My Oh My, Healthy Pie!

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Hi friends! Well, it’s almost Thanksgiving here, and in my third video blog I demonstrate how to make a super delish and healthy pie crust recipe that you have to try! There’s no flour, so it’s gluten free and low carb. In the video I show you how to make the crust, but I also am including my healthy pumpkin pie filling recipe that has NO SUGAR! Top it with some cinnamon whipped cream and you’ll have a wonderful Thanksgiving dessert that is easy to make! Here we go!

Gluten free, low carb pie crust

1 cup walnuts, ground

1 cup pecans, ground

4 tablespoons organic butter

2 teaspoons organic cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grind the walnuts and pecans in the food processor, and add the cinnamon. Melt the butter in the microwave, then add it to the food processor and pulse for a few more seconds until combined. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the crust is a golden brown.

Pumpkin Pie Filling

2 cans organic pumpkin purée

3 eggs

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup REAL maple syrup

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon each of ginger, cloves and nutmeg

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Whisk eggs together and then add the rest of the ingredients. Beat until combined and bake for 15 minutes at 425. Reduce temperature to 350 and bake for 45-60 minutes until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let sit until cooled. Garnish with cinnamon whipped cream and enjoy!! Happy Thanksgiving to all my wonderful readers!!

WATCH My Latest Recipes!

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Hi friends! It’s finally time to present my first video post on the blog. I’m so excited about this, and I hope you enjoy watching it. First, I want to give producing/directing credit to my baby, Danielle, and technical advising to my oldest, Jacqueline. I couldn’t do any of this without them. Next, I want to give a big thank you to all of my readers for your continued belief in me. I’ve included written versions of my recipes to make it easier when you’re making these delicious dishes.

Garlic Chicken

8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

5-10 sliced garlic cloves

Juice of 1 lemon

1/2 cup fresh, chopped parsley

1 teaspoon dried herbs

4 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Salt and pepper the chicken on both sides and place in a buttered baking dish. Sprinkle the garlic cloves and parsley on top of the chicken, and pour the olive oil and lemon juice on top. Bake the chicken for 30-40 minutes, until the chicken is golden brown. So simple and soooo good!

Mashed cauliflower

1 head of cauliflower

4 oz grated Parmesan cheese

4 oz butter

1/2 lemon, juice and zest

Cut the cauliflower into florets and boil them in plenty of salted water for a few minutes. Drain and discard the water. Then put them into a food processor or blender until mashed. Add salt and pepper to taste, and add more butter to the top if you want. They are BETTER than mashed potatoes and so much healthier for you as well!

That’s all there is to these recipes! They are delicious, healthy and SIMPLE. Eating food like this will help you live a life of vitality-with Valerie! ūüôā

Roast these for optimal nutrition!

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A cornucopia of tomatoes!

 

Hello friends! These are the “dog days” of summer, aren’t they? At least they are in Indiana. According to dictionary.com, dog days are “the sultry part of the summer, supposed to occur during the period that Sirius, the dog star, rises at the same time as the sun: now often reckoned from July 3 to August 11. A period marked by lethargy, inactivity, or indolence.” Well since most of the children are back in school, I’d say the inactivity part has passed, but the heat certainly causes me to feel a bit lethargic!

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However, I have no time for lethargy because my garden is producing in full abundance right now. It is certainly not lethargic either! I have more tomatoes, peppers and onions than I know what to do with, and I am very determined not to waste one thing that comes from my garden.

So, I’ve gotten creative at different ways to utilize all of my fruits and veggies, because there¬†are only so many sliced tomatoes you can eat before you get tired of them. I started thinking about making my own tomato sauce. However, I wanted to roast them because I thought it would add a depth of flavor that non-roasted tomato sauce would not have. I began to look around for recipes and combined a few to create my own version of roasted tomato sauce.

