Eating Healthy Starts with This! Part One

Standard
My kind of messy, but well stocked pantry!

My kind of messy, but well stocked pantry!

Hello friends! We all want to eat healthy, don’t we? At least most of the time, that is. 🙂 Here is one of my most important healthy secrets that I’m going to share with you right now, because I’m that kind of a nice person! Eating healthy starts with having the proper ingredients readily available. That means having a healthy pantry and fridge/freezer. If you don’t have the right kinds of things to eat in your pantry and fridge/freezer, you will never be able to eat healthy, at least at home that is.

If I've got the pantry door open, Chewie is in there checking it all out!

If I’ve got the pantry door open, Chewie is in there checking it all out!

And we all know it’s easier to eat healthy at home versus a restaurant, and it’s cheaper too. So, I’m here to guide you to stock the right things in your pantry and fridge/freezer to live a super healthy life. Today, we will talk about the pantry, and in part 2 we will talk about the fridge/freezer. I’m including pictures of my pantry, but please don’t judge me for the messiness, just the quality of ingredients in there! 🙂 As always, all items are organic if possible.

Pantry7

1. Nut butters/Coconut Oil– I have cashew, peanut, and almond butters in my pantry, along with a few different types of coconut butters and oils. These are super crucial for my family both to make a quick snack- nut butter on an apple or banana is a family fave, and to make my super healthy protein shake (see my previous post, “SHAKE your way to a life without sugar”). Both nut butter and coconut butter/oil are essential.

Pantry9

Pantry10

2. Beans, tomato products, and sauce basics– Probably the most utilized area in my pantry is my middle shelf which contains numerous types of beans (red kidney, white kidney, garbanzo, black, and pinto) and canned tomatoes (crushed, pureed, chopped, and whole tomatoes). Almost every recipe I make contains either beans or tomatoes, or both, so having different options for both beans and tomatoes adds variety to my recipes. I have many different sauce basics too, like chicken broth, verde sauce, Better than Bouillon, Barbeque sauce, Annatto paste (used in Mexican cooking) and red pepper paste (for Korean recipes). I make many tasty dishes with these pantry staples.

Pantry13

3. Potatoes, dried herbs, and onions– I usually have a few different types of potatoes, red, Yukon gold, fingerling, and Idaho among others. There are always onions in my pantry because almost every recipe I make contains them. I also have oregano, basil, and rosemary that I dried myself (see my previous post for more information, “Herbaceous, Wonderous Herbs! DRY THEM YOU’LL LIKE THEM!”), which makes for much more tasty dishes.

Pantry12

4. Oils, vinegars, and salsas– I have canola and extra virgin olive oil, balsamic, white, red wine, and white wine vinegars, and my favorite Herdez medium salsa. I use EVOO in most of my cooking, and I love experimenting with vinegars to make my own salad dressings. I also love salsa to make tacos, breakfast scrambles, and just to dip tortilla chips into.

Pantry8

Pantry16

5. Quinoa, rice, and pastas– Many of my recipes contain quinoa so I usually have a few different kinds in my pantry. I love brown rice and it’s super healthy too so I always have that. I also make risotto so I have Arborio rice for making that dish. Because I have a gluten allergy in the house I always have gluten free pasta, but there are a few different types of pasta my significant other uses to make his famous pasta and filet mignon dish (I’ll see if he will let me share the recipe in a future post!).

Pantry6

6. Nuts, crackers and tortilla chips– My family is NUTS about nuts so I usually have a few different types for a quick and healthy snack. I usually have a few types of crackers though we really don’t eat them very often. I bought this new type that was made with cheese only, no flour at all, which was tasty so maybe we will switch to those, since I don’t like to have too many types of non-whole grain carbs in the house. I always have a few types of tortilla chips in the house to make nachos with, or just to dip since they’re gluten free. My favorite type is a brand called The Better Chip and they’re beet tortilla chips. It’s a blend of beets and corn, and they’re delish! Even people who don’t like beets like these chips.

Pantry11

7. Baking ingredients– I stock many types of flours, almond, oat, rice, and wheat for baking. I also have your basic baking powder and soda, chocolate chips, chopped walnuts and pecans, brown and white sugar, honey, agave nectar, and coconut flakes. I don’t bake very often but we make pancakes and bake every once in a while so I like to have everything at hand just in case.

My chocolate stash- yummm!!!

My chocolate stash- yummm!!!

8. Chocolate of course– We have many types of chocolate bars and chocolate items for a SMALL treat- always dark chocolate though. Dark chocolate is VERY healthy in small amounts (see my post, “Dark Chocolate- A HEALTHY indulgence” for my information.) so I like to have that available when we need our chocolate fix. It’s essential to my life!

My spice rack- I love it!

My spice rack- I love it!

I keep my spices in a pull out cabinet next to the stove and though they’re not in a pantry, I can’t live without them so they deserve a mention. My essential spices are Himalayan sea salt, peppercorns, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, Italian seasoning, Herbs de Province, chili powder and cumin, among MANY others. I use them constantly and the great thing about spices is that they really SPICE UP your meals (LOL!). If you’ve read any of my past posts in which I provide a recipe, these spices are almost always in them.  I also love cinnamon, nutmeg and pure vanilla for sweet recipes.

I found him on the shelf one day and thought it was adorable so I am including it. I don't recommend stocking him in the pantry, though!

I found him on the shelf one day and thought it was adorable so I am including it. I don’t recommend stocking him in the pantry, though! 🙂

These are the basics for a well stocked pantry, which will provide you with the ability to make many healthy meals for you and your family and friends. Please excuse my less than perfect organization and neatness, that’s not one of my strengths! Keeping healthy meal essentials close at hand is crucial to making healthy meals quickly and easily, and that is one of my strengths! 🙂  Eating healthy meals and snacks will help you live a life of vitality- like Valerie!

Spring Into Weight Loss- Low/No Carb Of Course!

Standard
Low/No carb cornucopia!

Low/No carb cornucopia!

