Fear God and Brownies

We started a new series with our Life Group yesterday by Frances Chan called “Basic.”  Actually, it is not new and most of people in our group have done some or all of this series before, but it is gives so much great insights into the foundations of Christian living that we thought it was the right time for us to dive into it again.

The first topic is “Fear God.”  You can watch the short film and hear from Frances about this topic below.

You may be wondering what this has to do with Brownies… Well you will have to keep reading!

 

This week I was able to share my story (as some call- my testimony) with our missional community.  It was an amazing opportunity for me to share how Jesus has worked in my life over the past 22 years since I accepted Jesus as my savior.  We then watched this video and discussed what it means to us, particularly in the context of the scripture passage presented.

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Fear of the LORD is the foundation of true knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.  Proverbs 1:7

Frances says that the church today has taken the word “fear” and explained it as a healthy respect and reverence for God. But that is not how it is described in the Bible.  Those people who encounter God were afraid.  They didn’t just have an awe for him. They were afraid when they were in His presence.

BUT God also tells us that we do not need to be afraid.

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you, Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. Isaiah 41: 10.

Watch the video.  Frances Chan can explain it and teach is so much better and more clearly than I could ever hope to do.

But I truly love this topic.  It is so easy for us to say that God is loving, and gracious, because He is. He has forgiven me even though I don’t deserve it and am not worthy.  But don’t we often walk through life just living and not thinking about how important that grace through His son- Jesus Christ is to our lives. We don’t deserve it and we have been given this huge sacrifice by God.  Think of how powerful He is.  We should fear God. We should think about Him and His almighty power every single day- including the fact that He loved us enough to sacrifice His son so we could go on living these lives of ours with the knowledge that we will have eternity in heaven. We should be grateful for that and show it in our actions and rely on God to lead our lives.

So now on to the brownie topic.

I prayed to God (and still do) that He would allow me to conquer the enemy that I face with food. I turn to it when I am stressed, angry, upset, lonely, excited, and more. I felt controlled by food. God lead me to a meal plan and fitness program that I believe changed my life. I still love food. I love to eat. I love sweets, carbs, and so much more, but now I don’t indulge as much as I used to on the “bad” stuff and when I do indulge, I still try to make smarter choices.  Enter- Clean Eating boards on Pinterest!

After adding more and more recipes to my board that called for coconut products, I decided I needed to stock up.

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I will say that I was very skeptical at first because I have NEVER liked coconut.  You know, the sweet white stuff people put on cakes and cookies.  But I wanted to try it. So about 9 months ago I started using coconut oil in some of my baking and cooking.  I stocked up this weekend with even more ingredients and made my first baked goods using coconut flour.  I even got some unsweetened coconut chips because someone fixed a really delicious trail mix at my chiropractor’s office that tasted nothing like the coconut that I always think of.

I tell you all this, because when our Life Group gets together on Sundays, we eat together and share desserts together. I have been so blessed to be able to host this group in my home and share my love for baking with them.

So next time you are looking for something chocolatey and delicious but that isn’t going to wreck your clean eating or otherwise healthy eating, try this

Chocolate Coconut Flour Brownie (adapted from this recipe)

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup plus 2 TBS. organic Coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 TBS. honey
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup minus 1 TBS. (50 g) coconut flour
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup chopped raw pecans
  • 1/3 cup mini chocolate chips (I used Everyday life brand)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Line an 8″x8″ glass baking pan with parchment so two edges hang over the side of the pan.(for easy removal and cutting) Spray lightly with cooking spray.
  2. In glass measuring cup, melt coconut oil in microwave. In a large bowl, combine the cocoa powder and the melted coconut oil, and eggs with an electric mixer until combined. Add in the agave (or honey) and vanilla extract. Mix again until combined. Add in the coconut flour and salt and mix again until the batter is thoroughly combined.
  3. Fold in the nuts and chocolate chips. Spread into prepared pan evenly.
  4. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack and once cooled to room temperature, remove from pan and cut into 16 squares. You can either refrigerate the brownies or leave them at room temperature in an airtight container.

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They were a huge hit and I hope you love them too!

