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! 🙂

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! 🙂

 

If busy college students can eat like this, you can too!

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This post is credited completely to my wonderful daughters, Jacqueline and Danielle. It all started like this, the other day the girls were texting each other on the text group they created that includes me as well. Danielle asked Jacqueline if she could come over to her apartment for dinner the other night. Jac replied that she was just going to make a quick hot dog because she needed to work on a project that is due this week. I contributed to the conversation at that point (or butted in, depends on your perspective) and said that Jac should bring down some meat to defrost so they could have a proper dinner. Danz said she would cook for them because she really likes to cook. Jac put some chicken thighs in the fridge and off to class she went. I told Danzy to text me when she got to Jac’s apartment, and I would help her if she got stuck.

I know what ingredients Jac has available to cook with because I bought all her spices and herbs for her when she went to live in her apartment, so that was an advantage. I also know what my girls like to eat which made it easier to help them put things together. Jacqueline texted that she had spinach, white cannellini beans, and San Marzano canned tomatoes, so I knew with those ingredients a delicious meal could be made.

When Danielle got to Jacqueline’s apartment she texted me and said she didn’t know what to do with all these ingredients, so she waited her usual three seconds (she has her mother’s patience level), and when I hadn’t responded she called me and said HELP! Now it was Mom to the rescue, and I love to rescue people so I was in my element. I walked both she and Jacqueline through the recipe that I will share with you now, but the cool thing was that once I helped them get started, all the hours they’ve spent helping me in the kitchen kicked in. They knew exactly what to do, once they got over feeling overwhelmed. Here is what they created.

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Jac and Danz’ version of chicken, tomatoes, and beans  

  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 1/2 teaspoon each salt/pepper/garlic powder/red pepper flakes to season chicken
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 large can San Marzano crushed tomatoes
  • 1 15 ounce can white cannellini beans, drained
  • handful of organic baby spinach
  •  1 teaspoon each salt/pepper/minced garlic/ red pepper flakes/ Italian seasoning for sauce

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First, Jacqueline chopped the onions, while Danielle was seasoning the chicken thighs on each side, and she warmed the EVOO in the pan too. Jac put her chopped onions into the EVOO and sautéed them for a few minutes until softened.

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Next Danielle browned the thighs for five minutes on each side. Then she added the tomatoes, beans and seasonings to the chicken, and simmered it all on medium heat for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Last, Jac added the baby spinach and cooked it for another few minutes until the spinach was soft.

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And that was all there was to it. The girls were ecstatic and said that it was one of the best meals they’d ever had. It tastes so good when you make something you didn’t think you could. Look at how healthy it was for them too, they had protein, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants in the chicken, beans, tomatoes, and spinach. Healthy, delicious and easy- what could be better than that?!!

So if Jacqueline and Danielle, two very busy college students can do this, you can definitely do it too! Try this recipe and let me know how you like it. Eating meals like this will help you live a life of vitality- like Valerie (and Jacqueline and Danielle too)! 🙂

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. 🙂 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! 🙂 As always, all items are organic if possible.

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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.

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2. Beans, tomato products, and sauce basics– Probably 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.

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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.

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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.

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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!).

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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! 🙂

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! 🙂  Eating healthy meals and snacks will help you live a life of vitality- like Valerie!

Cauliflower Pizza Crust- REALLY?!!

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The finished cauliflower crust pizza. Read on to see my opinions on it!

The finished cauliflower crust pizza. Read on to see my opinions on it!

Ok, so I’ve been reading a few different recipes for a pizza crust made from CAULIFLOWER instead of flour. What, what? It seemed strange, but I’ll admit I was intrigued. After all, not only do my children both have gluten allergies which necessitates substituting for flour/wheat, but I try not to eat gluten or most carbs either because carbs are what cause weight gain and lead to many diseases/illnesses. In addition, cauliflower is a very, very good for you vegetable which also interested me in the idea of a cauliflower crust. In fact, I love cauliflower and appreciate it’s advantages so much that I’m going to spend a paragraph talking to you about how super duper it is!

Crunchy, delicious, healthy cauliflower!

Crunchy, delicious, healthy cauliflower!

