Dashing Devotional: How to Study the Bible

October 23rd, 2014 - Dashing Devotionals, Inspiration

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What are the Benefits of Studying the Word of God?

Over the past few years, I have received a lot of questions and emails from people who asking how to study the Bible. I want to begin by saying that the great thing about spending time in the Word is that we get to spend time with our Father, and He wants to speak to us through His Word even more than we want to hear from Him! He loves us more than we could ever imagine, and His love letter to each one of us is the Bible!

I wanted to start by saying, because I truly think that if we go into studying the Word of God with the mindset that it is something that we ‘should’ or ‘have’ to do, it sucks the life right out of it! Instead, if we approach the Word as time to be with our Father and fellowship with the creator of the universe, we will see this time as a treasure, rather than a religious duty.

Not only is time spent in the Word a time to receive the Lord’s great love for us, but it is also the road map to our lives, guiding us and leading us into all truth and showing us the way to go. It also builds us up in our faith, gives us direction, renews our minds, lovingly corrects us, gives us wisdom, and brings true peace, joy, and fulfillment… and the list goes on. An important thing to remember is that the Word of God has the answer to every situation we will ever face in this life, and it will nourish and satisfy us like nothing on this earth ever could!

How do we Study the Word?

Now that I have laid a foundation for the benefits of spending time in the Word, the second thing I want to say about studying the Bible is that it is not a simple answer because the Word is Alive (Hebrews 4:12). It is different than any other book, because the Holy Spirit wrote it through people, and it is the Holy Spirit that brings each word on the page alive to each one of us as we study it. Therefore, the study of the Word and time spent with the Lord will look a little different for each person. It may look different each day and season of our lives because there may times/days when we really just need to spend time studying one passage or scripture for a period of time while asking the Lord to reveal it to us in a deeper way and bring it to life to us. There may be other times, however, when we read a whole chapter in one day and the Lord uses bits and pieces of it to speak different things to us. However, that being said, there are some truths that are constant and remain the same when it comes to believers reading the Word.

Here are the five things that should stay the same and apply to everyone in their time spent studying the Word:

1. Give God’s Word First Place. When we put God’s Word first place, everything in our lives will be built upon a firm foundation. John 8:31-32 tells us that if we abide in the Word, then we will be His disciples. We will know the truth and the truth will set us free. If we want to walk in the freedom that God has for us in every area of our life, we must make it our first priority to spend time with the Lord each day. If you feel that you don’t have time early in the morning, I would encourage you to try going to bed earlier so that you can set your alarm to wake up earlier! You can always study during your lunch break, at night, or any time throughout the day, but I personally have found that my whole day gets off to the right start when I make time to fellowship with Him first thing!

2. Go into Reading your Bible with Expectancy. When you spend time with the Lord, begin looking at it like getting to know your best friend. When you spend time with that person, they rub off on you a little more and soon you become like them. That is the way we should go into spending time with God. That takes away any tendency that someone might have to spend time with God out of ‘duty’ or obligation. When we expect to hear from Him, we are walking in faith that He will speak to us. This kind of attitude not only pleases Him (Hebrews 11:6), but it opens our hearts up to receive what He is speaking to us!

3. Pray Before you Read. Ask the Lord to bring the Word alive to you, to bring you revelation, and to give you eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart to receive what He is saying to you. I always ask the Holy Spirit to give me insight and understanding when reading the Word. The Holy Spirit was sent to us to teach us, counsel us, and remind us of the truths of God’s Word. He is also the one who inspired the people who wrote the Word, so He is the best teacher of all! (John 14:26)

4. Seek and You will Find. If you have a question, something you are going through, or just want to know the Lord more, know that when you seek, you will find, and that the Word has the answer to everything we have need of in this life. (Matthew 7:7)

5. Meditate and Pray the Word. I personally love journaling while studying the Word. When I write down scriptures, it allows me to think about each word and think about how it applies to my own life. I also love praying the Word, because I know that I am praying God’s perfect will when I am praying in alignment with what He said! I also love writing and praying scripture based prayers, because it increases my faith in His promises and it allows me to look back and reflect on His faithfulness!

Where Should I Start Reading?

