Beggin For Brownies…..

18 03 2012

I’ve been on a quest to find the best Vegan brownie recipe in the world. Well, after a number of failed “experiments” I pretty much gave up! My dog even stole one set (that was harder than a hockey puck) out of my kitchen trash. Suitable to be a dog cookie? Enough said! ImageBecause of all of the dry ingredients, the dough just needs some help rising to be edible.

After taste testing a few recipes, I came up with this version of gluten-free goodness! They do have eggs in them, so they would not be considered Vegan. These are great, and you don’t need a very big piece to get a chocolate fix.

The base for the dough is arrowroot. It’s a starch that’s gluten-free and is used in place of flour most frequently to firm up puddings, custards, and in our case here, brownies. The walnut oil is a little pricey but it’s really high in your Omega 3 and 6, so I’m sure that makes it safe to rationalize having a second piece! Both the walnut oil and the arrow root might be hard to find in a traditional grocery store, but you should be able to locate them in a more “health oriented” stores.

Best Brownie Ever

Ingredients:

1 cup raw pecans

6 Tablespoons walnut oil, plus extra for the baking pan

½ cup agave nectar

2 whole omega-3 eggs

½ cup cocoa powder

¼ cup arrowroot

Sunspire chocolate chips and toasted, chopped pecans (unsalted) for “frosting”

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350*F.

Oil an 8x8x2 inch baking pan with the walnut oil. In a food processor, grind the pecans to the consistency of meal. Transfer to a medium bowl and add the 6T walnut oil, agave nectar, eggs, cocoa, and arrowroot. Stir to blend. Pour into an oiled 8x8x2 inch baking dish.

Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Immediately put some of the Sunspire chocolate chips on the top of the brownies just when you pull the pan out of the oven. When melted, use a small spatula to spread. Sprinkle toasted pecans on top. Let cool, then cut into 1 inch squares.

Variation: I used ground almond flour in the dough rather than 1 cup raw pecans; you can purchase the ground almond flour in the baking section at Trader Joe’s.

You could also lose the chocolate chips and dust the top of the cooked brownies with a dusting of powdered sugar.

These are not “vegan” due to the incorporation of eggs, but they are gluten free and dairy free depending upon the type of chocolate chips you use for the frosting.

Adapted from: The UltraMetabolism Prescription, Dr. Mark Hyman available from: http://www.amazon.com/Ultrametabolism-Simple-Plan-Automatic-Weight/dp/0743272560





Classic Comforts

26 02 2012

I had a craving this week for a macaroni salad my Mom used to make when I was a kid, you know the one with the elbow macaroni, peas and onions? One of the challenges of being Vegan is how to get the taste of the comfort foods you remember but in a healthier, vegetable based way. 

Here’s my take on Pea and Onion Pasta Salad – brown rice based elbow macaroni by Tinkyada Pasta Joy (gluten-free), canned organic peas, a little finely diced red onion and Veganaise. Mix and refrigerate for a bit to allow the flavors to blend. Yum! 

That got me on a kick of trying to figure out how to make Vegan Enchiladas. I used corn tortillas (check the label because many brands have some gluten, etc. incorporated) and fried them in a bit of olive oil to soften them, added a mixture of rice and almond based “cheddar” cheeses, and sat them in a bed of homemade enchilada sauce from a wonderful recipe I found online (see: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/emeril-lagasse/easy-enchilada-sauce-recipe/index.html – I just modified this to vegetable broth rather than chicken stock and used organic versions on the canned goods). Place the “cheese” filled rolled tortillas in a baking pan that has some of the homemade sauce in the bottom, cover with a little more sauce, a little “cheese” and place it in a 350* oven for about 15-20 minutes until the sauce is bubbling. Eat and enjoy! 

Tabbouleh is a wonderful staple for lunch. In this version I’ve added up about 2 cups (cooked) couscous (not gluten-free! You can substitute cooked Quinoa for the couscous if you are trying to lose the gluten) according to the package directions. The version I used today had some brown rice, lentils and spices already in the mix. I chopped up one bunch of fresh parsley finely. Make sure and dry it thoroughly before trying to chop it up or you will have a big mess! Two Roma tomatoes finely diced and a little bit of red onion diced. Put all of these ingredients in a large bowl with the juice of one lemon, 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper and tossed to mix up. 

I’ve been packing up all my food in single serving sized containers so that I can just grab them and throw them in my lunch bag so I don’t have to spend a lot of time cooking during the busy work week!

What’s your favorite comfort food? Have you experimented with making it more vegetarian friendly? Post your comments below!