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But here is another benefit to roasting the tomatoes to make a sauce besides taste, they are MORE NUTRITIOUS than an unroasted tomato! I’m totally serious! I didn’t know that, I only knew I liked the taste better. When tomatoes are roasted or cooked in a sauce, it helps to break down the plant cell walls, allowing us to better absorb the antioxidant lycopene. This nutrient helps safeguard our cells from environmental damage, may protect us from certain cancers, and¬†is heart-friendly. Tomatoes do lose about 10% of their vitamin C from the cooking process, however the benefits of the increased absorption of lycopene far outweigh the loss of vitamin C. Some vegetables like peppers and broccoli are healthier when eaten raw, because cooking causes them to lose essential nutrients. This is not the case with tomatoes, as they are best for you when eaten roasted or cooked.

Now that you know how good roasted tomatoes are for you, I’m going to share my roasted tomato sauce recipe with you. It is SO AMAZING, if I do say so myself. I’m eating it right now over an Italian sausage with a piece of Colby Jack cheese melted on it. The sauce is creamy and it’s flavor can best be described as spunky! Please enjoy!

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My trusty sous chef, Danielle! ūüôā

 

Valerie’s Roasted Tomato Sauce

  • 30 tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 1/2 cup chopped onions
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons basil, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon oregano, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon rosemary, chopped
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

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Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Take the halved tomatoes, core them, remove the seeds, and place them on 2 large sheet pans halved side up.¬†Coring and¬†removing the seeds¬†is optional, and makes a more concentrated sauce. If you’re short on time, just halve the tomatoes and place them on¬†the sheet tray. Make sure you add a half hour more to the cooking time because the tomatoes with the seeds and cores will have A LOT more juice to them, and therefore will need to cook a half hour longer. I sprayed my trays with organic olive oil cooking spray so the tomatoes wouldn’t stick, which would aid in my clean up.

Next, get a big bowl and add the rest of the ingredients to it. Microwave the bowl for 2 minutes and pour the contents equally over the tomatoes. Use your hands to make sure the oil mixture gets all over the tomatoes.

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Bake the tomatoes for 2 hours (2 1/2 hours if you didn’t remove the seeds and cores). Rotate the pans halfway through the baking process. Then, turn the oven up to 400 degrees and roast them for another 30 minutes. They will turn kind of blackened but that is PERFECT. You won’t believe how wonderful your house will smell while you’re doing this.

Now you have two options, you can either use a food mill and pulverize the tomatoes that way, or use a blender or food processor to beat up the tomatoes. I started using my food mill, but I felt it was leaving too many tasty bits unused, so I switched to using my trusty Vitamix. What I did was pour all the tomatoes into my blender, and blend on medium for about 20 seconds. Then, I poured the blended tomatoes into a pot, and cooked the roasted tomato sauce until thickened, about 15 minutes. I tasted it, added a 1/2 cup of red wine, and another 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper.

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Here’s a cool thing, the trays will have all kinds of bits on them and you may think, “oh my goodness, clean-up will be a huge ordeal!” but fear not, dear readers, I have a great and easy clean-up method that adds to the flavor of the sauce too. Take a cup of water and microwave it for 2 minutes, pour it onto the sheet pan, and wait a minute. Then, take a spatula, scrape off the bits, and pour the water/tasty bits into the sauce. It definitely adds flavor and makes clean-up easier too! That’s a win-win, my friends!

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This sauce is so versatile, you can use it on pasta, to make Italian sausage sandwiches, as a sauce for steaks, or the way I used it the other night, over my healthy chicken Italiano. I took chicken thighs, salted and peppered them, and cooked them on the stove in a little EVOO. After they were cooked through, I added a piece of prosciutto and provolone cheese to the top and cooked for another minute until the cheese melted. Then, I poured the sauce over the top and served with fresh green beans- DELIZIOSO!

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You can also turn this sauce into a Mexican sauce by adding chili powder, cumin, and jalapenos, and use it on enchiladas or¬†in a taco sauce. Another variation is that you could add croutons, and turn¬†it into a tomato soup. This sauce is so amazing, the sky’s the limit with it. You should definitely make this sauce, and if you make something super cool with it, let me know! Remember, cooked or roasted tomatoes are healthier than uncooked tomatoes, and far more delicious too! Eating like this will help you live a life of vitality- with Valerie! ūüôā

Delish One Skillet Meal!

