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!!

Creamy, Healthy, and Easy Soup du Jour!

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Hi friends! My second video blog is here for you today. I made a delicious, healthy, and easy soup that you will enjoy making almost as much as you’ll enjoy eating! Here’s the recipe:

Creamy Cauliflower Soup

4 cups chicken stock

1 cauliflower

1 brick cream cheese

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

4 oz butter

Salt and pepper

1/2 lb bacon

Paprika

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Chop the cauliflower into small florets, add to the stock and boil until tender. Cut the bacon into small pieces and fry until crispy. Drain and set aside. Add the mustard, cream cheese, and butter to the cauliflower in the stock. Use a hand mixer or a blender to combine until smooth. Add the bacon crumbles, paprika and walnuts as a garnish. It’s creamy and has so much flavor. You’ll love it! Eating low-carb soups like this will help you live a life of vitality- with Valerie!

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

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

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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!

 

 

SHAKE Your Way to a Life without Sugar!

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Angels anxiously awaiting their shake!

Angels anxiously awaiting their shake!

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

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

True!

True!

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

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

Sugar free Protein Shake

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

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

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

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

3. Add one tablespoon of coconut oil.

3. Add one tablespoon of coconut oil.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Walking in a Winter Wonderland? How to Protect and Hydrate in the Cold!

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Stay warm and hydrated this winter!

Stay warm and hydrated this winter!

It’s cold out for many of us right now! Even if it’s not cold where you live, it’s probably still colder than it usually is. Therefore, you have the heat on in your house, you’ve got the fireplace going for warmth and atmosphere, or you’re going outside in the cold to enjoy outdoor activities and just walking to your car from work, a restaurant, the mall, etc. Did you know you can become just as dehydrated from the cold in the winter as you can from the heat in the summer? It’s true, we just aren’t as aware of our sweating when we are cold. Your skin and lips can become dried and chapped from the cold and wind too. I’ve got some healthy remedies to protect your body from the cold and I’d like to share them with you right now!

Simple, easy and inexpensive!

Simple, easy and inexpensive!

1. Carmex- Boy, I hate chapped lips, don’t you?! Carmex is my favorite remedy for healing chapped lips and preventing them as well. I’ve tried other lip balms but I feel Carmex coats and protects my lips the best. I prefer the Carmex in the little jar to the one in the tube because it’s thicker and coats better. Before bed, I coat my lips with Carmex, especially in the winter because I hate awakening with that chappy lip feeling. My niece, Alison, loves Carmex so much that not only does she receive cases of it for gifts, but she also dressed up as a tube of Carmex for Halloween one year. I guess it runs in the family as I’ve been using it since I was in middle school!

Ali the tube of Carmex! :)

Ali the tube of Carmex! ūüôā

LOL! If you have another lip balm that works for you go for it! Make sure, however, that you coat your lips not only at night but whenever you’re going outside for a walk, ice skating, skiing, or any activity that will take you outdoors for a long period of time on a cold or windy day.

My favorite lotion, it Kisses my Face with moisture!

My favorite lotion, it Kisses my Face with moisture!

2. Kiss My Face-¬† Lotion is another one of my secret winter weapons, and I particularly like “Kiss My Face” lotion, both because of the silkiness of it and the smell.¬†I use it all over my body, not just on my face though, does that break the rules?!! The coconut scent¬†smells like heaven to me! My hands and face get particularly dry in the winter so the one thing that I do is to coat my hands with lotion before putting on my gloves to go outside. That way it helps the lotion to absorb better instead of evaporating in the wind. I also coat my hands before putting on my kitchen gloves. The warm water outside the gloves really helps the lotion to absorb into my hands. They feel so soft when I remove the gloves, and it really makes doing the dishes a bit more enjoyable! Before bed, I once again coat my hands with lotion, and I do my face at that time too. It seems like a lot but it’s worth it not to have chapped hands and a chapped face!

Alkaline water is a great way to hydrate in the winter!

Alkaline water is a great way to hydrate in the winter!

