Monthly Archives: January 2015

Sugar-free Chocolate Bars – A Reality at Last!

You may not believe it, but there’s a sugar free chocolate that tastes fantastic and is perfect for low-carb diets. I’m on one now, and it’s so nice to be able to have a small piece of 255x150-chocorich, smooth dark chocolate at the end of the day with no guilt.

It’s called ChocoPerfection and it’s available now on the MagicKitchen.com online desserts page. This chocolate is amazing. It has 14 grams of prebiotic fiber in every bar (which reduces sugar cravings.)It’s all natural, 100% sugar-free, and has all the beneficial anti-oxidants of chocolate.

ChocoPerfection bars are sweetened from all natural plants that do not have any effect on blood sugar levels, so they’re ideal for diabetics, too.

You can use it for low-fat, low sugar baking, or just to eat out of hand. With dark chocolate and orange chocolate choices,  you won’t get bored.

Melody, MagicKitchen.com Blogger

 

 

 

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January- Time to plan your garden

It’s January, and winter stretches out before you. The holiday season is over, and you’re wondering what to do. It may surprise you that January is the perfect time to start planning your spring garden.

straw-bale-gardenStart a file folder to store ideas you’ve clipped out of magazines or printed off the internet. Investigate MagicKitchen.com’s pinterest page for gardening tips and ideas. Look around town and join a gardening club to get out of the house and talk to people who love to garden. You’ll get lots of great tips and advice that way.

Plan new things for the spring. Tired of bending over to weed and pick your veggies? Try starting a hay bale garden. So much cheaper than building raised beds, and easy to do. The straw holds moisture and heat, and is perfect for northern climates. Here’s the go-to source for hay or straw bale gardens: http://modernfarmer.com/2013/07/straw-bale-gardening/

While hardly new, square foot gardening is a great technique for getting more produce out of a smaller garden. Again, less bending and squatting and weeding makes for a better experience.

square-foot-gardeingWhichever garden design you decide to use, it’s a good idea to plot it out on graph paper or on the computer.

Go through your seeds and decide which to keep and throw out any moldy ones. Then go through your nursery catalogs and decide what seeds you will buy, which to start inside, and which nursery seedlings you’ll buy to plant.

Depending on where you live, you may be able to prep your garden bed now. Mulch, spray and prune. Here’s a guide to January garden prep in California: http://3000tomatoes.com/monthly-garden-jobs/january-garden/

Those of us in cooler temperatures are only allowed to dream of our hands in the soil again, but some good planning now will ensure that next year’s garden will shine!

Melody, MagicKitchen.com blogger.

 

 

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What is 12th Night?

wassailFrom Wikipedia: “Twelfth Night is a festival, in some branches of Christianity marking the coming of the Epiphany. There is disagreement as to whether the Twelfth Night falls on 6th January or the 5th; the Church of England insists that it is on the 5th and “refers to the night before Epiphany, the day when the nativity story tells us that the three wise men visited the infant Jesus. In pagan days, 12 night originally came from the 12 days of Yuletide which began at sunset on December 20, known as Mother Night, and ended on the night of December 31, the Night of the Oak King and the Roman day of Hecate

Food and drink are the center of the celebrations in modern times, and all of the most traditional ones go back many centuries. The punch called wassail is consumed especially on Twelfth Night, but throughout Christmas time, especially in the UK.

Around the world, special pastries, such as the tortell and king cake are baked on Twelfth Night, and eaten the following day for the Feast of the Epiphany celebrations.

In English and French custom, the Twelfth-cake was baked to contain a bean and a pea, so that those who received the slices containing them should be designated king and queen of the night’s festivities.

In Ireland it is still the tradition to place the statues of the Three Kings in the crib on Twelfth Night or, at the latest, the following Day Little Christmas.

12th-2In colonial America, a Christmas wreath was always left up on the front door of each home, and when taken down at the end of the Twelve Days of Christmas, any edible portions would be consumed with the other foods of the feast. The same held true in the 19th-20th centuries with fruits adorning Christmas trees.
Fresh fruits were hard to come by, and were therefore considered fine and proper gifts and decorations for the tree, wreaths, and home. Again, the tree would be taken down on Twelfth Night, and such fruits, along with nuts and other local produce used, would then be consumed.

