Category: Food & Home

How to Choose the Best Refrigerator

Posted on Sep 2, 2015 by No Comments

It’s getting close to time to replace my 12-year-old refrigerator. Until now, I’ve always had a refrigerator with the freezer on top, but I’m considering a change.

As I’ve started my search, it seems finding the right refrigerator is more of a challenge than I thought with so many things to consider. I turned to Consumer Reports for some guidance since they offer unbiased ratings.

Of course, one of the first things they point out is the importance of energy efficiency, since our refrigerators run 24-7. Really, for me, anything that can help the budget out is important. But my reasons for considering a change to a bottom freezer is that I’d have to bend less when looking for something in the refrigerator.

However, Consumer Reports says that top freezers “offer the most storage for their size and they are the least expensive.” Plus the top scoring models they tested typically delivered consistent temperatures. Those are all important factors for me.

And to be up front, I’ve never been a fan of side-by-side refrigerator models because they seem like they have less room. As long as I was checking out facts and ratings I figured I’d take a look and see if my perception was correct or not.

It was! They are “the least space-efficient inside.” So I looked no further. I already feel like I’m playing a game of Tetris as I move items around in my fridge. I definitely, don’t need less room.

The benefit of bottom-freezer refrigerators is that it keeps things in the refrigerator within easy reach. This is the main reason I was considering a bottom-freezer model.

Most of the models tested chilled and froze items adequately. The only real downside is that the freezer holds less than a similar top-freezer model.

So for me, energy efficiency is important, but beyond that, I’m looking for practicality. I’ve boiled my decision down to two things. Do I want more freezer space or to have my refrigerator within easier reach? Hard choice but I’ll probably stick with a freezer-on-top model!

Photo credits: wikimedia

Link Round-up, Rose Water Mist, Sandwiches on Sticks, Breakfast Baked Beans, and More

Posted on Sep 1, 2015 by No Comments

Today’s link round-up has DIYs for tulle poms and rose water face mist, plus lipsticks that’ll make  you ready for fall, recipes, and more.

A Beautiful Mess showed us how to make our own rose water face mist.

Spaceships and Laser Beams showed us how to put together sandwiches on sticks for school lunches.

Cupcakes and Cashmere taught us how to put together the modern cheese plate.

Foodie with Family shared a recipe for slow cooker breakfast baked beans.

link ru tulle ball

Muslin and Merlot taught us how to make tulle poms.

Makeup and Beauty Blog showed us five magenta lipsticks that will make us ready for fall.

Tone It Up shared a recipe for chocolate banana bread muffins.

Photo credit: A Beautiful Mess and Muslin and Merlot

Tricks to Help You Eat Healthier

Posted on Sep 1, 2015 by No Comments

Most of us know how to eat healthy, but we often don’t do it. Why is that? I think there are a number of reasons. Some of it has to do with our mood, cravings and such. Other times our pitfalls are our habits.

For me, one of those habits is that I’ll grab something I can eat while on the run or working at my computer often as a matter of convenience. Another bad habit is eating more of something just because it tastes good — even if I’m not even hungry.

The problem with eating while working or even watching TV is that it is easy to mindlessly eat and before I know it, I’ve eaten more than I need.

There are a couple of tricks that have helped me to curb this habit. First of all, I’ve started eating only at the table. Eating healthy, for me, needs to be purposeful instead of part of multitasking. Sitting at the table, makes it “time to eat” And for me it was harder than I thought it would be.

A second trick I’m trying is to use a smaller plate to help control my portion sizes except for my salads. Then I use a bigger plate. For instance, at dinner, I start with a big plate of salad almost every night. And I’m not talking about a boring lettuce and tomato salad, but one topped with a variety of fresh veggies, legumes, and a healthy dressing.

For the rest of my meal, I go to the small plate, because even when foods are healthy, too much is too much. The size of the plate helps my portions stay reasonable and is especially helpful in reminding me to limit choices like pasta, or white rice.

The last trick to help you eat healthier is to stop buying trigger foods at the grocery store. For me that includes chips. Instead, I buy pretzels, and while I like pretzels, I can eat a few and be done whereas with potato chips I can eat a few, but then they call me and before I know I’m reaching into the bag again! And once I eat more, the guilt takes over. I start thinking now that I’ve eaten this many, what difference does it make if I eat the whole bag! If I don’t buy them, they can’t call to me!

