The Superfood You Need To Eat TODAY!


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Hello friends! As you know I always try to eat as healthily as I can. Lately though, I’ve been evaluating my diet and realizing that there are places in my healthy eating plan where I can substitute even healthier foods to get more nutritional bang for my buck. Last week I blogged about healthy cold and flu remedies, and I mentioned that I was experiencing viral symptoms myself. After I finished my post, I decided to make some chicken soup to aid in my healing. As I was thinking about chicken soup an idea popped into my mind. I thought that if there were a way to make chicken soup with QUINOA instead of rice, that would make it even healthier. I started searching around the internet and I found a recipe for a crockpot chicken and quinoa soup that sounded interesting. Since it was so close to dinner time, I didn’t want to use my crockpot so I changed the recipe to a stovetop soup,  adjusted some of the ingredients and cooking time- and voila! A delicious soup that is loaded with nutrition!

Now you may be wondering, why is quinoa so much better than rice or other grains? Excellent question, mi amigos, and now I’m going to tell you why. Quinoa is considered an ancient grain, along with farro, amaranth and barley, because they are almost exactly the same as they were hundreds or even thousands of years ago. Quinoa was even known as “the mother of all grains” to the Inca people when it was first cultivated over 5000 years ago. It usually comes in white, red, or black versions, I like to use a rainbow quinoa in my cooking. Of course, I also always use organic quinoa and try to use organic ingredients whenever possible.

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Consuming 2-3 servings of quinoa and other whole grain foods per day can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, colon cancer and obesity. Quinoa also provides a higher amount of antioxidants than other common grains used in a gluten free diet. Researchers at Columbia University’s Celiac Disease Center found that the nutritional content of gluten free diets was significantly improved by adding oats or quinoa to meals and snacks.

Whole grains like quinoa provide essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber which help to regulate the digestive system and to keep you fuller and more satisfied. In contrast, when you eat simple carbohydrates like white pastas, white rice, and white breads, they are quickly digested but offer little else in the way of nutritional value.

Quinoa is naturally gluten free and contains iron, B vitamins, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, vitamin E and fiber. It’s one of the only plant foods that is considered a complete protein and comprised of all essential amino acids. It also has a high protein to carbohydrate ratio when compared to other grain products, and it contains a healthy dose of fatty acids as well. 1/4 cup of DRY quinoa contains 160 calories, 2.5 grams of fat, 0 cholesterol and sodium, 27 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 0 sugars, and 6 grams of protein. Do you need any more convincing that quinoa is the grain for you?! I hope not! Now let’s look at the soup I made with quinoa, it will make your mouth water I promise you!

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Chicken and Quinoa Soup

  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 5 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 3/4 cups uncooked quinoa
  • 1 26 oz can diced San Marzano tomatoes
  • 6 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasonings (basil, oregano, parsley)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Parmesan Cheese

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Take a large pot, add the extra virgin olive oil, and warm over medium heat. Salt and pepper the chicken thighs on both sides and then add to the pot. Brown them 5 minutes on each side or until the pink totally disappears and remove them from the pot. Put them on a plate to cool a little.

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Add the carrots, onions and celery to the pot and sauté them for 3 minutes until softened. Take the minced garlic, combine it with the vegetables and stir it for a minute.

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Cut the now cooled chicken into decent sized chunks and add it back into the pot with the vegetables.

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Mix in the rest of the ingredients including the quinoa except for the parmesan cheese, and simmer for 30-45 minutes or until the quinoa is soft. As the quinoa cooks it will absorb more liquid so if want a more liquidy soup make sure to take it off the heat as soon as the quinoa is soft. You can also add more chicken broth, but I didn’t need to do that.

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Grate some fresh parmesan cheese onto the top of the soup and you’re ready to eat! It’s full of healthy chicken, vegetables, and quinoa, and it’s super delicious too. It’s also very easy to make with not too many ingredients. So make sure you eat more quinoa, and replace your simple carbs with complex carbs whenever possible. Eating like this will help you live a life of vitality- with Valerie!

