Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Unveiling Beauty

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about a woman's beauty and how beauty is the essence of a woman - but not in the way the media portrays. You've heard it before, that from photoshopped magazines to overly form-fitting clothes, our culture constantly tells women that beauty and appearance are synonyms.

You know that beauty runs deeper than seduction or attraction or a clothing size , but what does this mean for living in beauty on a daily basis?

"Every woman has a beauty to unveil." (Captivating). 

Every bride, no matter her age, body, weight, radiates beauty. Her face isn't creased with worry about measuring up. She isn't trying to prove her worth. She saunters down the aisle fully aware and acceptant of the love waiting at the end. 

But it's not just brides- every woman has a beauty to unveil. That means you and me.  

Think of other women you know who emanate beauty, not just in outward appearance but in their whole being. Most likely they have a humble confidence. By this, I mean that they have "the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit," and they are fully secure in this beauty (1 Peter 3:4). Don't mistake "gentle and quiet" for being timid, mousy, quiet, a doormat, a pushover, etc. 

A woman with a gentle and quiet spirit is at peace, knowing she does not have to strive for perfection because beauty is already a part of who she is. She has fully been embraced by "a heart of faith, a heart that trusts in God, a spirit that has been quieted by his love and filled with his peace" (Captivating). In fact, a beautiful woman is becoming more and more who she is meant to be, whether this is funny, loud, introspective, inquisitive, thoughtful...

This kind of beauty is what invites others in. "A woman of true beauty offers others the grace to be and the room to become" (Captivating). By unveiling your beauty and being all of who you are, you also invite others to experience beauty - in you and in themselves.  

Striving for perfection takes away our beauty. Instead of being transparent and being embraced by others, it pushes them away. I encourage you to read this blog post about being confident in your beauty (not in a prideful, haughty way) but in a way that allows you to be embraced.

    And on that cheek, and o'er that brow,
        So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
    The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
        But tell of days in goodness spent,
    A mind at peace with all below,
        A heart whose love is innocent!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

These are a few of my favorite wintery things

It's been a rainy January in Atlanta, but since it's not too cold I can't complain. Instead, here are a few of my favorite things on rainy days:

I love my tea infuser, especially with Barnie's Coffee & Tea Company's White Ginger Peach Divine Tea. It is divine and soul-warming for a rainy day. And combined with a newspaper or good book, what could be better? I'm currently reading Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, a book recommended by my good friend Leah. 

Hot out of the oven (yummy and healthy!) blueberry oatmeal muffins are the perfect afternoon treat.
See the recipe below.

What's more warming than risotto? See my shrimp and veggie risotto recipe below.

I love fresh fruit, especially berries. In the winter, berries are great to eat because they are high in antioxidants, warding off those flu and cold germs!

And after the rain has finally stopped, I'm very grateful to be able to run around the park (and occasionally through the mud!).

Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins: Recipe from Cooking Light

Makes about 20 muffins

1 2/3 cups quick-cooking oats
3 ounces all-purpose flour (about 2/3 cup)
2 33/100 ounces whole-wheat flour (about 1/2 cup)
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups low-fat buttermilk - I used almond milk instead
1/4 cup canola oil
2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
2 large eggs
2 cups frozen blueberries
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Cooking spray
2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1. Preheat oven to 400°.
2. Place oats in a food processor; pulse 5 to 6 times or until oats resemble coarse meal. Place in a large bowl.
3. Weigh or lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Add flours and next 5 ingredients (through salt) to oats; stir well. Make a well in center of mixture.
4. Combine buttermilk (or almond milk) and next 3 ingredients (through eggs). Add to flour mixture; stir just until moist.
5. Toss berries with 2 tablespoons flour, and gently fold into batter. Spoon batter into 16 muffin cups coated with cooking spray; sprinkle 2 tablespoons granulated sugar evenly over batter. Bake at 400° for 20 minutes or until muffins spring back when touched lightly in center. Remove from pans immediately; place on a wire rack.

