You need THIS at your Labor Day Cookout!

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Jacsy was the inspiration for this post, as she has loved veggies and “dip it” since she was a little girl!

 

Hello, friends! Are you ready for Labor Day weekend? Doesn’t it seem like instead of one day of feasting, it’s a three day gorge-fest?!! It is like that for me. If your holiday weekend is like mine, I have two delicious dips you can make that are super easy to prepare, and healthy to boot. You can make these in advance, put them out whenever you are celebrating, and they won’t derail your healthy eating plan.

One common ingredient in both dips is Greek yogurt. I wrote all about the health benefits of Greek yogurt in a past post “One of the BEST ways to start your day!”    https://vitalvaldecap.com/2016/03/10/one-of-the-best-ways-to-start-your-day/  Click on the link provided to check out all the great Greek yogurt facts. I also provided a scrumptious morning yogurt recipe in that post.

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To summarize, FULL FAT plain Greek yogurt has loads of calcium, probiotics, and protein. It has little sugar or carbohydrates. It also contains high quality fats which are essential for every part of our bodies. But that’s not all the healthy ingredients my dips contain.

One of the dips is made with cannellini beans, which are actually white kidney beans. Kidney beans are considered one of nature’s superfoods owing to their high mineral, vitamin, protein and fiber content. Due to that high fiber content, they are also among the best foods for weight loss, because fiber leaves you feeling full for longer and keeps food cravings at bay. They are also rich in antioxidants, which are are known to have anticancer properties. Kidney beans are high in vitamin B9 also called folate or folic acid, which makes them heart healthy, and in B1 or thiamin, necessary for formation and operation of brain cells.

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I have always loved white kidney beans or cannellini beans. They have such a delicate texture and flavor. I’ve always found red kidney beans’ flavor to be too strong and aggressive for me, however the white ones are versatile to use in many dishes due to their mild flavor. Does that convince you of the health benefits derived from these dips? Then, let’s move on to the recipes!

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White Bean Dip

  • 15 ounce can of cannellini beans, drained (if not using organic you must also rinse them)
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons full fat plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chives
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Put all ingredients in food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Add fresh chives on top for garnish.

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Veggie Dip

  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 2 scallions, sliced with greens and whites separated
  • 1 1/4 cups full fat Greek yogurt
  • 3/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

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Heat oil over medium heat and add onions and scallion whites. Cook about 10 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from heat and cool.

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Combine the rest of the ingredients. Add the sautéed onions to the mixture. Chill for an hour before serving.

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Still have lots of veggies from my garden, and this is a great way to eat ’em up!

 

And that’s all there is to both dips. I made them both in about 15 minutes and stuck them in the fridge to chill until ready to serve. I served them with various vegetables which also adds to the health quotient. I think the second dip tastes EXACTLY like the French onion dip my mom used to buy in the grocery store when I was young, and into which I loved to dip ruffled potato chips.I’m not judging if you want to dip a few chips, and I might have done so myself when I was making it. Chips are my guilty pleasure, so salty and crunchy, and the creaminess of the dip is perfectly balanced by the saltiness of the chips. Sometimes you’ve got to have a little of your guilty pleasure, whatever it is, so go for it and I won’t tell anyone! 🙂 Eating these healthy and yummy dips (and having an occasional guilty pleasure) will help you live a life of vitality- with Valerie! 🙂

Yet ANOTHER Source of Cancer Prevention For You!

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Wild and crazy garden!

 

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

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My tomatillo plant, with little tomatillos on it!

 

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

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Tomatillos in their husks!

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

Roasted Tomatillo Sauce

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

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

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

 

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

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Looks wrong, but it’s oh so right!

 

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

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

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

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Raw tomatillo sauce, brightly colored and flavored!

 

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

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

Roast these for optimal nutrition!

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A cornucopia of tomatoes!

 

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

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

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

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

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

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My trusty sous chef, Danielle! 🙂

 

Valerie’s Roasted Tomato Sauce

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eat this to prevent cancer and heart disease!

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The family is gathered for dinner, Danielle is helping me prep the food, and life is good!

 

Hello, friends! I want to talk to you today about one of my FAVORITE things to eat. The greatest thing about it besides the deliciousness is how totally good it is for you. What I am referring to is…. the avocado. A simple and humble fruit, but WOW does it pack a healthy punch of nutrients and antioxidants that helps prevent all kinds of really bad illnesses. So my goal here is to tell you why you should be eating more avocados, and then show you a recipe for a scrumptious and easy avocado salad that I made the other day.

The main thing to remember about the avocado is that it is a fruit, but unlike most other fruits it contains healthy fats instead of carbohydrates. Each avocado has approximately 160 calories, 2 grams of protein and 15 grams of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs). Although it has 9 grams of carbs 7 of them are fiber, which means there are only 2 net carbs, making avocados a low-carb friendly plant food.

