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Healthy Living: Healthy Dorm Room or Office Snacks

Healthy Dorm Room or Office Snacks My friend’s daughter came home from college over the holiday break with a few extra things: 25, to be exact, according to her.

She claims she packed on 25 pounds her first semester away at college. Between late-night pizza orders, buffet-style dining and an irregular exercise schedule, the pounds snuck up on her.

Her mom came up with some healthy snack ideas to send back with her. These would also work well in an office or even just at home:

  • Yogurt-covered raisins
  • Cucumber sandwiches (cucumber slice spread with tzatziki sauce then topped with another cucumber slice)
  • Spread a small, whole-grain tortilla with natural peanut butter. Place a banana on top; roll up and enjoy.
  • Top a whole-grain English muffin with a slice of tomato and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Toast and serve.
  • Toss Greek yogurt with blueberries. Freeze.
  • Toasted almonds
  • String cheese
  • 99% fat-free microwave popcorn
  • Fill the hollowed out part of half an avocado with tuna. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and lemon juice.
  • Celery or carrots with hummus
  • Toss chickpeas with a tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast until they’re crispy.
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Freeze grapes for a sweet treat.
  • Hard-boiled eggs

Healthy Living: Store Your Food Safely

Store Your Food SafelyI know I’m guilty of it, and I’m guessing you are, too.

I go to the fridge looking for something for lunch, pull out a container and realize the leftover chili has been in the refrigerator for about two weeks.

While it was stored properly for a short time, it’s not going to be safe to eat after two weeks.

There are right – and wrong – ways to store your food.

A store-bought loaf of bread, for example, is perfectly fine stored in your dry pantry for a week, but a loaf of freshly baked bread might not make it longer than a day or two.

I could have stored that chili in the freezer for two weeks, but I wouldn’t risk eating it out of the refrigerator from that same time period.

On the Counter
You can safely store some foods out on your kitchen counter. These include garlic, onions, shallots, tomatoes, potatoes, bananas, citrus and melons. Make sure they aren’t in direct sunlight or exposed to moisture. You can also keep cakes and pies out for up to a week, wrapped tightly with aluminum foil or sealed in a food storage container or zipper-lock bag. Move fruit pies to the refrigerator after two days.

In the Pantry
Most unopened dry goods can be stored in your pantry for up to six months. After a package is opened, seal it in a food-safe container. Brookshire’s offers lots of options for long-term food storage. Your pantry is the best place for all of your spices, as it is probably dark and should be dry. Spices can last up to a year. After that, they start to lose their potency and flavor.

In the Refrigerator
Dairy must be kept refrigerated. Use the upper shelves, where temperatures stay more constant. This includes eggs, even though many manufacturers create an egg shelf on the door. The refrigerator door is the warmest place in the appliance, so save it for things like condiments and preserved foods.

Keep fruits and veggies that aren’t able to sit out on your counter in the crisper drawer, where it should be the least humid.

Cheeses should be stored wrapped in wax paper or something else porous.

Meats are best stored in the bottom of the refrigerator where it is the coldest. Remove retail packaging and rewrap the meat in foil to extend its shelf life. However, you should try to use it within four days of purchase or put it in the freezer. Fish will keep for two days wrapped in waxed paper, also on the bottom shelf, but give it the sniff test first. If it smells excessively fishy, err on the side of caution.

In the Freezer
When you do want to store things like meat for a long time, the freezer is the best option. For the freezer, leave it in its original packaging and try to remember to use it within six months.

Any time you use the freezer, make sure foods are cooled to room temperature (or put them in the fridge first), and then seal them in a way that eliminates any extra air. Some foods, like cheeses and fruits or vegetables, will change texture after being frozen, so experiment with the best ways to store these foods long-term.

Healthy Living: Avocado Toast

Avocado ToastSo, according to every other Instagram post, Avocado Toast is a thing now, a pretty big thing, judging by the sheer volume of Avocado Toast art.

It’s so deliciously simple. Toast a piece of bread of your choice, and smear it with smashed avocado when it’s fresh out of the toaster. The buttery texture of the avocado is a perfect complement to the crisp toast. Of course, you can adorn this in other ways, too, like with a piece of center-cut bacon, scrambled egg whites, tomato, slivers of onion or smoked salmon. You name it; the combinations are endless.

