This Will Start Your Day The RIGHT Way!

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Hello friends! I just finished this awesome smoothie and I had to tell you about it because it’s life altering! Now you might think, “Why is she so excited about a smoothie?” Well, I’ll tell you why. It contains one of my favorite things- coffee. I love coffee more than most things in life. It’s one of my three favorite liquids- water, coffee and wine. Coffee’s reputation has been totally rejuvenated these days, as it used to be universally vilified and the supposed source of all kinds of health problems. I’m very happy though that now coffee is known to be GOOD for you and can help protect against many heinous diseases like Parkinson’s, liver cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. Coffee drinkers are also less likely to die than non coffee drinkers, like 8-15% less likely to die. That sounds good to me.

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Why is coffee so good for you, you ask? Good question! Here’s why, it contains chlorogenic acid, lignans, quinides, trigonelline, and magnesium which reduces inflammation and insulin resistance. It’s also the number 1 source of antioxidants in the American diet. Antioxidants are chemical compounds that fight the damage to your DNA caused by day to day life. Now most of the studies have been done on caffeinated coffee so researchers are not sure that the health benefits are the same for decaf coffee. And remember, we are not talking about the zillion calorie, full of sugar drinks from your favorite coffee shop, because we know that the damage caused by all that sugar far outweighs the benefits of the coffee. I’m talking about healthy coffee.  See my previous blog post, https://vitalvaldecap.com/2014/10/22/healthy-coffee-is-my-favorite-way-to-start-the-day/, for more information on how to have a healthy cup of coffee.

So that brings me back to my coffee smoothie- talk about healthy! I never really thought about coffee in a smoothie. I don’t drink smoothies very often because they are usually filled with things that aren’t very healthy, and they can really be quite calorie laden. I ran across this recipe on Prevention.com and what I liked about it is that it was lower in calories and sugar. It was also filled with ingredients I really enjoy so I thought, “What the heck, I’ll give it a try.” And I loved it so much that I wanted to share it with you today.

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Delicious Coffee Smoothie

  • 3/4 cup almond milk (or any milk of choice)
  • 1/2 cup cold coffee or coffee ice cubes
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon peanut butter
  • Pinch of salt

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The first thing you have to do is put a peeled banana in the freezer a few hours before you plan to make this smoothie. I always put my overly ripe bananas, you know the ones that no one wants because they’re black and smooshy, into a freezer bag and store them in the freezer until I need them. The second step is to brew a cup of coffee and put it in the fridge to cool. I pull a shot of espresso the night before I’m going to make this smoothie and put it in the fridge. You can make coffee ice cubes too but I don’t have any ice cube trays so that’s out for me.

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Next you add the first four ingredients (almond milk, coffee, banana, and cocoa powder) into the blender and whirl.

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Last, add the final ingredients (peanut butter and salt) and give it a second whirl to combine.

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And there you have it! The smoothie is sweet, but not too sweet, chocolatey, and the hint of salt from the peanut butter and salt really brings out the wonderful flavors of the smoothie. It’s also healthy for you at only 240 calories per serving, 7 grams of protein, 7 grams of fiber, and 11 grams of fat, it’s a great meal substitute. You get your meal and your coffee all in one, what could be better than that?!! Drinking healthy coffee smoothies will help you live a life of vitality-with Valerie!

 

 

Eating Healthy Starts with this! Part Deux

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Good day, my friends! I’m now going to continue my healthy eating post by telling you the second thing you need to eat healthily at home. The first as you recall if you read part one, was a pantry stocked with lovely items to help you cook healthy meals. The second essential is a well stocked refrigerator/freezer. Or in my case refrigerators/freezers because I have two, one in my kitchen and one in the garage. They are both important to my healthy cooking strategy so I’ll talk about how I use them both. Again, please don’t judge my fridge organization or cleanliness, just the contents! In addition, all food mentioned is organic whenever possible.

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Fridge Essentials

1. Liquids for drinking- We don’t drink soda pop and I don’t have any in the house. Instead, I keep the fridge stocked with filtered alkaline water, chocolate milk, almond milk, healthy juices with no sugar or corn syrup, and half and half for my coffee.

2. Yogurt and hummus- We always have these two items, though I usually make my own hummus, for healthy snacking.

3. Cooking ingredients- I always have minced garlic, olives, parmesan cheese, mayonnaise, Dijon and regular mustard, ketchup, salsa, hot sauces, and pickles to help add flavor to my meals.

