Review: Clean Eating with a Dirty Mind (Vanessa Barajas)

Book: “Clean Eating with a Dirty Mind”
Title: Vanessa Barajas
Author Website: Clean Eating with a Dirty Mind


I want to share some of my favorite cookbooks that have been getting a LOT of rotation lately! I know a lot of hardcore paleo enthusiasts do not believe in paleo desserts, buuuut hello – I do! While I do believe that God gave us food not only for nourishment, He also gave it for enjoyment (minus gluttony and other food abuses, of course). With that being said, first up is…

cewadm“Clean Eating with a Dirty Mind” by Vanessa Barajas. This cookbook, while published in September of 2015, is a new one for me. She calls herself a ‘dessertavore’. I can dig it! I stalked this book on Amazon for several days waiting for the price to drop (I have a hard time paying almost $30 for ANYTHING! lol) and finally found a used version offered through Half Price Books through the Amazon marketplace. While I was checking out, I noticed that it was going to be shipped from a location in my city, so I called HPB, had them put it on hold, and picked it up myself, cutting out the shipping fee and time! When I flipped through the book, I was both impressed and excited. To know that I could enjoy some of my favorite desserts again made me so happy! And not only can I enjoy them, but I can share them with my husband as well.

Some of the recipes that I have tried so far have been the better than box brownies, chocolate fudge cookies, and the molten chocolate lava cakes. Everything has been delicious, albeit a little too sweet. The brownies called for an entire cup of coconut sugar which I’ll definitely reduce when I make it in the future, potentially by a at least ½ a cup. The cookies were delicious and soooo chocolatey – no complaints there. The chocolate molten lava cakes were SO easy to make and so delicious! Oh. My. Gosh. I served them with fresh raspberries and a homemade raspberry sauce. We had guests over recently, one who also avoids gluten, and I thought it would be the perfect dessert to make for them. Later that evening, after company had left, I had a conversation with my husband that went like this:

Me – What are your favorite desserts? (I was flipping through the cookbook planning next weekend’s treat)
Him – This one!

That made me so happy! My hubby listed a paleo, grain free, refined sugar free, dairy free dessert as one of his favorites! Pow pow! We liked them so much that I halved the recipe to make 1 each just for the 2 of us and we had them again 2 nights later.

The following weekend, I made the no bake strawberry cheesecake jars. That required me to purchase some 8 ounce wide mouth mason jars. Man. They were SO good. Cashews for a cheesecake? I admit – I was super skeptical. But, super delicious! I probably needed to add a bit more lemon juice, but overall, loved it and would definitely make it again. My husband, not paleo in the least, actually liked them as well! Another win? I’d say so! I loved the addition of zucchini as well.

There are various sections full of  recipes as well:

  • Meal Ticket
  • Bake My Day
  • Confections of a Dirty Mind
  • Easy as Pie
  • Let Them Eat Cake
  • That’s The Way The Cookie Crumbles
  • What’s The Scoop?
  • Whisky Business

The thing to note about this cookbook is that a lot of the recipes, like the book states on the front, are paleo inspired, meaning you’ll see a lot of dairy ingredients, i.e. butter, heavy cream, etc. She does list subs for these in most of the recipes. For someone like me, one that is actually allergic to dairy (including ghee which made me so so sad!), I am thankful for products like Nutiva’s buttery organic coconut oil. This has been great to use in all of my various recipes as it provides the buttery flavor without the dairy component.

Many on Amazon pointed out the dairy ingredient fact, but there are so many subs and workarounds that I feel it is not a real problem, but is definitely something to be aware of when considering this cookbook. There are some recipes that do NOT have non-dairy workarounds, but those are few and far between and easy to avoid.

In the back of the cookbook, there is a recipe index which is extremely helpful, making it easy to locate recipes as well as a section on which recipes are egg free, dairy free, and nut free. However, in the nut free section, there are recipes listed with almond butter. Almonds are not considered true nuts, and are actually drupes, but they are still avoided by many that have nut allergies.

I like the conversion chart included in the back as well that demonstrates the conversion of teaspoons, tablespoons, cups, and more. Super helpful. You can also find it on her website here – Conversion Guide. She also details what you need to get your kitchen set up for baking these treats as well as types of cake tips to buy for your decorating adventures.