Aside from the wonderful play of avocado and toast, this is a great, healthy way to start your day (or for a light lunch that won’t leave you dragging).

Avocado is full of protein and good fats to help keep you full longer.

It’s packed with 20 vitamins and nutrients, including vitamin K, folate, vitamin C, potassium, B vitamins and vitamin E.

They’re also loaded with fiber.

Eating avocados regularly can lower cholesterol and triglycerides.

There are so many great things about avocados that contribute to a healthy lifestyle, so grab some today.

Healthy Living: Baking Soda Cleaner

Baking Soda CleanerAs I sit here thinking about a “healthy living” blog post, I started thinking of not only the things we put into our bodies to be healthier but also the things we use around the house to be healthier as well.

Harsh chemical cleaners are not something I want in my environment.

It’s a good thing that there are natural products you can use for cleaning that not only work well but also don’t infuse the air you breathe with man-made chemicals with names you can’t pronounce.

Baking soda is one of those products.

I used it a couple weekends ago to clean my oven, after the Great Valentine’s Day Pizza Disaster of Ought Sixteen.

Previously, I’ve used oven cleaners and the “Self Cleaning” setting on my oven, which, if you’ve ever tried it, you know how scary this can be between the heat of the oven and the stench of the oven cleaners. You pretty much need to air out the house for two years after you go through that process.

However, baking soda and some elbow grease got my oven sparkly clean without any chemicals.

First, I made a thick paste of baking soda and water, and rubbed it all over the oven. I let it sit overnight. The next morning, I boiled some water with half a lemon placed the pot with the boiling water and lemon into the oven, and closed the door, letting it steam inside for about an hour.

When I opened the door, I removed the pot of water, reserving it, and sprayed the oven with white vinegar. You’ll see the vinegar reacting with the baking soda, and it will foam a little. Then, using the lemon water and a strong cloth (which you’ll probably have to throw away after use if your oven is as dirty as mine was), scrub that baking soda paste off, bringing built-up gunk with it. Scrub until the oven is clean, and then wipe out with clean water and a different cloth. Super easy and no crazy chemicals!

Healthy Living: Fro-Yo Bites

Fro-Yo BitesMy boys love dessert.

Every evening after dinner, they’ll ask, “Can I have a dessert, Mama?”

I’m always conflicted. I don’t see harm in having a small sweet after dinner because I want my boys to learn moderation, and I don’t think it’s all bad to have a controlled treat once a day. On the flip side, they’ve gotten in the habit of needing a sweet after dinner, and this really isn’t the healthiest thing, either.

For now, the treat remains, but if I can make it a healthier option, I’m all for it.

They generally like ice cream or another frozen treat like that. This recipe is much healthier than ice cream, and I feel better about them eating it in the evenings after dinner!

Fro-Yo Bites

1 1/2 cups oats
1/4 cup almonds, crushed
2 Tbs coconut oil, melted
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 cup sliced strawberries, raspberries or blueberries

Line a mini-muffin tin with paper liners.

Pulse oats and almonds 2 or 3 times in the bowl of a large food processor. Add coconut oil; pulse until coarse clumps form.

Press a small spoonful of the crust into each paper liner. Top with the Greek yogurt, and then top with the berries.

Place tray in the freezer and freeze until set.

Store in the freezer.

Makes 12

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 86, Calories from Fat: 39, Fat: 4 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (2 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 1 mg, Sodium: 6 mg, Potassium: 93 mg, Carbohydrates: 9 g, Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 1 g, Protein: 4 g.

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

Healthy Living: National Frozen Foods Month

National Frozen Foods MonthMarch is Frozen Foods Month, and I love celebrating something that preserves all the farm freshness of fruits and vegetables in a convenient, easy-to-use way.

Believe it or not, two recent studies compared the nutritional value of frozen fruits and vegetables to their fresh counterparts and found that the frozen ones had MORE nutritional value than the fresh products.

Most frozen fruits and vegetables are flash-frozen, which means they are frozen rapidly to prevent ice crystals from forming. They are flash-frozen, either after a light steaming or immediately after being picked at the peak of freshness.