3. Alkaline water- Any filtered water is great for you at any time of year, however I have been enjoying the benefits of alkaline water lately. It contains more minerals like calcium, magnesium, potassium, and sodium, and it helps digest acidic food more easily. Also, since it contains 5-6 water molecules per cluster it penetrates our tissues more easily and hydrates 3 times more efficiently than normal, filtered water. In addition, it eliminates free radicals that can cause cancer, and because it has a PH of 8.5-9.5 it maintains the body in a healthy (ie, non acidic) state. It’s like water on steroids! It is important to stay hydrated. I read a study that said 80% of our feelings of hunger are really related to¬† THIRST instead. Water¬†plumps up the skin and makes it glow as well so make sure to drink your water!

Love me some leave in conditioner!

Love me some leave in conditioner!

4. Leave in conditioner- Leave in conditioner is my best friend during the winter when my hair is so dry. I use it after I wash and condition my hair in the shower, but before I use my styling products. It coats my hair and moisturizes so I don’t get flyaways. Static cling in the hair is just no fun so I always make sure I use it. It’s one of my favorite winter remedies!

Don't forget your healthy fats!

Don’t forget your healthy fats!

5. Healthy Fats- It sounds strange but to keep your body properly moisturized in the winter it is important to get your healthy fats. Organic Fish, extra virgin olive oil, avocados, nuts, butter, lard, etc, all help to bring moisture to the body, and help battle against the dryness of winter. It really does work!

There you have it- my tips¬†for keeping moisturized in the winter. It’s a challenge in Indiana where I live, especially with all of the wind, snow and ice we usually experience. That’s why I make sure to use my Carmex, lotion, leave in conditioner, and to drink my alkaline water and eat my healthy fats. I get a lot of positive comments on my skin so these remedies seem to work. Let me know what your winter remedies are, and how you like the ones I’ve presented to you here today. These remedies will help you live a life of vitality- with Valerie! ūüôā

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

Gluten free oats are a must for my family!

Gluten free oats are a must for my family!

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

Cooking the oats on the stove!

Cooking the oats on the stove!

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

Homemade applesauce mix in- it's amazing!

Homemade applesauce mix in- it’s amazing!

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

Pecans- my favorite nut!

Pecans- my favorite nut!

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

Love, love, love raisins!

Love, love, love raisins!

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

A great addition to oatmeal!

A great addition to oatmeal!

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

It's a honey of a mix-in!

It’s a honey of a mix-in!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Being Thankful is GOOD for your Health! And Turkey Leftovers Part 2!

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I'm so thankful for these two!! xoxo

I’m so thankful for these two!! xoxo

Since the holiday centered around thankfulness is tomorrow I started thinking about being thankful. I did some research and did you know that being thankful is actually good for your health? Yes, it’s true! People who have social connections- through family, friends or even companion animals- have longevity, survive serious diseases, and have better health than those who have no social connections. Also, the act of “being grateful” is associated with better physical and emotional health, which makes sense, doesn’t it?! People who have social support are found to have more of the immune system natural killer cell activity, and even people who care for companion animals get sick less and recover faster than those who don’t have animals. It makes me doubly thankful for my family, friends and animals this Thanksgiving! I’m also thankful for my love of cooking which comes in handy during this food centered holiday! Tomorrow I’ll be cooking turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, Brussels sprouts, cranberries and asparagus for my family and though it’s exhausting I’ll enjoy every minute of it.

A long ago Thanksgiving- I'm so thankful for my family!

A long ago Thanksgiving- I’m so thankful for my family!

So you’re done with all the cooking and you’re left with a mountain of turkey meat, what do you do with it all? My family will eat turkey in the traditional Thanksgiving way for maybe one more meal after that before they are sick of it and I’m forced to be creative. In my last post “Leftovers you’ll love, what to do with all that turkey part 1”, I shared a recipe for leftover turkey (or any kind of meat) enchiladas which I hope you enjoyed reading about. Today, I’m going to share with you a recipe for turkey hash that is delicious, easy, and will get rid of more of that turkey in a different way.

Ingredients gathered and ready to go!

Ingredients gathered and ready to go!

Leftover Turkey Hash– ingredients, 2 cups of leftover turkey (or any) meat, 6 small potatoes, minced garlic, one small onion, 5 small red, orange and yellow peppers, chili powder, cumin, red pepper flakes, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.