Well friends, spring is coming to the Midwest, I can feel it now and it feels SO GOOD! The snow is melting, the air is warming, and the sun is finally shining- to which I have to say, thank goodness! Along with this feeling of utter joy that the weather is so much nicer, I am also feeling the need for spring house cleaning. No, not in my actual house, but in my life. I realize that as the winter seemed to drag on forever, my eating habits got as heavy as my mood and I was eating more pastas, breads, and potatoes. Right after Valentine’s day I got on the scale and much to my dismay I had gained 5 pounds since early December. That happens a lot easier now as I grow older!

So I decided to follow my own advice and do some spring cleaning to my diet. Conveniently for me I gave up all sweets and snack foods for Lent so those things were the first to go. I’m not much of a sweets eater however I do love my dark chocolate so I’m really missing that right now. I also don’t eat a lot of snack foods but occasionally I really enjoy chips and other salty foods. So that was a first step but I still wasn’t seeing much improvement- probably because I don’t eat too much of those kinds of foods anyway. I decided to practice what I preach and take the next step toward “decluttering” my body by cutting WAY back on carbs.

Hummus and vegetables is a great low carb snack!

Hummus and vegetables is a great low carb snack!

If you refer back to one of my past blog posts, “Fat Doesn’t Make You Fat”, you will see that contrary to popular opinion fatty foods like butter and bacon do not make you gain weight. It’s difficult even to overeat those foods because they are SO rich they will make you feel sick if you eat too much of them. What does cause major weight gain and belly fat is carbohydrates. Did you read that? It’s so important I’m going to repeat it: WHAT DOES CAUSE MAJOR WEIGHT GAIN AND BELLY FAT IS CARBOHYDRATES. Period. End of story.

It’s so hard for people to grasp though. They think, “Well I eat only 1600 calories every day and I should be able to lose weight, but I can’t.” What they don’t realize is that a calorie is not a calorie is not a calorie. In other words, all calories are not created the same. As I explained in my past blog post, the reason that carbs make you fat is that they overload the liver and then the liver turns the carbs/sugar into fat. Now you might say, “wait, I don’t eat sugar so I’ll be fine.” That’s untrue because carbs like potatoes, pasta, bread, muffins, etc etc etc, turn to sugar in your body, and then that sugar overloads the liver and turns to fat. Specifically it turns to belly fat, especially if you’re over 40. You don’t even need to eat many carbohydrates to overload your liver. Any small amount will cause this to happen. That’s why you get that ANNOYING muffin top that laps over the top of your pants, it’s because of carbs. Don’t forget too, that sugar hides in processed food so even if you’re cutting out sugar and carbs, you could still be gaining weight if you’re eating a ton of food that comes out of a box.

And by no sugar I mean all things that you eat that turn to sugar in your body!

And by no sugar I mean all things that you eat that turn to sugar in your body!

So, I went back to basics, no bread, pasta, or tortilla chips (my personal favorites), and VERY limited amounts of potatoes (obviously no French fries or mashed potatoes), brown rice and quinoa. I would only have ONE SERVING A DAY of the carbs on my very limited list. Here’s the deal, my friends, I lost that 5 pounds that I had gained over the past few months in three weeks! I also lost my muffin top in the process and found my abs!

I thought I would give you a sample of a day of eating for me, so you can see how to do this low/no carb thing, and then I will share a recipe for a delicious low carb chicken stew that you will love! Now obviously the amount of calories each person needs to consume in order to lose weight will vary from person to person, depending on your weight and how much you want to lose. With my size, I needed to eat approximately 1400 calories per day to lose weight. In my past post, “My Fitness Pal is my favorite Fitness Pal” I discussed my use of the app as a way to journal the foods I eat in order to better control my eating. In my post I relayed the information that journaling is known to be one of the most effective ways to lose weight and maintain that loss over the long haul. So I can look back at what I’m eating to see where I need to improve.

This is what the diary looks like on My Fitness Pal!

This is what the diary looks like on My Fitness Pal!

For instance, on Tuesday of this week I started the day with my typical cup of coffee with coconut creamer and cinnamon. For lunch I had chicken salad with mayonnaise, celery and onion on lettuce and a half cup of steamed cauliflower, broccoli and carrots with a teaspoon of butter. For dinner I had a slice of meatloaf, made with no breadcrumbs, 2 glasses of Pinot Grigio (it’s a must), a salad with cucumbers, tomatoes and a homemade vinaigrette, and caprese tomatoes made with extra virgin olive oil, slices of mozzarella, and basil. That day I consumed 1503 calories but burned 201 calories with exercise, so I had 258 calories remaining. I left those calories on the table, so to speak. My Fitness Pal app tells me that I consumed 53% of my calories from fat, 29% from protein, and 18% from carbohydrates. That’s a really good nutritional breakdown for a day of eating, especially if weight loss is the goal.

The best part is that because I’ve pretty much replaced the carbs with vegetables I find that I feel more full after I eat, because vegetables are full of fiber and fiber fills you up. Plus vegetables are also full of vitamins and antioxidants so I’m getting a big bang for my nutritional buck! That’s a win-win!

With that in mind, I made a chicken stoup (Rachel Ray term for a dish that’s somewhere between a stew and a soup) that I really like. It’s low carb and full of flavor. I had it for lunch yesterday and it was so delicious and satisfying. I think you’ll really like it and I’d love to share it with you now.

 

Chicken “Stoup

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 carrot, peeled, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 14 oz can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 14 oz can chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 2 chicken leg quarters (about 1 1/2 lbs total)
  • 1 15 oz can organic kidney beans, drained
Veggies, chicken broth and chicken into the pot!

Veggies, chicken broth and chicken into the pot!

First, heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat and add the celery, onion and carrot. Saute the vegetables until the onion is transluscent. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the tomatoes with their juices, chicken broth, basil, tomato paste, bay leaf and thyme. Add the chicken leg quarters and press to submerge them into the broth.

Getting all warm and bubbly in the pot! The smell is to die for!

Getting all warm and bubbly in the pot! The smell is to die for!

