Creamy Chicken and Mushroom Soup

Now that the holidays are over, you might be looking for a hearty meal idea that is not only healthy, but quick and easy to make. Here is a comforting and cozy soup recipe that is deliciously creamy and will warm your bones during these cold winter months. This soup only takes 30 minutes from start to finish, and is sure to satisfy.

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INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 ounces boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 ounces cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ cup half and half, or more, as needed
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 sprig rosemary

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Heat olive oil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper to taste. Add chicken to the stockpot and cook until golden, about 2-3 minutes; set aside.
  2. Melt butter in the stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add garlic, mushrooms, onion, carrots and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 3-4 minutes. Stir in thyme until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  3. Whisk in flour until lightly browned, about 1 minute. Whisk in chicken stock, bay leaf and chicken thighs, and cook, whisking constantly, until slightly thickened, about 4-5 minutes.
  4. Stir in half and half until heated through, about 1-2 minutes; season with salt and pepper to taste. If the soup is too thick, add more half and half as needed until desired consistency is reached.
  5. Serve immediately, garnished with parsley and rosemary, if desired.

Enjoy!

10 Small but Effective Ways to Take Better Care of Yourself in 2017

 

With a new year comes the typical resolutions, like eat better, exercise more and so on and so on. However statistics show that 25% of people give up on their New Year’s resolutions after just one week. Here are some small and effective ways to make sure that in 2017 you are taking care of yourself.

  1. Put the Pen to Paper

Journal, write poetry, draw, let your creativity go!   If you are not feeling creative, write out a list of things you would like to do or accomplish, as this helps you stay organized and gives you a clear picture of what you need to do.

  1. Invest in ONE Fitness-Centered Activity

If you like to run outside, then splurge and get yourself new wireless headphones to make your run more enjoyable. Do you prefer the stretch of yoga? Sign up for classes with your favorite instructor. Whatever the activity is that you like, invest in it to help encourage yourself to keep it up throughout the year.

  1. Evaluate the Foods You Eat

Dieting can be hard, especially when you eliminate entire foods or food groups. These drastic changes can make maintaining that change that much harder. Try evaluating what you eat and reflect on how it makes you feel. Does it make you feel sluggish after eating, do you feel bloated, or does it give you energy? It doesn’t have to be negative; you may find that your favorite bowl of oatmeal gives you energy to power through the day.

Journaling your foods can help you understand what you eat and how it can affect you.

  1. Make Your Home Your SanctuaryPeaceful and warm image of a open book by fireplace.

It is easier to leave your stress at the door when you step into an environment that is built for relaxation. Make your home a relaxation zone by keeping clutter to a minimum. Have your favorite book and blanket ready or turn on your favorite music. There are many ways to set up your haven.

  1. Don’t Ditch All Your Bad Habits at Once

Giving up all your vices at once can be slightly unreasonable. Instead, consider starting with one smallish habit you’d like to break – ordering takeout several nights a week, or your nightly glass of wine. Not only is this a more accomplishable goal, but itcan also make it more sustainable.

  1. Make Time to Disconnect From Technology

Schedule some time during the week when you purposely disconnect from technology, where you turn off your phone and computers and reconnect with the world. Spend a few hours each week doing an activity that you enjoy that requires no technology, such as painting, writing, crafting, reading, etc.

  1. Get Outside DailyParents Giving Children Piggyback Ride On Walk By Lake

In the winter we tend to get stay inside and forget we can get outside and enjoy nature. Even if it is only for 10 minutes, a quick stroll during your lunch or soaking up the rare ray of sunshine during the gloomy winter months can do wonders for your mood and energy.

  1. Check Those Labels

Being conscious of the chemicals that are found in the products you purchase can be an eye-opening experience. Eliminating products that contain toxic chemicals in your daily life will lead to a healthier you. If you can’t pronounce the ingredients, it’s time to find an organic alternative.

  1. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate

Businesswoman looking at computer while drinking waterDrinking more water is a great way to cut out extra sugary drinks and ensure you stay hydrated throughout the day. There are many benefits of being hydrated, such as an increase of energy, boost to your immune system, flush of toxins from your system, promotion of weight loss, and many more. Carrying a reusable water bottle with you can help encourage you to drink more water throughout the day as it is conveniently on hand.

