Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Belly Fat Fighting Smoothie Recipe

Now that we are coming out of the winter blues around these parts, I having been feeling the need to start exercising and getting my weight in check again. I did very well last summer, but as soon as the weather turned cold and rainy, the last thing I wanted to to was exercise, and my diet went out the window too. Hello comfort food!

Anyway, to go along with my new found desire to slim down, I have been busy concocting a smoothie with a ton of belly fat busting ingredients. I have had this the past week for breakfast and it is amazing and keeps me full for quite a while. Just thought I would share in case anyone else out there needs a little help in the tummy area as well. Enjoy!

The smoothie recipe:

1 cup Frozen Blueberries
1 whole banana peeled and broken into chunks
1/2 cup frozen or fresh spinach
enough juice of your choice (I use orange for the Vitamin C boost) to make the blender go (start with a 1/4 cup) and go up from there. I like my smoothies very thick and frozen.

For the topping:

1/4 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup crushed walnuts (or combo of almonds and walnuts)
2 tbsp. ground flax seed

Combine in a pan on the stove and cook over medium low heat until they just start to get toasty and you can smell the deliciousness. Remove from the heat and let cool and then sprinkle over your smoothie.

Below are the ingredients that are super belly fat busting, and the reasoning behind it.

1. Blueberries -
Blueberries, as well as berries such as strawberries and raspberries, contain a type of plant chemical called anthocyanins that may help you burn abdominal fat faster, according to a "Parenting" magazine article. Blueberries also happen to be loaded with fiber, which can help your body absorb fewer calories from other foods and help you stay full so that you're less likely to eat too many calories in meals. The antioxidants in blueberries may also help you burn belly fat because they increase your blood flow and can improve your muscles' performance during workouts. Aim for at least a half cup of blueberries a day.

2. Spinach - (or dark leafy greens)
Leafy green vegetables such as spinach pack a triple punch to an expanding waistline. A single cup of spinach is worth only about 40 calories, but it contains enough stomach-filling fiber to account for 20 percent of your daily requirement, according to "Fitness" magazine. Spinach is also rich in calcium, which helps your muscles contract and helps give you the strength you need to burn belly fat during workouts.

3. Oatmeal -
Unlike refined grains such as white rice and white flour, whole grains such as oatmeal are rich in fiber, which helps you stay full on fewer calories and can help you lose belly weight. Whole grains also happen to be rich in chromium and magnesium, which can control two hormones that encourage fat to pile in the midsection, according to "Parenting" magazine. Aim for at least three half-cup servings of whole grains per day, and don't feel limited to oatmeal. Quinoa, brown rice and 100 percent whole-wheat bread also count as whole grains.

4. Flax Seed and Walnuts - High in Omega -3's -

Omega-3 and Metabolic Rate

Omega-3 consumption can influence the speed at which you are able to burn calories, especially while on a diet. Omega-3 fats work to keep a hormone that directly influences the metabolism's speed, called leptin, at high levels. According to Dr. John Berardi, when leptin is present in high amounts, the metabolic rate remains higher than normal while also reducing overall hunger, increasing your likelihood of maintaining weight-loss success while dieting.

Omega-3 and Insulin Sensitivity

Insulin sensitivity is the ability of your body's cells to recognize the presence of insulin and to allow more sugar molecules to be burned for energy instead of being stored as fat. In general, the more sensitive your cells are to insulin, the less you will store fat from meals higher in carbohydrates. Increasing omega-3 consumption in the form of both fish oil supplementation and also eating about 1 lb. of cold-water fish each week significantly improves insulin sensitivity and assists in fat loss, according to the Life Extension Foundation, an organization dedicated to nutritional pharmacology. Eat weekly meals containing salmon, mackerel and sardines and include a few capsules of fish oil each day to help reduce belly fat.

Omega-3 and Fat Metabolism

Supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids can improve the rate at which your body metabolizes fats eaten with meals. According to research in the December 2007 Journal of Nutrition, two weeks of fish-oil supplementation equal to 3g daily improved the metabolism of fat in the intestine and reduced weight gain in overfed animals. In another study, researchers discovered that the same two-week period resulted in gene alterations, particularly of the "anti-obesity" gene.