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4. Vegetables and fruits- The vegetables I usually have on hand are romaine lettuce, asparagus, tomatoes, carrots, celery, and peppers. The types of fruit are grapes, strawberries, blueberries, apples, bananas, and watermelon. Many meals and snacks can be made from these vegetables and fruit.

5. Deli meat and cheeses- Important items here are turkey lunch meat, salami, cheddar cheese- both sliced and shredded, as well as romano cheese and parmesan for pastas.

6. Wine- no explanation needed here! 🙂

7. Eggs- Eggs are one of the things we eat often in my house. I make hard boiled eggs, fried, scrambled, poached, and egg salad. There are so many awesome dishes that can be made with eggs. Eggs are a great ingredient in other dishes as well, making them one of the most versatile items in my fridge.

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8. Leftovers- My outside fridge is mostly for leftovers, drinks and yogurt. I love leftovers and have written about that in many past posts. I eat them for lunch the next day or repurpose them into future meals. They are one of my favorite things in my fridge so don’t throw out the leftovers, this is your chance to be creative!

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Freezer Essentials-

1. Frozen vegetables- I always have frozen mixed vegetables on hand, mostly to make soups and stews, but I do like to have them for lunch sometimes.

2. Breakfast meats- We love breakfast in this house so I stock my freezer with bacon, breakfast sausage and chorizo to thaw for delicious breakfasts.

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3. Leftovers- Sometimes we don’t eat all of the leftovers in the fridge, despite my best attempts to polish them all off, and I definitely don’t want them to go to waste. I put them in the freezer, making sure to label the type of food and the date on the freezer bag, so I can ensure that when I defrost them I know what it is and how long it’s been in there. It’s so handy when I don’t have anything planned to cook. I just thaw the food item, and dinner is served!

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4. Meat- This is the heart of my outdoor freezer. I have different cuts of chicken in one section, beef in another, and lamb and pork in a separate area. I use the outdoor fridge to thaw the frozen meat a night or two before I am ready to cook, and then it’s ready to prepare.

5. Frozen fruit- I have frozen blueberries to make blueberry pancakes, and strawberries for smoothies.

Well, that’s what I consider essential for storing in the refrigerator and freezer. I hope you will stock what you like to eat and serve to your family and friends in your fridge/freezer. Eating at home is the best way to eat healthily. Eating healthy foods is the best way to live a life of vitality- with Valerie!

SHAKE Your Way to a Life without Sugar!

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Angels anxiously awaiting their shake!

Angels anxiously awaiting their shake!

Did you eat sugary desserts during the holidays? I know I ate more of those kinds of foods than I usually do. Christmas cookies are delicious, especially when homemade by a talented baker, and it’s really hard to resist them, isn’t it?

But, the downside to this is that sugar is just not good for you, in fact, sugar is considered more toxic for your health than smoking! Besides the weight gain issue, the reality is that sugar is considered to be the number one culprit in causing cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and other deadly diseases. See my previous blog post, “Sugar- the new cigarette?!” , for more details about the dangers of consuming sugar. The problem is that sugar isn’t just in baked goods and sweets, sugar is in ALMOST EVERY PROCESSED FOOD we eat, so even though we as a nation are using less sugar from the sugar bowl, we are consuming more sugar through processed foods than ever before.

True!

True!

So what is the solution to this problem and how do we eliminate sugar from our diets? I believe the answer is to avoid as much processed food as possible by cooking almost every day, and then utilizing the leftovers on the days I don’t cook. Also, choosing organic and local foods whenever possible for the freshest meats, fruits, and vegetables helps create food with lots of flavor so I don’t have to used processed items to enhance the taste of my dishes. Another solution is to patronize restaurants that serve local, fresh and in house made food items, which ensures that the food you’re eating when going out for dinner doesn’t contain sugar.

I recently attended a conference and heard a speaker named JJ Virgin who was talking about the dangers of consuming sugar and how prevalent sugar is in many foods we eat. I really liked her as a speaker and felt her message mirrored many things I’ve posted about in my blog. She had a recipe for a shake she called “Sugar Impact Shake” that I have used as a model for my shake recipe, with a few modifications. I’ve been making this shake and I really like it, both as a healthy meal replacement, and as a way to detox from all the sugar. The shake contains no sugar or fruit, but it tastes really good. Here’s the recipe!

