Cauliflower Prayers

Romanesco Cauliflower

Romanesco Cauliflower

“It looks like something out of the sea,” my husband picked up the vegetable displayed on the farmer’s stand. I had seen romanesco cauliflower only once before when my daughter brought one home from Mom’s Market. “Yeah, like coral.” The green spiral cone shapes of the romanesco cauliflower make it beautiful to look at as well as eat.

Even though my cauliflower mash recipe completely smashes out the fractal beauty of the vegetable, at least it keeps its pretty Chartreuse color. It’s delicious. In fact, I think it will be on my Thanksgiving Day table. Here’s how you cook it: cut off a whole head of cauliflower buds. Throw away the core center. Dump the buds in a steamer with sliced onions or shallots and cook till soft. (Use your own judgement on how much onion or shallots you want–I put in just one shallot bulb.) Mash it up with a potato masher and some roasted garlic cloves (I added about four cloves), about an 1/8th cup of cashew butter, and 1/4 C coconut manna. That simple and incredibly delicious.

Cauliflower is a pretty bland vegetable but boy can it fight. It is a powerhouse of vitamins, fiber, and phytochemicals. Sometimes our prayers for others can seem pretty bland, too. Not every prayer is a spirit-filled literary masterpiece but  they sure do have a lot of power. Praying for people is a good way of loving them from afar. Many times people’s names just pop into my thoughts while I am praying, and later on I find that the impulse to pray for that person was a timely one. So many times this has happened to me, that if I think of someone who I haven’t thought of for a long time, I take it as clue to pray for them. I think many of the people I have known throughout my life will be surprised in heaven when they find out how often I have prayed for them. In my own opinion, I think that God knows who has feelings of true love for whom, and that He uses the powerful love we feel for those special people in our lives to bring blessings to them. In this way we can truly say, no love is lost.

I have a friend who was actually awakened from her sleep with the urge to pray for her son! The next morning she got news of his perilous situation and that he had thankfully, survived it. We don’t have to say a lot of words, or even any words. All we have to do is lift the person up to God, thanking Christ for His amazing love and for that love to surround him/her. How great and grand is our glorious God who counts the prayers of people like us worthy to be received by Him. We are honored and privileged above all to be included in His loving blessings to other people. Nothing makes me feel more like a child of God than to hear that my bland cauliflower prayers have been received and answered by the almighty God. God takes our simple prayers and adds the beauty and flavors of His blessings to pour out upon those for whom we have prayed.

The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. — James 5:16(b)

A Green Smoothie with God

Green Smoothie. Easy to make!

Green Smoothie. Easy to make!

“Have you ever had a green smoothie?” I could’ve asked numerous folks in the audience that day, in fact anyone who was laughing at the actress who had just walked on stage with a kale smoothie, a prop to emphasize how differnt she was from “normal”. It wasn’t that funny to me. I thought the girl was smart to choose a kale smoothie over a chocolate milkshake. She was only playing a nerdy character but the truth is a green smoothie, when done right, has it all over a milkshake of any flavor.

First, you will need a blender. The base ingredient is a banana. Bananas make the smoothie sweet and thicken it. If you want your smoothie on the creamy side, the next ingredient is almond milk (or any nut milk). If you like it juicy rather than milky, add coconut water or throw in juicy fruits like oranges or watermelon and add a little water. Next, add some more fruit. Whatever you like, to give it a new taste. I like berries in mine. Some berries can make your green smoothie brown, so add a teaspoon of Matcha powder if you want a really green one. Next, give your smoothie some added nutrients with a tablespoon or more of flaxseed. Add a nut butter (tahini and cashew are great) for protein and healthy fats if you are going for a creamy smoothie. Last, throw in the greens. Kale is terrific but it is kind of tough and unless you have a super-speedy mixer like a Vitamix, you are going to get little kale pieces in your smoothie–not a bad thing really. I prefer swiss chard or spinach, or even a handful of mixed greens in mine. Anything will do though, even romaine. Blend it all together. I like to add a piece of ginger, some turmeric, and a few dashes of pepper for added antioxidant power.

