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Things I love, that lift my spirit, Part 2 : Natural Peanut Butter Cups and the Italian picnic

Anyone who knows me knows that I know health is not just what you put in to your body, what you do with your body, or what and how you think….it is ALL of those things….!

So, while the title of this post may seem to be just food-oriented, I assure you, it’s not.

Also, I have been meaning to blog a bit about my experience with the Daniel Fast that I did back in April/May, using The Ultimate Guide to the Daniel Fast by Kristen Feola as a devotional and guidebook (please read my review of the book here on my blog or at Amazon, under “happy girl”…there is also a link to her website on the right side of this blog).  Funnily enough, what I learned (or should I say, re-learned and confirmed) fits right in with all that I want to share today…

So, here’s the deal:  what did I learn during the Daniel Fast?  Well, I DIDN’T learn a whole new way of eating, as I pretty much eat that way already, most of the time (but I am sure that for others, it is QUITE a change from their normal fare, and I encourage you to give it a try!!!)…THOUGH, I did have some lovely reminders and re-connections with the natural taste of a few foods (whom I had been abusing with extra sweeteners, etc)…and I DID gain some new and wonderful recipes, for sure!!!

I DIDN’T learn that eating well takes planning, since I am fairly used to that, as well…but I DID learn to incorporate that planning time as a Form of My Worship of My Lord, by dedicating that time to Him and offering that sacrifice of time to Him and communing with Him in the process!

(Now I just need to remember to still choose that purpose daily—not just during a Daniel Fast—and not get caught up in the “getting through it” mentality…so easy to do…but so much more an “imitator of Christ” way of doing things to choose the joyous method, amen?  And gosh, I sure do feel happier!)

I also enjoyed (as always happens) the strength and power that come from starting my day with Him at the forefront, and how He gives me the ability to do what needs to be done!  (And, alternatively, experienced, as I do at times, the LACK of power and peace I feel when I do NOT spend time with Him first thing…)

Honestly, for me, The Word and time with my Lord is like the best kind of fuel!  The super-wonderful kind that doesn’t clog up my engine! (More on good, PHYSICAL fuel in just a bit…)

Truly, the MAIN thing I feel I learned (and re-learned and re-confirmed), are two practical things that God spoke to my heart “many moons” ago, and somewhere along the way, I let those good habits go…and whenever I do, it causes problems.

1. Not eating while watching TV (or being distracted in any way, if at all possible). If I don’t give my food focus, I may as well not have eaten at all…and, it can lead to the other issue, depending on the time of day…

And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men…Colossians 3:23 (King James Bible)

2. Not eating late at night…when I do that, it’s like all systems go, no holds barred, “what is full?”…as if my stomach sensors are actually turned off.  And then, weird bits of  common sense pop into my head like, “well, you can’t go to sleep after you’ve eaten, or you’ll get acid reflux, so you better stay up longer”, but at that time, I am super-tired because of the hour and because my body is using up all the energy I might have had by eating 4 times as much food as I needed, so what do I do in response? 

Eat more to stay awake.  WHAT?!?!

And usually, these 2 unhealthy choices are made as a result of my NOT choosing to lead a balanced life; resting, savoring, enjoying, and turning anything worrisome over to God…

Did I lose a bunch of weight?  Nope.  Guess what?  I am a fairly fit person at a fairly fit weight already, and so don’t really need to lose “a lot of weight”, but if there is any excess, I fully believe it is there as a result of the above abuses…which, by the way, are of a very spiritual nature.  If I need to lose the little bit of extra, it will only come off as I let go of the spiritual weight…(and yes, I see your hands raised, and yes, I have read “Made to Crave” and yes, I LOVE IT!  So, you can see that these are not new concepts, and like the Word says, no temptation has overtaken you that is not common to (wo)man…so I am know I am not alone here!)

So for me, God used the Daniel fast as a way of reconnecting, with Him, with others, and with myself…I made a list of folks and issues I wanted to pray for specifically throughout the fast, as well as hearing from my Big Papa again about what I needed to focus on most (stillness, intention, not the food itself so much) for change to happen…I think it was Joyce Meyer who said once in a sermon, something about when hearing from God, if it has been awhile since God said anything to you on a particular subject, go back to the last thing He said….well, there ya’ go.

