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! 🙂

Yet ANOTHER Source of Cancer Prevention For You!

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Wild and crazy garden!

 

Hello, friends! Happy late summer to you! We had some MUCH NEEDED rain this week, and my garden is growing like crazy with the added moisture. The herbs, tomatoes, onions and peppers are even more plentiful than they were! Another thing in my garden that is exploding right now is my tomatillo plant. I’ve never grown tomatillos before, but we found a plant when we were looking at tomatoes. I decided to get one to see what I thought about it. Now, I’m so glad I did! They are a delicious change from tomatoes, and I’ve made some great meals including them. I want to share what I’ve learned about tomatillos, and two different ways to utilize them in dishes.

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My tomatillo plant, with little tomatillos on it!

 

The tomatillo is actually not a tomato, it is a vegetable from the nightshade family, and is actually related more closely to cape gooseberries. Their scientific name is Physalis philadelphica and they are a staple in Central and South America. They have a light brown husk that will eventually break off when the tomatillo is ripe. The tomatillo has a tart flavor, rather than a sweet flavor like tomatoes.

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Tomatillos in their husks!

 

Tomatillos have high levels of dietary fiber, very few calories (approximately 11), moderate levels of vitamin C, A, K, niacin, potassium, manganese, and magnesium. They also have withanolides and flavonoids like lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta carotene.

Because tomatillos have high levels of fiber they are excellent for digestive health, as fiber can help add bulk to foods and speed their transit through the digestive tract, thereby eliminating constipation, excess gas, bloating, cramping, and even colon and gastric cancers. Fiber is also good at regulating the release of carbohydrates into the bloodstream, thereby regulating blood sugar levels, which is important for people with diabetes.

They also contain phytochemicals called withanolides, which have been directly linked to anti-cancer and antibacterial functions. Antioxidants help combat the effects of free radicals, which are the dangerous byproducts of cellular reproduction, that can kill or mutate healthy cells and turn them into cancerous cells. In addition, the vitamin A, C, and other flavonoids within tomatillos provide other cancer-protective effects, particularly lung and oral cancers.

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This is what they look like once they have been peeled!

 

The vitamin C in tomatillos is good for the immune system and collagen production, and the vitamin A and beta carotene helps with our vision and eye health. The high nutrient, low calorie and low fat in them also help with weight loss, because they help us feel full, acquire the necessary nutrients, and reduce the chances of overeating. The niacin helps us to increase energy, and the potassium is heart healthy. Did I convince you to try them?!!

I made two sauces with my tomatillos, one in which I roasted the tomatillos, and one with raw tomatillos. They’re both easy to make, but the raw tomatillos give the sauce a bright and vibrant flavor, and the roasted tomatillos make the sauce deeper and more intensely flavored. I loved them both, and I can’t decide which one I like better so I’m sharing them both with you.

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Roasted tomatillo Sauce- See the blackened bits in the sauce?! They add such a nice, smoky flavor!

 

Roasted Tomatillo Sauce

  • 10 tomatillos, peeled, rinsed and cut in half
  • 5 jalapenos, seeds and ribs removed for a milder sauce
  • 1/2 cup of chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Preheat broiler in oven. Peel tomatillos and MAKE SURE TO RINSE THEM AFTER PEELING. Tomatillos are very sticky and must be rinsed to remove the stickiness.

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Make sure you rinse them, to remove the sticky film!

 

Chop them in half and put them on a baking sheet with the chiles. Roast them 4 inches below a very hot broiler until darkly roasted, even blackened, about 5 minutes. Flip them over and roast the other side, 4-5 minutes more. They will be splotchy and blistered, and that’s perfect.

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Looks wrong, but it’s oh so right!

 

In a blender or food processor, combine the tomatillos, chiles, juice from the baking sheet, cilantro, water, onion, and salt until it’s a rough puree. Serve immediately or store it in the fridge.

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I served the sauce over a pork tenderloin I made in the crockpot. I added shredded Mexican cheese, and served with corn tortillas. It was smoky and yummy!

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To make the sauce without roasting the tomatillos, just throw all the ingredients into the blender or food processor, and blend until coarsely pureed.

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Raw tomatillo sauce, brightly colored and flavored!

 

The sauce is a brighter green when the tomatillos are left raw, and it has a more tart, mild vinegar flavor, but it’s still really, really good. I served it over ribeyes we had made, and added black beans on the side.

