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.

Pantry9

Pantry10

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!

Reach for the Stars-choose healthy drinks at Starbucks!

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

Healthy Starbucks Beverages

My number one choice for you coffee lovers is cappuccino!

My number one choice for you coffee lovers is cappuccino!

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

Number 2 is refreshing and delicious!

Number 2 is refreshing and delicious!

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

Chai yes, it is yummy!

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

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

Jacqueline's favorite!

Jacqueline’s favorite!

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

Chocolate smoothie with protein!

Chocolate smoothie with protein!

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

Iced green tea is good for whatever ails you!

Iced green tea is good for whatever ails you!

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

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

 

 

A healthy way to start your day? Oats of course!

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Warm, creamy, yummy- and good for you! :)

Oatmeal- warm, creamy, yummy- and good for you! 🙂

What is your typical breakfast like? Do you grab a quick bowl of cereal before running out the door? I used to eat cereal in the morning too. Here’s the thing though, that isn’t your healthiest option and here’s why. While it seems to be something good (and quick) to eat in the morning, cereal is loaded with fillers that add no nutrition, it’s processed which is never good, and has additives that can be harmful to your mood, behavior and biochemistry. And that is NO GOOD! Breakfast cereals can also contain numerous chemicals, gluten, casein, trans fat, sugar, artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup, and genetically modified flavor enhancing compounds. Yikes, none of that stuff is the kind of thing I want to put in my body!

So what do you eat when you want a HEALTHY START to your day, and you need it quickly too? Why, oats of course! Oatmeal or granola with oats is one of the best ways to start your day, and I will show you how to make it so that you can have a delicious, nutritious, and quick breakfast. My daughters are obsessed with this meal, and ate it twice while they were home for Thanksgiving. It’s easy, warm, comfort food that’s healthy- win win! Oats are low calorie, one cup of oatmeal cooked with water has about 166 calories, add 40 calories if you cook them with milk (like I do), and if you top with fruit add another 40 calories. Oatmeal provides about 4 grams of fiber per cup, which makes it filling and adds to the satiety of oatmeal. It’s considered a low-energy density food, which means that there are relatively few calories compared to the bulk of the food. In a 2010 study published in the “Journal of American Dietetic Association”, people who ate oats in the morning lost weight and enjoyed a greater decrease in their waist circumference measurement than those who ate the same number of calories in a low fiber food. So are you sold on the idea of eating oats in the morning? Good! Then stick with me and I’ll show you how it’s done!

Gluten free oats are a must for my family!

Gluten free oats are a must for my family!

First, things first, it’s all about the oats you choose. There are different kinds of oats on the market, whole oats that still have their hard outer hull, oat groats that have their outer hull removed, steel-cut oats, which are roughly cut groats with an intact bran, and rolled oats, which are steamed, flattened groats. The less processed oats are better for you (naturally) so make sure to avoid instant oatmeal which has added sodium, and oatmeal with flavors added because it’s usually not added naturally. Something I didn’t know until my daughter had a gluten allergy is that NOT all oats are gluten free so I have to make sure to purchase gluten free oats for Danielle. However, I also have steel cut oats at home, they just require a longer cooking time, and I can’t make them when Danzy is in da houz!

Cooking the oats on the stove!

Cooking the oats on the stove!

I usually cook the oats on the stove using milk as shown in the above pic, however, if you don’t have time to cook the oats in the morning here’s a tip for you. Cook the oats in a slow cooker the night before! Take one cup of steel cut oats, 1 1/2 cups milk or if you’re dairy free you can use almond milk, 1 1/2 cups water, 2 apples, peeled, cored, cut into 1/2 inch pieces, 2 tablespoons maple syrup, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 1/2 teaspoons of butter, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and FIRST SPRAY THE INSIDE OF THE SLOW COOKER WITH ORGANIC NONSTICK SPRAY (or the oatmeal will stick like glue), and add all the ingredients. Stir, cover, and cook on low for approximately 7 hours. But remember cook times can vary, so if you have a programmable slow cooker make sure to use the timer feature. You can put the ingredients in your slow cooker the night before and awaken to the amazing smell of oats and apples! Either way you cook them, the leftovers store well in the fridge and will even freeze well too.

