The Superfood You Need To Eat TODAY!

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Hello friends! As you know I always try to eat as healthily as I can. Lately though, I’ve been evaluating my diet and realizing that there are places in my healthy eating plan where I can substitute even healthier foods to get more nutritional bang for my buck. Last week I blogged about healthy cold and flu remedies, and I mentioned that I was experiencing viral symptoms myself. After I finished my post, I decided to make some chicken soup to aid in my healing. As I was thinking about chicken soup an idea popped into my mind. I thought that if there were a way to make chicken soup with QUINOA instead of rice, that would make it even healthier. I started searching around the internet and I found a recipe for a crockpot chicken and quinoa soup that sounded interesting. Since it was so close to dinner time, I didn’t want to use my crockpot so I changed the recipe to a stovetop soup,  adjusted some of the ingredients and cooking time- and voila! A delicious soup that is loaded with nutrition!

Now you may be wondering, why is quinoa so much better than rice or other grains? Excellent question, mi amigos, and now I’m going to tell you why. Quinoa is considered an ancient grain, along with farro, amaranth and barley, because they are almost exactly the same as they were hundreds or even thousands of years ago. Quinoa was even known as “the mother of all grains” to the Inca people when it was first cultivated over 5000 years ago. It usually comes in white, red, or black versions, I like to use a rainbow quinoa in my cooking. Of course, I also always use organic quinoa and try to use organic ingredients whenever possible.

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Consuming 2-3 servings of quinoa and other whole grain foods per day can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, colon cancer and obesity. Quinoa also provides a higher amount of antioxidants than other common grains used in a gluten free diet. Researchers at Columbia University’s Celiac Disease Center found that the nutritional content of gluten free diets was significantly improved by adding oats or quinoa to meals and snacks.

Whole grains like quinoa provide essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber which help to regulate the digestive system and to keep you fuller and more satisfied. In contrast, when you eat simple carbohydrates like white pastas, white rice, and white breads, they are quickly digested but offer little else in the way of nutritional value.

Quinoa is naturally gluten free and contains iron, B vitamins, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, vitamin E and fiber. It’s one of the only plant foods that is considered a complete protein and comprised of all essential amino acids. It also has a high protein to carbohydrate ratio when compared to other grain products, and it contains a healthy dose of fatty acids as well. 1/4 cup of DRY quinoa contains 160 calories, 2.5 grams of fat, 0 cholesterol and sodium, 27 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 0 sugars, and 6 grams of protein. Do you need any more convincing that quinoa is the grain for you?! I hope not! Now let’s look at the soup I made with quinoa, it will make your mouth water I promise you!

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Chicken and Quinoa Soup

  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 5 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 3/4 cups uncooked quinoa
  • 1 26 oz can diced San Marzano tomatoes
  • 6 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasonings (basil, oregano, parsley)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Parmesan Cheese

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Take a large pot, add the extra virgin olive oil, and warm over medium heat. Salt and pepper the chicken thighs on both sides and then add to the pot. Brown them 5 minutes on each side or until the pink totally disappears and remove them from the pot. Put them on a plate to cool a little.

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Add the carrots, onions and celery to the pot and sauté them for 3 minutes until softened. Take the minced garlic, combine it with the vegetables and stir it for a minute.

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Cut the now cooled chicken into decent sized chunks and add it back into the pot with the vegetables.

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Mix in the rest of the ingredients including the quinoa except for the parmesan cheese, and simmer for 30-45 minutes or until the quinoa is soft. As the quinoa cooks it will absorb more liquid so if want a more liquidy soup make sure to take it off the heat as soon as the quinoa is soft. You can also add more chicken broth, but I didn’t need to do that.

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Grate some fresh parmesan cheese onto the top of the soup and you’re ready to eat! It’s full of healthy chicken, vegetables, and quinoa, and it’s super delicious too. It’s also very easy to make with not too many ingredients. So make sure you eat more quinoa, and replace your simple carbs with complex carbs whenever possible. Eating like this will help you live a life of vitality- with Valerie!

Two of the healthiest things you should be eating!

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Hello friends! Well, the kiddos are all in school now and I love when my children are happily engaged in learning. It does this former teacher’s heart such good to see a text from my daughter yesterday saying how much she’s enjoying reading Homer’s Odyssey

  
Many of you are preparing breakfast in the morning for yourselves and/or for your children before work or school, right?!! Well, I’ve got an AMAZING meal for you, not just for morning but for anytime. It’s easy, delicious and it contains two of my favorite healthy foods, avocados and eggs. 

