Friday, May 31, 2013

Weekly Eats: Lots of Coconut!

If you need a some ideas to revamp your recipes for summer, here's a peak at what I made for our meals this week!

But first, we snacked on a lot of coconut this week because John saw one for 99 cents at the Farmer's Market and decided we had to get one. I think half of the fun was breaking it open (take a look at the video)! But it was tasty and filling too, and the coconut water that we drained from the inside first (put a hole in the top with a screwdriver then let the water drain out) was also delicious.

John draining the coconut water (above)
Video of John breaking the coconut open with a hammer (below)


Coconut Papaya Smoothie

Serves 1: Blend half of a frozen banana, 2 frozen strawberries, 1/4 cup slices of fresh papaya, 1/4 cup of frozen spinach, 2 tsp chia seeds, 1/4 cup coconut milk, 1/2 cup almond milk

Coconut Mango Smoothie

Serves 1: Blend half of a frozen banana, 2 frozen strawberries, 1/4 cup slices of fresh mango, 2 tsp chia seeds, 3/4 cup almond milk, 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh coconut pieces 


Coconut Quinoa with Roasted Veggies

Serves 2
1/2 cup quinoa
3/4 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup water
1 diced sweet potato
Olive oil, to taste
Sea salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
Dried savory, to taste
Cinnamon, to taste
1 cup quartered brussels sprouts
6 asparagus spears
Smoked paprika, to taste
Italian seasoning, to taste
Fresh tarragon, as garnish
Fresh thyme, as garnish

  1. Cook quinoa with coconut milk and water according to directions.
  2. While quinoa is cooking, toss sweet potatoes with olive oil, sea salt, pepper, savory, and cinnamon. Bake sweet potatoes in 425 degree oven for 30 minutes, turning halfway through.
  3. Toss brussels sprouts and asparagus spears with olive oil, sea salt, pepper, smoked paprika, and Italian seasoning. Cook in a 375 degree oven for 20 minutes, turning halfway through.
  4. Combine all ingredients and top with fresh tarragon and thyme.
Thai Steak Salad

I used this recipe from Cooking Light (click here for the recipe), but made the following changes:
  • I added in avocado and julienned cucumber to the salad
  • I only used cabbage instead of watercress and red cabbage
  • I used cashews instead of peanuts
It was delicious- I highly recommend trying it!

Honey-Lime Chicken Kebabs with Mango and Coleslaw

This is another recipe that I made from Cooking Light (click here for the recipe). Again I made some changes by grilling the chicken and red peppers on skewers instead of broiling them. 

I also served it with a coleslaw, which was a great accompaniment. For the coleslaw, toss 2 cups of shredded cabbage with 2 Tbsp. olive oil and 2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar. Add in shredded coconut, sliced almonds, and golden raisins. Squeeze the juice of 1 lime and add sea salt and pepper to your liking. Toss everything together.

Sweet Potato Nachos

I was planning on making sweet potato and black bean burritos (from Tasty Kitchen's recipe) for dinner but I forgot to buy the tortillas. So instead, I made sweet potato nachos, which were just as delicious! John added rice mixed in to his too, so that's an option. I also served it with homemade guacamole and mango slices.

Serves 4
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed small
2 jalapenos, diced
1 yellow pepper, diced
1 red onion, diced
2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1 pinch salt and pepper
Fresh cilantro, for garnish
Lime juice
Blue chips

  1. Combine all the ingredients except the cilantro and lime juice together. Put in a large baking dish and cook at 425 degrees for 20 minutes, tossing halfway through.
  2. Put a layer of blue chips on each plate. Top with veggies, top each with fresh cilantro, and squeeze lime juice over each.
  3. Add homemade guacamole if desired. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Not So Hopeless Hope

On Friday I saw The Great Gatsby with my book club, and in preparation for our discussion I re-read the book because I hadn't read it since high school. (As a side note I did not really like the movie, but I didn't see it in 3D either which made the camera angels and zooms distracting.) 

What strikes me most about the plot is how it portrays hope of the future as meaningless. 

Gatsby's love for Daisy motivated him to attempt to achieve a different life for himself. The green light on her dock across the bay from Gatsby's mansion symbolized hope in the dark world, a tangible representation of his aspirations. 