Homemade applesauce mix in- it's amazing!

Homemade applesauce mix in- it’s amazing!

For me, the key to delicious oatmeal is the mix-ins ingredients with which I choose to flavor the oats. Pictured above is my favorite mix-in, my homemade applesauce. I shared the recipe in my previous post, “An Apple a Day- Makes Applesauce!”, and when added to oatmeal it tastes like healthy apple pie- scrumptious! Just add a few tablespoons of applesauce to your oatmeal (or more if you really like it, like I do) for great flavor with no sugar added.

Pecans- my favorite nut!

Pecans- my favorite nut!

My next favorite mix-in for my oatmeal is nuts, specifically pecans. Pecans are my favorite nuts and I add them to many of my recipes. I chop them and add a sprinkle to my oatmeal. The nuts add a nice crunch and additional fiber and protein too. Definitely a healthy add-in!

Love, love, love raisins!

Love, love, love raisins!

Another flavorful and healthy add-in is raisins. Organic raisins add natural sweetness, fiber and iron to the oatmeal. Plus I love when I put them in the oatmeal and the heat and moisture makes them plump up and get really juicy. So very good!

A great addition to oatmeal!

A great addition to oatmeal!

I love adding maple syrup to oatmeal instead of sugar. It adds a deep, rich flavor that I think tastes better than sugar and goes well with the cinnamon rich applesauce that I’ve already added to my oatmeal. As you can tell we like maple syrup so much that we used it all that morning!

It's a honey of a mix-in!

It’s a honey of a mix-in!

Honey is another great addition to oatmeal. It definitely adds a natural sweetness that substitutes for sugar and tastes light and sweet in the oatmeal. It is always my go-to natural sweetener as I discussed in my post, “A Honey of a Cure!”. Try it, you’ll like it!

I always add a pat of butter to my oatmeal for decadent richness!

I always add a pat of butter to my oatmeal for decadent richness!

Butter is another essential for my oatmeal. It adds a creaminess to it and in my opinion nothing else adds that same richness that butter does. And now that we know butter is good for us as I wrote in my past blog post, “Fat doesn’t make you Fat!”, I can eat my butter and be happy! It’s a yummy mix-in!

Spices like cinnamon and nutmeg add tons of flavor and are good for you too!

Spices like cinnamon and nutmeg add tons of flavor and are good for you too!

Don’t forget your spices! Cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, etc, can add substantial flavor to your oatmeal and are non-caloric. It’s like loads of flavor for zero calories! I always add cinnamon to my oatmeal (and many other things as well). It really gives it a warmth that makes it delicious.

So that’s how I make amazing oatmeal! I make it either on the stove or in the slow cooker, but it’s super both ways thus it really doesn’t matter how you cook it. Make sure you don’t use processed oatmeal with artificial flavors, and make your mix-ins healthy and flavorful without adding sugar if possible. Let me know what mix-ins you like to use. You’ve got it now? Ditch the cereal and eat oatmeal. It will help you to live a life of vitality- like Valerie!

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

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

Love my leftovers for lunch!

Love my leftovers for lunch!

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

Chicken corn chowder with a bowl of mixed veggies!

Chicken corn chowder with a bowl of mixed veggies!

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

Organic soups you can buy in the grocery store.

Organic soups you can buy in the grocery store

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

Egg salad- Salad!

Egg salad- Salad

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

Quinoa- so versatile and a great lunch ingredient!

Quinoa- so versatile and a great lunch ingredient!

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

Love me some hummus!

Love me some hummus!

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

Salsa rules!

Salsa rules!

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

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

 

HEALING Cold Remedies!

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We’ve enter the cold and flu season again, haven’t we? Both Jacqueline and Danielle have been sick lately and this morning I awakened with a stuffy nose and sore throat- yuck! I thought it was timely for me to add a post about HEALING cold remedies. I say healing cold remedies because so many products on the market that are supposedly cold remedies are filled with chemicals and lots of ingredients that are not good for you and could actually make you feel worse than you already do! I remember I used to take Nyquil when I was a teenager. I woke up in the middle of the night the last time I took it, and my heart was pounding, I felt DRUGGED, I couldn’t sleep but I was so tired! I felt worse than before I went to bed. When I read the list of ingredients in Nyquil I was HORRIFIED, and I realized why I felt so drugged. There were so many different medications contained in it and they were all interacting in my body. However, when you are sneezing, coughing, and have a sore throat you need to manage your symptoms so you aren’t so miserable while your immune system is healing. With that in mind, I want to share our family’s go-to cold remedies that are not filled with chemicals and support our bodies while fighting off the viruses we get from time to time. Of course, please consult your trusted physician before taking anything, and if you’re really sick call 911 without hesitation. These products are listed in order of importance.