As I make more from Vanessa’s book, I will be sure to share my thoughts. Until then, check out her blog that shares the title of her book – Clean Eating with a Dirty Mind.

 

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My Favorite Ways to Save (& GAIN!) Money

moneyOver the past few years, as my husband and I have sought to manage our money well, I have been pretty diligent in looking for ways to save money. He handles the financial aspect of our household (and does a great job at it too!) and so I seek to do what I can to make sure that we adhere to that in the grocery area. When we first met, I did not coupon. He actually introduced me to it! Then I took that and ran with it. It is basically free money. Visiting the websites listed below, clipping paper coupons… free money. And it doesn’t impede upon my daily schedule. A lot of people think that it takes a ton of time to coupon, and it may.. if you’re an extreme couponer. But – I am not that!

Here are some of my favorite ways to save money below. Leave a comment if you have any questions!


Email Lists

Sign up for email lists of your favorite brands, stores, restaurants, etc. They often send out exclusive specials and coupons! For instance, just this week, I received a BOGO offer at First Watch (one of our favorite breakfast / brunch spots) just for signing up for their e-club. Also, many restaurants will send you offers on your birthday for free food items, usually an entree OR a dessert. Just this week, I received an offer from Schlotzsky’s for my half birthday. Yes, my HALF birthday!


Loyalty / Rewards Programs

If a store, restaurant, etc, offers a loyalty program, sign up! This is a great way to get “VIP” deals. For instance, World Market has their Explorer program which allows you to earn a reward for every $10 $200 you spend. They also have a coffee perks program. My husband and I LOVE their coffee! For every 6 bags you buy, you get a free bag. Score!


Coupon Websites (You need a printer for these)

**NOTE: Oftentimes, you can write a company directly and ask them for coupons using the contact section on the website if they do not have any listed. Most companies are happy to send you some, and they may even send you some free items. This has happened to me several times. A haircare line actually sent me a HUGE box full of multiple products for free. I have also received a large container of my favorite raw honey, coupons for free pints of  my favorite dairy free ice cream, and more!


Phone Apps

  • If you are in Central or South TX, HEB (allows you to see prices of items and offers digital coupons)
  • Flipp (shows you ads from your area; also helps you to search for a particular item to see all of the sale prices on it that week)
  • Ibotta (sign up via https://ibotta.com/r/uaxsreu to receive a $10 bonus when you redeem your first unique offer; continue accruing and redeeming offers to redeem for gift cards. This is a great way to earn gift cards! Since I have installed it, I have redeemed over $100 worth of gift cards. Check for new offers daily)
  • Any apps of the stores you visit often, i.e. Sprouts and Whole Foods for me (digital coupons) including department stores like Macy’s, DSW, JC Penney, Target Cartwheel, etc.

Online Shopping (earn points from online transactions; redeem for gift cards or cash)


Online Surveys (take surveys & earn points to redeem for gift cards or cash)


Free Samples (these go out 4x/year – once every season)

SampleSourcehttps://www.samplesource.com


Panel Testing Sites

Sign up for any of these sites and you can often get free items sent to you in exchange for your honest review. I’ve gotten an office chair, personal care items (body wash, deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, full hair product lines, skincare, makeup, toothpaste, etc), food items, household care items, and so much more. It is a great way to learn about new items while helping companies to know what consumers think about their products.

L’Oreal – https://consumertesting.lorealusa.com/survey87.asp
Bzzagenthttps://www.bzzagent.com
Influenster www.influenster.com/r/1319640
PinchMe http://www.pinchme.com/?referral_code=7TZVN
Smiley360https://smiley.socialmedialink.com
Crowdtap (this one is unique in that you can do surveys for points AND sign up for campaigns) http://crowdtap.com

My Spring / Summer Garden

Growing up, my mom was always growing something in our backyard! Whether it was the roses that lined both sides of our patio in various colors, the beautiful yellow and orange, butterfly-attracting lantana, zucchini, carrots, bell peppers, eggplants, marigolds, peas, garlic, you name it, she was growing it. When I was younger, I didn’t have as much of an appreciation for it as I do now. But, isn’t that always the way it goes, unfortunately? She still has an amazing, all-organic garden that I love to look at whenever we visit them. I always come home with a bounty of delicious produce from her garden!

