WATCH My Latest Recipes!

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Hi friends! It’s finally time to present my first video post on the blog. I’m so excited about this, and I hope you enjoy watching it. First, I want to give producing/directing credit to my baby, Danielle, and technical advising to my oldest, Jacqueline. I couldn’t do any of this without them. Next, I want to give a big thank you to all of my readers for your continued belief in me. I’ve included written versions of my recipes to make it easier when you’re making these delicious dishes.

Garlic Chicken

8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

5-10 sliced garlic cloves

Juice of 1 lemon

1/2 cup fresh, chopped parsley

1 teaspoon dried herbs

4 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Salt and pepper the chicken on both sides and place in a buttered baking dish. Sprinkle the garlic cloves and parsley on top of the chicken, and pour the olive oil and lemon juice on top. Bake the chicken for 30-40 minutes, until the chicken is golden brown. So simple and soooo good!

Mashed cauliflower

1 head of cauliflower

4 oz grated Parmesan cheese

4 oz butter

1/2 lemon, juice and zest

Cut the cauliflower into florets and boil them in plenty of salted water for a few minutes. Drain and discard the water. Then put them into a food processor or blender until mashed. Add salt and pepper to taste, and add more butter to the top if you want. They are BETTER than mashed potatoes and so much healthier for you as well!

That’s all there is to these recipes! They are delicious, healthy and SIMPLE. Eating food like this will help you live a life of vitality-with Valerie! ūüôā

Delish One Skillet Meal!

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Hello friends! Do I have a great one for you today?!! Why, yes I do! Danielle was home this past weekend and loves to cook, so we decided to make a recipe she had come across a while ago. It’s very enjoyable time for us to spend together, and a lovely meal comes out of it for all to¬†devour, so that’s a win-win for me. Here we go!

One Skillet Chicken with Lemon

  • 8 boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup cream
  • 1/4 cup green onions, chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons basil, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • lemon slices for garnish

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Preheat oven to 375 degrees and pound chicken out to 1/2 inch thick. Season both sides with salt and pepper. Heat EVOO in a large, oven proof skillet and brown chicken over medium high heat for 2-3 minutes per side.

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Transfer chicken to a separate plate and saute the onions for 3-4 minutes in the pan or until soft. Season with salt and pepper.

Add garlic and saute 1 minute. Then, pour in chicken broth, lemon juice and red pepper flakes.

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Reduce heat to medium and cook for 8-10 minutes stirring occasionally. Scrape up bits at bottom of the skillet. Those add lots of flavor.

Remove skillet from heat and whisk in cream. Return to low heat and cook for 30 seconds, then remove from heat.

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Return chicken to pan and cover in sauce.

Place skillet in oven and cook for 8-10 minutes or until chicken is cooked through completely.

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Remove from oven and top with lemon slices and basil. And that’s it!

I made a side dish of roasted sweet potatoes, onions, red peppers, and asparagus which teamed nicely with the chicken. The flavor of this chicken is incredible, and the cream gives it that slightly creamy flavor that just adds to the other ingredients in the dish.

The dish has approximately 300 calories and 22 grams of protein. I highly recommend cooking with your children if they’re enthusiastic about the idea because it’s so much fun. Plus it’s very rewarding for them to cook something for themselves and others to enjoy. Cooking a delicious and healthy dish with your children will allow you to live a life of vitality- with Valerie!

Healthy, Homemade Hummus- an EASY Snack!

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Healthy, Homemade Hummus- both easy and delicious!

Healthy, Homemade Hummus- both easy and delicious!

I must admit that I REALLY REALLY LOVE HUMMUS. I love it so much it deserves all caps! It’s creamy and rich but not heavy and it pairs well with vegetables like carrots, celery, and peppers.

It’s super, super healthy too, which makes me REALLY REALLY LOVE IT even more.¬† A 2 tablespoon serving has only 50 calories, but provides you with 2 grams of fiber AND 2 grams of protein. The fiber/protein combo helps to keep you feeling full longer than if you had eaten a snack that only contained carbs. Also, it has 5 grams of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) which is the fat that is very good for your heart and¬†the rest of your body. Remember, “Fat Doesn’t Make You Fat”- and you can read about that in one of my previous blog posts for more information.