(And thank you again, Kristen, for writing a phenomenal book that is a phenomenal vehicle used of God for many people to have many different kinds of amazing breakthroughs!  May He continue blessing your work, my friend.)

“Intermezzo”

Something you may or may not know about me is that I lived in Italy for a little while over a decade ago, and from that time in my life, I learned in a truly experiential way what it is to SAVOR LIFE.  SAVOR EVERYTHING.  Take it slowly, breathe, chew slowly, sip, love big, laugh loudly, and when in doubt, or just because you can, USE YOUR HANDS IN A LARGE MOTION…=-)  In some ways, Italians are so big….big with their hands, big with their voices, big with their emotions and love, big with their families…but they are “small” in getting wrapped up in the to-do lists, the time-frame, the things that our American society deems most important…at least this was my experience in my family.

Now, I am not saying they are perfect or that there are not those who do NOT match that description.  But overall, that was my experience.  For them, it isn’t considered “procrastination” to realize that something can be put off until tomorrow if trying to get it done today interferes with love and life!  It’s not worth your health or loss of relationships to achieve, achieve, achieve at a cost of sacrificing them…

We have heard for years how the Mediterranean Diet is so healthy for the heart, among other things, and I would agree…but it is definitely NOT just about the food.  It’s the attitude towards everything in our lives, and upon what we place the most importance.

Since the release of both the book and movie, “Eat, Pray, Love”, many more people are now familiar with the Italian phrase Dolce Far Niente:  the sweetness of doing nothing.  It is SO TRUE.  Such an apt phrase to describe both something Italians hold dear, and quite frankly, something Our Lord calls us to do!  There are so many times in the Bible where we are called to just be still, to spend time with our God, to listen, to be quieted by His love…so many times in which we are told of Jesus separating himself from the multitudes or his disciples for a little quiet time…with Himself, and with His Father.  It’s not selfish, people.  It is necessary, it is rewarding, and it is part of our purpose.  I could go on, and on, and on about that subject…one of my favorites, and yes, something I find hard to do as well (typical Type A, right here).

So, let’s slow down and savor.  Let’s find some good fuel, both Spiritual and Physical.

Sunday "in Italia"

One of my favorite things to do with my family is to have picnics; outside or in.  A few Sundays ago there was a chance for thunderstorms, so our plans for a picnic by the “swimmin’ hole” were somewhat thwarted, but we prevailed!  (PLEASE forgive the non-eco-friendly plates!  I don’t know how they ended up in our cabinets, but as soon as they are gone, there will be no  more!!!  It is sooo unlike us!)

Our spread included homemade hummus, veggies, focaccia bread, parmesan cheese, prosciutto, grapes, and a little wine….we broke the bread into pieces onto the table just like my “Mama Guigi” does!  It’s my favorite.

Later that same day, I made a WONDERFUL TREAT:  all natural peanut butter cups!  Low sugar, non-refined sugar, and vegan.

The types of food we eat do matter.  Now, we don’t need to be so restrictive that we end up making food an idol or spending our entire lives yo-yo dieting, but these little temples do house the Holy Spirit, and let’s face it…when you eat better, you feel better.  I have heard numerous times that every 7 years, you have a whole new body (on the cellular level) than the one you had 7 years prior.  So, right now I am building the body I want in one year, 2 years, etc…and in 7 years, I can look back and know that every cell has changed from today!

And, I love sweets.  Or, I should say, I enjoy sweets a lot.  (I love my husband, I love my God, but I need to not “love” sweets…hee hee)  For me to not be a yo-yo dieter or get my self-worth from what I had on my plate today, I better just incorporate some whole-food-sweet-goodness into it…and if your body recognizes the whole food ingredients, it knows what to do with them!  (digest them)…as opposed to all the fake things out there, to which I envision my body saying, “I really don’t know what you expect me to do with this, little chic…so I think I will just leave it here on your thighs if ya don’t mind.”

I do mind.  So here is a better alternative that comes from Kelly Keogh of “The Sweet Truth” on the Veria channel. It is a show geared toward making/baking sugar-free/gluten-free foods in a mostly natural way (liquid stevia is not totally natural, but closer than aspartame or splenda, etc!)