Transfer Factor is my family's number one cold remedy!

Transfer Factor is my family’s number one cold remedy!

1. Transfer Factor- This product supports the immune system with all natural ingredients. It is the absolute best immune system support out there and it is so powerful it deserves it’s own blog post! I take 4 of them three times a day as soon as I feel a virus coming on and often I never even have any cold symptoms at all. It works so well! You can get this product online.

The next most important cold remedy in my arsenal!

The next most important cold remedy in my arsenal!

2. Oscillococcinum- Hard name to pronounce but wow does it work! It is a homeopathic and can be purchased at a health food grocery store. As the box says it helps eliminate body aches, headache, fever, chills and fatigue. I sent Danielle to the health food store on Wednesday to buy a box of this product and today she is feeling much, much better. You take it four times a day and I recommend you take it as often as you can. It makes a huge difference!

Fourth Fave remedy right here!

Third fave remedy right here!

3. Imu-Max- Now don’t be confused, this is a children’s product, but it REALLY helps support the immune system of anyone at any age while healing. It is an alcohol free, great tasting syrup, consisting of Echinacea and Bee Propolis. Echinacea is an herb that has been used for many years to fight colds and their symptoms. Bee Propolis is collected from bees and has antimicrobial activity. It’s really effective for upper respiratory symptoms, and we use it as a cough syrup. It is wonderful! Can be purchased at health food store.

Mucolyxir is our fourth favorite remedy!

Mucolyxir is our fourth favorite remedy!

4. Mucolyxir- It actually contains wild Pacific Salmon DNA that helps balance mucus levels. You only use a few little drops of this and after I took it this morning, I am not stuffy nosed anymore! It’s all natural and again it really works. This product can be purchased online.

Xlear is #5!

Xlear is #5!

5. Xlear- One of my long time faves! It’s an all natural nasal spray and has xylitol in it which clears and moisturizes the nasal passages. You can get this one almost anywhere now, and can be used on people of any age. So helpful for a stuffy nose caused by viruses or allergies. Love!

Love my Manuka honey!

Love my Manuka honey!

6. Manuka Honey- I’ve written an entire post about this so I’m not going to go into this one in too much detail. Manuka honey is honey made from bees in New Zealand that pollinate the Manuka bush. It has very special antibacterial and antiviral properties and I take a teaspoon of it three times a day whenever I feel a cold coming on. I let it melt down my throat to soothe my sore throat and help calm my cough. It is so effective! I also took this wonderful honey this morning, now I have no cold symptoms at all! Yay for me!

Love me some Sambucol!

Love me some Sambucol!

7. Sambucol- This product is a black elderberry syrup that tastes really awesome and helps to support the immune system naturally. I ran out of it so I didn’t take it this morning which is a bummer. I’m making a trip to Whole Foods this afternoon to stock up on this and other products we’ve run out of! I highly recommend it for it’s immune boosting properties and it’s interesting black elderberry syrup flavor!

Love me some Emergen-C!

Love me some Emergen-C!

Another great Vitamin C product!

Another great Vitamin C product!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8. Vitamin C products- I take both Emergen-C packets and Zand Orange C herbal lozenges the second I feel a cold coming on. I actually keep the lozenges in my purse during cold and flu season and suck on at least one every day. They are all natural and taste really good. I put the Emergen-C packet in water and drink it. Vitamin C is well known to help boost the immune system. Don’t buy vitamin C products that contain sugar or other unhealthy additives. I buy the Zand product at a health food store, but Emergen-C can be purchased almost anywhere these days.

Last but not least!

Last but not least!

