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Meals

Christmas Albums Worth Listening To

Christmas season has officially arrived and is in full swing, which means Christmas music can be played at all times of day! Listening to holiday tunes is such an easy way to get into the Christmas spirit and make any moment feel more festive and to remind ourselves that Christmas is a celebration, not a frenzy of consumerism. Everyone knows the classics like Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra, but what about the new songs out there? Here are a few albums that put a new spin on some favorite songs that you can listen to this Christmas season.db47b6b7c7f485499597393a5863cc40
1. Artist: Pentatonix. Album: PTXmas. The group Pentatonix released eight tracks this year of their favorite Christmas songs. Their version of “Little Drummer Boy” is all over the Internet right now, and you should watch it if you haven’t yet. The five member group is full of such talent that it gives me chills to listen to their album. I put this first because it is my number one album this year. If you only want to listen to a couple instead of the whole album, I suggest “Angels We Have Heard On High” and “This Christmas.Michael Buble - Christmas (inside1)
2. Artist: Michael Bublé. Album: Christmas. I know he released this album in 2011 but I love singing along to it or hearing it at Christmas parties. For a slower and more peaceful pace, “Silent Night” is a go-to. I love listening to it on Christmas Eve while in the car with my family. His rendition of “White Christmas,” accompanied by Shania Twain, is one that my little sister and I love dancing around too, and maybe you will too!
3. Artist: Kelly Clarkson. Album: Wrapped in Red. Kelly Clarkson possesses the ability to reach high notes with pristine ease, as well as soulful notes with power. This album reaffirms her talent and reasons why she was American Idol’s Season 1 winner. “Underneath the tree” and “Wrapped in Red” are two of the upbeat and popular songs on the album, but I think her talent is really showcased in “Winter Dreams.”
4. Artist: Mariah Carey. Album: Merry Christmas. Here’s another extremely talented female singer whose talent puts the rest of us to shame. Although she released this album in 1994, it consistently appears on the top 10 albums chart. Obvious choices are “All I Want For Christmas Is You,” and “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).” If you really like the first song, you should go ahead and watch “Love Actually,” a British movie from 2003 that includes a preteen singing that song. It’s one of my favorite movies, especially at Christmas time.fda28efbf89aec4ec25780eccf08617a
5. Artist: The Piano Guys. Album: A Family Christmas. This group of musicians from Utah released their 12-track album with all the classics, like “We Three Kings,” “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” and “Carol of the Bells.” This group is instruments only, but it’s a beautiful soundtrack and their talent is unbelievable. A Youtube video accompanies each song, and I love watching them and seeing the joy these guys have as they make music!
Those are my top 5 picks for this year. What are your favorite Christmas songs or albums? Did I forget anything?

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Meals

10 Foods with Hidden Health Benefits

We all hear about the importance of healthy eating, but why? What do we gain from eating more fruits and vegetables? Well, here’s a list of 10 “super foods” that can give you some serious health benefits when added to your diet. I listed just a few of the benefits found in them, because they are packed full of nutrients! Besides sharing what and why you should eat these foods, I also included potential snacks to make with them! All of these snacks are definitely worth a try in my opinion.
1. Chia seeds- Add to breakfast smoothies or in Greek yogurt. 2 tablespoons have double the antioxidants found in blueberries, 41% of your daily fiber, 100% more omega 3 fatty acids than salmon. Omega 3 lowers cholesterol levels, boosts brainpower, and improves blood vessel functions. Chia seeds are amazing!2d7b16370ae35ae88aa09f5ae52acdda
2. Blackberries- Blackberries make a delicious treat, especially when they are juicy and in season. Try a handful with cottage cheese, or with yogurt and granola or sliced almonds. Blackberries provide excellent source of iron and Vitamin K. Vitamin K prevents blood clotting and strengthens your bones.
3. Grapes- Have you tried frozen grapes? A healthy snack when you’re craving something cold. My roommate and I always eat these after we work out. Grapes are anti-inflammatory, stimulate your metabolism, and improve your vision. They also contain Vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, and C.
4. Tomatoes- Sprinkle a slice with mozzarella, garlic, basil, and olive oil. These contain beta-carotene that protects against sun damage. These colorful fruits also contain Vitamin A to improve vision and reduce risk of macular degeneration in your eyes.
5. Oatmeal- Add cinnamon, honey, and bananas to oatmeal for breakfast! (And always eat breakfast!) Oatmeal has high levels of soluble fiber, which makes you feel full longer, and controls blood sugar levels. Oatmeal also has 5 grams of protein for ½ cup, and it is low calorie! I used to really hate oatmeal, but over the years I’ve come to love it and now I have it for breakfast almost every morning.94822b42f68fbc4cefb80fce1661ff56
6. Avocadoes- I wish avocadoes were in season all year, they are one of my favorite snacks. Sprinkle half an avocado with garlic salt and olive oil for a quick and filling snack. They are rich in Vitamin E, which gives you healthier hair and skin- who doesn’t want that?! They also contain 35% more potassium than a banana. Avocadoes have more natural fiber than any other fruit- so you feel full longer. Natural fiber also aids in digestion and helps regulate blood sugar.
7. Kale-Sauté it first to bring out flavor, then add pine nuts, cranberries, and lemon-flavored dressing. Kale increases your metabolism and helps detoxify your liver and kidneys. It contains iron, Vitamins A and C, calcium, and is anti-inflammatory.
8. Sweet potatoes- Slice and drizzle with olive oil and bake at 375 for 30 minutes. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese after. Sweet potatoes possess high levels of fiber and beta carotene. Those nutrients promote a healthy digestive tract, they and contain Vitamin C. Vitamin C boosts your immune system and your skin because it produces collagen.