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Hello friends! Do I have a great one for you today?!! Why, yes I do! Danielle was home this past weekend and loves to cook, so we decided to make a recipe she had come across a while ago. It’s very enjoyable time for us to spend together, and a lovely meal comes out of it for all to¬†devour, so that’s a win-win for me. Here we go!

One Skillet Chicken with Lemon

  • 8 boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup cream
  • 1/4 cup green onions, chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons basil, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • lemon slices for garnish

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Preheat oven to 375 degrees and pound chicken out to 1/2 inch thick. Season both sides with salt and pepper. Heat EVOO in a large, oven proof skillet and brown chicken over medium high heat for 2-3 minutes per side.

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Transfer chicken to a separate plate and saute the onions for 3-4 minutes in the pan or until soft. Season with salt and pepper.

Add garlic and saute 1 minute. Then, pour in chicken broth, lemon juice and red pepper flakes.

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Reduce heat to medium and cook for 8-10 minutes stirring occasionally. Scrape up bits at bottom of the skillet. Those add lots of flavor.

Remove skillet from heat and whisk in cream. Return to low heat and cook for 30 seconds, then remove from heat.

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Return chicken to pan and cover in sauce.

Place skillet in oven and cook for 8-10 minutes or until chicken is cooked through completely.

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Remove from oven and top with lemon slices and basil. And that’s it!

I made a side dish of roasted sweet potatoes, onions, red peppers, and asparagus which teamed nicely with the chicken. The flavor of this chicken is incredible, and the cream gives it that slightly creamy flavor that just adds to the other ingredients in the dish.

The dish has approximately 300 calories and 22 grams of protein. I highly recommend cooking with your children if they’re enthusiastic about the idea because it’s so much fun. Plus it’s very rewarding for them to cook something for themselves and others to enjoy. Cooking a delicious and healthy dish with your children will allow you to live a life of vitality- with Valerie!

EVERYONE should know how to make this- and it’s so easy!¬†

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Hello friends! Well life is so busy lately getting settled in the new house and doing some minor renovations, mostly redecorating really. It’s fun to “feather the nest” of our forever home, but the process can be exhausting! 

This week we are having the interior of the house painted because it was really white inside, which is not my preference, so we are warming it up with a grey/beige palette. Everything is all over the place right now, it’s almost like when we first moved in. It’s going to look great though. I’ll share pictures when it’s completed.

 Anyway, before the painting started and I couldn’t use my kitchen I wanted to roast a whole chicken. I love to do this because it reminds me of Thanksgiving, even though it’s a chicken not a turkey. The house smells the same and it’s a lot quicker and easier to do! I believe that everyone should know how to roast a chicken because it’s an elegant dish to make for company or for a family dinner. If you want to impress a boyfriend or girlfriend, this is the meal to prepare because it looks like you spent hours on it and it’s really just so simple! I’m going to show you exactly what to do so keep on reading and I’ll prove it to you. 

Instead of my usual recipe form I’m going to walk you through this step by step so I’ll be right next to you throughout the journey. 

Here’s what you need to buy or gather- one chicken 5ish pounds, one onion, one lemon, 2 stalks of celery, 2 cloves of garlic, 4 medium potatoes, 2 stalks of fresh thyme or rosemary, one tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. For the gravy, 2 cups low sodium chicken broth and 1 tablespoon of rice flour. 

  
First you preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Prepare the chicken by rinsing and patting it dry with paper towels. 

  
Take the lemon, cut it in half, the two cloves of garlic whole, and the two sprigs of rosemary or thyme and stuff them into the cavity of the chicken, making sure to take the giblets out of it first. 

  
Cut up the potatoes, onion and celery and lay them in a baking pan. Put the stuffed chicken on top of the vegetables, and pour the olive oil on top of the chicken, and add salt and pepper to taste. 