Yet the famous ending to the book shows that Gatsby had “paid a high price for living too long with a single dream." The last words in the book state:

"Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that's no matter - tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther... And one fine morning - 
So we beat on boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."

Gatsby had traveled on a journey with no end, and his hope is cut off. There is no "one fine morning." He is stuck in his past by trying to re-create it. Waves metaphorically pushed Gatsby back from the green navigation light on Daisy’s dock, and the alliteration in the last sentence symbolizes the harsh truth that the past will always determine the future because you can't move beyond it. 

What is also shocking is the futility of his optimism, thinking that he will one day reach his hoped for future. 

So this story makes us question our own hope. Is it meaningless? 

Thankfully, no. We have a hope that is unshakeable: 

"Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful" (Hebrews 10:23). 

We have hope because God follows through on his promises of the future. We do not have to be held back by our past ways:
"For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior" (1 Timothy 4:10).

In a talk I heard Donald Miller give, he stated, "It's not that life is meaningless. Maybe just your life is meaningless." He was referring to those living without hope, viewing the world as a meaningless place. He challenges them - and us - to examine, What am I living for? 

If you do not know to what end you toil and strive, then yes, your life would be meaningless. But as (surprising) Nietzsche said, "If you know the why, you can live any how." 

Do you know your why? 
"I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe" (Ephesians 1:18-19).
We have hope in a power far greater than we can imagine.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Top 7 Highlights and Quotes from Leadercast

Over at the Student Launch Pad blog, I posted about the key takeaways from the speakers at Chick-fil-A Leadercast. Click here ( to read about what Jack Welch, Andy Stanley, Dr. Henry Cloud, David Allen and others had to say about what it means to "simply lead," which was Leadercast's theme.

Here at BeEmbraced, I wanted to give a more personal side of my favorite parts of the conference. Here are my top 7 favorite parts and top 7 quotes of Leadercast (not in any particular order):

1. Since I have my graduate degree in leadership, I am overly enthusiastic and a nerd when it comes to leadership conferences. So just being in attendance and soaking up what the amazing guest speakers (here's the link to the line-up) had to say was a highlight! (Hence all the exclamation points in this post!)

2. Meeting Michael Hyatt! Michael Hyatt was the host of Leadercast this year, and he is the former CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, a bestselling author, top-rated blogger, and leadership expert. I have followed his blog for years, so getting to talk to him for about 10 minutes was so exciting for me! He is very personable, easy to talk to, and down-to-earth.

Me with Michael Hyatt

3. The entire conference experience was truly remarkable. Every detail was taken care, and Tripp Crosby was a hilarious emcee. I am still laughing about Tripp's introductory videos to the speakers. For Duke's Coach K, he went to Chapel Hill asking them if they knew where Professor Kryzyzewski's office was - trust me, it was hilarious.

4. Hearing NEEDTOBREATHE perform three of their songs - great performance!


5. I loved John Maxwell's interview with Condoleezza Rice. I was so impressed with her poise and quiet confidence. She discussed tapping into your contemplative side during chaos and taking care of yourself as a leader. I can't wait to read her autobiography, No Higher Honor. 

6. I'm not even a sports fan but hearing Duke University Head Men's Basketball Coach Mike Kryzyzewski was very entertaining. He was very funny - telling us about wanting to ask Beyonce for a picture at an event but that Jay-Z and LeBron were in the way. His insights about leading an Olympic team with players full of egos was also very engaging.

Coach K

7. The awesome leadership lessons that I learned from the speakers were obviously a key reason that I wanted to attend. As I mentioned, the Student Launch Pad post explains in more detail applicable takeaways. Here are my favorite quotes from the day:

"There is extraordinary power and clarity when you reduce down to the one thing that must be done... If you don't know what you're doing, you're going to have a difficult time doing it." -Andy Stanley

"There is an inverse relationship between something being on your mind and getting things done... Start paying attention to what has your attention, otherwise it will take more of your attention than it deserves." -David Allen 

"No matter what you're trying to do there will be noise in the market... Before the race starts, I'm already focused on the victory." -Sanya Richards-Ross