 

9. Decongestant- You may be surprised that I included an over the counter decongestant in my list of healing cold remedies, and here’s why. Sometimes when my nose is SO STUFFY THAT I CANT BREATHE OUT OF IT OR EVEN SLEEP AT NIGHT, a decongestant can provide much needed relief. I only take 1/2 tablet and I make sure I don’t buy one that has all kinds of other ingredients in it that I don’t need. It can really help me sleep and sleep is the most important thing I can do to help myself heal.

So there’s my list of healing cold remedies. Now remember, I’m not a doctor and I don’t even play one on tv, but I am a lifestyle coach, a proponent of healthy living, and I’ve done my homework on this. I’d advise you to do your homework too and look into natural alternatives to not just cold remedies, but every other kind of remedy. I’ll write about more of them on my blog soon. Make sure to drink a lot of water when you’re sick, wash your hands, and get as much rest as you can. Refer to my earlier post for my chicken soup recipe. Research has shown that chicken soup has healing properties! Let others pamper you too, you deserve it! Let me know what your healthy remedies are and I hope you’ll try some of mine. They’ll help you live a life of vitality- like Valerie!

 

 

An apple a day- makes applesauce!

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My dear friend and mentor, Chris, with Danielle when she was a fourth grader!

My dear friend and mentor, Chris, with Danielle when she was a fourth grader!

It’s definitely apple time, isn’t it? Cooler days and crisp evenings make me think about fall, and fall makes me think about apples. Now we all know that apples are good for us, right? The saying, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” came from the knowledge that apples are a healthy choice that we can enjoy every day for maximum benefits. However, I didn’t realize just how good apples are for us until I began to do research on the topic for this post. My research findings give me a new appreciation for apples that I want to share with you. I also want to show you a quick and easy applesauce recipe that was given to me by my dear friend and co-teacher Chris Dowling, who passed away too many years ago. I make her applesauce every fall in memory of her and because it’s DELICIOUS AND EASY.

So what’s in an apple that makes it good for us? Thanks for asking, I’ll tell you! Well first of all, apples are full of vitamin C, B complex vitamins, dietary fiber, phytonutrients, antioxidants, calcium, potassium and phosphorus. All of these important nutrients do some amazing things for us. One cool thing apples do for us is to help improve our neurological health thanks to an antioxidant called “quercetin” which helps our cells not to die off from oxidation and inflammation of neurons. Another thing apples do is to help prevent dementia because of that whole antioxidant keeping our cells from dying thing. That’s obviously a very good thing that apples do! Apples also help reduce our risk of stroke. In a study done over a 28 year period involving 9208 men and women, they found that people who ate the most apples over that period of time had the lowest risk for stroke. Wow! Would you like to reduce your risk of diabetes? Then eat three servings per week of apples! In a study of 187,382 people they found that people who ate apples had a 7% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those who didn’t eat them. Another awesome thing about apples is they may help ward off breast cancer by eating one per day. Are all of these compelling reasons for you to eat an apple every day?! They are for me!

My wonderful friend's recipe written by her! One of my most precious posessions!

My wonderful friend’s recipe written by her! One of my most precious possessions!

Every year Chris Dowling’s fourth grade classes made applesauce in the fall after a visit to the apple orchard. I was blessed to help in her classroom as she taught both of my daughters, to teach with her for 2 1/2 years, and to call her my friend and mentor. After she passed I made applesauce with my classes as well. This recipe is so easy even a fourth grader can follow it. I made some slight changes based on my feelings about sugar (remember sugar=bad!) which I’ll share with you now.

My ingredients are gathered. Let the peeling begin!

My ingredients are gathered. Let the peeling begin!

The first thing I do is wash the apples with Veggie Wash. I know we are peeling but I like to make sure no residue accidentally ends up in my applesauce. Oh, and I make sure that my apples are local and organically grown if possible. Then, I start peeling, and peeling, and peeling! I know some people have those fancy gadgets that peel and core apples at the same time and if you don’t want to peel then go for it. I don’t mind peeling apples though so that’s how I roll. I’ve also made this applesauce by not peeling the apples, just chopping them and throwing them in. I couldn’t tell the difference, but if you or your family is picky about peels (Like Danielle is) then get rid of them. What I do is peel 5 at a time, and while my hand is recovering from all of that peeling I chop the apples and add them to the crockpot. Then, I can make sure I don’t peel more than I need to. I also discard the core and seeds because no one wants to find hard core pieces and seeds in their applesauce!