Now, drink it! It is delicious and way better for your health than a milkshake. Here’s why. Bananas have potassium, berries are loaded with antioxidants, flaxseed contains magnesium, and almond milk has more calcium than milk. (Don’t shy away from these nut milks thinking they are only substitutes for the real thing: milk. Not true!) And the green stuff, most of them score 1000 points on the ANDI nutrient scale, the highest score a food can receive for nutrient content. Blending food like this helps your body get more nutrients. A smoothie is a meal, especially the creamy ones with the nut butters in them. If you want it as a dessert, using less almond milk and frozen fruit will render something more solid and cold like ice cream.

The best part of a green smoothie is after you eat one. There’s no holding your stomach with that uncomfortably full feeling. Instead, it energizes you. Your body jumps for joy and you are ready to tackle the day. Fatty cream from a fatty cow is not going to make anyone feel good except a calf. Now energize your spirit. Take a minute to thank God for the bounty of food He provides. Forgo that cut of red meat and if you miss the taste of it, eat it only occasionally or use only a small portion for the flavor. Enjoy the many types of beans and whole grains God gives to us. Don’t settle for milk and sugar, look to His grand variety of fruit and nut milks. Make your main dish at every meal a vegetable dish. The abundance of greens and other vegetables is a testimony to the love God has for us. Enjoy eating healthfully and don’t let anyone who laughs at your green smoothie put you off. You are the smart one, my friend, you have chosen the better way.

Look to your Bible to fill your hunger for spiritual contentment. Savor God’s great promises and the beauty and depth of His love for you that is written in the words of the New Testament and in the Psalms. So many things in this world fill our thoughts with anger, fear, and despair but these are not from God. We rush around checking off the tasks on our list. We imagine awful scenarios and bring ourselves to a point of anxiousness and hopelessness that makes God weep. Much of the sickness, poverty, war, violence and hatred of this world are of our own making; they are not the promises of God. Choose a better way by spending time contemplating God’s words to us because even with these difficulties that abound around us, God is able to reach out and calm our spirit with His excellent love. And lastly, choose the hope for a better life provided by Christ since He is the greatest of God’s gifts to mankind.

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying.  But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.”  But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things;  there is need of only one thing.Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”

Luke 10:38-42

Variety is the Spice of Life and the Joy of the Church

Salads contain a variety of phytonutrients

Salads contain a variety of phytonutrients

“I eat a good breakfast every morning.” She was 92 years old and had eaten healthfully all her life. She earned a bachelor’s degree in home economics that included a study on nutrition. But one morning my mother woke up unable to get out of bed. She felt weak and trembly. “But what do you eat every morning?” The doctor pressed. Mom answered, “Cereal.” At first it had been shredded wheat but the last few years she had switched to Cracklin’ Oat Bran. She rarely ate lunch now since she woke late in the morning and could easily make it through to dinner. “You need to eat more of a variety of foods. If you eat the same foods every week, you are not getting that variety and so your body is not getting all the vitamins it needs. And you need to eat all your meals.” Beside her an IV steadily dripped needed vitamins and nutrients into her arm.

Getting into a pattern of eating the same foods every day can work against a person’s health. Many of us often eat the same foods at breakfast and lunch but if we can switch it up a bit, a variety of foods will ensure a larger spectrum of nutrients. Maybe that’s why God planned seasons so that we would be sure to get different foods throughout the year.

God likes a variety. We can see this in creation’s many different plants and animals. Just like eating a variety of foods results in a healthier body, so the church includes a variety of gifted people who, when working together, result in a healthier church. Some people are gifted in discerning the word of God, some in expressing it through music and dance, and still others in extending service to the wider communities around them. In fact, God gives us many gifts throughout our lives so that we may contribute to the health of His church. Gifts of talent from God make our service a pleasure and create a joyful people.

