Thursday, December 29, 2011

Amazing Almonds & an Almond Butter Recipe

Almonds are amazing.  The fact that I've written that, alone, shows how far I've come on this journey.  I used to hate almonds.  All nuts actually.  And now I eat almonds daily and in so many forms that mostly, I don't even know I'm eating almonds!  I always crack up when I serve my husband something and he says "I wish you'd put nuts in this.  It would taste better."  Little does he know that the main ingredients ARE nuts!  Almonds usually. (although I do do a lot with walnuts and pecans too)

Here's one example:

These brownies are my kids' favorite dessert.  They are flour-free, gluten-free, sugar-free and taste absolutely fabulous.  Hard to believe, isn't it?

So what's the fuss with Almonds?  Almonds are full of folic acid and fiber (which means they're a great choice if you're pregnant!), vitamins and minerals...and they're cholesterol-free.  They help fight heart disease and help get your blood pressure and cholesterol back to normal.  There's even research now showing how almonds help with cancer prevention.  Yes, there's fat in them...but it's the GOOD kind of fat.  (Of course, everything in moderation, including almonds.)

The things I make with almonds...
  • Brownies (as seen above)
  • Chocolate (I just made an amazing dark chocolate candy bar that's was made of 5 ingredients...cacao, maple syrup, coconut oil, salt and ALMONDS! So much healthier and more delicious than grabbing a Hershey's bar.)
  • Cookies, Bars, Oatmeal, Muffins, Pancakes ...  I grind the almonds in my mini-food processor so that it makes a powder.  It's called Almond Flour and makes a great addition to most foods.
  • Almond Butter.  (Lately I've swapped out the peanut butter in my kids' lunches for almond butter.  They eat the sandwiches without a problem and don't even notice the difference.)
So while I'm on the topic of Almond Butter...that's actually the motivation for this post.  The friend I mentioned two posts ago who gave me the Maple Cinnamon Almond Butter as a Christmas gift sent me the recipe below.  (Thank You!!)  Dark Chocolate Almond Butter.  Who could pass that up?  I just HAD to make it!  And it turned out AMAZING!!  So I'm going to share the recipe and the link to where it originated.  It is not my recipe...I'm am simply delivering it to you to try out.  Healthy food that tastes good...That's the way to eat!

 4-Ingredient Dark Chocolate Almond Butter

(This reminds me a little of Nutella. It's the smoothest almond butter I've ever had!)

  • 2 cups raw almonds
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate (I used organic dark chocolate chips)
  • 1 tsp coconut oil (another oil may work too)
  • 1/8th-1/4 tsp kosher salt, to taste
Directions: Place 2 cups of raw, whole almonds into a food processor. Process for about 15 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl every minute or as necessary. It is a long process, but you don’t want to stop until you have released all the oils in the almonds and the mixture is very smooth and buttery! This took me a good 14-15 minutes.

Just before your almond butter is ready, add the 1/2 cup chocolate chips and 1 tsp of coconut oil to a small pot. Melt on low. You want to remove the pot from heat when there are still some chocolate chip clumps remaining. Don’t worry they will melt as you stir the mixture. I always take it off the heat a bit early to avoid burning the chocolate.

Add the melted chocolate to the almond butter (still in the processor) and process for a couple minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add your kosher salt to taste and process more. Scoop into a container and store in the fridge. Makes 1 & 1/4 cups, 20 one-tbsp servings, or enough to fill a 250 ml jar. Refrigerate.

Note that the almond butter firms up in the fridge. Allow it to sit at room temperature to soften before using.

Nutritional Info: (per tbsp, approx 20 servings per batch): 104 kcals, 9 grams fat (1 gram sat fat), 6 grams carbs, 2 grams fibre, 3 grams sugar, 3 grams protein.

Here's her link:

My notes on this recipe:

Definitely view her link because it shows detailed photos that helped me a lot in making this.  In fact, I would have given up long before if I hadn't seen her photos.  It took double the time she says it takes.  Scraping the bowl takes a long time and a lot of physical strength.  I thought it would never turn into butter then then suddenly it happened.  It was fascinating to watch.  It also yields 2x what she says it will.  I filled up a jar that was 410 ml (a coconut oil jar).

I used 72% cacao but if you want something a little sweeter, I'd recommend adding 1 TBSP or more maple syrup to the melted chocolate.  I think I might try that next time.