Shrimp and Veggie Risotto 
Loosely based on this Cooking Light risotto recipe but amended by me
Serves 4

1 box of Trader Joe's Mushroom and Herb Risotto (If you don't have a Trader Joe's by you, here's a link to the risotto on Amazon)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 carton shiitake mushrooms, sliced
3 cups (1-inch) cut green beans
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup chopped shallots (or onions)
1/2 cup white wine
24 peeled, deveined jumbo shrimp
Herbs de provence
Cayenne pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1. Make risotto according to Trader Joe's recipe on box. (If using brown rice, follow instructions from the Cooking Light link.)
2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sliced fresh mushrooms and shallots; sauté for 8 minutes or until they begin to brown, stirring occasionally. Stir in green beans and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper; cook for 2 minutes or until the green beans are crisp-­tender. 
3. Sprinkle herbs de provence liberally over shrimp. If you like a bit of heat, sprinkle a little cayenne pepper as well. Add shrimp to pan and cook until done.
4. Stir in wine; cook 2 minutes or until the wine evaporates, stirring constantly.
5. Spoon out risotto onto plate and dish shrimp and vegetable mixture over top.
6. Top with Parmigiano-­Reggiano and parsley. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Finding Joy in Work

Have you felt distracted or unmotivated in your work?
  • Uncover the lies that run through your head: For me it’s been, “You’ll never be good enough. You have to prove yourself, but you don’t have what it takes.” This is a lie. True, I don’t have all it takes. True, I will never be perfect. But I have the Defender who is fighting for me. What lies have you been telling yourself?
  • Remember that you are made in the image of God. You don’t have a choice whether you are of this image. Your only choice is whether you reflect this image. Don’t believe the lies; instead show His ultimate truth through you.
  • Invest everything. Rather than fearing that I will fail and trying to prove I am worthy, I need to invest all. God calls us to put forth and pour out everything in our being toward what He has planned for us. I am working for Element3sixty because He called me here. It’s not up to me if God will bless Element3sixty’s success. I am to be all in, ministering into the lives of the students that come through our program.
  • Willingly surrender. God has you here, now. Instead of being distracted by all that you could be doing, jump all in. This investment is the only way to joy. Christ’s sacrifice shows us that the only way into full joy is to willingly surrender. Today, give up your agenda to God. Today, I relinquish my fear of failing because He has already won. 
  • Choose to be embraced by joy. Whether I succeed or fail will not determine how much the Father loves me. I am already His. But choosing to live fully and surrender all will determine the extent of the joy I can enter into.

Friday, January 20, 2012

A Woman's Beauty

What is beauty? Even the word itself is aesthetic and lyrical. 

Poets like Keats and Lord Byron have written their perception of beauty, ultimately that beauty is its own entity: 

Tell them, dear, that, if eyes were made for seeing,
Then beauty is its own excuse for Being

"Beauty is truth, truth beauty," - that is all 
       Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

I agree with both of these lines (though Keats' last two lines have been debated throughout the years) because beauty is who God is. I am currently reading Captivating and am continually amazed at how "beauty in and of itself is a glorious good." Is it any wonder that God created us for Eden, the beautiful, magnificent, perfect garden? 

Captivating says, "Nature is not primarily functional. It is primarily beautiful... Nature at the height of its glory shouts, Beauty is Essential! revealing that Beauty is the essence of God." 

Yet, even more astonishing news... Women are the image bearer of God:

"In order to make the matter perfectly clear, God has given us Eve. 
The crowning touch of creation. Beauty is the essence of a woman... 
God gave Eve a beautiful form and a beautiful spirit. 
She expresses beauty in both. 
Better, she expresses beauty simply in who she is. 
Like God, it is her essence." 

I intend to write more on this topic, specifically how women are to unveil their beauty to the world, but for now, go into the weekend knowing that you are beautiful. Not just in your character. Not just in your appearance. But in your essence, your "gentle and quiet spirit"(1 Peter 3:3-5).