Nuke the potatoes first!

Nuke the potatoes first!

1. Microwave 6 small potatoes for 5 minutes or until slightly soft. I like to microwave my potatoes first so that they will mostly cook before I put them in the pot. It saves a little time for me, which is always a good thing.

Chop your veg next!

Chop your veg next!

2. Prep your veggies next by chopping them so they’re ready to go in the pan.

LO4

3. Heat your pan, add a teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil, and toss your veggies in until they’re softened. Then, add a teaspoon of minced garlic.

Chop potatoes when they come out of the microwave!

Chop potatoes when they come out of the microwave!

4. After the potatoes come out of the microwave, cut them in half to let them cool for a minute or two, then chop them into small pieces and add them to the pot with the other vegetables. Also, at this time add a teaspoon each of chili powder, cumin, and red pepper flakes. Salt and pepper to taste at this time as well.

Everything happily cooking in the pot!

Everything happily cooking in the pot!

5. Add two cups of turkey¬†meat next. In this case I was using a ham I had made the previous night for my hash. I’ll be using turkey after tomorrow!

Time for the eggs!

Time for the eggs!

6. Now is the time to make your fried eggs because hash is best when it’s covered with a delicious egg. All that gooey yolk runs over the hash to add a level of unctuousness to it! I just add a bit of butter to a fry pan, crack my eggs in, and cook them until the white is solid. The secret to delicious fried eggs is to cook them low and slow- slowly over a low heat-¬†in order to keep them tender.

Yummmmm!!

Yummmmm!!

The only thing left to do at this point is to plate the hash, add the egg to the top of it, and eat! Add a few drops of hot sauce if you want a little extra kick, like I do. This meal can be eaten any time of the day or night because in my opinion eggs and hash are not just for breakfast. The picture at the beginning of this post shows my daughters digging in to this meal yesterday afternoon and they thought it was really great! So that’s it for today, and I hope you will try this recipe because it really is easy and delicious. I just want to say that I soooooo appreciate all of my readers, and know that when I count my blessings, you are one of¬†them! Thank you all from the bottom of my heart for reading and sharing my blog, it has been a life changing experience for me in every way! As I said earlier, being thankful is good for your health so take some time in the next few days to count your blessings as I will be. Being thankful will help you live a life of vitality- like Valerie!

Stay perky while eating your turkey! Healthy Thanksgiving eating tips part 2.

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Making stuffing is a team effort during my family Thanksgiving!

Making stuffing is a team effort during my family Thanksgiving- lol!

Hi All! So earlier in the week we talked about different ways to eat in a healthy way during MY FAVORITE EATING DAY OF THE YEAR! I love it so much it deserves all caps! I also shared my recipe for the most delicious, healthy and easy turkey and gravy in part 1.¬†Today I want to focus on my healthy side dishes and dessert. Now, I love all the ooey, gooey side dishes at Thanksgiving- mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, stuffing, green been casserole, corn pudding, etc, etc, etc… However, those side dishes are full of calories and all kinds of badness, so I’m giving you some alternates to bring to someone else’s gathering, or to serve at your own.

So first we go to the stuffing- Ok, I have to admit that I LOVE stuffing!! I’m not much of a bread person but when it’s all mushed together and baked it becomes delectable! A healthy swap for all that bread though is my stepmom, Karen’s wild rice stuffing and I want to share that with you now.

Delish!

Delish!

Wild Rice Stuffing

  • 1 small bag of gluten free stuffing (or rip up 1/2 loaf of gluten free bread)
  • 2 boxes of Long grain and wild rice
  • 32 oz. container of organic free range chicken broth
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion (I don’t like big chunks of onion in my stuffing)
  • 3 teaspoons fresh thyme, rosemary and sage
  • Teaspoon each of salt and pepper

First, saut√© onions and celery in a dab of butter or EVOO, in¬†a big pot that¬†you’ll make the stuffing in. Then, make the stuffing according to package directions. In a separate pot make the rice according to the directions. When the rice is done, add it to the stuffing, onions and celery, and add the chicken broth to make it super moist. Last, put the mixture into a greased baking pan and put it in the oven at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until the top is crusty but the inside is still soft- and that’s it! No sausage or any meat in it, no stuffing it into the turkey (that thought makes me nauseous), and no big hunks of bread. It’s just one small bag of stuffing and most of the recipe is long grain rice which is whole grain. Yay! By the way, it is completely delicious too and you’ll really like it.