After peeling the apples, chop them into small pieces to add to the crockpot!

After peeling the apples, chop them into small pieces to add to the crockpot!

After you’ve peeled and chopped a crockpot full of apples, then you can pat yourself on the back because the hard part is done! Peeling and chopping can be made easier by having helpers for that part of the chore. As they say, “many hands make light work” or in this case “many hands make yummy applesauce” but at any rate if you can browbeat, umm I mean convince your family to help you out with this activity, it will definitely be easier for you and go faster too.

Apples are in, ingredients added, and it's ready for cooking!

Apples are in, ingredients added, and it’s ready for cooking!

Now is the time to add the other ingredients and this is where I’ve taken a slight detour in the recipe. I don’t add sugar and here’s why. I think the applesauce doesn’t need the sugar, the apples are sweet enough on their own, and I always try to save calories when I can. I add a tablespoon of honey instead of the sugar, but you really don’t need any sweetener in there. If you want to skip all sweeteners I promise you won’t be disappointed! I add a hefty amount of cinnamon though because I really like the flavor of it in the applesauce. And then, guess what? That’s it! Cook the applesauce on high for 5 or 6 hours and stir often. The reason I like to stir it is that when I lift the lid the most delicious aroma of cooking apples and cinnamon comes wafting out of the crockpot. It is a mouthwatering smell, let me tell you. Your entire house will smell like baking apples and cinnamon and it’s truly a wonderful thing.

The finished product- sooooo delicious!

The finished product- sooooo delicious!

Here’s the great thing about this applesauce, it’s so versatile. I use it as a warm sauce over vanilla frozen yogurt, as a chunky topping for pancakes, on top of oatmeal, or just by itself. It tastes good hot or cold, but I prefer it warm. I’ve sprinkled nuts on top of it which adds a crunchiness to it, and Danielle likes to top it with whipped cream. The possibilities are endless! Another great thing about this applesauce is that a half cup of unsweetened applesauce is only 50 calories! Wow, that’s great bang for your caloric buck! If you make Chris’ applesauce recipe let me know how you like to eat it. So now you know that apples are really good for you, that they’re rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, that you can avoid diabetes, breast cancer, stroke, dementia, and have improved neurological health by eating apples. I’ve also shared a quick and delicious applesauce recipe that I hope you’ll try at home some time. Eat an apple a day which will keep the doctor away, and allow you to live a life of vitality- like Valerie! 🙂

Bad A%# Breakfast!

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My usual morning "meal"!

My usual morning “meal”!

First let me say that breakfast is my favorite meal that I don’t eat! What? That makes no sense! Well, the truth is that I don’t eat breakfast most days. I know, I know, many doctors and nutritionists say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and I’m going to be nutritionally deficient if I don’t eat it, but I haven’t eaten breakfast for 10 years and I don’t miss it. I came across an article in Dr. Mercola’s newsletter 6 months ago about a concept he believes in called “Intermittent Fasting”, and I realize that is what I have done for years and it really works for me. The deal is this, you eat moderately for say, 7 hours a day- like noon to 7 pm, and before and after that time you eat nothing. That’s 17 hours without eating and your body starts to burn more calories and fat than it would if you ate for a longer period of time during the day. He explains it all scientifically, so google “Mercola Intermittent Fasting” and read all about it. I didn’t know anything about Dr. Mercola or intermittent fasting when I began to skip breakfast, I just wasn’t hungry in the morning and since I’m an avid calorie counter I could save up my calories for later in the day when I was really hungry. I also don’t like to eat late at night so once again I would save calories by not eating at that time. It works for me!

