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Healthy Living: Fresh Kiwi


KiwiMy older son LOVES kiwi in his lunch. It’s a good thing that it’s in season now, too. I pack it with a plastic knife and spoon, so he can cut it in half horizontally and scoop out the good stuff with his spoon. You can eat the skin, but most people prefer to skip it.

Kiwi, native to Australia, are packed with vitamin C. In fact, one kiwi provides 273 percent of your recommended daily allowance, and studies have shown that eating kiwi may even help to prevent or ward off colds.

They also have vitamin K, vitamin E, folate and potassium. They also have a ton of antioxidants and are a great source of fiber.

Studies have also shown that eating kiwi helps lower blood pressure and reduces the risk of blood clots.

Kiwis are usually eaten raw as is, but you can slice them into a salad or mix into a fruit salad.



Healthy Living: Staying Healthy


Staying HealthySo far this year, I’ve had strep throat twice and a wicked cold in between.

That’s not a great way to kick off the winter holidays.

Sometimes, you can’t help catching a virus, but there are everyday ways you can help keep yourself healthy and better your odds of not getting sick.

First of all, if you ARE sick, limit your exposure to healthy people. Don’t go to work. I repeat, do not go to work. Chances are that you can stay home until you’re not contagious. Don’t cough your way through the grocery store, the library, your kids’ school, church or any place else where large groups of people congregate.

Now that we’ve made that point, wash your hands frequently and often. Wash them in the warmest water you can stand with soap, and dry them with a paper towel or air blower. Avoid touching common areas that might breed germs, and know that it’s perfectly acceptable to decline a handshake at a business meeting when the other person has just sneezed or coughed into their hand.

Use hand sanitizer. Carry it with you.

If you’ve been sick or someone you know has been sick, use disinfectant wipes or sprays on areas they’ve touched. Keep them handy.

Drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated keeps your body functioning properly and helps to ward off colds and viruses.

Get plenty of sleep. Exhaustion leaves you susceptible to illness.

Eat foods dense with nutrients and vitamins like brightly colored fruits and vegetables. Avoid alcohol or sugary foods and drinks.

Now, back to the first point. Stay home if you are sick, and don’t spread germs!



Healthy Living: Tomato Potato Soup


Tomato Potato SoupI know you read that title and did a double take.

I did too when I asked my boyfriend what he wanted for dinner, and he said, “Something healthy, like a tomato potato soup.”

Now, I ask him what he wants for dinner EVERY time I plan menus, and his answer 99 percent of the time is “steak.” The other 1 percent is “whatever you want.”

I love cooking for him. Cooking for him might be my love language, but he rarely tells me what he wants. Plus, he’s super picky.

So, when he does tell me something he wants, I do my best to make it happen. Thus, Tomato Potato Soup.

As strange as it sounds, it turned out amazing, even though I was totally winging it.

Tomatoes are full of antioxidants and vitamins C and A. You can sneak carrots into this soup because they are rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin B-8, pantothenic acid, folate, potassium, iron, copper and manganese, not to mention onions for vitamin C and chromium. Then, there’s the garlic, which cures just about anything this time of year, and the potatoes, which provide tons of potassium and fiber.

Tomato Potato Soup

Ingredients:
3 baking potatoes, peeled and diced (divided)
1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 large white onion, diced
2 Tbs garlic, minced
2 Tbs dried oregano
2 Tbs dried basil
2 Tbs dried parsley
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
salt and black pepper, to taste
1 (28 oz) can tomato sauce
2 (14.5 oz) cans fire-roasted diced tomatoes
2 Tbs butter
1 (32 oz) box beef stock

Directions:
Microwave potatoes until fork-tender; set aside.

Heat olive oil in a large, heavy stockpot until fragrant and shimmering. Add onions; sauté until soft and opaque. Add garlic; cook for 1 more minute. Add 1/3 of potatoes, and continue to cook for 3 more minutes. Stir in oregano, basil, parsley, red pepper, salt and pepper.

Stir in 1 can of fire-roasted tomatoes to deglaze the pan. Add in remaining diced tomatoes and tomato sauce. Bring to high heat, stirring frequently.