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Healthy Peach Crumble

We host a Life Group from our church at our house twice a month. It is such a great time to fellowship and study the Word with others in our community.  We share meal time together and I typically provide a dessert.

I love to bake.  If you didn’t know that already, then I recommend taking a look at some of my older posts where I share some of my favorite recipes!!

But while I love a good dessert just as much as the next person, I don’t like to mess up my healthy food choices on a regular basis.  So this week, I decided to search for a healthier option and found this recipe for a healthy peach crumble.  I want to share this recipe with you as it was so delicious!

INGREDIENTS

4 extra large peaches, diced (or 5-6 medium)
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 ½ tsp almond extract
1 tsp ground cinnamon, divided
¾ c old-fashioned oats (gluten-free if necessary)
¼ c whole wheat flour (or millet flour)
2 tbsp agave
2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted (or margarine)
DIRECTIONS
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F, and lightly coat an 8”-square baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. In a medium bowl, toss together the diced peaches, cornstarch, almond extract, and ¼ teaspoon cinnamon until thoroughly combined.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix together the oats, flour, and remaining cinnamon. Add in the agave and butter, mixing until completely incorporated.
  4. Spread the peach mixture into the prepared pan, and evenly sprinkle the oat crumbs on top. Bake at 350°F for 35-45 minutes, or until the peach juice is bubbling and the oat mixture turns crunchy. Cool completely to room temperature. For best results, let the crumble rest for 2 hours after coming to room temperature before serving to allow the juices to thicken.

 

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You could top this with some Greek yogurt, or for a bigger splurge, a little vanilla low carb, low sugar ice cream!

Secret Ingredient Brownies

If you have been following my blog, you know that I have been eating clean and following the 21 Day Fix Meal Plan since January.  I absolutely love baking but I find it hard to avoid the temptation of delectable sweets in my house. But I really wanted something ooey, gooey and chocolatey this weekend. I recently discovered Chocolate Covered Katie who believes in eating chocolate everyday.  I decided I would give her number one recipe a test, even though one of the main ingredients seemed to be a really odd fit…. black beans.  In a dessert.  Really!

And surprise, surprise, they are AWESOME!  I know, it sounds crazy. But they are really delicious.  Of course they don’t taste as sweet and delectable as full sugar, white flour, full butter, whole milk, milk chocolate brownies that we know and love.  But those brownies also don’t love us.

So next time you want a chocolate treat, give these a try!  Share this with your friends to enjoy too!

Black Bean Brownies (adapted from the original recipe)

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups black beans (1 15-oz can, drained and rinsed very well)
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup quick oats (40g)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp raw sugar
  • 1/4 cup coconut
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup to 2/3 cup chocolate chips

Instructions

Black Bean Brownies Recipe: Preheat oven to 350 F. Combine all ingredients except chips in a good food processor, and blend until completely smooth. Really blend well. Stir in the chips, then pour into a greased 8×8 pan. Cook the black bean brownies 15-18 minutes, then let cool at least 10 minutes before trying to cut. If they still look a bit undercooked, you can place them in the fridge overnight and they will magically firm up! Makes 9-12 brownies.

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National Nutty Fudge Day

Today is National Nutty Fudge Day.  I find these “National Day” days really fun!  And really, who needs another reason to celebrate by eating fudge?!

But since I just got back from a week of vacation with tons of indulgence and desserts, I do not want to wreck my momentum as I get back on track with 21 Day Fix.

So I decided to try out this delicious looking Clean Eating Almond Butter Fudge recipe that I have had saved on my Pinterest wall for a while.  If you haven’t tried anything from Chocolate Covered Katie, stop what you are doing and go there NOW.  She has tons of awesome clean desserts that make you feel like you are having a cheat meal when they are actually healthy!

But I didn’t have any Almond butter. What to do?  Well I did have a HUGE tub of natural organic Peanut Butter and decided to go with that.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup Natural Organic Peanut Butter
  • 2 1/2 tbsp virgin coconut oil
  • 2 1/2 tbsp raw honey
  • a few drops maple extract (I actually used a drop or two of pure maple syrup)

Instructions

Combine the peanut butter and coconut oil, and gently warm (I used a small saucepan on medium heat) until the nut butter is easily stir-able and the coconut oil is liquid. Stir in the sweetener, then spoon into a plastic container or candy molds. Freeze a few hours until solid, and store leftovers in the freezer.

