Woman looking at a health app.

Tech Apps are Changing Women's Health

You’ve heard “there’s an app for that” so many times by now that it’s probably a bit obnoxious to hear, but quite honestly, it’s true. Health apps are not necessarily new, but when it comes to women’s health apps, tech companies are realizing the needs of women and creating apps that really can revolutionize how women engage in their own health. Even though there is a seemingly endless supply of health apps, just how are these tech apps changing women’s health?

Being Aware
There are probably a million things you have to keep track of daily and your health may be an area that you let slide with everything else you have on your plate. Health apps are perfect for busy women because they take the stress out of having to remember every little thing. There are apps that track your birth control and that send you reminders when it’s time to take your pill.

Some of the most popular women’s health apps are period trackers which do exactly as the name implies. One of the most popular period tracking apps is aptly titled Period Tracker and it lets you keep track of your menstrual cycles. While anyone can do that with a desk calendar, this innovative app also lets you record any symptoms you experience day-to-day and can help you predict when your most fertile days are if you want to become pregnant.

It’s way too easy to snack throughout the day and completely forget that you are doing so and the result can be significant weight gain. Apps like Myfitnesspal let you record everything you consumed for the day including how many glasses of water you drank, and you can put in any exercise you engaged in.

A Sense of Empowerment
When you use women’s health apps, you are taking an active role in your own health and that can feel incredibly empowering. For women that are trying to get pregnant, being able to determine ovulation days and keep track of important factors like your basal body temperature is a powerful tool to have in your arsenal. If you struggle with infertility, having some sense of control over your body and the process can help keep you thinking positively along the way.

Catching breast cancer early is one of the best ways to increase your likelihood of being a cancer survivor and doing monthly exams is perhaps the most important detection tool you have. One app, iBreastCheck, not only sends you reminders as to when your next self-exam should be, but they include an introductory video that walks you through the steps of completing one.

Community and Understanding
Facing health issues like infertility or obesity can be a very isolating experience, and it can be hard to open up to your loved ones about these struggles. Many health apps, like Myfitnesspal and Period Tracker, have communities where users can gather to share their stories, tips, tricks and be a source of comfort and inspiration for other users. Sometimes, just knowing that you’re not alone can go a long way in helping you to cope with a health issue, and these apps provide just that.

Health apps are certainly quickly becoming one of the most empowering tools women have regarding their health and wellness, but they come with a caveat: these apps do not replace your doctor. Yearly mammograms, breast exams, gynecological check-ups and general health check-ups are still a very important part of keeping your health at its highest and these apps can help you give more precise and accurate information to your doctors at the time of your appointment. Apple has announced that even more women’s health apps are on the way, so be on the lookout for more ways in which you can monitor and participate in your health.

Potted plants indoors

Why You Need a House Plant

If you’ve ever been surprised by a bouquet of beautiful flowers or a pretty potted plant, you know the instant mood lift you can get just by seeing them, but you might not realize that these plants actually do have significant health benefits. A houseplant is so much more than a decoration, it can improve your breathing, reduce the number of illnesses you suffer from and increase your mental functioning. Learn five reasons you need a houseplant below, and find out which houseplant varieties are thought to be the most beneficial.

Better Breathing
When you inhale you bring oxygen into your body then you release carbon dioxide as you exhale. Your houseplant does the reverse in a process known as photosynthesis. During photosynthesis, plants absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen. Keeping a houseplant increases oxygen levels, which leads to better breathing. Photosynthesis is a process done during daylight hours, but some houseplants such as orchids and succulents, continue to absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen throughout the night. An orchid in your bedroom can improve breathing during your sleep, which leads to a better, more restful sleep.

Air Cleaning
According to space agency NASA, both the plants and the roots are used in removing trace levels of toxic vapors from tightly sealed buildings. Low levels of chemicals like formaldehyde and carbon monoxide can be removed using plant leaves alone. Some of the most effective houseplants for air cleansing are:

  • Peace lily
  • Gerbera daisy
  • Bamboo palm
  • English ivy
  • Spider plant

Reduce Illness
The roots of plants tap into the groundwater table and then release this as moisture in the air in a process known as transpiration. The moisture produced by transpiration is responsible for about 10 percent of all moisture in the atmosphere. Houseplants complete the same process indoors thereby increasing the moisture level in your home. While this may not sound that like an impressive reason to get a houseplant, studies conducted by the Agricultural University of Norway associate an increased moisture level in your home has been linked to a decreased incidence of colds, dry skin, sore throats and dry coughs.