In another large pan, melt butter until bubbly. Stir in potatoes; cook over medium-high heat until potatoes are tender but not browned. Set aside.

When tomato mixture comes to a boil, turn to low. Continue to simmer for 1 hour or until mixture reduces. Puree in a food processor. Depending on volume of tomato mixture, stream in as much beef stock as the bowl of the food processor can contain; pulse until well-blended. Return to pot. Add rest of beef stock and reserved potatoes. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat, and simmer until ready to serve.

Serves 8

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 180, Calories from Fat: 48, Fat: 5 g (2 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 8 mg, Sodium: 1139 mg, Potassium: 1028 mg, Carbohydrates: 29 g, Fiber: 5 g, Sugar: 9 g, Protein: 6 g.

View this recipe to print or add items to My Shopping List.



Healthy Living: Sleep Matters


Sleep MattersSeveral years ago, I stopped sleeping. After a while, I stopped functioning. No, really. I walked through each day like a zombie, and even now, I can’t recall how I accomplished basic tasks. Once, I even fell asleep in the car in a parking lot, immediately after pulling in.

Good sleep patterns are critical to your overall health.

Adequate sleep is necessary to fight off infection, colds and illnesses, especially this time of year. Good sleep supports your metabolism. It helps you work safely and effectively, and it enables you to perform well in school.

If left untreated, sleep disorders and chronic short sleep are associated with an increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes. However, getting good sleep isn’t always as easy as it sounds, especially when you’re exhausted but just can’t sleep well.

There are several things you can do to help the process along, though.

Start dimming the lights about an hour before you want to go to bed. Don’t exercise, eat or drink within that hour, either (or three to four hours before bedtime, in the case of exercise).

Prepare yourself for sleep by ceasing any activity. Read a book, watch TV, take a bath or listen to music. Avoid making school lunches, preparing work for the next day, cleaning or any other activity that invites stress.

Make your bedroom a sanctuary. Put electronics away, if you have to, or turn off the volume so they won’t be distracting. Keep work out of your bedroom. Keep laundry off your bed.

Drink warm tea or milk as you begin to settle down. A bath, about an hour before bed, helps induce sleepiness as you cool off. Add lavender to the bathwater, use lavender lotion or diffuse lavender essential oils in your bedroom as lavender is known to have a calming effect.

If sleep problems persist, consult your doctor. He can do a blood workup and help you identify any physical causes of sleeplessness. He might also prescribe a natural supplement or a short-term medication to help break the cycle of sleeplessness.

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Healthy Living: Hot Spiced Fruit Bake


Hot Spiced Fruit BakeI said fruit BAKE, not fruit CAKE!

Of course, if fruitcake is your thing, you might really love this hot, spiced fruit bake.

It’s hard to resist so many delicious treats during the holidays, but you can enjoy this delicious indulgence guilt-free by keeping calories low and loading up on the nutrients found in winter fruits.

Winter fruits like apples, pears and citrus are a great way to get antioxidants, which help fight colds this time of the year.

This is a great alternative to heavier treats laden with flour and sugar.

Enjoy this for breakfast or for dessert with a dollop of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, if you must.

Hot Spiced Fruit Bake

Ingredients:
2 cups apple slices
2 cups pear slices
1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries
1 cup pineapple chunks (juice reserved)
lemon juice
1/3 cup coconut sugar or raw sugar
1 Tbs agave or honey
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 stick butter, melted
2 Tbs coconut oil, melted
1/3 cup walnuts, chopped

Directions:
Preheat oven to 300° F. In a large bowl, toss fruit with lemon juice. Set aside.

In another bowl, combine melted butter, sugar, spices and coconut oil. Add in honey and about 1/3 cup pineapple juice. Stir into fruit, and mix thoroughly to coat.

Pour into a 9 x 13 baking dish, and bake for 1 hour. Top with nuts. Serve warm.

Serves 4

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 492, Calories from Fat: 327, Fat: 37 g (21 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 61 mg, Sodium: 166 mg, Potassium: 395 mg, Carbohydrates: 43 g, Fiber: 8 g, Sugar: 30 g, Protein: 3 g.