Chocolate Caramel Popcorn- It’s Delicious, but is it Healthy?

How can you turn this down?!!! I can't!

How can you turn this down?!!! I can’t!

Hi friends! So here’s my challenge, while I’m not a big sweets eater I must admit there are times when I long for a sweet treat. However, it’s pretty tough to find one that’s not full of sugar and other bad things, as well as highly caloric. If you’ve read my posts in the past you know that I LOVE popcorn, and I wanted to find an easy way to make a dessert that incorporates popcorn and nuts, which are another favorite of mine.

I started thinking about chocolate caramel popcorn, like the kind you get from Garrett’s and other popcorn stores, and I thought that really it’s a fairly healthy sweet treat because popcorn has so much fiber and the nuts have protein. However, popcorn shops usually coat the popcorn so heavily with the sugary ingredients that you can’t even see white anymore, so I set out to find a recipe in which the sugary coatings are drizzled instead of completely coated onto the popcorn.

Besides being yummy it was a lot of fun to make, as you can see here!

Besides being yummy it was a lot of fun to make, as you can see here!

I meandered through the internet trying to find a recipe that had all of these things in them, and found quite a few for caramel/chocolate popcorn. I synthesized numerous recipes into one that I think is healthy, pretty easy and very delicious. Danielle and I had a lot of fun making it, and I know the fam had a ton of fun eating it. In fact, it went over so well I made a second batch two days later, which was immediately scarfed up. I’d like to share it with you now.

Pop the corn first!

Pop the corn first!

Caramel Chocolate Popcorn

  • 5 cups popping corn popped with canola oil
  • 1/2 cup Karo syrup
  • 1/2 cup organic sugar
  • 1/2 cup any kind of nut butter
  • 6 oz dark chocolate
  • 1/2 cup cashews
  • 1/2 cup almonds
  • 1 teaspoon popcorn salt (or regular salt)
One of my favorite sights, sounds, smells- popcorn popping!

One of my favorite sights, sounds, smells- popcorn popping!

First, you need to pop your corn. I use my whirly pop, canola oil and good ole Orville Redenbacher popcorn. I’ve tried MANY other kinds of popping corn but it’s by far the best. I get the non gmo version now though so it makes me feel less guilty. After the popcorn is done, get two big trays, cover them with parchment paper, and spread the popcorn on the trays. Sprinkle the nuts on the tray with the popcorn.

Stirring the caramel!

Stirring the caramel!

Next, prepare the caramel. Put the Karo syrup and the sugar in a pot on the stove and bring it to a boil, and then turn down to simmer for TWO MINUTES (make sure to time it), stirring the ENTIRE time. Stir in the nut butter when it’s done and immediately pour over the popcorn.

This is my preferred chocolate- Ghirardelli 60% dark chocolate. It's so good, and good for you!

This is my preferred chocolate- Ghirardelli 60% dark chocolate. It’s so good, and good for you!

Then, melt the chocolate by breaking the big bar into small pieces and placing it in a big bowl. Put the big bowl over a smaller pot with 2 inches of water in it. Turn the heat onto medium and stir the chocolate until it is melted. This is called a double boiler method and I like it better than melting it in the microwave, as I think it changes the texture and taste of the chocolate. Pour the melted chocolate immediately over the popcorn and caramel mixture on the trays.

Danielle being an expert drizzler and Delilah keeping watch so nothing falls on the floor!

Danielle being an expert drizzler and Delilah keeping watch so nothing falls on the floor! 🙂

Last, take your spatula and stir all the ingredients on the trays until they’re completely combined and then sprinkle the salt over the top of it all.

Voila! The finished product!

Voila! The finished product!

It is really so yummy, and at 140 calories per 1 and 1/2 cups you can indulge and still feel good that you haven’t totally derailed your healthy eating plan! Enjoy this with your family and friends, and let me know how you like it. Eating healthy desserts like this will help you live a life of vitality- with Valerie!