Thursday, May 7, 2015

Crock Pot Barbecued Beef V.2

I am so glad that winter is past and summer is well on its way here in NY! This past winter has been such a long, cold season with so much snow, that it sometimes felt like we would never get to feel the warm sun beating down on us again! Typically, I stop wanting to eat cooked foods, especially heavy cooked meat-based dishes, and I move toward eating light salads, green smoothies, fresh juice, and cold dishes at this time of year. However, before I get to sharing lighter recipes of the season, I wanted to share a revision of this Crock Pot Barbecued Beef recipe that I had shared several years ago. This recipe is a little sweeter and has a little added flavor dimension with the addition of Coconut Aminos. I'm sure that Bragg's Liquid Aminos would work in place of the Coconut. I'm allergic to soy, so I use Coconut Aminos in place of Bragg's.

I made this a few weeks ago. It's just so easy to throw this in the crock pot before leaving for church, and then we can come home to it for dinner. I also made some coleslaw, and we had fresh veggies with hummus. Some of us had buns, while many of us just chose to eat the meat without. It was a big hit, and an entire crock pot full of this meat was gone in no time!

Crock Pot Barbecued Beef V.2
4 lbs beef roast
1 3/4 c. ketchup
1/4 c. spicy brown mustard
1/2 c. pure maple syrup
1/2 c. honey
1/4 c. + 2 Tbs Braggs Apple Cider Vinegar
1/4 c. Coconut Aminos
2 Tbs. Worcestershire Sauce
1/4 c. Frank's Red Hot
1 t. salt
1/2 t. ground black pepper
1/2 t. garlic powder
1/2 t. onion powder

Mix all the ingredients (except the beef) in a bowl. Then pour over your meat in a crock pot. Cook on high approximately 4-5 hours, depending on your crock pot. If you find it's not falling apart tender at the end of 4 hours, you might cut it into smaller pieces and cook a little longer until it's tender enough to easily shred.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

God of All Comfort

The other night I was reading and came across a passage that got me thinking about trials. We all go through trials in our lives, but it seems like in recent years my family has been through more than our normal amount of tribulation. We have been through scary times: a child that was very ill, a child that was stalked online, my husband was very ill and almost died. We have been through trying times: my husband went to college and completed an enormous amount of work in a relatively short period of time (great stress load with very little family time or rest), our family moved out of our home and into my grandparents' home to care for them through extended illness and dementia, we finally had to make the difficult decision to leave my grandmother and move back home as conditions there became unsafe for our baby, my husband got a job as a pastor with new responsibilities, we have had many financial burdens, and numerous car and house repair issues. We have been through times of grief: my grandfather passed away, my grandmother is not "there" anymore as Alzheimer's has stripped away her mind, our beloved dog passed away, my husband had to part with his pet birds as he was deathly allergic to them, my mother in law passed away, a family friend passed away. Many would look at all we have been through and think that we have had a rough life in the last four years.

I would like to say that I held on to peace and joy while grabbing on to faith that the Lord would get us through each trial. However, I would be lying if I didn't admit there were times when I fell apart. Sometimes I would just weep and cry out to God in desperation. When I would start to calm down, I would hear His still, small voice in my gut, reminding me that He was there. He was going through the trial with me. At times I would feel His presence so strong that I would have an instantaneous calm come over me. A peace that surpassed all understanding would rise within me, and I would be comforted.

Over the last several years I have had many occasions to consider why we must go through tough experiences. Many believers feel that being children of God means that we don't have to be sick, financially poor (really, who defines what poor is, anyway), taken advantage of, or persecuted. They believe that they have the power to just command the illness to leave, the mountains to move, the money to flow in, etc. When some of these believers observe their brothers and sisters in the Lord going through rough times, they point out that if they just had enough faith or would just take command of the situation they could just get out of it. To a point I do agree that we have the privilege of being "King's Kids." With the Holy Spirit we have the power to change circumstances when we are speaking and moving within the will of God. There are times, though, when I believe that God would have us go through the trial instead of removing the trial.

We live in a fallen world. Human beings get sick. Many times health issues are directly related to lifestyle choices. Sometimes not. Loved ones pass away. Cars break down. People do evil things that hurt others. Accidents happen. Natural disasters happen. These are facts. Just because we are children of God, does that mean that we should never have to live with the consequences of our own or others' decisions? Does being a believer mean that I shouldn't have to experience and deal with the same issues that non-believers experience? Maybe sometimes. I have experienced divine healing and intervention many times. I have seen others healed and delivered, too. However, I have also had experiences when I had to be patient and rely on God to get me through the trials.

I believe that Scripture demonstrates there are times we have to go through rough times, just like everyone living the human experience does. Jesus went through trials. Paul points out that his own tribulation would be used by God to bring comfort to other believers. He makes it quite clear that believers will go through sufferings, just as Christ suffered. He also points out that God shows mercy and comforts the afflicted:

II Corinthians 1:3-7-- "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. Now if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effective for enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer. Or if we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. And our hope for you is steadfast, because we know that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so also you will partake of the consolation.

