White Chocolate Peppermint Pancakes & Paleo Chocolate Syrup

paleo pancakes

White Chocolate Peppermint Protein Pancakes with Paleo Chocolate Syrup. I know it is a mouthful of a description, but I’m sure you’ll agree with me after trying these pancakes that it is at least a very delicious mouthful.

In case you couldn’t tell from my last post, I was pretty excited about the release of the White Chocolate Peppermint Meal Replacement Shakes from AdvoCare. Apparently, I was not the only one, because they sold out in record time (56 hours I believe!) and the second I had a sip of my first shake I totally understood why. They were BETTER than I had even expected. I mean, holiday-spirit-in-a-cup, freakin’ amazing! In case that description doesn’t clue you in to how tasty the shakes are, these fun facts might: James and I ordered 10 more boxes before the glass was empty AND I had TWO the first day in between meals. They were that good. Have I mentioned how much I love this company and products because they clearly love all of us? 😀 😀

I have had so much fun creating several recipes with these shakes, and before you get too bummed out that you didn’t scoop up a box or two before they disappeared like Frosty the Snowman on the first day of Spring, you can substitute any flavor of Meal Replacement Shakes in for the White Chocolate Peppermint and I promise it will still be yummy!

One of James’s favorite breakfast foods is pancakes. I’m still more of a waffle kinda gal, but I love me some pancakes too. Now your regular ol’ fluffy IHOP pancake is most definitely not Paleo, but thanks to some creative geniuses out there, we are still able to enjoy these breakfast staples. Depending on the ingredients you use, some Paleo pancakes can turn out more dense than others (a.k.a. not as fluffy), but I used a great recipe for inspiration that did not leave us wanting.

Anyone that knows me well enough can tell you that I LOVE maple. So naturally I am a big fan of pancakes with maple syrup. In fact, if you and I ever eat pancakes together you’ll likely see me eating a plate more accurately described as maple syrup with pancakes. Good thing in our home we focus on eating to fuel our bodies the majority of the time and not just indulging!

With that being said, I wanted to do something a little different that would compliment the white chocolate peppermint flavor in the pancakes, so I decided to go with a Paleo chocolate syrup instead!

This breakfast is more of a treat, but a less indulgent/equally flavorful alternative to a typical pancake breakfast 🙂

Pancake Recipe

advocare meal replacement shakes

Pancake Ingredients

Ingredients:

  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup Almond Flour
  • 2 TBSP Coconut Oil
  • 1 Meal Replacement Shake (Vanilla might be a good option if you don’t have White Chocolate Peppermint)
  • 1/4 tsp Sea Salt
  • 2 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 4.5 TBSP Water
  • Oil for cooking

Directions:

eggs for advocare meal replacement shakes

  1. In a blender, add the 3 eggs and blend on high for 1 minute.
  2. Add remaining ingredients and blend until smooth, about another minute. I pre-whisked the dry ingredients in a bowl beforehand to add into the blender, followed by the wet ingredients.
  3. Heat skillet over medium heat and add coconut oil for cooking.
  4. Pour pancake batter into pan and let cook for about 1-2 minutes on each side.

Paleo Chocolate Syrup Recipe

I woke up thinking about how I would make the chocolate syrup for the pancakes and was definitely on the right track, but then stumbled upon an awesome recipe already created. Never one for totally reinventing the wheel, I decided to give it a try! It turned out great and made my morning easier since I didn’t have to do a ‘trial and error’ process with my idea for syrup. This recipe yields quite a bit of syrup, so I saved the rest in a mason jar to use for Chocolate Almond Milk this week.

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Chocolate Syrup Ingredients

Ingredients:

  • ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup organic honey
  • ¾ cup water
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • 1.5 tsp vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Add all ingredients to a sauce pan over medium heat. Whisk until smooth.
  2. Once boiling, lower heat to medium-low and allow to simmer for 2-3 minutes. The sauce should be thickening, but make sure to stir frequently to avoid burning.
  3. Once thickened, but not too thick, remove from burner and let cool. Pour majority of syrup into a mason jar or other air tight container and use remaining syrup in pan for your pancakes.

I have more recipes using the shakes coming tomorrow, as well as a few more I am behind on posting, so be on the lookout and be sure to subscribe to the blog so you’ll get the updates when I post them!

