The Sound Side

daniel2Every year we go to the Outer Banks, a barrier island off the east coast. Our house’s worth is measured by its distance from the ocean as in oceanfront, ocean view, one block away, two blocks away, etc.  I never tire of the sudden sight of the magnificent ocean as we climb the steps over the dunes, and there it is. The wind picks up and the sound of the waves is volumes louder just as we make our way over the dunes. Families litter the beach staking their claim for the day with beach tents, chairs and umbrellas, and sand castles. This year we brought my dog and stayed in a little house on the sound side that allows pets, many blocks away from the beach. The house wasn’t much but the beauty of the sound in my backyard took my breath away. In all the times we visited this area, I’d never come to look at the sound. It took the love of my furry little friend to force me to turn my attention from the magnificence of the ocean to see the quiet beauty of the sound. Love will do that to us. Love opens us up to new experiences and possibilities we may not have otherwise considered. It reveals the deep and hidden things we never saw before. When I think of love, I think of God because God is love and the most beautiful, deep and hidden thing He has revealed is His son Jesus Christ. In Him is the fullness of God’s love for us.

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

Soup and Song

Costs about $35 and worth every penny.

Costs about $35 and worth every penny.

Soup is an easy food to make. Use a base like broth or coconut milk, add some favorite vegetables, some spices, and some beans or other protein, and cook for several hours. I like to make soup in a crock pot.  For thick and creamy soups that have no dairy, add beans and at the end of cooking,  puree them with  an immersion blender.

Soup can be a healthy part of a diet if it doesn’t contain a lot of fats. Cream and cheese are ingredients found in popular, healthy-sounding soups like cream of tomato and broccoli cheddar. Even though they contain beneficial vegetables, the calories from cream and cheese quickly undermine the benefits of these vegetable soups. Even broth-based soups can contain a lot of animal fat and this builds up the saturated fat content of the soup. With all these fats and creams, it is hard to know what we get when ordering soup from a menu. Better to make our own, and though I have a lot to learn about soup, here is what I do know based on a healthy diet.

Instead of using cream and cheese, replace these ingredients with coconut milk, beans, and nut butters which are loaded with “good” fats.  Adding a scoop of baked sweet or white potato can help to thicken a soup. Carrot juice helps to sweeten soup, and coconut milk is excellent when flavored with curry. Tarragon tastes great with white beans, and cilantro with black beans.  Adding a few greens at the end of cooking can liven up the health benefits of any soup. Today it is snowing and I plan on making this simple soup: Broth, navy beans, cooked onions and garlic, and tarragon. Throw it all in the crock pot and cook on high for four hours or low all day. Throw in some greens just before serving.

Soup can be a real comfort food that is good for the body and singing can be comforting for the soul. Why is it that as we grow older we sing less and less? My daughter around age six used to go outside every day and sing to God about his beautiful flowers. She just made up her own song.

It is hard to stay sad when singing. It is a natural mood enhancer like running or meditation. Singing helps us to praise God in a manner that He deserves and likes. I love to sing the old hymns to Him, and the Psalms are full of songs to God. Pick one and start singing today. My husband and I went to hear Kathy Mattea a few days ago. She said it was tragic that some people are told at an early age that they can’t  sing. I agree. It is a lie. Everyone can sing. Praise for the singing, as Cat Stevens said.  God does not care if you are out of tune or if your song is made up and doesn’t rhyme. Sing to Him with gratitude in your heart and you will find you feel much better afterwards. Singing is a way of drawing close to Him.

Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord–Ephesians 5:19

Trusting Food and God

Did you ever get on the scale and find some unaccounted for, extra pounds? Where did the extra weight come from? Or have you eaten sparingly for a few days without any indication from the scale? Trying to lose a few pounds or stay at a steady weight can be baffling.

Weight gains from a heavy day of eating can be delayed and show up a few days later. We get by the first day but the next day we don’t even notice that we are eating more. Our bodies quickly adjust to the added calories. A few days of this and wham, reality hits the scale with an extra five pounds.

Returning to a healthful diet can take some time before we see a reduction in our body weight.  Replacing meals of animal meats and fried vegetables like french fries with beans, greens, and steamed vegetables creates a lot more fiber that can build up for a few days before we see any weight loss. This takes patience. It takes trusting in healthy food again.

It is also good to remember that just as our bodies will quickly adjust to added calories, we also quickly adjust to fewer calories. As we replace high calorie, low nutrient food with high nutrient, low-calorie food for a few days, we may feel uncomfortably full. This is because we can fill our stomach with high nutrient foods like beans and greens, vegetables and fruits and still have eaten only a fraction as many calories than if we had filled our stomachs with animal fats and oils. Meats, chicken and oils are very dense low nutrient foods and are much healthier for us if eaten sparingly. Meanwhile, the lighter foods like kale, spinach, cauliflower, broccoli and the myriad of other vegetables, should be eaten in much greater quantities as the main dish of every meal.

Doing good works and extending kindness can be just as baffling when the response we get is not what we expected, or we get it “too little; too late”. People can fail us. Our spouses, our children, and our friends can sometimes seem cold and indifferent when we extend kindness and good deeds towards them.  Life can become disheartening and unfair. It can make us angry, cynical or prideful.

Thank God for Jesus Christ who died that we might be forgiven by God for our constant fickleness. Jesus did much for us but what did we do for him? For all his kindness and good works, we hung him on a cross, scorned him, and mocked him. Luckily, he did not put his faith in men but in God, and so should we. If we dedicate our good works to Him, He is faithful, and He will make all things work for the good of those who love Him regardless of the actions of others. Simple acts of kindness done in God’s name are never fruitless.

