How to Make Homemade Dog Treats

With a lot of tasty treats around the house this time of year, it’s tempting to share a bite with your dog (yes, it really is that hard to say no to those big puppy-dog eyes). But no matter how interested he or she is, human food isn’t always good for your canine pal.

According to the ASPCA, foods like chocolate, avocados, onions, garlic, bread dough, raisins, grapes and macadamia nuts can cause your dog serious health problems.

Don’t risk offering a leftover that could make your companion sick. Instead of sharing your goodies, learn how to make homemade dog treats that are much healthier.

The Basics About Dog Treats

Most homemade dog treat recipes are quite easy to put together, and allow you to tailor treats to your dog’s own dietary restrictions.

When making your own treats, remember:

  • Watch for allergies. You should certainly avoid foods that are known to be harmful to dogs, but you need to be aware of your own pet’s allergies as well. Don’t use ingredients to which your dog has reacted poorly in the past. If you’re unsure how your dog will respond to a new food, serve only a small portion at first.
  • Control the ingredients. You’ll know exactly what your dog is eating and that he’s enjoying a nutritious and wholesome treat.
  • Avoid unhealthy food additives. Commercial dog treats can contain preservatives, fillers and byproducts to keep them fresh, at the expense of the natural ingredients that make them beneficial. Learning how to make homemade dog treats will keep your dog from consuming these artificial ingredients.
  • Provide variety in your dog’s diet. Even dogs can get bored with the same thing all the time. Tempt their taste buds with homemade dog treats that offer a balance of diverse flavors and textures.
  • Save money. Oftentimes, you can make dog treats with ingredients you already have in your pantry or fridge. There’s no need to purchase specialty products that hike up the price.
  • Make it fun. Use cookie cutters to make dog treats look like bones, fire hydrants or whatever shape you’d like.

Seasonal Specialties

Incorporate fall flavors into your dog’s treats with apple crunch pancakes. The recipe combines applesauce, apple chips and whole wheat flour into a delicious cookie that you can enjoy too. This recipe for dog biscuits that combine peanut butter and pumpkin are another good option.

Leftover Trail Mix

Dogs enjoy trail mix too! Cut leftover meat, veggies (no onions or garlic), potatoes and fruit (no grapes or raisins) into half-inch pieces. Spray lightly with a non-stick cooking spray. Cesar’s Way suggests either placing your product in a food dehydrator or a 200-degree preheated oven until it’s dry.

All-Meat Recipes

It’s no secret that dogs like meat. So, combine ground pork or beef with flour, vegetables and shortening. Bake your concoction into a crunchy biscuit and tempt your pup with this meat-filled treat by Allrecipes. Experiment using different types of protein like rabbit, duck or fish.

How to Store Them

Because they don’t include as many preservatives, homemade dog treats are best kept in the freezer. Put them in an airtight container and they can last for up to six months. Allow them to thaw for 15 minutes before letting your dog dig in.

A former newspaper journalist, Chelsea Adams is a freelance writer specializing in health, wellness and lifestyles topics. A native Tennessean, she makes her home in Kansas with her husband and two daughters. Learn more about her transition from the mountains to the prairie at http://wichitawesome.blogspot.com.

How to Simplify Camping for the Whole Family

It might seem overwhelming to plan a camping trip for the whole family, but a group outing doesn’t have to be difficult. There are plenty of tricks to make your trip easier.

Here’s how to simplify camping for even the youngest new adventurer:

What to Bring

Of course, the most important thing you’ll need is a tent. Keep in mind you don’t have to buy your own; try borrowing from a friend or renting from an outdoor goods store. Sleeping bags are important as well, but you can use pads and blankets for milder weather. A cooler of ice should also be on your list if you’re bringing perishable foods. Not all campsites sell or provide ice, so be sure to pack enough to last the weekend.

What to Eat

Plan your meals ahead of time; it’s a lot harder to make a quick run to the grocery store for a forgotten ingredient when you’re in the wilderness. If you are cooking, bring pots, pans and cooking utensils you’re willing to use outside.

