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Healthy Living: Overnight Oats

Overnight OatsMy sister got me hooked on overnight oats.

They’re so easy and delicious. Best of all, you make them in advance, and you grab them on the way out the door the next morning instead of driving through for a triple-decker sausage and cheese biscuit.

You can make overnight oats with pretty much anything you want. I make them in small Mason jars (because let’s be honest, those are cute and anything cute is more fun to eat), but you can also make them in any container with a lid.

The first batch I made, I used steel-cut oats. Then, I read a few recipes that advised against using steel-cut oats as they don’t soften as much as using old-fashioned rolled oats. So, I made up another few jars with the old-fashioned oats. The first morning I tried the overnight oats, I grabbed the old-fashioned and they were delicious, but I actually prefer the grittier, nuttier texture of the steel-cut oats. I will say, however, that the steel-cut oats are better if you leave them in the refrigerator for TWO nights instead of one.

Oats are a great whole-grain, and studies have shown that they lower your cholesterol if eaten on a regular basis.

You can add in fruit, chia seeds, peanut butter or anything you’d like for your overnight oats.

The ratio of oats to liquid should be about 2/3 cup liquid (I use vanilla almond milk; you can use regular milk, soy milk, coconut milk or Greek yogurt) to 1/4 cup oats.

I add the oats to the jar last. I start with the vanilla milk, and then I add about one tablespoon of peanut butter. I put the lid on the jar and give it a vigorous shake. The milk and the peanut butter won’t combine totally, but you’ll find pockets of peanut buttery goodness in the oats. I add in 1 tablespoon chia seeds, about 1/2 tablespoon coconut sugar, a handful of blueberries and then the oats. I shake again to combine. Close and let sit in the refrigerator overnight! Viola! Breakfast is served.

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Healthy Living: Heart Health

Heart HealthHappy Valentine’s Day!

Let’s talk about keeping your heart…and those of the people you love…healthy.

There are some simple things you can do to love your ticker this month (and every month).

According to the American Heart Association, the first steps you should take toward heart health include:

  • Eat healthy. This means consuming plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean proteins and fiber.
  • Get active. Try to do 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise each day. This can be done in three 10-minute bursts if that suits your lifestyle best.
  • Stay at a healthy weight. You can do this by eating healthy and getting exercise.
  • Quit smoking and stay away from secondhand smoke. This includes vaping.
  • Control your cholesterol and blood pressure. Diet and exercise, as well as maintaining a healthy weight, go far in helping both of those.
  • If you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation, defined as no more than 4 drinks a week.
  • Manage stress. Believe it or not, diet and exercise help you do that as well. Try journaling, coloring, yoga or other cognitive exercises to help you get it under control.

Consult your physician about the specific things you need to do to improve your overall health, which will lead to a stronger heart.

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Healthy Living: One-Pan Roasted Sausage and Vegetables

One-Pan Roasted Sausage and VegetablesI was telling my best friend recently that I prefer vegetables to most fruits, and she thought I was crazy.

That’s fine; I’ll take a little crazy.

It’s true, though. I do prefer vegetables to fruits (although I definitely eat fruit, too), and I love roasting veggies for an easy, one-pan, healthy meal.

You can add almost any kind of vegetables to this dish. I often use Brussels sprouts instead of peppers or throw in some cauliflower as well. Make sure to dice the sweet potatoes in small pieces, so they cook as quickly as the rest of the veggies. You could also steam them for a few minutes before you add them to the roasting pan. You could also toss in a few pieces of diced apple for some sweetness.

Chicken sausage doesn’t have much fat, so you do need the olive oil. Although, I don’t usually use all of the six tablespoons.

I love making this one night for dinner then enjoying the leftovers the next day for lunch.

One-Pan Roasted Sausage and Vegetables

2 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
3/4 lb fresh green beans
1 large head broccoli, chopped
2 large green bell peppers, chopped
9 oz chicken sausage links
6 Tbs olive oil
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1 Tbs dried oregano
1 Tbs dried parsley
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

Preheat oven to 400° F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or foil (if using foil, spray with nonstick cooking spray).

Chop all veggies, and add to a large bowl. Slice sausage into bite-sized pieces; add to bowl. Add in spices, and drizzle in olive oil. Toss to coat.

Spread mixture on prepared baking sheet. Roast for 15 minutes, and then stir before roasting for 15 more minutes.

Serves 2

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 686, Calories from Fat: 411, Fat: 46 g (7 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 15 mg, Sodium: 453 mg, Carbohydrates: 67 g, Fiber: 17 g, Sugar: 8 g, Protein: 12 g.