Paul doesn't say that God caused the tribulation, only that He comforts through it. God is always concerned with the sufferings of man, but His focus is different than ours many times is. His command to us is to love. Love God and love our neighbor. God showed love to us through Christ. How do we love our neighbor? Put others above ourselves. Consider others first. Note that Paul's focus was not on his sufferings, but on how he was able to relate to his fellow man through his trials and comfort others. I believe that if we stop looking at trials through a "poor me" attitude and start looking at them with the attitude that Paul demonstrated (and Christ demonstrated by going to the cross), we will find them more bearable and will more easily get through with our faith, peace, and joy intact, knowing that others are going through similar things and that Jesus also experienced great suffering on our behalf.

Also check out Romans 8. It starts out explaining the difference between those who are in the world and those who are in the Spirit. There is a difference in mindset and spirit. Paul explains that those who are in Christ will experience tribulation and suffering. He goes on to say that the sufferings of this world are nothing compared to the glory that will be revealed in us, referring to the transformation we will undergo, the image of God being made evident in us as we realize we truly are His children. Paul then says in verses 28-29, "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren." We all have to go through trials. God doesn't promise to take us out. He does promise to use the trials for our good, meaning to transform our minds and conform our character into the image of Christ.

After going through all that I have been through I have to say that I would not trade the trials for a nice, cushy life. I have experienced a side of God's character that I would not have otherwise experienced. My faith has been renewed and strengthened time and time again. I have learned to express my feelings and be completely vulnerable before the throne of God, resting in His comfort in a way that I never would have known had I not gone through tribulation. My Father has demonstrated to me an understanding and tenderness that I can now more easily demonstrate to others around me who are going through tough times. I have learned to be more patient, loving, and kind as I have observed His patience, love, and kindness toward me. I can better relate to others and help them. Overall I can say that we can choose how tribulation will affect us. Will we allow ourselves to grow and learn through the rough times, or will we become bitter, angry, and resentful?

James 1:2-4--"My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing."

What about you? How have you been affected by the trials you are facing? Are you allowing your character to be developed through the process? Are you being conformed to the image of Christ, or are you fighting it? Is there a burden you need prayer for? Feel free to share in the comments.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Watermelon Blast

Here is an article I wrote with a recipe I developed a couple of years ago while we were living with my grandmother. I was so wrapped up in what we were dealing with that I forgot to edit it and take a photo! I just came across this as I was working on updating the blog, and I remember that I loved this recipe so much that I still wanted to share this. Here's to the warmer months coming up around the bend! (I'm soooo looking forward to summer.)

Some of you may remember that a few years ago I lost a lot of weight.  I went from 275 to 212.  I was doing great and still losing when I started caring for my grandparents who have Alzheimer's (in November 2011).  My grandfather was in very bad shape, and the emotional strain was very difficult to handle.  I also had to make adjustments in my cooking style as one of my jobs became cooking for them, and they were stuck in their ways of eating, not to mention that because of their disease they could only really taste sweet or salty foods.  Grandpa passed away a year ago last June.  Between November and June 2011, I gained back 30 pounds.  What can I say?  I was totally unprepared for the curve ball that was thrown at me, and I had started eating a lot of junk.  Neither of my grandparents appreciated our family's way of eating (lots of raw fruits and veggies, salads, brown rice and other gluten free whole grains, etc.).  They wanted the standard cooked foods they were used to.  I didn't have time to prepare multiple kinds of meals every day, so while I still made mostly gluten free things, I made them in ways my grandparents would eat them (and still do that for grandma).  My family naturally ate all those things, and I started eating a lot more junk foods as I was trying to deal with the emotions that come from the situation I was in.   I also had started eating dairy again.  I never drank milk because it makes me so sick.  However, Grandma was always eating ice cream (multiple times a day), and the temptation was just too great.  In spite of the fact it makes me feel bad, I started eating it anyway.  Then I brought back yogurt, frozen yogurt, pudding, and cheese.  I felt nasty, but once I started eating all that dairy I craved it like crazy!  Dairy makes me gain weight.  It doesn't matter how little I eat, it becomes impossible for me to lose weight.  Voila!   30-pound weight gain!

By the time I became pregnant, Grandpa had passed, and I had gotten more in control of my eating.  I stopped gaining weight and stayed pretty much the same throughout my pregnancy.  I was careful with dairy, though I still ate cheese (doesn't seem to have the same affect).  I gained a few pounds at the very end (had gone back to eating ice cream), and a week after giving birth, I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight, albeit 30 pounds heavier than I had been in November.  I had to cut dairy completely for a while after John was born because it seemed that he got very irritable and gassy.  I brought dairy back in the form of frozen yogurt (ahhh, Sweet Frog, you are my enemy!)  and would gain a pound or two every time I ate it.  This month I decided to bring green smoothies back into my diet and cut dairy back out except for the occasional piece of cheese.  I have cheated with frozen yogurt once or twice and have skipped the green smoothie a few times, which slowed my weight loss for a couple of days. Even with the cheating, I have lost 7 pounds so far!  My husband and I are doing Simple Green Smoothie's 30-Day Challenge to kick-start our quest to get back on track.  We are kind of competing with each other to see who can lose the most weight.