Don’t forget your own dishes and silverware, too — disposable or outdoor dishware is your best bet. A few large jugs of water come in handy for cooking and washing, but bring enough to drink as well. Paper towels help with cleaning and can act as napkins. And you’ll need flashlights or lanterns for cooking at night.

What to Leave at Home

It’s easy to fill the car to capacity when camping, but try to pare down to just the necessities. Leave the pillow at home and pack just a pillowcase; you can stuff it with a sweater or extra clothes when you’re going to bed, meaning one less bulky item to pack.

Plan on everything getting dirty, though, and leave your nicer clothes and shoes at home. Pack toiletries with an eye to the basics. Leave the hairdryer and curling iron as well as the makeup in the bathroom.

What Keeps in the Cooler

Having fresh food while camping is not impossible. Some campgrounds, like Smoky’s Frontcountry, have ice available nearby. If not, pack your own coolers with ice, burying the most perishable items deeply. If you bring meat, consider cooking it the first night to make sure it’s at its best.

Cheese and other dairy products will also be fine when covered in ice, so pack the bread for sandwiches you can eat while hiking. Stow chocolate for making s’mores in the cooler as well. You don’t want it to melt in the heat of the sun before that night’s campfire.

What Can You Cook Over a Campfire?

Learning how to simplify camping takes you to task when cooking over a campfire. Therefore, prep most of your food at home! There are plenty of easy meals you can make in your kitchen that transport well to the campsite for open-fire cooking.

Try kebobs, fish filets, sloppy joes, chili and fajitas. Of course, prepackaged burgers and sausages are easy and popular as well. Vegetarians will enjoy veggie burgers, pasta, grilled vegetables, baked potatoes and quesadillas with various fillings — all of which cook quickly.

Keeping the Kids Entertained Without Electronics

Kids may be nervous about spending time outdoors without their electronics or Wi-Fi, but they might be pleasantly surprised by how much fun they can have offline. Bring a Frisbee, football and other outdoor games you don’t get around to playing with during the week.

If you have the space, bikes are fun to ride around smoother campsites and through the flattest dirt trails. Books are great for downtime, as are cards and board games. If it’s windy or raining, however, game time in the tent is always a relaxing option.

How to Gauge the Shelf Life of Food

Shopping and meal-planning are just a couple of the tasks involved in healthy, flavorful eating. You also need to become a food detective of sorts, and pay attention to the shelf life of food you eat every day. Not only is this important for fresh taste and texture, but it keeps you safe from foodborne illnesses. Because expiration dates aren’t regulated by the FDA, but rather provided by food product sellers, you need to stay mindful.

It’s essential that you know how a food typically smells, looks and tastes when it’s fresh. This allows you to use your senses to identify food that has gone bad. Keep the following guidelines in mind as you manage your kitchen.

Vegetables

Naturally, the lifecycle of a fruit or vegetable varies based on what kind it is. Green leafy vegetables and lettuces, for example, typically go bad more quickly than foods such as broccoli and celery because they’re delicate and, according to The Kitchn, often depend on their roots for moisture. Foods like carrots, sweet potatoes, onions, garlic and winter squashes last much longer — anywhere from several weeks to a few months.

Fruit

Fresh berries and soft fruits such as peaches and bananas have a shorter shelf life than fruits like apples. Berries usually go bad within a week, whereas you can keep apples refrigerated for several weeks before they start to decay. You can ultimately tell if fruits or vegetables have gone bad when they don’t look or smell fresh; they get soft, discolored and develop white or brown fuzzy spots or patches. They may also have a foul odor.

Meat and Eggs

You’ll know when meat and eggs are no longer fresh and safe to eat when they smell before or during cooking, or they taste spoiled while eating them. Eggs in their shells keep in the refrigerator for three to five weeks, states the U.S. Department of Health. When it’s frozen solid, chicken stays fresh in the freezer between nine months (for chicken pieces) and a year (for whole chicken). Ground beef can stay in the freezer for four months whereas steak can last up to a year.