"Desire will not meet goals, it’s what gets prioritized... If everything is important, nothing is important." -Dr. Henry Cloud

"Communicators take something complex and make it simple... Leadership is influence: Add value to people every day; subtract your leadership land mines; multiply your strengths by developing them; divide your weaknesses by delegating them." -John Maxwell

"Don’t focus on winning. Focus on creating a culture of success. The winning will take care of itself." -Coach K

"Be centered (authentic)… be an optimist… be able to motivate others toward a common goal… do what fulfills you." -Condoleezza Rice

"Find out what your boss wants then over-deliver... Make your boss smarter than they were before they met you." -Jack Welch

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

There is a firmer foundation than answers to my "why's"

My friends know that I am not a so-called "animal lover." But when my Mom called to let me know that Callie, my 16 year old calico who I got as an Easter gift in second grade, had to be put to sleep I was upset and sad.

2013 has been a difficult year. From my husband's sickness to my own illness, from a grandfather battling cancer to my other grandfather passing away, from family friends struggling through trying times to our country mourning many disasters and losses this year, my cat having to be put down was another trial to add to the list.

Yet while this post could easily become a litany of grief and hardships, this one thought has been circling my mind. On my run yesterday (first of all, I'm just thankful that I can run again), I kept thinking:

We have a God who lets us cry. He not only allows us to cry, but we also worship a God who desires for us to cry out to Him. "The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit" (Psalm 34:18).

I am realizing that I don't have to have my act together. I can come to God with questions. I can show up for my church small group and not have answers to "What is my role as a wife to a sick husband? What is my role as a daughter during trying and tiring experiences for my family?"

Beautiful Chicago, a reminder of many blessings
I can ask, "Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?" (Psalm 42:5) Because even if I don't understand, I have a firmer foundation than answers to my "whys."
"Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God." (Psalm 42:11). 
I have hope because I have a promise: "The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold" (Psalm 18:2). Now that is a litany I want to repeat. Strong words of "rock, fortress, shield, stronghold." This is my hope and promised salvation: a Deliverer. This is my joy.

And that is why I continue counting my blessings in my gratitude journal. Numerous blessings like family visiting, a friend's wedding in Chicago, beauty in nature, a friend's birthday, the list continues...

Celebrating Becca's birthday
Before the wedding in Chicago 
My sister-in-law Emma and I visiting the CNN Center

As I count my blessings, my joy increases and I can cry out in sadness and in praise.

I had to include this adorable picture of sweet Callie

Thursday, May 16, 2013

From weeds to blossoms

Below is an excerpt from my She Reads Truth study that I am doing on the book of Nehemiah right now:
"Sisters, there is so much work to do. We see need, pain and injustice all around us and our knees quickly buckle under the weight. We long to make our lists and check them twice and fix it all right this second. But we dare not make a move without God. As Ian Hamilton said it, 'Beloved, our great and pressing need today is to give ourselves to waiting upon God, because waiting time is never wasted time.'" 
Wow, "waiting time is never wasted time." I so often do not view being patient as being productive. I am often not content to simply sit in the presence of God because I can't cross anything off my list. Read devotional? Check. Journal a prayer? Check. Be still... this is much harder to "check off."

Especially when I see the needs all around me in our city: neighbors who are hurting, Atlanta being one of the top 14 cities in the U.S. for sex trafficking, the unemployed, the children playing basketball down the street without a father... these needs are overwhelming and I want to know what I can start doing. I want a list to follow.

From weeds to blossoms. Waiting produces fruit. 

Yet we won't have the strength and willingness to act in these difficult situations without reliance on God and the willingness to wait first. 

Waiting requires trust and relinquishing my agenda of getting things done for God's priority of seeking Him first.

For me a recent step toward this trust was reflecting on a truth that my Dad told me not long ago: What an incredible God that we worship who desires to use us for His plan. We get to be used for His good purposes. We simply need to be available and ready to be used by Him.

It's hard to be aware of when God is graciously allowing us to enter into His plan if we're pursuing our own agendas. The stillness comes first and we wait so we are prepared to act with our full energy and devotion.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

How to choose a college, major, or career: Part II

In the first post of this series, two decision-making flaws were presented that explain why students often choose the wrong college, select the wrong major, and ultimately end up in the wrong career. According to Dan and Chip Heath in their new book Decisive: How to Make Better Decisions in Life and Workthese two flaws are (1) Making “whether or not” decisions and (2) Trusting your instincts. To learn more about these, read the first post in this series.