Next up are my wonderful Brussels sprouts. Now you may hate Brussels sprouts, as many in my family did before this dish, but these will turn you into a believer in the sprouts from Brussels!

They are really good- I promise!

They are really good- I promise!

Brussels sprouts with bacon

  • 4 strips bacon
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 pound organic Brussels sprouts, halved
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste

First, cook the bacon in the same skillet you’ll make the Brussels sprouts.¬†Place the bacon on a plate with a paper towel to rid of grease, and chop it. Drain the fat from the skillet but leave the bits at the bottom of the pan. Add the butter to the pan and saut√© until melted. Then add the onion and Brussels sprouts and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are golden brown, or approximately 8-10 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste, and then put the bacon back into the pan and give it all a toss to combine. Then, serve. The sprouts get this golden brown crust that is so delicious and the bacon and onions give them such a great flavor. My mouth is watering just thinking about it! Can you see how this is a healthier dish than green bean casserole in which most of the ingredients come from a can?!! Yes, I thought you would!

Now I know that when everyone thinks about dessert and Thanksgiving they think about some kind of pie, apple, pumpkin, pecan, etc,etc, etc., and I think of them too. But instead I make a gluten free berry crisp and let me tell you why. You get all the flavor of a pie without all of the calories. One slice of pecan pie is approximately 520 calories versus my berry crisp which comes in at 295 calories. And it’s really good too! Here we go!

I love me some gluten free berry crisp!

I love me some gluten free berry crisp!

Gluten Free Mixed Berry Crisp

 

  • ¬†1 medium sized package frozen mixed berries thawed
  • 1 tablespoon organic honey
  • 2 cups gluten free baking flour
  • 2 cups gluten free oats
  • 1 1/2 cups packed organic brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 cups butter

First, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Next, combine the berries and the honey in a large bowl and set it aside. In another bowl, combine all the rest of the ingredients except for the butter. Then, cut in the butter by using two knives and cutting until the mixture is crumbly. Last, you take half of the crumbly mixture into a 9 by 13 baking pan, then add the berries, and top with the other half of the mixture, and bake it for 30-40 minutes or until the fruit is bubbly and the topping is brown. It’s just sooo good and far better for you than pecan pie!

So that’s what I’ll be making next Thursday, what will you be making? Let me know what you like to make, and I hope you try some of my recipes.¬†Drop me a note¬†if you do. Food like this will help you live a life of vitality- like Valerie!

 

Tasty, terrific turkey day part 1! How to eat healthy on Thanksgiving.

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Most of my clan at Thanksgiving last year!

Most of my clan at Thanksgiving last year!

Wow that time is already here, isn’t it? Now I don’t know about you but in the past I’ve had¬†a difficult time sticking to my healthy eating plan on Thanksgiving. It’s so easy to eat a lot and all the wrong things too. It’s like carb fest day! I’ll tell ya what I’m going to do!¬†The goal of this post is¬†to give you my¬†healthy eating tips and recipes so that you can eat and enjoy, but not gain 5 pounds in the process. Stick with me, and I’ll get you through it!

1. Be miserly with the unhealthy stuff- That includes stuffing, mashed potatoes, casseroley type dishes, creamy dishes, desserts, etc. Make sure you eat these types of dishes very sparingly, but do have a taste of¬†the ones you like¬†because I don’t believe in deprivation.

2. Eat lots of vegetables- Unless the vegetables are covered in cream, make your plate mostly veggies and you’ll¬†be¬†full and satisfied, because they have lots of fiber. I have¬†a great recipe for Brussels sprouts that even a veggie hater will love. I will include that in part 2 coming later this week.

3. Watch the salt- I’m a big believer in salt so some of you who know me may be shocked to hear me say this, but here’s why. Salt helps to retain water and makes you feel bloated. Some of the dishes you’re eating may already have a lot of salt added, so skip the salt shaker at Thanksgiving¬†and you won’t bloat up that night or the next day.