  
Place the chicken in the 425 degree oven and bake for 1 1/2 hours. When it’s done, take it out of the oven and remove it and the vegetables from the pan and onto a serving platter. 

  
Pour the pan drippings into a pot on the stove and add the rice flour to it and stir until combined. 

  
Then add the chicken broth and cook the gravy over medium heat for about 10 minutes or until thickened and bubbly. 

  
That’s all you do! Just carve the chicken, pour some gravy over the meat and vegetables and eat all you want of this delicious meal! It’s healthy too because the chicken is full of lean protein, and the vegetables are full of fiber and both are chock full of vitamins! Oh, and because I used rice flour the gravy is GLUTEN FREE too- yay! Simple, elegant AND healthy! Can’t beat that! So that’s my recipe that EVERYONE should be able to make. Making and eating meals like this will help you live a life of vitality- with Valerie! 

A little bit of this, a little bit of that….

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So the song goes, but did you know that a bit of this and a bit of that can make a wonderful meal? Read on, my dear readers, and you will see. 

  
Here’s how it all started, a few days ago I made gluten free pasta with meat sauce. We ate all the sauce but you know how there always seems to be more noodles than sauce left? That’s how it is around here at least. So anyway, I put a bag of penne noodles in my fridge and figured I would use them for something later. Then, I made meatloaf the next day. Meatloaf is something you can only eat for a day or two and, ugh, you can’t even look at it anymore. However, it was really good and I didn’t want to waste it so I stuck that in the fridge with the noodles, and didn’t think about it until two days ago.  I didn’t feel like cooking a new meal, and I was once again pondering the noodles and meatloaf in my fridge.

  
I make an Italian style meatloaf, as I wrote about in my blog post, “It’s an American meal staple, but did you know it’s healthy?!”. So that was my inspiration as I thought, “meatloaf, pasta, baked ziti!” Well it wasn’t quite that quick, but I though about making some kind of baked pasta dish using the meatloaf as kind of a meatball, so I started looking around on the Internet for ideas. 

Oh I also didn’t tell you that I hadn’t been to the grocery store since I moved, actually I hadn’t been to the store since a few weeks before we moved because I was trying to have less food to move. Therefore I was limited to what I could make. I saw a lasagna recipe using meatloaf but since I didn’t have ricotta cheese I decided to turn it into a baked pasta dish. It is quick, easy and delicious, take a look!

  
Leftover Baked Pasta

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 14 ounce can chopped tomatoes 
  • 1 14 ounce can tomato pur√©e
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 one inch slices leftover meatloaf
  • 4 cups cooked pasta- any kind
  • 1 8 ounce bag of shredded mozzerella cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste

  
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat your EVOO in a pan on the stove and chop your onions and garlic. Add the onions and sauté until softened, then add the garlic and red pepper flakes for about a minute. Next, pour the tomatoes and tomato purée into the pan and let that warm up for a minute or two. Salt and pepper to taste.

  

Chop your meatloaf slices or pull them apart with your fingers and add them to the pan for about 3 minutes. Stir the pasta and 1/3 of the cheese in until they are combined with the sauce and meatloaf. Then, pour all of that into a baking pan. I sprayed the pan with a bit of organic olive oil cooking spray first though so the baked pasta wouldn’t stick. 

  

Add the rest of the cheese to the top and bake for 15 minutes or until slightly browned. If you’re so inclined, sprinkle Parmesan cheese on before serving. I made a salad, poured the wine and that was it! 

It really tasted yummy and it was pretty amazing that I made that out of leftovers. In addition, the ground beef has plenty of protein and iron, the tomatoes have lycopene and other antioxidants, and the cheese has calcium and other vitamins so you’re eating something that’s good for you too. 

  
So try it next time you’ve got meatloaf sitting around, I’m sure you like it. Eating meals like this will help you live a life of vitality- with Valerie! 

It’s an American meal staple, but did you know it’s healthy?!

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My Italian meatloaf is a family favorite!

My Italian meatloaf is a family favorite!