Avocados have:

  • Vitamin K: 26% of the RDA.
  • Folate: 20% of the RDA.
  • Vitamin C: 17% of the RDA.
  • Potassium: 14% of the RDA.
  • Vitamin B5: 14% of the RDA.
  • Vitamin B6: 13% of the RDA.
  • Vitamin E: 10% of the RDA.
  • Small amounts of Magnesium, Manganese, Copper, Iron, Zinc, Phosphorous, Vitamin A, B1 (Thiamine), B2 (Riboflavin) and B3 (Niacin).

Again, avocado is a high fat food. In fact, 77% of the calories in it are from fat, making it one of the fattiest plant foods in existence. But they don’t just contain any fat… the majority of the fat in avocado is oleic acid. This is a monounsaturated fatty acid that is also the major component in olive oil and believed to be responsible for some of its beneficial effects. Oleic acid has been linked to reduced inflammation and been shown to have beneficial effects on genes linked to cancer.

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When it comes to nutrients, the total amount of them is not the only thing that matters. We also need to be able to absorb them… move them from the digestive tract and into the body, where they can be used. Some nutrients are “fat soluble,” meaning that they need to be combined with fat in order to be utilized. This includes vitamins A, D, E and K… along with antioxidants like carotenoids. One study showed that adding avocado or avocado oil to either salad or salsa can increase antioxidant absorption by 2.6 to 15-fold. So… not only is avocado highly nutritious, it can dramatically increase the nutrient value of other plant foods that you are eating. This is an excellent reason to always include a healthy fat source when you eat veggies. Without it, a lot of the beneficial plant nutrients will go to waste.

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From a food perspective avocados are also very versatile to cook with and to eat. Besides guacamole, which most people think of when they think about making food containing avocados, you can use them in many different dishes. I slice them on top of meat, use them in salads, slice them on top of tacos or nachos, and I love them with eggs too.

I also love the recipe I’m going to share with you today. It’s an avocado salad and the reason I like it so much is that I love guacamole, but when I eat it I find that I eat half a bag of tortilla chips and that is too many carbs and calories for me. It also has black beans in it, which ups the fiber content as well as the protein, and makes it taste even better as well. I hope you enjoy it too!

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Avocado Salad

  • 4 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 15 ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 2 seeded and minced jalapeno peppers
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated lime zest
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (2 limes)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 2 ripe avocados, seeded, peeled, and 1/2 inch diced

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Add the tomatoes, pepper, beans, onion, jalapenos, and lime zest in a large bowl.

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Whisk together lime juice, EVOO, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, and pour over the vegetables. Toss well.

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Carefully fold the avocados into the salad before you’re ready to serve it. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed. That’s all there is to it!

I know you’ll love the taste of this avocado salad, it’s got the zesty punch of the lime juice and zest, combined with the creaminess of the avocados, the heat of the jalapenos, and the sweetness of the tomatoes. It’s a delicious variety of flavors! And remember, it’s super healthy for you too. Eating salads like this will help you live a life of vitality- with Valerie:)

A Delish (and Healthy) Side Dish!

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Hello friends! I hope you’re enjoying a safe and healthy summer! It’s been crazy around here, even though the 4th has passed, we have continued to gather for cookouts. Must be due to living in our forever home- finally!

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We have 3 acres and a big pond, so we have plenty of backyard in which to enjoy these gorgeous summer evenings.

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We also like to gather around the fire pit after dinner to roast marshmallows. One last great part of our yard is my HUGE herb and vegetable garden, more on that in a later post!

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I wanted to share a GREAT side dish/salad to consume mass quantities of at your next cookout. I call it “Super Cabbage Slaw”, because it’s far more than just coleslaw. But did you know that coleslaw is really good for you? Coleslaw comes from the Dutch word Koolsla, which means “cabbage salad”. Traditionally coleslaw is made with raw, shredded cabbage and some combination of shredded carrots, jicama, raisins and other healthy ingredients. It’s usually made with a dressing of mayonnaise, or buttermilk with vinegar and spices.

Cabbage is a cruciferous vegetable along with broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower, and they are renowned for their ability to protect against cancer. Recommendations are that you eat a minimum of 1 1/2 cups of cruciferous vegetables 2-3 times a week in order to reap the best benefits from this cancer fighter. Cabbage is an excellent source of a compound called sinigrin, which is particularly effective in helping to prevent cancer of the colon, prostate, and bladder. The health benefits of cabbage are greatest when it is eaten raw, as cooking it destroys much of it’s cancer fighting compounds, which is why coleslaw is such a great way to eat cabbage.

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Cabbage also is a good source of fiber, is high in vitamin C and K, and is loaded with calcium, potassium, vitamin A, vitamin B6, manganese and folate. In addition, it’s high in glutamine, which is an amino acid with anti-inflammatory properties. To top it off, cabbage is low in calories, only 50 calories per cup!

Why I call my side dish “Super cabbage slaw” because in addition to the cabbage, I make a vinaigrette as the sauce instead of a creamy dressing. The vinaigrette pickles the cabbage, which is great for the digestive system (see my previous post, “Peter Piper knew what he was talking about”  https://vitalvaldecap.com/2015/07/16/peter-piper-knew-what-he-was-talking-about-heres-why-you-should-do-it-too/ ). Also, remember that extra virgin olive oil is a healthy fat (monounsaturated fatty acid or MUFA), which adds even more good health to this dish. And it tastes delicious too!