4. Bring your own dessert- If you’re going somewhere for Thanksgiving bring a fruit based dessert like a cobbler or a crisp because they’re lower calorie than something like pecan pie. I will show you a healthy way to make berry cobbler in part 2 of my post.

5. Take a walk or do something exerting after your meal- Even a ten minute walk will help you work off some of your meal and aid in digesting your food faster. Take your dog with you because dogs tend to get overwhelmed with all the guests, and said guests might have slipped them a bit of turkey too!

Ok, but what if you’re the one hosting the meal? That’s kind of awesome because you can control what you serve and which ingredients you use, thus ensuring you’ll be eating healthy food. I’m going to show you how to make¬†my really easy, delicious and healthy turkey and gravy today. Later in the week I will share my easy, delicious and healthy side dishes and cobbler so you can host the perfect Thanksgiving. And even if you’re not hosting I’ll give you recipes so you can take a healthy dish, thus ensuring you’ll at least eat one healthy thing on the big day!

Love me some turkey!

Love me some turkey!

Easy and Delicious Turkey and Gravy

  • 1 organic, fresh 15 lb turkey (feeds 8-10)
  • 1 orange, 1 lemon and 1 onion cut into wedges
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme, rosemary and sage chopped¬†(In a pinch you can use dried herbs de Provence)
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and pepper each
  • 6 cups organic, low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup gluten free rice flour
  • 5 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and position the rack to the lowest position in the oven. Rinse the turkey, pat it dry, and place it in the baking pan after removing the giblets from inside the turkey (funny story about that between my sister and I, remind me and I’ll tell you about it later). Take the oranges, lemons and onion and put them in¬†a bowl. Sprinkle a bit of the fresh herbs, EVOO, salt and pepper, stir them a bit, and then stuff them into the main turkey cavity. Cover the entire turkey with EVOO, the rest of the fresh herbs, salt and pepper.

Cover the turkey breast with foil and roast for 20 minutes. Pour 3 cups of broth into the pan and stir to scrape up any brown bits. Roast the turkey for 40 more minutes. Then, reduce the temperature to 350 degrees, remove the foil from the breast, add another cup of broth to the pan,, and continue roasting until a meat thermometer inserting in the thickest part of the thigh registers 165-175 degrees, or about 1 1/2 hours longer. Transfer the turkey to a platter, tent with foil and let stand for 30 minutes while making the gravy.

Glorious gravy!

Glorious gravy!

For those of you who’ve read my past blog on roasted chicken, “The Easiest Roasted Chicken, I Promise!”, I shared my gravy recipe and if you haven’t read it, you should! But, I’ll share it again for you now because it’s essentially the same for turkey as it is for chicken. Take the 5 tablespoons of butter and melt it in a large pan, then¬†add the 1/3 cup of gluten free rice flour and stir until combined. the reason I use rice flour is partly because Danielle can’t eat gluten, but what I’ve discovered is that I prefer using it over regular flour because it’s very fine and doesn’t clump up so makes for a nicely textured gravy. And it tastes better too! Stir for another minute to cook the flour.

Next, strain the pan drippings through a sieve to get rid of the chunks and pour it into a large measuring cup or something with a spout so the drippings won’t spill all over your stove. Add 1/3 of the drippings, stir, stir, stir until combined, and continue until all the pan drippings have been incorporated into the gravy. If you run out of pan drippings and the gravy still has a thick consistency you can add chicken broth, if it’s not thick enough, add more flour but don’t add it straight into the gravy or it will clump. In that case, combine 1 tablespoon of flour to 1/4 cup chicken broth in a lidded Tupperware container, shake the heck out of it until combined, then add it to the gravy. Finish the gravy with a little salt and pepper to taste, and continue to let it cook on the stove until thickened and bubbly. Pour it into a gravy boat and it’s good to go!

In my next post I will share my favorite side dishes and my go to dessert. I hope you enjoy my turkey and gravy if you try it, and let me know if you do! Let me know if you have any healthy go-to Thanksgiving dishes. A healthy Thanksgiving will help you live a life of vitality- like Valerie!