Hello my friends! I know all of you have this either in your refrigerator or freezer at home, or you’ve gone out and eaten it in the last week, but you didn’t know that what you’re eating is so HEALTHY. What I’m talking about is the humble, but¬†nutritious ground beef.¬† However, make sure the ground beef you choose is local, grass fed, and has no antibiotics or hormones. This will make it a GREAT choice for you and your family/friends. And let’s face it, ground beef is pretty inexpensive so I can purchase the grass fed type, which is a little more expensive than regular ground beef, and still not break the bank! Plus, I will give you my recipe for yummy, easy Italian meatloaf so you can put a delicious meal on the table. Come along with me now!

Here’s why ground beef is GOOD for you:

1. It’s loaded with nutrients and antioxidants, including zinc, vitamin B6, and alpha lipoic acid. These are responsible for creating antibodies and keeping blood sugar levels in check.

2. A 3 oz. serving of 95% lean ground beef has just 164 calories and 4.5 grams of fat, but offers up 24 grams of protein.

3. Ground beef is rich in iron, a multitasking mineral that boosts energy and keeps muscles working properly.

4. As¬†I’ve stated¬†in my past blog post, “fat doesn’t make you fat”, fat is important for maintaining the health of our bodies. Ground beef gets a bad rap¬†for being too high in fat and cholesterol, but fat is actually good for you, and cholesterol is necessary for our bodies to function properly.

5. Of course as with all types of¬†meat, make sure you choose GRASS FED beef that hasn’t been given antibiotics or hormones. I also recommend purchasing from a local farmer if at all possible so that you can see exactly how they manage their farm and animals. I purchase from Royer Farms, which is a farm in southern Indiana. They bring their offerings to my local farmers market which makes it super convenient for me. However, they also have an online store and will ship anywhere in the US. It’s the best beef, pork, chicken and lamb I’ve EVER HAD. I highly recommend them.

Yay for ground beef! So¬†now that you know ground beef is good for you, ¬†I would like to share one of my favorite recipes for Italian meatloaf. I make it all the time for my family and they never get tired of it. It’s delish and easy too as you’ll see, so here we go!

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Valerie’s Italian Meatloaf

  • 2 lbs grass fed ground beef
  • 1 large can pureed tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 2¬†teaspoons each minced garlic, red pepper flakes, Italian herbs, and salt
  • 3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
  • 2¬†teaspoons olive oil
  • ground pepper to taste
Ready for mixing- by hand is the ONLY way!

Ready for mixing- by hand is the ONLY way!

First, preheat the oven to 350 and prepare the meatloaf by combining the ground beef, breadcrumbs, egg, 1 tablespoon of the parmesan cheese, 1 teaspoon of the olive oil, minced garlic, red pepper flakes, Italian herbs and salt. Mix with your hands until combined and then form into a loaf. Don’t over work the meat or it will become tough and dry. Then, add pureed tomatoes, the rest of the minced garlic, red pepper flakes, Italian herbs and olive oil in a bowl and stir until combined. Pour over the meatloaf and add the rest of the parmesan cheese to the top.

Ready for baking!

Ready for baking!

Bake in a 350 oven for 50-60 minutes or until the ground beef is cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees. Let it rest for 5 minutes before serving and add extra parmesan cheese if it needs it. Bon Appetit!

That was my meal, seconds before it was consumed!

That was my meal, seconds before it was consumed!

That’s my wisdom for the day- ground beef is healthy and can be used in SO many different dishes so experiment and be creative. I hope you try my Italian meatloaf and that you enjoy it. Let me know if you do. Eating my Italian meatloaf will help you live a long and healthy life of vitality- with Valerie!

Four Reasons I’m Zealous about Zucchini!

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Gorgeous, grilled zucchini!

Gorgeous, grilled zucchini!

