Roast these for optimal nutrition!

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A cornucopia of tomatoes!


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

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

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

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

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

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My trusty sous chef, Danielle! 🙂


Valerie’s Roasted Tomato Sauce

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Italian Chili? You Betcha!

Can you make an Italian chili? I think you can!

Can you make an Italian chili? I think you can!

Hi Friends! Well, it’s still officially cold outside. I was hoping it would go away after a few days (every year I think this even though I’ve lived here all my life!), but it’s still hanging around. When it’s cold like it is here in the Midwest, I mainly want to eat warm, comforting food. I served this dish to my family the other night and my Honey asked me where I got the recipe. I told him that I sort of combined a couple of recipes and used what I had available to make up something new. He was amazed, pleasantly of course, so I’m really glad it was a successful experiment. It was easy too so I’m excited to share it with you today. I call it Italian chili because it has the beans, ground beef, and vegetables like a chili, but the taste is more like a thick minestrone. It’s flavorful and healthy too!

Here are your ingredients!

Here are your ingredients!

Italian “Chili”

1. Ingredients, 1 chopped onion, 1 tablespoon minced garlic, 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), 2 lbs grass fed ground beef, 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes, 1/4 cup red wine, 1 can white or red kidney beans, 1/2 package organic mixed vegetables, 1/2 cup gluten free elbow noodles, 1 cup water, 1 teaspoon each dried oregano, basil, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.

Garlic and onions in olive oil smells soooo good!

Garlic and onions in olive oil smells soooo good!

2. Sweat the onions- First add your EVOO and warm it up a little, then add the onions and garlic and cook them over medium heat until the onions are soft- about 5 minutes.

Where's the beef? In the pan of course! :)

Where’s the beef? In the pan of course! 🙂

3. Brown the beef- Add the beef into the pan and sauté until browned. This should take about 10 minutes.

Throw the rest of the ingredients into the pot and that's it!

Throw the rest of the ingredients into the pot and that’s it!

4. Now here’s the fun part- This is the best step in the process, you just put all the rest of the ingredients into the pot, the frozen veggies, wine, crushed tomatoes, beans, water, pasta, and spices, clap the lid onto it, reduce the heat to simmer, and let it go! Just stir once every 10 minutes so the ingredients don’t stick to the bottom. After 20 minutes the pasta should be soft enough that you can serve it, but if you’re not going to eat until later you can leave it on simmer and it could sit on the stove for an hour or so. Just remember to stir every 10 minutes or most of your ingredients will be stuck to the bottom of the pot.

Voila! The finished product!

Voila! The finished product!

And that’s it! It’s a super easy recipe and it’s delicious too! With the beans, tomatoes and all the veggies it’s really healthy so you can feel good about what you’re eating. As always, buy organic ingredients whenever you can so that you can ensure you’re putting the best food possible on the table for you and your crew. This recipe makes plenty for a family of four with enough leftover for a lunch or two- yay! When you reheat the “chili” you may have to add a cup of water because it thickens upon standing. You can also add tomato juice or tomato sauce instead of water for a more tomato-y flavor. Make this recipe because I promise you’ll enjoy it! Eating these kinds of meals will help you live a life of vitality- with Valerie!



Grow Your Own Food!


Good morning!

I hope your Memorial Day weekend was memorable and full of fun and vitality! Now that Memorial Day has passed, I go into full on summer mode and start getting excited for my veggies and herbs that I have planted to grow quickly so that I can enjoy them in my cooking. Now here’s the thing, you don’t need a big piece of land to grow your own vegetables and herbs because I don’t have a lot of outdoor space either. I hope to have a large yard space some day and then I will grown more vegetables, herbs and even have fruit trees too. But for now I content myself with planting what I can in the space I have.

The greatest part about this is that if you’ve never grown your own veggies and herbs, no worries, it’s really easy to do and even if you haven’t bought any yet it’s not too late to get them in the ground now. I live in the Midwest so you lucky people in warmer climates have a year round growing season, and I envy you for that, but my information can be utilized in any climate you’ll just have to adjust your planting to accommodate your optimal growing season.