In the eastern Alps, a tradition called Perchtenlaufen exists. Two to three hundred masked young men rush about the streets with whips and bells driving out evil spirits.  In Nuremberg until 1616, children frightened spirits away by running through the streets and knocking loudly at doors.

In some countries, the Twelfth Night and Epiphany mark the start of the Carnival season, which lasts through Mardi Gras Day. Modern American Carnival traditions shine most brightly in New Orleans, where friends gather for weekly King Cake parties. Whoever gets the slice with the “king”, usually in the form of a miniature baby doll (symbolic of the Christ Child, “Christ the King”), hosts next week’s party.

12th-1In parts of Kent, there is a tradition that an edible decoration would be the last part of Christmas to be removed in the Twelfth Night and shared amongst the family.

Drury Lane Theatre in London has had a tradition since 1795 of providing a Twelfth Night cake. The will of Robert Baddeley made a bequest of £100 to provide cake and punch every year for the company in residence at the theatre on 6 January. The tradition still continues.

Of course, Twelfth Night is also one of Shakespeare’s comedies, where a shipwrecked Viola pretends to be a man, and much farcical comedy ensues.

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Make this Year an Exciting One!

Yeah, Yeah, we know what you’re thinking…here come the pointless New Year’s resolutions that everyone makes but no one keeps. Well, we’re not necessarily going to disagree with that, but we’ve put a different spin on this list of resolutions; 5 things you should resolve to STOP doing to make this year more exciting than the last.

  1. hikingStop staying at home so often. Stop binge watching Orange is the New Black, Breaking Bad, and Game of Thrones. Stop reading all those Nicholas Sparks novels. Stop trolling on Facebook and Twitter and get out there and do something. “But what?” we hear you ask. How about trying a new restaurant, or visit a museum, or travel to a nearby place that you’ve always wanted to see, or find an outdoor café and people watch. The possibilities are endless if you just resolve to visit one new place every week of 2015. That’s just 52 new places…you can handle that, can’t you? We thought so!
  1. Stop being sedentary. And no, we don’t mean get out there and train for a marathon! Simply resolve to move more in 2015. Purchase one of those new, funky fitness wristband things and set a goal to take a certain number of steps throughout your day. Or find some local hiking trails and reconnect with the flora and fauna of your area…just get out there and be more active than you were in 2014.
  1. Stop eating and drinking so many empty calories. Look, we’re not saying eliminate ALL the junk, no one can do that, just some of it. Here’s a stat to remember, on average we only burn 110 calories per mile traveled. So, drink a 5 ounce glass of wine? Plan on jogging/walking a mile to burn it off! Have a slice of pepperoni pizza? It’ll take you almost 3 miles to rid yourself of that little indulgence. Don’t become an obsessive calorie counter, just resolve to reduce those useless, empty calories in 2015.
  1. convoStop being quite so introverted. Want more excitement in 2015? While you’re out there (see #1), meet new people. Just strike up a pleasant conversation. Compliment them on their shoes, ask to pet their dog, comment on how cute their child is, just be nice and that generally works. Again, set a goal to at least talk to one new person a week. You don’t have to start a long term relationship here (unless you want to), just start a conversation…that’s usually how new friends are made!
  1. Stop being so pessimistic. Look at the glass as half full more often! Locate and embrace you’re inner optimist. We know it’s in there somewhere. You’ll be surprised what a positive attitude can do for your outlook on life. Need help getting started? Hang out with self-professed optimists, read guides on positive thinking/optimism, create a positive mantra that you recite when you feel your inner-pessimist whispering in your ear. Resolve to make 2015 a more optimistic year, and the previous four resolutions will help get you started.

There you have it. Five simple things we should all STOP doing to make 2015 better than 2014. Remember, all goals (or resolutions) should be achievable, and these five certainly meet that criteria. Now it’s up to you to make them happen for a happier, healthier and more exciting 2015!

Steve, MagicKitchen.com blogger

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A Brand New Year

2015 is here! I look forward to it with excitement, as I do every new year. What will it bring?  Of course, I have my own New Year’s resolutions.

