Category Archives: Bella Features

Attention All Coffee Lovers!

Today is the day you can sip all your favorite flavors of coffee and no one is allowed to judge you! You will not be alone because several companies are sharing the love today and giving free (YES-FREE!!!) coffee to customers. Krispy Kreme, Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonald’s are just a few places that you can pick up your free cup of joe.

Over 400 billion cups of coffee are consumed each year– and everyone has their favorite. We love Cool Brew, a New Orleans-based coffee company, that offers a variety of delicious brews you can keep in your refrigerator.

Cool Brew uses a cold-brewing process and is served in their unique, recyclable bottles with a built-in measuring chamber. Thanks to the style of the bottle, the shelf life of Cool Brew’s products are 120 days unopened and around 4 weeks once you open the bottle.

Their coffee is available in eight varieties: Three traditional (Original, French Roast, Decaf) and the five flavors (Mocha, Vanilla, Toasted Almond, Hazelnut, and Chocolate Almond). All you need to complete your drink is to add hot or cold water.

Cool Brew products can be purchased throughout the Southwest region of Whole Foods, and you can also order them online.


Happy National Coffee Day!

Swapping Habits for Healthier Living

When it comes to cooking, you’re always on the lookout for new recipes, easy shortcuts and ways to make familiar recipes healthier without sacrificing the great taste. If you are a health-minded cook, here are some tips to get you started:

1. Add colors to your foods – Colorful fruits and vegetables quickly decorate a traditional recipe and make food appear much more appetizing. Look for deep greens in spinach, vibrant reds in tomatoes and a rainbow of colors in peppers to add to your casseroles, lasagnas or meat dishes.

2. Swap out the plate size – It may surprise you to learn serving meals on smaller plates encourages people to eat less food. So downsize your dinner plates, and you might find your family eating the proper portions. You’ll also ensure they clean their plates!

3. Change your take-out menus to meal plans – If you have a stack of take-out menus in your home, replace them with recipes and a daily meal planner. Having a planner will help you arrange a weekly grocery shopping list and save you time and money by limiting the number of nights you eat out.

4. Flip the after-dinner routine – Instead of settling down into the couch after dinner, jump start your digestion and take a family walk around the neighborhood together. For healthy bodies, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people work their way up to 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activities per week, which can include a brisk walk (at a 15-minute mile pace).

5. Vary the ingredients – If you already have family-favorite recipes, look them over to see if there are ways to swap healthier ingredients in place of others. For example, corn oil can help lower LDL or “bad” cholesterol more than extra virgin olive oil, according to a recent study sponsored in part by ACH Food Companies, Inc. which sells Mazola(C) Corn Oil. The research found plant sterols, which are naturally present in corn oil, have heart healthy benefits such as preventing the absorption of cholesterol in the body. Corn oil contains more cholesterol-blocking plant sterols than other cooking oils, making it a healthier swap for your favorite recipes.

If you’re looking for a new delicious recipe that uses corn oil, check out this Kick’N Chicken recipe:

chickenKick’N Chicken with Mango Salsa


4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (one pound total)
2 tablespoons Weber Kick’N Chicken Seasoning
1/4 cup Mazola(C) Corn Oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon or lime juice

Mango Pepper Salsa
2 cups diced fresh mango, 1/4-inch dice
1 cup diced red bell pepper, 1/4-inch dice
3 tablespoons minced red onion
1 tablespoon minced jalapeno pepper
1 tablespoon fresh lemon or lime juice
2 tablespoons minced, fresh cilantro
Salt and pepper to taste


Preheat grill to medium heat, or between 350 to 450 F.
Trim excess fat from chicken, rinse and pat dry using paper towels. If necessary, pound chicken to an even 1/2-inch thickness using a mallet, rolling pin or cast iron skillet (this will ensure the chicken cooks evenly). Place chicken into a 1-gallon size resealable plastic bag. Add seasoning, oil and lemon juice to the bag. Seal bag and turn to thoroughly coat chicken.
Grill chicken over direct high heat for 6 to 8 minutes. Turn chicken and continue to cook for 6 to 8 minutes until cooked through. Transfer cooked chicken to a serving plate.
Combine salsa ingredients in a bowl; stir and season to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be made up to 8 hours ahead and refrigerated until ready to serve.)
Top grilled chicken with mango salsa and serve immediately.
Recipe tip: Try slicing the chicken onto warm, low-fat tortillas, top with mango salsa and crumbled queso fresco cheese for delicious spicy chicken wraps.