The only trick here now is to just eat ONE serving!  It is absolutely delicious!

I didn’t have candy molds so I just put it in a Tupperware container, let it freeze then broke it up.

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How will you celebrate National Nutty Fudge Day?

21 Day Fix Approved Chocolate Chip Cookies!

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I LOVE Chocolate Chip Cookies.  And there is nothing wrong with indulging from time to time.  But since I have been eating clean (at least 80% of the time) I have been finding ways to have a healthy treat, and these cookies are a delicious option!

This recipe is from Fixate- by Autumn Calabrese (the creator of 21 Day Fix).Fixate_GSE_526x526_1_Book

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups almond flour
  • 1 teaspoon gluten free baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 cup organic coconut oil, melted
  • 1/4 cup raw maple syrup
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 large egg whites (1/4 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup semi sweet or dark chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. 
  2. Combine almond flour, baking soda and salt in medium bowl, mix well, set aside.
  3. Beat oil and maple syrup in large mixer bowl until creamy, 4-5 minutes.
  4. Add egg, egg whites and extract and beat for 2 more minutes.
  5. Add almond flour mixture to egg mixture and mix until blended. Add chocolate chips. 
  6. Drop rounded teaspoons onto parchment paper and bake 14-16 minutes. Enjoy! 

21 Day Fix Container Equivalent: 1 cookie is equal to 1.5 yellow containers

So next time you want a treat but don’t want to fall off the clean eating and healthy bandwagon, give these cookies a try!  My next challenge group starts May 9, perfect timing to get you SUMMER READY!  If you are interested and want more information, please fill out this application!

Time for Variety

The past couple weeks I haven’t had the time to cook as many “creative” meals as I would like.  I have been going with some real basics- turkey burgers, taco meat, plain grilled chicken for salads.  And I decided that it was time to add a little variety to my meal plan for this week.

A couple weeks ago, we had some really delicious chicken stuffed bell peppers.  After planning most of the meals for this week, I realized it was all chicken. So I decided to do the stuffed peppers again, but used ground turkey.

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You can find the original recipe here, and use either chicken OR ground turkey.

So I had my Mexican, time for a little Chinese.  I found this 21 Day Fix approved Baked General Tso’s Chicken and decided to give it a whirl!

Ingredients:

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
  • ½ cup liquid egg whites
  • ½ cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
  • ¼ cup low sodium soy sauce
  • ¼ cup vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar)
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp chili sauce
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp 100% pure maple syrup
  • 1 tsp cornstarch

DIRECTIONS

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and mist with non-fat cooking spray.
  • In a small bowl, mix together the flour, salt, paprika, garlic powder and onion powder.
  • Dip chicken strips in liquid egg substitute, shake off excess and lightly coat in flour. Place chicken strips on baking sheet and lightly mist with an olive oil mister, or more non-fat cooking spray.

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  • Bake chicken in oven for about 30 min, turning over once at halfway through cooking time. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes.
  • While chicken is cooking, combine soy sauce, vinegar, minced garlic, minced ginger, syrup, chili sauce and sesame oil in a small sauce pan set over medium heat. Once sauce has begun to lightly simmer, mix cornstarch and I tsp water in a small cup, and then pour into sauce. Continue to cook, stirring regularly, until sauce has thickened up a bit, about 3-5 more minutes. If sauce remains runny, add in some additional cornstarch, tsp by tsp.
  • Toss the cooked chicken pieces with the sauce and serve immediately.

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Container count per serving: 1¼ red, ¼ yellow, 1 teaspoons, 1½ sweetener teaspoons (for maple syrup).  Add some veggies for added nutrition!

Since I chopped up tons of chicken….

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I made Honey Garlic Chicken as well.