This method also keeps them safe from decay or from micro-organisms being able to grow on them. Frozen fruits and vegetables are transported to your Brookshire’s in a freezer truck, preserving their temperatures.

Frozen fruits and vegetables are also more economical than their fresh friends. Because they are preserved, you have little waste.

These days, you can find almost anything in the frozen food freezers at Brookshire’s, from broccoli florets to purple hull peas to chopped onions and green peppers to strawberries, mangos and blueberries. Check it out today.

Healthy Living: Egg White Breakfast

Egg White BreakfastBreakfast is difficult for me.

Between getting myself ready, getting two teenage boys ready, fixing them breakfast and preparing their lunches, there’s often little time to get myself a healthy breakfast and get out the door. What’s worse is that there is a popular fast-food restaurant on the corner near my office, and I can fall victim to a sausage biscuit, I must admit.

For me, prior planning is the key. If I can grab something and go, I can fix it at work. If not, it’s a sausage biscuit, which you know is more economical with some hash browns and a soft drink. Oops.

I love liquid egg white products. I love eggs, so these are a delicious alternative to a regular egg (and for me, fewer calories and less cholesterol). Last week, I started making healthy breakfast bowls and keeping them in the fridge to grab when I need them. I combine half of a cup of liquid egg whites, like Egg Beaters, with (truth be told) a lot of leftovers. I’m aiming for a breakfast full of protein, so last week I chopped up all the lean round steak, onion and peppers we’d had for fajitas and packaged them in individual plastic containers with the egg whites. I added salt and pepper, some hot sauce and about one teaspoon of grated parmesan cheese.

Then, these were ready to pop in the microwave either at work or at home, depending on what I had time for. I’ve also done them with black beans and spinach; ham, cheese and onions; or whatever lean protein I have available in leftover form.

Microwave on high for about a minute. Stir. Microwave a minute more or until egg whites are set. You’ll have a complete, nutritious breakfast right around 200 calories.

Healthy Living: Jana’s ‘Black Bean So Good For You, They’re Practically a Vegetable’ Brownies

Janas Black Bean So Good For You, They’re Practically a Vegetable BrowniesLast week, a group of girlfriends gathered for a Girls’ Night In at the home of my BFF. She’d made everything look magical, with snowy-white table linens, silvery snowflakes, polished napkin rings and good silverware, and sparkling touches down the center. It looked like a winter wonderland.

Our meal was served potluck-style. The hostess made chicken spaghetti. I brought garlic bread. There were two different salads, a lasagna, a rice pilaf and white chocolate pudding.

Jana brought brownies. Black bean brownies.

You better believe she took a ribbing for her offering.

I think most of the guests would have rather eaten the sole of their shoe than try the brownies made largely out of black beans!

Jana doesn’t eat much. She has some medical problems (a lot of medical problems) and relies largely on liquid nutrition. So, you’d better believe that when she does eat, whatever she puts in her mouth packs a nutritional punch. In fact, she herself wrote a blog post about these brownies a few weeks ago, and here’s what she said about them (copied directly from the post, with her permission!):

OK, I know what you are thinking…
“Black Bean Brownies???”
“That must be one of those Trendy, Gluten-Free,
California Hippy recipes!”

And well, it is gluten-free, but it is All American Chocolate Deliciousness!
I may or may not have had these for breakfast. (They are full of protein & fiber!)
I will neither confirm nor deny that I have had them instead of a vegetable for a meal. And that could have happened for both lunch and dinner two days in a row.

Like I said, the group was skeptical. Leave it to ‘Give It to Amy, She’ll Eat Anything’ to dive in first.

Jana’s description of them is quite apt! They are delicious. I PROMISE you that you’d NEVER know they are made out of black beans. I promise. All the other ladies were persuaded to try them as well. By the end of the evening, they were declared an unqualified success!

A girl who grew up on a ranch in Texas shouldn’t be doubted.

Here’s Jana’s recipe, in her own words:

Black Bean ‘So Good for You, They’re Practically a Vegetable’ Brownies
by Dr. Jana Vanderslice

1/4 cup oats
1 can black beans (drained and rinsed)
1/2 cup chocolate chips
3 Tbs canola oil
3 eggs
1 cup regular sugar (OR 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1/2 cup regular sugar)
1/2 cup cocoa powder
3 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Place the oatmeal in the food processor, and blend until it is as close to a flour consistency as you can get it.