When my husband and I lived in our apartment, I had dreams of having a balcony garden, but never went ahead with it. We lived on the bottom floor so between cats and squirrels, I felt like my efforts would be fruitless, no pun intended. When we purchased our home last year, I knew that I was now ready to get it started. I had several conversations with my mom and she even sent me several packets of seeds. I took a trip to Home Depot, bought some planters and soil and planted my very first garden this past Saturday! I am still SO excited!

My Spring / Summer garden this year consists of:

  • Kaleidoscope carrots
  • Swiss chard
  • Cilantro
  • Yellow onions
  • Dwarf blue curled kale
  • Arugula
  • Baby leaf’s hybrid spinach

Everything was planted from seed except the yellow bulbs. The chard and kale are in a 20 inch planter, the cilantro and carrots in a 12 inch planter, the yellow onions in a 12 inch planter, and the arugula and spinach in another 12 inch planter. The first to harvest should be my arugula and spinach. I am pretty excited for the swiss chard to start growing because it is so gorgeous with its deep red coloring! And these carrots – red, orange, purple, and white! You literally have no idea what you will be pulling out – the size OR the color (well, you can see the ‘shoulders’ slightly above soil, but still!) I am looking forward to having some of the kiddos in my life come over to help me with my mini harvesting once things are ready.

Shopping for soil was an eye opening experience for me. When I grabbed the first bag of potting mix  by a brand that is a standard in gardening, I decided to look at the contents more carefully. I ended up picking out an organic and natural potting soil which aligned with my desire to grow an organic garden.

I’m so very excited to see my seedlings come up!

Have you ever planted a garden? Did you plant one this year?

Infertility – The Unexpected Blessings – Part 2

20170526_114455 (1)In my last post, I referenced the struggle, but also the blessing. What blessing can come out of such heartache? What blessing could come out of an unmet desire?

I do say this – I am hopeful.

Does that sound odd? It could. It could also mean a lot of different things. But, in the face of infertility, that is how I feel. So, what am I hopeful in? Hopeful that one day we’ll conceive? Hopeful that someday we will adopt? No, I am hopeful in God’s ability to bring good from, and get glory in, this trial.

One of the unexpected blessings I referred to in my last post was the blessedness of being able to be a source of encouragement, love, and empathy in sisters that are in the same place as I have been and am. I can remind them of the Scriptures and truths about God’s character that I clung to. I can remind them that He is good and that He is not withholding good from us, the lie that Adam and Eve believed. I can come from a place of shared pain and experience and that – that is good. That is helpful. This is not a wasted experience. This is one reason I am hopeful. He gets glory.

The Lord has given my husband and me several children to love and care for and pour into. I often joke that we actually have lots of kids. Funny – I almost have the 8 children that I wanted years ago! Between 2 families, the Lord has blessed us with 6 sweet boys, 1 sweet girl, and 1 sweet girl on the way. They are 7, 6, 4, 3, 2, 1.5, and 1.5 months old. I love them so much and they are such a joy and blessing. We have been able to serve these families at points by watching their children and have had the opportunity to pour into them spiritually. We have a very close relationship with the families and their families and really love these children dearly. Some of my favorite times have been putting them to sleep, singing hymns with them, praying, and kissing their sweet little faces. The opportunities we have had to teach them about Jesus have been countless and ongoing and I am thankful. Again, God gets glory.

I don’t want to seem as though I am surfing through this trial without being hit by waves. That’s not true. There are still times when I do still feel sorrow and grief, times where I cry and weep and feel that ache in my throat & heart. But I remind myself of who God is – He is gracious, kind, loving, wise, giving, faithful, generous…! So many things. It’s not me that gets to decide how He works out His characteristics, but He is who He is according to His will, according to His good purposes, according to His wisdom. I trust this. I cling to this. I have often wept over the thought that there will be no children to carry on our legacy. It still bothers me. It still hurts. But I have to remind myself – God is wise and He knows far more than I! I can trust that this too is according to His wisdom.

