Make this for BAE today! J & D #3

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Hello friends! It’s almost Valentine’s Day, isn’t it? Yes, the day for amor is a few days away, and I’ve got an AWESOME recipe, courtesy of Jacqueline and Danielle, to share with you today. They made this meal last week for the two of them to share, and I’m proud to say they are each other’s BAE’s forever! BAE means “before anything else”, in case you were wondering. You should definitely make it for your special person or special people, whatever the case may be. This is the perfect Valentine’s Day dinner, it’s easy AND delish, so come along with me if you will and I’ll share with you now! 

  
Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Chicken

  • 2 cups organic baby spinach 
  • 1/2 cup ricotta 
  • 2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Grated Parmesan for sprinkling 
  • Paprika for sprinkling
  • Salt and pepper

  
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Sauté spinach in pan with a bit of extra virgin olive oil until wilted. 

  
Add ricotta and stir until melted. Salt and pepper the mixture to taste.

  
 Take the chicken breasts, cut 3 or 4 slits, and stuff the ricotta/spinach mixture into them.  Sprinkle with Parmesan and paprika.

  
It’s ok if you have to put some of the mixture on top of the chicken. Bake at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. 

  
Now while the chicken is cooking prepare the pasta. 

Garlic butter white wine pasta with fresh herbs

  • 1 box of gluten free angel hair pasta
  • 3 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups fresh herbs like tarragon, parsley, basil etc (if you don’t have fresh herbs use 2 teaspoons each of dried herbs de province and Italian herb seasoning)
  • 1/2 small onion diced (or 2 shallots)
  • 4-8 garlic cloves finely minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup good white wine
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tbs butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste

  
Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil and add the pasta. Cook until al dente. 

Heat two tablespoons EVOO in a large pan, and add the onions (or shallots) cook for two minutes and then add the pepper flakes and garlic, and cook for a minute. Add the wine and chicken broth, cook on medium heat for 5-8 minutes or until slightly thickened. 

  
Remove from heat and stir in the cream and butter, and add salt and pepper to taste. 

  
Drain the pasta, reserving a bit of the pasta water, and add the pasta to the liquid mixture. If it’s too dry, add a bit of pasta water to loosen it up. 

  
Take a plate, put a good amount of pasta on it, and place a chicken breast on top. Add some extra Parmesan, salt and pepper, and you’re good to go! 

As meals go, this one is pretty healthy, all things considered. The chicken has lots of protein, the spinach is full of iron and other minerals, the ricotta has healthy fats, as does the EVOO, the pasta is gluten free, and all the herbs are loaded with phytochemicals and antioxidants. It’s a tad more indulgent calorie wise than I normally would post, however it’s Valentine’s Day so you should indulge on days like that.

And that’s it, cooking with Jac and Dan part 3 is finito! Enjoy your delicious meal and your sweetie pie on this day of hearts and love. Love and yummy food will help you live a life of vitality- with Valerie! 

One Year Anniversary Top Ten Posts!

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Me and my babies 2015!

Me and my babies 2015!

Well, a year goes by so quickly, doesn’t it? I can’t believe it’s been a year since I began writing this blog. I have enjoyed writing it, and have truly loved all of the comments, enthusiasm and encouragement I have received from my readers. I have actually met people during this past year, and when I’ve told them my name they’ve asked me if I write a blog! So the word is definitely getting out about what I do and I appreciate that. In honor of my one year blogiversary, I thought I would write a “best of” post, highlighting the 10 posts I have received the most positive feedback on, and the ones I think are the most reflective of my message. It’s a walk through memory lane for me, and I hope you have gotten something positive from them as well.  My list is displayed “Letterman style” starting with number 10 and working my way to number 1. To read the posts in their entirety, click on the link at the end of each section.

Lift Your Way to Health!

Lift Your Way to Health!

10. “Lift your way to weight loss- and a healthier body!”- This was a post I wrote about the benefits of lifting weights on the body. I am still enjoying my weights and just lifted this morning!

https://vitalvaldecap.com/2015/02/05/lift-your-way-to-weight-loss-and-a-healthier-body/

Do what scares you!

Do what scares you!

9. “Why you MUST do what scares you!”- I really enjoyed writing this one, and had many tell me this was their favorite post I’ve written. I liked it because it was so indicative of positive changes I’ve made over the years, and zip lining was a blast!

https://vitalvaldecap.com/2014/12/09/why-you-must-do-what-scares-you/

My Fitness Pal!

My Fitness Pal!

8. “My Fitness Pal is my fave fitness pal!”- This post is important because it focuses on the importance of journaling what you eat in order to maintain a healthy weight. Journaling is one of the keys to fitness success, and the My Fitness Pal app not only is a food journal, but also keeps track of the calories you expend through exercise, calories eaten, steps taken, nutritional breakdown of foods eaten each day, weight progress, and much more.

https://vitalvaldecap.com/2014/10/15/my-fitness-pal-is-my-fave-fitness-pal/

Grow your own food!

Grow your own food!

7. “Grow your own food!”- This is one of my first posts and discusses my philosophy about the importance of growing your own vegetables and herbs. My vegetables and herbs have been planted already this year and are growing like crazy. I can’t wait to eat a tomato from my own garden again!

https://vitalvaldecap.com/2014/05/27/grow-your-own-food/

Eggs- truly a bonanza of health benefits!