5. Banana -
While banana's are not on the list of helping to burn belly fat, the potassium in them does help with bloating in the midsection. Foods high in potassium, such as bananas and potatoes help your body get rid of excess water weight, minimizing your middle. The extra fluid is usually a result of imbalance between potassium and sodium. When sodium gets too high, your tissues hold on to fluid. An optimum amount of potassium is 4,700 mg a day. One banana contains a whopping 450mg! But you can also get a lot of potassium from beans, potatoes and halibut.

So there you have it, one powerful smoothie breakfast for your midsection!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Cranberry, Orange, and Flaxseed Oatmeal Cookies

Tonight I made a delicious batch of cookies and I just had to share the recipe with you. Not only do these cookies taste quite good, they are super healthy for you too! This batch of cookies was made with a whole wheat flour and oatmeal cookie base, and then I got creative and threw in some dried cranberries, orange zest, and ground flax seed. I didn't have any nuts on hand, but if you added some chopped walnuts, it would make them all the better (due to the high amount of omega-3's found in walnuts). Below is the recipe, go try it and let me know what you think.

Cranberry, Orange, and Flaxseed Oatmeal Cookies:

1/2 cup plus 6 Tbsp butter (I used Smart Balance light with Flax Seed Oil, less fat and it is dairy free)
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour (or regular whole wheat flour)
1/4 cup ground flaxseed
1 tsp baking soda
3 cups rolled oats
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 zest of a large orange plus 1 tsp of the juice (reserve the other half of the zest for the icing)

Mix well and scoop onto a cookie sheet. Bake at 350° F until golden on the bottoms.

For the icing:

Mix 1 cup powdered sugar with the rest of the orange zest and enough of the juice to make the icing a drizzling consistancy. Drizzle on cookies once they have cooled and enjoy!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Garden Prep, Day 2

This morning my 8 yards of prime organic garden soil and compost was delivered and dumped in the front of our house, just waiting to be hauled to the backyard and placed in the planting beds I made yesterday. Lucky for me my husband and sister were there to help with the shoveling a hauling.

It took about 5 hours to haul it all back and distribute it around the yard, but now my beds are ready for spring plantings. March 15th is the last average frost date here in central Texas, so I only have a few more weeks until I can start my plantings. I all ready have several tomatoes ready in pots just waiting to be planted. I am so excited to begin my summer garden!

While all the dirt shoveling, hauling, and moving was going on, Madeline and her cousin Kingston were busy having a heyday outside. They did considerably well playing together for five hours. Two of the best parts of the day were coming home from picking up lunch to find them "swimming" in their own individual "pools" (otherwise known as my plastic garden tubs), and them running out to the front of the house naked and peeing on the driveway simultaneously just as our new neighbor had come over to say hello for the first time. What says "welcome to the neighborhood" more than two toddlers peeing naked in the driveway? But she was pregnant, so she will soon realize that motherhood is full of dealing with bodily fluids.

Anyway, below are a few of the fun moments we had outside along with a photo of the beautiful sunset tonight. I hope you all had a wonderful day today as well.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Getting the garden ready

Today was a very productive day in my garden. I rented a tiller from home depot for only about $50 and was able to till the ground where my planting beds are going to be. Then I got a delivery of white chop stone to edge the beds. With the help of my sister and wonderful husband, we got the entire pallet moved into the back yard and placed around the beds.

Tomorrow I am getting a delivery of organic garden soil and compost to fill my beds. Then they will be ready for all the cucumbers, tomatoes, melons, beans, peas, peppers, and herbs that I will be planting next month.

My husband and I also have plans to fill in the space between the beds with decomposed granite so that the area is more useable. I can't wait until it is finished. In the meantime, I plan on posting some photos of the garden as it progresses.

The first photo is an in process photo from today. Then a photo of the finished beds waiting for the dirt tomorrow. Finally a small experiment I am trying. I heard that you can plant the bottom of a bunch of celery and it will grow new stalks, so I am trying it out and will let you know how it goes.