I have seen recent times where my husband has done well at guarding my heart and loving me when those questions inevitably come from those that don’t know us – “Do y’all have kids?” Whether it’s an arm around my waist, a kiss on the cheek or forehead, or the way that he takes charge of answering the question, I’m grateful for it.

I’m also grateful for the fact that more openness leads to more openness. It gives birth, so to speak, to more transparency and causes the topic to be less taboo. So many women struggle in silence, and for those that belong to Christ, we do not have to. We have the Body of Christ to walk alongside of us, share these burdens together, and we enjoy the blessing of being able to pray for each other, cry for and with each other, and love each other. Again, God gets glory.

I find myself more prayerful for my sisters, rejoicing at the first news of a new baby, praying for that baby’s protection & formation in the womb, and bringing meals as they adjust to this new blessing.

I have learned how to be a better listener, to watch the words I say, to be selfless, to rejoice with others. So, even though it is difficult, it has been helpful. And for that, I can praise the Lord.

Infertility – The Struggle & Unexpected Blessings – PART 1

When I was younger, I knew I wanted children. I used to have a certain number in my head – 8 to be exact. I remember talking to my married, child-raising friends about that number and being told, “Wait until you have at least one, first!” And so I looked forward to that day with great anticipation. I’ve always loved children, even in my years as a child. I couldn’t wait to have my own. I really wanted a son. My husband would laugh at me because most women seem to want daughters, but not me. I wanted little boys. I wanted him to have a ‘mini me’. It really warmed my heart to think about him with a little shadow!

When my husband and I got married, about 2 months in, I had gotten sick. All food started to make me nauseous, especially the smell of it. After dealing with the symptoms for quite some time, I went to my doctor and was met with her predictions. “Oh I know you’re pregnant, but let’s get these tests done. I will be more surprised if you aren’t!” I went to the lab and sat there, texting my husband, a feeling of nervousness and excitement in my belly. All of the what-ifs flooded my heart and mind and I allowed myself to imagine life 9 months from that moment. My name was called, specimens were collected, and I headed home to wait for the results. Those hours of waiting were hard. Finally, later that evening, that call came. My doctor called me personally to tell me the results. I wasn’t pregnant. She apologized for her negligent words and told me that she understood if I did not want to continue seeing her as my provider.

Over the years that followed, I was so mindful of everything – a late cycle, unexplained nausea, fatigue seemingly out of nowhere, headaches – you name it. Each month brought tears when my cycle would come. All of my friends were getting pregnant and our church experienced many ‘baby booms’ each year where babies were being born back to back over the course of several months. All the while, I tried to sustain a happy outer demeanor, explaining that it was all in God’s timing when I’d be asked about our desire to have children. There were many times that I cried to my husband, heartbroken over my unfulfilled desire and the careless words from others.

“You’re not getting any younger!”

“Do y’all even WANT kids?”

“You know – you’re next!”

“Have you tried changing your diet?”

“Look at you holding that baby, getting practice in, I see!”

“You know, if you want to adopt, you should get started soon!”

“When you (fill in the blank), then those babies will come!”

I heard all of those things and then some. Those comments made me even sadder. And I realized – we can say that we know that God is in control but or comments and thoughts can betray us, which is what happened with them and with me. The comments were unhelpful and mindless and often lent themselves to driving me into deeper sadness over our lack of children.

Baby showers were hard and I would avoid them often. I was happy for my friends, but mourned the absence of children in our home. The sight of cute little baby clothes and shoes pained me. I couldn’t do it! It didn’t seem fair to me!. There was no medical explanation for my inability to conceive. I was upset, but my husband helped me to realize that my beef was really with the Lord. Because He opens and closes the womb, and He had chosen not to for His own good purposes, my ultimate problem was with Him. That was a hard one to grapple with.

It became harder & harder seeing news stories about irresponsible, abusive, and negligent parents. They can have kids, but not ME, Lord? Really?! It was hard, it was sad, it was lonely. But, blessing came with it as well.