I have to say, I always liked green smoothies, but I was definitely in a rut, making them the same way every time.  It got boring, and Chuck and the kids got sick of them.  I never thought to use other fruits.   With this challenge we are doing, Jadah and Jen send out a weekly grocery shopping list and recipes to try.  We have tried some, and we all have been pleasantly surprised!  This past week, we made smoothies using watermelon, one of my favorite fruits.  Yesterday, I didn't actually use one of their recipes because when I got to the grocery store, I had forgotten my list.  I did remember a few things from the list but couldn't remember them all. Instead, I came up with a recipe using some ingredients I already had, and it was awesome!  I made 2 pitchers full because Chuck wanted a quart jar to take with him to the church for later.  I will be making the same recipe later today as well.

Juicy Watermelon Blast

4 c. watermelon
2 c. spinach tightly packed
1 c. frozen strawberry slices
1 c. frozen mango chunks
2 Tbs. flax or chia seeds (optional)

Cut the watermelon off the rind and blend enough of it to make 4 cups of juice.  Add the spinach, frozen fruit, and seeds.  Blend just long enough to get smooth.  If you want your smoothie to be thicker and more frosty, you could chill or freeze some of your watermelon the night before.  If you find your smoothie is too thick to blend, you can add a little more watermelon juice, coconut water, or spring water. Enjoy!

Changes Are Coming

Since I started this blog, my focus has been diverted many times, and my vision has enlarged. My family and I have gone through so many things that brought many changes. Honestly, I haven't written in so long because I just didn't know what I wanted to do with this project that I started so long ago. I have so much more I want to share and write about besides recipes and gluten free living. I know I alluded to that perhaps once or twice when writing quite awhile ago, but I struggled to figure out just what that would look like and how to work that out in a practical way.

Over the years, our whole family has encountered many challenges. We experienced health issues, relationship issues, financial issues, several moves, caring for grandparents, several deaths, etc. We have also had mountaintop experiences. My husband graduated from Davis College with two bachelors degrees, one in Pastoral Theology and one in Counseling. He has been working as an Associate Pastor at Abide in the Vine Fellowship in Owego, NY. We also had a new birth! Our youngest child will turn two years old on Sunday.

Currently our two oldest children are attending Davis College and are involved in ministry at a local Assemblies of God church. We are still homeschooling our two middle children, and I am running a local food co-op as well as ministering at Abide in the Vine alongside my husband. Life is good...and very busy!

Somewhere along the way, our children have grown up, and in the process many of them have decided not to follow the healthy diets they thrived on for several years since I started this blog. I suppose that comes with the territory of having to find their own way in the world and navigating through the difficulties of hanging out with their high school and college friends and eating with them. There is also the sense of wanting to fit in as well as wanting to eat what they want to eat, even at the expense of not feeling as well as they could.

That leaves me with questions about what to do with this blog. Do I just scrap it altogether, or do I just revamp it? I like to write, but I tend to be the type of person that when I don't have definite direction I let things sit until I have confirmation that I am supposed to do something. At last I feel that I am beginning to see what I might do.

I am planning to completely change how I was doing this blog. I have no intention of trying to keep up with all the great bloggers who take awesome pictures of their delectable dishes and awesome recipes. Rather, I am going to consider this “Gluten Free Cafe” more than just a place to find recipes, though there will be some. I have to admit that while I am an artistic person, photography is not one of my talents, so when I share recipes I will probably not have awesome pictures to accompany them. I realize the pictures are a major enticement for people when choosing what recipes they want to try. Until I have an alternative, this is the way it will have to be.

That being said, I will also be sharing words of encouragement, musings, teachings, as well as just personal life experiences we are going through. I just want to write and see where God takes things. I love to research, study, and write. I love to share the things I am learning about, whether they be natural remedies, recipes, or more about God's character and our relationship with Him.

There will be some days when I will probably write more than one article and many days when I will be too busy to write anything at all. Sometimes I might simply share some interesting articles I came across on other sites. Other times I might write a review of some kitchen appliance, restaurant, or food I have tried. I have come to a place in my life where I have become OK with that. I am not going to put myself in a box of having to write something every single day. I'm just going to “go with the flow” of what I feel I am to do, and that will be fine. I have learned to be a lot more flexible over the years, and I hope that will make writing this blog easier for me. 

God has been speaking to me about talents and gifts lately, and I am starting to realize that being interested in a lot of different things and perhaps having some "ADHD" type qualities in how I think might not be all bad. I am learning to embrace who I was created to be and know that God has a purpose for my life. I don't have to fit some mold. There is a place in the Kingdom of God for my talents and interests to shine and be used. If I don't do what I feel to do or say what I believe I should say, if I don't fill the spot that I was created to fill, God will raise someone else up to do that. I don't want that. I want to fill the shoes I was created to fill. I pray that God grows me up into maturity to be the woman that He created me to be.

     Esther 4:14--"For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for 
     the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. Yet who knows whether
     you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?"

I want to be like Esther who had the courage to take her place and do what she was called to do. What about you? Do you realize that God made you special just the way you are? Are you ready to embrace the unique calling on your life? What are your strengths and talents?