lotus on the waterSpring Is Here: How to Start Planning Your Garden

In a culture of waste and disposal, it’s time to actually do the earth-friendly things you’ve always wanted to do to help enrich your life — and the earth. Before you know it, the earth will be unfrozen, and those April showers will bring May flowers. Don’t let the magical spring time pass you by this year. It’s just about the right time to begin planning your garden.

Decide the Basic Elements

Take a look at the space you have for your garden, and what it’s purpose is. Growing your own vegetables and produce is a great way to save money and conserve. A garden is also a great place for a compost pile. You can cover it in a pretty planter to mask its purpose and use the nutrient-rich soil it generates to help restore vitality to your garden. You could also consider some decorative elements, such as a fish tank. You can find cheap fish tanks online to learn more about how to set up a fish tank in your garden. If you don’t have a yard or grassy area, recycle some old pots, buckets, or tires to create little plant beds. You can also recycle shipping pallets to create rows for your plants to grow.

Decide What Plants You Can Grow

Consider the exposure to sunlight, average temperatures, and amount of rain for the area where you live. Also consider how much time, money, and effort you have to devote to your garden. Based on that, determine what plants are the best suited for your area and lifestyle. Maintaining a garden is a little like having a pet — you should carefully determine how much time and money you have to take care of it, and make the decision on what type based on that. Choose hearty plants that don’t require a lot of water if you aren’t going to be able to check on your garden every day. If you plan to make your garden a major part of your life, choose plants that require more care.

Get to Work

Talk to local gardeners, farmers, sellers at the farmer’s market, or associates at your local greenhouse to gain knowledge on what plants are best to grow. You can often find some great gardening supplies second-hand on popular auction websites, or search garage sale listings — they’ll save you a ton of money and help give new life to items that are sitting unused (and they’ll save you a ton of money). Use your first garden as a learning experience, and have fun!

RoastedVegPolenta_WhitestoneThis creamy Roasted Vegetable Polenta courtesy of the Whitestone Country Inn in Kingston, TN is perfect winter fare! We say go for the extra cheese!

Roasted Vegetable Polenta

Ingredients

2 Ounces of Butter (“Mom” prefers organic)
1 ½ Cups of Polenta
4 ½ Cups of Water
1 Onion (Fine Diced)
½ Cup of Carrots (Fine Diced)
½ Cup of Peppers (and color or flavor will work) (Fine Diced)
3 Tablespoons of Garlic (Fine Diced)
3 Tablespoons of Shallots (Fine Diced)
2 Cups of Sliced Mushrooms (and Variety)
1-2 Cups of Cheese (Depends on how creamy you want it and flavor profile, Parmesan Cheese is typically used)
Salt and Pepper to Taste

Preparation

1. In a saucepan over medium eat melt butter and add onions, carrots, peppers, shallots, and garlic.
2. After everything is tender and aromatic, about 4-6 minutes, add mushrooms and cook for another 4-6 minutes.
3. Add water and bring to a boil.
4. Once boil is reached pour in the polenta in a steady consistent stream stirring the entire time with a rubber spatula.
5. Once all the polenta is incorporated reduce heat to low and add cheese.
6. Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking.

*Recipe and image courtesy of BNBFinder.com.*

scale imageBoosting Your Metabolism for Winter Weight Loss

For many people, weight loss is a greater challenge in the winter than in other seasons. Changes that we make to our health habits during the winter slow down our metabolism; in consequence, we burn fewer calories. If you’re struggling with weight loss this winter, what can you do to boost your metabolism?

Exercise regularly

Winter weather keeps us from enjoying long walks and most outdoor sports. Blizzards and freezing rain cause us to cancel trips to the gym. We become more sedentary, and our metabolism gets sluggish.

To avoid depending on the weather, adopt a few exercise routines that you can do at home. Don’t sit around for hours without moving.