I’ve written about eggs in a past post “An eggcellent protein” and mentioned avocados in numerous posts, but since I have this great recipe that combines the two together I thought I would review why eggs and avocados are so good for us. Then I will provide the recipe for my egg and avocado bake at the end of the post. I’m sure eating healthy meals like this is why my daughters excel in their schoolwork. If it works for them, it will work for you! 🙂

  
First, here’s why you should eat avocados and it doesn’t make sense at first but we will work through it-because they have a high fat content. In a past post “fat doesn’t make you fat” I explain how foods rich in fat like avocados actually help your body absorb more nutrients like vitamins A, K, D, and E. Thus adding avocados to vegetables helps your body to receive all the vitamins in your food. Without fat in your diet, your body wouldn’t be able to absorb vitamins. Also, because they are so full of good fat they actually make you feel more satisfied so you won’t want to eat an hour after your meal. They are full of antioxidant and anti inflammatory characteristics like phytosterols, carotenoid antioxidants, omega 3 fatty acids, and polyhydroxolated fatty alcohols that fight arthritis, as well as combat cancer, especially mouth, prostate, and skin. 

  
They’re really good for your eyes as they have a high lutein and zeazanthin content, two phytonutrients that act as antioxidants in the eye, helping to prevent age related eye conditions. Avocados are high in B6 and folic acid which helps regulate homocysteine levels that reduce cholesterol in the body. They also contain 6-7 grams of fiber in half a medium fruit, which can aid in weight loss because it will make you feel fuller faster and for a longer time. Wow, see what I mean about them being one of my favorite healthy foods?!!

  

  
Eggs might just top avocados for me though as my favorite healthy food of all time. Plus, I love them so maybe that’s why they top my list. Anyway, whole eggs are considered among the most nutritious foods on earth. When you think about it, there are enough nutrients in that single, small egg to turn one cell into a baby chicken! Eggs contain lots of vitamins-B12, B2, A, B5, Selenium and small amounts of almost every vitamin and mineral required by the human body such as calcium, iron, potassium, zinc, manganese, vitamin E, folate, etc, etc, etc. You get the picture. One large egg has 77 calories, 6 grams of protein, 5 grams of fat and trace amounts of carbohydrates. 

  
I don’t understand the “egg white omelette” kick as a healthy, diet food. Here’s why: ALL of the nutrients in an egg are found in the YOLK. The white mostly just contains protein. The yolk is also where the fat is and as I said with avocados, HEALTHY FAT IS A GOOD THING THAT CAN HELP YOU LOSE WEIGHT. Sorry I was shouting but I can’t stand these health fallacies that are out there, and I don’t want my wonderful readers believing such crap! So anyway, eat the WHOLE egg to receive all the wonderful benefits contained within. 

Here’s why eggs received a bad rap in the past- they have 212 mg of cholesterol which is a lot compared with many foods. HOWEVER, eating foods high in cholesterol doesn’t raise your bad cholesterol. Actually our livers make cholesterol every day and if we eat foods with cholesterol the liver has to produce less which ultimately lowers our cholesterol levels. 

  
Eggs have tons of choline in them, which is a nutrient in the B complex vitamin category that helps prevent liver and cardiovascular diseases as well as neurological disorders. They’re also considered a “perfect” source of protein because the amino acids contained in eggs are linked together in such a way as to form a perfect chain of 21 which are considered essential for our bodies. Just like avocados, eggs contain high amounts of lutein and zeazanthin that protect our eyes from macular degeneration and cataracts. These diseases are the leading sources of vision related impairment and blindness in the elderly. 

Because eggs have so much protein they, like avocados, score highly on the satiety index (a scale that shows how full and satisfied we are after meals). Therefore, eggs are an important part of a weight loss plan (or a weight maintenance plan for that matter).  Of course I always recommend pastured or omega 3 enriched eggs because healthier hens lead to healthier eggs. I buy my eggs from a local farmer who doesn’t raise hens in cages. Last but not least, eggs are cheap, taste great, and are very versatile too as I’ll show in my recipe.

So now we turn to the recipe part of this post. Buckle up your seat belts, because I’m about to knock your socks off with this one. It is one of the best recipes I’ve shared on my blog, and I know you will love it.