Also, if you give this recipe a try and enjoy it, think it sounds yummy and want to share, or just feel like saying hi, would you be so kind as to give this amateur cook a comment below? I’d love to hear from you! 🙂

(Almost) Paleo Lasagna

Just call me Garfield...

Just call me Garfield…

As the weather around here has begun to cool off, I can’t help but find myself craving lots of standard Fall comfort foods. I’ve been on a soup/chili kick most recently, which has been delicious, healthy, and budget friendly. Talk about a win-win-win.

Lately I have had a major craving for lasagna, but in a mostly paleo household that can be hard to do. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of amazing recipes out there for paleo versions of lasagna and the ones I have tried were extremely yummy…but I wasn’t craving those versions. This pregnancy craving wanted full-out, melty cheese-y, real noodle-y, blast from my pre-paleo past, lasagna. Now there was no way I was going to cave completely, but I found an awesome way to compromise that was ALMOST paleo…It. was. AWESOME. Seriously, it turned out better than I even expected.

high five

Unfortunately, I’m not the professional foodie my husband is, and didn’t document this amazing meal, but I will still share the recipe and hope that you trust me on this one. The secret ingredient for this recipe was none other than Cappelllo’s  Lasagna Sheets. If your local supermarket doesn’t carry Cappello’s you could make your own paleo lasagna noodles following this recipe or this one. There are also plenty of  paleo veggie noodle alternatives pinned on my paleo dinners board if you prefer those! 🙂

 

 

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Cappello’s Lasagna Sheets rock. Plain and simple. They are gluten free and paleo without the work! I usually am able to get a few meals out of 1 package, so totally worth the price in my opinion. Now, onto the recipe:

Almost Paleo Lasagna Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 package of Cappello’s Lasagna Sheets

Meat:

  • 1 lb Ground Beef (or whatever ground meat you prefer)
  • 1/4 Onion, chopped
  • 1 TBSP Oregano
  • 1 TBSP Garlic Powder
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Sauce:

You can make your own sauce or use a pre-made marinara. (Just be aware of the ingredients! Watch out for added sugar and unnecessary extras. )

  • 3/4 can of organic tomato sauce (13-15 oz size)
  • 1/4 cup diced green peppers
  • 1 cup kale
  • 1 TBSP Garlic Powder (I typically would use fresh garlic, but forgot this time!)
  • 1 TBSP Oregano
  • 1/2 TBSP Basil
  • 3 TBSP Grated Fresh Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 tsp Sea Salt
  • 1.5 tsp Pepper
  • Any other veggies you like!

Optional: 1 cup Mozzarella cheese

 

Instructions:

  1. Place ground beef in skillet and cook over medium heat. Once mostly browned, add in onion and remaining meat ingredients. Cook until meat is done, approximately 5-10 minutes more and then remove from heat.
  2. In another skillet, add sauce ingredients over medium-low heat and stir occasionally. If it begins to bubble or boil, turn heat to low and keep warm.
  3. In an 8 x 8 oven safe pan or dish, pour enough sauce to lightly cover the bottom of the dish. (I used an 8 x 8 square pyrex pan because I only have to feed James and myself. If you’re making this recipe for more people you could use a 9 x 13 pan and the entire package of lasagna sheets.)
  4. Next, create a layer of noodles by closely placing your lasagna sheets next to each other.
  5. On top of the noodle layer add a layer of cooked meat and top with more sauce. This can be done to your liking, AKA if you like saucier lasagna use more sauce, if not pour lightly.
  6. Add another row of lasagna sheets, more meat, and sauce. (You can repeat this step again if you want/have room in your dish.)
  7. If using cheese, sprinkle 1 cup (it took a lot of self-control to keep it to 1 cup!) evenly across top layer of meat and sauce.
  8. Cover with foil and bake at 350 for 45 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking for 15 more minutes.
  9. ENJOY! 😛

 

If you give this recipe a try and enjoy it, will you be so kind as to give this amateur cook a comment below? I’d love to hear from you!

 

I’m Dreaming of A White (Chocolate Peppermint Shake) Christmas

*UPDATE 11-18-2015: THEY’RE BACK!!!

Say it with me, 'YUM!'

Say it with me, ‘YUM!’