Often I don’t bother, because I doubt myself; I don’t think I’ll keep them, so what is the point of trying? But this year, I have a new hip, new physical strength and flexibility, and I can do it!

Here they are, drum roll, please….

ground-turkey-noodles-87-series1. Lose 20 lbs.
Yep, I have been eating too much, and I need to get smart about eating. MagicKitchen.com will help with that, as I will order some diet meals from them.  What that will do is put into perspective what a proper portion looks like. I think that’s where we too often mess up. I saw a Survivor episode once where they showed the half a cup of rice the players get every day. Jeff Probst, the host, compared that to what most Americans eat every day. He said this was 2500 calories:

Breakfast with 2 fried eggs, hashbrowns, 3 strips of bacon, toast with better. Lunch was a burger and fries, and supper was a big plate of spaghetti and meatballs. It looked like more than 2500 calories to me, but in any case it reminded me that small portions mean a healthy life.

So I’ll go on Weightwatchers,  because that has worked for me before, and re-learn the fact that portions only need to fill you up, they don’t need to be massive eating events. And I’ll use MagicKitchen.com’s portion controlled meals, because they will help me with weight loss.

2. More exercise!!
I had a hip replacement 7 months ago. It feels great now, but I’m not really exercising much more than I was a year ago. So there will be much more walking, some bike riding, and I’ll be doing some weight training. I haven’t developed a schedule for it yet, but I’ll do that too!

exerciseThat’s it! I’m not going to take on more than I can handle. Those two will take time and commitment.  Off we go into the shining new year!

Happy 2015, everybody!!

 

Melody, MagicKitchen.com blogger

 

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Top 10 Workout Tips For Getting Out of the Winter Rut

Winter often gives a sob story that we all hate to hear. The cold weather certainly gets the best of most us- but not all of us. There are those who welcome winter with open arms-I mean, it’s hard to understand the love for the cold-but for most people, working out is the best way to keep warm.

However, working out in the cold comes with many challenges. Regardless of whether you are in your best shape or not, winter is known to many as a working-out rut. Here are the ten best ways to ensure that you don’t get caught in it.
1. active-15926_640Set big goals
If you don’t have set working out goals or have been slacking with the ones that you already have, then it’s time for a change. Going back to basics will ensure that you work out faithfully in the winter, even when it seems difficult.

2. Embrace the cold weather
The best way to stay in shape during the cold months is to get out there and face it head on. Taking part in activities like skiing, ice-skating or just running outside will provide a great charge of pace which will in turn help you to cope with the cold better. Once you get out, you’ll love the bracing cold, and activity will warm you up quickly.

3. Ensure you have the best workout gear

It’s important to ensure that you have the right training shoes or gym gear. This will ensure that you are comfortable when working out during winter.

4. Be accountable

Beginning to work out may be more difficult than working out itself. A healthy sense of accountability will motivate you to wake up and join a running group or make time for workout sessions. Don’t focus too much on your weight; after all, muscle weighs more than fat.

5. Try something New

Try workout activities that you would not ordinarily try such as hot yoga. This will help you get excitement back to your workout routine. This will really bring excitement in winter workout.

measuring6. Note the changes

Documenting your changes as you work out in the winter will certainly keep the rut away. Noting changes in your body due to your workout routine is motivating.

7. Maintain a good diet

Staying active is only half the battle, you need to maintain a good diet to go together with your workout sessions. Good dieting and exercise is the best way to beat the winter rut.

8. Switch up your workout playlist

People on treadmill in gym runningMusic keeps a workout session going. Ensure that you have an interesting playlist with good work out songs. This will make your winter workout very enjoyable.

9. Grab a buddy

Winter is not the time to work out alone. Friends during this time will either workout with you or keep you accountable when the winter rut kicks in plus you will be safe.

10. Reconfigure your schedule

As winter mornings are extremely cold, if you are discouraged from working out in the morning, you can do it all at lunch hour or even in the evening. There’s no getting around winter. We still have to be fit. Follow these tips and tricks and you are well on your way to avoiding the winter workout rut.

If none of these tips work out with your schedule, winter provides its own workout. But wouldn’t you rather be in the gym?

snow-clearing

 

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