[ To Be Continued in Part 2 Next Week ]

 

A Merciful, Grace-Filled, God-Given 37 Years

37

Yesterday, I celebrated my birthday. In the early hours of the morning, on September 26th, I was born.

A big deal is often made about birthdays. And rightfully so (The Lord’s grace), but also wrongfully so. We can often make such a big deal over a day we had no control over, often demanding special treatment and praise, expecting people to bend over backwards to make it all about us.

I grew up getting cards each year from my grandmother with money that matched my age. My mom and dad would take my brothers and me to the restaurant of our choice, or my mom would cook the meal of our choice. One year, I actually asked for lobster! And my mom made it! I wasn’t even a teenager at the time. She’d bake our favorite cakes (straight chocolate for me) and it would be such a fun day of celebration. The next day, life went back to normal. As a kid, it was always sad for me; I wanted to continue the party! But I had to wait another 12 months to do that.

As I have gotten older, birthday celebrations look different. Since I have been married, my husband has done sweet things to celebrate with me. One year, he researched and found a bakery that had gluten free cupcakes and bought me FOUR (4!!!) of them. I always look forward to the cards from family and friends and having dinner at special places with my guy. Yesterday, we ended the day with him praying for me; I loved that.

But I think in a way that I didn’t when I was 10, or even when I was 20. As each year passes, I think, “Whoa – where did last year go?” and birthdays are more deeply appreciated. I used to set my alarm at the time I was born and wake up to thank the Lord for another year, but now – I have to get up at 5:30a for work and getting older (for me) means my sleeping patterns can easily get thrown off. A super early wake-up turns into a clock watching session until it’s time for me to get ready for the day haha. So now, I just thank Him when I wake. He’s been merciful.

When I think about the passing years, I often shake my head at how kind God has been. He’s been faithful. Gracious. Kind. Long-suffering. Steadfast. Enduring. I don’t deserve to be 37. I have classmates who have long been gone. I have had countless times of rebellion against the Lord, yes, even since being a Christian! I am thankful for His grace. I am thankful for salvation.

So here’s to another year that the Lord has given me. I plan to work through Donald S. Whitney’s “10 Questions to Ask at the Start of a New Year or On Your Birthday” and prayerfully consider how I can spend the next year, if God gives it, honoring Him and serving Him more effectively.

Learning, Growing, & Expanding – Upcoming Blog Changes

For a long time, I have been thinking about revamping the blog. When I started it about 5 years ago, I was a newlywed and wanted to write about the things that I would be learning about marriage. I wanted to write about how my faith would intersect and what it looked like to be a new wife. I wanted to write about everything that I was learning as a wife in hopes that it would be helpful.

Now, my focus has changed slightly, but only to expand. I have learned a lot in the past 5 years of being married. Not only have I learned more about who I am as a person, as a Christian, but I have learned about what it means to be a wife, in the fun times and the hard times. I have learned that getting married doesn’t mean that having babies will follow and that children are not a given. I have learned more about what health and self control looks like. I have learned the hard way about food allergies & intolerances and what it looks like to ignore them or treat them. I have learned how to stick to a budget while providing healthy, delicious dinners. I have learned about the paleo / primal diet and how it benefits health. I have learned a lot on home and food DIY to save money (the price of ghee is REALLY ridiculous when you see how easy it is to make your own!) I have learned more about the Bible, how to read it properly, and how to apply it to life. I have learned more about my tendencies toward anxiety and how to fight that with Scripture. I have learned how to sew better, how to follow patterns, and about so many sewing feet! I have learned new ways of saving money and how to make my money work for me. I have learned how to trust the Lord when I have been super fearful or unsure or anxious. I have learned how to manage my ADD symptoms. I have learned that allergies in central Texas have no respect, lol! Yes, I have learned a lot! But at the same time, there is so much more that I need to learn and will learn.

And so, with the focus changes, my content will be changing & expanding & talking about all of the above (and then some). And by the way – I must say that I don’t write anything as an authority, but simply as a woman who desires to help others with what I have learned in hopes to be a blessing. That also means that I will be blogging much more frequently. Life happens, but I don’t believe in learning things and keeping them to myself.

So here goes!