Of these tricks, learning to only eat at the table is probably the trick that helps me the most because I don’t want to get pulled away from my work or a TV show. Separating eating as its own individual activity, made me realize how much I snacked!

Photo credits: Ashley Acevedo

An Apple a Day Can Make One Happier and Healthier

Posted on Aug 28, 2015 by No Comments

If you could find one pill that would help keep you from feeling down, could help control your appetite, lower your cholesterol, help build muscle, improve your memory, and boost your immune system, would you take it?

It turns out we don’t need a pill because nature already offers all those benefits in one fruit – the apple.

We’ve heard the idiom, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” since our childhood, and it turns out that according to several studies there is wisdom in the old saying.

First of all they are rich in fiber and help to normalize bowel movements, but according to the Mayo Clinic this one fruit does much more. It helps lower cholesterol levels, control blood sugar, and helps us to achieve a healthy weight.

In a 2013 study titled “Many apples a day keep the blues away—daily experiences of negative and positive affect and food consumption in young adults” conducted at the University of Otago in New Zealand, participants were asked to evaluate their feelings and record them in a diary every night for 21 days. They were also asked specific questions about what they had eaten each day. On days when more fruits and vegetables were consumed, they reported feeling happier, calmer, and more energetic. Eating that apple can work to enhance your mood.

In a 2012 study conducted at Ohio State University, researchers discovered that eating one apple each day for four weeks, greatly lowered participants’ oxidized LDL levels. Lead researcher Robert DiSilvestro explains the importance of this finding. “When LDL becomes oxidized, it takes on a form that begins atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries.”

An animal study conducted in 2012 at Cornell University found quercetin, an antioxidant found in apple skin, helped prevent oxidative stress, which damages brain tissues and is associated with neurodegenerative disorders. According the C.Y. Lee, the study leader, apples “may be among the best food choices for fighting Alzheimer’s.”

The apple really is a powerhouse that packs a nutritious punch to ward off many of the chronic health conditions society struggles with today. I’ve added this tasty fruit back in to my daily diet as I fight high cholesterol.

I’m not planning to get new blood work done for three months, but according to the results of the Ohio State study, it only took four weeks to lower oxidized LDL by 40 percent.

Photo credits: pixabay

Link Round-up: Alphabet Magnets, Instant Film, Peach Pie, and More

Posted on Aug 27, 2015 by No Comments

Today’s link round-up has alphabet magnets, an instant film display, fresh peach pie, and more.

Muslin and Merlot shared a project for burlap-covered alphabet magnets.

Grandparents Plus shared a peach pie recipe.

Simply Vintageous showed us how to give an old desk a makeover.

Kitchen Fun with My 3 Sons showed us how to make a grilled cheese cat.

link ru large instagram display

A Beautiful Mess inspired us with a large-scale instant film display.

Cupcakes and Cashmere shared tips for selling clothes you’ve cleaned out of your closet.

Study at Home Mama showed us how to make cinnamon bun crackers.

Photo credit: Muslin and Merlot and A Beautiful Mess

Link Round-up: Recipes, Lunch Box Notes, Potty Training, and More

Posted on Aug 25, 2015 by No Comments

Today’s link round-up has recipes, lunch box notes, potty training tips, and more.

Strength and Sunshine shared a recipe for smoky, sweet peanut slaw.

Cupcakes and Cashmere showed us how to dress up a button-down.

Nap Time Creations shared a fun Minecraft water bottle craft.

link ru popcorn chicken nuggets

Kenarry taught us how to make popcorn chicken nuggets.

Create Craft Love showed us how to make a Day of the Dead (or Halloween) wreath.

I Should Be Mopping the Floor shared free printables for lunch box notes to send to school with your kids.

The Jenny Evolution shared potty training tips.

Photo credit: Strength and Sunshine and Kenarry

Is the Paleo Diet Bad for Your Brain?

Posted on Aug 24, 2015 by No Comments

I haven’t tried the Paleo diet, not because it doesn’t sound good, but because a diet that cuts out food groups is hard for me to sustain. In this case, that may be a good thing as research starts to catch up with the craze.

A paper published in The Quarterly Review of Biology proposes that “plant foods containing high quantities of starch were essential for the evolution of the human phenotype during the Pleistocene [period]” and are still crucial for brain health today.