Random Acts of Kindness

19 11 2011

Will you help me? I received some really negative news a number of years ago around my birthday. Because of the timing, I was reminded every year when my special day rolled around. In an effort to break that cycle, I decided to try and make my birthday stand for something positive instead. That’s when the idea of “Random Act of Kindness” (RAK it Up!) was born!

What would if we were to start sending our waves of joy into the world by performing simple acts of kindness for one another? What if you were able to reach out and touch someone who is hurting and offer a moment of joy or hope?

My family and friends have been doing this for a number of years now. I ask that they take what they would have spent on a gift and do something nice for someone else. They come up with the best ideas! It doesn’t have to be anything dramatic or involved. Some ideas of things people have done for me over the years:

•Leave flowers on a neighbor’s doorstep

•Visit with residents at a senior living facility

•Guess my weight in pounds and then donate that many pounds of rice to a food pantry (I weighed 300 pounds that year-at least that’s what I told her!)

•Take old blankets and food to an animal shelter

•Make a donation to your favorite charity

•Take a homeless person to lunch

•In a drive through, pay for the order of the person behind you

•Hold open a door for a stranger

•Volunteer to serve holiday meals a shelter

This year it’s time to go big! What would happen if we started a wave of kindness in our communities this holiday season? I challenge you to share this event with all your friends! Get your kids involved! If people ask why you’re doing this, tell them it’s a random act of kindness and ask them to pass it along! Give back in gratitude for the many blessings you have. I promise, you’ll be better off for it! Post and let us know what you did! Your idea might inspire someone else! And thanks for helping me celebrate my day in a positive way! RAK it Up!

Join us on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/events/195149570566610/   Please feel free to share this with your friends!

“Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them” (Matthew 7:12a MSG).





Canine Canophilia

31 10 2011

Happy Birthday, Sadie!  Today you’ve been with me for two years. I saw your picture on Petfinder and with a little encouragement from a friend; I dared to make the long trek to Clovis Animal Shelter to get you. I called the day before to make sure you were still there. “Oh, she’ll still be here” was the reply. I didn’t really get what that meant until I got there. You wouldn’t let me pet you but there was a dear volunteer at the shelter that sat with me for hours and gave me some ideas on how to best work with you. I didn’t realize what I was doing at the time, I just knew there was something about you.

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After I took care of the paperwork, there were four shelter volunteers and one regular customer crying because they were so happy that someone was finally adopting you. It was only then that they shared that their boss was going to make them put you down that week if no one came for you. You had been there over 3 months and because you were so severely shy, no one noticed you. They told me they had all been praying that someone would come to get you, someone without a man in the house since you were especially terrified of any male, someone without kids, because they knew you would do best in a quiet environment. It was only then I knew why I had been prompted to travel so far to get you.

And so we started the journey. Little did I know that God would you use you to teach me so many things. Dog is God spelled backwards, after all. If nothing else, you are a reminder of his unconditional love. I remember how long it took to get you out of the car that night and you found your spot in the guest room between the two beds and you nestled in and didn’t come out for four days. I have never seen a dog able to curl their tail so tightly, but I guess it’s your way of protecting yourself from all the crazy stuff you’ve been through.

You’re a quirky girl that is nocturnal. We’ve had countless episodes but it’s so hard to correct you, because you always wait for me to go to sleep before beginning your antics so I never catch you in the act! The list is countless, but you’ve demonstrated a fondness for leather destruction (2 Coach handbags, 2 leather collars, work gloves), my shoes, friend’s shoes, coffee table books, empty dog food cans, BBQ scrubbers (from the neighbor’s house, yes, that means a corresponding hole in the fence), and a number of various and sundry things, basically everything except toys. You wouldn’t eat, drink, or relieve yourself in front of me and you were silent. We’ve gotten over most of those hurdles, though you are still my quiet little girl. I remember the first time your tail started wagging! I know I freaked you out because I was so excited. Sorry about that! You finally let me hear your voice for the first time a few months ago. You have even started running to me when I get home. That makes my heart smile because I know it’s so hard for you. At first you couldn’t be near me, but now you follow me everywhere. You are awesome on the leash and you love to walk and hike.  

In time, people would come to notice the parallels in our two lives; our mutual love of walking, disappointments in past relationships, quiet natures, shyness, hiding from unfamiliar circumstances, etc. It’s as if God was using you to point out things I needed to work on and heal from. Things we oddly ended up working on together.

