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)! 🙂 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!

 

 

 

It’s not good for you, don’t buy into the hype!

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Hello, my friends! Here’s what I’m feeling passionate about these days. Let me back up, last weekend Danielle was home and she was drinking a bottle of Minute Maid cranberry apple raspberry juice. It surprised me to see her drink that kind of thing because she and Jac are pretty well-trained in healthy eating from hanging out with me their entire lives. I commented that this particular drink was not a healthy choice for her. She looked at the label and was appalled to see how much sugar it contained. Let me show you the label so you will see for yourself.

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58 grams of sugar per serving! And there are two servings in a bottle! Now I don’t know about you but I could drink an entire bottle at one time if I was really thirsty. That’s 116 grams of sugar in the bottle. It’s not even that big a bottle.

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So when Danielle looked at the back of the bottle and realized how much sugar she was consuming in this “fruit juice” she said, “Mom, you need to write about this to help make people aware of the hidden sugar in fruit juice.” I thought that was a great idea so here I am today to talk to you about fruit juice, and to give you some healthy alternatives.

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Now you might say, “Why do I care about how much sugar I’m consuming?” That’s a great question and I’ll answer that for you. Because sugar leads to diabetes, heart disease and cancer. In short, it’s the worst thing you can eat (or drink). And it’s in EVERYTHING! The second ingredient in this “juice” is high fructose corn syrup, AKA sugar. AKA, the worst form of sugar you can consume. This is not a healthy drink folks, in fact, it’s just as bad if not worse than soda pop.

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“What about 100% fruit juice”, you might ask, “that surely can’t be bad for you.” Wellll…. it actually is and here’s why. The juice from a piece of fruit is the most sugary part of the fruit, granted a natural form of sugar, but still very sweet. Now say you are eating the whole piece of fruit, like an orange or an apple. You would only eat one of them, right? But the problem with fruit juice is that you can drink the equivalent of 4 or 5 pieces of fruit, which is a lot of sugar. And when you eat a piece of fruit you get all of the fiber from the pulp and skin, which is super good for you and helps absorb the sugar. If you drink the juice you get no pulp or fiber. In conclusion, it’s always better to eat a whole piece of fruit than to drink the juice of said fruit.

Now I know that most people don’t just drink water with lemon all the time like I do, you want to drink something with flavor (I hear that all the time). Here are my suggestions for drinks with FLAVOR.

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Juice your own– Use a blender instead of a juicer to get all of the pulp from the fruit. That will help you to get the fiber you need. Also, don’t drink more juice than if you were eating the whole fruit. For instance, an orange typically contains half a cup of juice, so your intake should be no more than a half cup of FRESHLY SQUEEZED orange juice at a time.

Use fruit to sweeten– Instead of drinking pure fruit juice, add fruit juice to sweeten vegetable juice. Unlike fruit, vegetables are excellent to drink in juice form because it allows for faster, better digestion of the veggies. Fruit juice can be added to vegetable juice which will add sweetness and more nutrients. That’s a win-win!

Bai drinks– I always advocate fresh and homemade in favor of store bought products, however, I do like Bai brand beverages if you must drink something store bought. Most of their drinks are flavored with a combination of erythritol and organic stevia extract, which are natural sweeteners that have no calories or effect on blood sugar, ie safe for diabetics to drink. The drinks contain only 5 calories and 1 gram of sugar. Bai drinks are made from coffeefruit, the fruit from which coffee is extracted. It is full of antioxidants and polyphenols- lots of good, healthy stuff. Because of the coffeefruit it contains caffeine, about as much as a cup of green tea, so it gives you a little lift without giving you a total caffeine buzz. Bai drinks are gluten free, have a low glycemic index, non-gmo, kosher, vegan and soy free. As far as a store bought product is concerned, it’s pretty fabulous!

I tried the bubbles product in the Peru pineapple flavor. I am extremely sensitive to sugar substitutes so I was interested to see how I felt after I drank this one. It is slightly sweeter tasting to me than a drink that contains sugar, which is due to the stevia. Stevia is not sweet, but it makes your taste buds think that what you’re consuming is actually sweet when it’s not, as such to me it is sweeter than real sugar is. I probably thought it was sweeter than normal because I only drink water during the day. I liked the flavor of the drink, I really like pineapple and thought it had a nice, delicate pineapple flavor. It was fizzy but not super carbonated so that was pleasant. It didn’t have a lingering artificial aftertaste like some beverages not sweetened with sugar. All in all, I liked it a lot and would definitely drink it again if I wanted something besides water.