A sunset over the city is magnificent and invites us to experience God's beauty. Today, invite others to experience your beauty, through letting your guard down, stop striving for perfection, and simply being who God made you to be. Beautiful.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Leading Your Best Life

As part of my work with Element3sixty, I also lead culture and talent development at Roam Atlanta, the collaboration cafe where Element3sixty is based.

At our team meeting this week, we discussed the Four Corners of Great Leadership, a blog post by Tim Sanders. He outlines the four areas that leaders need to continually develop to be excellent. I had the team guess what the four attributes are based on these pictures. See if you can figure it out (hint: your creativity is needed on some!):



 Answers (clockwise from top left corner):
  1. Vision
  2. Commitment
  3. Influence
  4. Purpose
As we were discussing these in relation to our work, I realized that these can also be applied to leading your best possible life.

Vision: Vision is the strategy to your life: how you're making your decisions. Just as a business leader needs to constantly refine where the company is headed, you too must assess if you are headed in a direction that will take you where you want to go. Excellent leaders absorb information from books, news articles, data, etc. and you too must dig into what guides your life. For instance, during my daily devotional time, I pray and read Scriptures - not passively, but actively allowing the words to challenge my current viewpoint and reorient me in the direction to the path I should be walking.

Commitment: What motivates you to be your best? The answer to this question is the energizing force behind your actions. During dry times, when you're trudging through the desert, you'll need commitment to keep focused on your vision. Rather than blaming outside factors or others on difficult times, great leaders take responsibility. "Let your 'yes' be yes and your 'no' be no" (James 5:12). Great leaders stay in the game, but they also know when to say no to commitments that will distract them from their vision. Assess your life: Are you saying yes to so much that you have no time to advance toward your vision? Are you saying no to everything so you can avoid truly committing and giving your all?

Influence: Great leaders inspire and motivate their followers. You can't lead toward your vision unless you let others know what it is. Have you made your vision known? Speaking it makes it come alive. Great leaders also recognize that they can accomplish nothing on their own. Who in your life are you influencing and who in your life is influencing you? These relationships could be positive or negative - and to lead your best life you need to separate from the gossip, the negative talkers, the pride, and whatever else is pulling you down from leading your life. You also need to recognize and appreciate whoever is helping you reach your vision.

Purpose: If your vision is the "what," then your purpose is the "why." Everyone has a personal mission statement, whether you've written it out or not. This is what you're living your life for. I highly encourage you to write out what you are living for and why. I wrote a personal mission statement a couple of years ago, and when I was applying to jobs last summer, it was helpful to return to it and see what positions aligned best with what I was committed to. You won't be committed to a vision or influence others to bring that vision to reality unless you're extremely dedicated to the reason behind it all.

Notice that throughout this post the words "continually" and "constantly" are used frequently. This is an ongoing process, a journey. Be embraced by it. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

Yoga Warrior

Yoga. Warrior. These two words never quite made sense to me until now.

I've done my fair share of intense yoga workouts before, from Tony Horton's P90X yoga DVD to an hour and a half of hot yoga. (For those unfamiliar with hot yoga, it's Bikram style yoga with 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises in a room heated to 105 degrees with 40% humidity.)

Though these workouts are extremely challenging - just surviving 90 minutes in a sauna is impressive! - the yoga was still focused on slowing down and being calm in the midst of shaking muscles.

Not so with Jillian Michael's Yoga Meltdown DVD or Bob Harper's Yoga for the Warrior DVD. Both of these were very different styles of yoga than I had done before... and definitely required a warrior mindset!

Instead of slowing down, both of these workout DVDs were fast-paced, getting my heart rate up. I now understand how the Warrior poses got their name, especially after doing rep after rep of them in Yoga Meltdown. And Bob Harper will not let you quit before you're muscles are screaming. Doing pushups while in Downward Facing Dog was certainly a shoulder workout.