INGREDIENTS
  • 3 chicken breasts, boneless and skinless, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1½ cups Panko breadcrumbs
  • sesame seeds, optional
  • fresh chopped parsley, optional
For Honey Garlic Sauce
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp Sriracha sauce (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste
INSTRUCTIONS
  • Preheat oven to 375 F degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Add the breadcrumbs to a shallow plate. Beat the eggs in another shallow plate.
  • Season beaten eggs with salt and pepper. Add chicken to the eggs and toss to make sure each piece is fully coated in the egg mixture.
  • Coat each piece of chicken with breadcrumbs and place on baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for about 20 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and slightly golden.

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  • In the meantime add all the sauce ingredients to a small sauce pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then turn down the heat and cook for a couple more minutes stirring occasionally.
  • Pour sauce over chicken and toss so that the chicken pieces are fully coated. If there’s left over sauce, use for dipping. Garnish with sesame seeds and parsley if preferred.
  • Serve over rice and/or veggies.

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We planned on grilling Lemon Garlic Chicken Skewers, but it was too cold!!  What happened to spring? It is April and should not be 45 degrees!  But I improvised and baked it!

INGREDIENTS:

  • Chicken (I used 2 large breasts and cut into 3 long strips)
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

DIRECTIONS

  • To prepare chicken: In a  bowl, whisk together olive oil, lemon zest, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper. Add chicken and stir to combine. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 8 hours.

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  • Grill or bake the chicken until no longer pink.  If you bake, you can then place on a baking sheet to brown.

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I also decided I needed to bake up a really easy go to morning snack and went for these Blender Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins and they are delicious…. But, mine fell apart.  Maybe I didn’t bake them long enough.  Maybe my frozen blueberries made them too moist or maybe I put too many blueberries.  So I decided to put them all in one big tupperware container and will eat them with a spoon!

INGREDIENTS:

  • Nonstick cooking spray (optional)
  • 1 cup reduced fat (2%) plain Greek yogurt
  • 3 Tbsp. raw honey
  • 2 large very ripe bananas, cut into chunks
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1½ tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. sea salt (or Himalayan salt)
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
  • ⅔ cup chopped raw walnuts (I didn’t use the walnuts this time)

Preparation:

  • Preheat oven to 350° F.
  • Prepare 12 muffin cups by lining with muffin papers or lightly coating with spray.
  • Place yogurt, honey, bananas, eggs, extract, oats, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in blender (or food processor); cover. Blend until smooth, scraping once or twice, as needed.

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  • Gently fold in blueberries and walnuts.
  • Evenly divide batter among prepared muffin cups.
  • Bake 20 to 25 minutes, or until tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

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  • Transfer muffins to rack; cool. (I didn’t do this step…might be another reason they fell apart)

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I love trying new recipes and even if they don’t look as pretty as they did on Pinterest, as long as they are healthy and delicious, who cares!

 

Easter

This time of year all the stores are covered with pastel colored decorations, candy, and bunnies. You can even go sit on the Easter Bunny’s lap and ask him to bring you candy and toys on Easter morning.  I always wondered how we got to the point where the Easter Bunny has so much importance in this holiday.  Yes, it is fun for kids to hunt eggs and have school parties. It is fun to decorate eggs, give them gifts, put them in their new church outfits.  But it is so much more important to make sure that our children know the truth behind this day.

Over 2000 years ago, a man from Nazareth, named Jesus was murdered. Hung on the cross with nails in his hands, a crown of thorns on his head. They laid his body in an empty tomb. And 3 days later, the tomb was empty!  Jesus rose from the dead to save us from our sins. He suffered and died on the cross after living a perfect life so that we would be able to live eternally in heaven even though we never can hope to live a perfect life.

Early on Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. She ran and found Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved.  She said, “They have taken the Lord’s body out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!” John 20:1-2

That Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! “Peace be with you,” he said. As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord! Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”  John 20:19-22.

Often times we can let the secular side of Easter overtake the true meaning of this day (same as for Santa at Christmas). While the traditions have gone a little haywire lately, we really need to find some grounding in what we celebrate to place our focus back on Jesus.  Take the Easter egg.  An egg is a symbol of new life.  When you decorate eggs, hunt for eggs, or eat that ever so delicious Cadbury Creme Egg, say a prayer of thanksgiving to God our Father, thank him for sacrificing His son for us and for Jesus resurrection on that third day so that WE may have new life in HIM!