My new love these days is zucchini. It’s a vegetable I haven’t been all that excited about in the past, but lately it’s been calling my name! I’ve been cooking with it and trying new recipes for my family. Now we are all loving zucchini. My favorite new zucchini dish that I’m sharing with you today is a recipe for lasagna made with zucchini instead of pasta noodles. The advantage is that with the zucchini replacing pasta, there are¬†much fewer carbs in this dish. Remember that carbs turn into sugar in your body and cause weight gain and other illnesses like cancer, heart disease and a whole host of other awful things. Also, replacing the super carby pasta with a cool vegetable like zucchini means gaining lots of nutritional advantages which I will highlight for you next. Last, I will share my zucchini lasagna recipe with you.

1. NutritionРZucchini and all summer squash is 95% water, which is naturally low in calories (33 for a medium zucchini), a gram of protein and less than a gram of fat. It has 6 grams of carbohydrates but two of them are fiber, this makes it a low glycemic food which will not spike blood sugar, but will instead provide a steady source of glucose to your system.

2. Vitamins– Zucchini is a great source of two antioxidant vitamins which help boost immunity and supports healthy aging, 35 milligrams of vitamin C (between 39-46% RDA for adults) and 392 IU of vitamin A (13-27%).

3. Potassium– One of the main electrolytes in your body needed in proper balance (2 to 1) with sodium . The typical American diet tends to be very high in sodium which throws the balance off and leads to high blood pressure. A medium zucchini has 512 mg of potassium, or 11% of your daily needs.

4. Very versatile vegetable– Raw zucchini gives an extra crunch to salads, It can be cut into strips or rounds for dipping in hummus. It’s great in stir fries and soups. Also, who doesn’t love zucchini bread or muffins? I definitely do! In about a month, they¬†will be¬†abundant in backyard gardens, so you’ll have plenty of this veggie to work with soon.

Delicious, nutritious zucchini lasagna!

Delicious, nutritious zucchini lasagna!

Zucchini Lasagna

  • 1 LB ground beef
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped
  • 3 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tbs chopped fresh basil
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 medium zucchini
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 large egg
  • 4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
Slice and salt your zucchini first!

Slice and salt your zucchini first!

The first thing you want to do is thinly slice your zucchini lengthwise with a mandolin. If you don’t have a mandolin (I don’t) slice it as best as you can. Lightly salt the zucchini and set aside for 15 minutes to get as much of the water out of it as you can. Then blot with paper towels.

Brown your ground beef!

Brown your ground beef!

In a large pot, sauté the onions and garlic in the olive oil, and then add the ground beef and brown. Add the tomatoes, basil, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and pepper to taste. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally for 25 minutes.

Gotta grate the cheese, please!

Gotta grate the cheese, please!

In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, Parmesan, mozzarella and egg.

Grill the zucchini and start the layering of the lasagna!

Grill the zucchini and start the layering of the lasagna!

Now, preheat the oven to 375 degrees, spray your baking dish with nonstick cooking spray, grill the zucchini for 2 minutes each side to make it less soft, and start layering the lasagna. Spread 1/3 of the meat sauce, 1/3 of the zucchini, and 1/3 of the cheese mixture. Then, 1/3 zucchini, 1/3 cheese, 1/3 meat sauce and repeat one more time until the pan is full. Cover with foil.

Ready for the oven!

Ready for the oven!

Bake for 30 minutes, then remove the foil, and bake 20 more minutes uncovered. Add some more grated parmesan to the top and bake for 10 more minutes. Let stand 5-10 minutes and serve.

Beautiful piece of lasagna!

Beautiful piece of lasagna!

Ladies and gentlemen, let me tell you that it was DELICIOUS! in fact, my family ate it in 1 sitting! They kept going back at it like savages until it was gone. According to my calculations one slice is 300 calories, compared to 400 calories for a slice of regular lasagna. And the health benefits are by far greater than the caloric savings as I mentioned above. It’s a win-win, my friends! Try it and let me know how you like it! Eating foods like this will help you live a life of vitality-¬†with Valerie!

No Sugar, No Gluten- Nothing but Happiness!

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No sugar, gluten free amazingly easy and yummy banana nut muffins! P.S. It's already been consumed as I write this!