As far as where to start reading or what Bible to read, I would say that it is important to read both the Old and New Testament equally. However, if it is your first time reading the Bible, I would suggest starting with the New Testament because this is where you will find your identity about who you are in Jesus. The New Testament is composed of The Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke John), which were written by the disciples, sharing their encounters with Jesus when He was on the earth.The Epistles – (Acts-Revelation) were written for the Christian church instructing us on how to live and carry out the ministry of Jesus today, while teaching us who we are in Christ. The New Testament is beneficial to us today because as Christians, we are saved by what Jesus did for us on the cross. For that reason, we are now under a new covenant with God, which means that we are no longer subject to the punishment of God and we don’t have to offer sacrifices for our sins. Jesus came as a sacrifice once and for all for all and carried our sins in His body so that we could be born again and have a personal relationship with God (1 Peter 2:24).

The Old Testament is also equally important because it is the foundation for the New Testament, teaching us about who God created us to be from the beginning. It also contains countless prophesies of things to come in the New Testament that could only be fully understood if you read the Old Testament. It has powerful life lessons that provide wisdom, insight, and understanding to our lives today.

What Version Should I Read?

I personally like the NKJV and the NLT. However, it is important that it is a version that you can understand. The  NIV, NKJV, NLT, Amplified, and The Message are all versions I have studied in the past. I would say that it also helps to have a dictionary to help you understand certain words and/or a concordance to study the Greek or Hebrew root words and their meanings. Some other additional study guides that I have found helpful in learning my foundation of who I am in Christ are, The Believers Journey by Chris Palmer and  The Battlefield of the Mind by Joyce Meyer.  I also wrote my devotional Devotions for a Healthier You in hopes to help women find their true fulfillment and identity in Christ based on what I have studied and learned over the years. 

I hope this helps! This topic can go much deeper than one post can explain, but I hope this encourages you to explore and study the Word if you haven’t already started! I truly believe that God’s Word is the foundation for our lives, and it will be our rock- firm, steady, and never changing through all of life’s seasons…But most of all, it is God’s personal love letter to you! xo Katie

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Top 10 Early Morning Workout Tips!

October 16th, 2014 - Articles, Fitness News, Inspiration

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I wasn’t always someone who enjoyed working out early in the morning, but now I can’t imagine it any other way! Here are my top ten tips to getting in an early morning workout!

1. Be Prepared- One of the most important steps for me to make my early morning workouts happen is to be prepared! I like to have my clothes laid out, my workout bottle filled and ready in the fridge, and my workouts written and ready to go! That way, I get to set my alarm with just enough time to wash my face, brush my teeth, and throw on my clothes. Being prepared means less things to think about when it’s early in the morning!

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2. Find Workout Buddies- There is something so much more motivating about working out with a buddy or a group of friends! Not to mention, having someone at the gym to meet you makes it that much easier to jump out of bed knowing that someone is counting on you to be there at a certain time! My favorite workout buddy is my sister, Emily. We meet each other at the gym early a few times a week, (she is a teacher, so we have to meet at 5:30 am so she can get to school on time), but the great thing about our workouts are that they are done before I know it and then we have the rest of our day to enjoy! Click Here for a Circuit Partner Workout! 

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3. Go to Bed Earlier- Let’s face it… one of the most common reasons many people don’t like to workout early is that they feel too tired. If this sounds familiar, I have great news…This can be solved by getting to bed at a reasonable time! I find that if I get at least 7 hours of sleep, I feel great the rest of the day, despite how early I get up! For example, when I know I am waking up at 5 am to meet my sister, I try to be in bed by 10 pm. To me, that is not too unreasonable and it is totally worth it to me knowing I will feel great the next day after I have allowed my body to get enough rest!

4. Eat a Quick Pre-Workout Snack- I personally don’t like to have a lot of food in my stomach when I workout (it gives me stomach cramps), but often, I like to eat something really light before heading out the door. If you are someone that prefers to eat before a workout, I recommend something with carbohydrates and not too high in protein, unless you are able to eat at least 30-60 minutes before your workout.  This gives your body time to digest it. I suggest anything from Dashing Dish muffins, overnight oatmeal, or some dry low sugar cereal. Again, this will vary from person to person, so I recommend experimenting with a few different options to see what works best for you. Also, be sure to always have a water bottle ready to go! Being hydrated is especially important before you’ve had anything to eat or drink for the day.

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5. Get in the Mindset- I can honestly say that I enjoy working out early in the morning, but that wasn’t always the case. In fact, there was a time when I would cringe at the thought of rolling out of bed and working out. However, I have found over time that there are more pros than cons when it comes to getting it done first thing. Here are a few examples of the benefits: Working out in the morning means that I don’t have to think about it the rest of the day, I feel more energized the rest of my day, and I tend to want to take care of my body the rest of the day, knowing that I put in the time and effort to workout!