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That’s all there is to it! It’s a versatile sauce, whether raw or roasted, and can be used on tacos, nachos, burritos or enchiladas, on pork, chicken, beef or seafood; really any way you can think to use it. It’s delicious and healthy too, what more could you want?!! Eating tomatillo sauce is so good for you, and will help you lead a life of vitality- with Valerie! 🙂

Roast these for optimal nutrition!

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A cornucopia of tomatoes!

 

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

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

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

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

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

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My trusty sous chef, Danielle! 🙂

 

Valerie’s Roasted Tomato Sauce

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grill Your Way to a Healthy 4th!

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Hello, dear friends! Yes, it has been a while since I’ve posted, and I apologize for that. I have been a frantic person lately trying to finish the renovations to our forever home in time for Jacqueline’s graduation party, which was this past weekend. I am relieved to say that all of that is over, it went without a hitch, and I am ready to get back to writing my blog again.

So, an important topic is our upcoming 4th of July holiday. I recently developed a recipe that would be PERFECT for the fabulous 4th; marinated and grilled sirloin steak. I just sort of stumbled upon the idea for this because I was buying meat from my favorite Royer farm at the Fishers farmers market and I thought, “I haven’t used sirloin because it’s a tougher cut of meat, but I know it’s flavorful so I want to see what I can do with it.” It was a challenge to myself which I always love, kind of like Chopped (that’s a cooking competition show on Food Network for those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about).

Here’s the good thing about sirloin, it’s a lean and nutritious cut of beef. It’s very high in protein, a 3 ounce portion has 25 grams of complete protein, meaning it contains all the essential amino acids. This macronutrient is essential for cell rebuilding, immune function, and muscle growth. Protein has a high satiety rating, ie it makes you feel full for a longer period of time. Sirloin is also low in calories; a 3 ounce portion has only 180 calories. Sirloin contains 33 percent of the RDA for niacin, 26 percent of B-12, 30 percent of selenium, 30 percent of zinc, and 19 percent of phosphorus. Selenium boosts the immune system and is important for thyroid function. Zinc is also an immune booster, and it helps with wound healing and cell production also. Phosphorus works in concert with calcium to strengthen bones and teeth, and it also helps to filter waste through the kidneys.

Another advantage to sirloin is that it is a relatively inexpensive cut of beef. It is around $6 per pound as compared to New York strip which is $9.50 per pound.

Now here’s the not so good thing about sirloin, it can be a very tough cut of meat unless it is prepared properly.  However, never fear my wonderful readers because I’m going to tell you my secret to tender sirloin every time. It involves preparing and cooking the meat in just the right way so that it turns out perfectly. Here we go!

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  • Prepare the marinade- This type of meat needs to be marinated for 24 hours in the fridge before cooking it. My marinade is very simple, 1 cup of Dale’s steak seasoning (can purchase in any grocery store), 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, 2 tablespoons herbs of your choice, 2 tablespoons minced garlic, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, and 1 teaspoons of red wine vinegar for approximately 3 pounds of sirloin. The acid in the vinegar helps break down the fibers in the meat, lending to a more tender steak, but too much and the meat can get mushy, so a little bit definitely goes a long way. FullSizeRender (180)
  • Dry the meat- After the sirloin sits in the marinade for 24 hours it will be super moist, and it needs to be dried so a good sear can be developed on the outside. Blot the meat with paper towels until the meat is dry.
  • Seasonings-Now more seasonings can be added to develop more flavor. I use 1 tablespoon dried herbs, 1/2 cup red wine, 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, and 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper. I rub the dried seasonings on the steaks, and then combine the wet ingredients to use on the steak as it cooks.
  • Grilling is the preferred cooking method- Here’s why: in order to develop the best flavor, you will need to use an extremely hot grill to sear the meat, followed by grilling at a moderate temperature to cook the meat. Instructions for grilling:
    • Turn all the burners on high and preheat with the lid closed for about 15 minutes.
    • Turn one burner down to medium.
    • Place the steak on the hot burner. Grill until well browned on one side for about 2-3 minutes. This is important to develop the crust. Flip the steaks and grill on other side for 2-3 minutes.
    • Move steaks over to cooler side of the grill. Put the lid down and grill for 5-6 minutes for rare meat, 6-7 minutes for medium rare, and 7-8 minutes for medium. DO NOT OVERCOOK THE MEAT. Overcooking leads to tough meat and remember all we did to try to make our meat tender? Let’s not blow it in the grilling phase!FullSizeRender (186)
  • Let it rest- It is important to allow the steak to rest before cutting so the juices settle back into the meat. Let rest for at least 5 minutes.
  • Cut the Steak- For maximum tenderness cut the sirloin against the grain. The grain is the direction that the muscle fibers are aligned. To cut against the grain means that if the grain runs left to right you would cut up and down, across but not parallel to the grain. Cutting through the fibers shortens them and makes it easier to chew through, since a lot of the hard work of breaking up the muscle fibers has already been done for you.