A serving of hummus has 6 % of your daily value for folate and 4% for vitamin B-6 and thiamine. Folate helps prevent birth defects and is super important for pregnant women. All of these B vitamins give you energy and help keep your skin, liver, hair and eyes healthy, as well as your brain and nervous system too. Also, it has 6% RDA for phosphorus and magnesium, and 4% for iron and zinc. Phosphorus repairs cells and tissues, and magnesium is essential for muscle and nerve function, healthy immune system and strong bones. Iron is essential for cell growth and oxygen transport, and zinc is necessary for wound healing, immune function and the creation of DNA and proteins. Does this convince you to eat hummus? It should and if it doesn’t its deliciousness should really change your mind..

I also admit that I’ve always eaten store bought hummus until recently. It just seemed easier to grab a tub of it in the grocery store rather than make my own. However, with the recent bacteria laden problems that have occurred with my favorite store brand of hummus, I decided it had to be safer to make my own. Therefore, I went on a search for different hummus recipes and tried a few before coming up with my own that tasted better and was easier for me. Here’s what I came up with and I hope you like it!

Ingredients assembled and ready to go!

Ingredients assembled and ready to go!

Healthy, Homemade Hummus

Assemble ingredients and get out your blender-

You can use a food processor also, but I don't know how to use mime (too many blades and attachments) so I always use my blender!

You can use a food processor also, but I don’t know how to use mime (too many blades and attachments) so I always use my blender!

  • 2 cans organic garbanzo beans- drain one can (IF USING NON ORGANIC BEANS YOU MUST RINSE THEM FIRST BEFORE USING)
  • 1 lemon- zest and juice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

First, put your garbanzos in your blender. Next, zest (use a micro plane to remove the peel from the lemon WITHOUT ALSO INCLUDING THE WHITE PART OF THE PEEL INTO THE HUMMUS) the lemon. The white part (pith) is very bitter and should never be used. Then squeeze the lemon juice into the blender.

Great squeezing technique, right?!!

Great squeezing technique, right?!!

Now, add the parsley, minced garlic salt and pepper to the blender, and blend on medium speed until ingredients are combined. The last step is to add the extra virgin olive oil into the top of the blender while it is blending on low speed until it is fully incorporated into the hummus. Keep the lid on the blender so it doesn’t splash, and remove the plastic center part of the lid to add the olive oil.¬†Taste and add more salt and pepper as needed and THAT’S IT!

That's me dipping a carrot into the hummus!

That’s me dipping a carrot into the hummus!

This hummus tastes good as a dip for carrots, celery, pita or tortilla chips, but remember pita and tortilla chips are carbs so go easy on those dippers! It’s also delicious as a substitute for mayo on a sandwich and as a layer in a layered salad. You can add black, green or Greek olives, roasted red peppers, jalapenos or anything you can think of to the hummus to make different varieties of it very easily. Olives are my favorite addition but since some members of my family don’t like them I usually just serve it plain.

Well, that’s it for today, my friends! I hope you try to make your own hummus since it is an easy to make and yummy snack. Let me know how it turns out if you do! Eating healthy snacks like hummus will help you live a life of vitality- with Valerie!

Tasty, terrific turkey day part 1! How to eat healthy on Thanksgiving.

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Most of my clan at Thanksgiving last year!

Most of my clan at Thanksgiving last year!

Wow that time is already here, isn’t it? Now I don’t know about you but in the past I’ve had¬†a difficult time sticking to my healthy eating plan on Thanksgiving. It’s so easy to eat a lot and all the wrong things too. It’s like carb fest day! I’ll tell ya what I’m going to do!¬†The goal of this post is¬†to give you my¬†healthy eating tips and recipes so that you can eat and enjoy, but not gain 5 pounds in the process. Stick with me, and I’ll get you through it!

1. Be miserly with the unhealthy stuff- That includes stuffing, mashed potatoes, casseroley type dishes, creamy dishes, desserts, etc. Make sure you eat these types of dishes very sparingly, but do have a taste of¬†the ones you like¬†because I don’t believe in deprivation.

2. Eat lots of vegetables- Unless the vegetables are covered in cream, make your plate mostly veggies and you’ll¬†be¬†full and satisfied, because they have lots of fiber. I have¬†a great recipe for Brussels sprouts that even a veggie hater will love. I will include that in part 2 coming later this week.

3. Watch the salt- I’m a big believer in salt so some of you who know me may be shocked to hear me say this, but here’s why. Salt helps to retain water and makes you feel bloated. Some of the dishes you’re eating may already have a lot of salt added, so skip the salt shaker at Thanksgiving¬†and you won’t bloat up that night or the next day.

4. Bring your own dessert- If you’re going somewhere for Thanksgiving bring a fruit based dessert like a cobbler or a crisp because they’re lower calorie than something like pecan pie. I will show you a healthy way to make berry cobbler in part 2 of my post.