You can find the recipe here:

http://www.veria.com/peanut-butter-cups.html

I made a few substitutions based on what I had on hand:

Instead of the “Stevia Plus Stevia”, I used Truvia (emptied the packets into my teaspoon measure).

Instead of the agave nectar, I used Yakon Syrup…even BETTER for you than agave nectar.  Low glycemic, and not as much (if any?) controversy over whether or not it has been cut with corn syrup like agave had.  However, it is expensive and hard to find, so do not fret over the use of agave, and use whatever brand your store has…unless you already have Yakon. =-)  I believe God honors our best efforts and protects us!

The rest of the ingredients were basically the same. (Ps, don’t forget, everything in moderation…these are a “sometime” food…be self-controlled and alert, knowing that your enemy is prowlin’ around trying to slip you up…but DO enjoy them on occasion, to the FULLEST!!!!! WITH FREEDOM!!!)

Ingredients for Natural, low-glycemic, dairy-free, vegetarian friendly Peanut Butter Cups

So, I followed the instructions for assembling the ‘cups.  I don’t have a mini muffin tray, so I was hoping the paper cups would hold anyway, and they did! This is before I poured the last bit of “chocolate” on top…

Once topped off, I placed them in the freezer for 15 minutes to harden (a good excuse to clean out my freezer, too!)

After freezer, 15 minutes

Ecco le qua! (Here it is!  It’s like saying, “voila!” or “Ta-dah!” in Italian…)

And of course, I had to eat some…

Yum!!!!  It made plenty, so I took some to friends, and still have a few in the freezer to savor one at a time…

Some more spiritual food to savor? the Word of God.  Here is a recent verse we used in the Vessels of Clay Yoga classes:

Acts 17:28 The Message

24-29 “The God who made the world and everything in it, this master of sky and land, doesn’t live in custom-made shrines or need the human race to run errands for him, as if he couldn’t take care of himself.  He makes the creatures; the creatures don’t make him.  Starting from scratch, he made the entire human race and made the earth hospitable, with plenty of time and space for living so we could seek after God, and not just grope around in the dark but actually find him.  he doesn’t play hide-and-seek with us.  he’s not remote; he’s near. We live and move in him, can’t get away from him!

And guess what?  It’s give-a-way time!  Leave a comment and be entered into this week’s give-a-way drawing, where the winner can choose between a yoga mat or a neckroll!  The drawing will be held next Friday or Saturday(July 8th or 9th…gotta’ leave room for life happening…and let’s be like the Italians and be a little more flexible, eh?)

Yoga mats in Buttercup Yellow and Dark Teal, Neckroll in Eggplant; which would you choose?

Allora, Buon Appetito, e Ti Vediamo! (So, enjoy the good food and see ya’ soon!  –loose translation, mine. (=:)

(ps…There will be some folks who are concerned about the saturated fats in Coconut Oil, but if you do the research, you will find that in fact, the way the fatty acids chain together is what makes them healthy or unhealthy, and coconut oil can actually be quite good for you!…in moderation, like everything else.)

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My Amazon review of “The Ultimate Guide to the Daniel Fast” by Kristen Feola…and some other stuff…=-)

The Ultimate Guide to the Daniel Fast
Customer Review

5.0 out of 5 stars Nourishing in every way! Heart, soul, mind, and body…=-),May 10, 2011
By
Happy Girl “Happy Girl”
This review is from: The Ultimate Guide to the Daniel Fast (Paperback)

If I could describe this book in one word, it would be WONDERFUL. Meaning, full of Wonder(s)…miracles on the plate, in my mouth, in my mind, and in my heart…

Could one buy this book just for the 21 days of devotions inside and be pleased? Yes.

Could one buy this book just for the amazing, natural, unprocessed and tasty recipes inside and be pleased? Yes.

However, with both resources at your fingertips, why would you only utilize one portion?!?

I will not go into the long story of how this book came into my hands, but trust me, that was a miracle in itself. I literally heard about it on a Saturday and won it on a radio show the next Wednesday…having only found out about the radio show the night before…but again, I’ll save you the details. Just know that it was evidence to me that I was indeed supposed to do this.