Just imagine I was tech savvy enough to have this song playing throughout your time on this post, knew how to make snowflakes fall delicately across the page, and had a nice log burning fire going to keep you toasty and warm as you read…

AdvoCare has just released their limited time Holiday White Chocolate Peppermint Meal Replacement Shakes and I know I have found my new favorite replacement for breakfast…and lunch…and dinner 😀 (Although I haven’t found a flavor of Meal Replacement Shakes that I didn’t love and with a 40% discount, who says I have to pick favorites?) For anyone that has had the Meal Replacement Shakes before, you know they taste even better than they sound! When it comes to the Holiday flavors, James and I don’t mess around and stock up on them before they quickly sell out! I have experimented with different baking recipes to see if there is any way I could top the regular ol’ shake forms and found a handful of other ways to use them in delicious treats. Several of my friends inspired me to give this recipe a whirl:

I had seen the recipe for Muscle Gain Ice Cream a while back and had intended on trying it out before the weather cooled off, but totally forgot! (Thanks a lot Pregnancy Brain!) James had a day off from work recently, so we decided ice cream for breakfast was just what the doctor ordered. All I can say is, Ah-mah-zing! Super easy to do and SO delicious. I originally tried it with the Holiday Pumpkin Spice flavor and you can bet your bottom dollar I will be making this with the newest flavor.

White Chocolate Peppermint ice cream that’s healthy? Yes, Please! You’ll have to try it for yourself! 🙂

White Chocolate Peppermint Ice Cream:

  • 1 blender bottle with whisk ball (or medium sized bowl with standard whisk if you don’t have a blender bottle)
  • 1 gallon sized plastic bag filled 1/2 way with ice
  • Approximately 1/2 cup of ice cream salt (or regular salt if you don’t have ice cream salt)
  • 1 quart size plastic bag
  • 1 cup almond milk (or whatever your milk of choice is)
  • 1 White Chocolate Peppermint Meal Replacement Shake
  • Handful (or more 😉 ) of Mini Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips
  • Optional: ingredients to mix in ice cream or for toppings

Instructions:

  1. In the blender bottle or bowl if you don’t have a bottle, mix the milk, Meal Replacement Shake, and any other liquid or powder ingredients you’ve chosen.
  2. Pour contents of blender bottle/bowl into quart size plastic bag, remove as much air as possible from bag, and seal tightly.
  3. Add salt to gallon sized bag with ice
  4. Place quart sized bag into the gallon sized bag, remove air from bag, and seal tightly.
  5. Optional: Wrap the bag in a kitchen towel to keep your hands from turning into ice cubes 😉
  6. Shake, shake, shake! (the gallon bag around for 5-10 minutes.)
  7. Remove quart sized bag from gallon bag and quickly rinse off any salt from exterior of bag in cold water…unless you like really salty ice cream.
  8. Place your ice cream in a bowl, add toppings, and enjoy! 😛

If you were one of the smart/fortunate ones who ordered the Pumpkin Spice Shakes before they sold out, you’ll love this one too!

Pumpkin Spice Ice Cream:

  • 1 blender bottle with whisk ball (or medium sized bowl with standard whisk if you don’t have a blender bottle)
  • 1 gallon sized plastic bag filled 1/2 way with ice
  • Approximately 1/2 cup of ice cream salt (or regular salt if you don’t have ice cream salt)
  • 1 quart size plastic bag
  • 1 cup almond milk (or whatever your milk of choice is)
  • 1 Meal Replacement Shake
  • Optional: ingredients to mix in ice cream or for toppings

Instructions:

  1. In the blender bottle or bowl if you don’t have a bottle, mix the milk, Meal Replacement Shake, and any other liquid or powder ingredients you’ve chosen.
  2. Pour contents of blender bottle/bowl into quart size plastic bag, remove as much air as possible from bag, and seal tightly.
  3. Add salt to gallon sized bag with ice
  4. Place quart sized bag into the gallon sized bag, remove air from bag, and seal tightly.
  5. Optional: Wrap the bag in a kitchen towel to keep your hands from turning into ice cubes 😉
  6. Shake, shake, shake! (the gallon bag around for 5-10 minutes.)
  7. Remove quart sized bag from gallon bag and quickly rinse off any salt from exterior of bag in cold water…unless you like really salty ice cream.
  8. Place your ice cream in a bowl, add toppings, and enjoy! 😛
Pumpkin Spice Ice Cream!