My favorite breakfast foods together in one skillet! Definite happy face time! :)

My favorite breakfast foods together in one skillet! Definite happy face time! 🙂

 

Anyway, you might be thinking, “Then how can you say that breakfast is your favorite meal?” Good question, my wonderful readers! The reason is that I eat breakfast foods ALL the time, I just don’t eat them during normal breakfast hours. My first meal of the day is never before noon-1:00 pm, but it often contains traditional breakfast foods because I love them best of all! I guess that makes it more bad a%& brunch than breakfast! Now, many of you may have to eat as soon as you awaken, I know my significant other does, and that’s ok it’s whatever works for you. Some days I have to eat right away too, though that doesn’t happen to me very often. When I feel the need to eat in the morning I will eat a half banana and a tablespoon of peanut butter. My significant other has a carton of yogurt and a spoonful of almond or cashew butter. Of course I always begin my day with my cup of coffee, and I can’t live without it. Dr. Mercola says if you have coffee in the morning with intermittent fasting, the coffee should be without cream or sugar. I have a bit of half and half and a teaspoon of honey so I guess I don’t follow his rules exactly, but I can’t drink my coffee black!

Bad A@# Breakfast in the making!

Bad A@# Breakfast in the making!

So back to my bad a@% breakfast, I call it egg, potato and chorizo skillet. I have made some form of this breakfast for 15 years and my family loves it! Chorizo is a Mexican spiced pork sausage that my family really enjoys but if that isn’t a favorite for your family, you can substitute breakfast sausage or bacon, or both! Here’s how it’s done: first take a half cup of diced onion, half cup of any kind of peppers you like, and sweat them in a teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil. While that’s happening, wash 4 medium sized potatoes and throw them in the microwave for 5 or 6 minutes until they are softened but not all the way cooked. Let them cool a bit and then dice them. Once the onion and peppers are softened, take a pound of chorizo and throw it in the pan where the onion and peppers are, and cook until browned. Drain the grease and add the diced potatoes, salt, pepper, garlic and any other herbs and spices you like. Cook the potatoes for 5 minutes until lightly browned.

I always use organic cheese and local eggs in my recipes!

I always use organic cheese and local eggs in my recipes!

While that’s all going on, crack 6 eggs into a bowl, add a 1/4 cup of milk, and beat with a fork until blended. When the potatoes are browned, add the egg mixture to all the other ingredients in the pan and turn the heat onto medium low. Add a half cup of shredded cheese (any kind you want) to the top of the mixture in the pan and let it all sit in there for about a minute. After that, stir the mixture around in the pan until the eggs are light and fluffy. DON’T LET THE EGGS GET HARD AND TOUGH! That’s why the heat under the pan needs to be medium low and you need to stir constantly so the eggs don’t cook too quickly. Nobody likes hard eggs! Salt and pepper the eggs at the very end before serving because if you salt the eggs too soon the salt could also harden the eggs. I also love this recipe because everything cooks in one skillet which makes clean up much easier. I HATE to clean up the kitchen as anyone who lives with me knows very well!

I chowed down on this breakfast- not much left!

I chowed down on this breakfast- not much left!

I topped the breakfast skillet with my homemade guacamole and sliced up some tomatoes on the side. I’ve got a lot of tomatoes right now and I serve them for all meals! You can also serve with salsa as well. I had a little bacon left over from the other day and I crumbled that over the top too. It’s really whatever you want to add to it that makes it yummy. If you have some of the skillet left over just cover it and store it in the fridge. Believe it or not it tastes delicious heated in the microwave the next day too! That’s what I made this past weekend for brunch. Let me know what you like to eat for brunch and give me feedback if you make this for your family. I hope you like it and that it helps you live a life of vitality- like Valerie!

 

A Honey Of A Cure!

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I love honey- and it's good for us too!

I love honey- and it’s good for us too!

I have mentioned my love of honey in previous posts. I use honey in my tea and coffee, and I use it in place of sugar in most everything. It’s my sweet go-to every time! However, did you know that honey can actually be used as medicine?! Yes, indeedy! Today I wanted to expand on that to discuss the medicinal uses of honey, in particular Manuka honey. Now, honey has been used since ancient times to treat many different conditions. It contains antibacterial and anti-inflammatory qualities, and is even thought to stimulate production of special cells in our body that can repair tissue damaged by infection- pretty cool! However, not all honey is created equally, so to speak, and the type of honey that you use matters. The honey thought to be the best for medicinal use is Manuka honey. It is produced in New Zealand by bees that pollinate the Manuka bush.

Picture of Manuka bush!

Picture of Manuka bush!