Seafood

As is the case with meat and eggs, the smell of seafood often determine whether it’s still fresh. Fish can be expected to have a rather strong smell even when fresh, but it should not have an odor that doesn’t match how the it smells when you first buy or catch it. MyRecipes suggests lean dishes like catfish should be used within one or two days, but they can be frozen for six months before cooking.

Dry Goods and Packaged Food

Dry goods and packaged food can take longer to go bad, but it’s still important to be cautious about shelf life. These foods include dry goods like pasta, rice and flour, as well as packaged products such as crackers, canned items (fruits, beans, vegetables and soup), cooking oils and frozen produce. If you’re unsure whether an item like this is still fine to eat, go by its texture, smell and appearance. Flour, according to Eat By Date, generally stays fresh for at least four months.

When food shows signs of exceeding its shelf life, throwing it away is your best course of action. When in doubt, throw it out — that’s far better than taking a chance on getting sick. To follow your food budget and avoid having to toss food that has gone bad, be sure to plan the quantities of the foods that you buy. Meal planning can be an excellent tool to help you do this.

Judy Wilson is a writer and editor specializing in varied content areas, including health, wellness, food, cooking and nutrition. She enjoys educating others and enabling them to lead fulfilling lives of vibrant health. You can follow Judy on Twitter @EvergreenWords.

Four Methods for Keeping Kids Safe When They’re Out With Friends

As the seasons change, so do your kids. They grow older and crave more independence, whether that means going to a school football game (without you) or staying out late with friends. Keeping kids safe is important, but so is giving them some independence.

Even though you’re letting kids explore more on their own, they still need boundaries and rules. Setting expectations and making sure they know how to react in various situations will set them up for success later on — and you’ll worry less, too. Here are six ways to look out for your kids while cutting them some slack.

Set Rules

Although some kids may not want to follow your rules, they’ll secretly find them useful. Things like curfews, for example, give them an out if the group wants to do something or go somewhere that doesn’t interest them. Your son or daughter can also use these rules as an excuse to get out of doing something that seems dangerous or uncomfortable. And of course, setting some ground rules helps your child know what’s expected of them.

Keep in Contact

Set expectations that your child should check in with you throughout the night. The old-fashioned phone call is a good way to know where your kids are when they are going somewhere else. For some parents, it’s helpful to let children know that if they don’t stay in touch with you while they’re out, they lose the privilege of leaving the house without their folks.

Simulate Problems

When your child starts going out more on his or her own, talk through the situations he or she may encounter and come up with a game plan for how to approach them. What if someone they don’t know wants to give them a ride? What happens if they don’t want to do what the group is doing? Role playing potentially difficult situations will help your child know what to do before a problem happens.

Give Them a Code Word

Part of keeping kids safe is making sure they’re comfortable contacting you for help when in a difficult situation. You won’t argue with or judge them — and they should know that — but you will pick them up immediately if they need help. Decide on a code word or phrase they can use if they don’t want to ask you to pick them up in front of their friends.

By setting some guidelines for what’s expected when your kids leave the house, you’ll set a pattern that keeps them safe each time they’re out with friends. They’ll appreciate the trust, and you’ll like knowing that they’re making good decisions.

Seven Easy Vegetarian Tailgating Recipes

No big game is complete without a tailgate party and the delicious food that comes with it. Just because you’re vegetarian or vegan doesn’t mean you have to miss out. Keep reading to discover some delicious vegan and vegetarian tailgating recipes that are simple to transport and don’t require refrigeration.

1. Kale Chips

The leafy green vegetable kale, is as versatile as it is healthy. One easy way to prepare kale that suits both vegetarian and vegan diets is to make kale chips. Simply place washed and cut-up kale in a baking dish, and drizzle with coconut oil and unrefined sea salt. Bake until the snack is nice and crispy.