The following posts in this series will explain three key techniques to break these bad decisions-making habits and make the best choices for the future.
Technique #1: Widen Your Options
The Heath brothers’ first technique is to break out of “whether or not” thinking and expand your list of options.
  • And not Or: Rather than wondering whether or not to pursue a specific major, students should use “and not or” thinking. For example, don’t frame the decision in terms of choosing between a Finance or Marketing major. Turn it into an “and” of Marketing and Finance. This could mean majoring in one and minoring in the other, doing a concentrated study, choosing one as a major but taking advanced classes in the other, or seeking out internships to gain experience in the field outside of your primary major.
When life offers us a ‘this or that’ choice, we should have the gall to ask whether the right answer might be ‘both.’” -Heath brothers

  • Understand Needs: Students should understand what it is they are hoping to gain from a major or what they truly want out of a college experience or in a career. Understanding these underlying needs will better inform students on which decisions will meet their needs the best. Programs like Student Launch Pad help students uncover what they truly value and are passionate about. Answering the “why” allows students more objectivity in determining whether a choice will fully meet their criteria. It also leads to creative thinking on how multiple options could be combined to create the best possible decision.

To continue reading for tips on how to widen your options when making a decision, continue onto the Student Launch Pad blog.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

How to choose a college, major, or career: Part I

Choosing a college, selecting a major, and deciding on a career path are all key decisions that students must make. Many of the Student Launch Pad students go through the program to gain personal insight into these decisions. Yet making them can be daunting.
Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work by Chip and Dan Heath provides phenomenal tips and case studies on improving the quality of our decision-making. The second post in this series will highlight three of their techniques that are largely applicable to students preparing to make college and career decisions.
Choosing the right college is a big decision.
Pictured: Vanderbilt University
But first, why do so many students make wrong decisions in the first place? The majority of students change majors at least three times, and many transfer colleges after freshman year. Oftentimes after graduates enter the workforce, they realize that they are in the wrong career field. Why is this?

1. “Whether or not” decisions are one of the most common type of decisions that teens make. As teens enter college they are often thinking, “Should I join a sorority or not?” Or, “Should I be a Finance major or not?” The Heath brothers explain that this type of decision making “isn’t a decision among multiple alternatives… it’s simply an up-or-down vote on a single alternative.”
Furthermore, this type of decision fails more often than not because you’re pursing a single option and trying to force it to work, rather than seeing if there’s a better way.
The question a college-bound senior should be asking… is not ‘What’s the highest-ranking college I can convince to take me?’ Rather, it should be ‘What do I want out of life, and what are the best options to get me there?

To continue reading for the second poor decision-making technique that we often employ, click here to continue onto the Student Launch Pad blog.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Tabata Killer Workout

The other day, I wanted to add a lot of variety to my workout routine. I drive by a track almost every day on the way to our house, but I had never actually used it. So I decided to jog there from home and make up a Tabata-style workout.

It proved to be such a good workout that I walked most of the way home afterwards instead of jogging the mile back because I was so wiped!

For those unfamiliar with Tabata, it uses high intensity intervals to get maximum burn in a short amount of time. You can "tabata" any exercise by performing it at maximum intensity for 20 seconds, resting 10 seconds, then repeating 8 times through for a total of 4 minutes.

For the workout I did above, I paired two exercises together for the 4 minutes total. So for instance, after warming up with a mile jog to the track, I did my first Tabata set. I sprinted as fast as I could for twenty seconds, then completely rested for 10 seconds (round 1). I then did walking lunges for 20 seconds and rested for 10 seconds (round 2). For round 3, I sprinted as hard as I could for 20 seconds, then rested for 10 seconds. I completed this alternating pattern for 8 rounds, or a total of 4 minutes, before moving onto Tabata Set 2.

And I also definitely rested for a couple of minutes in between Tabata sets to catch my breath!

Another helpful hint is to use a timer that can keep track of your intervals for you and will beep when each interval is complete and when a new one starts. I use the Gymboss app on my iPhone because you can customize the interval times for a Tabata workout.