5. Take a walk or do something exerting after your meal- Even a ten minute walk will help you work off some of your meal and aid in digesting your food faster. Take your dog with you because dogs tend to get overwhelmed with all the guests, and said guests might have slipped them a bit of turkey too!

Ok, but what if you’re the one hosting the meal? That’s kind of awesome because you can control what you serve and which ingredients you use, thus ensuring you’ll be eating healthy food. I’m going to show you how to make¬†my really easy, delicious and healthy turkey and gravy today. Later in the week I will share my easy, delicious and healthy side dishes and cobbler so you can host the perfect Thanksgiving. And even if you’re not hosting I’ll give you recipes so you can take a healthy dish, thus ensuring you’ll at least eat one healthy thing on the big day!

Love me some turkey!

Love me some turkey!

Easy and Delicious Turkey and Gravy

  • 1 organic, fresh 15 lb turkey (feeds 8-10)
  • 1 orange, 1 lemon and 1 onion cut into wedges
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme, rosemary and sage chopped¬†(In a pinch you can use dried herbs de Provence)
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and pepper each
  • 6 cups organic, low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup gluten free rice flour
  • 5 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and position the rack to the lowest position in the oven. Rinse the turkey, pat it dry, and place it in the baking pan after removing the giblets from inside the turkey (funny story about that between my sister and I, remind me and I’ll tell you about it later). Take the oranges, lemons and onion and put them in¬†a bowl. Sprinkle a bit of the fresh herbs, EVOO, salt and pepper, stir them a bit, and then stuff them into the main turkey cavity. Cover the entire turkey with EVOO, the rest of the fresh herbs, salt and pepper.

Cover the turkey breast with foil and roast for 20 minutes. Pour 3 cups of broth into the pan and stir to scrape up any brown bits. Roast the turkey for 40 more minutes. Then, reduce the temperature to 350 degrees, remove the foil from the breast, add another cup of broth to the pan,, and continue roasting until a meat thermometer inserting in the thickest part of the thigh registers 165-175 degrees, or about 1 1/2 hours longer. Transfer the turkey to a platter, tent with foil and let stand for 30 minutes while making the gravy.

Glorious gravy!

Glorious gravy!

For those of you who’ve read my past blog on roasted chicken, “The Easiest Roasted Chicken, I Promise!”, I shared my gravy recipe and if you haven’t read it, you should! But, I’ll share it again for you now because it’s essentially the same for turkey as it is for chicken. Take the 5 tablespoons of butter and melt it in a large pan, then¬†add the 1/3 cup of gluten free rice flour and stir until combined. the reason I use rice flour is partly because Danielle can’t eat gluten, but what I’ve discovered is that I prefer using it over regular flour because it’s very fine and doesn’t clump up so makes for a nicely textured gravy. And it tastes better too! Stir for another minute to cook the flour.

Next, strain the pan drippings through a sieve to get rid of the chunks and pour it into a large measuring cup or something with a spout so the drippings won’t spill all over your stove. Add 1/3 of the drippings, stir, stir, stir until combined, and continue until all the pan drippings have been incorporated into the gravy. If you run out of pan drippings and the gravy still has a thick consistency you can add chicken broth, if it’s not thick enough, add more flour but don’t add it straight into the gravy or it will clump. In that case, combine 1 tablespoon of flour to 1/4 cup chicken broth in a lidded Tupperware container, shake the heck out of it until combined, then add it to the gravy. Finish the gravy with a little salt and pepper to taste, and continue to let it cook on the stove until thickened and bubbly. Pour it into a gravy boat and it’s good to go!

In my next post I will share my favorite side dishes and my go to dessert. I hope you enjoy my turkey and gravy if you try it, and let me know if you do! Let me know if you have any healthy go-to Thanksgiving dishes. A healthy Thanksgiving will help you live a life of vitality- like Valerie!

 

 

 

 

Grilled fall lamb and delicious risotto!

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The meal completed and ready for eating!

The meal completed and ready for eating!

Now I know that when you think of fall you don’t automatically think about grilling, right? But I’m here to tell you that fall is a wonderful time to grill. I don’t grill steaks and corn at this time of year, though that is always good. No,¬†my grilling in the fall is more, well, fall-like, with fall inspired meats and recipes. The other night I made a perfect fall grilling menu that I’d like to share with my wonderful readers. It was simple and delicious highlighted by Mediterranean lamb loin chops, amazing asparagus risotto (made in the kitchen, not on the grill), and delicious grilled tomatoes (we still have plenty in our garden!). It was a memorable meal and I couldn’t wait to blog about it with all of you!