Eat wisely

Warm baked goods and heavy starchy dishes are dietary staples in the winter. Eat less of them and turn to foods that boost your metabolism. Lean proteins and high-fiber, low-calorie foods, including fruits and vegetables, keep you sated and improve the efficiency of your metabolism.

Try a green tea extract

If you’re interested in dietary supplements, consider green tea extracts. Green tea extract benefits may include a faster metabolism, weight loss, and a healthier cholesterol profile. However, you must consult with a doctor before taking these extracts, as they interfere with various medications and are potentially harmful to people with certain medical conditions. Furthermore, they may be toxic if they are low in quality or taken at improper dosages.

Get enough sleep

Lack of sleep stresses out your body and messes with your metabolism. As a result, you have poorer control of your appetite during the day and are more likely to crave sugary or starchy foods. To allow your body to rest and regulate itself properly, get at least seven or eight hours of sleep each night.

Prevent illnesses

In the winter, people are especially vulnerable to physical and mental illnesses. The season is known for colds, coughs, and the flu; furthermore, the insufficient levels of sunlight may trigger depression. Illnesses disrupt the body’s metabolism and keep people inactive and isolated. They also prompt unhealthy coping mechanisms such as over-eating.

By exercising, eating well, and getting enough sleep, you reduce your chances of developing an illness. You should also monitor the effects of any medications or supplements that you’re taking; they may be slowing your metabolism or hurting your body in other ways. Discuss any adverse effects with your doctor.

Spicy tofu chiliReady in minutes, this zesty chili is vegetarian as it uses tofu as the main protein instead of turkey or beef. Dish it up for National Chili Day, which is February 28th!

Spicy Tofu Chili 

Ingredients

1/2 pkg (7 oz) House Foods Premium or Organic Tofu Med Firm or Soft, drained and crumbled
1 (15 oz) can organic chili beans or low-fat chili
1 1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1/3 cup chopped green onions
1/3 cup grated fat-free or low-fat cheddar cheese (optional)

Preparation 

Coat pan with non-stick cooking spray. Over medium high heat, stir-fry crumbled tofu with beans, garlic and chili powder. Cook uncovered for 7-9 minutes so liquids evaporate & flavors blend. Sprinkle with green onions before serving & shredded cheese if desired.

Serves 4.

*Recipe and image courtesy of House Foods America.*

peanut-butter-bitesThese little bites are extremely easy to make, and are an excellent protein-packed & heart-healthy after-school snack!

Peanut Butter, Grape & Chocolate Snack Bites

Ingredients

3/4 cup low-fat crunchy peanut butter (“Mom” prefers organic peanut butter)

1/4 cup Welch’s 100% Grape Juice made with Concord grapes

1 cup oats

1 tbsp ground flax seed

2 tsp honey

3 tbsp dark chocolate chips

1 tsp vanilla

Preparation

In a microwave-safe bowl, add peanut butter and heat until thinned out, approximately 25 seconds.

Remove from microwave and stir in grape juice. Add oats, flax seed, honey, chocolate chips and vanilla; stir to incorporate.

Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Line a baking sheet with waxed paper or parchment paper. Using a teaspoon or a melon baller, form mixture into balls.

Place in the refrigerator and allow to cool again for at least 30 minutes. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Makes 30 balls

*Recipe and image courtesy of Welch’s.*

Lafes Organic Shampoo & WashMom” is absolutely loving the Lafes baby care line for her two young children! From the Lafes Baby Foaming Shampoo & Wash to the Lafes Organic Baby Oil – this paraben-free line truly takes the cake. You cannot help but snuggle your little bunny closer after using the Lafes Organic Baby Oil or Baby Lotion as their skin feels extra yummy! For pampering and protection, this eco-responsible line will soon be your favorite, too!

We think it’s fantastic that Lafes uses a “less is more” approach with its all-natural baby products and lists every single ingredient on their labels, many of which are certified organic. Parents can feel good about using Lafes Baby care products on their little ones!

