Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Devotion: Are You Truly Forgiving?

"Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." Colossians 3:13

As yet another election season rolls around, we see a mixed group of people lining up for a coveted office. Some have very little experience with politics, but are great business leaders in the community. Others are running under the shadow of famous family members. And then there are some who have had experience, on multiple levels, working on government. As much of an emotional struggle this past Presidential election was, this was more of an emotionally spiritual struggle for me. You see, one of the candidates running for office was highly endorsed by most of the members of my church, and many of my friends {let's call him Phil}, and another candidate {let's call him Bob} held another position a few years back, and who really worked hard to make our state fiscally responsible. Unfortunately, though, Bob made one crucial, very public mistake that almost blacklisted him from ever serving the constituents he loved so much.

As the election approached, my heart began to hurt for Bob. He messed up. He embarrassed our state with his actions. His sins became nationally known, often the topic of comedians and political commentators. And instead of trying to pass the buck, as so many other politicians do, he confessed his sins and asked for forgiveness. Not only did he ask for forgiveness for those he hurt personally, but he asked forgiveness from his constituents. I have even heard of stories where he would personally speak to those who once supported him, asking them to forgive him of his actions. At the time he was asking forgiveness, he was most definitely not running for office again. Fast forward a few years and an opportunity came up for another office he could run for. In his campaign, he did not bring up his last, very public sin. He didn't make it an issue, but be sure other people did. His campaign signs were defaced with hateful words spread across them; social media trashed him for the stupid, stupid thing he had done in the past. And my heart hurt for Bob. People refused to forgive him. As good as a politician he was at the time, the one dumb thing he did at the end of term was apparently unforgiveable, even though it didn't affect his constituents personally.

What really frustrated me the most was the people I saw who refused to forgive him. As a believer, if someone asks you for forgiveness, you are supposed to forgive AND forget. It is not our place to sit in judgement of whether or not he really meant it. Our job is to love him and forgive him. What if I were to sin? Would you refuse to truly forgive me, too? Bob's sin was so very public, and I can't imagine the emotional struggle this has to be for him. He will never be released, fully, from this sin, at least in the eyes of those around him. I can totally understand nonbelievers refusing to forgive him. But for those who constantly work at walking in the Light of God, His love should shine through our words, thoughts, and actions. Matthew 18:21-22 says, "Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, 'Lord, how many times should I forgive my brother who sins against me? Up to seven times?' Jesus answered, 'I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.'" And this is for how many times this person sins against you, not how many times you should forgive and re-forgive someone of the same sin. It is not our place to hold his sin against him. It is not our place to refuse forgiveness.

I don't really care if you vote for Bob or for Phil, or, for that matter, Susie, Jack, Mary, or Stephen. But what I do care about is how your words and actions as a believer reflect my Lord. We are to be his ambassadors here on earth, loving, caring, and forgiving each other and those around us. No matter what, no matter who you vote for, I ask that you pray for Bob to find peace, to soak up in God's love. If he gets voted into this new office, remember that was God's will. And if he doesn't, I pray it was because you believed someone else could do a better job, and that Bob can know with confidence it wasn't because people refused to forgive.

Here are the words of one of my current favorite songs. I ask that as you read the words, and even, if you like, see the video, think about those around you whom you have held forgiveness. Who are you hurting with your stubbornness. And if you realize you are sinning in your unforgiveness, maybe you should be asking for forgiveness as well.

And just a little side note. There have been times I have held forgiveness from others. I'm not just pointing fingers here. This entire situation has helped me to remember that I need to practice forgiveness more often, and show God's grace to everyone, whether their sins are great or small.

"Forgiveness" by Matthew West <----Click here to see a video
It's the hardest thing to give away
And the last thing on your mind today
It always goes to those that don't deserve

It's the opposite of how you feel
When the pain they caused is just to real
It takes everything you have just to say the word...


It flies in the face of all your pride
It moves away the mad inside
It's always anger's own worst enemy
Even when the jury and the judge 
Say you gotta right to hold a grudge
It's the whisper in your ear saying 'Set It Free'

Forgiveness, Forgiveness
Forgiveness, Forgiveness

Show me how to love the unlovable
Show me how to reach the unreachable
Help me now to do the impossible

Forgiveness, Forgiveness

Help me now to do the impossible

It'll clear the bitterness away
It can even set a prisoner free
There is no end to what it's power can do
So, let it go and be amazed
By what you see through eyes of grace
The prisoner that it really frees is you

Forgiveness, Forgiveness
Forgiveness, Forgiveness

Show me how to love the unlovable
Show me how to reach the unreachable
Help me now to do the impossible

I want to finally set it free
So show me how to see what Your mercy sees
Help me now to give what You gave to me
Forgiveness, Forgiveness

Thursday, March 14, 2013

REVIEW: Low Carb Chicken Bacon Crockpot Chowder

I love chicken. I LOOOVE bacon. And it's been just cold enough to merit a good soup for dinner. So when I saw the recipe for Chicken Bacon Chowder cropping up all over all of my low carb/paleo FB pages, I decided it would most definitely be a recipe I needed to try.