Cauliflower is a cruciferous vegetable that contains many vitamins and minerals that help us lead a healthy life. It contains sulforaphane, which is a sulfur compound that slows tumor growth in cancer stem cells. Also, that same sulforaphane helps improve blood pressure and kidney function. Cauliflower contains anti-inflammatory nutrients like indole-3-carbinol or I3C, which helps prevent inflammatory responses on a cellular level. In addition, one serving of cauliflower contains 77% of your RDA for vitamin C, which I wrote about in my past post, “Beyond the Orange, Better Sources of C”. It’s also an excellent source of vitamin K, protein, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, magnesium, phosphorus, fiber, vitamin B6, folate, pantothenic acid, potassium, and manganese. It’s an important source of fiber, which aids in digestion, and it’s full of antioxidants and phytonutrients which protect cells against attack by reactive oxygen species (ROS). Cauliflower is truly a super food!

So, with all that in mind and after looking at multiple recipes I decided to try one to see whether a cauliflower pizza crust could: 1. Taste delicious,  2. taste similar to a regular pizza crust, and 3. Be easily prepared with few ingredients. I chose Katie Lee’s recipe from http://www.foodnetwork.com because it seemed the most straight forward in terms of preparation and ingredients.

I have to say that I really liked it! It met my three criteria above and my family also liked it a lot. They said that you can taste the cauliflower in the crust, however the flavor is not totally in your face but more subtle, especially with the pizza toppings added.  I think even non-cauliflower fans would like it, and you can eat your pizza mostly guilt free because you are taking away bad carbs and adding in vitamins and fiber- that’s a win-win! I’ll share the recipe and my tips now. Try it and I’m sure you’ll like it!

Ingredients for cauliflower pizza crust!

Ingredients for cauliflower pizza crust!

Cauliflower Pizza Crust

  • One head cauliflower, stalk removed
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Break the cauliflower into florets and either chop them finely, pulse in food processor, or grind them up in your blender, a few at a time (that’s what I did).

Cauliflower in steamer basket on stove.

Cauliflower in steamer basket on stove.

Then, steam them in a steamer basket until they’re tender and drain WELL. I suggest preparing the cauliflower a good hour before serving it so it really has time to drain. If it’s well drained the crust will get crispy like a thin pizza crust. Or wring the cauliflower in a towel if you don’t have that much time; anything to get out all the water.

All ingredients combined and ready for the baking pan!

All ingredients combined and ready for the baking pan!

In a bowl, add the mozzarella, Parmesan, oregano, salt, garlic powder and eggs to the cauliflower.

Next, the oven!

Next, the oven!

Now, transfer the mixture to your baking pan and spread it into a circle, resembling a pizza crust. Make sure to spread it evenly so it will cook evenly.

Done and out of the oven it goes- ready for toppings!

Done and out of the oven it goes- ready for toppings!

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until it’s browned on the edges, and the center is firm. Last, add your toppings and bake for an additional 10 minutes. And voila, it’s done!

My mouth is watering just thinking about this pizza!

My mouth is watering just thinking about this pizza!

The toppings I added were mushrooms, pepperoni, Italian sausage, crushed tomatoes, 1/2 cup mozzarella, oregano and a little more garlic powder, but you can add whatever toppings you like. The best part is that this pizza crust weighs in at about 60 calories per slice (not including toppings) instead of 285 calories per slice of a 14 inch regular crust. That’s pretty incredible! And then when you add in the nutrient value, it’s a homerun, my friends! I guarantee you will like it, and best of all you won’t feel like you’re eating a “diet” food. I’m definitely not into deprivation, and you won’t feel deprived with this pizza. Let me know if you try it, and how you like it. Eating foods like this will help you live a life of vitality- with Valerie!

Super Healthy Superbowl Sunday? It’s Super Easy!

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Ready for the Superbowl?!!

Ready for the Superbowl?!!

Ok, here’s the deal, did you know that Superbowl Sunday is the NUMBER ONE EATING DAY OF THE YEAR? Yes, that’s right! More food is eaten on this upcoming Sunday than any other day of the year! Even Thanksgiving is a distant second to Superbowl Sunday in terms of calories. And get this, OVER 6,000 CALORIES ARE CONSUMED!!! When I read that statistic I was stunned. I also read that the week before Superbowl Sunday is also at the top of the list in terms of calories. I guess anticipating the gorge fest brings on early pre-gorge fests.

The typical gathering!

The typical gathering!

