Don’t confuse fennel with anise, which looks similar but has a definite licorice flavor. Fennel is much milder, with a faintly sweet taste. A mandolin is the quickest way to slice fennel thinly, but a heavy sharp knife will work as well. Fennel’s feathery, dill-like fronds make a pretty garnish.

Shaved Fennel Salad with Lemon Dressing

Ingredients

¼ pound green beans, cut into 1½ -inch pieces
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon granular sugar substitute
2 medium fennel bulbs, cored, quartered lengthwise, and thinly sliced crosswise
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

Preparation

1. Bring a medium pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat. Add green beans and cook until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold running water to cool; set aside.

2. Combine oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, vinegar, salt, pepper, and sugar substitute in a salad bowl. Add green beans, fennel, and basil; cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes but no more than 3 hours to let flavors blend. Stir gently before serving.

*Recipe and image from The New Atkins for a New You Cookbook by Colette Heimowitz. Copyright (c) 2011 by Atkins Nutritionals, Inc. Printed by permission of Touchstone Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc.*

Which 2012 Cars Will Save You the Most Gas?

With the price of gas on a steady (and shocking) incline, there has been a lot of discussion on how to save money on gasoline and about which cars are proving to be the most fuel efficient. Let’s tackle the first concern and then move to the second.

If you’re someone who can’t afford to purchase a new automobile, there are ways that you can spend less on gas, even with the car that you currently have. You can drive slower (the faster you go, the more gas that you use). You can turn off your air conditioner. You can roll up your windows (the wind current that blows into the car tends to make it fight harder to move forward). You can make sure to fill up your gas tank and not let it go below half empty. You can keep your car filters clean and your oil changed. You can carpool and take public transportation whenever possible. All of these are proven and effective ways to save on gas. But if you are shopping for a new vehicle and you’re wondering which 2012 models will give you more gas for your buck, here is a list of some that will do the trick.

Toyota Prius. Not only is it really cute and compact, it’s actually one of the cars that provides the most gas mileage with an impressive 51 miles in the city and 48 on the highway. Marketed as the most fuel efficient car on the market, it comfortably sits five and comes with the asking price of around $24,000.

Lexus CT. The “mother” of the Toyota in the sense of being the more high-end model at the Toyota company, the Lexus CT is a car that doesn’t make you feel guilty for having a luxury vehicle. It’s sharp, practical and upscale all rolled into one. The base price is around $29,000 and it gets about 42 miles to the gallon.

Honda Insight. For many years, Honda has had reputation of “If you keep the oil changed, it will last forever.” If you look at the resale values of Honda models even from the late 80s and early 90s, you will see that is indeed oftentimes the case. As with the Toyota, Hondas are foreign cards that are truly built to last. So, in purchasing a Honda Insight with the gas mileage of, on average, 42 per gallon and the base price in the $18,000s, you’re not just picking a car that’s a “gas trend”, but a reliable vehicle for years to come.

Buick Regal. If sitting in the lap of luxury is your thing, then a Buick may be as well. The price is somewhere around $30,000 and get 29 miles per gallon of gas. Some other perks to it is that the Regal comes with eAssistant Technology; included in that deal is a lithium-ion battery pack, regenerative breaking and an additional feature that allows you to easily go from gas to electric.

Ford Fiesta SFE. If you’re looking for a sedan that’s under $15,000, then this car will already cause you to fall in love! Then when you add to it the fact that it gives you 29 city and 40 highway miles and if you add to it the high praise that has received for its performance (it rides quietly and smoothly with 120 horsepower), while it’s not the largest of vehicles, it’s definitely one of the biggest deals you can get. Indeed, who needs an Enterprise car hire when you have bought such an excellent automobile? One that rides well and doesn’t keep you at the gas station on a daily basis!

Choose your cuisine with this Vegan dish – you can make it grilled, raw or roasted, and all versions are delish, especially since the fresh ginger adds a nice zip!

Gingered Asparagus & Leeks (Roasted, Raw or Grilled)

Ingredients

1 bunch of asparagus (about 16 spears)
1 leek, thinly sliced
Juice of half a lemon
1 tablespoon cold-pressed olive oil
1 tablespoon coconut aminos <http://www.coconutsecret.com/aminos2.html>
1 teaspoon ginger, grated

Preparation

For Roasted Gingered Asparagus and Leeks:

Heat the oven to 400F and roast 8 – 10 minutes in a shallow baking dish.

For Grilled Gingered Asparagus and Leeks:

On an indoor/outdoor grill: Grill for no more than 10 minutes, turning at half-way point.