Promote Healing
Bringing flowers or a houseplant to someone recovering from a chronic illness or rehabilitating after a surgery is a common practice, and some research shows that this may be more than a kind gesture. A study conducted at Kansas State University revealed that simply looking at plants during recovery from a surgery was associated with lowered systolic blood pressure and decreased levels of pain, anxiety and fatigue when compared to patients without plants in their rooms. The study labels plants as a “noninvasive, inexpensive and effective complementary medicine for surgical patients.”

Increase Mental Function
Have you ever gone outside for a quick walk and found that your concentration and mental clarity seemed improved? If so, that’s because simply being in the presence of nature provides some significant brain benefits like concentration, memory and productivity. A study from the University of Michigan suggests that merely being near plants can increase memory retention by up to 20 percent. Notes Texas A&M, “keeping ornamental plants in the home and in the workplace increases memory retention and concentration. Work performed under the natural influence of ornamental plants is normally of higher quality and completed with much higher accuracy rate than work done in environments devoid of nature.”

A houseplant expresses your personality, adds beauty to your home and improves your physical and mental health. Bring a houseplant home today to breath easier, work better and enjoy the presence of natural beauty around you.

Food and wine

Moscato Food Pairings

Moscato wine is characterized by its sweet, fruity and sometimes floral aroma and taste. Many Moscato wines have a bit of effervescence to them, and Moscato d’Asti is a sparkling wine. If you thought that Moscato must be reserved as a dessert wine, think again. Moscato wine is one of the most versatile types of wine available thanks to its sweetness and lower alcohol levels. Below, learn what foods pair well with Moscato wine from your cocktail hour appetizers to your indulgent dessert.

Crudite platter.

Appetizers
One of the easiest possible foods for a cocktail hour is a crudite platter, and Moscato wine pairs perfectly with this crowd favorite. The crispness of raw vegetables plays well with the crisp finish of Moscato and vegetables such as carrots, celery, red and yellow bell peppers and green onion are all vegetables that work especially well with Moscato wine. Cheeses that pair well with Moscato are varied and range from soft cheeses, like Brie to medium-firm cheeses like Pecorino Romano. A simple bruschetta is also a crowd-pleasing appetizer that will complement Moscato wine well.

Butter chicken and naan.

Main Dishes
When it comes to serving your main course, spicy dishes are highly recommended with Moscato. Dishes like curry whether Thai or Indian, spicy spaghetti arrabbiata and hot foods from Szechuan, Chinese and Vietnamese cuisine work seamlessly with Moscato wine. If you aren’t a huge fan of intense spices, Moscato also works with light flaky fish, chicken, turkey, shrimp, lobster, crab and duck which leaves your options virtually unlimited when it comes to preparing your main dish. For vegetarians, Moscato not only works with the vegetables listed above, but it also pairs wonderfully with tofu.

Herbs and Spices
Meal planning goes beyond just deciding what meat or vegetables to serve, you have to take into account what herbs, spices or other foods you want to incorporate into your dish. Spices that pair nicely with Moscato include cinnamon, ginger, basil, cardamom, lime, cloves, chili peppers, cayenne pepper, fennel, cilantro, orange and mint.

Biscotti.

Desserts
A sweet glass of dessert Moscato or Moscato d’Asti can be a great finish to your meal on its own, but if you want to serve something sweet, there are plenty of desserts that pair well with Moscato. Biscotti is a classic choice when it comes to desserts and Moscato, and nut-based desserts such as a caramel cashew torte taste great with Moscato as well. Because Moscato has such a fruity aroma and taste, fruit desserts are also popular with Moscato. Other desserts to enjoy with Moscato include grilled peaches, succulent cherry pie or creamy cheesecake.

Moscato wine takes you through each course of your meal effortlessly with its versatile flavor profile. When it comes to pairing wine and food the most important rule is to pair wines and foods that you enjoy and that taste good to you, but if you want a bit of help, the above foods are all impeccable choices for Moscato pairings.