I am already a pretty healthy eater. I am a professional singer/dancer and a Christ-centered yoga teacher who promotes the ideas of whole foods, juicing, raw food, small lists of ingredients on labels, etc…but I do live in this world and indulge in the “other stuff” from time to time.

With all of that activity, you might expect me to look like one of those fitness cover models, but I don’t…in fact, over the last few years, I have accumulated and kept that “last 10 pounds” so many are plagued with…

I wanted this book so that I could really HEAR what God was trying to say to me about not only my habits, but perhaps my Christ-centered yoga business, my family, or anyone else that maybe I was needing to pray for! I did know beyond the shadow of a doubt that I needed to tune in.

I heard the author on the radio show and was touched about her description of fasting as an outward activity just as much or more so than inward. It’s not just some diet you go on, and it’s not just something you do as a method hoping to get some miracle or revelation from God…It is something you do as an act of Devotion, perhaps in order to bless others through intercessory prayer, or to really draw closer to God in your dependence on Him through this time…and then, yes, I would say it is not unusual for some kind of “breakthrough” to happen in your life! But rest assured, it is the kind of breakthrough you need, not just what you want…but the funny thing is, I would bet just about anything to say that by the time you receive “it”, you realize how much it is EXACTLY what you need AND want…(Funny how a loving Father likes to do that…)

But back to the book!
The pictures are beautiful; the devotions are RIGHT ON. During my 21 days, I did not have a single bad recipe. There is an optional meal plan provided, but there are so many recipes included in the book that you can switch things out for other things that look more appealing to you. There are even recipes never used in the meal plan…and one thinks, wow! I can’t wait to use those later, too!

The book is divided very well. The first section explains the different kinds of fasting there are, what kind this is (Partial food fast), and why one goes on a fast.
SIDEBAR: You will not go hungry on this fast. There is more than enough food, and it is satisfying. You are only fasting from certain types of foods, not food altogether.

The Second section is called “Focus” and contains the daily devotions, as well as sidebar testimonies of the experiences other Daniel fasters have had. Kristen Feola obviously seeks the Lord in her own life, is a human being with typical daily challenges, and allows God to change her with each one…and in the process, He has used her pen and paper to not only share her journey but encourage others who are also traveling His path! 1 Corinthians 10:13 reminds us that no temptations, trials, daily problems will we come across that are not “common to man”…meaning we all go through it and can encourage each other!

The Third section contains the recipes and meal plan.
Let’s talk about the food, shall we? Yum. Yum. Yum.

I honestly made so much food in the first week that I was able to extend the leftovers through the following weeks to a certain degree by putting half in the freezer. I have a daily habit of making green smoothies, so that was one full meal I did not need to make, but honestly, there is plenty of food here!
My all time favorite? The Baked Oatmeal…who would have thought a baked oatmeal square sweetened only with the dry fruit within could be so scrumptious?! I literally had my last serving in the freezer for a week, because I was putting off the bittersweet feeling of it being my last serving! Ha! Like I couldn’t make more!

The Tuscan Soup is very good, as is the Black Bean Chili Bake. My husband loves both soup and chili far more than I do, so I shared (though I like them a lot!). He couldn’t stop raving! They are hearty, filling, and yummy.

Of the Savory dishes, I really, really, really, really, really, loved the Asparagus-Mushroom saute’!!! Again, so yum…I confess, I was kind of glad my hubby is not a fan of Asparagus so that I could be a little selfish…(that has to sound funny as I draw closer to God, huh…)

How could you not love something called Antipasto Pizza Pie! Nourishing, warm, satisfying.

The Mega Greek salad was such a great thing to have in the fridge and nosh on all week!!!

When I was beginning to miss “bread”, I made the Pineapple-Citrus muffins. They were awesome…I just ate my last one yesterday. I was admittedly “hoarding” it, again, silly fear of that “last one” feeling…and then I turn that over to God and say “Thank You for the great food and the opportunity to enjoy it again!” I did add a little salt to the muffins when I would eat them, as for my taste buds they seemed to need a little. (Not worried about that, as I have typically low blood pressure and my health care provider has given me the “all clear” on salt…)

Kristen Feola's beautiful picture of the Pineapple Citrus muffin

My last lil Pineapple Citrus muffin, having been in a ziploc bag in anticipation...