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9. Apples- Try with carob ships and peanut butter as a filling snack. Apples contain phyto-chemicals plus solid doses of flavonoids and carotenoids which lower disease risk and protect against cancer. They protect against osteoporosis, cataracts, and diabetes because of the antioxidants and high levels of soluble fiber.

10. Quinoa- Try it with black beans, corn, and salsa. It contains amino acids- the building blocks of protein (thank you high school biology for that fact). Quinoa is high in iron and calcium for strong bones. This grain also has riboflavin to improve your metabolism and energy production. It has twice as much fiber as other grains and carbs with a low glycemic index, so your body can convert it and use it without storing the carbs as fat.
Which of these are you going to try? Is there another super food that you love to snack on or cook in meals?

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Bake Desserts Featured Recipes

Insanely easy Red Velvet Cake Balls recipe

Making Red Velvet Cake BallsThis past weekend I had to chance to fly home and spend some time with my family. I always treasure these days with my family, and my little sister and I got to spend some time baking together. In high school we would make treats for our football players before games, but we loved doing this so much that we began making more desserts — like these Red Velvet Cake Balls — whenever we found recipes on Pinterest that we wanted to try. So when I came home last weekend I made sure we had time to make something I recently found online: Red Velvet Cake Balls.

I love the idea of making everything from scratch, and usually I would do that, but we only had a few hours for the whole project, so we succumbed to cake mix from a box. Terrible, I know, but Duncan Hines sells a delicious red velvet cake mix, and saves you so much time. First, we made the cake as instructed on the box and placed it in the oven to bake for 30 minutes. While it was baking, we made the cream cheese frosting. If you do not want to make the frosting, you can always buy a jar of it from the grocery store. I don’t really like premade frosting, and homemade does not take very long. The recipe for the frosting is above; just make sure the butter is already softened before trying to blend it.

When the cake is finished baking, use a fork to crumble it into fine pieces, avoiding the edges if they are hardened. Transfer the crumbled bits into the bowl of frosting, and blend together. If the “dough” feels too warm to roll into balls then place the bowl in the freezer until it feels firm enough. This was about 20 minutes for us, so while we waited we had the chance to look at even more recipes on Pinterest and get inspired for Thanksgiving!

Next, take the bowl out of the freezer and roll the dough into 1-inch balls and place on wax paper. Something I love about cake balls, truffles, Oreo balls, or any kind of “ball” is that anyone can help with the rolling and dipping. It makes baking a time to come together and enjoy each other’s company while working on the task at hand. Once you roll the balls, place them back in the freezer so they can keep their shape.

For the coating we used 6 cubes (12 ounces) of white chocolate almond bark. This stuff is amazing as a coating because it is made with vegetable fats instead of cocoa butter, and it covers the cake balls more evenly than chocolate chips or something. Melt the cubes in the microwave in 30-second intervals, until it is completely melted. If you “over-melt” the bark, then it will lose it’s consistency and not harden the way it should.

We took the balls out of the freezer and began dipping them in the melted almond bark. Once again, I “supervised” for this part because I didn’t really want to get my hands covered, and my sister is just so skilled at the dipping part. Make sure the cake balls are completely coated before placing them on the wax paper. Top with sprinkles, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Red Velvet Cake Balls Ingredients and Directions

  • 1 box Duncan Hines Red Velvet Cake Mix
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • Sprinkles
  • 12 oz cream cheese frosting (recipe below)

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • Half stick softened butter,
  • 2 cups powdered sugar, half pack cream cheese,
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.
  • Mix together by hand, then blend on high for 2 minutes until creamy.
Categories
Desserts Featured Recipes

Oreo Balls — Yes, OREO BALLS

These are Oreo Balls, and they are yummy and delicious
These are Oreo Balls, and they are yummy and delicious

The recipe for Oreo Balls is extremely easy, and even though the whole process takes 1 hour and 30 minutes, actual “hands-on” time is much less. First, empty the package of Oreos into a gallon size Ziploc bag. Next, crush the Oreos into fine crumbs, and then transfer into a large bowl. Add the cream cheese, and blend together. This part got a little messy, and I accidentally spilled some of the crumbs all over the counter. Shape the mixture into 1-inch balls, and place on wax paper. Put these balls into the freezer until they are firm (about 20 minutes for us). While they are in the freezer you can go ahead and melt the chocolate. We used Dolci Frutta Milk Chocolate Chips, which are made to dip fruit in. I would recommend using actual chocolate chips, or almond bark, because the stuff we used formed a clumpy texture, but we added a little canola oil to fix it! Once you take the balls out of the freezer, dip them into the melted chocolate. (Warning: This step can also get a little messy.) At this point I let my friends take over and do the dipping while I “oversaw” the production… a.k.a. danced to Beyoncé. As soon as the chocolate-coated balls are set on the wax paper, shake a few sprinkles onto them, and put them back in the freezer. Wait about 10 minutes before eating.

We used reduced fat Oreos and reduced fat cream cheese to make them slightly less bad for us. They still taste delicious and it’s hard to only eat one! I ran across the street and got milk to go with the Oreo balls, and the combination of the two is heavenly. Seriously, these treats are so good that people won’t believe they only have three ingredients.

Oreo Balls Ingredients

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  • 1 package Oreos
  • 1 package cream cheese
  • 1 bag of milk chocolate chips
  • 16 oz Chocolate Chips- can be milk, dark, or white.
  • Sprinkles