetti in a 20 x 20 foot section of our garden.  They all grew together and expanded out of their area!  Growing winter squashes is extremely economical - once harvested, they can be stored until spring (or until you eat them all!) and they are a great savings since they are expensive to buy.  We also enjoy butternut squash in stews, such as Dudley's Calabaza Stew.


1 medium to large butternut squash (peeled and cut into cubes)
2 Tbl extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbl balsamic vinegar
1 tsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
sea salt, to taste 
freshly ground pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 °C.  Cut the ends off the butternut squash and then peel the outer skin off the butternut squash (we use a heavy duty carrot peeler).  Next cut the peeled squash in half and scoop out the seeds and pulp.  Cut the remaining squash into bite size pieces.

Place the remaining ingredients in a large bowl and whisk together.  Add the cubed butternut squash, and toss until all pieces are coated.  Then place the squash cubes in an oven baking dish, single layer thick.  Bake in preheated 400 °C oven for 40 minutes.  Remove from oven and enjoy as a side dish with your meal.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Week 33

Be creative!

Have fun this week and be creative with your food.  Look through your cookbooks or on-line for ideas.  Aren't the apple cups above cute!!!  I did not make these but found this on-line.  If this is a bit too complex, then try just cutting your veggies or fruit is fun shapes (celery swords and carrot eyeballs are great fun for little ones).  Or you can use the shell of a cantaloupe or watermelon as your bowl for fruit salad.  At a luncheon I hosted, several persons loved having the cucumber wedges I served with the egg salad.  They said they have only seen fresh cucumbers cut in rounds - they thought having the cucumber wedges from my garden cucumbers was a fun refreshing change.

You might add an ingredient your family loves or change the spices in one of my recipes.  Or experiment making a new flavor of ice cream.  Think out of the box and do something different. 

Tired of standard ham sandwiches or quesadillas for lunches, then create something new.  Last year, Jon decided to make ham/cheese quesadillas.  Both Jon and Tom loved his new creation.  This made a great lunch combined with carrot sticks. 

Jon's creation this summer was chopped ham, barbeque sauce and cheese on a whole wheat hot dog bun, warmed in the oven.  Not only is this a much better option than a fast food sandwich (if made with quality ingredients), my sons are also learning to prepare better meals for themselves.  If you want your kids to continue to eat well once they leave your house, it is important to let them create and prepare meals that they like now while still at home. 

If you have younger children, make a car or train or fish design out of their food for lunch.  Even if you don't have kids, it is fun and appealing to make your plate of food pretty.  No excuses that you are not creative because I am not creative yet even I can think of fun things to do such as our July 4th yogurt breakfast or my chili with steak.

The more you try new things and practice creating meals the easier and more fun it becomes.  Enjoy God's foods and have fun letting your creative juices flow!

"You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore."  Psalm 16:11

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Week 32

Acknowledge your food addiction(s).

This is a very, very tough one this week.  I know.  But it is very important if you want to succeed.  If there is any food or ingredient that you MUST have daily, then you are addicted to it.  Foods/drinks that you are addicted to will adversely affect your health. 

It is very easy to be in denial about your food addictions.  As long as you are in denial though, you will not be able to conquer it (them).  So often, those in denial say, "I'm not addicted to ________, I just enjoy it and like to have it every day so I see no reason to cut it out of my diet."  Well, great but please do a test for me.  Give it up for just one week and see how your body reacts.  If you don't crave it or have any symptoms, then you probably are not addicted to it.

One item that might fall into this category is coffee.  If you truly are not addicted to it, then purchase an excellent quality organic coffee and enjoy.  But please do the one week test to determine if it is controlling you.  

I would like to share a friend's story with you.  My friend  refused to acknowledge that coffee could be causing him to have health problems for years.  His blood pressure was high and he was on blood pressure medication.  He ate great and was trying lots of things to naturally reduce his blood pressure.  I suggested he give up his coffee and he said that he knew it was not a problem and he drank only one cup in the morning anyway.  He was a bit defensive, so I didn't pressure him about the matter.  

About three years later, his blood pressure was not only high but no longer controllable with medication.  It had become very erratic.  He again came to me for advice.  I said, I know coffee is not a problem, but why don't you give it up for just a week or two.  It may not help anything but it certainly won't hurt anything.  So, he did.  Two weeks later, his blood pressure was normal and he was completely off all blood pressure medication.  Wow - even I was amazed at the quick change (but remember he also did eat extremely well).  

I tell you this so that you will not be in denial with the attitude, "I could give it up, I just don't want to".  When someone says that, it is my first clue that the food/drink being referenced is something they are probably addicted to.