Next, bring the cooking liquid to simmer, then reduce the heat to medium low and simmer gently uncovered until the chicken is almost cooked through, turning the chicken over and stirring the mixture occasionally, about 25 minutes. Using tongs, transfer the chickien to a plate and let it cool for a few minutes. Discard the bay leaf from the broth. Add the kidney beans to the pot and simmer until the liquid has reduced into a stew consistency, about 10 minutes.

Chicken out of the pot and ready to be de-boned and skinned!

Chicken out of the pot and ready to be de-boned and skinned! I was pulling the meat from the chicken bones when I got called to the door. When I returned most of the chicken had disappeared, including the bones and skin, and there were two very guilty looking but satisfied dogs sitting nearby. Luckily, they left me enough to finish the stoup with!

Discard the skin and bones from the chicken. Shred or cut the chicken into bite sized pieces and return the chicken meat to the stoup. Bring it back to a simmer, hit it with a little salt and pepper, and you’re ready to serve it.

My delicious chicken stoup ready to eat and it is DELISH!

My delicious chicken stoup ready to eat and it is DELISH!

Well that’s it for today, my friends. I’m here to tell you it really does work for sure to cut out most of the carbs you eat. You will not miss them and you also won’t miss the pounds you lose as well. Message me if you have any questions about your own diet that you’d like me to help with. Eating like this is so much better for your body and will help you live a life of vitality- with Valerie!

 

 

Super Healthy Superbowl Sunday? It’s Super Easy!

Standard
Ready for the Superbowl?!!

Ready for the Superbowl?!!

Ok, here’s the deal, did you know that Superbowl Sunday is the NUMBER ONE EATING DAY OF THE YEAR? Yes, that’s right! More food is eaten on this upcoming Sunday than any other day of the year! Even Thanksgiving is a distant second to Superbowl Sunday in terms of calories. And get this, OVER 6,000 CALORIES ARE CONSUMED!!! When I read that statistic I was stunned. I also read that the week before Superbowl Sunday is also at the top of the list in terms of calories. I guess anticipating the gorge fest brings on early pre-gorge fests.

The typical gathering!

The typical gathering!

I read this morning that the most popular food item served at Superbowl parties is vegetables! What?!!  I guarantee you that people aren’t eating 6,000 calories of veggies on Sunday! Though, vegetables are the most popular food item, we finally get to the root of the problem when you hear the most consumed food items on this day, which are chicken wings and pizza. According to Fox Sports, Pizza Hut will deliver 2 MILLION PIZZAS with 1,700 orders per minute occurring shortly before kickoff. One slice of pepperoni and sausage pizza is 350 calories and three chicken wings are approximately 255 calories so you can see how this meal is problematic calorically. That’s before the beer or margaritas are consumed, and the chips, dips, and desserts too! Can you see now how you can easily get to 6,000 calories with a four hour plus game?!!

So you see the concern that I have, don’t you? And you should be concerned too! With all of this in mind I began to think about my wonderful readers and how I could advise you to make good choices on Sunday (and every day, of course!). The first scenario is the easiest one, which is if you are the one hosting the Superbowl party. Then you can control the menu and preparations. You can also control what your guests bring, that is if they call to ask you.

The second scenario is more difficult- if you are someone else’s party guest. Then, you have MUCH less control over what is served and your choices will be more limited to what is available. However, I have a solution for you that I hope you’ll like (and it’s not to starve yourself by the way, I’d never say that!). The solution is CHILI!! Specifically, you call host of said party and ask him/her if you can bring something to contribute to the party and when he/she says yes then you offer to bring a pot of chili. It won’t be turned down because EVERYBODY loves chili! This is how you will eat safely and healthily on Sunday.

My yummy (and healthy chili)!

My yummy (and healthy chili)!

Why is chili such a good solution you ask? Well I’ll tell you, it’s because chili is healthy and filling! The beans and meat provide a nice serving of protein, the tomatoes and tomato sauce a great serving of vegetables, and the beans give you a nice punch of fiber which fills you up and helps you stay full. Calorie wise you’re better off with chili too because one serving (one cup) is only 259 calories and you will feel FULL after you eat it. If you have a cup of chili, one (only one!) beer, a handful of tortilla chips and guacamole you will only have consumed about 600 calories. That’s a FAR CRY FROM 6,000!! Plus all of the nutrition you will have gained from this meal is light years away from the nutritional wasteland of greasy pizza and fried chicken wings!

The best salad I've ever made- REALLY!

The best salad I’ve ever made- REALLY!

I’m going to share my recipe for chili, which I think is simple and fabulous. I’m also including the MOST DELICIOUS SALAD RECIPE EVER which I just made up the other night when I was in the mood for something different. I served the salad with my chili and I think the Mexican flavors in the salad really complemented the similar flavors in the chili. Bring the salad and the chili to the gathering and you will make some friends I promise you! If it’s your own gathering make my salad and chili, add some salsa, guacamole and tortilla chips and you’ve got a HEALTHY, DELICIOUS PARTAY!

My yummy chili con carne

  • 2 lbs ground beef
  • 1 large can (28 oz) pureed tomatoes
  • 1 large can diced tomatoes
  • 1 onion diced
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 big cans (28 oz) kidney beans
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

First, sautĂ© onions and minced garlic in a dash of extra virgin olive oil, then after about 3 minutes, add the ground beef and cook until no longer pink. Next add all the rest of the ingredients and either put that into a crockpot and cook on low for 6 hours, or leave it on the stove on low heat, stirring frequently until thick and bubbly. You may need to add more spices as it cooks so taste it every once in a while. And that’s all there is to it! Done!

Chili and Mexican salad- what could be better?!

Chili and Mexican salad- what could be better?!

The most delicious salad ever

  • 1 bag of organic lettuce greens of your choice
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, deseeded and with insides removed, chopped
  • 1 stalk of green onion chopped
  • 1 medium tomato chopped
  • 1 handful of fresh cilantro leaves, rough chopped
  • 1/2 avocado chopped
  • 1 lime
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Take the first 6 ingredients and add them to a large bowl. Then in a smaller bowl take the next four ingredients and make the vinaigrette by squeezing one lime into the bowl and then whisking in the olive oil until the two ingredients are combined. Then add the salt and pepper, stir, add the vinaigrette to the salad and toss. This one’s done too! The creaminess of the avocado makes the salad so rich and the jalapenos, since they’ve been deseeded and the insides removed, are no longer really spicy, just fruity and flavorful. The cilantro adds that delicious freshness too. And the lime makes the vinaigrette really pop with flavor! It’s just really good!