No sugar, gluten free amazingly easy and yummy banana nut muffin slathered with sweet, creamy butter! P.S. It’s already been consumed as I write this!

Hello my friends! How have you been lately? As for me, it seems my girls have been home more often these days, and in two weeks they’ll be home for the summer which will make me the happiest Mom on the planet! There’s nothing I like better than to have my chickadees back in the nest. I also love to cook for them when they’re home, and they beg for me to cook as often as I can because they’re homemade meal deprived college students.

They are desperately grateful for anything I make them to eat, but we are especially happy sitting in our pajamas eating breakfast and sipping our coffee/tea together. I would have to say that breakfast is my favorite meal to make, no matter what it is I’m cooking. I guess because I have the best memories of my mom making pancakes and bacon on the weekends, and my dad making waffles, eggs, and bacon.

If you’ve read my blog in the past you know that I have pretty much cut sugar completely out of my diet because sugar is a toxic poison to the body, and since my youngest has a gluten allergy and the rest of us seem to do better without it too, I don’t use gluten in my cooking either. That makes sweet breakfast foods particularly challenging. I mean, I do lots of eggs, bacon and sausage which covers the protein end of the breakfast, but sometimes in the morning you just want a muffin, doughnut, waffle or pancake, ya know?!

I ran across a really cool recipe for a gluten free, no sugar muffin that sounded intriguing because it contained no flour or any weird ingredients. Sometimes with gluten free baking the recipes call for obscure flours or strange ingredients like xanthan gum. Who has that sitting around in their pantry? Not me for sure. Plus, I’m not much into baking so another reason I really like the recipe is that it was simple and I had all the ingredients. So I decided to give it a try and my family LOVED them! You can’t tell they are gluten free or sugar free, and I’m not even sure how they are actually muffins since they contain no flour, but they’re so good! I made some adjustments that work better for my family, and I think they’re easy and delicious so I’d like to share them with you now.

Here are the ingredients!

Here are the ingredients!

Easy Peasy Banana Nut “muffins”

  • 1/2¬†cup all natural almond butter
  • 1 large ripe banana
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup organic honey
  • 1/2 cup gluten free oats
  • 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 medium apple, peeled, cored and chopped
  • 1/3 cup walnuts or pecans
Sprayed- got it!

Sprayed- got it!

Preheat oven to 375 and spray a muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray.

Throw everything in there!

Throw everything in there!

Add all ingredients to a high speed blender and blend it up until batter is smooth and creamy. I had to use the tool that came with my blender to tamp all the ingredients down by opening the clear plastic part in the center of the blender lid and smushing everything down until it blended.

Now just pop them into the oven and wait to smell the amazing aromas that will begin to emanate!

Now just pop them into the oven and wait to smell the amazing aromas that will begin to emanate!

Pour the batter into the muffin tins to about 3/4 full and bake for about 15 minutes or until the tines of a fork when inserted into the muffins come out clean.

Makes 9 muffins but they don't last long at my house!

Makes 9 muffins but they don’t last long at my house!

The muffins are loaded with fiber from the oats, flaxseed, apple, banana, nuts and nut butter. They also have protein from the nuts, flaxseed,¬†and nut butter, and tons of vitamins and antioxidants from the fruit. As far as I can calculate they have approximately 120 calories per muffin. That’s a great bang for my caloric buck!

When I’m serving these muffins or any other sweet baked good for breakfast I always make sure I serve plenty of protein with it. Usually I will make scrambled eggs and bacon with these muffins. If I’m making pancakes or waffles I make fried eggs and bacon or sausage (because I like to break my fried egg yolk all over my pancakes and waffles, and eat them all together). Protein is key to give you energy for your busy day!

Anyway, there you go my friends! I hope you try them and if you do I know you’ll like them! They’ll help you live a life of vitality- like Valerie!

Want To Feel Like a Spring Chicken?!

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Last sunset on our vacation!

Last sunset on our vacation!

Hello friends! It’s been a while, hasn’t it? I took a brief hiatus in order to go on vacation with my family, and I feel rested, renewed, rejuvenated, and ready to share more healthy living tips with you, my wonderful readers!