  
Avocado and Egg Bake

  • 1 avocado cut in half, seed removed
  • 2 organic pastured farm raised eggs
  • 1/4 cup shredded organic cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon each cumin, chili pepper
  • Salsa
  • Salt and pepper to taste

  
Preheat oven to 425. Place the avocado halves in a small baking dish. Scoop out a bit of the flesh of the avocado and then crack an egg into each half.

  

  
 Sprinkle the tops with cheese, spices and salt/pepper. Bake for 15 minutes. Check to make sure the egg is done before serving and cook a little longer if needed. Remove from oven, pour some salsa over the top and serve. They are so delicious you won’t believe it!

  
That’s all there is to it and now that you know just how healthy avocados and eggs are I’m sure you’ll try this recipe. Encorporate more eggs and avocados into your diet because you’ll live longer, and be happier and healthier too. Eating foods like this will help you live a life of vitality-with Valerie!

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

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My Italian meatloaf is a family favorite!

My Italian meatloaf is a family favorite!

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

Here’s why ground beef is GOOD for you:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Valerie’s Italian Meatloaf

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

Ready for mixing- by hand is the ONLY way!

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

Ready for baking!

Ready for baking!

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

That was my meal, seconds before it was consumed!

That was my meal, seconds before it was consumed!

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

A Healthy Start for the New Year! Drink Matcha Green Tea!

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Me and my Matcha green tea!

Me and my Matcha green tea! Drinking it as I write!

Hello Friends! I hope you had a wonderful Christmas! I did and I’m really revving up for a healthful and fabulous 2015! One of the ways I’m doing that is by drinking Matcha green tea. Now, I’ve always known that green tea is good for me, though I’ve never really been a tea drinker (see my previous post “HEALTHY coffee is my favorite way to start the day!”), as coffee has always been my morning drink of choice. Lately, I’ve been doing some research on green tea, Matcha specifically, and I was intrigued enough to try it. I have become a believer about the health benefits of Matcha green tea and I’d like to share my findings with you today.

Matcha green tea is an important part of the Japanese tea ceremony.

Matcha green tea is an important part of the Japanese tea ceremony.

Here’s the thing, all tea (white, green, oolong, black, and pu-erh) comes from the same plant, camellia sinensis, which is a woody shrub native to southern China that is generally kept plucked to its picking height of 3-4 feet.  Now, Matcha is a high quality green tea that is covered before picking to accentuate the color, and then stone ground after being picked and before being sealed into small tins. In Japan, Matcha tea is a very important part of the tea ceremony. It has a somewhat grassy taste, but the type I drink enhances the green tea taste with other flavors like blood orange and peach. It’s definitely important to make sure you purchase high quality Matcha tea, as with all varieties, to ensure you are receiving the maximum benefits.

Isn't Matcha a beautiful color?! Full of antioxidants too!

Isn’t Matcha a beautiful color?! Full of antioxidants too!

Matcha green tea is powdered which makes it easier to prepare. You just add hot water if you want to drink it warm, or cold water if you want it as a cold beverage, stir and you’re done! No steeping of tea leaves involved with Matcha tea. Next, I will discuss the health benefits of drinking it, and then I’ll let you know the type I’m currently drinking.

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1. Matcha tea is high in antioxidants– Remember that antioxidants are the nutrients and enzymes responsible for fighting against the negative effects of UV radiation, giving us younger looking skin, and fighting off a number of life-threatening illnesses. We know that fruits, vegetables, red wine, and chocolate have antioxidants, but Matcha green tea has FIVE TIMES THE ANTIOXIDANTS AS ANY OTHER FOOD IN JUST ONE SERVING! That makes it worth it for me to drink it!

2. Tons of Catechin, EGCg– Green tea has a specific set of organic compounds called catechins. Catechins are among the most potent and beneficial antioxidants out there. One specific catechin, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCg), makes up 60% of the catechins in Matcha green tea. Out of all antioxidants EGCg is the one most widely recognized for its cancer fighting properties. Matcha contains over 100 times more EGCg than any other tea on the market.