We are blessed to be able to send our son to a wonderful daycare where he was able to hunt for eggs, and have a little party on Friday.  It was fun, but it wasn’t the most important thing we would do this weekend. Yesterday, we had our Life Group over for a celebration of our Savior and living our lives as Christians on mission to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ.  And we had some yummy little Easter cupcakes for dessert (recipe will be below), but even that wasn’t the most important thing we would do.  This morning, we gave Macon some little treats in his Easter basket. And tonight we will be spending time with my side of the family.

But the most important thing that we did today had nothing to do with bunnies, eggs, or candy.

Today my family went to church and worshiped our Heavenly Father. We thanked him for His sacrifice in sending his son to die for MY sins. I am not worthy. But God created me and loves me so he wants me to be able to live eternally with him.  Macon is so young that he can’t really understand all of this yet.  We sing “Jesus Loves Me” to him everyday. We say the blessing at meals and he knows how to say “Amen.”  He knows when we go to church that we are going to see Jesus.

And I am convinced that nothing can separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow- not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below- indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from he love of God that is revealed in christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8:38.

So while you are spending time with your families today, eating some candy, be sure to focus on the real reason for this day. This Resurrection Day.  Thank God for saving us from our sins, for allowing us to live in this world with the full faith and knowledge that He has a spot saved for us in heaven because of Jesus.  Thank God that He is Risen!

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For our Life Group, I made some mini-cupcakes and wanted to share the recipe with you.  Two of the children who are part of our community are actually allergic to eggs, so I found a recipe for Lemon Eggless Cake that was used for my cupcakes.

Ingredients
  1. Butter – 1/2 Cup (Softened, Room temperature)
  2. Sugar – 1 1/4 Cup
  3. Vanilla extract – 1 tsp
  4. Lemon zest – 1 tsp
  5. Milk – 1 1/4 Cup (Room temperature)
  6. Lemon Juice – 3 Tbsp
Dry Ingredients
  1. All purpose flour – 1 1/2 Cup
  2. Baking soda – 1 tsp
  3. Baking powder – 1/2 tsp
  4. Salt – 1/2 tsp

Directions

First preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease a baking pan with butter or line with butter paper and keep aside. OR line a cupcake pan.

Now take a mixing bowl and all the items listed under “Dry Ingredients” and mix well until combined. You can also sieve it to get them combined evenly. Keep it aside

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Now, in another large mixing bowl, add the room temperature butter, sugar and beat it nicely until fluffy. Add the vanilla extract, lemon zest and mix well. Now add the room temperature milk to the bowl and beat well until combined.

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Now transfer the prepared dry ingredients to the wet ingredients little by little and fold it until it gets combined. Do not beat it. (I did beat it and it was fine).  Finally add the lemon juice and fold it to get mixed. Your batter will get slightly fluffy with the baking soda reacting with the lemon.

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Pour the prepared batter into a greased baking pan upto 3/4 th of its height or a line cupcake tin.  Bake for about 30-35 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let it cool down completely to room temperature before icing.

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Then make the icing.  This is my absolute favorite, go-to, American Buttercream recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup butter, softened (do not melt, just leave on counter for 30 minutes)
  • 2 pounds powdered sugar (about 8 cups)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla

Directions: In a mixing bowl, beat butter until smooth, gradually add powdered sugar, alternating with milk until combined, add in vanilla.  If desired, add a little lemon zest and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

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One tip I have learned for coloring frosting is to put the food color in the icing while still in the mixing bowl and then mix it until combined.  It is so much easier to get the icing completely colored that way.

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I also used packaged fondant to color and make a bunch of little eggs for decoration.

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I tried to decorate the mini-cupcakes using the green frosting as grass with the little eggs on top.  But I had some problems with my grass tip, so then I just turned to an old trusty star tip.  They turned out to be the perfect portion control tiny little cupcakes, were perfectly moist and not too sweet.

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These cupcakes are cute. They are fun.

But most importantly, I was able to use them today as a way to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  That he died for me, for you, for anyone who will place their faith in Him, die to their self and be reborn in Him!

For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.  John 3:16-17.

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