Sangria cocktail

Moscato Wine Cocktails

Moscato wine is well-known for its distinctive sweet, light flavor that is full of fruit notes such as apple, peach, pear, lime, orange and pineapple. While moscato wine is a delicious, refreshing wine on its own, the sweet fruity flavor of this wine lends itself perfectly to making incredible cocktails. Below, find some of our favorite moscato wine cocktail recipes.

Sparkling Moscato Punch
This moscato punch is super quick and easy, making it perfect for last-minute get togethers.

Ingredients:

  • 1 (750) bottle moscato
  • ¼ cup pomegranate seeds
  • ¼ cup raspberries (fresh or frozen)
  • ¼ cup apples chopped
  • ½ orange thinly sliced
  • 1-1 ½ cups sparkling water

Combine all ingredients in a large pitcher and stir gently. Serve immediately over ice or chill in refrigerator to give flavors a strengthen.

Citrus Berry Moscato Sangria
Perfect for making ahead, this moscato sangria is sure to delight with a mixture of lively citrus and sweet berries.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup raspberries
  • ½ cup blueberries
  • 1 orange thinly sliced
  • 1 grapefruit thinly sliced
  • ¼ triple sec
  • 1 (750ml) bottle rose moscato

Add water to a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, add sugar and stir until dissolved. Remove from heat and allow simple syrup time to cool. Add raspberries, blueberries, orange, grapefruit, triple sec and half of the cooled simple syrup to a large pitcher. Fill pitcher with rose moscato and stir all ingredients together. Taste and if necessary, add remaining simple syrup. Allow to chill at least two hours prior to serving.

Sparkling Moscato Mimosa Floats
This holiday season, surprise your family and friends with a twist on the classic mimosa by making these sparkling moscato mimosa floats that bring together the holiday flavors of cranberry and orange. These cocktails work best when made individually, so you can skip the pitcher for this recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1 (750ml) bottle sparkling moscato
  • 8 cups orange juice
  • ⅛ to 1.4 cup cranberries
  • cranberry juice
  • orange sherbet

Place desired amount of cranberries in the bottom of a wine glass, then fill halfway with sparkling moscato. Add orange juice being sure to leave room for a small scoop (½ cup or less depending on the size of the glass) of orange sherbet. Top the drink with a splash of cranberry juice and garnish with extra cranberries if desired.

Pear Cranberry Moscato
Another super quick and simple drink to make, this cocktail is perfect for a cozy evening in or for two, but works just as well for festive holiday party crowds.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup cranberries
  • 1 cup pear peeled and chopped
  • 1 (750 ml) bottle moscato wine (use sparkling moscato for a more festive drink)
    cinnamon sticks

Add cranberries and pear to a small saucepan and cook over low heat with the lid on. Stir every five minutes, mashing up the fruit as much as possible. Cook until fruit is very soft, about 15-20 minutes. When finished, strain using a fine mesh sieve. Throw away fruit solids and chill fruit puree until ready to use. Add fruit puree to the bottom of a champagne flute or wine glass, then fill with moscato. Garnish each glass with a cinnamon stick stirrer for a bit of sweet spice.

Mix up one of these moscato cocktails when you want a light, sweet cocktail. Adjust levels of fruit or sugar to your tastes and experiment using other citrus fruits, such as lime or pineapple or juicy fruits like peaches and watermelon. These delicious moscato wine cocktails are easy to make and can be enjoyed anytime. Cheers!

Woman eating fruits in a garden

Foods That Keep You Young

Aging is inevitable, but if you are eating the right foods, you can help yourself feel young for a longer period of time. A healthy lifestyle including a balanced, nutritious diet and plenty of exercise keep you looking and feeling young and in great shape. There are tons of foods that benefit you when it comes to aging, but here are four of our very favorites.

Woman holding an apple.

Apples
The old adage “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” is pretty spot on; apples contain a range of health benefits two of which are improving your body’s immune system and digestive functioning. The vitamin C content in apples provides anti-aging effects while also helping your immune system fight diseases. As you age your digestive system tends to slow down, but eating foods that are high in fiber, like apples, boost your digestive system to keep your healthy.