I love a beautiful, juicy baked chicken. One of my favorite foods on this earth!

I love a beautiful, juicy baked chicken. One of my favorite foods on this earth!

Today’s tip, besides to go on vacation to feel more rested renewed and rejuvenated, is to eat more chicken this spring. Chicken is one of the best non-vegetarian sources of protein out there, one chicken thigh contains 17 grams of the good stuff, which really helps build muscles. Chicken is also rich in phosphorus and calcium which helps our bones to stay strong, and selenium too which is thought to reduce the risk of arthritis. It contains magnesium which help soothe PMS symptoms (yay for us ladies!), is rich in zinc which regulates testosterone levels (yay for you men too), and is full of vitamin B6 which plays an important role in preventing heart attacks.

Chicken THIGHS are the way to go, my friends. Believe me!

Chicken THIGHS are the way to go, my friends. Believe me!

I always use chicken thighs in my cooking because I feel they are more flavorful than chicken breasts, and despite getting a bad rap for being less healthy than chicken breasts, are now thought to be healthier for us than breasts. Chicken breasts are lower in fat than thighs, which is why they were previously thought to be healthier. However as you can read in one of my past blog posts, “Fat doesn’t make you fat”, fat is not what causes us to gain weight, carbs cause that. Therefore, fattier thighs will¬†help you feel more full and SATISFIED. Satiety is one of the keys to weight loss or weight maintenance. Personally, when I eat a chicken breast, I am so turned off by the lack of flavor and fat that I can hardly eat it.¬†¬†However if that is what you like I’m not going to tell you not to eat it, so eat whatever floats your boat, so to speak. If you do cook with chicken breasts instead of thighs, please cook them with skin and bones on to maintain what little flavor they have. The WORST thing possible¬† in my humble opinion¬†is a boneless, skinless chicken breast- absolutely no flavor or fat at all.

With that being said, I want to share a recipe for a really yummy chicken dish I made right before I left on vacation. It is easy and quick too, and I hope you’ll enjoy it!

 

All the ingredients combined and baking in the oven!

All the ingredients combined and baking in the oven!

Baked Chicken Thighs with Thin Potato Slices

Chicken:

  • 2 LB chicken thighs
  • 1 TSP salt
  • 1 TSP extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 large Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and THINLY sliced (1/8 inch or less)
  • 1 cup sliced onions
  • 1 TSP minced garlic

Vinaigrette:

  • 2 TBS red wine vinegar
  • 1 TBS extra virgin olive oil
  • 1-2 TSP Dijon mustard
  • 1 TSP dried herbs de province (thyme, tarragon, rosemary)
  • 1/2 TSP salt
  • 1/2 TSP ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375, sprinkle chicken thighs with a thick salt like kosher or sea salt. Then, make the vinaigrette by whisking all the ingredients together.

Spread a teaspoon of EVOO in the bottom of a large (9×13) casserole pan. Then cover that with the thinly sliced potatoes. Sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Put the onions over the potatoes, then place the chicken thighs, skin side up if you’re using the ones with skin, on top of the onions. Sprinkle the minced garlic over the chicken, pour the whisked vinaigrette over the top of the chicken, and spread it around a little to make sure all pieces are well coated.

After it comes out of the oven all bubbly and delicious! The smell in the kitchen is to die for!

After it comes out of the oven all bubbly and delicious! The smell in the kitchen is to die for!

Bake uncovered in a 375 degree oven for 50 minutes for bone in skin on thighs, about 30 minutes for boneless skinless thighs. Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes before serving to allow the vinaigrette to thicken.

Sorry, I was already digging in before I remembered to take the picture, it was just that good! :)

Sorry, I was already digging in before I remembered to take the picture, it was just that good! ūüôā

And that’s it people! My family said it’s one of the best chicken dishes I’ve ever made and I don’t disagree with them. Plus it was easy to make and clean up too. Try it and let me know if you like it! It will help you live a life of vitality- like Valerie!