Now here’s the thing, the reason Manuka honey is thought to have more antiviral and antibacterial properties than other types of honey is the higher levels of Methylglyoxal than regular honey has. What is Methylglyoxal (known as MG), you ask? Good question, I asked the same thing! It comes from the conversion of another compound- dihydroxyacetone- that is found in high concentration in the nectar of Manuka flowers. So the higher the concentration of MG, the stronger the antibiotic effect, and Manuka honey has the highest MG amount of any type of honey. Some Manuka honey that you buy in the stores doesn’t have a high level of MG, I call that “cheater Manuka honey”,  so honey producers developed a rating system called UMF or Unique Manuka Factor. To be therapeutic, it has to be rated at least 10 UMF and then is marketed as “UMF Manuka Honey”, or “Active Manuka Honey”. Whew, I threw a lot of terms at you there but I’m done with that so keep on reading for the good stuff!

The kind of Manuka honey I currently have in my cabinet!

The kind of Manuka honey I currently have in my cabinet!

So what are Manuka honey’s medicinal uses? Because it has antiviral and antibacterial properties its primary use is on wounds. It is very effective at healing wounds and cuts. BUT MAKE SURE IF YOU USE IT ON YOUR WOUNDS THAT IT IS IN A STERILIZED CONTAINER AND IT IS NOT USED FOR ANY OTHER PURPOSE. In other words, don’t put a spoonful of it in your morning coffee, and then dip out of the same container to slather it on a cut.

 

Manuka honey is primarily used in my house for cold symptoms.

Manuka honey is primarily used in my house for cold symptoms.

Other medicinal uses for Manuka honey are treating and preventing cancer (!), reducing systemic inflammation, treating diabetes, treating eye, ear and sinus infections, preventing gingivitis and other periodontal disease, and treating gastrointestinal problems.Wow, that’s quite a powerful medicine! The way we use it in my house for the most part is for treating cold symptoms. When anyone feels a cold coming on I get out the Manuka honey and give them a teaspoon three times a day. It can sometimes even stave off the cold from coming on entirely. If I do actually catch a cold which is very seldom, Manuka honey is so effective in reducing sore throats and coughs. I will take a teaspoon of it, let it melt in my mouth and trickle down my throat. it really soothes the pain of a sore throat and calms my cough. It also is very helpful if I have some gastrointestinal upset. I do the same thing, one teaspoon three times a day and my stomach pain is eliminated. It’s really so amazing!

Manuka honey can be purchased at healthy food grocery stores anywhere and though it’s a bit pricey ($15- $20), a jar lasts for at least 2 months so it’s totally worth it. In fact, Jacqueline called on Wednesday because she caught a cold at school and she went to a health food store to get Manuka honey! I was so proud! She got other healthy cold symptom reducers and now she’s fine! That’s $15 well spent!

Even diabetics can use Manuka honey medicinally because honey does not as quickly raise blood sugar levels as sugar does. However, you should always consult your doctor before using Manuka honey if you are diabetic because everyone is different and I don’t want anyone to get sick on something that should make you feel better!

So, that’s a bit of information about Manuka honey which I think is one of the best natural, healthy weapons in my medical arsenal. I’d love it if you’d buy a jar, take three teaspoons a day, and let me know what you think. Manuka honey is one of the things that I really believe in so try it because it will help you live a life of vitality- like Valerie!

 

 

Sugar- the new cigarette?!

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True!

True!

Sugar (and artificial sweeteners aka “fake sugar”) is in my opinion the worst thing in the American diet. Sugar, which exists in almost every processed food in some form, leads to diabetes, high blood pressure, liver disease, rotten teeth, promotes weight gain, is highly addictive, raises your cholesterol which can lead to heart disease, and it can give you cancer. This sounds very dramatic, but all of these things are true and as Americans I feel we aren’t being informed about how terrible sugar is for us. This might have something to do with the food industry and how they monetarily support our government- politics of course.

Sugar7

The point is that sugar is dangerous and I made the decision years ago to eat as little sugar and processed foods as possible. When I made this decision I didn’t even know how bad sugar was for me, I just knew that when I ate sugar I felt shaky and weak, especially with regard to my chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms. They were worse when I consumed sugar so I stayed away from it as much as possible. In the past 10 years I have continued to cut more sugar from my diet and now when I eat sugary things I think they’re too sweet and I don’t like the taste at all.