That first week, you needed some physical attention. I wasn’t sure what to do, so I went to the local Petco to pick up supplies and saw the grooming salon. I went in and the girls were so kind to offer to work with you late in the day when there were no other animals in the salon. They took such good care of you. They could see the look in your eyes and they went above and beyond to help you.

You were used as a momma breeder dog in a puppy mill situation. You still have your kennel number tattooed on your belly. How many babies did you have? Were you sad when they were taken away from you? So many questions I’ll never have answers for. You were given to a family that neglected you. You still have the scars on your body to prove it. You found your way to the animal shelter and into my home and heart. It took you so long to trust me, but somewhere along the line you got my heart. Not long after getting you, you had a master cell tumor removed, but the margins were clear so we got past that hurdle. Then just a few months ago, the groomers told me they found a lump on you when I came to pick you up.

The groomers were so precious to us; they knew how upset I was with your diagnosis. They took a picture of you, loved you, and gave me a precious card and keychain so that I could always have you with me. We went with a dear friend who is an Veterinary Technician to an Oncologist, Veterinary Cancer Group in Tustin, CA. She thought of all the questions I was unable to ask. Dr. Vancil told us that you had systemic lymphoma, stage IV, with liver and spleen involvement. You were given weeks to live.

We started treatment and you responded well, in fact, your palpable lumps were gone within a couple of weeks of the start of treatment. By week three you were officially declared in remission, though we completed the full course of weekly treatments. Your swelling is gone! You amaze me. Despite being poked with needles every time we go to the clinic, you are still happy to get in the car. It’s like you know they are helping you and you seem somehow grateful. You somehow relaxed even more. Your attitude has brightened just that much more.

I don’t know what the future holds for either one of us, but I do know that even though you are “just a dog” you’ve taught me so many lessons in the past two years.

Wisdom from Sadie

Trust is earned – Day by day.

No matter what life throws at you, be sweet – Beaten up, battered, neglected, no problem. Always be sweet in spirit.

People are inherently kind – People see something in Sadie’s eyes that makes them go out of their way to be kind to her. She has served to restore my faith in people.

Home is a sanctuary – And your bed can be an oasis. I don’t know if it’s because she’s lived so much of her life in a cage, but she snuggles in and bundles up. I love that about her.

Don’t lash out at others – She’s demonstrated the ability to pierce cans with her teeth, and yet she never lashes out at humans or other dogs, even when she’s scared or frustrated.

Live life one moment at a time – Focus on the moment your in, don’t live in the past or the future. Just enjoy the present!

Show off your skills quietly – She’s the best at walking on a lead. She’s definitely been trained, but she never shows off ostentatiously, she lets people figure out on their own just how awesome she is.

Don’t be greedy – When someone offers you a special treat, accept it with gratitude, but don’t snap it up or take more than your share. Always take it respectfully.

You are a special girl, Sadie. My special girl. And I’m so glad you’re with me. Happy birthday, girlie!

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” ~Jeremiah 29:11-13 (NIV)

 





Bread is not Boring!

9 10 2011

“I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. I am the bread of life.” John 6:47-48   

I had an epiphany while working through my Bible study today that I would love to share with you. It involved bread. It’s always good to study around food, no? It’s probably why I paid attention in the first place…..

There is significance to bread in Scripture. It was used as a staple for nutrition. It was also used as an offering to God in the Old Testament.

In the case of David, we know that when he fled from Saul, he ran to Nod and visited Ahimelech who was fearful of David because he knew of David’s conquest over Goliath. David told him a lie that he was “on a secret mission” for Saul and asked for something to eat.

“Now then, what do you have on hand? Give me five loaves of bread, or whatever you can find.” But the priest answered David, “I don’t have any ordinary bread on hand; however, there is some consecrated bread here–provided the men have kept themselves from women. David replied, “Indeed women have been kept from us, as usual whenever I set out. The men’s things are holy even on missions that are not holy. How much more so today!” So the priest gave him the consecrated bread, since there was no bread there except the bread of the Presence that had been removed from before the LORD and replaced by hot bread on the day it was taken away.” 1 Samuel 21:3-6

During the time of David, bread was offered to God as a way to remind God of the covenant that he made with his people (Israel). This is the “Shewbread” that we see in Scripture. It was placed on the altar, and it was 12 loaves of what is thought to be unleavened bread. It was replaced with fresh bread each Sabbath.  

David was given bread that had been offered to God. There is some meaning to this, it is a reminder to David by God of his commitment and covenant to protect him.

Jesus also used 5 loaves to feed the five thousand.

“When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick. As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food. Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered. “Bring them here to me,” he said. And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.” Matthew 14: 13-21

Jesus reminded the disciples and the crowd that he alone is the provisioner of all our needs. He can and will satisfy and sustain us.