First marinate the lamb chops!

First marinate the lamb chops!

The first thing I did was marinate the lamb chops. I started with two bone in lamb loin chops. They are thick, meaty chops that respond quite well to grilling. I used 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil, 2 tablespoons of minced garlic, salt and pepper to taste, and 2 tablespoons of herbs de province (this is an herb combo consisting of thyme, basil, rosemary, parsley, marjoram, lavender, tarragon and fennel seed). I let it marinate for about an hour in the fridge and then took the bag out of the fridge about 20 minutes before grilling to let the meat return to room temperature and the olive oil to turn back to liquid.

Heat chicken broth in the microwave!

Heat chicken broth in the microwave!

White and green asparagus ready for the pan!

White and green asparagus ready for the pan!

Olive oil and onions in the risotto pot!

Olive oil and onions in the risotto pot!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So maybe you’ve heard that risotto is a really difficult thing to make? Well, let me tell you it’s definitely not, and I have figured out some cheats to make it even easier! Risotto¬†is comprised of Arborio rice which is an¬†Italian rice. What makes it so delicious is the fact that it’s really starchy,¬†the secret to risotto is cooking it for a longish time and stirring it constantly to allow the starch to release. There is no cream in risotto, the creaminess is just chicken broth and stirring.

The first step in making risotto is to heat 7-8 cups of chicken broth in a pan on the stove. That is in addition to the risotto pan and I’m not into washing so many extra pans so that leads me to my first cheat. Instead of getting another pan out and heating the chicken broth, I measure out the broth and put the measuring cup in the microwave for two minutes on high. I keep it in the microwave until I’m ready to use it and then I get it out and ladle it into the risotto one ladle at a time. When I get to the bottom of the liquid in the measuring cup I add two more cups of chicken broth, put it back in the microwave and so on until I’ve added all the broth. The next thing you do is chop up a bundle of asparagus and put it aside until later. Then, take one large chopped onion, add it to a teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil in the risotto pan and saut√© until soft.

Rice, chicken broth and my risotto pan!

Rice, chicken broth and my risotto pan!

The next step is to add two cups of Arborio rice (the rice used to make risotto) to the risotto pan and saut√© it for about a minute until it gets SLIGHTLY browned. I start by adding a cup of good dry white wine to the rice. Stir until it is absorbed. This is the point at which you start adding the chicken broth. As I said I use a ladle and add it to the rice one ladle at a time. Then, you stir stir stir! The good thing about that is you get a really great arm workout when making risotto! When the ladle of chicken broth is mostly absorbed into the rice, that’s the time to add another ladle of chicken broth. And that’s really about it, you just keep adding chicken broth and stirring until all the chicken broth is absorbed into the rice. I admit, it takes about 30 minutes for this to happen so it’s not an incredibly quick recipe but it is definitely worth the time it takes!

Just added the asparagus to the pan!

Just added the asparagus to the pan!

Here’s my next cheat: usually you would steam asparagus, again in a separate cooking vessel (another pan- yuck!), until it’s mostly cooked and add it to the rice at the end of the rice’s cooking time. However, I don’t do any of that, instead I just keep the asparagus raw and then I throw it into the risotto pan about 15 minutes before the rice is done and it ends up perfectly cooked; not too raw, not too mushy.

At this point I heat the grill to medium heat and quickly sear the lamb chops on each side for about a minute. Then, I grill them about 6 minutes per side and check them at that point. I’m looking¬†for medium rare on the chops. When the chops have about a minute left I put some tomato slices with a little olive oil, salt and pepper on the grill. I also cut a lemon in half, add a little olive oil to the top of it and put it on the grill at the same time as the tomatoes.

There's the parmesan and the almost done risotto.

There’s the parmesan and the almost done risotto.

The very last thing to do is to add a tablespoon of butter and shave 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese into the risotto. Now this is not the time to use the Kraft parmesan cheese in a can. Only freshly grated parmesan will do and it’s not difficult at all, just hold the grater and the cheese over the risotto and go to town until you’re done!

Look at that plate of grilled loveliness!!!

Look at that plate of grilled loveliness!!!

You may be wondering what to do with the grilled lemon; I squeeze it over the lamb before serving. Grilling the lemon gives it a mellow quality that just adds to the flavor of the lamb perfectly. This meal made me so happy, it was warm and comforting, just what you need for fall, but the tomatoes and lemon still make it light and citrusy. So that’s my perfect fall meal with a Valerie twist to it. Let me know what your favorite fall meal is. I hope you try this meal, it will help you live a life of vitality- like Valerie!