I read this morning that the most popular food item served at Superbowl parties is vegetables! What?!!  I guarantee you that people aren’t eating 6,000 calories of veggies on Sunday! Though, vegetables are the most popular food item, we finally get to the root of the problem when you hear the most consumed food items on this day, which are chicken wings and pizza. According to Fox Sports, Pizza Hut will deliver 2 MILLION PIZZAS with 1,700 orders per minute occurring shortly before kickoff. One slice of pepperoni and sausage pizza is 350 calories and three chicken wings are approximately 255 calories so you can see how this meal is problematic calorically. That’s before the beer or margaritas are consumed, and the chips, dips, and desserts too! Can you see now how you can easily get to 6,000 calories with a four hour plus game?!!

So you see the concern that I have, don’t you? And you should be concerned too! With all of this in mind I began to think about my wonderful readers and how I could advise you to make good choices on Sunday (and every day, of course!). The first scenario is the easiest one, which is if you are the one hosting the Superbowl party. Then you can control the menu and preparations. You can also control what your guests bring, that is if they call to ask you.

The second scenario is more difficult- if you are someone else’s party guest. Then, you have MUCH less control over what is served and your choices will be more limited to what is available. However, I have a solution for you that I hope you’ll like (and it’s not to starve yourself by the way, I’d never say that!). The solution is CHILI!! Specifically, you call host of said party and ask him/her if you can bring something to contribute to the party and when he/she says yes then you offer to bring a pot of chili. It won’t be turned down because EVERYBODY loves chili! This is how you will eat safely and healthily on Sunday.

My yummy (and healthy chili)!

My yummy (and healthy chili)!

Why is chili such a good solution you ask? Well I’ll tell you, it’s because chili is healthy and filling! The beans and meat provide a nice serving of protein, the tomatoes and tomato sauce a great serving of vegetables, and the beans give you a nice punch of fiber which fills you up and helps you stay full. Calorie wise you’re better off with chili too because one serving (one cup) is only 259 calories and you will feel FULL after you eat it. If you have a cup of chili, one (only one!) beer, a handful of tortilla chips and guacamole you will only have consumed about 600 calories. That’s a FAR CRY FROM 6,000!! Plus all of the nutrition you will have gained from this meal is light years away from the nutritional wasteland of greasy pizza and fried chicken wings!

The best salad I've ever made- REALLY!

The best salad I’ve ever made- REALLY!

I’m going to share my recipe for chili, which I think is simple and fabulous. I’m also including the MOST DELICIOUS SALAD RECIPE EVER which I just made up the other night when I was in the mood for something different. I served the salad with my chili and I think the Mexican flavors in the salad really complemented the similar flavors in the chili. Bring the salad and the chili to the gathering and you will make some friends I promise you! If it’s your own gathering make my salad and chili, add some salsa, guacamole and tortilla chips and you’ve got a HEALTHY, DELICIOUS PARTAY!

My yummy chili con carne

  • 2 lbs ground beef
  • 1 large can (28 oz) pureed tomatoes
  • 1 large can diced tomatoes
  • 1 onion diced
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 big cans (28 oz) kidney beans
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

First, sauté onions and minced garlic in a dash of extra virgin olive oil, then after about 3 minutes, add the ground beef and cook until no longer pink. Next add all the rest of the ingredients and either put that into a crockpot and cook on low for 6 hours, or leave it on the stove on low heat, stirring frequently until thick and bubbly. You may need to add more spices as it cooks so taste it every once in a while. And that’s all there is to it! Done!

Chili and Mexican salad- what could be better?!

Chili and Mexican salad- what could be better?!

The most delicious salad ever

  • 1 bag of organic lettuce greens of your choice
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, deseeded and with insides removed, chopped
  • 1 stalk of green onion chopped
  • 1 medium tomato chopped
  • 1 handful of fresh cilantro leaves, rough chopped
  • 1/2 avocado chopped
  • 1 lime
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Take the first 6 ingredients and add them to a large bowl. Then in a smaller bowl take the next four ingredients and make the vinaigrette by squeezing one lime into the bowl and then whisking in the olive oil until the two ingredients are combined. Then add the salt and pepper, stir, add the vinaigrette to the salad and toss. This one’s done too! The creaminess of the avocado makes the salad so rich and the jalapenos, since they’ve been deseeded and the insides removed, are no longer really spicy, just fruity and flavorful. The cilantro adds that delicious freshness too. And the lime makes the vinaigrette really pop with flavor! It’s just really good!