3. Enhances calm but increases energy (What the what?!!)- Here’s how that works, the amino acid L-Theanine in Matcha tea leaves promotes the production of alpha waves in the brain which induces relaxation without the drowsiness caused by other “calming products” out there. It also contains a combination of nutrients that gives increased endurance and more energy which can last UP TO SIX HOURS. It doesn’t have the usual side effects of stimulants, like nervousness and hypertension. Samurai warriors drank Matcha green tea before going into battle because of the tea’s energizing properties, and Zen Buddhist monks and Chinese Daoists drank it as a way to relax and meditate while remaining alert. So it calms you, AND give you energy- naturally! That’s a win win!

4. Boosts memory and concentration– Another side effect of L-Theanine is that it produces dopamine and serotonin which enhance mood, promote better concentration, and improve memory. I need that so that’s yet another benefit for me!

5. Burns calories and detoxifies the body, yet is very low in calories– Drinking Matcha green tea has been shown to increase metabolism and help the body burn fat about four times faster than average, but unlike diet aids on the market does not have any negative side effects like increased heart rate and high blood pressure. Yay for me! Also, the Matcha leaves are covered to deprive them of sunlight during the last three weeks before tea leaves are harvested, which causes a huge increase in chlorophyll production. This not only gives the tea its vibrant green color, but it is also a powerful detoxifier capable of naturally removing heavy metals and chemical toxins from the body. It is very low in calories too. The Matcha I drink has 20 calories per packet and it makes 12-16 ounces of liquid. That’s amazing!

6. Fortifies the immune system and improves cholesterol– The catechins in Matcha tea have been shown to have antibiotic properties, which promotes overall health. Also, one serving provides substantial quantities of Potassium, Vitamins A and C, Iron, Protein, and Calcium. In addition, the nutrients in Matcha may have the ability to inhibit the attacks of HIV on human T-cells. Another cool thing is that people who drink Matcha on a regular basis have lower levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol and higher levels of HDL (good). Men in particular who drink Matcha tea are 11% less likely to develop heart disease than those who don’t drink it.

The Matcha green tea I am drinking- and I highly recommend it!

The Matcha green tea I am drinking- and I highly recommend it!

I am drinking Jade Monk Matcha green tea powder in the cranberry blood orange flavor right this instant and I’m loving it! It doesn’t have the bitter flavor that some teas do, and I don’t have to add any milk, or lemon, or sweeteners like sugar or honey to make it taste delicious. I’m drinking it cold right now, but I prefer it warm. And remember it’s low in calories- one packet contains 20 calories. It’s super easy to make too. If you prefer to drink it warm what I do is use a measuring cup and put 14 ounces of filtered drinking water into it, throw it into the microwave for three minutes and then add it to a drinking glass, pour in the packet, stir and drink. If you’d like it cold, you can add cold filtered water to a drinking glass, pour the packet in, and stir. It’s also really convenient if you’re running out the door to put a water bottle into the fridge to get it cold, pour the packet in, shake and you’re done!

Matcha's benefits in a nutshell!

Matcha’s benefits in a nutshell!

So that’s why I’m loving Matcha green tea right now. The health benefits are numerous, AND NATURAL! I can’t think of any negatives either, which is rare for any product on the market. I purchased the Jade Monk Matcha tea from Whole Foods, but you can purchase it online too. Try it, you’ll like it! It will help you lead a life of vitality- with Valerie!

 

A Healthy way to Drink in the New Year!

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A good glass of wine makes everything fine- Thanksgiving 2013!

A good glass of wine makes everything fine- Thanksgiving 2013!

So the holidays are upon us, aren’t they? 9 more days until Christmas and a little over two weeks from the big drinking holiday, New Year’s Eve. Pretty much every adult I know over 21 will ring in the new year with a cocktail or two. Being an advocate for healthy living, I wanted to let you know what I feel are the five healthiest alcoholic beverages to drink, not just on New Year’s Eve, but any time of the year. Now, healthy to me means that not only is the cocktail low in calories, but it also has positive health benefits, and it tastes good too. That’s why you won’t see VODKA TONIC on my list. Yes, it is low in calories, but other than that it basically has no nutritional value and no flavor. Hence it is not a healthy cocktail in my book.

Here’s the thing though, QUALITY IS BETTER THAN QUANTITY when it comes to the healthiness of an alcoholic beverage. No cocktail is healthy if you have more than 2 of them, and if you get to four or more than it becomes toxic to your body. So my advice to you is, BE A MODERATE DRINKER. That’s the best thing you can do for your health. With that in mind, I will share my healthy cocktail list with you.