Links explaining some of the exercises are below:

Tabata Workout

Warm-up: Jog 1 mile

Complete each exercise in the Tabata set for 20 seconds at maximum intensity followed by 10 seconds of rest. Alternate between the two exercises, repeating for 4 rounds of each exercise (8 rounds total) for a total of 4 minutes.

Tabata 1:
Walking lunges

Tabata 2:
Calf raises

Tabata 3:
Jumping lunges

Tabata 4:
Triceps dips
Speed skaters

Cool down: Walk/jog 1 mile

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

What I cook when my hubby is out of town

On our way back from Nashville this weekend, Becca asked me what I cook for myself when John is out of town. Cooking for one is not nearly as fun as making a meal to share with someone else. So I typically stick to relatively simple and healthy meals that I can eat for leftovers. I also take advantage of the time saved from not making a full meal to catch up on baking!

Since John was out of town at a work event the beginning of this week, here's what I made:

Dinner (and lunch and/or dinner leftovers):

Lentil and Quinoa Veggie Stew (Gluten-free)

I made this meal after returning from Nashville Sunday night. It's also the perfect dinner for post-vacation before you've had a chance to go to the grocery store. I typically have all of these ingredients on hand, but you can customize depending on what's in your pantry/fridge.

1/2 cup lentils
1/2 cup quinoa
4-5 cups water
1 can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
1 can cannellini beans
1 small diced onion
2 garlic cloves diced
1 jalapeno chopped
1 cup frozen spinach
To taste: Italian seasoning, Cayenne pepper, Smoked paprika, and Ground pepper
Optional: Chopped green onion as garnish


  1. Rinse lentils and quinoa. Put lentils and quinoa in a large pot with 4 to 5 cups water (depending on the desired thickness.) I started with four cups then added another cup later on.
  2. Bring to a boil then let simmer covered for 15 minutes, or until quinoa is done and lentils are starting to become tender.
  3. Add in remaining ingredients. 
  4. Let simmer until lentils are done and top with green onion, if desired.

Side Item:
Microwave Sweet Potato Chips

I got this recipe from Cooking Light, here. The only change I made was that my chips needs several more minutes of microwaving.

Baked Goods/Snacks:

Homemade, all natural fruit and nut bars (Gluten free)

I love Lara Bars but not their price tag. Instead, I tried my hand at making my own fruit and nut bars, and I loved the result! Although these are definitely a healthy version, they tasted like a fudgy brownie to me. 

I was inspired by a recipe in Women's Running magazine but didn't have some of the ingredients on hand. So here's my version below:

1 1/2 cups dried plums (or figs) soaked in warm water for 1 hour
2 cups almond flour
1 Tbsp. baking soda
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. cinnamon
dash sea salt
dash cayenne pepper
1/2 cup chopped pecans (or walnuts)
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
2 Tbsp. pure maple syrup
1 banana
1 cup applesauce


  1. Soak dried plums.
  2. Add everything to a food processor until combined. (I only have a blender, so my bars came out a little chunkier, but they were still great.)
  3. Spray an 8x8 pan with cooking spray and spread mix evenly into pan.
  4. Freeze overnight, cut into squares, and keep frozen. Let the square sit out for a couple minutes when you are ready to eat one.

Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins (Gluten Free)

I used this same recipe that I've made before, but replaced the chocolate chips for blueberries. John even wanted one this morning, and he normally doesn't like oatmeal!

2-ingredient pancakes (Gluten Free)

I've read several bloggers who've made 2-ingredient pancakes for breakfast. Knowing that I need more iron and protein in my diet, these sounded like a tasty way to eat more eggs. 

2 eggs lightly beaten
1 mashed banana
Dash of pumpkin pie spice (optional) - so call them 3-ingredient pancakes!


  1. Beat eggs. Mash banana. Whisk both together. Add a dash of pumpkin pie spice or cinnamon, if desired.
  2. Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat. Add about 2-3 Tablespoons of the egg/banana mixture. As it starts to firm up, flip over on the other side until lightly browned. 
  3. Repeat with remaining "batter."
  4. I like mine served with almond butter on the side for dipping and extra protein!