It’s super easy to make, too, so it won’t take much time away from sitting outside and celebrating these beautiful summer nights. To borrow a phrase, it’s “semi-homemade”. All you need is a bowl and a knife to make this so here we go!

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Valerie’s Super Cabbage Slaw

  • One cabbage chopped finely or shredded (Or if you want to save time use a bag of already prepared coleslaw mix from the grocery store)
  • 1/2 of a red onion (provides pretty color) finely chopped
  • 1 large jalapeno (remove ribs and seeds if you don’t want a spicy slaw)
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • Fresh herbs- I used basil and chives- about a tablespoon each

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First, chop the cabbage (or open the bag of already prepared mix), and add to a large bowl. Next chop the onion and jalapeno, and add to the cabbage. Then, prepare the vinaigrette.

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Combine the last 6 ingredients in a smaller bowl and whisk. The last step is to add the vinaigrette to the vegetables and mix until it’s fully incorporated. Taste, and if it needs more salt, go for it.

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If you are not a coleslaw person, you will like my version, I promise you. It’s crunchy, light and flavorful. This is not your grandmother’s coleslaw! Danielle and I are actually making another batch right now as we speak (or as I write) with cabbage, onions and peppers I grew in my garden. It is addictive and we really can’t get enough of it!

So try this recipe, and you’ll like it. Oh by the way, you can add whatever healthy ingredients that you enjoy eating to this super slaw; you really can’t mess it up. Eating my super cabbage slaw will help you to live a life of vitality- with Valerie! 🙂

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Grill Your Way to a Healthy 4th!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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! 🙂

Join my current quinoa kick!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

This Will Start Your Day The RIGHT Way!

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Hello friends! I just finished this awesome smoothie and I had to tell you about it because it’s life altering! Now you might think, “Why is she so excited about a smoothie?” Well, I’ll tell you why. It contains one of my favorite things- coffee. I love coffee more than most things in life. It’s one of my three favorite liquids- water, coffee and wine. Coffee’s reputation has been totally rejuvenated these days, as it used to be universally vilified and the supposed source of all kinds of health problems. I’m very happy though that now coffee is known to be GOOD for you and can help protect against many heinous diseases like Parkinson’s, liver cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. Coffee drinkers are also less likely to die than non coffee drinkers, like 8-15% less likely to die. That sounds good to me.

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Why is coffee so good for you, you ask? Good question! Here’s why, it contains chlorogenic acid, lignans, quinides, trigonelline, and magnesium which reduces inflammation and insulin resistance. It’s also the number 1 source of antioxidants in the American diet. Antioxidants are chemical compounds that fight the damage to your DNA caused by day to day life. Now most of the studies have been done on caffeinated coffee so researchers are not sure that the health benefits are the same for decaf coffee. And remember, we are not talking about the zillion calorie, full of sugar drinks from your favorite coffee shop, because we know that the damage caused by all that sugar far outweighs the benefits of the coffee. I’m talking about healthy coffee.  See my previous blog post, https://vitalvaldecap.com/2014/10/22/healthy-coffee-is-my-favorite-way-to-start-the-day/, for more information on how to have a healthy cup of coffee.

So that brings me back to my coffee smoothie- talk about healthy! I never really thought about coffee in a smoothie. I don’t drink smoothies very often because they are usually filled with things that aren’t very healthy, and they can really be quite calorie laden. I ran across this recipe on Prevention.com and what I liked about it is that it was lower in calories and sugar. It was also filled with ingredients I really enjoy so I thought, “What the heck, I’ll give it a try.” And I loved it so much that I wanted to share it with you today.

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Delicious Coffee Smoothie

  • 3/4 cup almond milk (or any milk of choice)
  • 1/2 cup cold coffee or coffee ice cubes
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon peanut butter
  • Pinch of salt

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The first thing you have to do is put a peeled banana in the freezer a few hours before you plan to make this smoothie. I always put my overly ripe bananas, you know the ones that no one wants because they’re black and smooshy, into a freezer bag and store them in the freezer until I need them. The second step is to brew a cup of coffee and put it in the fridge to cool. I pull a shot of espresso the night before I’m going to make this smoothie and put it in the fridge. You can make coffee ice cubes too but I don’t have any ice cube trays so that’s out for me.

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Next you add the first four ingredients (almond milk, coffee, banana, and cocoa powder) into the blender and whirl.

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Last, add the final ingredients (peanut butter and salt) and give it a second whirl to combine.

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And there you have it! The smoothie is sweet, but not too sweet, chocolatey, and the hint of salt from the peanut butter and salt really brings out the wonderful flavors of the smoothie. It’s also healthy for you at only 240 calories per serving, 7 grams of protein, 7 grams of fiber, and 11 grams of fat, it’s a great meal substitute. You get your meal and your coffee all in one, what could be better than that?!! Drinking healthy coffee smoothies will help you live a life of vitality-with Valerie!