Woman holding a bunch of grapes.

Grapes
Grapes are one of the best fruits you can eat to help slow down the aging process. Technically classified as berries, grapes are packed with antioxidants, flavonoids, polyphenols and potassium. One of the greatest things you can do for your body as you age is to decrease your sodium intake and increase the amount of potassium you get. Potassium is associated with lowered risks of stroke, lowered blood pressure, the prevention of losing bone mineral density and decreased risks of heart disease. Grapes contain the flavonoid quercetin, which is a natural anti-inflammatory. Quercetin benefits you as you age by reducing the risk of atherosclerosis, a disease of the arteries by a buildup of plaque, and is thought to have anti-cancer benefits, although more human studies are needed. Polyphenols in grapes also work to lower your blood pressure and reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. Lastly, the polyphenol resveratrol helps to protect your body against heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes. As if that wasn’t enough, resveratrol is also a key player in keeping your skin looking young and healthy.

Woman holding kale.

Kale
There’s a reason you hear about kale all the time, it’s truly a superfood and it can help combat aging. Kale is an incredibly nutrient dense food and comes with very little calories; a one-cup serving of cooked kale contains only 36 calories. Kale contains vitamins K, A, E and B vitamins 1, 2, 3 and 6 in addition to manganese, copper, calcium, potassium, iron, fiber, omega-3 fatty acids and folate. Kale is rich in antioxidants and the beta-carotene and lutein content protect your body against oxidative damage from free radicals. It is also thought that kale helps protect against cancers such as breast, colon, bladder, prostate and ovaries.

Woman eating walnut

Walnuts
Nuts in moderation are great for your health and walnuts may be the most beneficial of them all. Walnuts are full of protein, healthy fats, fiber, antioxidants and a host of vitamins and minerals. One of the most frustrating parts of aging is the loss of mental sharpness and walnuts help fight this. Walnuts contain omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, melatonin and antioxidants that all slow cognitive decline. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that those whose diets included a healthy amount of nuts showed that body mass index, body weight and waist circumference were controlled among the groups of individuals who consumed a healthy amount of nuts. Additionally, the amino acid l-arginine can provide vascular benefits to those who are at risk of or have heart disease.

Eating a varied diet full of lean proteins, fresh produce and whole grains is one of the greatest things you can do for your body at any age. Selecting foods that have amazing nutritional content, like the four above, help keep you healthy and young.

Woman getting a facial massage.

Anti-Aging Facial Treatments

The desire to look younger is nothing new, ancient cultures had many potions or elixirs designed to keep a youthful appearance. Breakthroughs in science have provided some incredible anti-aging skincare ingredients, but there is no magic product that will erase years from your face as soon as you apply it. A great skincare routine is a huge part of maintaining a young visage, but when you need a little extra help, there are anti-aging facial treatments available. Below, find out about three of the least invasive, yet effective, anti-aging facial treatments.

Facial Massage
You know if you want to keep your arms and legs looking long and lean you need to work the muscles and keep them toned, but you probably don’t think about your face that way. Ymedisour facial muscles require attention as well to maintain a younger looking face particularly because when your facial muscles are tense, they encourage wrinkles. Julia Baba, an esthetician at The Spa in Toronto’s Four Seasons Hotel, advocates for facial massages saying they are an amazing anti-aging treatment that you can do daily at home and just one to two minutes per day can provide anti-aging results. The main rule when giving yourself a facial massage is to avoid pulling or tugging at your skin. Use different motions like tapping or softly pinching near your eyebrow area and always massage in an upward circular motion because as Baba says, “you want to work against gravity so that everything goes up.”

Woman getting laser treatment.

Energy Facial Treatments
Lasers are a popular and effective method of addressing signs of aging on your face, but they are also a significant investment and may require multiple treatments. Energy facial treatments are growing in popularity as are the number of medispas or cosmeceutical treatments. The energy facial you receive will be based upon the doctor or medispa you visit, but these treatments have one major thing in common: heat. Many treatments use ultrasound, radio-frequency rays or micro-currents to firm your skin. The idea behind energy facial treatments, which you could do on your lunch hour and return immediately to work, is that the heat used “tricks” your skin into believing it has been damaged so that your skin will remedy the problem with an increase in collagen production. Energy facial treatments are non-invasive and provide immediate results, though the results are temporary.

spa you visit, but these treatments have one major thing in common: heat. Many treatments use ultrasound, radio-frequency rays or micro-currents to firm your skin. The idea behind energy facial treatments, which you could do on your lunch hour and return immediately to work, is that the heat used “tricks” your skin into believing it has been damaged so that your skin will remedy the problem with an increase in collagen production. Energy facial treatments are non-invasive and provide immediate results, though the results are temporary.