Hosting a Dinner Party

Some might call the dinner party a lost art, but gathering family and friends around the table to eat great food, drink fantastic wine and enjoy each other’s company is the perfect way to celebrate. Creating an elegant, effortless evening to remember is easier than one might think.

Perfecting the dinner party is about putting people at ease and creating an environment that encourages conversation and laughter – the two most important elements of a successful dinner party. So, instead of trying to impress guests with fancy culinary skills or decorating prowess, focus on five simple tips:

1. Light can be the life of the party

From glowing centerpieces to sparkling votive candles, elegant party lighting is always a bright idea. Candles set the mood and create ambiance – and allow your guests to truly shine.

2. Let the wine flow

The right wine can perfect the moment and no dinner party would be complete without it. Greet guests with a bright and beautiful sparkling rose and keep it flowing during the cocktail hour. During dinner, offer one red and one white wine.

3. Of course dessert is a food group!

Dessert is the perfect way to end an amazing meal. Leave your guests floating on air with angel food cake topped with a Prosecco-infused frosting.

4. Don’t let guests leave empty-handed

Giving guests a little something to take home when they leave extends the good vibes. Say goodnight in a unique way by sending guests home with a bottle of wine or votive candle to re-create the magic in their own home.

New Image365. Remember to breathe

If you’re having fun, your guests will too. Take a deep breath and, while you’re at it, give your red wine a little air, too. Aerators open up the aromas and flavors, making every sip better.

Get Organized!

Keeping track of appointments by recording them in a planner allows us to see our lives from a more holistic point of view and reflect on our goals both accomplished and left unfinished.

With that in mind, we compiled a list of our favorite planners to help you stay both organized and focused:
The Emily Ley Simplified Planner features bright covers and rainbow monthly tabs that will keep a smile on your face during hectic times. Each day has its own full page, which is divided into an hour-by-hour planner, a to-do list, a notes section, and a place to record the dinner menu. The planner comes with an attached notepad with pages that easily tear out. For the busy mom, there is a place for weekly prep each Sunday, and a box to fill with short memories from the week that transform this planner from a simple agenda to a beautiful memory book.

Mom Agenda is full of organizational solutions that can take your life from chaotic to condensed in just minutes. The planner features full monthly views as well as yearly views and is bound in soft leather. However, the most unique feature of this planner is its daily layout. Each day has its own full page with space for an hourly schedule, specific appointments for up to three children, a spot to list dinner plans, and room for a to-do list. The planner comes in a full desk size as well as the Mini Daily size, which is perfect to slip into a purse or diaper bag.

New ImageThe Day Designer provides an innovative layout for women of all ages. Each day has its own full page, with plenty of space to write out hour-by-hour commitments. It has a “top three” to-do-list at the top of the page so that you never forget your most important tasks. There is also space for a running to-do-list, and a place to record a daily gratitude. Each day has an inspirational quote to keep you going if the gold corner protectors, brass spiral, and beautiful thick pages aren’t enough inspiration.

Editor’s Note: The Day Designer Planner is currently sold out on her Etsy website until September 15. However, if you can be patient and remember to order it at that time– it will be worth it!

Use your new planner to stay organized during the school year, professional life, or at home with your family! Let us know your favorites in the comments below.

Written by Eleanor Haeg

Back-To-School Foods

It’s back-to-school season and Liz Bushong has some great tips for parents who want to create healthy lunches for their kids.

For example, give your children ownership in the process of making their lunch selections. It will encourage them to eat healthy and teach personal responsibility.

VIP Healthy school lunch- categories-binsBuy six clear storage containers or baskets. Label each container with these categories; Protein, Whole Grain, Veggies, Fruit, Drinks and Snacks. Kids will select one item from each container to pack in their lunch.

For creative after school snacks, try these fun recipes from Liz:

Back- to- School Cupcakes

24 Baked Lemon Cupcakes
Lemon butter cream frosting tinted with Golden Yellow color paste
24 Red M&M’s- for apples
1 cup Royal Icing– separated- 3/4 white 1 /4 tinted leaf green for apple stems
24 White Good & Plenty candies or a tic tack would work too- as the chalk
24 Fudge covered graham cookies- Keebler Delux Grahams –chalkboards- extra for practicing.