On a charcoal or gas grill: Wrap in foil and steam on the grill for 8 – 10 minutes.

For Raw Gingered Asparagus and Leeks:

On a ParaFlexx sheet, dehydrate on 105 for 6 hours.

Serves 4.

*Recipe and image courtesy of JL goes Vegan: Food & Fitness with a side of Kale.*

One gorgeously green wrap – so many unique uses! Made of super-soft Micro Modal, which is created from the pulp of ethically farmed Beech trees that can be re-grown over and over again so less trees are needed in the production of the wrap, the Japanese-inspired Oramaki™ can be a slim-fitting skirt, an easy top, a double layer underneath a shirt, or a warm hug to pamper and soothe during pregnancy!

This is why “Mom” is loving the Oramaki™ at the moment – she is expecting, and this lovely wrap has made quite the difference when worn on her ever-expanding belly, especially at night, as it holds her belly lovingly while sleeping! Why choose the Oramaki™ during pregnancy?

  • Oramaki’s soft, hugging action pampers and calms during every stage of pregnancy.
  • When your pants stop fitting, the Oramaki is the perfect way to cover that opened button and save the cost of an early pregnancy wardrobe.
  • And when your baby bulge is in full bloom your Oramaki will help support your back and the weight of your belly on your inner organs and bladder.
  • Once baby arrives, your Oramaki converts to the perfect breast feeding cover-up.

Available in single layered in white only, or double layered styles in nude, black or pink, the Oramaki™ comes in sizes small, medium, and large. It makes an excellent gift for any expecting mom!

To learn more about the benefits of using the Oramaki™, visit Oramaki.com.

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

Learning to Communicate Better With Your Spouse

You spend more time with your husband than just about anyone else, but that doesn’t always mean you easily see eye to eye. Communication issues at home can impact your kids, your work, basically every other area of your life. Continuing to approach matters the same way will only lead to more of the same problems, so it’s important to bring a fresh perspective to communication issues with your spouse. Here are a few quick tips for how you can improve communication with your partner that can all help affect lasting positive change.

Keep the criticism constructive. It is always easiest to hurt the ones we love, and negative input from your spouse can cut deeper than from anyone else. So if you’re harboring feelings of resentment, bitterness or disappointment, you certainly need to get them off your chest. But a massive venting session where you lash out with no qualifications will not help matters, and can lead to things getting much worse. So when you sit down to talk things out, try your best not to exaggerate. He may do things that disappoint you, but it’s probably not constant, so don’t act like it is. Don’t put words in his mouth, or claim you ‘know’ what he’s thinking without it being communicated. Do your best to speak about what you need from the relationship to be happy, as opposed to focusing on what he does that is wrong or hurtful. And be specific. The more general your statements, the less he can do to amend the behavior, and the greater the chance he’ll take it personally and simply tune you out.

Leave your defensiveness for the highway. Being defensive is a great approach to driving, but not such a great way to communicate. You’re going to need to find a way to listen to his negative feelings or opinions without getting defensive. If you spend all of your time trying to prove to him why he’s at fault and you’re completely innocent of blame, you won’t get any closer to solving the issue. Sometimes people need to vent before they can begin to face things, and if these issues have been in place a long while, there may be a lot to vent. If it has to go there, let it. The fact that you two are facing things head on is a positive, even if the first conversation or two are hard. And the fact that you don’t meet his anger with your own will help diffuse things.

Don’t hold back the positive. If there’s good to be said, go on and say it! Okay, you may want to keep him in the doghouse for his faults, but withholding your own feelings of appreciation, admiration and love because of a certain percentage of negative will only exacerbate the problems. People seem to have an easier time communicating the bad than the good. Don’t fall into that trap. If you can match or exceed the complaints with compliments or acknowledgements, you’ll find him much more amenable to addressing the issues.

Be honest. No one is perfect, and no spouse is entirely to blame for the issues in the relationship. Honesty is the key to improving your communication skills. You can sniff out a lie, especially when spoken by the one closest to you. So if you’re really interested in improving communication with your spouse, you’ll need to leave the lies at the door.

This light salad serves as many as you like – you decide!

Shaved Asparagus Salad

Ingredients

Asparagus, shaved (thinly slice the asparagus length-wise)
Tomato, sliced
Fennel, shaved
Fresh sweet basil
Lime juice
Olive oil

Preparation

Toss all ingredients, serve right away or marinate in the refrigerator for 20 minutes – 1 hour.