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.–Matthew 6:21

Easy Diet and An Open Door to God

The Mediterranean diet is one of easiest and healthiest diets to follow. Whole grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, and nuts are the basis of the diet with fish replacing meat and olive oil replacing butter. It is fun and easy to cook this way.

Start with a whole grain like pasta or rice and toss in some seasonal vegetables, nuts and beans. Use spices to flavor the meal rather than salt and add fish two or three times a week. Serve with a whole grain bread dipped in olive oil rather than butter. It is that easy.

Trouble comes when we take the healthy meal above and put a layer of cheese on it to melt in the oven for a few minutes. Or, we take our healthy fish and coat it with buttery bread crumbs or some sort of batter and fry it. These additions sure do taste great but they add calories and fats, and well, ruin the healthy meal.

Loving God is pretty simple, too: just spend some time with Him. We can pray by talking with Him as we go through our day, by giving Him praise through music, and by thanking Him for our blessings. Keeping God in the “now” by focusing on His presence in our lives is a healthy way to keep calm, lessen the anxiety in our lives, and feel the joy that is key to overall health.

Trouble comes when we take our natural way of experiencing God and coat it with rules. God already knows we are not perfect but somehow we forget that. We start thinking we must be perfect by following this or that rule or God will not be pleased. We must go to church every Sunday, we must read our Bible every day, we must not swear, we must not drink, we must not…you fill in the blank.

Many of these “rules” are good ones to follow, but they are not what God looks at. God looks at our heart and discerns if we are following these rules out of love for Him and His people, or if we are doing them out of pride. If God is pleased with a broken and contrite heart, then our posture must be to continually try to improve our spiritual strength and realize that a few steps in the wrong direction will not keep us from Him. Knowing where we stand with God is the first step in experiencing His presence.

Let’s face it, we are in a battle down here and we are going to get hurt by life, but the Lord of Life knows us through and through. Christ has opened the door to us to experience God first hand. We no longer need a priest to make sacrifices for our shortcomings, instead, Jesus himself, was and is our sacrifice. So we invite Him into our lives with full awareness that we are going to mess up, repeatedly, even habitually, but through His grace He will transform our hearts and help us to become His glory. He will do this individually and in union with others as His church.

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

A Nutritarian Burger and A Blessing from Your Father

Without the bun

Without the bun

I have had a craving for a burger lately. This is odd because I hardly ever ate burgers even when I was on the SAD diet. I think it is because the weather has become warmer and as I ride my bike through the neighborhood at dinner time, I can smell burgers cooking. Smells can “say” so much.

Since any conventional hamburger I might buy could be old and decayed, heavy on the pro-inflammatory Omega 6, and processed in several places only to be “mixed” together at the final and listed processing plant, I turn to the many and varied recipes for bean burgers, AKA vegetarian hamburgers.

This summer I plan on making a lot of bean burgers. Here’s my plan. Any cooked and mashed up bean will do, along with any seasoning you like. You can even use Grill Master made-for-meat seasoning if that is what you like. My sweet husband loves white beans; I love black beans. Black beans go well with hot spices and sweet veggies like corn, shredded carrots and beets. Peppers tend to override any flavor so I stay away from them, but they can certainly be used for added sweetness. White beans go well with garlic and onions. Garlic and onions cooked mash well; raw garlic and onion allows for more flavor. Red beans are another choice and give the burger a meat-like color. Once you choose your bean and the spice, you will need some glue to hold it all together like whole wheat flour or even oatmeal.

For my first attempt of the season, I fried onions, mushrooms, and garlic in coconut oil, then added cooked black beans, stirred in some corn, and added wakeme sea vegetables and Bragg’s Liquid Aminos  instead of salt. I sprinkled some Italian seasoning and some Garam Masala over it and mashed it with a potato masher. I did a little taste test. It was pretty good so I added the glue: oatmeal and oat bran until it was the consistency of something I could form into patties. I fried the patties in a little more coconut oil and served it on a whole grain english muffin with cilantro, avocado, lettuce, onions, and tomato. I also added some homemade banana pepper sauce as a condiment that a friend gave to me. It was delicious and I have saved the recipie. It is on my food tab.

Like the smells of hamburger cooking, we are often attracted by things that are not particularly good for us. Attractions can lead to desires that are difficult to break. I am certain that God wants to bless us physically. He wants us to be well, to be in good health and looking fit. He wants us to enjoy the gifts our bodies bring us and not to be ashamed of them. Here is a funny thing about me: I believe that when sin entered the world (when Eve ate the apple) our minds became dull and we stopped using our brains as we could have. Do you know that we only use a tenth of our brain power? Isn’t that odd? Why would we have these wonderful brains and not be able to use them to their full potential? So, when Christ returns and the curse of sin is fully removed through Him, I think we will have full use of this wonderful muscle that has been on hold for so long. I look forward to that and eating healthfully has been energizing for my brain! I think better.

I used to live for the next cup of coffee or sugary drink just so I could think better. But not anymore. Christ has shown me what is really good for my brain. He has freed me from those addictive chains. And He will free you too. The Father wants to bless us in this way. We don’t have to give up everything at once. Start eating greens and vegetables as the main food in your diet, before eating any SAD food, and  you will begin to prefer the more healthful foods. It will happen for you. I remember how hard it was to think I would never eat butter on my bread again. I laugh at that because there are so many more things we can put on bread than butter! There is SO much more good food than SAD food. Start exploring it today 🙂

When you pray and ask for something, believe that you have received it, and you will be given whatever you ask for. —  Mark 11:24