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I still feel the best option is filtered water infused with lemon, orange, lime, etc, but I know a lot of you need to drink something with more pizazz than water, so I’ve given you some suggestions to help you drink healthier. Make your own juice using a blender to get all the pulp, add fruit juice to vegetable juice as a natural sweetener, or drink a healthy store bought beverage like Bai if you need a drink with more flavor than water. Any of these are healthier options than the “fruit drink” full of high fructose corn syrup that Danielle was innocently drinking, or 100% fruit juice or of course soda pop. What you drink really matters to your overall health, so please pay attention because it can make a big difference. Drinking healthy beverages like the ones I’ve suggested can help you live a life of vitality- with Valerie! 🙂

Eating Healthy Starts with this! Part Deux

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Good day, my friends! I’m now going to continue my healthy eating post by telling you the second thing you need to eat healthily at home. The first as you recall if you read part one, was a pantry stocked with lovely items to help you cook healthy meals. The second essential is a well stocked refrigerator/freezer. Or in my case refrigerators/freezers because I have two, one in my kitchen and one in the garage. They are both important to my healthy cooking strategy so I’ll talk about how I use them both. Again, please don’t judge my fridge organization or cleanliness, just the contents! In addition, all food mentioned is organic whenever possible.

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Fridge Essentials

1. Liquids for drinking- We don’t drink soda pop and I don’t have any in the house. Instead, I keep the fridge stocked with filtered alkaline water, chocolate milk, almond milk, healthy juices with no sugar or corn syrup, and half and half for my coffee.

2. Yogurt and hummus- We always have these two items, though I usually make my own hummus, for healthy snacking.

3. Cooking ingredients- I always have minced garlic, olives, parmesan cheese, mayonnaise, Dijon and regular mustard, ketchup, salsa, hot sauces, and pickles to help add flavor to my meals.

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4. Vegetables and fruits- The vegetables I usually have on hand are romaine lettuce, asparagus, tomatoes, carrots, celery, and peppers. The types of fruit are grapes, strawberries, blueberries, apples, bananas, and watermelon. Many meals and snacks can be made from these vegetables and fruit.

5. Deli meat and cheeses- Important items here are turkey lunch meat, salami, cheddar cheese- both sliced and shredded, as well as romano cheese and parmesan for pastas.

6. Wine- no explanation needed here! 🙂

7. Eggs- Eggs are one of the things we eat often in my house. I make hard boiled eggs, fried, scrambled, poached, and egg salad. There are so many awesome dishes that can be made with eggs. Eggs are a great ingredient in other dishes as well, making them one of the most versatile items in my fridge.

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8. Leftovers- My outside fridge is mostly for leftovers, drinks and yogurt. I love leftovers and have written about that in many past posts. I eat them for lunch the next day or repurpose them into future meals. They are one of my favorite things in my fridge so don’t throw out the leftovers, this is your chance to be creative!

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Freezer Essentials-

1. Frozen vegetables- I always have frozen mixed vegetables on hand, mostly to make soups and stews, but I do like to have them for lunch sometimes.

2. Breakfast meats- We love breakfast in this house so I stock my freezer with bacon, breakfast sausage and chorizo to thaw for delicious breakfasts.

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3. Leftovers- Sometimes we don’t eat all of the leftovers in the fridge, despite my best attempts to polish them all off, and I definitely don’t want them to go to waste. I put them in the freezer, making sure to label the type of food and the date on the freezer bag, so I can ensure that when I defrost them I know what it is and how long it’s been in there. It’s so handy when I don’t have anything planned to cook. I just thaw the food item, and dinner is served!

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4. Meat- This is the heart of my outdoor freezer. I have different cuts of chicken in one section, beef in another, and lamb and pork in a separate area. I use the outdoor fridge to thaw the frozen meat a night or two before I am ready to cook, and then it’s ready to prepare.

5. Frozen fruit- I have frozen blueberries to make blueberry pancakes, and strawberries for smoothies.

Well, that’s what I consider essential for storing in the refrigerator and freezer. I hope you will stock what you like to eat and serve to your family and friends in your fridge/freezer. Eating at home is the best way to eat healthily. Eating healthy foods is the best way to live a life of vitality- with Valerie!

Reach for the Stars-choose healthy drinks at Starbucks!

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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 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! 🙂