Yesterday a woman in our church got up in front of the congregation to inform us of a service project to make 2000 food packets for the starving children in Africa. As she spoke, I could clearly see her compassion for these people who through her inspiring words no longer seemed so far away, but right beside us in the heart of this service-oriented spokeswoman.  After that, our youth put on a musical show for the church. It was amazing. These kids had memorized large portions of scripture in the dialogue of the play that they never would have done had it been assigned as Sunday school homework. Our two talented music leaders had reached the kids in a way that spread joy throughout the church using music and dance. The church is where God’s gifts are revealed.

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.–1 Corinthians 12:4-7

 

Choices and A Path That Seems Right

Soda Stream lets you choose how much sugar to put in your soda.

Soda Stream lets you choose how much sugar to put in your soda.

Making high nutrient foods like spinach, arugula, collards and other greens, along with a variety of vegetables the main dish of each meal is making a choice to eat differently than most folks around us. We make this choice because it is backed by scientific evidence that a diet high in greens and vegetables is healthier to the body than a diet high in meat and potatoes.

There are several ways to cook greens and vegetables and not all of them are the same. Buying ready-made vegetables that have sauce and pasta with them can save us time but often contain a lot fat. Putting cheese on vegetables or other sauces to cover up the “vegetable” taste will also add unnecessary calories.

Sauteing foods in oil can add calories, but using broth can add salt. Steaming vegetables is best but also less tasty and who wants to eat tasteless foods? The margarine that everyone used years ago on vegetables is now suspected to be worse for us than butter. In twenty more years, what else will ‘they’ prove unhealthful that is now thought to be healthy? Sugar is better than all artificial  sweeteners except stevia but a recent study proved that too much sugar in any form is bad for the body. Eating no meat at all can cause a deficiency in B12 and other important nutrients, but eating too much is not healthy either. Using a microwave kills nutrients and using oil past its smoke point is carcinogenic, as is roasting vegetables until they are black and crispy.

So many choices can bring us to a breaking point where we throw in the towel and eat what we like. Educating ourselves about our personal conditions can make some of these choices easier. For example, if we do not need to lose weight but want to gain nutrients, a little oil and nut butter sauces can help to brighten a meal of greens. If we are battling cancer, avoid blackened foods, sugars, and cooking with the microwave. If osteoporosis is our enemy, lowering salt and caffeine from our diet can help. We should try to do the best we can and remember that perfection is never the key and is rarely obtained.

Rather, moderation is the key to keeping on track. After all, we are in this for long haul. Changing our life’s eating patterns is not a diet. If meat is a delight to one with coronary artery disease, then one or two meals of meat a week can help us stay meatless on other days. A sugary dessert once a week will not be so harmful if it keeps us sugar-free the rest of the week. Soda or wine on the weekend may not be ideal but at least it is more healthful than drinking these sugary drinks all week. A cup of coffee a day is better than three.

Education and moderation can be spiritually healthy too. There are some spiritual beliefs and practices that seem right to us but are not sanctioned by Christ. Reading the Bible helps us to find out what pleases God. We cannot rely on our own direction which is like the  blind leading the blind. We need God’s Holy Word to direct us.

But even when we do follow Christ’s teaching as best as we can, we can end up overindulging ourselves in repentance and completely miss Christ’s forgiveness. Or we can spend our day in religious practices like prayer and Bible study but become so judgmental of others that we miss out on the blessings of service to others or fellowship with other believers. Or we can live a harsh and stoic life but never know the joy and spontaneity of Christ’s presence in our lives.

Whenever we strive for perfection, we are setting ourselves up for a fall. Our only perfection is in Christ. He clothes us in grace and allows us to experience God’s perfect love. Embrace who we are now and put our hope and faith in God’s transforming love. If we keep investing in our spiritual and physical health, then the Holy Spirit is alive in us and we are sure to reach our goals. Since God loved us so much that he gave His only son, then we too should love ourselves and others, all our imperfections and failings, not because we are worthy of that love but because God has commanded it.