Place royal icing in disposable piping bag, fitted with a # 2 tip OR place white butter cream frosting in plastic bag with a tiny clipped corner of the bag for piping. Pipe letters or numbers on graham cookies, covering only the top 2/3 of cookie. (You will be inserting it into the cupcake later and will eliminate the bottom 1/3). Set aside to dry. To make the leaf on the apple-tint 1/4 white royal icing -or butter cream frosting greenchalkboardcupcakes and using a toothpick, top each red M&M with the frosting. Cut a 2 inch slit on top of the frosted cupcake then insert the chalkboard cookie, position the apple and the chalk (Good & Plenty) as pictured in the photo.

Serve these on a chalkboard cake pedestal to add to the back- to- school theme.
Yield: 24 cupcakes

Edible Pencils for Back- to -School

Roll of Rollo® candies  or  Cheddar Cheese Sticks
Golden Yellow, and Pink solid scrapbooking paper- (Candy pencil only)
Wrapped Hersey Kisses for Rolo Candy Pencil or Bugles® for Cheese Stick pencil
Raisins for Cheese Sticks, (point of pencil)
¼ cup peanut or almond butter (Cheese pencil only)
Strips of aluminum foil- folded into ¼ inch pieces. (Candy pencil only)

Measure the length of candy roll to determine the length and width. Cut golden yellow scrapbook paper the diameter and length of the candy roll. Cut pink paper into stripes wide enough and long enough to cover the end of the pencil to resemble an eraser. You can use pinking shears to cut one end of the yellow paper to resemble a sharpened edge. Hot glue or using double sided- tape to attach the golden yellow paper to the roll/stick then tape or glue the pink paper to the end.  candypencilHot glue the kiss as the pencil lead. Using about 1/4 inch of alum foil.  Wrap this foil around the top of the yellow paper as a pencil band. This will cover any paper ends at the top of the pencil. To assemble Cheese Stick Pencil:  Unwrap cheese stick.  Fill Bugle with peanut or almond butter.  Attach Bugle to one end of cheese stick.  Attach raisin to end of Bugle with peanut butter to create pencil lead point.  Serve immediately.


Peanut Butter  & Jelly Bar Cookies
Recipe adapted : Patty Flowers, Midland, Texas

½ cup butter, softened
½ cup sugar
½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
½ cup smooth or crunchy peanut butter
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
2 cups peanut butter morsels, divided
1 cup Cherry jam or jelly of choice

Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy; gradually add sugars, beating well. Add peanut butter, egg and vanilla, mix well. Combine flour, soda, baking powder; gradually add to butter mixture, mix well. Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars (2)Reserve one cup of dough. Stir one cup peanut butter morsels into remaining dough, press into bottom of 9 x 13 pan. Spread jam evenly over the dough.  Crumble reserved dough over jam, and sprinkle with remaining morsels. Bake at 325 for 40 minutes or until golden brown.  Cool completely and cut into bars. Cookies may be frozen.
Yield:  3 dozen- depends on how you cut the bars.

Make a Statement, Make it Sassy and Make it Yours! ®

Liz Bushong is an expert in the three-dimensional art of entertaining. She transforms simple dining occasions into beautiful and memorable moments by adding a touch of her own “sassy” style. She makes elegance easy for her audience and encourages them to add their own Sassy touch to make it unique. Liz is famous for creating her own version of a beautifully presented tablescape – which she calls a Sassyscape ™.

To purchase her cookbooks or find recipes, cooking, and decorating ideas, go to Like and Share Liz on Facebook, tweet @lizbushong and pin on




A Friendship Blossoms

Local author Carol Wall shares the benefits of opening her mind and her heart in her memoir, Mister Owita’s Guide to Gardening.  Her friendship with Giles Owita, a local gardener, challenges her to step outside of her comfort zone and learn from his advice, despite her original inclination to judge him based on his appearance and profession.

“One of the most important lesions of the book is not to make assumptions,” she explains, “Just because someone is wearing work clothes, comes from a distant place, and knows secrets about trees and plants does not mean he cannot also be an accomplished scholar and an expert in his field. Assumptions I made revealed my biases and prejudices and made me examine the way I thought about things.”

Wall goes on to say that she was raised never to discriminate against anyone, and she desperately wanted to present her community as accepting of Giles and his family. Unfortunately, there were those in the community that did not welcome him as openly.

 “As the years of our friendship passed, I came to understand that Giles was African and held none of the biases that mark our strained race relations in the United States,” she says, “Though he would have preferred to make everyone his friend, life had taught him early on to detect those who, for whatever reason (including the color of his skin) would not be available for such relationships.”