6. Find a Workout You Enjoy- This might come as a shock to some of you, but I firmly believe that you can and should enjoy your workouts. If you are currently doing something that you find to be boring or you are doing something you dread, I want to encourage you to find something you enjoy. Yes it is possible! With all the options available today, there is no reason that you can’t find something that you love and feel that you are good at, and it doesn’t even have to be done at a gym! Try going with some friends to a work out class, buy some workout DVDs, or sign up for a walk/run/biking event. Do whatever you can to get out of your comfort zone. You never know, you might try something once and look forward to working out the rest of your life! Click Here for Some Fun & Easy Workout Ideas!

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7. Workout at Home- One of the greatest reasons for not working out early is that you simply don’t have time! For most of us, the morning can be one of the busiest times of all…But there is an answer! Working out at home is one of the best and easiest ways to get an early morning workout in, because it doesn’t require the extra time to drive to and from a gym. I have plenty of at home workouts that require only a few simple pieces of equipment (such as dumbbells), as well as some that don’t require anything except for your own body weight! Click Here for an At Home Total Body Circuit Workout!

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8. Plan Out Your Workouts- Having a plan, especially when it’s early in the morning is key to getting a good workout in! I know that if I didn’t plan my workouts ahead of time on my early workout days, that I would most likely have a hard time pushing myself in the gym. I don’t know about you, but the last thing that I can get my brain to do at 5:30 am is plan out a workout, nor do we have time when I am meeting my sister, who has to leave the gym at 6:30 am. The best thing we ever did was buy a simple and cheap notebook from Target and write out all of our workouts every Sunday so that we know what we are doing for the whole week in advance! It is also more motivating to know what we are doing ahead of time and have an organized game plan.

9. Have a Workout Playlist Ready- I don’t know about you, but having an awesome workout playlist gets me in the mood to workout! Don’t have any idea where to start with a ‘clean’ and uplifting playlist!? No problem! One of my current favorites is Hillsong Young & Free! Click Here for a Awesome Workout Playlist! 

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10. Re-Fuel with a Healthy Post-Workout Breakfast- If you do make the time and effort to start your day off with a workout, be sure to fuel your body properly throughout the rest of the day! As important as working out is, nutrition really is the most important component when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight and lifestyle! If you are worried that you don’t have time to workout and prep a healthy breakfast in the morning, no worries! I have tons of healthy breakfast options on Dashing Dish that are super speedy to make and can even be made the night before. I personally like to re-fuel with something that is higher in protein and complex carbohydrates. My personal favorite is one of my Dashing Dish protein shakes! Click Here for a List of 20 Quick and Easy Breakfast Ideas.

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How to Teach Your Kids to Pack a Healthy Lunch

October 9th, 2014 - Food News, Inspiration, Kids/Family

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This year, I tried a new “strategy” to tackle school lunches. It’s worked so well I thought I’d share it with you. My son is in second grade, so I felt like he was ready to start taking over his own lunch packing. I knew though that in order for it to be a positive and joyful experience for both of us, I needed to have a plan that we could stick to. I wanted it to be easy, quick, fun and healthy. Not only was this a chance to hand over an age appropriate responsibility, but also an opportunity to begin teaching him early how important it is to make food choices that nourish and fuel his body well – train up a child in the way he should go and he will not depart from it!

Here are a few tips that I find help make this successful:

1. Designate a place in the pantry and refrigerator just lunch items. I’ve found that this eliminates any need for me to “monitor” his choices, makes it easy for him, and helps the prepared lunch choices to last longer since no one else is using it for grab n’ go.

2. Prepare and stock up ahead of time! I need to restock the lunch choices every two weeks or so. Some foods last longer than others, but for the most part about an hour of work in preparation lasts nearly two weeks.

3. Buy in bulk and split into small portions. I purchase many of our lunch items from Costco in large quantities, and then on food prep day, I split them into snack size portions, and freeze additional items for the following month.

4. Freeze! The freezer is such an asset to help prevent wasted food and to cut down on prep time. You can freeze so many things! One of the things I do that has been super helpful is to make a couple dozen nut butter and jelly/or honey sandwiches, portioned into sandwich bags and kept frozen. They freeze beautifully and by lunch time it’s perfect for eating. I also do this with muffins, homemade granola bars, and most any of Katie’s baked goods.