  1. Get Enough Sleep

Make it a point to go to bed at the same time every night. Establishing a routine is essential in ensuring you get enough hours of sleep. Catching the recommended amount of ZZZs can improve your memory, lower stress, reduce inflammation, and benefit your health in many other ways.

Holiday Green Gift Ideas

Not sure what to get for your friends and family this year and you want your gift to be clever and unique? How about a gift that is safe for the environment. Help lower your carbon footprint and show your friends and family that you’re environmentally conscious with these great green gift ideas.

  1. Conservation gifts – Adopt a animal or buy gifts that benefit an organization of your choice. The Sierra Club, World Wildlife Fund, and National Wildlife Federation are a few great organizations to choose from.184111_10150276836305270_6448691_n.jpg

  2. The gift of an experience – A bike tour, wine tasting, cooking class, movie tickets, sporting event or comedy show. A lot of people prefer these types of gifts because of the experience they get out of it.

  3. Gifts that cut down on waste – Water filter, dish towels, compost pail, bamboo utensil set, reusable water bottle and coffee thermos are some great waste-free ideas.

  4. Useful energy-saving gifts – Water- or energy-saving gadgets like a new thermostat or smart light switches for people who love tech gadgets.

  5. Make-it-yourself gifts – Use your creative talents with homemade candles, paper, lip balm, jewelry, photo prints, or a hand-knitted scarf. A personal touch is usually the best gift to give.

  6. Food gifts – Edible gifts like homemade jams or preserves, syrups, local honey, homemade candy & breads, or a subscription to a local meat or cheese club can also be tasty.Image-1.jpg

  7. Gifts that keep on growing – Herb plants, tree-planting kit, seedlings, or seed paper are all fun ideas. When giving a plant gift, it’s always helpful to include care instructions.

  8. Gifts for the outdoor lover – Ski lift ticket or season pass, rock-climbing lessons, sailing club, or fishing trip.AdobeStock_28806899.jpeg

For more information on green gift ideas click: HERE

Don’t Light Those Scented Candles!

Still life with candle and a stick of cranberry

As the holiday season is in full swing, many people pull out their wonderful holiday decorations of candelabras, votives and candles in wreaths. But many of those candles are scented to smell like cinnamon spice, apple, or even pine tree or more. As tempting as burning those scented candles may be, they may be causing more harm than good.

Many candles are made from paraffin wax, and when this wax is heated, the toxic chemicals benzene and toluene are released – the same chemicals that can be found in diesel fumes! These toxins are also known as phthalates , which can cause major health effects if inhaled and have been linked to cancer, asthma and common allergies.

The wicks of the candles can also contain heavy metals, most commonly lead. Inhaling lead can cause hormone disruption and behavior problems.

Not all candles are harmful. Be sure to read all labels fully to see what materials are used in the creation of the candle.

There are many alternatives to achieving the beautiful aromas of the season without the use of candles, such as:

  • Soy-based candles with wooden wicks
  • Essential oils
  • Beeswax candles with wooden wicks
  • Cinnamon sticks
  • A small live tree in a pot
  • Wreaths made from fresh branches

My favorite solution for a natural holiday scent is this Holiday Stove-top Potpourri:

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 orange (sliced)
  • 2 teaspoons nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons cloves
  • 1 cup cranberries
  • 1 sprig of rosemary (optional)

DIRECTIONS

Fill a saucepan with 2 to 3 cups of water and toss in all ingredients. Simmer on low. Add water as needed to freshen up.

Don’t Forget About Your Pets This Holiday Season

 

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First and foremost, your fur-friends should have a comfortable place to lay their heads. They may be exhausted from all the family that visits and need a place of their own. Consider our certified organic pet bed. Made with a certified organic cotton cover and an organic buckwheat-hull bladder, it makes the perfect pet bed to cuddle up on. Sizes available are small round, small square, and large square. Your local retailer will help with availability and pricing.

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Whether you have a dog, cat, ferret, or other furry friend, they all have one thing in common: they love their toys. It can be a simple ball, an empty box, or a small stuffed animal. Regardless of your pet’s favorite toy, the simple gesture of handing over that toy can make a pet’s day. If you celebrate the spirt of giving this holiday season, remember to give a little something to your four-legged friends. They’re celebrating too!