For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Galations 5:14

 

Lose Weight Fast and Save The Earth

Eat More Beans

Eat More Beans

Eating smaller portions of animal protein (beef, chicken, and pork) can  result in a slow and arduous weight loss. To quicken the pace, try exchanging animal proteins for plant proteins. Reserve animal proteins for special occasions, dinners out, or just once or twice a week. Eating meat twice a day is a detrimental habit and our taste for it will fade if we cut down on its consumption.

Beans are an excellent replacement for animal protein. Beans are low-calorie and high in protein. Some beans have twice the protein of animal products, and are more satisfying because protein relieves hunger.  We will save ourselves a lot of calories, fat, and money. And don’t think beans can’t be tasty. Throw in some of your favorite herbs and spices. Beans are delicious served with cooked greens and when coupled with rice, they are a complete protein equal to any animal protein. There are many varieties of beans and as an added bonus, none that I know of are genetically modified.

My favorite bean dish is red curry lentils. Rinse a cup of lentils and let drain. (Lentils do not need pre-soaking.) Cook garlic and onions until tender in  1/4 cup of organic chicken or vegetable broth. Add another 1/4 cup of broth, a can of coconut milk, and a cup of red lentils. Stir in half a jar of red curry paste and about 1 tablespoon of  red chili paste. Stir until mixed while waiting to simmer, cover and let cook for about 20 minutes. Sprinkle a teaspoon of garam masala for flavor. The beans are done when they are tender.

The habit of eating meat twice a day has become a hazard to our earth and to ourselves. As we grow older and if we continue to eat so much animal protein, our bodies will gain weight. As our world populates and if we continue to give cattle the grain we grow instead of eating it ourselves, we are choosing partiality, choosing to feed ourselves meat while others go without the grain they could have. Cattle were never meant to eat corn but to graze on grass. Unfortunately, grazing land is scarce and so we force these beasts to  gorge on corn and they grow sick with gas and E. coli and other dangerous bacteria that infest them because their bodies were never meant to digest corn. Dangerous strains of E. coli and other harmful bacteria can come from beef sources. In order to feed enough animals to satisfy our appetite for meat, we grow corn at an alarming rate, using GMO seeds to achieve high volume yields.

Conventional farming requires fungicides that kill off an important carbon dioxide-loving fungus that grows within the soil.  Cutting down forests for agricultural use has also increased the level of carbon dioxide in the air because trees are like sponges that soak up harmful carbon dioxide. Higher levels of carbon dioxide in our air increases the green house affect, warms our earth, and causes disastrous weather patterns. In addition, the runoff from our chemical-using farms drains into our water supply, and this too can make us and the creatures and plants living in these waters sick and weak. If all this is not sad enough to make us stop eating so much meat, a simple trip to the slaughterhouse where all our lovely farm animals end up will be a testimony to this generation’s ignorance and cruelty.

But God is gently drawing us into Him, revealing the evils of this world with a gentle whisper in our ears, opening our eyes to see what we don’t want to look at. Despite our crude stewardship of His earth, He is still faithful. This land is ours, given to us by Him to care for. We are like toddlers in a garden, grabbing and pulling at whatever attracts our eye. He is calling us into maturity and gently correcting us. Those who love the Lord, Allah, and Yahweh must take the lead and give glory to God by taking a stand against this madness because the light has come and darkness will not prevail over it. Even though reaching for a can of organic beans instead of a can of corned beef seems simplistic, a combined effort will reduce demand and yes, it will save our earth.

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.

Genesis 1:28-30

Alternative to Fish Oil and The Calling

Men and fish: a long relationship

Men and fish: a long relationship

Fish oil is getting a second look these days in the form of a scowl. A recent study by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center claims a man with high levels (taking daily supplements or eating fatty fish three times a week) of Omega-3 fatty fish oils is 2/3 more likely to develop the fatal type of prostate cancer. More studies will be need to confirm the association with fish oil and prostate cancer because this study did not take into account other risk factors. However, the news out there is disturbing for all those men who are taking the supplement, my husband included.