5. The rules? Because I’ve pre-prepared a selection of healthy choices, I can really be hands-off and he loves that! I’ve found that he really enjoys the freedom to choose what he wants to eat each day and totally loves that responsibility! The only rule is that he has to include one vegetable selection, the rest is up to him!

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Here are a few ideas of the foods I’ve offered to help get you started:

  • Hummus with crackers or veggies
  • Tortilla chips and guacamole
  • Trail mix
  • Yogurt and granola (homemade recipe here http://dashingdish.com/recipe/pecan-pie-granola/)
  • Apples and nut butter (peanut, almond, sunflower)
  • Grilled chicken strips with BBQ sauce
  • Navitas Naturals Energy Snacks (I buy mine from Amazon) or any of Katie’s protein bars
  • Applesauce pouches
  • Go Picnic boxes (for a Friday treat)
  • Not pictured I also have sandwiches frozen and a basket of “desserts” he can choose from (one per lunch) that includes Lara Bars, Mott’s tots or Tasty brand organic fruit snacks, and fruit leathers.

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Healthy Back to School Lunch Ideas

August 29th, 2014 - Food News, Inspiration

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Main DishSide DishHealthy Treat
Mini Mexican PizzasBaked Sweet Potato WedgesS'Mores Granola
Easy Cheesy BurritosEasy Cheesy Broccoli SoupChocolate Chunk Muffins
Ham & Cheese QuesadillaMini Cauliflower Pizza BitesBanana Bread Muffins
Bacon Chicken SaladCreamy Tomato SoupAlmond Joy Granola
Turkey Apple QuesadillaSkinny Easy MacSkinny Puppy Chow
Parmesan Chicken WrapHoney Parmesan ChickpeasChocolate Fruit Dip
Black Bean & Corn QuesadillaZucchini ChipsHealthy Rice Crispy Treats
Mini Deep Dish PizzasGreen Bean FriesGrain Free Donuts
Honey Parmesan Chicken PoppersBaked Pita SnackersOatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
Store Bought Meals:
-PB&J on Whole Grain Bread
-Hard Boil Eggs
-Turkey Hummus Wrap
-Pita Pocket
-Soup with Chicken
-Grilled Chicken Strips
Store Bought Sides:
-Fresh Fruit & Veggies
-String Cheese or Cheese Shapes
-Yogurt
-Almonds
-Baby Carrots w/Hummus
Store Bought Treats:
-Fruit Leathers
-Veggie Straws
-Pirates Booty/Popcorn
-No Sugar Added Granola Bars
-Homemade Trail Mix

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Be-YOU-tiful- Find the beauty in being YOU!

August 26th, 2014 - Inspiration, True Beauty

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20 Back to School Breakfast Recipes

August 19th, 2014 - Food News, Inspiration

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If you are gearing up to get your kids back into a back-to-school routine, then chances are you have thought about quick and easy ways to get them fed on those busy mornings! If that sounds familiar, I have just the recipes for you! All of these recipes are quick, easy to make, and healthy. I categorized them into “Make Ahead” and “5-10 Minute Prep” so you can choose if you want to plan ahead so you can grab and go, or make a warm fresh breakfast in just 5-10 minutes on the day of. Enjoy!

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Make Ahead Prep: 

Overnight French Toast Bake

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Peanut Butter Cookie Overnight Oatmeal

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Breakfast Burrito

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Overnight Blueberry Parfait 

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Overnight Breakfast Bake

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Overnight Brownie Oatmeal

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Cheesy Mini Egg Muffins

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Grain Free Peanut Butter Muffins

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Giant Egg & Veggie Bake

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Grain Free Maple Donuts

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Peanut Butter Cookie Granola

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Strawberry Shortcake Muffins

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5-10 Minute Morning Prep:

French Toast Protein Shake

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Strawberry Pancake Roll-Ups

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Banana Bread Oatmeal

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Strawberry Banana Smoothie

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Egg White & Cheese Wrap

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Light & Fluffy Pancakes 

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Breakfast Sandwich

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Peanut Butter Cup 5 Minute Oatmeal

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I hope this helps you and your family prepare a healthy breakfast, even on the busiest of mornings!

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Upbeat & Motivating Christian Workout Playlist!