Sugar free Protein Shake

1. Start with 1 cup of almond, coconut or cashew milk, and pour it into your blender.

1. Start with 1 cup of almond, coconut or cashew milk, and pour it into your blender.

2. Add one scoop of high quality protein supplement. Mine is from Guyer Institute and contains many vitamins and minerals in addition to the 10 grams of protein per scoop.

2. Add one scoop of high quality protein supplement. Mine is from Guyer Institute and contains many vitamins and minerals in addition to the 10 grams of protein per scoop.

3. Add one tablespoon of coconut oil.

3. Add one tablespoon of coconut oil.

4. 1-2 tablespoons of NATURAL ground flax, chia, hemp or nut butter (not peanut). I used freshly ground almond butter.

4. 1-2 tablespoons of NATURAL ground flax, chia, hemp or nut butter (not peanut). I used freshly ground almond butter.

5. Add 1 teaspoon of a good quality probiotic. This one is from Guyer Institute and contains 600 billion healthy bacteria per serving.

5. Add 1/2 teaspoon of a good quality probiotic. This one is from Guyer Institute and contains 600 billion healthy bacteria per serving.

6. Add as much ice as you'd like and blend until smooth. Then pour and drink!

6. Add as much ice as you’d like and blend until smooth. Then pour and drink!

This shake tastes so nutty and fresh with the almond butter/milk, and coconut oil. I like a lot of ice so it’s super cold too because I think it’s even better that way. I don’t miss the sugar in this shake and I don’t think you will either. I drink it as a meal substitute and it’s very satisfying as such. It has only 405 CALORIES PER SHAKE TOO!! It also contains healthy fats from the almond butter and coconut oil, fiber from the almond butter, 17 grams of protein from the almond butter and protein powder, 180 mg protassium and 10% RDA for calcium from the almond milk, additional calcium, iron and vitamins from the Guyer Institute protein powder, and 600 billion friendly bacteria from the Guyer Institute Ecobiotics. Try this no sugar shake to help detoxify from all the sugar in your life, and try to avoid processed food as much as possible. Avoiding sugar and drinking this shake will help you live a life of vitality- with Valerie!

 

A healthy way to start your day? Oats of course!

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Warm, creamy, yummy- and good for you! :)

Oatmeal- warm, creamy, yummy- and good for you! 🙂

What is your typical breakfast like? Do you grab a quick bowl of cereal before running out the door? I used to eat cereal in the morning too. Here’s the thing though, that isn’t your healthiest option and here’s why. While it seems to be something good (and quick) to eat in the morning, cereal is loaded with fillers that add no nutrition, it’s processed which is never good, and has additives that can be harmful to your mood, behavior and biochemistry. And that is NO GOOD! Breakfast cereals can also contain numerous chemicals, gluten, casein, trans fat, sugar, artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup, and genetically modified flavor enhancing compounds. Yikes, none of that stuff is the kind of thing I want to put in my body!

So what do you eat when you want a HEALTHY START to your day, and you need it quickly too? Why, oats of course! Oatmeal or granola with oats is one of the best ways to start your day, and I will show you how to make it so that you can have a delicious, nutritious, and quick breakfast. My daughters are obsessed with this meal, and ate it twice while they were home for Thanksgiving. It’s easy, warm, comfort food that’s healthy- win win! Oats are low calorie, one cup of oatmeal cooked with water has about 166 calories, add 40 calories if you cook them with milk (like I do), and if you top with fruit add another 40 calories. Oatmeal provides about 4 grams of fiber per cup, which makes it filling and adds to the satiety of oatmeal. It’s considered a low-energy density food, which means that there are relatively few calories compared to the bulk of the food. In a 2010 study published in the “Journal of American Dietetic Association”, people who ate oats in the morning lost weight and enjoyed a greater decrease in their waist circumference measurement than those who ate the same number of calories in a low fiber food. So are you sold on the idea of eating oats in the morning? Good! Then stick with me and I’ll show you how it’s done!

Gluten free oats are a must for my family!

Gluten free oats are a must for my family!