And that’s how you avoid consuming 6,000 calories on Sunday, my friends! If you make a pot of chili and a delicious salad you will feel satisfied and know you’ve eaten something really good for your body. I know you can do it! Enjoy yourself in moderation and you’ll be living a life of vitality- with Valerie! 🙂

 

Italian Chili? You Betcha!

Standard
Can you make an Italian chili? I think you can!

Can you make an Italian chili? I think you can!

Hi Friends! Well, it’s still officially cold outside. I was hoping it would go away after a few days (every year I think this even though I’ve lived here all my life!), but it’s still hanging around. When it’s cold like it is here in the Midwest, I mainly want to eat warm, comforting food. I served this dish to my family the other night and my Honey asked me where I got the recipe. I told him that I sort of combined a couple of recipes and used what I had available to make up something new. He was amazed, pleasantly of course, so I’m really glad it was a successful experiment. It was easy too so I’m excited to share it with you today. I call it Italian chili because it has the beans, ground beef, and vegetables like a chili, but the taste is more like a thick minestrone. It’s flavorful and healthy too!

Here are your ingredients!

Here are your ingredients!

Italian “Chili”

1. Ingredients, 1 chopped onion, 1 tablespoon minced garlic, 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), 2 lbs grass fed ground beef, 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes, 1/4 cup red wine, 1 can white or red kidney beans, 1/2 package organic mixed vegetables, 1/2 cup gluten free elbow noodles, 1 cup water, 1 teaspoon each dried oregano, basil, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.

Garlic and onions in olive oil smells soooo good!

Garlic and onions in olive oil smells soooo good!

2. Sweat the onions- First add your EVOO and warm it up a little, then add the onions and garlic and cook them over medium heat until the onions are soft- about 5 minutes.

Where's the beef? In the pan of course! :)

Where’s the beef? In the pan of course! 🙂

3. Brown the beef- Add the beef into the pan and sauté until browned. This should take about 10 minutes.

Throw the rest of the ingredients into the pot and that's it!

Throw the rest of the ingredients into the pot and that’s it!

4. Now here’s the fun part- This is the best step in the process, you just put all the rest of the ingredients into the pot, the frozen veggies, wine, crushed tomatoes, beans, water, pasta, and spices, clap the lid onto it, reduce the heat to simmer, and let it go! Just stir once every 10 minutes so the ingredients don’t stick to the bottom. After 20 minutes the pasta should be soft enough that you can serve it, but if you’re not going to eat until later you can leave it on simmer and it could sit on the stove for an hour or so. Just remember to stir every 10 minutes or most of your ingredients will be stuck to the bottom of the pot.

Voila! The finished product!

Voila! The finished product!

And that’s it! It’s a super easy recipe and it’s delicious too! With the beans, tomatoes and all the veggies it’s really healthy so you can feel good about what you’re eating. As always, buy organic ingredients whenever you can so that you can ensure you’re putting the best food possible on the table for you and your crew. This recipe makes plenty for a family of four with enough leftover for a lunch or two- yay! When you reheat the “chili” you may have to add a cup of water because it thickens upon standing. You can also add tomato juice or tomato sauce instead of water for a more tomato-y flavor. Make this recipe because I promise you’ll enjoy it! Eating these kinds of meals will help you live a life of vitality- with Valerie!

 

 

Leftovers you’ll love! What to do with all that turkey part 1.

Standard
Turkey Enchiladas!

Turkey Enchiladas!

Ok, so once Thanksgiving is over and you have mountains of turkey left- or you’re a college student and your mom has sent you back with piles of turkey- what do you do with it? I mean, there are only so many days you can eat turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy before you get truly sick of it! Well, I am here to help you! I will be sharing my favorite turkey leftover recipes with you this week so you can mix it up with some different meals you will enjoy. They are easy too, so you can spend time with family and friends without toiling for hours in the kitchen, we already did that on Thanksgiving and we need a break! The great thing about these recipes that I’m sharing is that you can use any leftover meat to make these recipes great, so if you made a ham, steaks, or any meat they’ll taste delish!

Easy Turkey Enchiladas

Leftover pork roast, but any meat will make this recipe delicious!

Leftover pork roast, but any meat will make this recipe delicious!

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Then, warm up leftover turkey (or any meat) in the microwave to get it warm.

Simmer some tomato sauce.

Simmer some tomato sauce.

2. Take a can of crushed tomatoes and a can of diced tomatoes, add a teaspoon of cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper and simmer until thickened and bubbly- 10 minutes.

Pork with tomato sauce added!

Pork with tomato sauce added!

3. Take half of the tomato sauce mixture and a cup of shredded cheese, and add it to the warmed meat- I also added some black beans to it but if you don’t like them, they are optional. Give this a quick stir to combine the ingredients.

Pan is ready to receive the enchiladas!

Pan is ready to receive the enchiladas!

4. Prepare the pan by swiping a little tomato sauce across the bottom. I do this so that the enchiladas won’t stick to the bottom of the pan when I try to remove them after baking.

Roll the enchiladas and place them in the pan.

Roll the enchiladas and place them in the pan.

5. Next, take tortillas, put 1/4 cup of meat mixture into them, and place them with the opening side down into the pan. Fill them until the pan is full, as you can see the meat I had made 6 enchiladas.

Baking in the oven- yay!

Baking in the oven- yay!

6. Cover the enchiladas with the rest of the tomato sauce and a half bag of shredded cheese, whichever kind you like the best. Bake the enchiladas for 30-40 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly. When they’re done, take them out and let them cool for a few minutes so you can lift them from the pan without the cheese sliding all over. There’ s nothing worse than an enchilada with no cheese on it- no fun!

Ready to eat!

Ready to eat!

7. I topped the enchiladas with a sprinkle of chopped cilantro for freshness before serving but that is also optional. Add a salad to get your veggies in and you’re good to go!

