Category Archives: health & wellness

Black-Eyed Pea Chili

I’m a big believer in starting off the new year with a meal of black-eyed peas and collard greens. It’s one of the few holiday food traditions that is actually healthy (and can be vegan). The legend behind this Southern tradition is that a meal of peas and greens will bring prosperity and luck in the coming year, but I like to think of it as a great way to get off on a good foot nutritionally, with basic, whole foods.

Here is a recipe I like that uses black-eyed peas with quinoa and corn to make a healthy, delicious meatless chili! 

Black-Eyed Pea Chili (Servings: 8)


  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 1 large red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 large green bell pepper, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 5 cups (24 ounces) fresh black-eyed peas, or 2 1/2 cups (1 pound) dried peas, soaked overnight and drained
  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons mild chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder, red pepper, or hot smoked paprika (adjust to taste)
  • 2 15-ounce cans diced tomatoes, with juice (fire-roasted preferred)
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen corn
  • 1/3 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Heat a large, non-stick Dutch oven or chili pot. Add the onions and cook, stirring, until they soften, about 5 minutes. Add the bell peppers and cook for another 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
  2. Add the black-eyed peas, broth, and everything up through the tomatoes. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. 
  3. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the peas are tender. The time will vary depending on the age of the peas, but count on at least 75 minutes, and add more broth if it looks like it’s getting dry.
  4. When the peas are tender, check the seasoning and add more to taste (this is a good time to increase the heat by adding more chipotle powder). 
  5. Add the corn and quinoa and cook until the quinoa is tender, at least 20 minutes. (If the chili seems too “soupy,” uncover the pot; otherwise, keep it covered).
  6. Add salt and pepper to taste. 

Wishing you and yours a Happy & Healthy New Year!

Recipe by The Fat Free Vegan


    Is It a Cold or Flu?

    The cold versus flu debate is one that rages in households every fall. Since both illnesses have similar symptoms, it’s easy to understand why people get confused.

    The symptoms are certainly comparable. However, while you might have a cold many times throughout the year, you’ll typically only get the flu every few years or so.

    How to Tell If You Have a Cold

    The biggest indicator that you’re suffering from a cold is if your symptoms are mostly in your nose. The three key signs of a cold shouldn’t come as a surprise:

    • Runny nose
    • Sneezing
    • Nasal stuffiness

    A cold can also be accompanied by a fever of 100 or 101 degrees or slight scratchiness in the back of your throat. Length of time matters, too: a cold typically lasts about a week.

    • Low grade fever
    •  Sore throat
    • Cough

    How to Tell If You Have the Flu

    The flu is definitely not limited to just the nose. When the flu hits, you’ll typically feel it all over. The onset of symptoms is swift, and usually starts with a high-grade fever between 102 and 105 degrees (keep in mind children will usually have higher fevers than adults). Additional symptoms include:

    • Muscle aches
    • Fatigue (often extreme)
    • Headache
    • Dizziness
    • Sneezing
    • Severe coughing

    While the symptoms of the flu are more severe, they still last roughly as long as a cold – about 7 to 10 days. Many people experience another stretch of fatigue and fever at the tail end of that timeframe.

    The flu is extremely contagious, so it’s easily passed from one person to another. Since the virus exists in the tiny droplets emitted from coughs or sneezes, you’ll also contract the flu if you touch something with the virus on it, and then touch your mouth, nose or eyes afterwards. Avoiding the flu is possible if you take a few simple precautions.

    How Can You Avoid Cold & Flu Viruses?

    The CDC recommends taking “everyday preventative actions” to stop the spread of germs, such as covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze; staying home when sick and frequented washing your hands with soap and warm water.

    Stress and your Skin

    Have you ever noticed that when you are stressed, you break out more?

    According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), the feelings we have on the inside can affect how we look on the outside. The key to healthy skin lies far beyond the type of skincare products we use. Feelings of stress can affect how the skin ages by influencing certain processes in the body that lead to oxidation and inflammation.
    Here’s the gist: Chemical processes in the body produce molecules called free radicals. These enemies of the skin can damage healthy cells in a process called oxidation. Factors such as sun exposure, smoking, air pollution, poor diet and excess stress can speed up the production of free radicals. 
    The body also produces antioxidants that remove free radicals from the body before they can do any damage. By taking care of yourself and reducing your stress, you can increase the production of these molecules to save the look of your skin.

    Skin and Stress Connection 


    Stress can have the following effects on the skin:

    • Adrenaline produced from anxiety redirects blood away from the skin to the muscles so that it becomes pale and washed out.
    • Anger, excitement, irritability and frustration releases chemicals that stimulate the sebaceous glands which produce oil. This blocks pores and can cause acne to form.
    • Stress makes muscles tense and prevents blood from bringing oxygen and nutrients to the skin. Tension can also slow the removal of waste from underlying tissue.
    • Excess strain slows down the cell turnover rate so new cells take longer to reach the skin. Consequently, a lot of their moisture is lost, making the skin look dull.
    • Constant stress increases cortisone secretion, which suppresses immunity. As a result, the skin is not as resilient, and can become more irritated by outside chemicals and pollutants.
    • Excess stress can make psoriasis and rosacea conditions worse and acne lesions more inflamed. It can also worsen fever blisters and dermatitis.

    Stress-Free Skin Solutions


    • Practice stress management techniques, such as breathing exercises, yoga, meditation, or visual imagery to relax your mind and body.
    • Seek out professional assistance through a psychologist (therapist) or psychiatrist to identify what triggers in your life are causing anxiety and stress.
    • Don’t neglect your skin. Take care of your skin, even if you’re tired or stressed.
    • Get regular exercise. It’s good for your skin and the rest of your body.
    • Take time for yourself to do something you enjoy, even if you only have ten minutes. Take a bath or listen to some relaxing music.
    • Get enough sleep. Seven to eight hours each night is ideal.
    • Say no. It’s OK to set limits and boundaries to lower your stress.
    • Visit a dermatologist to treat your specific skin problems. Clearer skin may start diminishing your stress, as you’ll have more confidence and will look better. 