Little ones’ skin needs special attention especially during the cold weather months! Lafes provides the most natural and gentle baby products to clean and soothe the most sensitive of skin, including: 

Lafes Baby Foaming Shampoo & Wash is ultra-gentle and will leave baby’s skin soft and refreshed. Made with certified organic saponified oils of coconut, sunflower seed, olive, and palm, Lafes Baby Foaming Shampoo and Wash effectively cleans without harsh chemicals and is fragrance free.

Lafes Baby Lotion is formulated using all-natural botanicals and will soften and nurture baby’s skin. This product absorbs easily into baby’s skin and offers a long-lasting moisturizing effect. Lafes Baby Lotion contains aloe vera, sunflower, olive, coconut, and hemp oil that are all certified organic.                                                                                                                

Lafes Organic Baby Oil is formulated with USDA certified organic (95%), fragrance-free botanicals, including sunflower, olive, and hemp oils, which moisturize and soothe baby’s skin. It is perfect for daily use and ideal for locking in moisture.       

Why choose Lafes®?

Lafes® is committed to creating skin care and personal care products people can trust to be truly natural and genuinely healthy. The company has a complete line of deodorants, baby care, and hair care products formulated with only natural ingredients and no parabens, propylene glycol, or artificial ingredients. Lafes mission is to educate consumers about healthy alternatives to conventional synthetic, chemical-based products.

To learn more about Lafes baby care products, please visit Lafes.com.*

*Company generously provided samples and images for this piece.*

top three aromatherapy scentsThe Top Three Aromatherapy Scents Used for Stress Relief

What is Aromatherapy?

Stress can make an individual ill mentally and physically. It is imperative to find healthy ways to reduce feelings of anxiety. Anxiety causes physical changes such as difficulty breathing, higher blood pressure, insomnia and others. Many individuals have never tried using aromatherapy to relieve stress symptoms. Before there were prescription medications, individuals used natural sources to relieve anxiety. Natural sources included fruits, herbs, flowers, spices and other items. Extracting essential oils from items found in nature provided fragrant essences. These fragrant essences are now used to create aromatherapy massage oils.

The Scent of Peppermint

A fantastic way to relieve stress is by visiting a spa. Day spas are located in small towns and large cities. There are also destination spas in exotic locations all over the world. At a spa, individuals can choose from a selection of fragrances that reduce anxiety. The aestheticians at spas have a variety of products that contain essential oils. While having massage treatments with warmed stones, mud wrapping techniques or other therapies clients can enjoy aromatic scents. A popular fragrance that assists in eliminating stress is peppermint. Individuals have enjoyed this aromatic essential oil for hundreds of years because of its menthol qualities. The fragrance of peppermint can assist with memory functioning, alertness and mood.

Lavender

Lavender Fragrance

The blossoms of the lavender flower offer a strong long lasting scent. Many companies use lavender fragrances in candles, soaps, lotions and aromatherapy massage oils. Individuals can find lavender scented products at many brick-and-mortar and online stores. Clients who visit a spa can have treatments to relieve stress that include lavender essences. Warm footbath treatments with additions of lavender oils can help an individual feel relaxed and contented. Individuals who have difficulties sleeping can place sachets filled with lavender petals under their pillows. The scent of lavender calms anxious feelings while acting as a natural sedative.

The Scent of Vanilla

The aromatic scent derived from vanilla beans is great for enhancing the mood while relieving stress. The essential oils of vanilla are often available for electric diffusers to provide fragrances throughout the home. At a spa, soothing lotions with vanilla essences are applied during therapeutic massages to sore backs, shoulders or necks to assist in relaxation and stress relief. Vanilla scented candles burning at home can help calm nerves after a long day at work. Individuals can purchase aromatherapy massage oils with vanilla essences to use at home on aching feet to assist with relaxation.

This time-saving recipe will be a go-to staple in your household as there is no dicing or chopping so the chili can be made in just 20 minutes! Remember to use organic ingredients whenever possible.