I found the recipe on Peace, Love, and Low Carb, one of my new favorite websites for yummy recipes. The author's blog is full of beautiful pictures that makes it so simple to follow. Since I didn't have all the ingredients on hand when I suddenly decided to make this soup, I'll show below what I did, but, of course, please see the original post for details. Then see my review at the bottom where I answer the questions: "Was it easy to make?" "How did it taste?" and "Did it make me feel full?"

So here's my "adjusted" recipe. Please go HERE for the original. I will note at the end of the ingredients and steps what I did differently. There is also a * next to ingredients I changed.

Here's my finished product, served with a low carb, almond flour bacon and cheddar scone

Low Carb Chicken Bacon Crockpot Chowder


  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 1 lb bacon
  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups water, divided *Recipe calls for chicken stock, but seriously shockingly I didn't have any
  • 4 Tbsp butter, divided
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 leek
  • 6 oz mushrooms
  • 2 Tbsp onion powder *Recipe called for 1/2 large onion. The hubs doesn't like onions, but I like the onion taste, so the powder is a compromise for us. 
  • 1 Tbsp flat leaf parsley *Recipe calls for a few springs of Italian Flat Leaf Parsely 
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • Ingredients in recipe that I did not have so I did not add: 1 shallot, 2 ribs of celery
Directions: This is pretty much word for word from the original. Any changes will have a bolded note next to it. 
  1. Turn crockpot on lowest setting. 
  2. Chop all veggies. Add the veggies, 2 Tbsp butter, 1 cup chicken stock {I used water}, a pinch of salt and pepper to the crockpot, cover and allow vegetables to sweat for an hour. 
  3. Chop up your bacon and cook it until it is nice and crispy {and resist urge to eat half of it}. Set aside. 
  4. At the same time, pan sear your chicken breast in the remaining 2 Tbsp butter until they are a nice caramel brown on both sides. They will NOT be fully cooked at this stage. 
  5. Remove chicken from pan and cut into cubes. De-glaze the chicken pan with the remaining chicken stock {again, water}.
  6. Add the chicken stock, heavy cream, cream cheese, and seasoning to the crockpot. Stir until well combined. 
  7. Add the chicken and the bacon to the crockpot. Cover and let cook for 6-8 hours. 
She says the entire batch is 38 net carbs. Without the shallot and celery, that might lower that number just a bit. But it ended up being about 10 servings for us, which is roughly 4g carbs per serving. NOT BAD AT ALL. 

Here are some pictures of the soup about 30 minutes into cooking: 

Good and chunky

Nice and creamy

My "Official" Review

Was it easy to make? Yes. It was very easy to make. Putting it together took a little over an hour, and only because you are supposed to let the veggies sweat. That time went by fast, though, by cooking the bacon, cooking the chicken, and then de-glazing the pan. I only had two complaints, but I can't blame the original chef; it's just the way the ingredients cook. 1} I had to scrape the sides of the crock every hour or so because the cream was browning on the sides. and 2}Around the 6th or 7th hour, my chowder suddenly dropped about 1, almost 2 inches in the crock. I was afraid that my entire soup was going to be reduced to creamy veggies and meat before it was supper time, so I added 1 more cup of water and 1 more cup of cream to the soup. Unfortunately, this made my chowder more soup than chowder. So in the future I will either just leave it alone or plan to eat it in 6 hours, not 8. 

How did it taste? SO. GOOD. My house smelled wonderful all day, too. I really, really like this soup. It was very creamy and full of all kinds of yum. My kids loved it, and my husband gave his seal of approval. I honestly think this would be a great meal to make for someone who is sick, has family in the hospital, or brand new parents. 

Did it make me feel full? Yes, surprisingly so. I started to get 2nds {because it's really that good}, but about two bites into it, I realized I was just too full to eat anymore. It may have been that I paired it with a scone that helped with the feeling full part, but either way, I was happy with what I had. Nothing I hate more than having a thick soup that makes me want to take a nap afterwards. And this soup didn't do that. I was just full and happy. Two very good things. 

This recipe is a good one. For sure going on my list of soups for next winter, since spring is starting to peak around the corner. 

Making My Own Coconut Flour

If you are looking for a low carb recipe or something for your Paleo diet, you are almost always going to run across the ingredients almond flour and coconut flour. At first, you look frantically everywhere thinking for sure grocery stores carry such items. Then you realize, not always, and if they do, it's normally really pricey. The only thing I found close to me was Bob's Red Mill Flour I can purchase at Big Lots or, if I have a sharp eye, at Publix or Bi-Lo. I decided, although it is nice to have a back up bag, I really should just make my own. 