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Now comes the easy part- eat and enjoy! I served my sirloin with white cannellini and pinto beans (more vitamin B for us!), and a vinegar salad with cucumbers, tomatoes, red bell peppers, onions, and jalapeno peppers. We had grilled barbequed chicken thighs and beets too. Lots of protein and vegetables in this meal! Eating a meal like this abounding with healthy foods will help you live a life of vitality- with Valerie! 🙂

 

Join my current quinoa kick!

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Hello, my friends! It’s the most beautiful morning here in central Indiana, and I’m so grateful for the warmth and sunshine that spring brings. It thaws the chill from my winter-weary bones. 

Since spring is the time of greater light, it usually is a time of lightened up eating for me as well. My new eating passion is replacing simple carbs with complex ones, and my primary way of doing that is to use quinoa in the place of simpler carbohydrates like pasta and white rice. I’ve also been using vegetables in the place of simple carbs, and I’ll share some of those recipes with you soon. 

The newest recipe I’ve created is called quinoa con pollo. Now, arroz (rice) con pollo has always been one of my favorite things to eat. I’ve shared the recipe previously on the blog. The other day when I went to make it, though, I thought that if I used quinoa in the place of rice I would have a healthier dish. But could I still get the same rich, complex, delicious flavors and textures with quinoa? I decided to make it and find out. The conclusion to the experiment was that it was just as yummy and amazing as it is when rice is used in the recipe. And swapping rice for quinoa resulted in a bigger bang for my nutritional buck, which was my ultimate goal. I’d like to share the recipe with you now; come along for the ride! 
Valerie’s Quinoa Con Pollo

  • 1 whole chicken cut up
  • 1 teaspoon annato paste (optional)
  • Salt and pepper 
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 onion quartered 
  • 1 jalapeño pepper
  • 1 tomato
  • Red pepper quartered
  • 1 handful cilantro
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 3 cups chicken broth 
  • 1/2 cup rough chopped black, green or Greek olives- pitted
  • 1 roasted red pepper (optional)

  
First, take your cut-up chicken and salt and pepper it on both sides. 

  
Next, add the EVOO and annato paste to a large skillet on medium heat, and stir until the paste is melted into the oil. Annato paste adds a nutty flavor and rich golden color to the chicken, but is totally optional if you don’t have it.  Then add the chicken to the pan and brown for three minutes on each side. Remove from skillet to a plate to rest for a few minutes.

  
Then, take the garlic, onion, jalapeño pepper, red pepper, tomato and cilantro and throw them into a blender. Blend the ingredients for a minute until smooth, and then add them to the skillet. This is called soffrito, and is a blend of ingredients that is a staple of Mexican cooking. 

  
Stir occasionally and cook for 5 minutes until thickened and bubbly. 

  
Add the quinoa to the soffrito and simmer for a few minutes until the liquid is absorbed into the quinoa. Put chicken back into the pan, and then add the chicken broth. Toss the olives in as well. 

  
Cover and cook for about 25 minutes or until the liquid in the pan is absorbed and the quinoa is soft. 

  
Garnish the chicken with the roasted red pepper and a few leaves of cilantro. Eat and try not to make loud yummy noises! 🙂

The quinoa adds twice the protein, half the carbs, 2 1/2 times the fiber, and twice the iron for the same number of calories as rice. It’s a true nutritional powerhouse, especially if organic quinoa is used. I really didn’t miss the rice in this dish, I promise!  I hope my Mexican grandma isn’t going to send down her disapproval from heaven for changing a dish of such rich cultural heritage, but I think if she tried it, she’d approve! Let me know what you think when you try it. Making healthy but delicious swaps in your meals will help you live a life of vitality- with Valerie! 