The researchers responsible for this paper acknowledge that a meat-based diet was crucial to the caveman’s brain development, but they also argue that starchy carbohydrates also played a necessary role in meeting the needs of the growing brain – specifically cooked starches. That’s because cooked starches increased energy reserves through glucose, which in turn advances brain development and red blood cells.

The scientific theory behind this line of thinking is that our bodies start to convert starch to glucose in our mouths where our saliva provides an enzyme called amylase.

Amylase breaks down starches most effectively when they are cooked. And so, with the invention of fire, researchers suggest our bodies needed more amylase. This promoted genetic mutations that created extra amylase which helped our ancestors survive and thrive…and gave them bigger brains.

I’m thinking this research requires a measure of faith – not in science but in theories because when science can’t be proved, it’s not really science in my book. It’s just theory and in this case I feel like it’s a stretch to try and get to a predetermined conclusion.

Even the researchers of this study concluded that “testing this hypothesis will require a convergence of information from archeology, genetics, and human physiology. Despite a number of high-profile studies on the amylase gene cluster, it is becoming clear that the locus remains incompletely characterized, that published estimates of AMY1 CNV are problematic, and that the structural nature of that CNV is more complex than previously thought.”

That’s a pretty fancy way of saying we need to learn more to reach a real conclusion.

In the meantime, studies offer us a lot of good information, but sometimes I feel like the conflicting information just makes things confusing and discouraging.

When that happens, I say go back to basics. Choose to eat a healthy diet like the Mediterranean diet which has proven to improve brain health along with a ton of other benefits.

Photo credits: amenclinicsphotos ac

Where We Stand in the Fight Against Unhealthy Fats

Posted on Aug 21, 2015 by No Comments

To understand where we stand in the fight against unhealthy fats, the first thing that has to be determined is which fats are unhealthy.

The reason I say that is that we’ve been nutritionally backpedaling from low-fat models that labeled fat as a bad thing; especially in foods like eggs, red meat, full-fat dairy, and of course trans fats.

As we’ve moved away from the low-fat-no-fat approach to eating, we’ve learned to increase healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats like those found in avocados, almonds and olive oil, but we’ve still stayed away from saturated fats which were thought to increase our risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

I often wondered about this because my grandparents farmed and they ate saturated fat all the time and lived an active life into their 80s. In fact, a good amount of the forbidden foods list made it into their daily diet including fresh eggs gathered each day.

Now according to a new study, those saturated fats we’ve avoided aren’t linked to an increase risk in heart disease or type 2 diabetes after all. However, the artificial trans fats found in processed foods are still bad for us. In fact, the FDA has announced a plan to eliminate all trans fats from store shelves by 2018.

This study isn’t giving us the green light to eat full fat dairy or fried food, yet. According to the study’s author, Russell de Souza, Scd, an assistant professor of Clinical Epidemiology & Biostatistics at McMaster University in Hamilton, ON, Canada, more research on fats is required.

He points to the fact that we have a large amount of evidence which shows negative effects associated with excess saturated fat in the diet. With conflicting results from the research world, he says, that no one nutrient or food is responsible for all heart disease, diabetes, or death but that “the whole diet matters.”

This is the crux of it in my opinion. In our Western culture, most of us eat in excess…whatever we’re eating. Souza says, that good health is as much about what we eat as what we don’t.

When I heard this I thought “seconds”. How many of us eat seconds when we aren’t really hungry? The key is to opt for reasonable portions of a varied diet that includes whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables and nuts, and very little refined starches, sugars, and processed trans fats.

Photo credits: pixabay

Link Round-up: Home Decor, Popsicles, Back to School Brunch, and More

Posted on Aug 20, 2015 by 2 Comments

Today’s link round-up has DIY home décor, popsicles, a back to school brunch for parents, and more.

365 Days of Crafts showed us how to make Halloween patchwork coasters.

Mrs. Happy Homemaker shared a recipe for golden honeydew mint popsicles.

An Aiming High Wife shared ideas for a back to school brunch for the parents left behind.

link ru copper vase

A Beautiful Mess showed us how to make a copper tape vase.

Tater Tots and Jello showed us how to make a summer memory box.

link ru paper fireworks

Muslin and Merlot showed us how to make paper fireworks flowers.

The Sweetest Occasion taught us how to make a dip dye market tote bag.

Photo credit: 365 Days of Crafts, A Beautiful Mess, and Muslin and Merlot