Facial Fillers
Botox has been around for ages and it continues to be used frequently as a way to treat sagging skin and wrinkles. While women today want to eradicate wrinkles and look younger, many women are concerned that traditional plastic surgery or Botox will look “fake” and “plastic,” and they desire a treatment that reduces wrinkles and leaves them looking younger, but still natural. When done by a skilled cosmetic dermatologist or plastic surgeon, fillers can have a dramatic effect while remaining more natural looking. Hyaluronic acid as a filler is gaining popularity not only because it fills in lines and wrinkles, but it can actually lift problem areas as well. Frederic Brandt, a dermatologist in Miami and New York, says that when done properly, one can expect a replenishment of youthful contours such as chins, jawlines, cheekbones and temples and lifting of the face. On certain areas, you can place the filler under the muscle, which will add volume but also give a more contoured and structural effect.” According to Brandt, these facial fillers can last up to two years, but proceed with caution when selecting a doctor. “The filler is only part of the equation. The technique in which it’s used is an equally or more important part of the treatment,” notes Brandt.

Prevention is key in the fight against aging, so protecting your skin as best as you can early on will result in less work as you age. Always wear an SPF not only on your face, but down your neck and chest too because these areas show signs of aging as much, if not more, than your face. Be consistent with proper skincare and add a facial massage to your nightly routine and when you need more serious help, look for anti-aging facial treatments like the above to give you a younger, yet natural looking face.

Hannukah with candles

Easiest Hannukah Recipes

Hanukkah is an eight-day celebration, also known as the Festival of Lights. One of the most significant periods in the Jewish calendar, Hanukkah is a time full of friends, family and of course, food. You don’t have to be a culinary genius to prepare traditional holiday fare; we’ve come up with three of the easiest recipes for traditional Hanukkah treats.

potato latkes.

Potato Latkes
No Hannukah celebration is complete without these hot potato pancakes. This recipe results in delicious and traditional potato latkes. Bonus, it’s super simple to make!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups potatoes, peeled and shredded
  • 1 tablespoon grated onion
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ cup peanut oil

Begin by straining as much moisture from potatoes as possible; cheesecloth is perhaps the most effective method of removing moisture. Once potatoes are strained, place in a medium bowl and add onion, eggs, flour and salt. Mix well. Heat the peanut oil in a skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Drop large spoonfuls of the mixture into hot oil and press down to create pancakes that are ½ to ¼ inch thick. Brown on one side then flip and brown on the other. Remove from heat and drain on paper towels.

Sufganiyot

Sufganiyot
Donuts are a traditional treat for Hanukkah and this recipe is for classic Jewish sufganiyot (donuts without holes). The best part is that these donuts are much easier to make than others, so you don’t have to be a wiz in the kitchen to whip these up.

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups self-rising flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 containers yogurt (8oz each) – plain or vanilla work best
  • 4 tablespoons white sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3 quarts vegetable oil
    Powdered sugar

In a large mixing bowl, combine eggs, flour, sugar, yogurt, vanilla sugar and salt. Mix well then set aside for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, form dough into balls that are 1 ½ inches in diameter. Heat the vegetable oil in a large pot (or deep fryer) over high heat until a temperature of 365 degrees is reached. Deep fry the dough using either a basket or slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Roll the sufganiyot in powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar for added sweetness.

Wine-braised beef brisket.

Easy Wine-Braised Beef Brisket
Beef brisket is another food enjoyed during Hanukkah and this recipe is not only incredibly tender and tasty, it is also easy to make.

Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 beef brisket (3lb)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 red onion sliced
  • 1 can beef broth (14.5oz)
  • 1 can unsalted tomato sauce (8oz)
  • ½ cup red wine

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix thyme, salt and pepper in small bowl and rub both sides of brisket with the seasoning. In a roasting pan, heat oil over medium-high heat, place brisket in pan and brown three to four minutes per side. Remove brisket from pan and set aside. Add onions to the hot roasting pan and cook until onion is semi-soft, about two minutes. Add beef broth, tomato sauce and red wine and stir well. Place brisket back into the roasting pan then cover with aluminum foil. Place in the preheated oven and bake for one hour. After one hour, remove the foil and braise brisket with juice from the roasting pan. Put aluminum foil back over the brisket and place back into the oven. Continue to bake until pan juices have thickened and beef is tender, anywhere from one to two more hours.

Gather friends and family and show off your cooking skills when you prepare these easy Hanukkah recipes. Don’t forget the applesauce and sour cream for the latkes and you can make the sufganiyot more delectable by filling with jam. Enjoy Hanukkah and celebrate the successful rebellion of the Maccabees with amazing food, wonderful friends and loving family.

Christmas cookies

Traditional Holiday Recipes

When you think of your favorite holiday memories, some of them are bound to include the incredible tastes of the season. Our traditional holiday recipes blend old tradition and new flavors so you can create new memories with the ones you love.

Sugar Roasted Pecan

Sugar Roasted Pecans
The mouthwatering main dishes and scrumptious side dishes often are the center of attention, but sometimes you just want something quick to snack on. These sugar roasted pecans are perfect as an appetizer, snack or even as a dessert!

Ingredients:

  • 1 egg white
  • 1 lb pecan halves
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup white sugar

Begin by preheating oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit and grease a baking dish. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk egg whites and water together until frothy. In a separate bowl, blend sugar, salt and cinnamon, then pour into gallon size plastic bag. Add pecans to the egg white and water and stir until pecans are well coated. Remove pecans and add to plastic bag. Shake well so all pecans are coated. Spread coated pecans evenly onto greased baking sheet. Bake for one hour in preheated oven, stirring every 15 minutes.

Baked brie.

Baked Brie
This warm and cozy appetizer blends sweet and savory in a sophisticated puff pastry. You can substitute the raspberry preserves for nearly anything that suits your preferences like apricot preserves, cranberry chutney or a herb spread.

Ingredients:

  • 1 egg white
  • ½ 17.5 oz package frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • 3 tablespoons raspberry preserves
  • 1 8 oz wheel of Brie cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and lightly grease a cookie sheet. Slice Brie in half horizontally so there are two halves. Spread preserves on cut side of the bottom half of the Brie, then place the other half of Brie on top, making a sort of Brie/preserve sandwich. Wrap the entire wheel of Brie with one piece of puff pastry. Flip Brie so the seam of puff pastry is on the cookie sheet and brush with egg white. Bake for 30 minutes or until puff pastry is golden brown. Serve immediately.

Creamy Potatoes Au Gratin

Creamy Potatoes Au Gratin
Mashed potatoes are pretty much a staple at any holiday gathering and while they are delicious comfort food, it can be fun to take a traditional ingredient and get a bit creative with it. Potatoes au gratin makes an excellent accompaniment to your Christmas ham.

Ingredients:

  • 4 large russet potatoes, sliced into ¼ inch slices
  • 1 onion, sliced in rings
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 ½ cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose (or whole wheat) flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and butter a one-quart casserole dish. Layer half of the potatoes into the bottom of buttered casserole dish and top with onion rings. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Melt butter over medium heat in a medium-sized saucepan. Mix in flour and ½ teaspoon of salt. Whisk constantly for 60 seconds and stir in milk. Cook until the mixture is thick, then stir in cheese. Stir cheese until melted, about 30 to 60 seconds. Pour cheese sauce over potatoes and onions and cover casserole dish with foil. Bake 90 minutes in preheated oven.

Soft Ginger Cookies

Soft Ginger Cookies
Gingerbread is one of the most distinctive flavors of the season, but it isn’t suited to everyone’s taste. If you prefer a slightly milder and definitely softer cookie, this ginger cookie recipe is for you.