Number one healthiest alcoholic drink and my personal favorite- WINE!

Number one healthiest alcoholic drink and my personal favorite- WINE!

1. Red or White Wine- This one is one of the healthiest and my favorite so I’m going to call it the number one on the healthiest cocktail scale. First, it contains 5% of your daily nutritional requirements for iron, 9% potassium, 5% magnesium, and antioxidants like flavonoids and nonflavanoids. Resveratrol, which is a nonflavanoid, reduces blood clots and lowers bad cholesterol. Calories range from 110-130 per glass so it’s not a highly caloric option. Taste wise you have many options in flavor. Whether you like dry or sweet, red or white, you can find a flavor that pleases your palate.

Michelada- a recently tasted cocktail and a good one too!

Michelada- a recently tasted cocktail and a good one too!

2. Michelada- I recently tried one of these cocktails at a delicious Mexican restaurant near my daughters’ university and I loved it. It’s a much more interesting and flavorful twist on a Bloody Mary (which is also a healthy cocktail option for you!). It’s spicy, salty, and so refreshing! The ingredients are beer, limes, Worcestershire sauce, Valentina hot sauce, black pepper, sea salt, and ice. Now, beer is not the healthiest ingredient in a cocktail (beer= carbs), but if a light beer is used it’s not too bad since most come in at under 100 calories. The Michelada I had was made with Modelo Especial which though it isn’t a light beer is really delicious, and I only had one cocktail. I don’t even like beer but I really liked this alcoholic beverage. It also contains lime juice which has tons of vitamin C. Vitamin C helps your immune system and neutralizes free radicals that damage our tissues. The hot sauce in this cocktail is made from chili peppers, which contain capsaicin (helps in fighting certain cancers). Chilis are used to aid digestion, reduce appetite, and increase metabolism. The sea salt in the drink helps replenish electrolytes, and the Worcestershire sauce has vitamin B6 (builds red blood cells and maintains nervous system function) in it from the molasses, garlic, cloves and chili pepper extract contained within the sauce. It also has antioxidants, vitamin C, vitamin K (protects against hemorrhaging and bone loss), and niacin, which aids in digestion. Try it, you’ll like it!

Manhattan- not the city but the cocktail!

Manhattan- not the city but the cocktail!

3. Manhattan- I’m not much of a mixed drink girl, but I know many of you are out there so in honor of all of you mixed drink fans, I’ve included the Manhattan as one of the best tasting and healthiest mixed cocktails. The ingredients are bourbon, sweet vermouth and Angostura Bitters. Bourbon is flavorful and only 97-110 calories per 1.5 ounces, vermouth is a wine fortified with herbs and contains 45 calories per ounce, and bitters are alleged to have restorative properties and are used to calm an upset stomach. It’s strong so only one cocktail will be plenty in this case. If you like a mixed drink, this is the one for you!

Mmmm Mimosa!

Mmmm Mimosa!

4. Mimosa/Bellini- Mimosas are champagne and orange juice, and Bellinis are champagne and peach juice. Now these are not particularly low cal drinks because of the juices, but they are delicious and satisfying, therefore one cocktail will be plenty. I had a cocktail while in Las Vegas that contained an Italian champagne called Prosecco, berry puree, and lemon juice that was delicious and so pretty. it was called Berry Prosecco Fizz so I’m including that drink in this category too. All of these drinks contain champagne, which is sweet and slightly caloric at 90-110 calories per glass, but champagne is a wine so it contains a ton of antioxidants. Orange juice and peach juice contain many vitamins and minerals that are great for you. One tip I got was to make the Mimosa with grapefruit juice instead of orange, because grapefruits have more fat burning properties than oranges do. Sounds delish to me!

Guiness is a healthy beer!

Guiness is a healthy beer!

5. Guinness- I’m not much of a beer fan as I said above, but I know many beer fans, so folks this one’s for you! Guinness is low in calories despite how thick it is, 128 calories for 12 ounces. Also, Guinness is made from more whole grains than most regular beers so it’s full of nutrients. Guinness is shown to have similar antioxidant properties to red wine, and a University of Wisconsin study showed that drinking it helps reduce blood clots and heart problems. Good deal!