August 16th, 2014 - Dashing Workouts, Fitness News, Inspiration

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Here is a list of awesome Christian songs that are upbeat, motivating, and have a great beat for working out! A special thanks to Beck Santa, a Dashing Dish reader who composed this awesome list! The songs are listed by the Song Title, followed by Artists Name.
Addicted – Frontlynaz feat. Jai
After the Music Stops – LeCrae
Alive – Saylah
Awesome God – R-Swift
Beautiful- PRo (aka Derek Minor)
Beautiful Day – Jamie Grace
Break it Down – 116 Clique
Bring Me Low – Canon
Can’t Go On – Group 1 Crew
Complicated – Tedashii
Dangerous- Group 1 Crew
Drop It – Viktory feat. Canon
Dum Dum – Tedashii feat. LeCrae
Echo – Canton Jones feat. The Cajo family
Eye on It – Toby Mac
The Fever – LeCrae feat. Andy Mineo & Papa San
Fly – 12th Tribe – album ~ Christian Hip Hop’s Finest Vol. 7
Get Up – Mary Mary
Go Hard – LeCrae feat. Tedashii
Go Harder – Michelle Bonilla
God is Amazing – Viktory feat. ZG & KJ-52
God in Me – Mary Mary feat. Kiera “Kiki” Sheard
Good Morning – Mandisa feat. Toby Mac
Go Off – KB feat. Andy Mineo & Tedashii
Greater – Mercy Me
Grow Up – Canon feat. Tragic Hero
He Dropped Love On Me – Mc Blvd feat. MC Magic
Holla (Urban Remix) – Trin-I-tee 5:7
I Love You – Michelle Bonilla *another of my favorites
I Want Back – Kierra Sheard – album ~ Kiki’s Mixtape
I Will Not Lose – Brotha Bemixx
I Won’t Lose – D-M.A.U.B
I’m A Christian – Bizzle
I’m Alive – Deitrick Haddon
I’m Turnt – LeCrae
I’m Gone – Du2ce feat. Rachel & Dre Da Flame
Impossible – Manafest
Inexhaustible- Trip Lee
Jesus High – Applejaxx feat. Odetta
Jesus Muzik – LeCrae feat. Trip Lee
Jesus Rose – Keisha Dreams feat. Mersy
Joyful Noise – Flame, John Reilly & LeCrae
Krazy Praise – April Nevels
Let It Roll – Group 1 Crew
Listen – Bonez
Live Free – LeCrae feat. Sho Baraka & Jai
Man Up Anthem – 116 Clique
March – Jirah- album ~ Holy Hip Hop Vol. 4
Me Without You – Toby Mac
Miracle – Keisha Dreams
Most High – Level 3:16
My Walk – Canton Jones
Never Back Down – PRo feat. S.O. & Thi’sl
No Limits – PRo feat. Rio
Nothing I Can’t Do – Tedashii feat. Trip Lee & LeCrae
Nuthin- LeCrae
One Blood – Papa San feat. Stitchie
One Sixteen – Trip Lee feat. KB & Andy Mineo
Ooh Ahh (My Life Be Like) – Grits feat. Toby Mac
Our Generation- Michelle Bonilla
Overcomer – Mandisa
Say I Won’t – LeCrae feat. Andy MineoSend Me – LeCrae
Sending My Love – Keisha Dreams
Shackles – (Praise You) – Mary Mary
Speak Life – Toby Mac
Special – LeCrae feat. Lester “L2″ Shaw
Start Over – Flame feat. NF
Step Up – Papa San feat. Da T.R.U.T.H
Stronger – PRo feat. JaiSurrender – Flame & V Rose
Take Me As I Am – LeCrae
Take Me There – V3
Tell ‘Em – Level 3:16
Thrive – Casting Crowns
Transformed – Du2ce
Unashamed- LeCrae feat. Tedashii
Way Maker – Keisha Dreams
Walking – Mary Mary
When the Praises Go Up – Keisha Dreams
Who He Is – Trip Lee feat. LeCrae & Cam
Wild Things – Andy Mineo
You Can’t Stop Me – Andy Mineo

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Dashing Devotional~ Putting an End to “Secret” Eating

August 12th, 2014 - Dashing Devotionals, Inspiration, True Beauty

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Putting an End to Secret Eating 

By Sarah Shaffer

Several years ago when the Lord really began opening my eyes to His truth to change my thoughts toward disordered eating habits, he used my kids to teach me a life-changing lesson.  In our house we have a saying, “sneaking is the same as lying.” I teach my kids that if you have to sneak something, you need to pause and question, is what I’m about to choose permissible AND beneficial? If not, that choice could easily lead down a difficult path. You are free to choose, but you are not free from the consequences of that choice. 