View this recipe to print or add items to My Shopping List.



Healthy Living: Winter Fruit Salad


Winter Fruit SaladFresh fruits and veggies define the summertime months, but you don’t have to, nor should you, give up your fruits just because the weather is colder.

Fruits provide some vital nutrients that help you through the winter months, most notably vitamin C, which helps you fight off colds. They also provide vitamin A, an important antioxidant; zinc, which also helps prevent colds and fights germs; and vitamin D, which we usually get from sunshine.

I’ve found fruit salad, using fruits that are suited to the winter for becoming ripe, is a great way to get vitamins and nutrients when the skies are gray and cloudy. This is almost like sunshine in a bowl.

You can even skip the “dressing” and just eat this medley of super fruits plain.

Winter Fruit Salad

Ingredients:
2 red apples, cored and diced
2 pears, cored and diced
4 clementine oranges, peeled and segmented
3 kiwifruit, peeled and diced
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 cup pomegranate seeds
2 Tbs pure maple syrup
1 Tbs fresh lime juice

Directions:
Combine all the fruit in a large bowl.
In a smaller bowl, whisk together lime juice and maple syrup. Pour dressing over salad, and toss to coat. If delaying serving, toss dressing with fruit immediately before serving.

Serves 4

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 317, Calories from Fat: 35, Fat: 1 g (0 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 0 mg, Sodium: 6 mg, Carbohydrates: 80 g, Fiber: 13 g, Sugar: 56 g, Protein: 4 g.

View this recipe to print or add items to My Shopping List.



Healthy Living: Cranberry Pear Crisp


Cranberry Pear CrispMy first thought after someone mentions “holiday meal” is usually “holiday desserts.”

I can’t help it; I love a sweet treat.

This holiday season, I’m going to try to eat fewer slices of pecan pie or bouche de noel and make healthier choices.

One thing I really love about the holidays is the abundance of fresh cranberries, so I like to incorporate those into my foods as frequently as humanly possible.

This dessert will satisfy your sweet tooth, but it won’t stack up the calories or amount of sugar you’re consuming. The tartness of the cranberry plays well against the sweet pear, and the crisp topping adds texture and pulls all the flavors together.

It’s also much healthier than eating something laden with chocolate and sugar.

Cranberry Pear Crisp

Ingredients:
For the filling:
2 Anjou pears, cored and diced
2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
2 tsp cornstarch
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 tsp cinnamon

For the topping:
1 cup Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Old Fashioned Rolled Oats
1/2 cup Bob’s Red Mill Almond Meal
1/4 cup coconut sugar or brown sugar, or 2 Tbs Splenda Brown Sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbs coconut oil, melted

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375° F, and spray a 9-inch pie plate with nonstick cooking spray.
Roughly chop cranberries; toss them with diced pears, cornstarch, syrup and cinnamon.
In a small bowl, combine topping ingredients. Sprinkle topping mixture over the filling, and bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool slightly and serve warm.

Serves 4

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 375, Calories from Fat: 128, Fat: 14 g (7 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 0 mg, Sodium: 7 mg, Potassium: 405 mg, Carbohydrates: 58 g, Fiber: 9 g, Sugar: 31 g, Protein: 6 g.

View this recipe to print or add items to My Shopping List.



Healthy Living: Chimichurri Hummus


Chimichurri HummusMy friend Paula is the one who introduced me to hummus while I was living in Germany, of all places.

Paula, of Middle Eastern descent, made all kinds of foods that were exotic to me: baba ganoush, tabouli, falafel. I loved them all.

While I’ve always loved food of any kind, the years I lived overseas really solidified my adventurous taste buds. It’s almost a necessity when burgers and pizza aren’t available on every corner.

Paula also introduced me to the benefits of a healthier Middle Eastern diet, much like the Mediterranean way of eating, full of whole foods and healthy oils.

Hummus was, from early on, my favorite thing she made.

Fast forward about 20 years (I’m not saying exactly how many!), and I still love hummus. I love to add different flavors into the base recipe and use it as a dip for my veggies.