There is a plant-based alternative to fish oil in the form of marine algae. Plant-based omega-3 supplements are not the same as fish oil supplements and do not contain the fatty acids associated with prostate cancer. Plant-based omega 3 is a different type of omega 3, not nearly as strong as fish oil, but a diet high in flax seeds and oil, green leafy vegetables (my favorite), walnuts, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, soybeans, and other omega 3 foods while staying clear of foods high in Omega 6 (vegetable oils, grain-fed meats, egg yolks, and most processed foods) should keep us covered in health.  If you are a fish, meat and dairy eater, grass-fed beef and dairy products made from grass-fed cows is a great choice over the conventional grain fed products. The grass-fed products retain a healthy omega 3 to 6 balance which benefits the consumer as well. And, wild-caught salmon is still the omega-3 heavyweight champion.

Here is my favorite dish to keep my husband heart-healthy in omega 3s: saute onions, garlic, and mushrooms in a small amount of canola or olive oil on low heat for about 30 minutes. Add piles of green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, chard, etc.) and cook until wilted. Serve over brown rice sprinkled with sesame seeds and tossed in Flax oil and Bragg’s Liquid Aminos.

Just like eating what we think is healthy one day and finding out it is not healthy the next day, some worldly things can seem fine one day, and very disappointing the next. As Christians grow older, we see we are different from others in our thoughts and in our habits. Things we did in our youth can set like well-rooted weeds later on that we want to get rid of.  These weeds can take the form of something perfectly fine for others to do, and yet we know that God is calling us to a higher ground.  We may even struggle and pray about how different we feel from others, sometimes we stray away because the calling seems impossible, but it is not impossible for God, and the benefit is to experience a greater sense of the peace of His Kingdom, that is, His presence in our lives. This struggle to grow increasingly closer to the Kingdom each day is a strong one and is pleasing to God, but His calling can also be very challenging and cause a lack of peace in our lives if we try to ignore it. It is a good thing that God is pleased even with a weak repentance when it is sincere.

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.

Matthew 13:45 & 46

Nutritarian Quest for High Nutrition and The Color Purple

I recently read an article in the New York Times regarding the amount of nutrition in various types of vegetables. Evidently since the 19th C, “we’ve reduced the nutrients and increased the sugar and starch content of hundreds of fruits and vegetables.”

The first genetically modified food was corn and it was produced to decreased the sharp yellow color and increase the sugar content, hence the sweet white corn we find in the grocery stores today. In fact, most of the conventional white corn found in stores today is 70% less nutritious than yellow corn, and 99% less nutritious than blue corn. Who has blue corn? I’ve never seen it but for in the fall with Indian Corn and it is dry. I have found it to pop but I’m not sure if the popping process doesn’t destroy some nutrients.

My lovely daughter likes to work the produce section of her store and often comes home with some very interesting foods. I am surprised to see purple potatoes and carrots. These have more than twice the amount of nutrients than our white and orange brands. Have you ever eaten a crab apple? I have not but they contain thousands of phytonutrients that our conventional apples do not.

Foods found in the wild have more phytonutrients than the pampered plants of today’s corporate farmer. These less popular brands still contain the disease-fighting nutrients that allow them to grow in natural conditions. Try eating dandelion leaves and arugula. These greens have more antioxidants than the more popular greens like iceberg lettuce and even spinach. Select blue corn meal, blue or purple carrots, and scallions instead of yellow onions. Use lots of herbs since these have not been “domesticated” or modified by modern farming, and eat grass-fed meats. All of these foods still contain the disease-fighting nutrition our bodies need.

Like conventional farming, modern Christianity has put a gloss over the Gospel message to make it easier to “swallow”. This sweet message lacks the passionate love of a man who was fully God and lived among us and died for us when we were weak and filled with evil thoughts. He was our disease/sin fighter, our holy and pure brother that we in our anger and lust for self, crucified. We are hopelessly bent on evil but for the saving grace of the Holy Spirit who comes to reside in us and help transform us into what God created us to be. He is not with us to make our lives sweeter like white corn, but to grow character into us, to temper us as in a refining fire. Trust him because there greater things ahead than just this evil world. The color of Christ is purple for His passion.

“we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.“–Romans 5:3-5