So that’s it. A super easy and delicious enchilada recipe for you to enjoy with your leftover turkey, or any leftover meat. Let me know what you like to do with your leftover turkey, and look for another leftover recipe later this week. I hope you try my enchiladas because they’ll help you to live a life of vitality- like Valerie! 🙂

 

Sick of Sandwiches? Here’s what to eat for lunch!

Standard

This post is for my sister, Paula, who asked me to give her ideas for healthy lunches. I know what she means. I think lunch is sort of the forgotten meal of the day. Usually there is a lot of emphasis put on breakfast and dinner, but lunch kind of gets lost in the shuffle. That usually results in eating some sort of sandwich for lunch, which isn’t always the healthiest choice. I actually enjoy thinking of yummy and healthy lunch ideas. It pushes my creative boundaries. Especially when I was trying to think of lunches to make for Danielle, who hated her high school cafeteria choices, can’t eat gluten, and doesn’t like to eat the same thing every day! She always challenges me cooking wise! So I came up with a few good lunch ideas that I’d like to share with you today. I hope it inspires Paula and all the rest of you in your lunch choices.

Love my leftovers for lunch!

Love my leftovers for lunch!

1.Utilize your leftovers- Don’t be afraid to repurpose your leftovers for a tasty lunch. In the picture above, I heated up the pork carnitas I had made from the other night, with the quinoa I made a different night, and the guacamole I had made with the carnitas. I sliced some tomatoes and called it lunch! If you work outside the home or are making kids lunches and you don’t have access to a microwave, preheat the quinoa and carnitas, put it in a thermal container and it should still stay warm throughout the morning.

Chicken corn chowder with a bowl of mixed veggies!

Chicken corn chowder with a bowl of mixed veggies!

2. Soup, soup, and more soup- For a delicious and hearty lunch I love to have a bowl of soup. In the above picture I had an amazing chicken corn chowder from Urban Ladle, which is a small business here in Indy that makes tasty gluten free, all natural soups and salads. I found them at the Fishers Farmers Market this summer and I like that they have samples to try. I tried the chicken corn chowder and knew I had to purchase it. They sell some of their soups frozen and I put it in the freezer. I also purchased their chicken tortilla soup as well. With frozen soups, you just pop them in the microwave to thaw and then either heat in the microwave or on the stove. Easy and delish!

Organic soups you can buy in the grocery store.

Organic soups you can buy in the grocery store

If you don’t have access to a wonderful local soup business, you can purchase great tasting soups from the grocery store. Above are two examples of soups that I enjoy,  Amy’s organic and Pacific. I also eat a lot of lentils and vegetables so these two types of soups fit perfectly within my desired flavor profiles. Use a thermal container if you eat lunch away from home and you’re good to go!

Egg salad- Salad!

Egg salad- Salad

3. Egg salad/chicken salad/tuna salad- Salad- This was one of Danielle’s favorite lunches that I’d pack her when she was in high school. Instead of making egg salad/chicken salad/tuna salad on bread, I’d make it on a salad tossed with a vinaigrette dressing. She LOVED this lunch. I make my own chicken salad with a tablespoon of mayonnaise, teaspoon of Dijon mustard (we like a tang to our chicken salad), 1/4 cup chopped onion, handful of grapes cut in half, 1/2 cup of chopped pecans, and salt and pepper to taste with 2 cups of chopped chicken. I usually make it when I’m making chicken soup because I will have leftover chicken. Or when I get a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store I will use the chicken that’s left. I l would send egg salad- Salad during Lent when we don’t eat meat on Fridays because we’re Catholic. To prepare it I boil 6 eggs, peel and chop them, then add a tablespoon of mayo, a teaspoon of yellow mustard, 1/4 cup capers, and salt and pepper to taste. Yummmmm! Danielle doesn’t like tuna salad, but Jacqueline and I LOVE IT! We like to use pink salmon sometimes and white albacore tuna other times. It depends on our moods. I use a tablespoon of mayo, 1/4 cup each of chopped onion, celery and kosher dill pickles, 1 teaspoon of spicy mustard, and salt/pepper to taste. Again, I serve it over a lettuce salad lightly dressed with vinaigrette. My vinaigrette is 1/4 cup of white wine vinegar (but any type of vinegar would work), 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic, salt and pepper to taste. I pack it in a round Tupperware container with a lid, throw in a fork and out the door they go!

Quinoa- so versatile and a great lunch ingredient!

Quinoa- so versatile and a great lunch ingredient!

4. Quinoa- It’s one of my favorite things for lunch. And you can do sooo much with it. Whenever I make quinoa for dinner I always make twice as much as I need and use the rest for lunch. I either serve it warm as a side dish, like in the first picture at the top, or I serve it cold as a salad with lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and vinaigrette. You can use quinoa as a warm oatmeal type dish with milk, cinnamon, honey, and cooked apples or peaches too. It’s so versatile you can do just about anything you want to it and it would still taste good. It can be easily packed for a lunch on the go by using a thermal container. I just love quinoa!

Love me some hummus!

Love me some hummus!

5. Great sides- Now don’t forget your lunch side dishes! My favorite lunch side dish is hummus with carrots and celery to dip in it. I eat it quite often. I like the Sabra brand hummus with tapenade in it, but hummus is easy to make and more delicious that way. Just take 3 cups canned garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained, 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic, and 8 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil. Put all ingredients into a food processor or blender, and blend on high until smooth. Salt and pepper to taste- yummy!

Salsa rules!

Salsa rules!

Another of my favorite sides is chips and salsa. I use gluten free, non-gmo tortilla chips. My current favorites are beet and corn chips called The Better Chips. They taste SO good, even if you don’t like beets I think you’ll like these. They’re salty and tasty! I eat chips and salsa almost every day. Just remember the chips are carbs so take that into account when you’re eating them. Also, pay attention to serving size, a typical serving size is 12 chips for 140 calories. I usually count out my chips and put the bag away before I start eating so I won’t overindulge. Salty is my thing so I have to do that because I could eat salty snacks ALL DAY without stopping.