God has given our bodies amazing healing power if we just stop putting things that are toxic into them and instead supply them with the necessary nutrients from the foods God gave us to eat.  That is what it means to me to go 100% - stop eating addictive foods altered/tainted by man and eat foods made by God.  No other restrictions.    

"Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.  For it is a shame even to speak of the things that they do in secret;  but when anything is exposed by the light it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light.  Therefore it is said, 'Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.'"  Ephesians 5: 11 - 15

So this week, find an accountability partner to verbalize your food addiction to or write it down on a piece of paper.  Acknowledge it and bring it into the light.  This is an amazing healing step that reduces its power over you.

If you don't think you are addicted to anything - GREAT!!!  But confirm this with someone that knows you well.  If they mention something, see if you can easily give it up for a week.  If you can't, it is likely something you are addicted to.

What things might you be addicted to?  Here are the top two ingredients for most Americans:

1.  Caffeine
2.  Sugar

You might be addicted though to something more subtle, such as cheap salt, cheap fat, or some other man-made artificial ingredient that has been added to some food you regularly eat.  These things are in the addictive foods we buy such as chocolate, white flour, snack chips (Doritos, Lay's, etc.), ice cream (loaded with sugar and often artificial ingredients), candy, or soda (including caffeine-free or diet) to name just a few.   Many of the processed foods today are manufactured to MAKE you crave them.  They want you to be addicted.

If you have been to one of my classes or read my story, you know that I am a sugaraholic.  I no longer have processed sugar in my diet, but I say "I am" rather than "I was" because I know I can have none.  I am like an alcoholic is with alcohol, who can't have just one drink.  I can't eat just 'a little' sugar without it controlling me again.  I don't have a strong enough willpower, nor do I want to deal with needing this level of willpower.  That is no fun.  I've tried.  I know that once a sugaraholic, always a sugaraholic.  Acknowledging this has helped me so much - I now know I cannot control it so I don't try.

So, knowing that I am a sugaraholic, I eat only sweets that are sweetened with raw unfiltered honey, maple syrup, dates and other dried fruits.  I also eat a lot of fresh fruit.  On a rare occasion, I have something with agave nectar (when it is used in prepared foods which I purchase such as Coconut Bliss) and I drink only water, milk, an occasional Izzie (sweetened with fruit) and unsweetened tea so I don't use stevia.  My sweets made with dried fruits, honey or maple syrup (God's sweets) do not control me like processed sugars do.  

I did not openly acknowledge to others that I was addicted to sugar until six years ago when I taught my first 'Eating God's Foods' classes, but once I did I finally was able to conquer it and I am no longer even tempted.  It did not work for me to keep my 'secret' from others or to think I could control it.  I should have realized this years earlier when I got some homemade birthday cake out of the trash can to eat.  I had put it in the trash can in the kitchen the night before so I could not eat any more of it.  But that did not stop me - that addiction, that craving for sugar was too strong.   First thing I did the next morning was get a piece out of the trash can and eat it for breakfast!  Keep in mind this was homemade cake using all organic excellent quality ingredients but it contained raw sugar.

I had tried freezing it immediately the previous year, but that was easy to get to and though it required a little thaw time, it was still readily available.  Since the kitchen trash can did not work, the next year I put the cake (I was only making homemade delicious birthday cakes for the boys' birthday parties) in the smelly trash can outside.  Phew - finally I had enough will power to not get it out and eat it.  Really - this is control?  How could I possibly think I could control my sugar addiction with this track record?     

Don't make the same mistake and remain trapped.  Share what you are doing with your friends and acquaintances.  Tell them you are eliminating man-made processed foods, including all processed sugars from your diet which are made to make you crave them.  Share what you are doing with confidence.  Claim your freedom. 

My experience with caffeine was not pleasant.  When I got out of college, I started drinking one Dr. Pepper a day with lunch.  I went out for lunch every day and if I went to a restaurant that did not have Dr. Pepper and I would get iced tea instead.  On tea days, I would get a horrible headache mid-afternoon.  It took me awhile to figure out having a soda would eliminate the headache and thus my brain cells were being controlled by caffeine.  It was hard to give up my daily Dr. Pepper, and even after stopping for a year or two, it only took drinking one to be re-addicted.  I think the sugar was more addictive for me (causing me to crave it) than the caffeine.  But the withdrawal symptoms from caffeine were much more painful.  It has now been probably 20 years since I have had a regular soda of any kind - I could not tell you the last time I had one.  I know it was before Tom was born which was 19 years ago.  And the thought of drinking a soda is now repulsive to me!  I thank God for helping me see the addictive power of these readily available foods and freeing me from them.

"You shall have no other gods before ME."  Exodus 20:3