Even now, it makes me smile to think about how the Lord uses the lessons we strive to teach our kids in our own lives. One day, I caught my little girl hiding in her closet with a number of her older brother’s “off limits” toys. She’d made a very purposeful decision to sneak something she knew wasn’t in her best interest. Minutes later, literally just moments after talking with her about why her sneaking would result in a consequence, I found myself in the kitchen. Specifically, in the pantry – light on, door closed – elbow deep in a bag of chips, very intent on stuffing in as many as I could before I was discovered. BAM!!!! My hypocrisy hit me like a ton of bricks.  The Lord used that perfectly timed experience with my daughter to reveal a life-changing lesson to me. How could I lead my children into truth when this was the example I was setting for them? 

The Lord used that moment and two verses in particular to change my heart toward “sneak” eating. Psalm 25:21 says, “May integrity and honesty protect me, for I put my hope in you.” And, Psalm 32:1-2 declares, “Oh, what joy for those whose rebellion is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight! Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of sin, whose lives are lived in complete honesty!” 

Just as I encourage my children to make blameless choices, choices that they can be proud of no matter who’s watching, the Lord desires the same for you and me. Not because He is watching, waiting for us to “mess up”, or doesn’t trust us, but because He desires that things go well for us. He wants us to make choices that lead to blessed, peaceful paths. That day, I committed that particular area of my disordered eating to Him and laid sneak eating at the foot of the cross. 

If you struggle in this area, let me just encourage you that the Lord is faithful to his beloved children. If you hand this over to the Lord, He will make you free. He will lead you along the right path and show you which way to turn. My prayer for you today is this – Lord, you tell us that where your spirit is there is freedom. We ask you now to send your Holy Spirit to gently direct us away from choices  to sneak what may be permissible but not beneficial in our lives. We commit to you now to live our lives in the light, shield us with your love. In Jesus name, amen.”

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Eating Healthy on a Budget

August 7th, 2014 - Articles, Food News, Inspiration

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Eating healthy does not have to mean expensive grocery bills. Here are some of my favorite tips for eating healthy on a budget!

1. Plan Ahead- Make a grocery list and stick to it. The best way to avoid impulse buying is to plan what you need before you get to the store. That way you are not tempted to buy things that you don’t need.

2. Be Prepared- Pack your lunches, snacks, and eat before you go out. When you pack your own food you prevent yourself from over eating, you always know what is in your food, and you save time and money!

3. Buy in Bulk- There are times when it is smart to buy in bulk. One example is discounted meat. If you look for discounts on meat and buy it in big batches, you can store it in your freezer until you are ready to use it. It is also smart to buy products in bulk that you use a lot. For example, if you use a lot of lettuce, look for one large bag, and compare the price to two smaller bags. Chances are, buying more of something that you will use will save you money in the long run.

4. Buy Frozen- If you think you won’t be able to use something up before it spoils such as fruit or vegetables, buy them frozen. Not only will this save you money, but it will prevent you from throwing money away on spoiled groceries.

5. Buy In-Season Produce- Food grown in season is not only more affordable, but it also tastes better. Look for root vegetables in the winter, apples, potatoes, and squash in the fall, and broccoli and berries in the summer. Farmers markets may also have a better deal on produce than grocery stores.

6. Buy Generic- Name brands often have increased prices due to the packaging and advertising costs.

7. Clip Coupons- Sign up for newsletters about sales and deals at the stores you frequently shop at. Investing a few minutes clipping and/or printing coupons each week can save you a lot of money on groceries.

8. Get the Customer Card- Many grocery stores hold sales and specials for customer card holders only. Signing up for these costumer cards are often free and only take a few moments.

9. Buy a Reusable Water Bottle- Don’t spend money on soft drinks, juices, or bottled water. Instead invest in a few nice water bottles and refill them. Not only will this save you money, but it will save you tons of sugar and calories!

10. Get Creative with Leftovers- If you happen to have leftovers of some of your ingredients, don’t throw them away. Instead, put them to good use and get creative by putting them into a different recipe, or freeze them if possible.