Some others healthy alcoholic beverages that could’ve made my list are Sangria (wine and fruit), Bloody Mary (vodka, tomato juice, horseradish, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, celery, salt, pepper), and bourbon/whiskey and soda, all healthy drink choices. Remember though, that moderation is the way to go here, and please don’t excessively drink on New Year’s Eve or at any time. 2 drinks or less is the way to go, and the drinks that are on my list are so flavorful that you don’t need to drink a lot to get a delicious flavor and be satisfied. Enjoy your holidays with a healthy drink or two at the most. It will help you live a life of vitality- with Valerie! 🙂

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

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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!

 

 

An EGGceptional protein!

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Eggs are good for you!

Eggs are good for you!

I think eggs are one of the most vilified foods we eat- or don’t eat. The media has blasted eggs saying that they are bad for us, that they give us high cholesterol which leads to heart disease, that they are high in calories, and that they have no nutritional value. In short, experts say that eggs are a quick route to a heart attack and should be avoided at all costs. More and more research, however, is coming to light that says eggs are good for us and a healthy addition to our diets. Yay!

Here’s another true confession moment from Vital Val, I absolutely love eggs and have eaten them my entire life! I love them! I think they are a delicious and versatile food, and they keep me very satisfied. Just like with bacon I became a closet egg eater, and definitely did not sing the praises of eggs. Now though, I think it’s time for eggs to take their rightful place as a nutritional powerhouse and I’m here to bring them out of the darkness and into the light for you today. Following are the most popular myths about eggs that I will dispel.

My favorite way to eat eggs, simple, put a little butter in the pan and fry them up. YUM!

My favorite way to eat eggs, simple, put a little butter in the pan and fry them up. YUM!

Eggs are high in cholesterol and that’s bad, right? Wrong, though eggs are high in cholesterol, one large egg contains 185 mg of cholesterol, the cholesterol you ingest in the foods you eat does not raise cholesterol. In fact, when you eat foods high in cholesterol it actually lowers your body’s cholesterol. Yep, I know, but it’s true. And here’s the thing, cholesterol is not bad for your body anyway. Cholesterol is an important nutrient that aids in growth and hormone production.

My second favorite egg preparation- deviled eggs! Mayo, mustard, salt and pepper is all it takes!

My second favorite egg preparation- deviled eggs! Mayo, mustard, salt and pepper is all it takes!

Eating eggs can make you fat? Also wrong! In a research study quoted in the Huffington Post participants ate 3 eggs a day (I want to participate in that study!) while on a weight loss diet and they lost weight, either maintained or improved their cholesterol levels, and decreased inflammation. How bout that?!!

My third favorite way to eat eggs- Egg Drop Soup! Eggs and chicken broth, a very tasty combination!

My third favorite way to eat eggs- Egg Drop Soup! Eggs and chicken broth, a very tasty combination!

Another egg myth is that the yolk of the egg is unhealthy and should be avoided at all costs. 90 percent of the calcium, iron, phosphorus, zinc, thiamin, B6, folate, pantothenic acid and B12 of the egg is in the yolk. In addition the yolk contains all of the fat-soluble components, such as vitamins A, D and E, not to mention the heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Egg yolks are also a great source of some other nutrients such as choline, lutein and zeaxanthin. Really, the egg white only contains protein and water so if the yolk is skipped you’re missing out on the majority of the nutrients in the egg.

My fourth favorite- egg salad! I make it with mayo, mustard, salt, pepper, and serve it over a lettuce salad with vinaigrette. Fabulous!

My fourth favorite- egg salad! I make it with mayo, mustard, salt, pepper, and serve it over a lettuce salad with vinaigrette. Fabulous!

A couple of caveats on all of this pro-egg euphoria, first there have been studies that have shown people who have diabetes should have no more than 3 eggs per week because the cholesterol in eggs can be problematic to diabetics if they eat an excessive amount of them. Second, 0.2 percent of the population has a condition called familial hypercholesterolemia, and if you have this you shouldn’t eat eggs. Third, if you’re eating a diet high in sugar and carbohydrates, which in my opinion NO ONE should be eating, you should limit your egg consumption because of the danger of getting many different illnesses from a diet of that kind.

My favorite sandwich and my fourth fave egg preparation, a egg, cheese, and bacon sandwich on gluten free bread. Can be eaten for any meal!

My favorite sandwich and my fifth fave egg preparation, an egg, cheese, and bacon sandwich on gluten free bread. Can be eaten for any meal!