Here are some of the tomato plants plus the cilantro.

Here are some of the tomato plants plus the cilantro.

This year I’ve planted tomatoes, jalapenos and poblano peppers for my vegetables, and Italian basil, purple basil, Italian parsley, rosemary, oregano, lemon verbena, and thyme for my herbs. Last year I planted more of them in pots and put them on my porch but they didn’t do as well because last summer we got a lot of rain in Indiana and my veggies and herbs got flooded and didn’t grow. So this year I just utilized a little space around my shrubbery so that they could grow in the ground. All I did was dig a little of the dirt up and scraped the mulch off and put it to the side. Then I added some rich topsoil, stuck the plants in the ground and smoothed the mulch back over them. After that, I put a little fertilizer on the plants and watered them well. That’s pretty much it, though I did put the cages on the tomatoes so that as they grow they won’t fall over, and as they get taller I’ll have to anchor them with taller stakes but that won’t be for a while because as you can tell they’re pretty small right now.

Little plants now, but they will grow and produce tomatoes soon!

Little plants now, but they will grow and produce tomatoes soon!

The herbs don’t have to be staked because they don’t get very tall, I just clip a bit of the herb off the top when I need it for my cooking and that keeps the plants from growing thin, instead they get thick and bushy. I haven’t even put all my herbs in yet, as you can see from the picture below, I am planting my purple basil as soon as I’m done posting this!

Italian parsley, purple and Italian basil, and rosemary.

Italian parsley, purple and Italian basil, and rosemary.

I do have two pots with herbs this year. I planted the lemon verbena and thyme in pots because last summer both herbs seemed to do just fine in there. I did move them off my patio and into the landscaping so they’d get a bit more sun than they would on the porch. I just took them out of the packaging and dug a little hole in the pot that already had dirt in it from last year (I don’t really know if you’re supposed to get fresh dirt every year but my plants don’t seem to mind the old dirt), plunked them in the pot and watered. That’s pretty much it except to make sure they get lots of sun and don’t get over watered.

Lemon verbena and thyme in pots.

Lemon verbena and thyme in pots.

What do I do with all of the things I grow? First off I love to cook and am always happiest making something for my family to enjoy. I especially enjoy making Italian and Mexican foods, so the tomatoes, basil, oregano, and Italian parsley are used every day for the Italian dishes I make, and the tomatoes, cilantro, and peppers are used for Mexican food. I make my own salsa and guacamole and I always have some on hand as these are my family’s favorite things to eat. They also love Italian Caprese salad. I will include step by step instructions about how to make these items in my next blog. I use the lemon verbena, rosemary and thyme in many different dishes, especially chicken dishes and I enjoy experimenting to see how each herb can change the flavor of a dish. There’s nothing like going out to my yard while I’m making a meal, grabbing some tomatoes, basil and oregano, still warm from the sun, and bringing them in to use in my cooking. SO SATISFYING! And so much healthier than the pale, flavorless produce at the grocery store.

Can't wait until I can enjoy the "fruits" of my labor!

Can’t wait until I can enjoy the “fruits” of my labor!

Obviously my little mini garden won’t produce anything for a while, and I need more variety in my produce, so I also visit my local farmer’s market for locally grown, delicious vegetables, fruits and herbs all summer long. It’s also where I purchase locally raised meat and eggs. In the winter I shop at my local health food grocery store for my produce, meat and eggs, and I always buy organic and locally grown whenever possible.

To summarize my healthy tips for the day- 1. Grow your own vegetables and herbs, it’s easy and so much healthier than grocery story produce. 2. Use the ground whenever possible to plant and if utilizing pots make sure they drain well and are in a sunny place. 3. Take advantage of your local farmer’s market to enjoy the freshest produce, meat and eggs. 4. In the winter buy organic produce whenever possible.

Once again, thank you for reading my blog and I’d love to hear any comments you have, so post them! If you’d like more information on my lifestyle coaching services, please email me at