Well friends, that’s my list of healthy lunch choices. Since I don’t usually eat breakfast, lunch is my first meal of the day and I like to make it really count. Let me know what you like to eat for lunch. I hope you’ll try some of my lunch choices because they’ll help you live a life of vitality- like Valerie!

 

Healthy College Meals?!

Standard
Unfortunately true more often than not!

Unfortunately true more often than not!

Now some of you may see this topic and think that it doesn’t apply to you. After all you’re well removed from your college years and your children are a few years from being there. I guarantee you have a niece/nephew, a friend’s child, or just know someone who’s in college right now, and they could use some guidance on how to eat healthily while there. You can be very helpful to them, and believe me they need it.

IT DOESN'T HAVE TO BE LIKE THIS!!!

IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE LIKE THIS!!!

I know from my four years on a college campus, and from the girls experiences, that eating in a healthy way is VERY difficult to do. However, it’s not impossible and I’m here to help you! Whether you’re in the dorm, a sorority or fraternity, or an apartment it is possible to make healthy choices that provide nutrition for your body to flourish while you’re there. The pictures that precede each section are taken by Jacqueline and Danielle from healthy meals they’ve had while at Purdue.

Protein, protein, protein!

Protein, protein, protein!

1. Always go for the protein- Now I know that protein is expensive which is why most college food choices are so carb heavy. The secret is to make choices that incorporate as much protein as possible. Here, Danielle had nachos, which are readily available on most college campuses. The key though, is that she had beans, chicken, bacon, cheese, and ground beef on them, all loaded with protein. She also had strawberry yogurt- another protein filled choice. She doesn’t like very many vegetables so instead she chose orange juice and added an Emergen-C packet to it for more vitamin C. Danielle has a gluten allergy so she has the additional challenge of trying to make healthy choices and avoid gluten. Very challenging endeavor on a college campus, believe me! If you live in an apartment, nachos are very easy and inexpensive to make and the clean up is a synch!

Salads are your friend! Baked potatoes too!

Salads are your friend! Baked potatoes too!

2. Veggies, veggies, veggies- If you have a choice, always choose the vegetables. This meal was Jacqueline’s, we knew that because it included vegetables, right? It includes half of a baked potato topped with chili, bacon bits, sour cream and green onions. She also has a spinach salad with eggs, chicken breast, sunflower seeds, and chick peas. Lots of protein and vegetables give you energy and make you feel full. She needs it with all of the cheer practices and morning workouts! Jacqueline lives in a sorority so unlike Danielle, who lives in a dorm and has the advantage of all the different dining courts on campus, Jac has a more limited set of options from which to choose. However, her sorority has many fresh and healthy meals so she has really enjoyed the food available. Apartment dwellers can utilize bagged salads for a quick meal. Also, the microwave is your best friend for quickly making a baked potato or reheating the leftovers from dinners out with your parents! 🙂

Brown rice!

Brown rice!

3. Whole grain carbs are a great choice- As I’ve said in past posts, carbs are essential for our diets. However, the problem with carbs is that all carbs are NOT created equal. College students eat too many empty carbs, and I say that from experience! Bread sticks, French fries, pizza, cheesy bread, cookies, soda pop, etc, etc, etc, are all examples of carbs that have little or no nutritional value. Not only that, but because they have very little fiber they do not fill you up and you’re hungry again a little while later. This is how the “freshman 15” is gained. Also, because of the lack of nutrients, this is not a healthy way to eat, and can lead to more frequent illnesses. What Danielle has on her plate is a chicken thigh, blackened Tilapia, brown rice, yogurt with strawberries, blueberries and honey, and water with a lime. I’m really glad that she chose brown rice because as a whole grain carbohydrate, it has fiber and nutrients which will fill her up and help her to be healthy. Other examples of whole grain carbs are WHOLE WHEAT bread and pasta, whole grain cereals, oatmeal, quinoa, couscous, popcorn, barley, wild rice, and bulgur to name a few.

Fish is outside the box for Danielle!

Fish is outside the box for Danielle!

4. Be flexible- To eat nutritiously you will have to be prepared to be a little more adventurous than you were when you lived at home. In the above plate, Danielle chose white fish, brown rice, stir fry veggies, yogurt with berries and water with lemon. She has only recently begun to eat fish, but because she knows she needs as much protein as possible she chose the fish and found that she really liked it. She also chose stir fry veggies which wouldn’t have been her first choice but she knows vegetables will give her nutrients and fill her up, and she does not want to fall victim to the freshman 15, so she made the healthy choice. She wants to keep looking good in that cheer uniform too! You may have to try new things, but you could find that you really like something you would’ve never tried!

College9

So those are my healthy college eating tips. It goes without saying that everything in moderation, from late night cheesy bread fests to alcohol, make sure you balance that with healthy eating and living. Oh, and the mom in me says to make sure you do your homework, wash your hands, and go to bed at a reasonable time! My college years were such a wonderful time of fun and hard work, and I wouldn’t trade my experiences for the world. I want everyone to enjoy this time in their lives because believe me it goes by so fast, and soon you’ll be old like me. However, if you can follow my tips you’ll be an old person who is living a life of vitality- like Valerie!

A less than 30 minute recipe featuring beans, beans- they really are good for your heart!

Standard
This is a pot of deliciousness bubbling on your stove!

This is a pot of deliciousness bubbling on your stove!

I’ve got the quickest, easiest recipe for my wonderful readers that I’ve ever published on my blog. Believe me, it does not get any easier than this! And the results are DELICIOUS! What is the recipe for, you ask? It’s bean soup! Or some people call it “ham and beans”. Oh, and that less than thirty minutes timeframe also includes making corn muffins too. What a deal!

Beans, as the children’s rhyme implies, are good for your heart and other parts of your body too. They are a very healthy food choice.  Beans, or legumes, are the best non meat source of protein out there. They are made up of high quality carbohydrates and are rich in folate, magnesium, iron, potassium, vitamin B6, quercetin, zinc, vitamin C, and soluble fiber (which can sometimes lead to the rest of the children’s rhyme! :)). These nutrients help lower cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure, and can help reduce the risk of coronary artery disease, diabetes and osteoporosis. Soluble fiber helps keep you fuller for longer, thus aiding in weight loss. That’s a big bang for your nutritional buck! Beans are one of the most important weapons in my nutritional arsenal, and most importantly I think they taste really good when prepared properly.