Bottomline: If you're looking for a low impact, high intensity workout these will be perfect for you.

  • Yoga Meltdown has two 30 minute workouts, a Level I and Level II. I highly recommend doing Level I first because in Level II, Jillian expects you to jump right in and already know the poses. It's a great way to finish a workout after a shorter run.
  • Yoga for the Warrior has two workouts. The first is one hour of intense yoga. It is definitely sufficient for a stand alone workout and is guaranteed to have you wake up with sore muscles in the morning. The second workout is 15 minutes of yoga abs. 15 minutes doesn't sound difficult, but trust me, I almost couldn't finish and Bob ensures to make the most of every single second. 

My sister-in-law, Emma, and I doing Jillian Michael's Yoga Meltdown.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Review of Clean Eating

As clean eating week comes to a close, here is my summary of the good, the bad, and the overall verdict on eating clean... with one more clean eating recipe at the end!


  • I feel healthier and am more energized: Eating clean definitely helped curb the sugar I was craving every day during the holidays. By cutting out added salt, sugar, and preservatives, I noticed feeling healthier, both physically and mentally.
  • I tasted the full flavors of food: Only cooking with fresh, all-natural ingredients made a difference in the taste. Since I only used produce that was in season, the flavors came alive in the dishes. Seasonal vegetables became the main focus of dinners and lunches. 
  •  I found a lot of satisfaction in preparing wholesome meals: Though I have always made homemade dinners every night before clean eating, I enjoyed the extra challenge of finding dishes that fully qualified as "clean" and were tasty. I discovered several recipes that I would not have made had it not been clean eating week(s)... and several of these are definitely keepers!
  • I am more aware of what I am eating: Clean eating clued me into reading ingredient labels and understanding what food I am putting in my body. A lot of staples at our house, like salsa, hummus, and cereal have added preservatives and sodium. I'm now aware of the difference between buying products and making them yourself.


  • More time consuming: This is an obvious one. Making everything from scratch takes a lot of time. That being said, I really enjoyed spending part of my Sunday afternoons baking up a new recipe that would last us the week. Though I probably won't be making several things every Sunday, I would like to bake at least one thing every week, such as granola, muffins, healthy cookies etc.
  • More expensive: I didn't anticipate clean eating being too much more expensive (thanks to inexpensive Trader Joe's!) but all of the fresh fruit, veggies, spices did add up. For instance, instead of buying canned diced tomatoes, I would buy several more tomatoes than I usually would. Also, fresh spices are expensive but really make the flavors of fresh vegetables pop. Going forward, I'll just chose one spice a week to use. (Hopefully I can have an herb garden one day!) To make all of the baked goods, I needed more flour, oatmeal, and flaxseed. All of this combined added up, but now I have the staples like whole wheat flour that I can keep using. 
  • Requires more planning: Although I always plan out our meals for the week before my weekly grocery trip, it took a lot more time to search for recipes that qualified as "clean." Now, however, I have ones I can use in the future, which will save time. 
  • I missed chocolate and wine: Pretty much says it all. Although I'd eat a Dove dark chocolate after dinner, sometimes you just gotta have a brownie. And although we don't have wine every night, it's nice to have the option to enjoy a glass every once in a while!

I really enjoyed clean eating for restarting healthy eating after the holidays. I see myself doing this again next year (or whenever a "restart" button is needed). I loved finding recipes that used seasonal vegetables for the main part of the dish, and I want to continue this practice. However, since it does take longer to plan and prepare 100% clean meals, from now on, we'll be going 80% clean, 20% not clean (not "dirty," just not as clean).

An example of the 80/20 clean rule is a movie and dinner date night John and I just had. The soup (Spicy Thai Coconut Chicken Soup- recipe below), salad, and salad dressing were all clean (except I did not make my own chicken stock), but I made the corn muffins from a box mix and we had a glass of wine.