  • Five loaves fed David when he fled from Saul.
  • Five loaves fed the 5,000. 
  • Twelve loaves on the altar of the tabernacle as an offering to the Lord.
  • Twelve apostles.
  • Consecrated bread represents the presence of the Lord. It is this bread of the presence that was given to David to remind him of the promise of God.
  • Jesus tells us that he is the bread of life.
  • We use bread during the communion ritual as a reminder of Christ’s body.

In the Old Testament bread is used to symbolize things beyond the obvious of nutrition; the presence of God, unity among a group, wisdom. In the New Testament, bread represents Christ himself, unity of his Kingdom and the Church.

When Jesus tells us that he is the bread of life, he is telling us in short that he is the embodied presence of God. He is wisdom, and unity, and the ultimate nutrition. He alone can satisfy your needs.

Doesn’t that just stir your soul to no end? I hope so! Bread, indeed, is not boring! Grasp at your bread hungrily and greedily….and maybe dip it in a little olive oil and vinegar with some cracked pepper as you do! May it become a reminder of who your Maker is and what promises he has made to us each and every time you have your daily bread.

Reference:

David: Seeking a Heart Like His  (Beth
Moore)

Holman Bible Dictionary 





Steadfast Stillness

5 09 2011

I’ve had some time to practice being still recently while working on recovery from a knee issue. The doctor suggested I spend some time reading (in response to my whine about boredom). This all coming after my exploratory plunge into finding joy! Call me cranky pants! Now, I know what you’re thinking….time laying around! Sounds great! Well, let me tell you….it’s fun for about a day. It becomes taxing pretty quickly so I needed to find something to occupy my mind. So, doctor’s orders!

Most recently, I’ve begun “What Good is God?” by Philip Yancey. He visited my church last year shortly before Christmas so I had the opportunity to have him sign a few items for gifts, but I kept this one for myself….in that unread pile on my office floor. Pulling books out of the stack of unread works are like finding hidden gems! (That’s joy!) So after digging it out of the stack, I nuzzled in for a read. Yancey has met with ten varied groups of people in varying stages of life crisis and how God fits into those moments.

I was struck by a quote of C.S. Lewis in Yancey’s book, “Pride….is the mother of all sins, and the original sin of Lucifer….I am an instrument strung but preferring to play itself because it thinks it knows the tune better than the Musician.” Like I read it about five times.

Hmmm…..Pride is a sin of Satan, because he believes he can do it better on his own. I hadn’t ever thought of the world in quite that way before. Isn’t that how we feel as well…about many things? Most things?

How often I make my own music because I am like a player piano on auto-pilot; when I could be looking to the composer/conductor for cues. Here I have the capability to make beautiful music, but I so often choose to play out of tune on my own volition. When I am out of alignment with God’s will for my life, how can I possibly expect there to be a beautiful symphony? My head hurts from thinking now.

Jeremiah’s Judgment

Jeremiah was a prophet during the final days of the kingdom of Judah. In the first Old Testament chapter begins with “The word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”” (Jer 1:4-5, NASB)

That speaks to what C.S. Lewis was trying to get at, that we are created as fully functioning strung instruments. God knew us before he created with us. He created us each with a specific and unique purpose. Isn’t that the most amazing thing, and at the same time one of the hardest things to truly accept?

Jeremiah wanted the people of Judah to understand that God’s promises would be fulfilled, but only after a period of exile and judgment. They would have to be obedient and faithful, certainly, but God’s promises would be fulfilled indeed.

For some reason, Jeremiah 31:20 keeps returning to me, “Is not Ephraim my dear son, the child in whom I delight? Though I often speak against him, I still remember him. Therefore my heart yearns for him,” declares the Lord.” (NIV)

We know that the term Ephraim was often used as a term for Israel. So the Lord was reminding the people of Israel of his promise of restoration. God delights in his children as a parent might. Even though they do things outside rightness at times, or against a parent’s will, it does not diminish the love that exists.

What I take from this is the unsettled assurance that even when I take matters of life into my own hands and attempt to do things on my own rather than asking for and applying guidance, my Father in Heaven loves me still (Joy! Joy! Joy!).

Even when I am guilty of performing an off-key instrumental solo, my Father still sits in the sidelines calling me gently back to him, yearning for me to run into his waiting arms. When one has that kind of love waiting on the sidelines, how can one not have joy? Perhaps now that I can see it in a slightly different light that it’s actually a form of pride to believe that I can handle things on my own I’ll now be more motivated to seek out God’s will for myself moving forward.