Prior to meeting Giles, Wall had fought and won her first battle with breast cancer. During their friendship, the disease returns. She also faces the decline of her parents’ health. Eventually Giles’ own health problems surface and their friendship blossoms despite (and maybe because of) the challenges they face. He shares his own cancer story with her and she begins to look at her experience in a new light. She describes this moment as a feeling to which we can all relate, “You have such beautiful things and you are afraid of losing them.”

carolwall2Finally, Wall addresses the subject of illness with a unique and enlightening approach. Those who have experienced something like cancer, as a patient or close family member, will appreciate her honest explanation of the emotions that she faced.

 “I guess you could say I was ‘on strike’ from having a meaningful life,” she recalls, “That is how I was punishing myself for the sin of being sick. There is nothing my husband (or anyone else) could have done to console me. Being well [has become] a double blessing–the wellness itself covering us like a warm blanket that we pull around our shoulders at night, bringing with it the assurance that medical woes are meant for someone less worthy. Fear of illness takes away our logic and compassion and separates us from each other.  There is no disease reserved for the guilty.”

This is one memoir you will not want to put down until you have finished. Be prepared for a few tears and self reflection before purchasing your own copy of Mister Owita’s Guide to Gardening on Amazon. We will also be giving away a copy on Bella’s Facebook page this month.   

For more information on Carol Wall and her experiences, visit

Get Your Starbucks Fix for Less

Et tu, Starbucks?

Beginning this week, everyone’s favorite coffee shop is raising prices on lattes, brewed coffee and ground coffee, due in part to a lingering drought in Brazil. Grande and venti brewed coffee will increase by 10 to 15 cents, while tall and venti lattes will see price increases of 15 to 20 cents. After July 21, bags of ground coffee sold in stores will increase by 8 percent, or over $1 per bag.

Since Starbucks is considered a splurge by most personal finance experts, this price increase is especially tough on those trying to watch their spending. However, there are ways to get around this unpleasant reality and still feed your addiction frugally. Consider these 12 ways to save at Starbucks.

1. Enjoy rewards.
The My Starbucks Rewards card provides loyal customers with such, well, perks as free drinks, free food, free refills and more. Cardholders also receive a free beverage of any kind or size on their birthday, as demonstrated by this gentleman who ordered a 60-shot espresso concoction. Stars are earned whenever the Starbucks Card or Starbucks mobile app is used at checkout.

2. Buy discount Starbucks gift cards.
At, you can buy discount gift cards to Starbucks for as much to 20-percent off. For instance, pick up a $100 Starbucks gift card for just $84.54 and save over $25! In addition to saving on coffee, buying discount Starbucks gift cards is a great way to save on gifts for birthdays, holidays and graduations.

3. Print or redeem coupons.
Even Starbucks issues coupons from time to time. Keep track of these coveted offers by searching sites like, where you can find both printable and online offers for savings. Also, check out Starbucks’ website periodically as they advertise special offers like their current “summer surprises” texting campaign.

4. Keep eyes peeled for daily deals.
Ever notice how your Facebook feed explodes when Groupon or LivingSocial issues a daily deal to Starbucks? Once or twice per year, you can score a $10 digital gift card to Starbucks for just $5. You must have an account with daily deal providers to get the deal, but you can personalize your settings to only receive emails weekly. That way, you’re not bombarded with daily offers but can be notified about the Starbucks deal.

5. Join the mailing list.
By joining the Starbucks Mailing List, you’ll get a coupon for 10-percent off your next order. Plus, you’ll find out about special promotions like seasonal offers, member-only benefits and discounts on speciality drinks. You can sign up here, or hold off until you have time to create a separate email account just for promotional offers!

6. Get social.
Follow Starbucks on Facebook or Twitter to get notified when they release special promotions, coupons or daily discounts. Last summer, followers could enjoy the “Starbucks treat receipt” which awarded customers to a $2 grande cold beverage after 2 p.m. simply by showing the morning receipt. Finding out about these saving promos early is easy when you follow the brand on social media.

7. Choose coffee over espresso.
To keep costs down while fulfilling my Starbucks addiction, I sometimes opt for brewed coffee over an espresso beverage to kick start my day. When I’m really in the mood for a latte or Americano, then I satisfy the craving for less by sticking to a tall or grande size over the venti.

