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How to Cope With Stress

How to Cope With Stress

Do you deal with unwanted stress? For many of us, stress can affect our day to day lives- and we may be unaware of it. Learning how to prevent it, and ways to help release it can do wonders for our mental and physical health, improve our relationships and result in an overall happier life. 

First things first, recognize that stress is completely normal. In fact, it’s a regular part of life. However, it is important not to let it get out of control, or diminish your quality of life. When you experience high levels of stress, it means your body is experiencing high levels of cortisol- which can physically damage your body overtime. So, how do you recognize when your stress levels are too high? If you’re having trouble sleeping, experiencing loss of appetite or finding your thoughts overburdened, it’s time to take action. Here are some simple ways to help reduce and prevent stress in your life.

Get regular exercise. Besides just staying fit, regular exercise is good for the soul. When you get your body moving, endorphins are released, which help to clear your mind and improve your mood. You don’t have to run or lift weights- any kind of activity that you enjoy and gets your heart rate up is just fine! 

Try meditation. Meditation is known for calming your mind. Even just five minutes of meditation encourages you to release your worries and simply relax… just breathe! Deep breathing allows more oxygen to reach your brain, which has been proven to “nourish” your brain. Meditation has been shown to be a form of deep rest, which we could all use a little more of.

Talk it out. It is often underestimated just how much talking to someone else about your struggles can help you feel better. Whether it’s a friend or a therapist… simply emptying your brain and voicing your thoughts can be healing in and of itself. Remember, the ones you love are there to support you! However, if you feel like you need a professional opinion, seek out a therapist.

Look out for yourself. While work can get hectic at times, it’s important to remember not to take on more than you can handle. Ensure that on a regular basis you’re able to complete your work, and maintain time for family and friends, relaxation and other activities you enjoy. Above all, make sure you’re getting enough sleep. An adult needs approximately eight hours of sleep to function properly. Any less and you could be slowly damaging your brain overtime, lowering your ability to focus and be productive. 

Relax, and take it one day at a time. Begin by trying to implement some of these techniques into your life, and watch your life begin to change!

Classic Blueberry Muffins

Classic Blueberry Muffins

This blueberry muffin recipe is both simple and delicious! These make for a great breakfast on a lazy weekend morning, or bake them during the week to bring with you to work! Either way, you’re sure to love their classic flavor.

Ingredients

  • ½ cup softened butter
  • 1 ¼ cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ cup milk
  • 2 cups blueberries, washed – or 2 cups frozen blueberries, thawed
  • 3 teaspoons sugar

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven 400 degrees.
  2. Mix the butter and 1 1/4 cups sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each.
  4. Add in the vanilla extract.
  5. Sift in the flour, salt and baking powder, into the butter mixture alternately with the milk. 
  6. Mash 1/2 cup of the blueberries with a fork, and mix into the batter.
  7. Fold in the remaining whole berries.
  8. Line a 12 cup standard muffin tin with cupcake liners and fill them with batter.
  9. Sprinkle the 3 teaspoons of sugar over the tops of the muffins, reduce oven heat to 375, and bake at 375 degrees for about 30-35 minutes. When the toothpick comes out clean, you know they’re done! 
  10.  Remove muffins from the tin and let them cool for at least 30 minutes. Enjoy! 
Easy Ways to Go Green

Easy Ways to Go Green

As times begin to change, we’ve seen more and more people talking about the importance of going green. The good news is, if we all step up and make just a few simple changes, we can make a huge difference! Besides the obvious act of recycling, here are several other simple changes you can make in order to make your home a little more “green”!

Use CFL light bulbs. This is a simple swap that almost anyone can do! Switching to compact fluorescent lights bulbs is one of the simplest ways to save both energy and money! Unlike other bulbs, these effectively turn almost all of the energy they use into light rather than heat, so none goes to waste. Additionally, they last longer, which will save you money in the long run! 

Unplug electronics when not in use. Even when electronics are turned “off,” many are still using electricity when plugged into the wall. Examples include TVs, chargers, and printers that even when switched off, constantly emit LED light- utilizing electricity that you’re paying for. For a quick fix, plug these items into a power strip, and flip the switch off when you leave the room.

Opt for Energy Star appliances. Next time you need a new appliance, look for the Energy Star label. This symbolizes that the product has been manufactured and tested to reduce energy usage in comparison to other models. These labels are on many different types of appliances- even light bulbs! It’s been shown that households that use Energy Star appliances use roughly 30% less energy than others, which saves around $500 dollars per year. 

Recycle properly. Take the time to read up on what types of materials can be recycled in your area, so that you ensure you’re not including non-recyclable items and causing delays within the facility. Additionally, properly dispose of your electronics! Roughly five billion pounds of electronics are incorrectly disposed of every year. This means that dangerous chemicals and heavy metals end up seeping into our soil. With a little research, you can find drop off locations to properly recycle your electronics, and give them a new life. 