God wants to restore us to wholeness, and through that He wants us to know joy here on earth, as a picture of what waits for us in the hereafter. Not the temporary, happy feeling, but real, deep, assured joy. He also wants us to receive his promises to be fully functioning instruments in concert with the rest of the symphony, according to his score. God is so good.

May your faith matter.

Note: More info on Philip Yancey’s work What Good is God? In Search of a Faith that Matters is available from http://www.philipyancey.com/what-good-is-god





Joyous Joyance

30 07 2011

I’ve been working through a Bible Study by Kay Warren called Choose Joy. We had our final session this past week. The main theme of the study is that joy is less about feelings and circumstances and is more about our thoughts. How we think determines how we feel, how we feel determines how we act. Having joy is a choice we must make. It’s up to us.

Have you ever stood on train tracks on a long straight plane and looked out towards the horizon? Off in the distance the train tracks seem to converge together into one. The main analogy used in the study is that life is like a train track, parallel rails of joys and sorrows. Life is not all sorrow, or all joy. Life doesn’t become complete joy until off on the horizon we come to be in heaven with our Savior. Only at that point do all sorrows melt away.

I should know that when I sign up for these studies, when they catch the attention of my periphery, God has something he wants to teach me. I don’t know why I don’t learn any way other than the hard way!

Since the study, it’s as though God is purposefully giving me opportunities where I have to put my money where my mouth is and make a conscious choice to be joyful. God has broken my heart on several levels of late. My job situation is less than promising, a relationship has come to the end of the tracks, and now this week I’ve learned that my furry friend, Sadie, has the diagnosis of “probable cancer.” That was the last straw for me. I wanted to scream at the vet and say what is “probable cancer”???? She either has it or she doesn’t, MISTER! But I opted for the other response which was to break into the ugly cry in the middle of the exam room. Thank God for assistants with giant boxes of Kleenex on standby.

Here she is, this sweet doggie girl, who is finally coming out of her shell and behaving more or less like a normal dog after all the terror she’s been through. Mess with me God, okay, but Sadie? Come on!

For those of you that don’t know her story, Sadie is a rescue lab that’s had some severe issues. She was used in a puppy mill as a breeder, there’s some physical abuse in her history, and then she had a master cell tumor successfully removed once I got her. We’ve worked through so many behavioral issues and normal dog behaviors are just starting to show. Now they believe she has lymphoma. I was hoping to have some time with her to show her humans aren’t all bad. My heart is broken.

I’m a little embarrassed to admit that my first response was to want to yell at God yesterday. Really, God? Really? You want me to choose to be joyful today when you’re putting all these great opportunities in my path? Seriously? You expect me to be able to find joy in all things? Right! Like that’s gonna happen!!! The mistress of sarcasm rears her ugly head once again.

This morning, a dear friend who texts me each morning with a Scripture sent Jeremiah 29:11. We talked about this in last week’s blog how God brings this very verse to me in times of crossroads to remind me that he’s there. Her text this morning read:

“Good morning, praying 4 u this verse is for u “The plans I have for you are plans to prosper you, not to harm you. They are plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)”

This friend would have had no way of knowing about Sadie. I haven’t told many yet. And here she unknowingly allowed herself to be used by God to deliver this message of hope to me today. Thanks for the reminder God. I love you too.

So today I will choose to be joyful. There is a plan even though I don’t understand. My heart is breaking, but I am choosing to be joyful for each and every moment I have with my furry bud. I choose to be joyful for the opportunity to get out of a rut and redefine myself professionally. I am grateful to be blessed beyond measure by the marvelous friends in my life.  There is always joy among the sorrows.

Today, the Petco grooming girls, who have always taken such great care with Sadie, the ones who discovered the lump in her throat, arranged to have her picture taken for me. They dolled her up with the prettiest of bows, had the photo done, then put it in a key chain and a special card that they signed. They did this for me so that I would always have her with me. How precious they are. That just made my heart sing! To know the kindness of people, especially when unexpected, brings me great joy.

There are parallel themes of joy and sorrow running throughout life. I can’t have one without the other. But I do have the opportunity to seek out the joy in every situation. To choose to be joyful! Won’t you join me? What do you have to be joyful about? Post your thoughts in the comments section below!

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” James 1:2-3 (NASB)

P.S. If you’d like more info on the study by Kay Warren, daily video lessons are available by visiting http://kaywarren.com/ and signing up for the “Choose Joy” Devotional Videos. You’ll receive one a day via email for thirty days.








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