8. Look for sale or clearance tags.
When it comes to shopping Starbucks goods, never buy at full price! That cute coffee mug or trendy eco-tumbler will inevitably go on sale, so make a note of what you like and hold off until sale time. Save even more when you buy your clearance good with those discount gift cards I mentioned!

9. Ask for “light” ice.
Iced coffees are just the ticket on warm summer days, but you often end up getting less latte than if you ordered the hot version. That’s because ice takes up more than half the cup most of the time. Avoid this issue by requesting “light ice” when you order your chilled beverage.

10. Go halfsies with a friend.
If you and your friend like the same drink, order a venti and ask for an extra cup. Starbucks doesn’t charge for the extra cup and you can often save an average of $1.50 by splitting up their biggest size. It’s a cheapskate move, but you’re probably doing both your systems a solid by not downing a venti of caffeine!

prepares espresso in his coffee shop; close-up11. Bring your own cup.
As an eco-friendly company, Starbucks is all about promoting sustainable practices and limiting its impact on the environment. As such, it rewards its customers who bring in their own tumblers and cups with a 10-cent discount. Just bringing in your own mug will cancel out the price increase on grande and venti brewed coffee – score!

12. Earn stars with coffee bags.
True coffee aficionados drink the good stuff at home, too, which makes the $1 increase on ground coffee all the more painful. However, you can earn more Stars on your My Starbucks Reward card when you buy specially-marked bags of Starbucks coffee from grocery stores and other retailers. Earning Stars helps you score discounts and freebies!

Written by Andrea Woroch, a nationally-recognized consumer and money-saving expert for Kinoli Inc., who helps consumers live on less without radically changing their lifestyles. From smart spending tips to personal finance advice, Andrea transforms everyday consumers into savvy shoppers. She has been featured among top news outlets such as Good Morning America, NBC’s Today, MSNBC, New York Times, Kiplinger Personal Finance, CNNMoney and many more. You can follow her on Twitter for daily savings advice and tips.

Love Grace Juice Cleanse

I recently tried a one-day juice cleanse from Love Grace. Here’s the thing about “juicing.” I’m going to be honest. I was very committed to the idea until I woke up and realized I could not have a blueberry muffin for breakfast. Then, I took a sip of the first cold-pressed organic juice I was scheduled to have that day. The raw, natural taste was shocking.

I had forgotten the taste of healthy foods because, too often, I give into my cravings for all of the wrong things. I love potatoes in any form—potato chips, buttered mashed potatoes, and especially cheese fries. And, like any good little southern Belle, I enjoy my main course (hamburger, chicken, fish) fried with a side of gravy.

Yes, I sometimes feel disappointed when I see my weight on the scale. As a former size zero, it is never easy to understand that your body changes as you get older. Yes, I realize I could lose a few pounds by changing my diet. But I have come to appreciate my curves—and the weight loss is no longer my main issue.

The truth is, I have started to notice that my body does not like these unhealthy foods. I crave them constantly, but I have recently developed stomach issues because I eat too much junk, and not enough raw fruits and vegetables. So, I decided to eliminate them for one day in an attempt to reset my body with a juice cleanse. I did not think I would notice a difference in just one day– but I was wrong.

This is what I learned from my (very brief) cleanse experience:

1)      Juicing is about retraining your taste buds to appreciate what should be natural to us. The grease and processed foods we crave are full of chemicals to which we have become addicted—and the natural taste of vegetables and fruits is what our body truly needs.
2)      I think I would need a week or so away from other humans to do this cleanse. For a true detox experience, I would need to really commit to getting all of the caffeine out of my system. And that is a scary image.
3)       I truly believe that if I gradually change my diet, I will no longer suffer from a “nervous stomach.” It sounds ridiculous, but I noticed a dramatic improvement after just one day of eliminating chips, coffee and soda.
4)      People will advise you to change your diet until they are blue in the face, but you will never know how much your health can benefit from it until you take the plunge. A juice cleanse will remove toxins from your body and help you start with a fresh, clean slate.


bliss-love-grace-organic-cold-pressed-juice-cleanseLove Grace reccomends that customers start with a 3-5 day cleanse. That will be my next step, once I eliminate the junk (and caffeine from my diet). Although it may seem like just a passing fad, juice cleanses are more necessary now than they every have been because of our unhealthy diets and the toxic enviroment in which we live. For more information on why you should do a juice cleanse, and to purchase some organic juices for yourself, visit