Holiday Cranberry Mimosa!

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Hi friends! Thanksgiving has passed and if you’re like me, you have lots of leftover cranberries. I like cranberries sauce more and more every year, and I make a very delicious and easy cranberry sauce. I came across a Food Network show about the holidays, and in it they discussed mimosas. I had a eureka moment and thought, “Wow, what if I use my delicious cranberries to make a mimosa!” Well, I have to tell you that we have enjoyed them so much that we drink them frequently (but responsibly)! ūüôā I have included the recipe for my cranberry sauce and cranberry mimosas. They are so pretty and festive, besides being really darn good. They make a nice centerpiece to your holiday table. The cranberry sauce itself is so flavorful and bright, and with no added sugar is a healthy addition to your meals. Bon appetite!

Cranberry Sauce

  • 2 -8 ounce packages cranberries, fresh or frozen
  • 1 orange, zested and juiced
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 1 cinnamon stick

Put all of the ingredients into a saucepan over medium heat and simmer until the cranberries burst and the sauce thickens, about 15-20 minutes. serve at room temperature or cool and refrigerate. Remove the cinnamon stick before serving.

Cranberry Mimosa

  • 1 teaspoon of cranberry sauce
  • 1 glass decent quality champagne

Put the cranberry sauce into a champagne flute. Add the champagne to the glass and give it a quick stir. Serve and enjoy!

 

 

 

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!!

Eating Healthy Starts with This! Part One

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My kind of messy, but well stocked pantry!

My kind of messy, but well stocked pantry!

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

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

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

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

Pantry7

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

Pantry9

Pantry10

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

Pantry13

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

Pantry12

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

Pantry8

Pantry16

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

Pantry6

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

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

My chocolate stash- yummm!!!

My chocolate stash- yummm!!!

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

My spice rack- I love it!

My spice rack- I love it!

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

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

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

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

No Sugar, No Gluten- Nothing but Happiness!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are the ingredients!

Here are the ingredients!

Easy Peasy Banana Nut “muffins”

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

Sprayed- got it!

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

Throw everything in there!

Throw everything in there!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

 

 

Reach for the Stars-choose healthy drinks at Starbucks!

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Star7

This post is in honor of my daughter, Danielle, who has asked me a few times to write about making healthy drink choices at Starbucks. So, I did a little research, some based on my own experience, and compiled a list of what I consider to be the healthiest drink options. Now, remember that for me a healthy drink isn’t only a beverage that is low in calories, after all if that was the only criteria you could just order non fat, skinny everything and you wouldn’t need my help at all. No, for me a healthy drink contains little or no sugar, no artificial sweeteners, and¬†has little or no syrups which often times contain chemicals and other yucky additives. I tried to consider a variety of tastes in putting together my list too, not just coffee (Jacqueline’s favorite), but tea choices too (Danielle’s fave) among others. There is even a smoothie on the list. Obviously you can order black coffee or a tea bag and hot water at any time as well, but remember it’s what you add to it that can turn that relatively healthy beverage quickly to a highly caloric, chemically laden danger zone. With that in mind, I included drinks that give you a little more to start with so that you don’t have to add many extras to it to get it to taste delish. So get ready friends, here it is!

Healthy Starbucks Beverages

My number one choice for you coffee lovers is cappuccino!

My number one choice for you coffee lovers is cappuccino!

1. Cappuccino- Tall, 2% milk, 90 calories, 3.5 g of fat, 9g carbs, 6g protein, 75 mg caffeine. Here’s why I like this one, first, because the milk gives you 6 grams of protein per tall sized (12 ounce) portion, second because there is NO SUGAR in this drink, but you can add Truvia (natural sweetener from the Stevia plant) which they have available at all Starbucks locations, and third because Starbucks always has cinnamon on their condiment bar. Cinnamon is a powerful spice that contains Manganese, calcium and antimicrobial properties, it’s a super spice so any time you can use it, definitely make that healthy choice. But besides that, it tastes really warming and flavorful so it will add deliciousness and health to your beverages, instead of using the syrups that add calories and chemicals. I love the foam of a cappuccino, and because of that foam this drink contains less milk than a latte thus saving you calories in the process. Cappuccino is my favor drink to order at Starbucks by far.