I have to say it took a lot of time and work to get one jar of almond butter.  But it tasted so amazing that it was worth it.  At first I'd thought this would make a great Christmas gift to give out to friends next year, but after all the time to get one jar...IF anyone gets this as a gift from me they're going to know I love them VERY much.  :-)

P.S.  This chocolate almond butter is a great substitute for hot fudge on ice cream.  Yes...I cheated (but it was Haagen Daz so it was as close to clean-eating as ice cream can get!)   Also, the recipe I posted here for the Raw Maple Sweet Potatoes turned out wonderful!  The family ate it up at Christmas dinner.  I was a little disappointed there weren't any leftovers.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Adoration (and a recipe)

Merry Christmas!  I titled this post Adoration because, for our family, that's what Christmas is about.  It's about Christ, his birth and the amazing circumstances surrounding the Baby Jesus.  Just the thought of Baby Jesus makes me smile. 

I am so thankful that my parents raised me to celebrate Jesus on Christmas.  There was Santa (more of the feeling and fun of Santa, I never actually believed he existed) and gifts and lights.  But more important was Jesus.  And I always knew that Jesus was the TRUE reason that we have a reason to celebrate.  I want my kids to know that too.  So we've made decisions for our family that help us make Christ the center.  No TV for one.  We have A TV and we watch DVD's but the television itself isn't hooked up to anything else.  No TV = NO commercials!! And it's amazing how that alone eliminates the greedy "I wants".  People ask my kids all the time what Santa is bringing them for Christmas...and in return all they get is a blank look.  Ask them about Baby Jesus, though, and you're going to get an earful!

Yes, there are gifts (as my kids remind me constantly...the 2nd best part of Christmas is the PRESENTS!).  But we do everything we can to create an atmosphere of ADORATION during the holiday season.  (One thing we started this year is called "7 Nights Before Christmas".  Each evening we light a candle and I read from the grown-up Bible part of the story of Christmas...after prayer the kids get to open one small gift.  They loved it!!)  Jesus was a babe in the cradle so he could become a Savior on the cross...and now he wears a crown and sits on the throne of our hearts.  How I want you to know the true meaning of Christmas this year!  If you haven't already, please consider giving Him authority over your life so that you may know the true peace and meaning of Christmas.

This is not a normal blog post for me.  I've worked hard to transform my physical body but just couldn't let Christmas Day go by without sharing a tiny bit about how to make a spiritual transformation as well.  It's so simple...confess to God your sins, repent of your sins and ask for His forgiveness.  And ask that Jesus come into your life and transform you from the inside out.  And if you choose to do that, WELCOME to the family of God!

Here's my annual photo with my daughter, who is turning 7 in a few weeks.  We do this exact pose in front of a Christmas tree every year.  I just love seeing the hairstyle changes and facial changes from year to year.  I don't know if you can tell but the bottom photo from last year was me at my heaviest (I tried to hide it with hair and angle) and this year's (on top) is me at 43 lbs lighter.  This has been such a year of transformation for me in so many ways!  (more before/after photos to come on New Years!).  You can see it's been a year of transformation for my daughter too! 

Christmas 2011

Christmas 2010

Is it just me or do we both look healthier?

And here's a recipe to close out the holiday season.  This is a new one I'm very eager to try for our Christmas dinner this year.  I love sweet potatoes but have not known if it was possible to eat them raw.  Now I can give it a try!  I'll let you know how it turns out.

Herb-Infused Maple & Pecan
Sweet Potatoes by Russell James, The Raw Chef

4 cups sweet potato, peeled

½ cup pine nuts

1 cup pecans

1/3 cup water

1 teaspoon garlic powder

4 Tablespoons olive oil

2 Tablespoons lemon juice

2 teaspoons onion powder

1 Tablespoon light miso

3 Tablespoons organic maple syrup

1 teaspoon salt

3 Tablespoons fresh parsley, minced

2 Tablespoons fresh thyme, minced


1. First make a thick pecan cream by blending the pecans, pine nuts and water. Add a little more water if necessary, to get it to blend.

2. In a food processor, grind the sweet potato into small pieces. Transfer to a large bowl and add remaining ingredients, except the fresh parsley and thyme. Stir thoroughly.

3. Blend mixture in small batches in a high speed blender until creamy.

4. Stir in the fresh herbs by hand.

Thursday, December 22, 2011


Accountability really is such a huge key to success.  It doesn't matter what it is you're attempting, whether it's a work-at-home situation, improvement in parenting or weight-loss/eating healthier.  (I chose those three since I'm very familiar with the need for accountability in all of them!)  Choosing the right accountability partner can either make you...or break you.