Spicy Thai Coconut Chicken Soup: Recipe from Cooking Light

Overview: Some of the ingredients are obscure, so I note what changes I made, and the soup still tasted great! The recipe makes 4 servings, but we finished the pot (aka John ate 3 servings), so you might want to double the recipe if this is your main course.

Wine Pairing: This issue of Cooking Light also suggests pairing a soft, fruity, but crisp wine with this soup to complement the coconut milk flavor. We had O'Reilly's Pinot Gris, which went very nicely with it! 

  • 2 teaspoons canola oil

      • 1 cup sliced mushrooms

  • 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper

    • 4 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger

    • garlic cloves, minced

  • (3-inch) stalk lemongrass, halved lengthwise: I used the zest and juice from one small lemon instead

2 teaspoons sambal oelek (ground fresh chile paste): Any type of hot sauce or paste works great
3 cups chicken stock or fat-free, low sodium chicken broth
1 1/4 cups light coconut milk
4 teaspoons fish sauce: I omitted this 
1 tablespoon sugar
2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast (about 8 ounces): I seasoned the chicken with paprika and pepper and cooked in a grill pan 
1/2 cup green onion strips
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

  • Preparation:
  • Heat a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add mushrooms and the next 4 ingredients (through lemongrass); cook 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add chile paste; cook 1 minute. Add Chicken Stock, coconut milk, fish sauce, and sugar; bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low; simmer for 10 minutes. Add chicken to pan; cook 1 minute or until thoroughly heated. Discard lemongrass. Top with onions, cilantro, and juice.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Human Trafficking Awareness Day

27 million people are enslaved right now. There are more slaves today than at any other time in history.

Let that sink in.

Sexual exploitation. Child labor. Bonded workers. 

2,500 women and children are sold into sexual slavery every day. And Atlanta is the one number hub of human trafficking and child sex exploitation. The average age of a child being exploited for sex in Atlanta is 14. 

These statistics are heartbreaking, especially living in Atlanta. But there is hope. 

Last week I attended the Passion 2012 Conference, where over 45,000 college aged students came together to learn about being a Christian leader in our generation. During that time, Passion had a Do Something Now campaign which focused on human trafficking. I highly encourage you to watch the video linked below to see the impact that raising awareness then ACTING on this issue is having. 

Today is Human Trafficking Awareness Day, and I encourage you not just to become aware of this sobering issue, but to do something about it. 

Because this isn't just happening far away from home. This affects you and your life. 

The shirt you're wearing today, the coffee you're drinking as you read this, the computer you're on right now... these products are made by slaves. Most of the raw materials that make up these products are harvested, processed, or mined by slaves: Bonded workers, exploited, trapped, abused. Skeptical? Check out My Slavery Footprint

While it's not realistic to stop buying slave-made products, since virtually everything has been touched by a slave in some form or another, you can still make a difference. You can be aware of where and how products are made, and you can use your voice to show that you want change.

Below is a list of organizations that are committed to preventing human trafficking, rescuing people from it, and restoring lives. 

A21 has a list of 21 ways to help abolish injustice: 21 ways

Let's end this together.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The lunch dilemma... Back to clean eating

Due to being out of town, visiting a friend in flight school at Fort Rucker, and being sick I haven't posted any new clean eating recipes. However, clean eating is still happening here at BeEmbraced!

I always find lunches the most annoying meal of the day:

  • Who wants to wake up early enough (or be diligent enough to make it the night before) to pack a decent lunch for work? 
  • What yummy foods fit in a lunch box AND satisfy needs for protein, carbs, and yummy taste? 
  • And don't even tell me to make a sandwich... I got sick of those by senior year of high school!
So my challenge was to find clean lunches to bring to work to replace the hodgepodge of hummus, crackers, fruit, granola bars that I normally bring.

Leftovers are always a good option, especially if you have access to a microwave.