By making even just one of these simple changes, overtime, you’re making a difference. With these tips you’ll save energy and money, benefitting both you and our planet!  

Homemade Guacamole

Homemade Guacamole

If you love guacamole, look no further! This authentic homemade guacamole is super simple, and makes for a delicious mid-day snack or pre-dinner appetizer that’s quick, healthy and filling! 

Ingredients:

  • 3 large avocados
  • 1/4 cup diced red onion
  • 1/4 cup diced roma tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves, chopped (no stems)
  • 1 Jalapeno (about 1 tablespoon), finely diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice, or the juice from 3 key limes
  • Optional Garnish: cilantro leaves on stems, or sprinkling of Mexican Cotija Cheese

Directions:

  1. Chop your onion, tomatoes, jalapenos and cilantro
  2. Slice avocados in half, remove the peels and place the avocado in a large bowl.
  3. Mash the avocados until the consistency is smooth, or to your preference.
  4. Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl, and gently mix all ingredients together.
  5. Garnish with a few cilantro leaves on stems, or a sprinkling of Mexican Cotija Cheese.
  6. Serve guacamole with restaurant-style tortilla chips and enjoy!

Tip: If you have extra, squeeze more lime juice on top, cover and store in the fridge for 1-3 days.

4 Steps to Creating Your Spring Garden

4 Steps to Creating Your Spring Garden

Did you know? April is National Gardening Month! Here in Texas, many of us are starting to plant our spring gardens in hopes of a fruitful summer landscape. Whether you’re looking to grow fruits and vegetables or an array of flowers, there are a few steps you’ll want to follow to ensure your garden is successful as possible! 

Make a Plan

First things first, scope out your yard and decide the best spot for your garden. If you’ll be planting flowers, an established flower bed is a good idea. If you’re starting from scratch and plan to grow in pots or a grower’s box, consider the best placement for these items. Based on what you’re planning on growing, where will your crops best receive the appropriate amount of sun and shade? Once this is established, begin prepping! 

Prep Your Yard

Before you start planting, make sure you tear out any dead roots and weeds from winter, so you can start fresh- giving the new roots plenty of room to grow strong. For flower beds, it is advised to check the pH of any existing soil you’re planning to use, so you can supplement it with any nutrients it may be missing. There are plenty of at-home pH kits available in your local home and garden store! 

Choose a Quality Soil

Next, it’s time to plant. Make sure to use a quality soil and appropriate fertilizers to help your garden grow strong. Many of the mainstream bagged soils contain artificial fertilizers that aren’t safe to use when growing fruits and vegetables your family will eat. Instead, look for an organic soil free of pesticides. Instead, supplement your soil with an organic fertilizer that is specially formulated for the crops you’re growing. For flowers and landscaping plants, adding a layer of mulch on top can help lock in moisture and prevent your plants from growing out too quickly. 

Care for Your Garden

Once you’re done planting, continue to care for your garden! Keep a look out for weeds and any harmful insects. Make sure to read care instructions for your crops regarding how much and how often to water to ensure best results. In Texas, we can go from a hot day to a cold front in the blink of an eye, so monitor your plants to decide when more water is needed, and be prepared to cover them if the temperature suddenly drops.

Cheesy Baked Ziti

Cheesy Baked Ziti

What’s for dinner? This simple cheesy baked ziti recipe is comforting, filling and super simple to whip up. Ready in under an hour, this dish is a family favorite and makes for delicious leftovers!

Ingredients

  • 16 oz. package of penne pasta
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 pound italian sausage
  • 32 oz. marinara sauce
  • 15 oz. ricotta cheese
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 cups mozzarella cheese (divided)
  • 3/4 cups shredded parmesan (divided)
  • 2 tbsp chopped basil
  • 1 tsp italian seasoning
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Crushed red pepper flakes

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Prepare a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray. 
  2. In a large pot, bring salted water to a boil. Cook the penne pasta according to instructions until it is al dente. Drain the pasta, drizzle with olive oil and stir. Pour it into a large bowl and set aside. 
  3. In a large saute pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the italian sausage and break up the meat with a wooden spoon, cooking until it is no longer pink (about 5-7 mins). Discard excess fat and set aside.
  4. In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, an egg, 1 cup of mozzarella cheese, ½ cup of parmesan cheese, basil, italian seasoning, crushed red pepper flakes and salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Next, add the cheese mixture to the pasta. Pour in the marina sauce and sausage and stir until well combined, being careful not to break the noodles.
  6. Pour the pasta mixture into the baking dish, and top with the remaining 1 cup of mozzarella cheese an ¼ cup of parmesan cheese.
  7. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the top appears slightly golden brown and bubbly. Remove from the oven and let it cool for a few minutes. Lastly, serve and enjoy!