The finished product: Pumpkin Spice Ice Cream with added Pecans!

I used Hint of Honey Vanilla Almond Milk in the shake and sprinkled chopped pecans as my topping. YUM!

Although James loves the Pumpkin Spice shakes, he is a chocolate ice cream guy through and through. He decided to go with Chocolate Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Ice Cream for dessert breakfast. He then proceeded to add more Mini Enjoy Life chocolate chips as toppings, but when your ice cream is only 260 calories and packed with 22 grams of protein, I’d say it evens out. 😉

James’s Ingredients included:

James's yummy ice cream!

James’s yummy ice cream!

We will definitely be making this recipe again in the near future!

Healthy Eating On A Budget

James put together a helpful list of some staple items we use in preparing our meals. Check it out!

Most all of our friends already know that my wife and I eat pretty healthy. We subscribe to the Paleo lifestyle mostly and have built a kitchen library of Paleo books along with multiple Paleo recipe websites. When asked about what we eat, the most common objection we get is that “it’s too expensive to eat healthy.” Well, after eating like this for over 4 years now, I can tell you that isn’t true and we’re gonna prove it. We put ourselves on a food budget and have been amazed at how little our meals have cost us. When we realized we were spending so little on food and were making so much of it, I decided to start figuring out how much each meal cost per person. We were shocked at what we discovered. We were making meals for 8 that cost us less than $12 for all of it!

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Yummy Vegetable/Minestrone Soup!

I know, I know I have a really great track record for blogging on average once every 2 months. How do y’all manage the anticipation between each post?! (For the 5 of you that might actually still follow my blog- Thanks for sticking around and… hi mom!) In all seriousness, I am going to make more of an effort to start writing more frequently and get you up to date on what’s happening in my life (ex: as far as you know, I am still single in the good ol’ BR. Boy, are you in for a surprise!) …and what I’m cooking/baking/eating…because let’s be honest, that’s much more interesting than most other things I might have to say.

ANYWAY, I’m back at it today because I wanted to share an extremely easy recipe that I made for lunch recently that I thought y’all might enjoy. It’s packed with lots of veggies, protein, and was pretty cost efficient which made it taste even better in my opinion. I’m not one to ever totally throw the grocery budget to the wind, but I have also been known to get caught up in a good grocery shopping session when the produce stands are set up just right. (Am I the only one who finds grocery shopping therapeutic?)

After too many inconsistent weeks of spending and saving,  I finally broke down and made a meal plan with a set budget in mind. I even gave myself a challenge by setting the budget lower than what I could have allowed for. Do I know how to have fun, or do I know how to have fun? I ended up spending a bit more than my ‘challenge’ budget, but I also got some super deals on lobster, sirloin, and several staple items we use regularly in our house. Both lunches and dinners were set up and executed perfectly. I don’t think we had eaten that balanced in a long time and everything was delicious! It all was going according to plan…until Sunday night arrived and I had completely forgotten to meal plan again…fail!

When it came time to prepare lunch on Monday I only had one option: get creative. I wanted to get the most out of the previous week’s grocery trip expenses and avoid letting any food go to waste, so I surveyed the kitchen and pantry and whipped up this recipe. I hope you enjoy it as much as James and I did! It was/is perfect for a cool Fall day 🙂

IMG_2254     IMG_2252

VEGETABLE/MINESTRONE SOUP

What’s needed:

  • 1 28oz can of Whole Peeled Tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup frozen or fresh cut green beans
  • 1/4 cup frozen or fresh yellow squash
  • 1/4 cup diced frozen or fresh green peppers
  • 1/4 cup fresh spinach (I would have used more, but this was the last of what we had!)
  • 4 stalks organic celery chopped
  • 4 whole carrots chopped
  • white or yellow onion chopped (amount to your liking. I cut a slice ~ 1/2 inch thick)
  • Optional: pepperoni slices cut up. I used about 1/4 package of Applegate Farms Natural Pepperoni. Yum!
  • 32 oz chicken stock
  • 2 Tbsp bacon lard or grassfed butter
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp oregano
  • 1 Tbsp basil
  • 1 Tbsp garlic
  • 1/2 Tbsp red pepper flakes
  • Salt & pepper to liking

*James brought home a rotisserie chicken, so we ended up carving the chicken and adding it to the soup. You could do the same, prepare your own whole chicken, or even use cubed or shredded chicken breast.