Place the beans, 1/4 cup chocolate chips (or a little more!) and oil in the food processor. Cover and process until blended.

*TIP #1: Splurge and go with “a little more” than 1/4 cup of chocolate chips!

Add the eggs, brown sugar, regular sugar, cocoa, vanilla, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Cover and process until mixed.

*TIP #2: Baking soda takes the gas out of beans. When you cook a pot of beans, always add baking soda or even Dr. Pepper or Pepsi. Your family will thank you.

Pour into a sprayed 9-inch square pan. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup chocolate chips. Bake at 350° F for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

*TIP #3: I also like to use the mini loaf pans or cupcake tins. Decrease the cooking time if you use smaller pans.

*TIP #4: Personalize your brownies by sprinkling different candies on top in the last few minutes of cooking. Ex: Green and Gold M&M’s for Baylor Bears Football, candy corn for Fall, Ande’s mint chocolate bits for Christmas, red sprinkles for Valentine’s day, or drizzle melted white chocolate bark for zebra brownies, etc.

Makes 12
Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 219, Calories from Fat: 67, Fat: 7 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (2 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 43 mg, Sodium: 172 mg, Potassium: 399 mg, Carbohydrates: 34 g, Fiber: 4 g, Sugar: 20 g, Protein: 6 g.

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

Healthy Living: Salads in a Jar

Salads in a JarMy sister-in-law, Lesley, takes healthy to a whole new level. Her eating is as clean as it gets, and she puts a massive amount of time and effort into taking good care of her family’s health. She has my brother and her three sons eating super-duper healthy as well, which shows! They are an active, lean, happy family, and she takes great care of them inside and out!

Recently, Lesley hosted a salad-making party. Each guest brought one ingredient for a salad, along with five large Mason jars, and Lesley provided the leafy greens.

They set up everything they brought in salad-bar style. Guests started by placing any salad dressing they wanted (including vinegar and oil) in the bottom of their Mason jar. When you’re making these, keep dressings and wet ingredients on the bottom.

Next, add heavy ingredients like black beans, kidney beans or chick peas, or any proteins like chunks of chicken, tuna packed in water or grilled lean meats. On top of that, layer other fruits and veggies like strawberries, yellow peppers, cucumbers or tomatoes. Then, nuts, sunflower seeds or other grains are added. Finally, pack the jar with leafy greens like romaine or spinach. Cap the jar tightly, and store in the fridge for up to one week. Grab a jar each morning on the way out the door.

Turn it out onto a large paper plate, and your salad lunch is ready to go with the dressing already on top.


Healthy Living: National Heart Month

National Heart MonthFebruary is American Heart Month, and there’s no coincidence that it falls at the same time as Valentine’s Day. After all, we need to love our hearts and take good care of them!

Last year during American Heart Month, I had the privilege of spending a lot of time with Miss Texas 2014 Monique Evans, whose platform was “Remember Your Heart: One Beat at a Time.” Monique’s brother was born with a congenital heart disease, and it served as impetus for the ballerina to encourage people, especially children, to take good care of their hearts.

I caught up with Monique at two elementary schools in Longview, Texas, that day, where she talked to students about what they could do to begin or stay on a heart-healthy journey. She advocated daily movement like jump-roping, dancing, jogging, soccer, martial arts, baseball or a host of other activities that school kids should be involved in regularly, including giving 100 percent during their school gym class. She talked to them about what foods are good for your heart, like broccoli, beans and other foods with high fiber and low fat. The kids loved her. (Who wouldn’t? She’s funny, articulate and gorgeous, not to mention she got to wear a ridiculous amount of bling, which clearly was a huge favorite among the starstruck girl set.) I loved the fact that she was talking to kids, instilling these ideas in them at an early age.

When you get to a certain age, it’s more difficult to form healthy habits, and the damage to your heart might already be underway. I also loved how nothing she said was too drastic for the average person. She didn’t say to go out and run a marathon; she advocated staying active. Anyone can take a walk, take the stairs instead of the elevator or park in the farthest spot away from Target before shopping.

So this month, think about the small changes you can make to make a big difference to your heart.

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