The smoothies are Scrumptious. Snickerdoodle smoothie and Strawberry-Banana smoothie are in the book, but I have also tried Feola’s plum-good smoothie and sweet spinach smoothie from her website, and they are amazing!  www.ultimatedanielfast.com

SIDEBAR: One of the reasons I wanted Feola’s book over others out there; she is soooo generous. Her website is chock full of these recipes! You can tell she is out there to help others, not just sell a book by holding out in the recipe department. The website also has her blog and lots of wonderful information…Go there, and be blessed by it! And then buy the book; you will be glad you did!

One day, I made the flatbread with cinnamon…it was so satisfying that I literally only ate that, while drinking some green juice I just made, for breakfast…and I was full and content! That is not like me. I typically want a “Capital B” breakfast…
Which leads me to the Nutty Fruit cereal. Again, total surprise at how full and satisfied I was. And also, soooo delicious.

I have just given my husband the grocery list of ingredients I need to make the Flatbread pizza tomorrow…I am very excited about that! I have been finished with the Daniel fast for over a week now, but I am still using the recipes..that is how good they are!

As for what I learned from God through this whole process, believe it or not, my “breakthrough” was a bunch of little things I had been hearing from Him all along, but not really plugging into…things that help me function in a more peaceful and productive manner (and it was like finally seeing the neon sign)…and prayers for very specific people.

And yes, I had some material breakthrough blessings as well! I am hoping to include my personal Daniel Fast notes and experiences on my blog in the next week or soooo…feel free to comment on my review if you would like to know where you can find that…=-)

One more thing, I do have to disagree with one reviewer: not all of the recipes are gluten-free, as some call for whole wheat flour. However, substitutions can be made…again, feel free to comment here if you would like suggestions on how.

Kristen Feola certainly has a heart for God and for His people, and I am so glad that she followed the call in her spirit to write the book and be used of God to help others. I do believe that God can and will speak to you through this book if you seek Him with your whole heart…He will be found; He promises!

To whomever is reading this review, I pray blessings and discernment about whether or not this book is for you…I can assure you, you will not regret its purchase! Allow yourself to hit the “re-set” button on your physical and spiritual life, and tune in to God and your body!

Have a blessed day!

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So, I pasted those pix in here…obviously they are not on Amazon…and I was not allowed to type in the website there, either, but I can do it here!  yay!

And truly, today I did prep to make the Flatbread pizza tomorrow… I have the dough resting in the fridge, and my Spinach-Artichoke dip is ready to be spread on the crust tomorrow when the time comes (and bonus!  I won’t be using it all on the crust, so guess who gets to have some Spin-Art with her gluten-free rice crackers!  Yesssss!)

Here is my fresh out of the oven Spin-Art:

I will not post the recipe here, but I will encourage you again to go to the website to get it, and have a look around!  It is amazing!!!  Be blessed by it, say Robyn sent ya, and go buy the book!

http://www.ultimatedanielfast.com/2009/09/day-5-last-night-feast.html

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Also, a sidebar!!!  While I was prepping for the Spinach-Artichoke dip, I was using my garlic press from Pampered Chef.  I love that thing!  I was also using my Pampered Chef measuring cups AND my oil spritzer, which is hands-down my favorite of all P.C. products…I love that I can put a healthy cooking oil in it and spray it onto my cooking dishes.  MUCH healthier than those store-bought things with propellants, etc.  All of that to say, if you don’t have a Pampered Chef Consultant yet, and would like one, please consider my friend Kristin Cartwright.  She has NO idea I am writing this, but I will probably send her a link right after!

Her website is WWW.PAMPEREDCHEF.BIZ/KRISTIN2010

Be blessed, today, ever’body!  I have another blog in my head that has been ITCHING to come out since Monday, but it will just have to wait…soon!

(Been saying that to myself a lot lately, but you know what?  Between doing 6 shows a week, exercising 5 times a week, doing my devotions, making healthy food, spending time with my husband, running a small-but-growing yoga business, and scheduling quiet time…well, you just have to make room for balance, you know?)  1 Peter 5:7…casting my cares on Him, and He will take care of me…

And He will do the same for you!  Keep Looking Up!

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