Instructions:

  • In a large pot melt lard over medium heat. Add onion and cook 5-7 minutes.
  • Add chicken stock, followed by remaining vegetables and pepperoni if using.
  • Add olive oil and spices
  • Cook for approximately 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Finally, add in pre-cooked chicken, reduce heat to low medium, and let cook for 5-10 more minutes.

Serve and enjoy!

IMG_2259

Without the added chicken

With the added chicken :-P

With the added chicken. YUMMY!

With the added chicken. YUMMY. :-P

With LOTS of  added chicken. YUMMY 😛

We were able to get 4 meals out of this soup (including second helpings for dinnertime because this pregnant lady currently has the appetite of a high school boy-watch out!) I love how a little creativity helped us to make the most of our budget AND allowed us to have delicious meals. I definitely will be making this again!

Here is the breakdown of what I spent, so y’all can see if this works for your grocery budgets too! Keep in mind that I used only a portion of each package of vegetables, pepperoni, and chicken, so the price would be even less than what the receipts will reflect 🙂

PUBLIX:

  • Fresh Organic Baby Spinach: $3.99
  • Fresh Jumbo White Onion: $1.18
  • Fresh Organic Celery: $2.69
  • Fresh Organic Carrots: $1.29
  • Frozen Cut Green Beans: $3.19
  • Frozen Diced Green Pepper: $1.59
  • Frozen Yellow Squash: $1.89

COSTCO:

  • Organic Chicken Stock (32 oz): $14.11/6, so approx. $2.35 for 1

EARTH FARE:

  • Applegate Pepperoni: $4.99
  • Organic Whole Peeled Tomatoes: $1.89

TOTAL: $25.05

Approx. Cost per serving (2 servings for 4 meals): $3.13

Again, this reflected cost is actually even a high estimate because the receipt price doesn’t reflect the amount of each ingredient actually used. WOOP WOOP! Gotta love shopping smart! Clean eating CAN be affordable! 🙂

 

 

Callin’ Baton Rouge

Okay, so I had intended on posting this 2 months ago…Whoops! Definitely long overdue and a perfect example of why having the intention of doing something is useless without the follow through of actually acting upon it! Ha. See y’all? I was just teaching you a lesson through my tardiness. You’re welcome. 😉 Well here it goes. Be warned it’s a long one…

With the details falling perfectly into place, there was no doubt in my mind that Baton Rouge, Louisiana was to be my new home. After a whirlwind summer made up of:

  • an unforgettable month living the life with my beautiful, amazing, insert-all-positive-adjectives-here, sister, Moira, in West Hollywood
  • countless hours spent with my cousin and best friend, Dana, doing anything and everything around Chicago
  • soaking up time with friends, family, and my puppy Coconut

It was finally time to pack up and begin the 15 hour caravan journey down south. My mom, Gramsie, and Dana were kind enough to volunteer to make the drive and help me move into my new apartment. I could not have done the drive, the unpacking, and making my apartment into a home without these three. Saints, I tell ya. I loved that they also had this time to get to know my roommate, Michelle, as I did too. We got to explore Baton Rouge and New Orleans and experienced the yummy food, friendly people, and just a touch of football excitement. (GEAUX TIGERS!)

After a few days they were off back to Chicago and I was on my own. Except I totally wasn’t. People, let me tell you that Michelle and I ending up as roommates was NOT coincidence. To this day I believe that God brought that angel of a lady into my life to not only become one of my dearest and most special friends, but to truly be a light in my life and help me find a real relationship with Jesus and renewing of faith.

Before my move to Louisiana my life and actions reflected the GIANT gaping hole in my heart and soul that could only be filled by The Lord.Now, I’m not sure if anyone who knew me before would have seen that about me, or even thought I was any different than the next 22 year old fresh out of college, but I felt it. I’m sure that there are people from my past that could have called me and my struggles out for what they were, but even I regularly convinced myself through my shame that things were okay with the typical justification that we hear so often in the world. “Well, I did this, but…I’m still a good person.” Good compared to who? “Well, this happened, but it’s not like it’s that bad.”