2. Potato Salad

Potato salad is a traditional tailgating recipe, and you can easily adapt it for vegetarian and vegan eaters. Boil cut-up red potatoes and allow them to cool. Then, chop a few handfuls of red onions, and add red pepper chunks, minced garlic, unrefined sea salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil.

3. Tahini Dip and Veggies

Tahini is the result of ground sesame seeds. This dipping sauce has a delightfully nutty flavor, creamy texture and only takes a couple minutes to whip up. Make your own by combining tahini, freshly squeezed lemon juice and a dash of unrefined sea salt. For a spicy kick, add finely minced garlic. Serve this with sliced veggies and chunks such as cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, broccoli and carrots.

4. Hummus and Pita Bread

Who doesn’t love hummus? You can make it yourself by pureeing chick peas in your blender. Add a dash of unrefined sea salt and any seasonings you enjoy, such as minced garlic or onions. Serve it with pita bread wedges.

5. Quinoa and Black Beans

For a variation on the same old beans and rice, try cooked quinoa mixed with black beans. Drizzle with a healthy, high-quality oil such as extra virgin olive oil, sesame oil or even flaxseed oil — which Mayo Clinic assures has just 130 calories in one tablespoon. Add your favorite spices and seasonings, such as rosemary, parsley, cilantro, minced garlic and onions, unrefined salt and black pepper. This is substantial enough to serve as a main dish, but also great as a side.

6. Trail Mix

Trail mix is an ideal on-the-go snack you can enjoy at the tailgating lot or while traveling to and from the event. Combine your favorite raw nuts like almonds, pecans, cashews, Brazil nuts, macadamia nuts and walnuts. Add raw seeds, such as pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds and sunflower seeds. Mix in some raisins, dried cranberries, coconut chunks and cacao pieces. The result should be yummy, satisfying and healthy!

7. Fruit Salad

Round out your vegetarian tailgating recipes with seasonal fruit, which makes a great side dish or dessert. Combine whichever fresh fruits are available to you, such as apple chunks, red grapes, berries and pineapple. To keep this fruit from turning brown and soft before you serve it. The Washington Post says to drizzle fresh lemon juice over it. Lemon juice’s acids break down the enzymes that cause food to go bad so quickly. To make this a more substantial dish, however, add your favorite raw nuts or seeds.

After enjoying a bountiful and healthy array of vegetarian tailgating recipes, you’ll have plenty of energy to cheer your team to victory. Go ahead and indulge in your nutritious feast.

Judy Wilson is a writer and editor specializing in varied content areas, including health, wellness, food, cooking and nutrition. She enjoys educating others and enabling them to lead fulfilling lives of vibrant health. You can follow Judy on Twitter @EvergreenWords.

How to Prepare Your Lawn for Winter

With its snow, sleet, and cold temperatures, winter is tough on your lawn. Here are a few tips to make sure your lawn is beautiful come springtime.

Know When to Stop Mowing

Winter lawn care actually starts in the late fall, at which time you’ll want to keep an eye on the weather and stop mowing your lawn after the first frost. Continuing to mow will expose the roots of your lawn to the elements during winter. Leaving the grass short also encourages the season’s dryness to stunt its growth.

Fertilize Beforehand

Before winter sets in, you’ll also want to fertilize your lawn. Like any plant, grass needs food to make it through the chill. Fertilizer that delivers slow-release nitrogen, according to The Lawn Institute, makes the grass roots stronger for heading into next season. Fall is the best time to take this step — just remember to fertilize your grass as well as any landscaping plants you may have.

Lay a Little Mulch

Right before the first stretch of cold, add a thin layer of mulch. Too much thatch like leaves and branches can damage your lawn, so a light layer of material will protect the roots from any bout of snow and frost you may get this year. This simple step also prevents the deep layers of soil from freezing for any length of time, making it easier for your lawn to come back to life in the spring.

Don’t Walk on It

Although southern winters tend to be temperate, you may still experience a snowfall. Walking on a lawn covered in ice and snow damages the petals, so avoid direct foot traffic whenever possible. If you’ve made a path through the grass, stay on this walkway and ask guests to do the same.