Some of the best food sources of legumes are black beans, navy beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, white beans, lima beans, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), split peas, lentils, soybeans (edamame), and black-eyed peas, and I love them all. My favorite, though, is pinto beans and that’s what I used to create this super easy recipe that I’m going to share with you right now!

Valerie’s less than 30 minute bean soup and corn muffins

  •  1 medium onion chopped
  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 ham steak chopped
  • 2 ham shanks
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 large jar pinto beans (you can use other beans but I think pintos make a more flavorful soup)
  • 1 cup of water (I added the water to the jar and swished it around to get out all the bean remnants)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • Box of corn muffin mix
Sautéed onions and ham in the pot ready to go!

Sautéed onions and ham in the pot ready to go!

So the first thing you do is preheat the oven for the corn muffins following the directions on the box. Then I add the olive oil to the pot and sauté the onions until soft. Next, add the ham steak pieces and sauté those for about a minute. Then, add the ham shanks for another minute.

These are the beans I used for my soup!

These are the beans I used for my soup!

To the pot that has the onions and ham, I added the pinto beans and all the liquid in the jar. Then, I added about a cup of water to the jar and swirled it around to get all of the juices out of it and tossed it into the pot. Last, I added the minced garlic, salt and pepper, put the flame on low medium, clapped the lid on the pot and that’s it! Oh, make sure to stir the beans around occasionally to get all the flavors to mix and prevent the beans from sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Corn muffin mixes I had on hand- one gluten free and one regular!

Corn muffin mixes I had on hand- one gluten free and one regular!

Next I prepared the corn muffins. I followed the directions on the box, which consisted of adding 1 egg, 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil and 1/2 cup of milk to the mix, stirring, and adding the mix to the muffin tins I had prepared already with muffin liners. I also spray my tins with coconut oil spray even though I lined the tins because I don’t like when the tops of my muffins stick to the edges of the pan as they rise during baking.

Corn muffins ready for the oven!

Corn muffins ready for the oven!

These muffins baked at 400 degrees for 15-18 minutes. While they were baking I stirred the beans a couple more times to make sure they didn’t stick and turned the flame under the beans down to low at that point. Then, I took the muffins out of the oven and dished out the soup.

Ready to eat! Yummm!

Ready to eat! Yummm!

The bean soup is salty, warm and flavorful, and the muffins are slightly sweet with a nice corn flavor that complements the soup. And that all happened in under thirty minutes! Yay! Better yet, the beans are so good for you, they provide you with potassium, magnesium, Vitamin C, folate, iron, B6, zinc, quercetin and soluble fiber to help your heart, blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, osteoporosis, diabetes and weight loss. They taste really delicious too! I hope you enjoyed this recipe and let me know if you try it, or if you have other bean recipes you’d like to share! Please eat delicious meals like this, they really satisfy you and will help you live a life of vitality- like Valerie!

 

 

FAT doesn’t make you fat!

Standard
This meal WILL NOT MAKE YOU FAT!

This meal WILL NOT MAKE YOU FAT!

Does that surprise you, my wonderful readers?!! Well it’s true! Now that you know, you can enjoy those cheeseburgers without guilt. With one exception- it’s not the burger that makes you fat, IT’S THE BUN. And the fries, and the rice, and the pasta, and the bread, and the biscuits, and the cakes, and the cookies, and the pancakes, etc etc etc. Get my point? Fats don’t make you fat, carbs make you fat, and many people do not know this. The focus of this post is to better inform you so you can make intelligent choices knowing the truth about the food you eat.

LOL! But unfortunately, true!

LOL! But unfortunately, true!

The popular misconception is that the more fatty foods you eat, the more weight you gain. Right? We all grew up seeing images of big people eating big steaks or other big slabs of meat, and hearing that is what causes weight gain. Then, low fat everything hit the grocery stores and cutting out fat was thought by some to be “the great weight loss solution”. The thing is, that’s not true. Most fat is actually good for your body, with the exception of trans fats. Trans fats are the fats that exist in processed foods like vegetable oils, cookies, brownies, and many different types of processed foods. These fats should be avoided at all costs, which can easily happen by not purchasing processed food from the grocery store. If you must buy processed food, become an informed label reader, and if you see the words “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil”, “trans fats”, “partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil”, or anything like that know there are healthier choices you can make.

Homemade with avocado- a healthy fat!

Homemade with avocado- a healthy fat!

Healthy fat options are: Olives and olive oil, coconuts and coconut oil, butter made from organic milk, raw nuts, organic pastured egg yolks, avocados, grass-fed meats, palm oil, and unheated organic nut oils. And we need a lot more of these healthy fats per day than you think. Dr. Mercola recommends 50-70% of your diet consist of healthy fats. Most experts now agree with this recommendation.

The amazing thing about fats is this, unlike popular misconception, CUTTING fat from your diet can actually make you fat. Yes, it’s true and here’s why. There is a concept called satiety, and it’s very important for our diets. Basically, if we are satisfied by what we eat, we will eat less food than if we are not satisfied. Healthy fat foods have a high satiety rating, therefore we need to eat less of it to be satisfied. “Carby” foods have a low satiety rating, so we have to eat more of it to be satisfied. Thus, low fat diets cause us to gain weight because we have to eat more carbs to be satisfied. It’s like when I’m eating potato chips, which I love but don’t eat very often anymore, I could literally sit there and eat an entire big bag because I never feel full when I’m eating them. That’s why I don’t eat them very often anymore! However, I can’t imagine consuming a big bowl of guacamole (avocado is a healthy fat), because it doesn’t take as much to make me feel satisfied.