No Chop Chili

Ingredients
 
1 pound Laura’s 92% Lean Ground Beef or 96% Lean Ground Round
 
1 (15.25-ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained
 
1 (15.5-ounce) can chili beans, drained
 
1 (15 1/2-ounce) can no-salt diced tomatoes
 
3/4 cup salsa
 
1/2 cup low-fat, salt-free beef broth
 
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
 
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
 
1/2 teaspoon ground oregano

Preparation
 
1. Cook beef in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat 5 minutes or until beef is browned; drain.
2. Add corn and remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes or until thickened.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes

Cooking Tip: To thicken chili, cook uncovered for a little bit longer. To save time, add 1 tablespoon cornmeal and cook for 5 minutes.

*Recipe and image courtesy of Laura’s Lean Beef.*

Primavera Ginger Lime Body WashKeep the mid-winter blues at bay with this refreshing, energizing Ginger Lime Body Wash from Primavera! Start your morning refreshed with this luxe, creamy body wash that enlivens the senses. “Mom” has been enjoying her morning shower with this rejuvenating wash – it truly makes the entire room smell amazing after using due to the essential oils!

What are the benefits to using the Ginger Lime Body Wash?

•Organic Ginger Essential Oil has a unique warming effect to increase energy in the body and a spicy aroma to brighten the mind.

•Lime Essential Oil awakens skin with mild astringents and antiseptics, while the uplifting scent leaves the mind upbeat and refreshed.

•Organic Jojoba Oil moisturizes to leave skin nourished and protected.
 
•Organic Green Tea Extract is soothing and rich in powerful antioxidants that help prevent free radical damage.

•Organic Myrtle Water regulates skin’s sebum production and provides refreshing antiseptic properties.

Primavera offers 6 products in the Ginger Lime line, including Energizing Ginger Lime Roll – On Deodorant, Energizing Hand and Nail Cream (“Mom’s” favorite go-to hand cream in the harsh winter months!), Ginger Lime Bath Oil, Ginger Lime Body Lotion, Ginger Lime Body Oil, and Ginger Lime Body Wash.

To learn more about Primavera’s extensive line of natural body care products, please visit PrimaveraLife.com.

*Company generously provided samples and images for this piece.*

Mojo Tofu BurgersBurger lovers will enjoy Mojo Tofu Burgers.  The patties are made with firm silken tofu, oats, black beans and barley. The seasoning combines the flavors of garlic, orange juice, lime, cumin and oregano.

Mojo Tofu Burgers

Ingredients
 
6 oz (about half a package) firm silken tofu, drained
 
1 cup oats
 
1 1/2 cup black beans
 
1 1/2 cup cooked barley (can substitute brown rice)
 
1 garlic clove
 
1/4 cup fresh orange juice, plus the zest of 1/2 large orange
 
Juice from 1 lime, plus the zest

2 teaspoons cumin
 
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon dried oregano
 
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
 
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
 
Non stick cooking spray

Preparation
 
Preheat a non stick skillet over medium heat.
 
Meanwhile, pour oats into food processor and pulse until a chunky powder (about 10-15 seconds. Pour into a large mixing bowl and set aside.
 
Put tofu, 1 cup black beans, garlic clove, orange juice and zest, lime juice and zest, cumin, oregano, salt, olive oil and salt into food processor and pulse until chunky-smooth and combined, about 45 seconds total.  Scoop tofu mixture into mixing bowl with oats. Add cooked barley (or rice) and 1/2 cup whole black beans. Gently fold ingredients together until thoroughly combined. Mixture should be thick and only slightly sticky.
 
Spray skillet with cooking spray. Make burgers by gently pressing with hands, using 1/2 cup of mixture for each one.
 
Cook on skillet, about 4 minutes per side or till golden brown. Keep spraying pan with non stick spray (may need to spray in between flips). Serve immediately.
 
Makes 10 patties.

*Recipe and image courtesy of the Soyfoods Council.*