And that’s how you avoid consuming 6,000 calories on Sunday, my friends! If you make a pot of chili and a delicious salad you will feel satisfied and know you’ve eaten something really good for your body. I know you can do it! Enjoy yourself in moderation and you’ll be living a life of vitality- with Valerie! 🙂

 

The Easiest Roasted Chicken- I Promise!

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Delicious, inexpensive and easy balsamic chicken!

Delicious, inexpensive and easy balsamic chicken!

I totally mean this too! This is the EASIEST recipe and you’ll impress everyone by making it because it’s delicious. It’s also CHEAP so college students if you live in a house or apartment you can make this and feed yourself and your roommates in an elegant way. It sure beats mac and cheese from a box! I promise you, this is the real deal. Actually making this easy recipe was an accident for me because I had intended to roast a whole chicken but I defrosted a cut up chicken mistakenly. I decided, what the heck, I’ll roast the cut up chicken and I’ll tell you it was just as wonderful as the whole chicken in half the time. I will always do it this way from now on for sure!

 

Balsamic Roasted Chicken

Start with a chicken cut up- cheap and easy!

Start with a cut up chicken- cheap and easy!

First get a big, cut up chicken from the store. Easy so far, right? You can get them on sale frequently, and just throw it in your freezer until you need it. Thaw it out first of course before you try to cook with it though. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.

Arrange potatoes, carrots and onions in the baking dish.

Arrange potatoes, carrots and onions in the baking dish.

Next, cut up 4 potatoes, throw in a third of a bag of small carrots, and a whole onion chopped in large chunks. Cover all those with a quarter cup of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), a sprinkle each of garlic powder, herbs de province, salt and pepper.

Chicken is in the oven! Cook away!

Chicken is in the oven! Cook away!

Now take the chicken pieces, put them in the baking pan, and cover it with the same stuff as above, a quarter cup of EVOO and a sprinkle of garlic powder, herbs de province, salt and pepper. Add a half cup of balsamic vinegar to the chicken and put it in the oven, skin side up for 50 minutes uncovered.

Here’s the great thing, at this point you could be absolutely done and serve it the way it is as a complete meal. I like to go a step further and make a gravy for the chicken because my family is saucy and always likes something to dip their food into. Don’t be afraid because gravy is really easy to make so if you have the time, take the next step.

The glorious, delicious, easy gravy!

The glorious, delicious, easy gravy!

Gravy is not difficult, believe me. You take a tablespoon of butter and melt it in a saucepan on medium heat. When it’s melted take 2 tablespoons of flour ( I use rice flour because it’s gluten free), and add it to the pan and stir until combined. It will suck up all the butter and make a sticky paste. That’s ok, don’t get nervous. I stir it around for another minute to brown the flour/butter paste a bit. Then, you add half of the drippings from your pan of roasted chicken and stir, stir, stir until combined. Next, you add the other half of the drippings and stir again. This is the point at which you make the decision, is it thick enough? Is it too thick? If it’s too thin, add more flour. If it’s too thick, add more pan drippings, and if you’re out of drippings, add chicken broth. I always add salt and pepper to my gravy and let it get a bit bubbly on the stove for a few minutes before serving. Then you pour it into a gravy boat (or just pour it from the pan onto your plates) and serve.

The finished product!

The finished product!

At this point, if you’ve made gravy, pour a little over your meat and veggies. If you haven’t then just serve it the way it is and it’s fantastic either way! The balsamic adds a nice flavor to the chicken and I’m not a big balsamic fan so believe me when I say that it really gives the chicken a lovely flavor. Plus, the balsamic gives the skin a nice dark color, and even if you take the skin off it still looks pretty to serve it that way.

So, that’s my quick, easy and delicious balsamic roasted chicken. Anyone can make it and look like a real chef to their husband, significant other, or roommates. It’s an elegant meal and a complete “one dish meal” too so that means not too much clean up which is always important to me since I can’t enjoy the rest of my evening until my kitchen is spic and span! Let me know how you like it if you try it. If you think about it, there are very healthy ingredients involved in this meal-meat, vegetables, spices, EVOO, salt and pepper. Eat this healthy meal and it will help you live a life of vitality- like Valerie!