  • The salsa/topping you made for the tacos the night before can easily be put on top of lettuce for a satisfying (and easy to assemble!) salad. To stay clean, drizzle on homemade salad dressing (see recipe below).
  • Soups and stews are hearty and a great way to get your veggies and fiber in (read: keeps you fuller for longer). Pack some veggies or whole grain crackers to dip in black bean hummus as a side (see recipe below).
  • A yogurt parfait is not only a good breakfast option, but also a quick and satisfying lunch choice... especially with the wholesome, clean muffin recipe below. 
Egg Scramble
For days you work from home, or on the weekends, egg scramble is my personal favorite. I like an English muffin topped with hummus on the side.

Directions: Chop whatever veggies you have in the fridge (tomato, bell pepper, onion/green onion, jalapeno, mushrooms, and spinach are my favorite). Saute them for a couple minutes in 1 teaspoon of olive oil. In a bowl, whisk together 1 egg and 2 egg whites with a splash of milk. Pour eggs into skillet and scramble eggs with veggies until done. (Note: Add the spinach last, if using). Season with pepper and any other spices. For a variation, adding in loose leaf green tea leaves adds a yummy flavor (and antioxidants!).

Italian Salad Dressing
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Little less than 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 cloves pressed or minced garlic
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped, fresh parsley 

Black Bean Hummus: From Epicurious 
This recipe goes great on top of pita bread or with veggies like carrots, cucumber, celery, and red bell pepper dipped in. 

2 15-ounce cans black beans, rinsed, drained
3/4 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
4 green onions, sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Combine ingredients in a processor until smooth. Season hummus to taste with salt and pepper. Makes 3 1/2 cups. *I also like to add one chopped jalapeno to spice it up a bit.

Oatmeal Banana Flax Muffins: From Shape Magazine
These muffins are simply delicious! I've had them all week for breakfast, lunch, or snack. (Hubby approved too!)

Ingredients: Makes 6 to 8 muffins.
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup old fashioned oats
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons ground flax seeds
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 egg white
2 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1 small banana, mashed
1/2 cup milk (preferably almond or skim)

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line muffin pan with six paper muffin cups. (I used Pam spray instead, and this worked fine as long as you coat the sides.) Combine whole wheat flour, oats, brown sugar, flax seeds, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. In a separate bowl, mix together egg white, oil, vanilla, banana, and milk. Gradually mix flour mixture into egg mixture until batter is combined. Divide the batter into the six muffin cups. (Mine made 8.) Bake for 15-18 minutes.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Be embraced by the journey

Most of us start the new year with bold ambitions for a new self. It's as if we think with January also comes a secret formula to achieve perfection.   

I'm not diminishing goals. In fact, I'm a very goal-oriented person, who is motivated by accomplishment. Anyone who's been to my apartment has seen the To-Do lists scattered around on sticky notes or my latest race training calendar highlighted with the days I've finished.

However, on the way to an ultimate goal, it is very easy to lose sight of the milestones along the way. 

Today I challenge you to be embraced by the journey. So often, we focus on how satisfied we'll be once we lose those last 5 pounds, after we get that promotion, or when we're able to balance our commitments and manage our calendar. 

The truth is, in the pursuit to accomplish goals or new year's resolutions, we miss out on a lot of joy in the present. I'm not saying to stop setting goals. We still need to know where we're headed. But if your goal or resolution is an unattainable level of perfection or if it's preventing you from seeing beauty and joy in the moment, I ask you to pause and consider why

Why are all the days dimmer until you achieve your goal? What is the real emotion or intent behind your goals? 

Honestly answering these questions will reveal what you believe is lacking in your life. Beauty? Money? Time? Acceptance? Approval? 

I challenge you to see how you're already being embraced by others who see your beautiful heart or approve and accept all of you - including the mess. I urge you to recognize that your desire for more money, more time, more status may truly be a perspective problem. Have you considered what your journey is and where you're headed? Perhaps you don't need that money, that clear calendar, that job promotion to be who you're meant to be right now

I thought this blog post was appropriate to write during clean eating week here at BeEmbraced. I'm not encouraging others to eat clean so they can attain their personal definition of beauty or attraction. Instead, clean eating is revitalizing, providing you with the energy and health to go out and seek out the beauty in others... To serve others, whether in the office, your neighborhood, or your family. 