Delish One Skillet Meal!

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

One Skillet Chicken with Lemon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Return chicken to pan and cover in sauce.

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

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

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

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

Make this for BAE today! J & D #3

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Hello friends! It’s almost Valentine’s Day, isn’t it? Yes, the day for amor is a few days away, and I’ve got an AWESOME recipe, courtesy of Jacqueline and Danielle, to share with you today. They made this meal last week for the two of them to share, and I’m proud to say they are each other’s BAE’s forever! BAE means “before anything else”, in case you were wondering. You should definitely make it for your special person or special people, whatever the case may be. This is the perfect Valentine’s Day dinner, it’s easy AND delish, so come along with me if you will and I’ll share with you now! 

  
Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Chicken

  • 2 cups organic baby spinach 
  • 1/2 cup ricotta 
  • 2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Grated Parmesan for sprinkling 
  • Paprika for sprinkling
  • Salt and pepper

  
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. SautĂ© spinach in pan with a bit of extra virgin olive oil until wilted. 

  
Add ricotta and stir until melted. Salt and pepper the mixture to taste.

  
 Take the chicken breasts, cut 3 or 4 slits, and stuff the ricotta/spinach mixture into them.  Sprinkle with Parmesan and paprika.

  
It’s ok if you have to put some of the mixture on top of the chicken. Bake at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. 

  
Now while the chicken is cooking prepare the pasta. 

Garlic butter white wine pasta with fresh herbs

  • 1 box of gluten free angel hair pasta
  • 3 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups fresh herbs like tarragon, parsley, basil etc (if you don’t have fresh herbs use 2 teaspoons each of dried herbs de province and Italian herb seasoning)
  • 1/2 small onion diced (or 2 shallots)
  • 4-8 garlic cloves finely minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup good white wine
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tbs butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste

  
Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil and add the pasta. Cook until al dente. 

Heat two tablespoons EVOO in a large pan, and add the onions (or shallots) cook for two minutes and then add the pepper flakes and garlic, and cook for a minute. Add the wine and chicken broth, cook on medium heat for 5-8 minutes or until slightly thickened. 

  
Remove from heat and stir in the cream and butter, and add salt and pepper to taste. 

  
Drain the pasta, reserving a bit of the pasta water, and add the pasta to the liquid mixture. If it’s too dry, add a bit of pasta water to loosen it up. 

  
Take a plate, put a good amount of pasta on it, and place a chicken breast on top. Add some extra Parmesan, salt and pepper, and you’re good to go! 

As meals go, this one is pretty healthy, all things considered. The chicken has lots of protein, the spinach is full of iron and other minerals, the ricotta has healthy fats, as does the EVOO, the pasta is gluten free, and all the herbs are loaded with phytochemicals and antioxidants. It’s a tad more indulgent calorie wise than I normally would post, however it’s Valentine’s Day so you should indulge on days like that.

And that’s it, cooking with Jac and Dan part 3 is finito! Enjoy your delicious meal and your sweetie pie on this day of hearts and love. Love and yummy food will help you live a life of vitality- with Valerie! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One of my fave meals made EASY!

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Hi friends! I’m going to share with you one of my favorite recipes that I’ve simplified to make my life easier. Now it will make yours easier too! 

Who doesn’t like arroz con pollo? No one I know. It’s flavorful, with juicy chicken and delicious rice. But have you ever seen a recipe? So many ingredients and steps- it’s overwhelming and I haven’t got time for that! So, I simplified the recipe to get all the flavor but not as many ingredients or steps. 

It’s a healthy recipe too, first due to the inclusion of chicken thighs, which I love because they are juicier and more flavorful than chicken breasts. Chicken thighs are an excellent source of protein, zinc and iron compared to chicken breasts. There is only one more gram of saturated fat in thighs, however the additional fat helps keep you more full and satisfied. Good deal! Next, this recipe utilizes tomatoes, peppers and onions which are full of antioxidants and vitamins- healthy stuff! In addition, I also used organic brown rice. If you’re going to eat rice it should be brown rice because it is a whole grain and thus healthier for you- more fiber and nutrients than white rice. 

Now we know that we are putting something good, both for you and tasting, into our bodies let’s get cooking, shall we?!!!