In addition, the kind of eggs that you eat are important because not all eggs are created equal. The eggs that I buy are from free range chickens and are fed a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids. You can get these at a health foods grocery store and sometimes at the farmer’s market. So is this post making anyone hungry? It’s definitely making me hungry so I’m going to go make myself a meal with eggs right now. Let me know how you like to eat your eggs and thank you for reading this post!  Just remember that eggs are good for you and eating them can help you to live a life of vitality-like Valerie!

 

Bacon is my favorite HEALTHY thing!

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Bacon makes me happy!

Bacon makes me happy!

Ok, let me make this very clear, I LOVE BACON! I’m a big breakfast lover and some of my best and earliest memories are of my mom making pancakes and bacon for our morning breakfast on the weekends. Sometimes we had scrambled eggs and bacon, other times fried eggs and bacon, and occasionally French toast and bacon. But almost always bacon was on the menu for breakfasts and I grew up adoring it. The delicious smell of bacon cooking on weekend mornings is one of my favorite childhood memories. Bacon is everything I like: salty, fatty, porky flavor. When I was a child I didn’t know if bacon was good or bad for you, I just knew I loved it. As I grew older, however, I began reading about how bad bacon was for me. It was full of saturated fat, sodium, chemicals that could cause cancer, raise cholesterol, and eventually kill me. That’s heavy stuff and I began to cut back on my bacon eating, though I missed it mightily. After a few miserable years of deprivation I entered what I call my guilty bacon eating phase, I ate bacon but I didn’t admit that I ate it. I was a closet bacon fanatic. My daughters have grown up eating bacon because I love to cook it for my girls too, and they are big bacon fans as well.

Bacon1

Imagine my surprise after all of the years of no bacon and then secret bacon eating, when I happened upon an article by Kaayla T. Daniel, PhD, CCN, that was featured in Dr. Mercola’s newsletter called, “Save Your Bacon! Sizzling bits about nitrites, dirty little secrets about celery salt, and other aporkalyptic news” January, 2013. She says that there are many studies out there saying that bacon leads to death, particularly a study by the Harvard School of Public Health that leads to the negative perception of bacon. However these studies show a minute increase in the risk of “death by bacon”. A 0.2 % increased risk at most. Dr. Daniel sets out to debunk these dire notions about bacon and says that bacon actually is 50% monounsaturated fat (MUFA!), 10% polyunsaturated fat (PUFA!), and 40%saturated fat. She also says that pork fat contains a form of phosphatidylcholine which contains more antioxidant activity than vitamin E. The fat also contains fat soluble vitamin D, which is good for us.

Bacon2

The most important aspect that makes bacon good for you, though, is the source of the bacon. Factory farmed pigs that are fed mostly grains will be low in vitamin D, but pigs allowed to freely roam and forage outdoors will be high in vitamin D. She also informs us that bacon fat can help diabetics stabilize their blood sugar because of the triglycerides in bacon fat. It’s also believed that bacon can lead to weight loss because a bacon and eggs breakfast is high fat, high protein, and low carb, which can reduce the hungry feeling and rev up the metabolism. Dr. Daniel informs us that though the “food police” warns us about the dangers of cholesterol and sodium, there is no proof that high cholesterol leads to heart disease and also no proof that eating sodium leads to heart disease, cancer and other dire diseases. She warns that eating “nitrite free” bacon isn’t healthier for us than bacon cured with nitrites, because the other methods used to cure the bacon can actually add more nitrites to the bacon than the traditional methods.

LOL!

LOL!

So the key to making bacon healthy is to buy bacon that uses traditional curing methods but not from bacon producers who use cheap, fast and unhealthy ways to cure the bacon. How do we know the methods a bacon manufacturer uses are healthy? First of all, supermarket bacon is mass produced using cheap and unhealthy processes so that type of bacon should be avoided. Dr. Daniel suggests contacting an organization called Weston Price, a group that connects people to farmers that are producing healthy food. They have hundreds of chapters throughout the United States, and she recommends contacting a chapter leader to find out the best sources for bacon in each area. I get my bacon at the Farmer’s Market or health food grocery store, and you can ask for information about the curing methods and processing of the bacon. The conclusion to all of this is that now not only do I still love bacon, but I don’t have to hide my love for the pig anymore. That’s progress!