Thursday, January 5, 2012

It's dinnertime! Clean Eating Day 3

I have loved clean eating for dinner because although it takes a bit longer to prepare meals, it's challenged my creativity in the kitchen. Also, John and I have realized that we really taste the flavors more which such fresh, in-season ingredients.

Below are the shredded pork tacos that I made last night. I had a basic recipe to work off of but made it my own. I normally don't care for pork, but this recipe made it anything but chewy! My recipe is below, and serves about four.

Slow Cooker Pork Tacos

Pork loin
Bottle of beer (alcohol isn't technically "clean" but it's only used to cook the pork, so it's ok!)
Juice from 1 orange
1 red onion, chopped
1 tomato, chopped
2 jalapenos, chopped (with seeds if you like some heat!)
2 corn from on the cob, cooked in boiling water for 20 minutes and cut off the cob
1 avocado, chopped
3 Tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped 
Juice from 1 lime
1 tsp. coriander
1 tsp. paprika
Ground pepper to taste

1. Place pork loin in slower cooker. (You can season with your favorite spices, such as coriander, cumin, pepper etc.) Pour one bottle of beer (I used an amber one) and the juice from one orange over the pork. Cook on low for 6 hours.
2. Remove pork from slow cooker after the pork is done, discarding the liquid. Pull pork apart with a fork so it is in bite-sized pieces. Set aside in a separate bowl.
3. Combine the rest of the ingredients, the onion through ground pepper in a separate bowl, to make the salsa.
4. Heat whole-wheat tortillas in the microwave (I prefer Trader Joe's delicious jalapeno lime tortillas) and top with shredded pork and salsa.  

Sweet Potato, Black Bean Soup

This soup is a tasty, hearty meal for our vegetarian nights... and it's perfect for wintertime! Again, I had a basic recipe that inspired me, but made it my own by using what fresh veggies I had in the fridge. I encourage you to do the same! 

I served it with brussels sprouts (my fave!), sauteed in olive oil, a couple tablespoons of all-natural apple juice, cayenne pepper, and ground black pepper. Whole wheat bread, preferably homemade or a loaf from a bakery (or Trader Joe's!), is also a good clean eating choice. 

The amount of ingredients below is a rough estimate, since I didn't measure anything out exactly, but this should serve about four.

2 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
Olive oil
2 corn from on the cob, cooked in boiling water for 20 minutes and cut off the cob
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 yellow pepper, chopped
1 jalapeno, deseeded and chopped
3 cups chicken broth
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained (even better if you use dried black beans, since these are fully "clean")
1 can pumpkin puree (I couldn't find fresh pumpkin, but if you can, use it! Roast and puree in a blender. Otherwise, find canned organic, pure pumpkin.)
1 Tbsp. cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp. thyme

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place peeled and chopped sweet potatoes in a baking dish. Drizzle olive oil over the potatoes and sprinkle with dried sage. Cook for 30 minutes, stirring halfway through.
2. Heat olive oil in a dutch oven and add onion. Cook about 8 minutes or until crisp tender. 
3. Add garlic and yellow pepper to pot. Cook about 3 minutes.
4. Add remaining ingredients and add in roasted sweet potatoes.
5. Let simmer for at least 20 minutes. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Dessert doesn't have to be dirty... Clean Eating Day 2

The part I was most worried about during clean eating week was feeling sweet-deprived. I have a big sweet tooth when it comes to chocolate especially.

However, I was able to track down some yummy, healthy versions of cookies as well as chocolate granola. During clean eating, it's really the pies, cakes, brownies, cupcakes etc. that you need to stay away from because these do not provide the nutrients your body needs to get back on track. Cookies with whole wheat flour, oatmeal, pumpkin, flaxseed ...and a little chocolate!... are excellent substitutes for those - like me! - who crave a little something sweet after dinner.

