Eating Healthy Starts with this! Part Deux

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

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Fridge Essentials

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

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

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

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

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

6. Wine- no explanation needed here! 🙂

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

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

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Freezer Essentials-

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

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

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

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

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

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

Baby it’s Cold Outside! Comfort in the CCCCCCCCOLD!!

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Brutally cold but I'm still smiling!

Brutally cold but I’m still smiling!

Yikes it’s cold here in the Midwest! By cold, I mean 8 degrees below zero cold- and that’s not wind chill, that’s actual temperature, my friends. That was the temperature when I awakened this morning, and had to take my dogs out on leash because my little dog runs through the invisible fence. His wee paws froze after about 2 minutes and I had to bring him in to thaw before trying to take him out again so he could do his duty. That kind of cold is beyond description, you just have to experience it to know what I mean.

My backyard right now! Yikes!

My backyard right now! Yikes!

It’s worse because my daughters, sister and niece are currently in Florida experiencing their version of cold- 60 degrees, as I’m shivering here in Indiana. My house is pretty warm and cozy on a regular basis, but in this kind of cold even my house seems drafty and chilly. When it’s so disgustingly frigid out, I need peace more than ever, and I turn to my tried and true, sure fire ways to feel cozy and happy no matter what the temperature. In past posts, I mentioned ways I feel comforted when experiencing stress of any kind, reading my Kindle, listening to music, taking a bath, spending time spiritually, and a good meal/glass of wine. I thought today I’d share ways in which I help myself feel especially contented when it’s warm.

Jac and a light saber!

Jac and a light saber!

1. Watching a good movie– I love to watch movies when it’s cold out, or when I’m sad/stressed. My favorite movies to watch are the Star Wars series, and I admit I’m sort of a Star Wars freak. I have watched the series probably 50 times or more, and I never get tired of watching the movies. Something about the whole good versus evil thing, with good winning out just gets me every time.

Love me some Yoda!

Love me some Yoda!

The good thing is that I’ve infected my family with my Star Wars mania and they love Star Wars too. Jacqueline has a Han Solo frozen in carbonite phone case (watch the series for explanation), and the girls gifted me with a visit to the traveling Star Wars exhibition last year at the Indiana State Museum for Mother’s Day, and they enjoyed it almost as much as I did. My Honey gave me the light saber you see in the picture of Jac for Christmas this year, it is glass, and he chose the colors and sounds for it. What a guy! Anyway, watching any of the six Star Wars movies never fails to make me feel cozy and comforted, so whatever your favorite movies are- watch them with your family and you’ll feel all warm inside!

Cozying up with dogs should never be underrated!

Cozying up with dogs should never be underrated!

2. Dogs (or cats if that’s your preference)- My dogs have always comforted me in times of sadness. They’re also excellent at warming up my toes and lap by laying on me when I’m cold. Whenever my little guy, Chewie, sees a blanket come out on any member of our family, he comes running to share in the cuddle time. I can’t remember a time when they’ve failed to give me warmth and love. They give me so much more than I give them, and I love them so much!

A soft blanket made even better by my children's faces on it!

A soft blanket made even better by my children’s faces on it!

3. A cozy blanket– When my daughters went away to college, I had a blanket made for each of them with different pictures of family and friends on it, hoping that it would comfort them by laying under all of the loving people in their lives. I wanted them to feel like we were all holding them in a warm embrace, even when they were far away from home. They both have told me that it is one of the best things they have at college, and it reminds them they are loved by lots of people. I had them made on Walmart.com and they are relatively inexpensive, $60ish. It’s pretty easy to download the pictures and create the collage of photos. I paid a little extra for the larger blanket with the thicker fleece and felt it was well worth it. Imagine my surprise when my girls had a blanket made for me last year with pictures of the three of us on it, so that I would feel comforted when they both went away to college for the first time last fall! I love my blanket and use it almost every day. When they left to go on their trip to Florida, the first thing I did after coming home from dropping them off at the airport was lay on the couch under my blanket of our faces. It’s soooo cozy and makes me happy to use it. I highly recommend having one made for your loved ones too! And have them make one for you!

Past Disney trip, modified with a few extra faces by my Honey!

Past Disney trip, modified with a few extra faces by my Honey!

4. Looking forward to a warm trip (or looking back fondly on a past one)- Another way I make myself feel better when it’s cold out or when I’m sad, is to either look forward to an upcoming warm trip or reminisce about a past one. I love to look at pictures from past trips we have taken, I can almost feel the sunshine jump out of the pictures and into my body!

Recent family trip to Key West- good times in a beautiful place!

Recent family trip to Key West- good times in a beautiful place!

I also love to plan future family trips to warm places. We are going to Florida over spring break, and it is such fun to spend time working out the details of our sunny trip to a warm location when it is so bleak and cold outside. It makes me feel like I’m there, at least for a short while.

Watching my girls cheer on my Boilers- happiness!

Watching my girls cheer on my Boilers- happiness!

5. Watching my favorite team (and my favorite cheerleaders)- Even before my daughters were cheerleaders I loved to watch my Boilers. We had season tickets to Purdue football for years when the girls were little, and went to many basketball games. We also liked watching the games on television when we couldn’t attend them. Now, it’s so much better when I can not only watch my Boilers, but I can watch my beloved daughters cheer for them too. It’s a definite win-win for me! I particularly love watching the NCAA basketball tournament in March. March Madness is so infectious, and jumping up and down to cheer on my team warms me up too! Go team go!

Well, that’s all I have time for today, Folks, but there are so many other things I love and that bring me comfort. They are dark chocolate, cooking, exercise, popcorn, cookbooks, coffee, spicy food, and writing my blog! I couldn’t live without these, along with all the others I mentioned above. They get me through bleak and cold times in my life, both outside and inside as well. I hope my list of favorites helps you and inspires you to surround yourself with love and serenity. You deserve it, my wonderful readers. It will help you lead 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!