*Recipe and image courtesy of JL goes Vegan: Food & Fitness with a side of Kale.*

Healthy Snack Ideas for Road Trips with Kids

Family road trips are practically an American institution. But when the miles stretch endlessly ahead and your kids are screaming that they’re bored or hungry, you might question your decision not to fly instead. Something that adds a little life to a stir-crazy carload is bringing out treats for everyone. Of course you don’t want to just hand out any old treats, and unfortunately that’s what you find in the travel stops. You’re trying to eat healthy, and the last thing your kids need is extra sugar and refined carbs to make them that much more crazy. So how can you provide healthy snacks for your kids as you travel?

Bring Plenty of Water

Give everyone their own water bottle, and carry enough extra along that you can refill the bottles when the car is stopped. Water quenches thirst like nothing else does, and it doesn’t encourage the extra sipping and resulting potty stops that sugary drinks do. It doesn’t stain if it spills. Best of all, it costs next to nothing.

Think Fruits and Veggies

Bring along a cooler that you can put in an easy-access spot, and pack it full of your favorite munchy veggies and fruits. Do any necessary rinsing, cutting and trimming ahead of time if you can. Think of grapes, sliced apples, baby carrots, easy-peel oranges, and cherry tomatoes. Or indulge in fresh berries or pineapple chunks. You can also make “ants on a log” by stuffing celery sticks with natural peanut butter and some raisins on top. Dried fruits and fruit leathers make good snacks as well. You can buy them premade, or make your own. Steer away from the ones laden with extra sugar; your healthy snacks won’t be so healthy with extra sweetener.

Don’t Forget Proteins

Proteins alleviate those hunger pangs, so include some healthy proteins with your snack stash. Unsalted nuts are fun to eat, and aren’t too hard to pick up if spilled. Low-fat string cheese, besides being delicious and full of calcium, provides extra entertainment value as your kids pull off and eat individual strings. Some older kids like jerky, and there are other options out there besides beef.

Healthy Carbs

if you’re trying to feed your kids healthy snacks, you’ll want to stay away from the cookies and chips. But there are still some whole grain treats you can whip out for them. Consider whole grain crackers; you can even provide low-fat cheese slices to put on top. Rice cakes are something else your kids might enjoy, but be sure to read labels and make sure you aren’t picking up a package with extra sugar and fat. You can spread natural peanut butter on rice cakes for a protein boost. Whole grain cereals are also healthy options; just eat handfuls from the box or make individual packets ahead of time.

Trail mix is another popular carb-protein combo. Look for or make trail mixes with whole grain cereal, nuts, and dried fruit. It’s best to avoid the mixes with candies in them; even that small amount can encourage kids to wolf down the trail mix and avoid the other snacks.

Car rides with kids don’t have to be the end of the road when it comes to healthy eating. With a little forethought, you can provide plenty of wholesome food for your family as you travel—and you won’t have to worry about the effects of extra sugar and fats on their growing bodies.

About the Author

Author Sandy Landsford is an accountant and blogs for carinsurance.org.uk, a site where you can compare car insurance rates.

This nutritional-packed pasta dish is sure to be a crowd-pleaser as it features garlicky kale pesto to dress your pasta!

Paparadelle with Kale Pesto and Toasted Pine Nuts

Ingredients

1 bunch kale, washed and leaves torn

1/4 c pine nuts, lightly toasted

2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced

1/4 c grated parmesan, plus more for serving

1/2 c olive oil

salt & pepper

1 package paparadelle, cooked al dente

Preparation

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, Plunge kale leaves in water, then immediately drain and plunge into ice water to stop the cooking. Drain in colander, then lay on paper towels to extract as much water as
possible. Place in the bowl of a food processor with garlic, parmesan, and all but 2 Tbs of toasted pine nuts. Add a generous pinch of salt and pulse briefly to combine and chop. With machine running, drizzle in olive oil until you achieve a loose pesto-like consistency with some texture remaining.

Meanwhile, cook pasta to al dente, drain & reserve 1 cup of cooking water. Place pasta in a large bowl, add big spoonfuls of pest and some pasta cooking water to loosen it al up. Toss until noodles are coated with
pesto, then serve in big warm bowls, topped with additional toasted pine nuts and grated parmesan.

ABOUT FARMHOUSE DELIVERY

Farmhouse Delivery operates year-round. Members may sign up for winter, spring, summer and fall delivery and enjoy fresh, locally raised and produced food every day. Membership for a bi-weekly delivery of a mixed bushel of the season’s best produce is $39 per delivery with a one-time non-refundable $20 set up fee. Check out more of Winslow’s recent posts here farmhousedelivery.com.