That is all for now. Time to finish sewing some etsy orders.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Laptop Material

I am in the midst of creating a new laptop bag print. This will be a red print in the current laptop satchel form, but I am having trouble deciding on which fabric to use for the bag.

My first run of the damask laptop satchel was in a screen printed polyester material, and while the appearance was okay and it was waterproof and stain resistant, people seemed to not like the screen printed nature of the print. There was also an issue with the screen printing process where several, about 10%, of the bags had black streaks in the print where the white ink was not thick enough. This turned into a big headache for me, so the next batch of bags (the ones that are currently for sale) are made of a matte laminated cotton canvas material. I thought that this looked great and the benefits of this material was that it was so easy to clean, just wipe with a wet cloth. The laminated canvas also meant the bag was waterproof. The downside of this material was that it cost $$$ to get the canvas laminated and as it turns out, some customers don't seem to like the matte lamination.

So here is where the trouble lies. Do I stick with the matte laminated canvas for the new Red Print Laptop Satchel, or do I go with a more traditional shiny laminated canvas, or a third option of just plain un-laminated canvas like my Casual Pleated Laptop Tote? Personally I think that the shiny laminated canvas looks plastic-y, but there are several brands (Fossil, Urban Junket, Jane Marvel) that have the shine-y laminated canvas laptop bags that customers seem to like. My question to you is what would you prefer in a laptop bag? Hopefully some of my customers are reading this, because I want to please you the most, and would love to hear your feedback.

Here is a close up photo of the new red print fabric. The left side is the shiny laminated canvas and the right is the matte. I don't have a photo of the un-laminated canvas, but just think not shiny at all and no protective coating.

Monday, February 13, 2012

A Very Sesame Street Birthday

A few months ago was my daughters second birthday and the theme of the day was Sesame Street. I think it is almost impossible to raise a kid that doesn't get exposed to Sesame Street at some point.

Anyway, when I throw a party, I really like to go all out and have everything from decor, to food, to drinks embrace the theme. Well the decor part was easy as there are a number of pre-made sesame street decorations around. I added to a few store bought ones with some party hats made to resemble the main characters and colorful balloon bunches.

In addition to the amazing cake my sister made, I made some colored cupcakes with Oscar, Elmo, Grover, Bert, Ernie, and Cookie Monster faces on them. But my best creation (of which I am very proud of) was the food. This was a toddler party after all, and I needed some healthy snacks for the kiddies ( and adults). Thus was born my idea to create the character's faces out of fruit and veggies. This turned out great and was a huge success. Below are a few pictures of the different faces.

After seeing my idea, my cousin then adapted the idea for her daughters 2nd birthday Yo Gabba Gabba birthday. Take a look and get inspired on a cute new way make your next fruit or veggie tray.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

DIY Trivets

I saw a blog post once about using pieces of tile to make coasters. While I absolutely love that idea, I thought I would expand on that and make another home decor and serving item, the trivet. For those that don't know, a trivet (at least the one that I am going to show you how to make) is an object that is placed between a serving dish or bowl and your dinner table to protect the table from heat damage.

What you will need is a 6" by 6" piece of tile. The ones that I found at my local home improvement store cost only $.25 each. You will also need some cork contact paper, decorative fabric, decoupage medium of your choice ( I used collage pauge by Aleene's), white Craft and Hobby PVA glue, and a foam brush.

First cut the cork into the same size as your tile ( mine was 6" by 6"). Peel off backing and adhere to the back of the tile.

Next cut your fabric to the size of the tile and iron to make sure it is free of wrinkles. Apply a coat of the PVA glue to the front of the tile and spread it out to make it even and make sure it goes all the way to the edges. Press your fabric down onto the wet glue and make sure there are no air bubbles. Let the glue dry.

Once the glue is dry, squirt on a glob of the decopauge medium and use the foam brush to completely cover your fabric. Be sure to press the decopauge medium into the fabric so that it goes all the way through the fabric. Once the fabric is completely coated, gently use the foam brush to remove any excess decopauge medium and let dry.

Congratulations! You now have a beautiful wipe able trivet to use at your next dinner party. And since they are so easy to make, you can easily customize them to your party theme.