Watch for Growths

You’ll also want to make sure that water isn’t building up in the winter months. The water left behind by melted snow and ice can cause just as many problems. Having poor drainage, for example, promotes the growth of fungus and pests to damage grass’s growth when spring starts. By the same token, make sure to look out for weeds, pulling any pests that try to spring up in your lawn throughout the winter. Many weeds are sturdier than grass and take advantage of colder temperatures to spread. Remove them early to protect your property.

 

How Diet Affects Your Sleep

Eating well and logging enough sleep are both essential for good health, but what you might not realize is that diet and sleep are closely connected — and could ultimately have an impact on overall health and wellbeing.

Both adults and kids who skimp on sleep tend to be heavier than their well-rested counterparts. In fact, one ongoing study found that women who typically logged just five hours of sleep per night were 30 percent more likely to gain 30 pounds compared to women who regularly snoozed for seven hours or more.

So how can you get your diet and sleep in sync? Here are three things you should know about the relationship between your food choices and your slumber, and how they can help you eat smarter and sleep sounder.

Coffee Isn’t the Only Thing That Keeps You Up

You know consuming caffeine before bed can leave you tossing and turning. But other foods and drinks can mess with your sleep schedule as well. Although alcohol might make it easier to doze off at first, research shows it reduces deep, restorative rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which can lead to daytime drowsiness and trouble concentrating when you need to be focused.

Eating foods that are fatty or greasy before bed can also spell trouble in dreamland too, suggests the National Sleep Foundation. These foods tend to take longer to digest than lighter fare, forcing your stomach to stay awake and work longer while your body is trying to rest.

Certain Foods Can Help You Sleep Better, Too

Luckily, eating right can yield a sounder night’s sleep. Noshing on foods that contain the amino acid, tryptophan — like turkey, eggs and nuts — prompts your body to release the hormone serotonin, which findings suggest can help promote sleep. Starchy carbohydrates, like a banana or toast, can have a similar effect.

If you can’t fall asleep without something sweet, try a bowl of cherries. They’re a natural source of melatonin, the hormone that helps regulate your body’s sleep-wake cycle.

Not Just What You Eat, but When You Eat

Between school plays, football games and homework the average time Americans eat dinner is increasingly occurring later in the afternoon. Eating late can result in fluctuations to your normal sleep pattern, including having a harder time falling asleep and waking up more frequently during the night. A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania revealed that eating less during the night hours could decrease these symptoms of sleep deprivation.

Allowing at least four hours between when you eat your last meal to the time you go to bed can help ensure you get a good nights’ sleep.

Struggling to get Zzzs could be a sign of a more complex condition. Schedule an appointment so you can discuss your symptoms with your doctor.

Marygrace Taylor is is an award-winning health, wellness, and nutrition writer whose work has appeared in Glamour, Redbook, Prevention, and Women’s Health. You can follow her on Twitter @mgtylr, or at marygracetaylor.com.

Advice or recommendations are for informational or educational purposes only, not a substitute for a visit or consultation with your doctor.

A Room-by-Room Guide to Decluttering Your Home

A week’s worth of mail is littered across the coffee table, your child’s schoolwork is scattered on the kitchen counter and a jumble of toys is making the staircase a fall hazard. Sound familiar?

Things can get a bit cluttered from time to time. You’re not a messy person; life just piles up. But should learning how to declutter your home really be a priority when you’re already busy?

A study by Princeton University found that a cluttered environment affects your ability to focus and process information. Think of clutter like a dog begging at the dinner table. You can ignore it for a little while, but eventually the annoyance will put a strain on your productivity.

Here’s how you can reorganize your home, one room at a time.

Living Room

Keep only the books that are important to you, or those written by your favorite author. E-readers are a great way to keep the stories you enjoyed without taking up space on your shelf. In addition, save only the last two issues of your magazine subscriptions. Tear out the articles you want to keep and file them in a binder for future reference.