    What is your skin saying?

      Wellness Wednesday: Get Outside of Your Grocery Store

      We all know that the spring are summer months are the best times of the year to shop at your local farmers market. But don’t about healthy fall produce? Autumn’s bumper crop of fruits and vegetables offers a wide range of great flavors Farmers’ markets are full of apples, figs, pears, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, and winter squash. 

      One of the best reasons to shop at a local farmers market is the access to the freshest, tastiest foods around. The food is typically grown in your area of residence, not thousands of miles away or another country, so your money stays nearby to help local farmers thrive.  

      Having the option to buy more locally grown food has many benefits to your health and your community. Some of the benefits are listed below:

      Eating local food is known as eating by the seasons. Even though many wish watermelon were grown year round in the Carolinas, the best time to eat watermelon is when it is purchased directly from the grower in the correct season. Watermelons are more flavorful and taste much better than the ones grown in the winter which have been picked before ripeness and travelled thousands of miles. 

      Locally grown food has more flavor. Instead of being harvested early to be shipped and distributed, locally grown food is picked at their peak of ripeness. Many times, the foods you find at a farmers market have been picked within 24 hours or less of your purchase.

       Local foods have more nutrients. Nutritional value declines drastically as time passes after harvesting. Foods imported from far away typically are harvested before ripeness of nutrients, traveled great distances, and sits in distribution centers before getting to the grocery store.

      The farmers can tell you how the food was grown. You can ask what methods they use to raise their animals and harvest their crops. It is satisfying to know who grew your food and where it came from.

      Be a familiar face. Being a “regular” at the farmers market is enjoyable. You’ll feel like you belong there, you will get to know the growers and other regulars, and you’ll be known as a loyal customer. 

      Local foods benefits the environment. Purchasing local foods help to preserve green space and farmland within your community. Also, on average, most food travels about 1,500 miles before it reaches our plates.

      When buying local food, it does not need to travel as far which decreases the amount of gasoline used and reduces pollution.

      Summer Skin Care Tips: 5 Easy Options for Sun Protection

      Summer means sun, shorts, sandals, bathing suits, and bronzed skin. Who doesn’t want to be outside, sunbathing, swimming, playing catch on the beach or just grilling out in the backyard?   
      While summer means fun in the sun, make sure you’re not getting too much of a good thing. Whether you’re spending your time lounging by the pool, swimming in the ocean or enjoying a walk through the park this summer, you’re bound to be out in the sun. 

      Although some exposure is healthy, too much can be harmful. Avoid the consequences of overexposure to sun like sunburns, premature aging of the skin, wrinkling, and skin cancer, by practicing proper sun protection. 

      The hours between 10am and 4pm are the most hazardous for UV exposure in the continental United States. UV rays are the greatest during the late spring and early summer in North America.

      The CDC recommends these easy options for sun protection:

      1. Wear Sunscreen
      Use a sunscreen with sun protective factor (SPF) 15 or higher (up to 50) and that says “broad-spectrum” on the label (means it will provide protection against both UVA and UVB rays). 

       Sunscreen wears off. So, you should reapply sunscreen every 2 hours and after swimming, sweating, or drying off with a towel. Because most people use too little sunscreen, make sure to apply a generous amount.

      Check the sunscreen’s expiration date. Sunscreen without an expiration date has a shelf life of no more than three years, but its shelf life is shorter if it has been exposed to high temperatures.

      2. Protect your Skin with Clothing:

      When you are out in the sun, wear clothing to protect as much skin as possible. 

      Loose‐fitting long‐sleeved shirts and long pants made from tightly woven fabric offer the best protection from the sun’s UV rays. A wet T‐shirt offers much less UV protection than a dry one. Darker colors may offer more protection than lighter colors. 

      If wearing this type of clothing isn’t practical, at least try to wear a T‐shirt or a beach cover‐up. Keep in mind that a typical T‐shirt has an SPF rating lower than 15, so use other types of protection as well.

      3. Wear a Hat 

       Wear a hat with a wide brim to shade the face, head, ears, and neck.

      For the most protection, wear a hat with a brim all the way around that shades your face, ears, and the back of your neck. A tightly woven fabric, such as canvas, works best to protect your skin from UV rays. Avoid straw hats with holes that let sunlight through. A darker hat may offer more UV protection.
      A baseball cap protects the front and top of the head but not the neck or the ears, where skin cancers commonly develop. So if you wear a baseball cap, you should also protect your ears and the back of your neck by wearing clothing that covers those areas, using sunscreen with at least SPF 15, or by staying in the shade.

      4. Wear sunglasses that block UV rays 

       Sunglasses protect your eyes from UV rays and reduce the risk of cataracts. They also protect the tender skin around your eyes from sun exposure.

      Wear sunglasses that wrap around and block as close to 100% of both UVA and UVB rays as possible. Sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays offer the best protection. Most sunglasses sold in the United States, regardless of cost, meet this standard.

      5. Seek Shade 

       Seek shade, especially during midday hours.

      You can reduce your risk of skin damage and skin cancer by seeking shade under an umbrella, tree, or other shelter before you need relief from the sun. Your best bet to protect your skin is to use sunscreen or wear protective clothing when you’re outside—even when you’re in the shade.

      Follow these summer skin care tips to ensure that your skin is protected and stays healthy this season. Don’t Get Burned!!!

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