Number 2 is refreshing and delicious!

Number 2 is refreshing and delicious!

2. Teavana Shaken Iced Passion Tango Tea- Tall, 60 calories (sweetened), 0 calories (unsweetened), 15 g carbs (sweetened), 0 g carbs (unsweetened). I met a friend at Starbucks a few months ago and wanted an iced drink without caffeine (because I already had enough for the day that morning), I studied the menu carefully, utilized My Fitness Pal app on my iphone to check the calorie content of this drink, and then ordered it unsweetened. I figured if it had no flavor I would just add honey to it after I gave it a taste, but it didn’t need it because it was delicious unsweeted. It is a hibiscus, apple, lemongrass and passion fruit tea, and it’s as good as it sounds. The ice makes it so refreshing, and I just enjoyed the heck out of this drink. Definitely a great choice!

Chai yes, it is yummy!

Chai yes, it is yummy! Danielle’s favorite!

3. Chai Tea Latte- Tall, 190 calories, 2.5 g fat, 34 g carbs,¬†6 g protein, 20 % RDA for calcium. I included this one as a healthy option, even though it’s high in calories and carbs because the spices give it such a warm flavor and the milk adds a good bit of protein. I always recommend getting only a tall size of this drink since it’s fairly high in calories; a little bit goes a long way with this one. I always order 2% milk instead of non-fat because though I’d save calories with the non-fat milk, the additional fat in 2% milk allows the nutrients in the milk to be better digested. I also do not EVER order a skinny beverage at Starbucks because they use an artificial sweetener which is more dangerous than the sugar this one contains.

Jacqueline's favorite!

Jacqueline’s favorite!

4. Caffe Americano- Grande, 15 calories, 3 g carbs, 1 g protein, 225 mg caffeine. This drink packs a caffeine punch with 225 mg, which is why it’s Jacqueline’s favorite! The Americano is an espresso that has hot water added to it, which gives it the caffeine of an espresso in a more generous portion size. She orders it plain and then goes to the condiment bar to add a bit of milk and honey, and a generous sprinkle of cinnamon. Delicioso!

Chocolate smoothie with protein!

Chocolate smoothie with protein!

5. Chocolate Smoothie- tall, 250 calories, 45 g carbs, 40 g protein, 8 g fiber, 20% RDA of Calcium and Iron, 15% RDA of Vitamin C, and 8% RDA of Vitamin A. This smoothie is made with mocha sauce, banana, milk, protein powder, fiber powder, and ice. The original version of this smoothie is actually 320 calories, but I saved you 70 calories because you’re going to request for it to be made with a half a banana instead of a whole one, and double the protein powder (they’ll have to put it in a larger cup because the extra protein will make the amount of this smoothie grow a lot!) I included this one on my list even though there are a lot of calories and carbs because for a smoothie it has relatively few calories and it has LOADS of protein which makes it a possible meal replacement. You can¬†request a shot of espresso to add caffeine to it if you need a pick me up also.

Iced green tea is good for whatever ails you!

Iced green tea is good for whatever ails you!

6. Teavana Shaken Iced Green Tea- tall, 60 calories sweetened, 0 calories sweetened, 15 g carbs (sweetened), 0 g carbs (unsweetened), 30-35 mg caffeine. This is a similar drink to the Passion Tango tea, but I included it because it has green tea in it which has antioxidants in it, plus it contains mint, lemongrass and lemon verbena. It also has a bit of caffeine in it due to the green tea so if you want caffeine this would be a good choice. Yum!

Now you’ve seen my choices for healthy drinks at Starbucks, in honor of my Danielle, but I hope it helps you too. There are healthier choices available if you’re careful and know where to look. Let me know how you like any of these drinks if you try them. Consuming healthy beverages will help you live a life of vitality- with Valerie!

 

 

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!

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!

 

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

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

Love my leftovers for lunch!

Love my leftovers for lunch!

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

Chicken corn chowder with a bowl of mixed veggies!

Chicken corn chowder with a bowl of mixed veggies!

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

Organic soups you can buy in the grocery store.

Organic soups you can buy in the grocery store

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

Egg salad- Salad!