Accountability is what started me on this journey...a dear friend who said "will you do this with me"...and my life has not been the same since!  Because of her I learned how to exercise and the ins and outs of weight-training.  I kept going because I knew we'd be there doing it together.  Now that she has moved away I miss my exercise accountability partner!

In this holiday season it can be hard to "be good".  Everywhere you go candy is being handed out, party platters are filled to the brim with choice goodies that are too good to pass up, and friends are giving gifts of Christmas cookies, fudge and other traditional holiday delights.

Tonight I was serving at church in the pre-school department for the first of our 7 Christmas services.  I walked into the Volunteer Central room for some bottles of water and was greeted by holiday temptation!  The most alluring cupcakes surrounded by cake pops filled serving trays throughout the room.  No one was around and it was SO TEMPTING not to "just have a taste".  But I have this type of accountability now that most people don't have the blessing of's called "Blog Followers".  And while I don't have a huge following, yet, the ones that I have pop up in the craziest places.  Tonight for instance, several people (none I'd expected!) came up to me and told me they were keeping up with me by following my blog, thanked me for writing it because it encouraged them, etc...  That always surprises me to hear but encourages me so much.  Tonight this happened several times and I was very thankful I hadn't caved to the temptation because, well, can you imagine how embarrassing it would have been if they'd seen me with a mouth full of cupcake!  I do cave to temptation, more often than I'd like.  But knowing people are watching me really helps me to walk the straight and narrow.  Accountability helps me to "keep it clean".

So, have you ever been blessed?  Like really really blessed by something someone did for you that you knew was a sacrifice and a true gift of love?  That happened to me tonight too.  A beautiful friend (both inside and out!) researched out clean-eating recipes and made me the most amazing Maple Cinnamon Almond Butter as a Christmas gift.  I can not tell you how that blessed me to the very core! (If you read this ~ THANK YOU!!)  I had to dig in as soon as I got home and let me tell you...AMAZING!  I may now have a new addiction (which is, thankfully, healthy!).

Spread on Sprouted Flaxseed Bread

Accountability...I'm telling you, it works! 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Super Salads (and a Recipe)

Did you eat your salad today?  Believe it or not, this should be your primary food question every day!  In fact, according to a leading doctor in health and wellness, Dr. Fuhrman, we should all have the slogan "Salad is the MAIN Food" on our refrigerators so we see it

I personally have a problem with that.  My problem is that I don't really LIKE to eat salads.  They are tedious.  They take soooo long to chew... (there's a reason for that, actually).  And if you make it properly, they take too long to prepare.  It boils down to this: I just don't really WANT to eat salad, and especially not everyday! Boooring!

Over Thanksgiving I was channel-surfing and came across a PBS special by Dr. Fuhrman, author of Eat To Live.  He was sharing the science behind the type of eating that I encourage on this blog: no processed foods, no sugars and lots of whole foods.  Absolutely fascinating!  (I wished I had the $185 necessary to purchase the full 8 cd-set of his teachings.)  A salad in it's purest form is 100% whole foods and, according to Dr Fuhrman, should be "nutrient dense".  So nutrient dense that even the salad dressing is good enough to eat with a spoon.  In other words, Ranch just isn't going to cut it! 

The dressing is another problem for me with salads.  The dressing itself should be nutrient dense and not full of fats, preservative, sugars and natural flavors.  (All I can say about the "natural flavors" is EW!  Natural but naturally WHAT?  Beaver anal gland anyone??)  I have such a hard time finding a decent salad dressing that I've given up eating salad completely.  Dr. Fuhrman to the rescue!  He shared a salad dressing recipe that I have included for you below.  It's different but a good kind of different.

For me, the idea of eating Raw appeals so much because I don't enjoy eating salads on a regular basis.  Raw foods open up a whole new slew of options for me that are exactly the same nutrient-wise but are easier to chew than a salad and are vastly more interesting.  The Raw Green Smoothies I drink 1-2x a day are equal to a salad-in-a-glass.  Strawberry Swirl Cheezkake...Kale Crisps...Walnut Pate...  There are just so many other ways to get my greens and/or nutrients than the traditional salad.  (In fact I just pulled 2 trays of Kale Crisps from the oven and I've already eaten 1/2 of one tray!  LOVE those and SUPER healthy!  A great salad alternative!  Recipe to come in future blog.)