This week I experimented with making my own coconut flour. The process itself is really not all that hard. It can be a bit time consuming,  but other than that, it's really easy. The hardest step I found was trying to find unsweetened coconut flakes, dried or not dried. I looked e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e, well, everywhere within a 30  mile radius. I'm sorry. I'm not driving 45 minutes to an hour away just to pick up a bag of unsweetened coconut. You can find sweetened coconut flakes everywhere. And you can still use it, but it adds carbs to your meals and unnecessary sugar that causes your body to crave more and more...and, yes, even more. I actually found some unsweetened coconut by accident. I was checking out prices on frozen berries at my favorite grocery store, Piggly Wiggly {"I'm Stickin' with The Pig"..."Local Since Forever"...yada yada}, when I saw small bags of unsweetened coconut, two bags for $3. I was so stinkin' excited!   So I figured it was a small enough amount that I could experiment on and NOT break the bank. And it worked out swimmingly. 

I made coconut flour two ways. Depending on what you have in your kitchen or what kind of time you are working on, you can make your own coconut flour for your meals. And as my daughter says, "Easy peasy, lemon squeezy". 

Homemade Coconut Flour

What's on the bottom is all but 1 cup of Bob's Red Mill Coconut Flour
that I paid around 10 BUCKS for. The top half is all but 1 cup
 of my homemade coconut flour that cost me only 3 to make. 

 Step 1: Drying the flakes 

Method 1: Dehydrator 

  1. Line your dehydrator with parchment paper. If your dehydrator doesn't have hundreds of little slats your coconut can fall through, then lucky you
  2. Spread out the coconut in as much of a single layer as possible. 
  3. Turn on your dehydrator and go about your day. 
This is a small batch and got me a little less than half a cup,
which is fine since most of the recipes I use are right around 1/2 cup of coconut flour. 

When I did this method, I did only one sheet, and it took about 8-10 hours for the flakes to dry. Honestly, if you are going to do it this way, I would prep it, turn it on, and go to bed. When you wake up in the morning, you can quickly grind the flour and make some pancakes or muffins or something delicious. 

Method 2: Cookie Sheet
  1. Turn your oven on LOW, between 170-200. I started mine at 170, but about an hour later, bumped it up to 200, and there it stayed until the end. 
  2. Spread the coconut in a single layer on a cookie sheet. 
  3. Bake for 2-3 hours. After the first 1 1/2 hours, I started checking every 15-20 minutes. You don't want to BAKE the coconut, you just want to dry it. And my experience with coconut is once it starts baking, it can cook FAST. 
This method is ideal if you are going to be home working around the house anyway. I worked in the yard, gardening, while my coconut was drying. I had the windows open so I could hear the timer go off every 20 minutes. It forced me to come inside, check the coconut, and drink some water before heading back outside. 

Step 2: Grinding the Dried Coconut

Now that your unsweetened coconut is dried, the rest of the process takes only about 2 minutes. 

  1. Dump your dried coconut into your blender, Vitamix {if you are lucky enough to have one...which makes me super duper jealous}, or your Magic Bullet
  2. Pulse the coconut. I pulse and then shook the container, then pulsed again. Coconut has oils in it that can cause all your hard work to clump together. So I just shake it a little between pulses to make sure everything stays separated. 
  3. Keep blending until the coconut flakes become a fine powder and then STOP. If you keep going, you can make coconut butter, which I'm sure is delicious, and something I plan on trying next time, but it's not going to help you make your pancakes. 

That's it! Just dry and grind. "Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy!" 

I have kicked around the idea of purchasing some dried unsweetened coconut flakes in bulk online. I can use the coconut flakes, not ground up as a flour, to make all kinds of things, such as these Coconut Nested Eggs {see picture below}. I'm just not sure if it will save me money or if it all comes out the same. 

This is really just 1 egg, 1/4 cup of unsweetened dried coconut flakes,
and about 15 minutes of your time. I love, love, love this recipe.
 I made 12 in my large muffin tin. Each family member got two with a slice of bacon,
and the kids fought over who was going to get an additional egg. Win-Win.  

And if you are looking for a recipe using coconut flour, here's one I made this morning for breakfast: Lemon Coconut Flour Pancakes

I didn't have any lemon extract, so these were more "Cinnamon Coconut Flour Pancakes", but after making the batter I realized I could have used lemon zest. So next time....

I served these pancakes with frozen berries, a little LOCAL bee pollen,
and some powdered sugar. On my pancakes, I omitted the powdered sugar
and added about a Tablespoon of homemade whipped cream. Super yummy.