Arroz Con Pollo- my way!

  • 1/4 cup EVOO
  • 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 onion
  • 2 jalapeños
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup cilantro
  • 3 tomatoes
  • 1 bell pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 cup chopped green olives
  • 2 cups organic brown rice
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • Salt and pepper

  
First salt and pepper the chicken and then use the oil to brown it a few minutes on each side. Remove the chicken and put it aside on a plate for the moment. 

  
Next, take the onions, jalapeños, garlic, cilantro, bell pepper and tomatoes, rough chop them and place them in a blender. Blend on medium until they are liquified. Pour the liquid into the pan the chicken previously occupied and cook it down for a few minutes, until it thickens a bit.

  
Next add the rice and chicken broth to the pan with the thickened liquid in it, bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium. 

  
Add the chicken, cumin, and olives to the pan and simmer for 30 minutes until the rice and chicken are cooked through. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

  
And that’s all there is to it! It really is delicious and tastes like you spent hours working on it, even though you didn’t, but I won’t tell! Also, your clean up is minimal because there’s just the one pan and blender to wash. It’s healthy and easy and delicious, oh my! 🙂

So give this recipe a try and I promise you’ll like it! Eating food like this will help you live a life of vitality- like Valerie! 🙂

Spice up your meals with my secret ingredients!

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Hi friends! I hope you are well today. It’s been a crazy week around here but today is fairly calm and peaceful, thus I have a moment to share my favorite meal saviors with you. 

  
 
Ok so yesterday was a frantic day. I had to take Chewie (my little dog) to the vet for tooth cleaning, mouth x rays and eventual removal of his two main chewing teeth on the top at 7 am (one hour round trip). Then I rushed back home to get Danielle’s breakfast before she went to her nannying job, did laundry, straightened the house, took care of Delilah (my golden) and went back to pick up Chewie after his procedure (one hour round trip). Came home, fed both dogs and took them out, gave Chewie his meds, and then thought, “What the heck are we having for dinner?”  

Now my first instinct was that I definitely wasn’t cooking, I mean, I was tired and stressed from worrying about my little dog and all the running around. But I immediately reversed my thinking because I’m trying not to eat out as much these days. Eating out, even when you make healthy choices, results in higher caloric intake from larger portions and things like a basket of bread on the table than eating at home. So, I pulled my secret ingredients out of my back pocket (or out of my pantry and fridge), and put them together for an easy, tasty and healthy meal which I’m going to share with you right now. I made this recipe up one day out of desperation, and it has become one of my family’s favorite meals. It’s easy enough for my college aged readers to make in their apartments too. Come on and follow me, here we go!

  
Valerie’s Chicken, Chorizo and Black Bean Tacos

  • 1 chopped onion
  • 5 boneless skinless chicken thighs and 2 boneless skinless breasts
  • 2 cans organic black beans
  • 1 jar of Herdez Verde Sauce
  • 1 lb Mexican Chorizo sausage
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

First, sautĂ© an onion in a bit of oil in a big pot on the stove over medium heat until softened and translucent. Next, add the chicken, cumin, salt and pepper, and cook until it’s no longer pink. Take the chicken out of the pot and chop it into small pieces. (This step is optional, if you want large pieces of chicken and have no time to chop, skip this step.) 

  

Next, add the chorizo and cook until it is browned. Add the chicken back into the pot.

  
Last, add the entire jar of verde sauce, drain the black beans, and add them to the pot. Heat for a minute or so until warmed. 

  
And that’s it! This is such a flavorful and versatile mixture. It can be served on tortillas, tortilla chips or in burritos. You can eat it by itself too, as I usually do with a little shredded cheese on top. The chicken, chorizo, and beans are an excellent source of protein, and the verde sauce is full of vitamin C. It’s flavorful without being too spicy and it’s SO EASY! Plus I always enjoy a one pot meal because the clean up is a snap. Actually, the pot is chilling in my second fridge right now, just waiting for me to use the leftovers for a few more meals because it makes about 10 servings. AND, all of those ingredients are pretty inexpensive too. I love to save a buck where I can.

   

Since I always have chicken and chorizo in my freezer, and cans of black beans and jars of verde sauce in my pantry, this meal is always on hand for me to make at the last minute, like last night. So try it, you’ll like it! Eating meals like these will help you live a life of vitality- like Valerie!