First, things first, it’s all about the oats you choose. There are different kinds of oats on the market, whole oats that still have their hard outer hull, oat groats that have their outer hull removed, steel-cut oats, which are roughly cut groats with an intact bran, and rolled oats, which are steamed, flattened groats. The less processed oats are better for you (naturally) so make sure to avoid instant oatmeal which has added sodium, and oatmeal with flavors added because it’s usually not added naturally. Something I didn’t know until my daughter had a gluten allergy is that NOT all oats are gluten free so I have to make sure to purchase gluten free oats for Danielle. However, I also have steel cut oats at home, they just require a longer cooking time, and I can’t make them when Danzy is in da houz!

Cooking the oats on the stove!

Cooking the oats on the stove!

I usually cook the oats on the stove using milk as shown in the above pic, however, if you don’t have time to cook the oats in the morning here’s a tip for you. Cook the oats in a slow cooker the night before! Take one cup of steel cut oats, 1 1/2 cups milk or if you’re dairy free you can use almond milk, 1 1/2 cups water, 2 apples, peeled, cored, cut into 1/2 inch pieces, 2 tablespoons maple syrup, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 1/2 teaspoons of butter, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and FIRST SPRAY THE INSIDE OF THE SLOW COOKER WITH ORGANIC NONSTICK SPRAY (or the oatmeal will stick like glue), and add all the ingredients. Stir, cover, and cook on low for approximately 7 hours. But remember cook times can vary, so if you have a programmable slow cooker make sure to use the timer feature. You can put the ingredients in your slow cooker the night before and awaken to the amazing smell of oats and apples! Either way you cook them, the leftovers store well in the fridge and will even freeze well too.

Homemade applesauce mix in- it's amazing!

Homemade applesauce mix in- it’s amazing!

For me, the key to delicious oatmeal is the mix-ins ingredients with which I choose to flavor the oats. Pictured above is my favorite mix-in, my homemade applesauce. I shared the recipe in my previous post, “An Apple a Day- Makes Applesauce!”, and when added to oatmeal it tastes like healthy apple pie- scrumptious! Just add a few tablespoons of applesauce to your oatmeal (or more if you really like it, like I do) for great flavor with no sugar added.

Pecans- my favorite nut!

Pecans- my favorite nut!

My next favorite mix-in for my oatmeal is nuts, specifically pecans. Pecans are my favorite nuts and I add them to many of my recipes. I chop them and add a sprinkle to my oatmeal. The nuts add a nice crunch and additional fiber and protein too. Definitely a healthy add-in!

Love, love, love raisins!

Love, love, love raisins!

Another flavorful and healthy add-in is raisins. Organic raisins add natural sweetness, fiber and iron to the oatmeal. Plus I love when I put them in the oatmeal and the heat and moisture makes them plump up and get really juicy. So very good!

A great addition to oatmeal!

A great addition to oatmeal!

I love adding maple syrup to oatmeal instead of sugar. It adds a deep, rich flavor that I think tastes better than sugar and goes well with the cinnamon rich applesauce that I’ve already added to my oatmeal. As you can tell we like maple syrup so much that we used it all that morning!

It's a honey of a mix-in!

It’s a honey of a mix-in!

Honey is another great addition to oatmeal. It definitely adds a natural sweetness that substitutes for sugar and tastes light and sweet in the oatmeal. It is always my go-to natural sweetener as I discussed in my post, “A Honey of a Cure!”. Try it, you’ll like it!

I always add a pat of butter to my oatmeal for decadent richness!

I always add a pat of butter to my oatmeal for decadent richness!

Butter is another essential for my oatmeal. It adds a creaminess to it and in my opinion nothing else adds that same richness that butter does. And now that we know butter is good for us as I wrote in my past blog post, “Fat doesn’t make you Fat!”, I can eat my butter and be happy! It’s a yummy mix-in!

Spices like cinnamon and nutmeg add tons of flavor and are good for you too!

Spices like cinnamon and nutmeg add tons of flavor and are good for you too!

Don’t forget your spices! Cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, etc, can add substantial flavor to your oatmeal and are non-caloric. It’s like loads of flavor for zero calories! I always add cinnamon to my oatmeal (and many other things as well). It really gives it a warmth that makes it delicious.

So that’s how I make amazing oatmeal! I make it either on the stove or in the slow cooker, but it’s super both ways thus it really doesn’t matter how you cook it. Make sure you don’t use processed oatmeal with artificial flavors, and make your mix-ins healthy and flavorful without adding sugar if possible. Let me know what mix-ins you like to use. You’ve got it now? Ditch the cereal and eat oatmeal. It will help you to live a life of vitality- like Valerie!