Egg salad- Salad

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

Quinoa- so versatile and a great lunch ingredient!

Quinoa- so versatile and a great lunch ingredient!

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

Love me some hummus!

Love me some hummus!

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

Salsa rules!

Salsa rules!

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

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

 

HEALTHY coffee is my favorite way to start the day!

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Coffee11This morning after a late night at the Fleetwood Mac concert, which was such fun by the way, I really needed my morning coffee. My coffee is a necessity to give me a much¬†needed boost of energy in the morning. It’s also warm, homey and comforting to me. It really is a hug in a mug! I have previously spoken of my love for coffee and it’s benefits but today I want to talk about the stuff that goes into your coffee and how important it is to keep those things healthy. Otherwise, you can add HUNDREDS of calories to your coffee, and it can easily go from a healthy start to your day to a caloric wasteland. Besides being high in calories, some of the things you can add to your coffee can be downright BAD for your health, full of chemicals that can’t even be pronounced. I wanted to use this opportunity to save you all the calories and chemicals, and show you what I use so that you can benefit from my experience and drink delicious, HEALTHY coffee.

My coffee area highlighted by my Nespresso espresso machine!

My coffee area highlighted by my Nespresso espresso machine!

1. Start with high quality coffee- If you can find organic coffee, by all means use that. I have an espresso machine that I’ve used for the last few years. I really enjoy espresso but I recognize that many people don’t like the intensity of it, so use whatever works for you.¬†But for me the first step is to use really good coffee/espresso that doesn’t have any artificial flavors or additives in¬†it (artificial flavors=chemicals). Nespresso sells high quality, sustainably raised coffee in their espresso cubes. You¬†put the cube¬†into the machine and it¬†makes delicious¬†espresso.

I use an aeroccino or as I call it, a milk frother.

I use an aeroccino or as I call it, a milk frother.

2. Add REAL cream- I don’t use artificial creamers in my coffee. I will only use half and half, but the cool thing is that I use a milk frother. I pour the half and half into the frother, press the button, and it whips the milk up into a foamy deliciousness that makes me feel like I’m getting my coffee from a professional barrista! Of course I only use organic half and half also. I use an organic hazelnut half and half and add a¬†splash of that to the regular half and half and whip them together so I get a bit of sweetness into the cream.

I use Mexican hot chocolate bricks to impart sweetness into my coffee!

I use Mexican hot chocolate bricks to impart sweetness into my coffee!

Organic hazelnut half and half adds a bit of sweetness to the cream.

Organic hazelnut half and half adds a bit of sweetness to the cream.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. NO FAKE SUGARS- As I’ve said in previous posts, artificial sweeteners are bad for your health in MANY ways. They are full of chemicals and are NOT a component of a healthy lifestyle. In an effort to keep the calories down and impart sweetness to my coffee, I use a small splash of hazelnut half and half as I said above, and I also shave a small amount of Mexican hot chocolate into my coffee. I use a very small grater and shave no more than a half teaspoon of it into the coffee before adding the cream. I let the chocolate melt into the coffee, and then I add the cream and stir a few times to combine everything without adding too much air to take the fluffiness out of the foam.

Spices like cinnamon add tons of flavor to your coffee and are good for you too.

Spices like cinnamon add tons of flavor to your coffee and are good for you too.

4. Add different flavors to enhance your coffee- Spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom can really jazz up your coffee, adding a lot of flavor without adding calories. I add organic cinnamon to my coffee whenever I make it. Cinnamon is a healthful spice and has been said to help prevent diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and blood sugar spikes. It also is very warm and flavorful, and really complements the flavor of coffee. It’s a must for me!

There it is, all done and waiting for me to drink it!

There it is, all done and waiting for me to drink it!

Well, that’s how I make a perfectly delicious and healthy cup of coffee. The idea is to add layers of flavor so that you get an amazing¬†taste without adding a lot of chemicals or calories. Coffee can help enhance your memory and workouts, as well as preventing liver damage, helping to lessen the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, lessen our stress, and add antioxidants to our bodies. So I am perfectly justified in indulging in my morning cup of Joe, and I know it’s good for me too. Drinking coffee with healthy additions to it can help you live a life of vitality- like Valerie!