Ingredients:

  • 2 ¼ cups all-purpose (or whole wheat) flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 egg
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¾ cup softened margarine
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • colored sugar sprinkles or additional white sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Sift together flour, ground cinnamon, baking soda, ground cloves, ground ginger and salt, then set to side. Take a large mixing bowl and cream together the margarine and one cup of flour until light and fluffy. Next, beat in egg, then stir in water and molasses. When well mixed, stir the sifted ingredients into molasses mixture. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 (or more but no longer than 24) hours. Shape dough into one inch balls and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten gently using the palm of your hand or the bottom of a small glass. Sprinkle extra white sugar or colored sugar sprinkles on top of cookies and bake for 8 to 10 minutes in preheated oven. Allow cookies to cool on a cooling rack, then remove from cookie sheet and cool completely on a wire cookie rack. When cool, store in a moist and airtight container.

Traditional holiday dishes vary from family to family, but the tastes of the season are a common thread. Make memories in your kitchen this year when you whip up one, or all, of our tasty traditional holiday recipes.

Woman down with the cold.

Why You Actually Get Sick in Cold Weather

Cold and flu season has officially arrived and it can be difficult to keep yourself from succumbing to one or the other, or both if you’re unlucky. It isn’t just a nasty cold or flu virus that can have you feeling less than great during the winter months, you may also experience a worsening of other health conditions such as arthritis or diabetes. Research from Cambridge University helps to bring some clarity when it comes to why you actually get sick in cold weather.

What Causes Cold Weather Illness
It’s a fact that illness rates go up during cold weather and there has been little indication as to what is actually causing this. A study conducted by John Todd, professor of Medical Genetics at Cambridge University, concludes that your genes are responsible for the increase in illness and discomfort you experience during the winter. Why does this happen? The theory is that your genes actually change their behavior in response to seasonal changes. This amazing bit of science was discovered by chance by one of Professor Todd’s Ph.D. students. The student noted that during winter, immunity genes were more active in white blood cells than they were at other times of the year. White blood cells are the cells in your body that are responsible for fighting off infection and illness.

Scientific Study Provides Support
Once the discovery had been made, Professor Todd launched a research study that included over 16,000 worldwide. The research team, lead by Todd, carefully analyzed blood and tissue samples from participants coming from a large variety of climates and environments. Your body contains around 24,000 genes and the research conducted by Todd and his team analyzed 22,000 human genes, making it a comprehensive study.

What they found was that nearly one-quarter of genes in the human body show signs of altered behavior during seasonal change. The weather in Britain changes significantly with the seasons, much like it does here. Todd found that during the winter months, immune system genes ramped up their activity during the winter months. However, samples from Iceland, where it is cold the majority of the time and there are few seasonal changes, showed that genes were more active prior to the rainy season in Iceland.

Why do Genes Change Behavior and Why Does More Immune Activity Make you Sick?
While the study indicated clearly that there are many genes that alter their behavior according to season changes, the reason why is still unclear. The researchers who conducted the study believe that genes receive natural clues from their environment, such as temperature or sunlight, and then respond accordingly.

If your immunity genes in white blood cells are more active during cold, winter months, then why do you still get sick? Shouldn’t more activity equal more protection? Not entirely. Professor Todd explains that the spike in activity can cause your cells to malfunction and attack your body instead of just foreign invaders. Your immunity genes control white blood cells, which triggers inflammation. Chronic inflammation is a major component of serious diseases such as heart disease, arthritis and type 1 diabetes.

What Does All of This Mean?
The research all boils down to one fact: if you know more about what’s wrong, you can treat the condition more effectively. Drugs that target inflammation may be more effective when used during the winter months to treat serious conditions like arthritis. Additionally, Professor Todd suggests that perhaps instead of getting vaccinated immediately when fall starts, it may be more beneficial to be vaccinated later in the winter when your body is already primed for immune action.

Staying healthy during winter weather can be a challenge and some places, like at work or school, you can’t fully control your exposure to bacteria and viruses. Understanding what happens to cause illness in cold weather is a promising step in discovering how to more effectively prevent and fight these illnesses as well. Remember to wash your hands thoroughly and often and to stay home if you are sick to avoid spreading germs. Even though your genes alter their behavior, prevention of disease by hand washing and vaccination is still important because these practices can significantly lessen the severity of your illness.