I always hear people asking if they can skip the tahini (sesame paste) in hummus recipes. No, you cannot. It’s what gives the hummus that extra depth of flavor, umami, if you will, that makes it positively addictive.

This healthy recipe can be eaten in large quantities.

Chimichurri Hummus

Ingredients:
2 cups garbanzo beans, cooked or canned
1 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1/2 cup basil, chopped
1/3 cup tahini
1/2 cup shallots, diced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbs red wine vinegar
juice of one lemon
1 tsp garlic, minced
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp red chili pepper flakes
black pepper, to taste

Directions:
Drain beans thoroughly.

Chop parsley and basil so that stems are removed.

Place beans, parsley, basil, tahini and shallots in a food processor and blend until smooth. Drizzle in oil and pulse until well incorporated. Add remaining ingredients except chili flakes and black pepper.

Blend until you reach the desired consistency, smooth and thick.

Top with chili flakes and black pepper.

Makes 2 to 3 cups

Serves 8 to 11, as an appetizer or snack

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 273, Calories from Fat: 118, Fat: 13 g (2 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 0 mg, Sodium: 78 mg, Carbohydrates: 31 g, Fiber: 9 g, Sugar: 5 g, Protein: 10 g

View this recipe to print or add items to My Shopping List.

 



Healthy Living: Using Hand Sanitizer


Using Hand SanitizerBack in the day, when my younger son was at that age, I taught preschool for two years. It was great because I got to go to work with him every day while still earning an income, but the downside was that I spent the first year teaching preschool sick. I mean, really sick. I not only contracted every cold that came through my classroom door, but I also battled a bout of strep throat and pneumonia. My immune system was the pits.

The next year, I invested in the industrial sized bottles of hand sanitizer for my classroom. The kids learned to apply some when they entered the room, when they came back from the bathroom (even after they washed their hands) and after recess.

I didn’t get sick that year.

Hand sanitizer is an easy and convenient way to help stay healthy on the go. An alternative to soap and water, hand sanitizer usually comes in liquid, gel or foam form. It contains a high level of alcohol. Alcohol rub sanitizers kill most bacteria and fungi and stop some viruses. Alcohol rub sanitizers containing at least 70 percent alcohol (mainly ethyl alcohol) kill 99.9 percent of the bacteria on hands 30 seconds after application and 99.99 percent in one minute, according to studies.

I have a small, travel-sized bottle in my purse, for on-the-go sanitizing. It really came in handy at the state fair, let me tell you.

I have another bottle on my desk and another in the boys’ bathroom in my home.

You can’t avoid all germs this fall and winter, so protect yourself the best way you can.



Healthy Living: Perimeter Shopping


Perimeter ShoppingI ran into one of my uber-healthy friends while grocery shopping this morning. In addition to the fact that she’s beautiful, fit and ENJOYS eating celery, I was wearing scuzzy clothes and didn’t have on any makeup. Of course, that’s pretty much the law when you leave the house in a state of disrepair. The best I had going for me is that I was clean.

However, makeup and T-shirt aside, I found myself wanting to hide my shopping cart from her. Oh yeah, I had salmon, broccoli, zucchini and grapes, but I also had frozen waffles and ice cream. Hey, they are for my KIDS, okay?

Then, I started thinking that I should probably shop so that I don’t feel the need to hide my cart when a healthy eater walks by. My next thought was that I should do a better job of emphasizing healthy choices to my kids.

I put the frozen waffles back. My son will be just as happy with Greek yogurt for protein and dairy, and a banana for fruit and fiber. The other son can have real scrambled eggs instead of a frozen breakfast pastry.

I left the ice cream because I think it’s fine for growing, active kids to have a treat every once in a while.

One of the best ways to shop in a healthy way is to shop the perimeter of the grocery store, where the fresh fruits and vegetables are stored, along with the meats and dairy. I really do love walking through the Brookshire’s produce department and seeing the beautiful displays of colorful fruits and veggies.

Maybe next time I run into her, I won’t feel the need to hide my cart.

I’ll try to be wearing some makeup as well.

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