Friends would assure me that I was fine. I was overreacting when I felt ashamed. It was funny, I had been entertaining, there was nothing to worry about, it won’t happen again, etc. So I would continue the binge drinking and all the wise choices that you can usually find influenced by it. How many mornings did I have to wake up with a sinking, shamed, pit in my stomach and the words “I’m never drinking again. I’m so sorry. How bad was I?” on my lips before I changed my ways? I’m not sure if many people really knew just how low I was getting before I left. Depression and anxiety were starting to creep in when I let myself think about my actions for too long, so it was only natural to go out and forget about them, right? I did this enough to where I actually started to convince myself to let go of my moral compass. I quieted the voice that was there to guide me throughout my life because it was easier to do that and live for the next fun moment, than to deal with the conflict that raged inside of me when I listened to it. If the Holy Spirit is a flame inside of us, then I was doing my best to find the Costco-sized Candle Snuffer to put it out with. I hardened myself to the person I felt called to be and let myself give in to who the world was successfully convincing me I was. My self worth was found in the approval of other people. Like I said, I was not in a great place. But why tell you all of that?

Because here is the truth if you haven’t gathered it already: I knew my justifications weren’t right. I knew I was created for more. I knew I wasn’t living a life of substance or purpose, but a life centered around happy hours, after hours, or any excuse to have a drink in my hand, and the weight of this reality was dragging me down. (Side-note: I am not condemning or criticizing anyone that chooses to drink. This is my own personal experience and is written with no condemnation toward anyone else.)

But I still wanted to run from the truth (or the Truth I guess you could say!) and keep out anyone that would bring me face-to-face with it. Michelle fell under the category of someone who would make me face this truth. Although we didn’t know each other well before we moved to Louisiana, we had met several times, talked/texted regularly, and were obviously Facebook friends. From the first time we talked I saw that Michelle was an amazing person. Anyone that knows her can back me up on this-she has a joy that shines so brightly from her that to know her is to love her. She also is rock solid in her faith and not afraid to share her pure love for Jesus. THAT is what worried me. Before we left for Baton Rouge Michelle had written a blog post about her One Year Commitment to God. I read it and saw how much she believed, trusted, and loved Jesus without any care of what people thought of her. That boldness and strength did not sit well with my weaknesses and insecurities. She believed in an Almighty God and I believed in…well, I didn’t know. This made me uncomfortable and my mind instantly began running through scenarios where she would try to convert me, or force her faith on me. HA! When we actually got settled in and began hanging out together I saw how far off my assumptions had been.

We quickly discovered that our senses of humor were almost identical, along with our movie selections (our shelves were filled with doubles of the same DVDs,) musical selections of our pasts and present (with the exception of the Worship tunes that we listened to when riding in her car,) our love for candles, laid back mindsets, and so much more. I don’t know if I’ve ever gotten along with someone so quickly before. This new roomie of mine never once forced anything on me when it came to faith. It was definitely discussed, but usually I asked, or it was in passing. Michelle talked about Jesus and her faith the same way one would talk about a best friend or family member. Not an obsession.

The more time I spent with her the more I saw Him. That joy that Michelle had was very much related to her relationship with Jesus. Through her kindness, love, and friendship I felt myself slowly being drawn into a relationship with Jesus. I was curious. Why did she love Him so much? I decided I wanted to figure out if my curiosity would turn into anything more, and at the very least I could say I gave ‘that faith thing’ a shot. I went to church with Michelle one morning and really allowed myself to be open to what I heard. And what I heard was someone speaking right to me. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Why would the Creator of the Universe ‘be for me?’ I hadn’t felt worthy of anyone ‘being for me,’ yet I couldn’t help but let a tiny part of me feel this was true. That He cared about me. One brick in the wall I had built had been chipped away in that moment. But I still had so much doubt.

It wasn’t too long before we made more friends and Baton Rouge began feeling like a new home. One of our friends invited us to a Sunday bible study where they served dinner. Michelle and I gladly accepted the invitation. Michelle for the bible study and me for the free food. Remember, I was taking baby steps.  Jake and Abigail were part of a group that moved from Texas to plant a church in Baton Rouge and the bible study was held in their house. I have never been so welcomed in anywhere in my life. We ate an incredible meal prepared by my new friend, Jillian, and really just hung out with some time for worship. (This part consisted of me looking down at the lyric sheet and lip-singing.) Can I just tell you all that that house was filled to the brim with laughter, love, faith, and joy?! All without a single drop of alcohol. Again, I found myself in the presence of people that had something that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. The more I thought about it, that joy that Michelle had was just like what they had. And what they all had was a belief in The Lord and an active relationship with Him. So another brick was chipped away. I wanted what they had. But still my doubt remained.