 

See? Told ya! ;)

See? Told ya! 😉

So if fats don’t make you fat, what is making us fat? Certainly as a nation we are getting fatter every day so there must be some cause. The answer is…. (drum roll happening in my mind now) CARBS! Actually, low fiber carbohydrates are causing our nation’s weight gain. There are good carbs and every diet needs them so I’m not advocating the elimination of all carbs, just of bad carbs. Let me differentiate: high fiber carbs provide a rich source of fiber. The best high fiber carbs are minimally processed, or unprocessed plant-based foods. The best examples of high fiber carbs are beans, whole grains like barley, buckwheat, oats, quinoa, rye, brown rice, wheat, millet, fruits and vegetables. These are good things your body needs, but the current recommendation if you’re not a body builder (because they need a lot of carbs) is no more than 20% of your daily nutrition in carbs, especially if you’re trying to lose weight. Bad carbs are soda, candy, artificial syrups, sugar, chips, white rice, white bread, white pasta, potatoes (technically a complex carb but actually act more like simple carbs in the body), pastries and desserts.

Yes this is true, as a nation we've never been unhealthier and carbs are the reason!

Yes this is true, as a nation we’ve never been unhealthier and carbs are the reason!

Now you may be wondering, why are carbs so bad for us? Why are they making us fat? I’m going to explain that to you right now. The reason is that carbs trigger the insulin cycle. I’m no doctor so I’m going to give you a “common man” explanation. Basically, when you overconsume carbs this drives up your blood sugar. In order to prevent dangerously elevated blood levels, our bodies convert excess carbohydrates to excess body fat, primarily in the belly. The carbs turn into glycogen and there are two places glycogen is stored in our body, in our liver and muscles. Once glycogen levels are filled in the liver and muscles, the only place left for the carbs is our fatty (adipose) tissues. So, when you consume a lot of carbs, you’re sending a message to your body, via the hormone insulin, to store more fat. The bad part about this (it gets worse!) is that fewer carbs are then needed to cause fat storage, so more fat is gained over time. It’s a vicious carb cycle!

Well, this doesn’t give us all carte blanche to gorge ourselves on a 24 ounce rib eye, with the knowledge that carbs make us fat. Too many calories, even of healthy things, can still cause us to gain weight. This is why I utilize the My Fitness Pal app on my iphone to help keep track of my calories, exercise and nutrition. That way I know how much fat, protein and carbs I’m eating each day, and I make adjustments as needed. I use it to keep track of my weight too so if I start to gain weight I can go back and look at how many calories I’m eating, and what kind of food my calories are coming from, to make the necessary shifts to get back on track. I’ve been able to maintain my weight for many years so I know this is working for me.

What the My Fitness Pal app looks like! I highly recommend downloading it!

What the My Fitness Pal app looks like! I highly recommend downloading it!

In conclusion, I want my amazing readers to know that fat doesn’t make you fat, carbs do. With that in mind, try to keep your carb consumption to no more than 20% of your daily diet. I would like you to eat healthy fats, like avocados, nuts, olive oil, etc, and healthy carbs like quinoa, fruits and vegetables. Try to keep track of your calorie consumption and weight to more easily make changes in your diet. If you do these things I promise you’ll be living a life of vitality- like Valerie!

Mediterranean “diet” is the way I eat!

Standard
Essential elements of the Mediterranean diet

Essential elements of the Mediterranean diet

Hi All! I’m sure many of you have heard about all of the different diets people are following these days. From the “grapefruit diet” to the “Atkins diet”, diets are all the rage, and you’ll find many different opinions as to which ones work and which don’t. After I gave birth to Danielle, I joined Weight Watchers and lost 10 pounds which was great.

The Mediterranean "diet" pyramid. Notice that daily physical activity is an important part of this way of life!

The Mediterranean “diet” pyramid. Notice that daily physical activity is an important part of this way of life!

Here’s the problem though, diets are great while they last, the problem is no one can or should stay on a diet for life. What happens is that when the diet is at an end, the previous way of eating that led to weight gain is resumed and the pounds come back on again.  It’s a vicious cycle. After I lost the 10 Weight Watchers pounds I gradually put those pounds back on again over the next few years as I went back to the same unhealthy habits I had before Weight Watchers. When I lost weight 5 years ago, I decided I wasn’t going to follow a diet, I would just eat in a healthy way, utilize a food journal and exercise regularly. That being said, if there is any way of eating that I follow it would be along the lines of the Mediterranean diet. It’s actually not a diet; it’s a way of eating of the people who live along the Mediterranean Sea. When I began to be conscious of the way I was eating, I had never heard of the Mediterranean diet, I just ate in the way I thought was healthy and delicious. Then, years later I began hearing about this fabulous new diet and that the people who lived in this area and ate this way were living longer and healthier, and I realized that was how I had begun to eat years previously.

This is a food pyramid I love to follow!

This is a food pyramid I love to follow!

The basics of the “diet” are to eat meals low in red meat, sugar, and saturated fat, and high in fruits, veggies, whole grains, beans, nuts, legumes, olive oil, flavorful herbs and spices, fish and seafood a few times a week, chicken, eggs, cheese and yogurt in moderation, and sweets and red meat seldom. Wine is enjoyed as well. Along with this way of eating, people who live in this area are very active and exercise frequently, and practice weight control. I noticed the parallels between the way the Mediterranean people live their lives, and the way that I was living, which is interesting because I had always longed to visit Italy, Greece and Spain. I also enjoy reading about those areas and cooking the food of those regions. I would one day love to spend a good bit of the year living in those areas, so then I’ll be able to follow their way of living in person!

The food I love to eat, and it's healthy too!

The food I love to eat, and it’s healthy too!

A good resource for those interested in the Mediterranean “Diet” is The Mediterranean Prescription: Meal Plans and Recipes to Help You Stay Slim and Healthy for the Rest of Your Life, by Angelo Acquista, M.D. I like this book for an easy reference with good recipes, but there are many on the market that can help you get started. When I’m eating this way I imagine myself sitting on the coast of Greece or Italy, so allow yourself to eat healthy and be transported to a beautiful place like I do. It’s a great way to live a life of vitality- like Valerie!

This is my mental picture when eating like the people who live along the Mediterranean Sea!

This is my mental picture when eating like the people who live along the Mediterranean Sea!