When I’m craving chocolate, I eat dark chocolate and have grown to love the stronger flavor than milk chocolate, which is mostly sugar anyway. When I’m craving something sweet, I will have a handful of grapes, a clementine, a banana, or some other fruit. I have found that I cannot drink fruit juice anymore because it gives me the same shaky feeling I have when eating dessert.

Sugar4

Regarding “fake sugars”, I have as much concern about them as I do about real sugar. I don’t think it’s a good idea to stay away from real sugar and then put toxic chemicals in my body, so I just don’t eat sugar, real or fake, very much at all. However, I have heard good things about the natural, plant based sweetener, Stevia, which can help lower blood pressure and ease stomach problems as well as being a natural sweetener. That is promising. Also Xylitol is another sweetener that seems to have some benefits as well. It naturally occurs in fruit and in our own bodies. It is a sugar alcohol and as such has a lower glycemic response than sucrose or glucose. In addition, it helps prevent gum disease. Wow a sweetener that’s actually good for your teeth!

Natural sweeteners are the best!

Natural sweeteners are the best!

If I have to use a sweetener it is usually honey or agave nectar. Honey has anti-viral and antibacterial properties in addition to being a natural sweetener, and I always make sure I’m using locally produced honey as well so I can ensure its quality. Agave nectar is a sweetener used by the Aztecs for thousands of years. It’s from the Agave plant, the same plant used to produce tequila and it has a low glycemic index so it does not raise blood sugar. it has a long history as a miracle plant used to cure various diseases

My conclusion about sugar is that if you have to have sweetener, use Stevia or Xylitol, but in general I try to do without it. I will sometimes use a spoonful of honey or agave nectar as well if I have to have something sweetened but usually I find it better for me to do without. After all, I’m sweet enough as it is!! 🙂

Smooth sailing with smoothies!

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Hi all! I hope you are blessed with wonderful family members like I am. Recently I was in Chicago visiting my sister and her family. My niece Nicole was there too and she made me a smoothie that I swear was the best smoothie I’ve ever had. I asked her to share her recipe with me and she said that she remembered me making smoothies for her, her sister Alison, and my daughters Jacqueline and Danielle when they were little and that was her inspiration for this recipe.

Smoothies have always been a favorite of mine for a quick morning meal on the go or a healthy snack during the day. They are high in protein from the dairy, and contain numerous vitamins from the various fruits used. Also, they can be customized to each persons specifications. If strawberries are your favorite but you don’t care for bananas, it’s easy to change it up for different tastes. Additionally if you can’t do dairy, as my daughter Danielle now can’t, almond or coconut milk can be substituted. And don’t buy those already made smoothies from the grocery store, smoothies are so easy and quick to make at home, and you can control the ingredients utilized. If you buy an already made smoothie you get what you get, so to speak.

Its an honor to be Nikki’s inspiration and I’m now honored to share her recipe with you, including pictures of her preparing it. Thanks so much Nikki!

Fage yogurt is the base for Nikki's smoothie!

Fage yogurt is the base for Nikki’s smoothie!

Strawberries n Cream Smoothie by Nicole Rose Bogdan

I usually buy 0% Fage greek yogurt (not 2% as pictured). Use between 1/2-1 cup of yogurt.

All smoothie ingredients assembled and ready to go!

All smoothie ingredients assembled and ready to go!

Next, add 1 cup of strawberries and 1/2 of a banana. Tip: Slice up a ripe banana and freeze it the night before- frozen bananas give smoothies the best texture.

Blending away! I have a Vita Mix blender too which I love!

Blending away! I have a Vita Mix blender too which I love!

Add a dash of milk to get the blender going and add in some honey to taste- 1 tablespoon is perfect. Finally, throw in a handful of ice. Blend until smooth. (Valerie’s note: good girl Nikki, you used honey instead of sugar. Honey has antibiotic and anti-viral properties and is a healthier sweetener choice.)

Finished product gorgeously presented by my niece!

Finished product gorgeously presented by my niece!

Calories- 204 per 12 oz and a whopping 14 grams of protein. That’s a lot of bang for your nutritional buck! Happy (almost) 4th of July! Stay safe and live with vitality! VV

The smoothie maker drinking her creation!

The smoothie maker drinking her creation!