But back to the salads...I don't mind adding them into my mealplan 1-2 times a week.  Here are some guidelines to live by when it comes to creating a Super Salad:
  • Use a variety of greens.  Arugula and spinach are two nutrient-dense greens.  Stay away from ice burg might as well drink a glass of water and save your jaw the effort.
  • Make your salad nutrient dense...that means having more "add-ins" than greens.
  • Good add-ins: avocados, bell-peppers, tomatoes, nuts, seeds (i.e. sunflower, chia, flax, pumpkin), dried cranberries or cherries, cabbage, carrots, cucumbers, etc...
  • Bad add-ins: cheese, croutons, eggs (i.e. Cobb Salad), most dressings, bacon bits
  • The more colorful your salad, the better!
  • Use a dressing that is made with whole foods.
  • Chew each bite approx 45 times.  Less than that and you won't ingest as many nutrients.

Dr. Fuhrman's Orange Cashew Dressing/Dip
Serves: 4
Preparation Time: 2 minutes

  • 3 oranges, peeled and quartered
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews or 1/4 cup raw cashew butter
  • 3 tablespoons Dr. Fuhrman's Blood Orange Vinegar (I found the equivalent at Sprout's)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice (optional)
Blend all ingredients in a high powered blender until smooth and creamy.
Add some orange juice to thin, if necessary.

More recipes can be found at .  This dressing does thicken over time (i.e. after about 24 hrs) and makes a great spread for sandwiches.  It doesn't last longer than a week in the fridge so making 1/2 recipe might be recommended.  It makes a lot!  This says it serves 4 but I filled 2 glass jars with this recipe.  Way too much for 4!
So...Did you eat your salad today?  Are you ready to now?  Despite my aversion to salad, I know the health benefits of eating whole, raw foods aer phenomenal and so worth eating.  I hope at the very least you'll add 1-2 more salads into your diet a week and take the next step towards health and wellness.
P.S.  Sorry for the lack of photos in this blog.  I took a whole bunch but can't find them.  Next time!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Eating Well

Do any of you feel overwhelmed and like things spin out of control in the holiday season?  I really try to keep Christmas simple and not plan many extras.  But somehow the extras tend to plan themselves.  Two trips out of town (which were wonderful!!) plus Christmas decorating added into my regularly busy schedule have derailed me for the past few weeks.  So my blog has fallen by the wayside.  Despite that, friends keep telling me they're sharing my blog with others and my numbers soared to their highest ever on Dec 4.  I have no idea why!  But thank you!!

So...I have actually written several awesome blogs in my head.  Doesn't do you guys much good when it gets trapped in space and never makes it through my fingers and into Internet ink.  My apologies!  This morning I was reading the January/February 2011 issue of Experiencing Life magazine and came across this little side-column article that was titled simply: "How to eat simply and well".  I thought that would be a great article to share while I pull my thoughts and photos together for my next post.  I hope these tips will help you through the overwhelming season of parties, cookies, chocolate, hot coco and a million other temptations that are nearly impossible to resist. 

So now that I've tempted you with those luscious words, do I dare confess that my great plans and intentions regarding food have gotten tossed out along with the laundry and dishes, vacuuming and... (I'm afraid to even think what else has been derailed the past few weeks.)  I haven't totally gone back to my unhealthy eating but enough to feel really guilty and rather yuck around the tummy.  Then my littlest got sick with strep a week ago.  Before I knew it was strep I was slightly freaked by his swollen lymph nodes, which looked like someone had cut a golf ball in 1/2 and jammed it under his skin on both sides of his neck.  All I could think was Lymphoma and that THIS was why we were eating healthy.  Talk about a kick-in-the-pants!  Optimal Health!  Optimal Health!  Optimal Health!  If I were ever to get a tattoo, I would probably get those two words branded into the backs of my hands.  Whatever it takes to keep me on the straight-and-narrow!

So...Here are the 10 Tips/Reminders to help you through the Holiday Temptation Season and carry you into the New Year, compliments of Experience Life.

  1. Embrace a wide variety of whole foods.  All of them are good for you in balance and moderation.
  2. Aim to maximize your intake of brightly colored, high-fiber veggies.
  3. Don't eliminate whole foods rich in healthy fats, complex carbs and phytonutrients.
  4. Do moderate your intake of foods high in sugars (added or otherwise) and minimize your intake of processed flours, sugars, starches and fried foods.
  5. Replace some of the grains and starchy foods in your diet with leafy plants and legumes.
  6. When you do eat grains, substitute whole, intact grains for refined grains and flours.
  7. When possible, opt for locally and organically grown whole foods. 
  8. Drink plenty of water, less of most other beverages. 
  9. Emphasize quality over quantity, and invest the majority of your food budget in nutritious choices.
  10. Learn to cook well enough that you can prepare healthy, satisfying dishes you enjoy.