Molasses Cookies (My photo shown below)
This recipe is from Shape Magazine and totally husband-approved! Even after this clean eating week, I plan on making these for a tasty, guilt-free treat.

*Note: I did not have blackstrap molasses, so I used a little less than half a cup of dark amber pure maple syrup.

2 tbsp. ground flax
1 egg white
1 banana
1 c. whole-wheat flour
1 c. oats (not instant)
1/2 c. blackstrap molasses
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. baking soda
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flax and egg white in a bowl. Set aside. Using a fork, mash banana in a bowl. Add flour and oats. Mix well. Add flax mixture and molasses, mixing until everything is combined. Add the rest of the ingredients, stirring well. Scoop out rounded spoonfuls of batter onto a baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes.
Makes 20 cookies

This recipe is also from Shape Magazine. I love pumpkin flavored anything, so I thought the cookies were tasty. However, they weren't quite sweet enough for my husband, so they're best if you like healthy-tasting foods.

*Note: Pumpkin puree isn't technically "clean eating" since it's in a can, so try to find organic, pure canned pumpkin. Also, I used honey in place of agave nectar, and substituted maple syrup for molasses. If you don't have pumpkin pie spice, use nutmeg instead. If you don't care for raisins in desserts, you can leave those out.

1 c. pumpkin puree
1/4 c. applesauce
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/4 c. vanilla protein powder
1 tbsp. agave nectar
1 tbsp. molasses
2 c. rolled oats
1/2 c. raisins
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Combine ingredients in a bowl, stirring until well combined. Drop cookies onto baking sheet and press down. Bake for 15-20 minutes.
Makes 12 cookies

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Diet is a dirty word... try clean eating

Along with the new year often comes regret about eating too many slices of pie, drinking too much egg nog, and not getting enough exercise.

Instead of giving yourself those dirty looks when you glance in the mirror, try clean eating. I don't believe in diets, just healthy lifestyles - which is exactly what clean eating is all about!

Clean eating is essentially eating whole food by cutting out processed foods and refined carbs and instead eating the real deal. John and I have/will be eating clean all week as a way to set our bodies and metabolism back on track, and remind our brains that it doesn't need sugary desserts every day to be satisfied.

Check back for yummy, clean recipes all week long!

Some ideas to get you started: 

Breakfast: Instead of eating cereal as I normally do, I'm making steel cut oatmeal, drinking smoothies, or having fruit and yogurt with homemade granola. These are great sources of fiber, fruit, and protein (with the recipes below) so they keep you full throughout the morning.
  • Oatmeal: Bring one cup of almond milk to a boil and add one-third cup steel cut oats. Let simmer, uncovered, for 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat, let stand for 1 minute, then add in 1 tablespoon all-natural peanut butter, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, half a banana, and 5 blackberries (or berries of choice). 
  • Smoothie: Blend half of a frozen banana, 5 frozen strawberries, one cup milk (skim or almond), one scoop protein powder, 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed, 1/4 teaspoon vitamin C powder, and a handful of spinach. 
  • Yogurt parfait: Cut up a small bowl-full of your favorite fruit and top with 8 oz. low-fat yogurt. Add 1/4 cup of homemade chocolate protein granola to top (recipe below): 
CHOCOLATE PROTEIN GRANOLA (My picture shown below)
 Makes four 1/2-cup servings
1 tbsp. honey

3 tbsp. water

1 tbsp. brown sugar

1 tsp. canola oil

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tbsp. cocoa powder

1/2 scoop chocolate protein powder

2 c. old fashioned oatmeal

 Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine honey, water, brown sugar, oil, and extract in a small bowl until mixed. Stir in cocoa powder and protein powder until fully combined. Stir in oats until they are completely coated. Spread onto a cookie sheet sprayed with cooking spray and bake for 20 minutes, stirring halfway.