Playroom

If your kids haven’t played with a toy in several weeks, consider donating it or storing it away for play dates and other special occasions. Place baskets and bins in easy-to-reach locations so kids can pick up after themselves after playing. Similarly, make it a rule that they must put away one toy before getting another.

Kitchen

Because the countertop often needs the most TLC, keep only the dishes that your cabinets can hold. If you’ve only got space for six coffee mugs, for example, you only need six.

When you do buy a new item, throw out the old version or set. It’s tempting to want to keep an old, warped cake pan because you “might use it one day,” but it only takes up valuable space in your kitchen in the long run. You don’t need dozens of plastic storage containers, either. Instead, keep 10 or 12 of various sizes.

Seasonings are another common source of clutter. However much you cook, don’t keep spices that are more than a year old. They’ve very likely lost their flavor, and if you haven’t used them by now, you should expect that you won’t.

Home Office

Organize papers into two categories: file it or frame it. If it isn’t appropriate for filing (bank statements and bills) or framing (children’s artwork), throw it out.

Most of the mail you receive can be tossed immediately, as well. Place important mail in a highly visible basket so nothing goes unpaid or unanswered, and eliminate the number of catalogs you receive with CatalogChoice. Or, elect to receive catalogs through mobile apps like Catalog Spree.

As you shop, staple receipts to warranties and owners’ manuals. Place them in plastic sleeves and file in a binder where they’ll be easy to locate if needed.

Bathroom

Bathrooms, especially small ones, look cluttered when products and tools are left lying on countertops. Make your bathroom tidier using trays or baskets for brushes, cosmetics or bottles. Although lotions and cosmetics tend to have a long shelf life, they don’t last forever. Toss expired products or those you don’t use.

A former newspaper journalist, Chelsea Adams is a freelance writer specializing in health, wellness and lifestyles topics. A native Tennessean, she makes her home in Kansas with her husband and two daughters. Learn more about her transition from the mountains to the prairie at http://wichitawesome.blogspot.com.

How to Start Volunteering

When you get the itch to volunteer, Tennessee has you covered. Hundreds of charitable organizations close to home allow you to participate in national organizations and help the people in your own county.

Benefits of Volunteering

The most important reason to volunteer your time is helping others, but you may experience several other benefits along the way. Choosing to volunteer with friends or family allows you to spending quality with one another. You also get to meet new people and possibly form new friendships. You may be surprised how much you enrich your own life by being involved with a charity.

Getting Involved

Although you may not have a lot of time to donate, many organizations can use volunteers just a few hours per week or month. When looking for a place to volunteer, know how much time you can put aside and when you’ll be available during the day.

To give you an idea of your volunteering options, check out these causes below:

Lend a Paw

Who doesn’t enjoy working with animals? Your local branch of The Humane Society is a great option that’s always looking for volunteers. Most counties have a facility — Summer, Jefferson, Washington, Dickson, the Tennessee Valley and all major cities — so a quick search will find you the one that’s closest to you.

Volunteer to help with animal care, running the reception desk or helping with pet adoptions. Another great organization is the Freedom Farm Animal Sanctuary, which takes in abused and abandoned animals in Middle Tennessee.

Community Service

If you want to help people with mental disabilities, community-based organizations like the Autism Foundation of Tennessee, give you a chance to help families with autistic individuals receive personal therapy and regular support.

Almost every major city in Tennessee has a Big Brothers Big Sisters organization where you can volunteer to mentor a child in need. Also consider volunteering at your local food banks like the Chattanooga Area Food Bank, which gathers and shares groceries in Hamilton County to prevent food insecurity.

Use Your Unique Talents

Can you paint? Are you a whiz when it comes to figuring out math problems? Consider your talents and skills when looking for a volunteer opportunity. Plug in your zip code into United Way’s database to see opportunities in your area.

How do you get involved in your community? Comment to tell us about your favorite volunteer opportunities.