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

Healthy Living: Homemade Noodle Bowls

Homemade Noodle BowlsMy sister-in-law, Lesley, is the healthiest person I know. She doesn’t put anything into, onto or near her body that isn’t of the purest, utmost, best quality.

She eats organic, doesn’t use chemicals to clean in her house, doesn’t use chemicals on her body, and only puts food in her body that is not processed at all, or minimally processed if necessary.

She’s also super mom, super physically fit and looks 25 when in reality she’s quite a bit older.

I want to be like her.

Or more like her because I know, for me, I can’t be quite that dedicated. I do enjoy the occasional Diet Coke or cupcake.

But really, she’s my health hero.

While this recipe isn’t Lesley-approved (only because I didn’t run it by her), it is Lesley-inspired.

She makes salads in Mason jars and eats them for lunches on the go. I love a hot lunch, and I REALLY love soup or soup-like meals. These jars are something I can control what goes in and how I eat them.

Plus, they’re super easy and portable!

Healthy Noodle Bowls

Ingredients: (listed per jar)
1/2 cup protein, such as cooked shredded chicken, shrimp, slices of beef or pork, cubed tofu, etc.
1/4 tsp soy sauce
1/4 tsp Sriracha
1/4 tsp lime juice
1 chicken stock bouillon cube or 1/2 spoonful chicken broth paste
1 pkg dried rice stick noodles
vegetables, such as spinach, shredded carrots, julienned red peppers, cabbage, green onions, diced onions, small broccoli or cauliflower florets, sliced mushrooms

Prepare 4 to 5 clean, dry Mason jars for the week.

Create an assembly line by lining up all your jars and ingredients.

Start with wet ingredients on the bottom, pouring lime juice, Sriracha, soy sauce, and chicken broth paste or bouillon onto the bottom of the jar, then add protein.

Top with vegetables and then dry rice noodles, dividing between jars. Add any dry seasonings. Seal jar.

When ready to eat, boil 1 cup water (or equivalent measure to 2/3 the volume of the jar). Pour boiling water into jar; let sit for 2 minutes. Stir and eat.

You can make any combination of flavors, proteins and vegetables for these healthy, fun jars.

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

Product Talk: Talk O’ Texas Crisp Okra Pickles

Talk O’ Texas Crisp Okra PicklesWe all know that being from the true South means we know our way around a kitchen and a cast-iron skillet.

We also love things like cornbread, beans and rice, and okra.

Oh my, do I love okra.

These Talk O’ Texas Crisp Okra Pickles are one of my favorite snacks.

They’re from Texas (no arguing Southern origins there), and they’ve been produced in Central Texas since the 1940s. First sold at Neiman Marcus, the Okra Pickles are hand-packed for the highest quality and flavor.

These delightful okra pickles are low-calorie, low-carb and go through a five-step quality assurance process before being jarred and shipped out to your local Brookshire’s. In hot or mild flavors, they are delicious in a Bloody Mary, a martini, chopped up for cornbread or served on a relish tray.

Healthy Living: Health Trends 2017

Health Trends 2017It’s January, so everyone is thinking about getting healthier, eating healthy or just generally being healthier.

I looked up the top health trends in 2017 because there’s something “new” and “hot” every year, right? I cross-referenced a number of websites to come up with this list of trends for the new year.

  1. Foods that fight inflammation, like turmeric and ginger tea, and substituting vegetables for grains and starches.
  2. Wellness travel, like taking yoga classes in Costa Rica or going on a hiking vacation in Colorado.
  3. Plant proteins instead of animal proteins. Think pea protein and hemp protein as substitutes for your beef or chicken.
  4. Have you noticed all the hair, skin and nail products on the market these days? Thank collagen and biotin for that, and for your strong hair and long nails.
  5. Franchised fitness clubs, like OrangeTheory and Pure Barre.
  6. Functional beverages. These are not shakes or smoothies, nor are they energy drinks or vitamin waters. Instead, they’re billed as “medicinal” and come in tonic or shot-sized servings.
  7. Clean inside and out. Less makeup. Less alcohol. Fewer ingredients. No preservatives. Less is more, in pretty much everything health and beauty-related.
  8. Rapid recovery in the form of cryogenics or other ways to restore your body quickly.
  9. Full fat foods are fine, but think olive oil not ice cream.
  10. Once again, wearable tech and body weight-training stay as popular as they were last year.
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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

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

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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