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How to Create a Healthy Dessert or Food Bar

August 1st, 2014 - Food News, Inspiration

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Summer is just about officially here, which is the season of bridal showers, graduation parties, outdoor gatherings! Some of my favorite things to do when I host (or cater for a friends party) is do a food or dessert bar. The great thing about a food ‘bars’ is that they are easily put together, they please a crowd, and they look simply adorable, making them one of  the most memorable parts of any party!

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Here are some tips and steps that will help you create a dessert and/or food bar that your guests are sure to love!

Step 1. Decide whether you want to serve food, desserts, or both. 

This decision will primarily be made based on the time of day that you are hosting the party. If you are throwing the party at noon for example, your guests will most likely be expecting lunch. If on the other hand you plan to only serve appetizers or desserts, just be sure your party is not around a general meal time, or you may have very hungry guests! Also, as a general rule of thumb, I always write something about what I plan to serve on the invites, just so there is no confusion.

 Step 2. Evaluate your crowd to determine what types of food/desserts to prepare. 

The next thing I begin to think about when catering or hosting a party is who will be there. For example, if I know there are mostly women coming, my thoughts automatically lean more towards a salad bar. (No offense guys, but this tends to have more of a feminine appeal, and turns out really pretty!) For example, for my sisters wedding shower, I did a huge salad bar that not only looked really elegant, but it also also pleased all of the girls there, whom all enjoyed a salad! If I am throwing a party with a more diverse crowd, I might do something with multiple meats and different options to choose from, like a taco, pizza, or chili bar. When ti comes to dessert bars, the great thing about those is you pretty much can’t go wrong. As long as you have a few different options, most people will find something they enjoy. I also think about where the location of the food and party will be, which will make a difference in the types of food I will serve and prepare, based on if it will be indoors or outdoors. Also, when it comes to choosing foods, I try to keep most of my food items healthy, but still appealing to a large crowd (that is where Dashing Dish recipes come in!) Of course, I might have a few things that are not the healthiest, such as chocolate chips, but for the most part, I try to keep the main dishes on the healthier side!

Step 3. Select a theme and/or colors. 

This might not always apply, especially if it is a casual party, but if I know there will be a theme to the party (especially if it is a wedding or baby shower), then I like to start thinking about the colors of the food, napkins, plates, etc. For example, this may help you pick the flavor of cupcake, frosting flavors, or desserts you will make,  and of course it will help you think about decorations you may need. The great thing about food and dessert bars is that they are often cute enough by themselves, and the food is decoration enough, so I often only plan for a few little decorative accents such as flowers, paper straws, wooden spoons, and possibly linens to drape across the table, which I set the food on.

Step 4. Begin to think about numbers. 

Once you know what your menu will look like, you will need to start planning your grocery list. I often do this well in advance, and just as soon as I have a rough head count for the party. I like to be prepared ahead of time, and even get ingredients that might be hard to find ahead of time if possible. I like to safely assume that each guest will have at least one serving of food and/or dessert, and I generally multiply that number by at least two per guest. From there, I determine if anyone will be bringing a dish to the party, and if so, I generally give them a few specific ideas to choose from so it will go with the theme. Once I know about how much food I will need to buy/prepare, I start to write up a rough grocery list. 

Step 5. Think about set up and details. 

Once you know where your food/dessert bar will be located (any long table will work), and what you will be serving, it is time to plan the set up! This can be really simply done, or a bit more extravagant, based on the look you are going for, and the type of party.

1. The first thing I think about is linens. The type of linen or runner you choose for your bar will vary based on the party, and the great thing is you can either rent them or purchase them for a great deal if you buy some fabric from the craft store, or you could buy one or two basic runners, so that you can keep re-using them, (I have a burlap runner that I re-use for almost every party). I also like to get paper plates and napkins that go with the color and theme.

2. After choosing the linens, I think about if I want different elevations. This can be simply done by using cake plates, boxes, crates, trifle bowls, basic plates, trays, or even a stack of books! The key here is just simply to add different heights to the bar, which allows you to place some things in the back, and some things in the front without things getting lost. Otherwise, it would just end up looking like a huge pile of food, and it will be hard for your guests to sort through.