For more information or to sign-up go to houston.farmhousedelivery.com, email info@farmhousedelivery.com or call 832.529.4747.

(photo by Jody Horton)

Spring Forward With Fun, Healthy Physical Activities For The Entire Family

You made it through the shortest days of the year, and now that the days are longer, take time to add more physical activity to your family’s day. Balancing your child’s school day, homework and other activities can be hectic, but making small changes this spring can lead to big rewards. Before you know it, your family will become a more active and healthier bunch.

Parents are role models for their children. When your children see you eating right and being physically active, there’s a good chance they’ll do the same. Living a healthier, more physically active lifestyle doesn’t re­quire expensive sporting equipment or memberships. There are fun, creative ways to improve your family’s physical activity habits.

To start, monitor your family’s daily activities for one week. Identify times when your family could increase its physical activity. Each week, add more activity into your family’s routine.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Play a game of tag instead of watching television. Tag provides fun and physical activity. Children love it—especially if they can chase their parents—and it increases everyone’s heart rate at the same time.

Start a family garden. Begin getting the soil ready to plant flowers and vegetables. If you have limited space, try growing herbs in pots. Homegrown vegetables and herbs are great money savers and ensure you’ll have something available for healthy summer meals and snacks. Fresh herbs are also a tasty alternative to salt when cooking.

Go old school. Help your children draw hopscotch or four square courts on the sidewalk. Sidewalk chalk is a colorful and inexpensive way for children to create their own activity space.

Plan a nature scavenger hunt. Pick up small nets and mason jars for kids to use to catch butterflies or interesting insects, and collect flowers in the neighborhood or at a local park.

Help your children organize a neighborhood softball or kickball game with their friends. Pitch in by planning healthy snacks and drinks to keep everyone energized during games.

Start with small steps to get your family to move more. Making little changes can help everyone maintain a healthy weight.

For more tips on how to help your family live a healthier ­lifestyle, visit the We Can! (Ways to Enhance Children’s Activity & Nutrition)® website: wecan.nhlbi.nih.gov.

*Article courtesy of NAPS. Image: photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.*

This simple recipe provides an easy mid-week dinner option with a great mix of fresh vegetables, savory noodles and a hint of spice! With spring right around the corner, lighten up and dine-in “Chinese style” with this easy, fun and timeless recipe!

Vegetable Lo Mein

Ingredients

8 oz cooked Lo Mein noodles
1 tsp vegetable oil
1 tsp dark soy sauce
1 tsp oyster sauce
Pinch of sugar
Pinch of salt
Pinch of black pepper
½ tablespoon of red pepper flake
1 cup diced celery
1 cup fresh bean sprouts
1 cup sliced white mushrooms
1/2 cup pea pods
1/2 cup julienne red & green bell peppers
1 cup diced onions
1 clove of garlic

Preparation

Heat vegetable oil in wok. Cook celery, bean sprouts, white mushrooms, pea pods, bell peppers, and onions. Add soy sauce and oyster sauce and minced garlic. Stir for 20 seconds while adding sugar, salt and spices. Add cooked Lo Mein noodles, stir for 10 seconds, and serve.

*Recipe and image courtesy of China Blossom, 946 Osgood Street, North Andover, MA 01845; For more information please call 978-682-2242 or visit ChinaBlossom.com.

About China Blossom Restaurant & Lounge

China Blossom Restaurant & Lounge is a legendary family run restaurant located on Route 125- North Andover, MA. Established in 1960, China Blossom has become a local landmark serving the freshest, highest quality Asian cuisine and premium drinks in the Merrimack Valley. China Blossom’s cuisine is influenced by the varied regions of Eastern Asia, featuring items such as Cantonese style noodles, Japanese hand-rolled sushi, or Thai style ribs available buffet style or à la carte. China Blossom has a full bar and showcases live entertainment every Friday & Saturday night. Perfect for dining with family and friends, China Blossom also features two private dining rooms available for various events of all sizes and occasions. Takeout and delivery services are available daily. Reservations and walk-ins are welcome. Restaurant hours are: Monday-Thursday: 11:30AM-9:30PM, Friday-Saturday: 11:30PM-12:00AM, Sunday: 12:00PM-9:00PM. Daily Buffet is available for lunch and dinner 11:30AM-2:00PM; 5:00PM-8:00PM. Live entertainment on Friday & Saturday nights starting at 8:00PM. China Blossom is located at 946 Osgood Street (RT 125) North Andover, Ma 01845.