Treats can provide another quick way to their hearts, through their stomachs of course. There is a wide range of healthy, organic foods out there for them. Everything is covered from treats to main meals to special dinners. Much like humans though, you don’t want to overdo it.

Sleeping dog and owner. Man and dog sleeping together

 

Love comes in many forms including four-legged, kissable, snuggable, and lovable forms. Cherish every moment you have with your fur-friends and family this holiday season.

8 Holiday Sleep Tips So You Don’t Become the Grinch!

 

The holidays can be full of magic, family fun, delicious foods and more but they can also be full of stress, guests and interruptions of your regular schedule. Here are some ways to ensure the holidays are enjoyable and you get all the zzz’s you need to bring joy this season!

  1. Get ahead of the holidays

This time of year is always hectic. There are many things that need doing, from decorating for the holidays to baking to shopping for presents, preparing for guests, and more. Many of us put these jobs off until the last minute, which makes for a stressful holiday. It is no fun to be running around on the eve of the holiday looking for the last-minute gifts you forgot to order or grocery shopping on the day of a big dinner.

To avoid stress and sleep deprivation, get a jump start on your holiday planning. Make a list of things that need to be done and begin to make a timeline for when the tasks need to be done. If after writing your to-do list you still feel overwhelmed, ask for help!

  1. Don’t overload yourself

The holidays are about spending time with your loved ones and enjoying each other’s company. What better way to make your holiday less stressful than to recruit your family to help you prepare for the holidays? Plan a shopping trip or a baking day to help bring fun to tasks that can feel overwhelming. If you are hosting a dinner, ask family members to bring a dish to help minimize the amount you need to prepare.

  1. Don’t stop exercising

Active retired couple playing in the snow

Routine exercise is one of the greatest promoters of good, quality sleep. While it is tempting to take some time off during the holidays, don’t do it! It’s not only good for the body, it is great for the mind as well. Exercise is a great tool to help eliminate stress. You can always adapt your exercise routine around the holidays. If you have company staying, try picking activities that they can be included in, such as walks or outings. If you have young children, get outside and enjoy the outdoors, build a snowman, go snowshoeing or skiing, etc.

  1. Don’t overdo the snacking, especially at night.

All the yummy foods and desserts make an appearance this time of year, and the temptation to indulge can be a constant battle. It is ok to have some treats here and there, but stuffing yourself right before bed can cause your body to have to work harder to break down all that food while you are asleep. When your body has to focus more energy on processing those gingerbread cookies, it takes away from repairing and refreshing itself during sleep. Also late-night snacking can increase acid reflux, which can make falling asleep and staying asleep that much more difficult.

So what foods are best for nighttime snacking? Shredded wheat cereal with milk, or crackers and cheese, make great snacks. Complex carbs, milk and cheese are great at promoting sleep.

  1. Don’t drink too much

Drunken Gingerbread cookie man in a Christmas cocktail

Be aware of those tempting eggnog and peppermint specialty drinks this holiday.

While alcohol can induce drowsiness and help you fall asleep more quickly it can also disturb your rest and lessen the quality of your sleep. Alcohol decreases the amount of REM sleep, which is when dreaming occurs and learning and when memories are stored.

  1. Keep your regular sleep schedule

It is easy to stay up later than normal, catching up with old friends, attending Christmas parties, wrapping presents, etc. but those late nights can wreak havoc on your sleep schedule. It is important to keep your regular sleep schedule, but if disruptions are unavoidable, try to limit them to no more than an hour off your regular schedule. Sleep deprivation can lead to mood and behavior changes, so if you don’t want to become Scrooge, make sure that sleep is a priority.

If you are traveling across time zones, it can be harder to keep your regular schedule. Try to maintain as close to a regular sleep schedule as possible, especially on “mini vacations,” so it won’t affect you in the long run.

  1. Turn off that technology

Mom with child reading book and relaxing by the fire place some cold evening, winter weekends, cozy scene

To promote restful sleep, it is best to have a relaxing bedtime routine. Turn off tablets, phones, computers, etc. at least an hour before bed to allow your brain to “power down.”

Electronic devices emit a light similar to that of daylight. Our brains get tricked by this light, as it associates it with daylight, which can delay the production of melatonin, a hormone that promotes sleep.

Be sure to not let the holidays rob you of that sweet, deep slumber you not only crave, but need to make it through to the new year.