3. Choose plates, bowls, trifle bowls, cake plates, jars, and trays you will want to use. I like to use mason jars for a lot of my food and dessert bars, because you can buy them in bulk for really cheap (Walmart has a great deal on a 12 pack). I like to use the bigger ones for larger items such as salad toppings, and smaller ones for my dessert bar toppings. As far as plates go, you can really get creative and mix and match what you have, but if you don’t have much to work with, you can always go to a second hand store such as Good Will (you’d be surprised how many cute dishes they have there), or look at an inexpensive store such as Home Goods! In general, when I am buying plates, trays, etc., I try to think practically, and buy white or clear items, so I can keep re-using them in the future. Also, don’t forget about serving utensils! Be sure that every dish has something you can serve it with, such as a spoon, tongs, or a pie server. I even like to practice ‘setting up’ my food/dessert bar the night before the party sometimes so that I can be sure I have all the right serving items.

4. Think about details. Like I said earlier, you won’t need to buy a lot of decorative details, because the food/dessert bar in itself is generally pretty adorable, so I like to just pick out a few little accents to bring out the color and/or theme that I am going for. One great way to do this is by using colored paper straws and wooden utensils (I buy them at Home Goods or on Etsy or Amazon for a few dollars.) I also like to make little signs/labels which can be done really simply by cutting out little pieces of paper, and folding them, or with something like mini chalk boards (Amazon/Etsy have great deals, and these can be re-used). You can also make little paper tags for things, buy colorful candies to tie in your color theme, and even buy flowers (or use fake flowers) for an elegant touch!

and last but not least…

Step 6. Think about ways to save money! 

Let’s face it, throwing a party can be pretty expensive. When it comes to entertaining or catering, I always try to think about ways I can save money. One great way to do this is by planning ahead. When you plan ahead and know what you are going to buy, this will allow you to look for sales on food (as long as they are items that will stay fresh until your party, or can be frozen), and other items such as paper plates and napkins. Buying things in bulk can also be a great way to get a deal, as long as you know you will be able to use it all. When it comes to saving on serving wear and the details, I like to start by looking around my house for items I already have. Also, like I mentioned earlier I like to shop at second hand stores, and craft stores (which usually have great coupons) for little details, crates, and mason jars, and I like to get a few items on Etsy and Amazon if I need something special. You can also plan to do the food and/or dessert bar with someone. For example, my sisters and I generally work on them together, which makes the work and cost go down, as it is divided among two or three people. The general thing that I try to keep in mind when I am hosting or catering any party though is that I am doing it to bless the person that we are celebrating, or just to bless my guests! When you think of it that way, it always makes the time and money invested worth while!

Now, to give you guys an even better idea on how to put these steps together I thought I’d share a few pictures of some events I prepared food and dessert bars for! Here is an example of a salad bar that Id did for my sister Emily’s wedding shower. The shower was held at my sister Sarah’s house this past summer.

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We also did a dessert bar for her shower, which was really fun. It was sort of a ‘build your own trifle’ theme, and Sarah had cute little sunday cups for each girl to build their own mini dessert parfait in.

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Emily’s wedding colors were coral and gold, so I threw in a few items to tie in her colors.

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The beautiful bride had a great day, and it certainly was a shower to remember!

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Another bridal shower that I recently did the dessert bar for was my good friend Heather. This shower was put on by my friend Dayna (who is also an amazing photographer, and took some of these amazing photo’s! :)) The theme for this party was a tea party, with whites and golds being her colors, so we did something a little more elegant, yet still rustic because it was outdoors.

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Dayna asked friends and family to borrow tea cups, and plates, which helped lower the cost, and she rented a lot of the other items, such as the barrel table, crates, and linens.

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Dayna also made all the tags for everything, and used a lot of her chalk boards that she already had to make signs for things. This attention to detail really made each item feel personalized and very special.

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For the dessert bar, I chose to do cake pops and cookies that were the brides favorite flavors, (pistachio and white chocolate macadamia nut cookies), and I even made a personal little pistachio cake for the bride to enjoy after the shower!

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I also made no bake cheesecake trifles (recipe coming soon), white chocolate drizzled rice crispy treats, blondies, and chocolate covered pretzels. For most of these items, I made healthier options whenever possible.

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Here I catered a business meeting for 40 + women! I did a breakfast bar, followed by a salad and dessert bar for lunch!

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I hope these ‘how to’ steps were helpful in learning how to set up a food or dessert bar! It really can be quite fun, and they certainly do present quite beautifully at any party! You can keep it quite simple, or do something extravagant if you choose, but the key is to have fun and celebrate the ones you love!

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