We began hanging out with everyone from that night more and more frequently, with Sunday nights becoming a reoccurring event. It was here that I felt that wall I had built falling away, but I still was not there yet. I could barely pray, but when I did it was for God to reveal himself to me. For my walls to come crumbling down. For me to really know Him. I was honest with my friends about how I felt and never pretended to feel more than I did. In return, they never expected more of me. You know the phrase “love them where they’re at?” That’s exactly how they treated me. I felt loved regardless of my struggles and encouraged like I had never been before. They didn’t necessarily approve of all that I had done, but accepted me just the same.

Slowly, brick-by-brick, I let more of God in. I let myself begin to trust in Him and believe. What I struggled with the most was my doubts that God in His perfection, could love me for all that I was. For the way I had lived. For my weaknesses and all that I failed to do on a daily basis. How could He see past that?

And then it happened. As I prayed again for God to reveal Himself to me, that I might see and know who He was, that He would let me know, without a shadow of a doubt, that He loved me, it happened. The only way I can describe it is to compare it to being washed over by a wave, or submerged in the deep end of a pool with no urgency to get to the surface. I was completely at peace. My eyes and ears were opened and I felt so strongly in my heart that I was loved, I was known, I was beautiful. The last layers of my wall came crashing down. There was no going back for me. I knew I was forever changed.

I had gone to Catholic school all my life and never felt like this, but it wasn’t because of my church or education falling short that this awareness had evaded me. I had totally missed the mark. All the time that I had spent in my younger years I brought Jesus down to the level of just another historical figure. I had gotten it totally wrong. It was not the Catholic church that failed me, my parents, or anyone that helped influence me throughout my formative years. I had failed myself by failing to see what was right in front of me the whole time. God loved me so much that He sent His only son, Jesus, to take my place on the cross that because of my sins, I deserved. Jesus loved me so much that He, in His faithfulness and obedience to God’s will, died on that cross and rose again, so that I might one day have a true and everlasting relationship with Him and the Father. HOW DID I NOT SEE THIS BEFORE?! (Face Palm!)

It was like I was seeing everything for the very first time. So much began to make more sense to me and I just wanted to grow closer and closer to The Lord. Michelle and I were able to grow and challenge each other in our faith, hold each other accountable, and pray throughout the good and the not-so-good of our lives. To say that I was no longer tempted by anything or that I no longer struggled with the sin of my past would be a lie, but each day I felt myself growing stronger in who I was called to be and becoming free from who the world told me I was. I have stumbled along the way, and am far from ever reaching perfect, but every day I pray to be obedient to His will done His way.

I can’t even imagine how different my life would have been, or where I would be if it wasn’t for moving to Baton Rouge, ending up with Michelle as my roommate, and my faith.Thankful for all the people that God put in my path to help bring me back to Him and for all the friendships that have helped change me along the way.

Clean Eating Means Clean Shopping

My handsome hubby wrote up this helpful post on what our trips to Costco look like. Like he says, eating clean requires shopping clean!

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When you have a Paleo wife, ya gotta shop pretty clean… AND in bulk. We just made our monthly Costco mega-grocery trip (we go to Costco way more than once a month, but only do the mega-grocery trip about once).

CHICKEN – $2.99 l/b (12 big boneless chicken breasts sealed in individually wrapped freezer safe bags) = $20.96

The best part of the chicken is that there are NO artificial ingredients and NO hormones.

SALMON… DELICIOUS (I’ll make sure Mariah posts the recipe we use on TheRutterLife.com. The farm raised Atlantic Salmon comes in 7 individually wrapped packages (3 lbs. for $25.89).

BISON MEAT – If you haven’t had this then you’re missing out! Bison is leaner than just about any other meat you can find. Check it out for yourself:

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ALMOND BUTTER – At $0.396/oz., it’s the cheapest I’ve seen anywhere including online for a 26 oz…

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