Eggs- truly a bonanza of health benefits!

6. “An EGGceptional protein!”- This post reflects my health philosophy about the importance of eating lean proteins, and eggs are one of my favorites! Eggs are versatile, full of nutrients and delicious- like I said, they’re EGGceptional!

https://vitalvaldecap.com/2014/08/22/an-eggceptional-protein/

DON'T SIT TOO LONG!

DON’T SIT TOO LONG!

5. “Sitting is the new smoking!”- This was a post in which I talked about how bad it is for your health to sit for long periods of time, and alternatives to sitting at work and at home (I guiltily jumped off my chair just now and am standing while composing this post!). It’s a good reminder for all of us!

https://vitalvaldecap.com/2014/09/12/sitting-is-the-new-smoking/

Oh how I love the sun- and it's GOOD for you!

Oh how I love the sun- and it’s GOOD for you!

4. “Here Comes the Sun, and it’s Alright!”- One of my favorites because I believe it imparts critically important information that you won’t get from mainstream media. Many studies support what I’m saying about the sun and it’s role in vitamin D production. Email me if you’d like more in depth information.

https://vitalvaldecap.com/2014/06/09/here-comes-the-sun-and-its-alright/

Sugar is one of the worst things you can eat!

Sugar is one of the worst things you can eat!

3. “Sugar- the new cigarette?!”- This is another post that most closely aligns with the message I’m trying to deliver about how terrible sugar and all non-whole grain carbs. Sugar truly is the new cigarette in terms of devastation to our bodies.

https://vitalvaldecap.com/2014/07/09/sugar-the-new-cigarette/

This is how I eat!

This is how I eat!

2. “Mediterranean “diet” is the way I eat!”- I love this post because it delivers a very important message about not following diets, but adopting a healthy way of eating. That’s the way to get to a healthy weight and stay there. Eating like the people who live along the Mediterranean Sea is known to be a way to long term good health, and is the way I’ve been eating since becoming an adult.

https://vitalvaldecap.com/2014/07/15/mediterranean-diet-is-the-way-i-eat/

It really doesn't!

It really doesn’t!

1. “FAT doesn’t make you fat!”- My favorite post, and the one I’ve gotten the most comments on. Again, it’s a message I feel compelled to deliver because I don’t feel the mainstream media is delivering it. This post discusses carbohydrates and their role in weight gain for the body. I also discuss how fat is really good for you, and essential in the maintenance of good health. This is so critical for my for my readers to know that I’m going to repeat it, FAT DOESN’T MAKE YOU FAT, EXCESSIVE NON WHOLE GRAIN CARBOHYDRATES DO! Read the post for more information.

https://vitalvaldecap.com/2014/09/19/fat-doesnt-make-you-fat/

And that’s my top ten list of posts for my one year anniversary. It has been an honor to provide information for my readers, and I have appreciated all the support and positivity I have received. I also want to give an enormous shout out to my amazing daughters who have helped me with technical issues, proof reading, post ideas, cooking prep, editing, etc, etc, etc. They’ve been my biggest cheerleaders (imagine that!)! Also, thanks to my family and friends who have shared my posts on their Facebook pages, and been so supportive to me and my blog.I hope you’ve read something that helps change your life for the better on this page. I write for this reason. So again thank you from the bottom of my heart for all the love. I return that love to you tenfold which will help you live a life of vitality- with Valerie!

My Perfect, Healthy Valentine’s Day!

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Dark chocolate is the key to a healthy Valentine's Day!

Dark chocolate is the key to a healthy Valentine’s Day!

Hi friends! Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, the day to celebrate your love of husband/wife/significant other/children/dogs etc etc etc. I personally think it’s kind of over hyped in the media (but what isn’t these days?!), however any excuse to show your loved ones how much you love them can’t be a bad thing, can it? But it’s a lot of pressure too, and from my perspective it’s difficult to stay on your healthy path of life when derailed by holidays, even a made up Hallmark holiday like this one. So, with that in mind I’ve got some ideas to keep your Valentine’s Day healthy AND happy. You know I’ve always got a list, right? Here’s my list of the top healthy things to do and eat!

 

Dark chocolate covered strawberries are my favorite HEALTHY indulgence!

Dark chocolate covered strawberries are my favorite HEALTHY indulgence!

1. Instead of the BIG box of chocolates, buy DARK chocolate covered strawberries, or any kind of fruit. Dark chocolate is full of antioxidants and lower in sugar than milk chocolate. The fruit gives you vitamins and fiber. AND the kicker is that you can eat FOUR OF THESE FOR 150 CALORIES! Wow! Healthy and delish!

 

Healthy Valentine dinner!

Healthy Valentine’s dinner!

2. Chose fish as your Valentine’s dinner meat instead of a big steak. If you have to have steak, order the filet which is a leaner cut of beef for sure. However, salmon and vegetables gives you vitamins, antioxidants, and tons of healthy fats. Plus it won’t overly stuff you so you have to unbutton the top button of your pants- not a good look!

 

Drink wine (Champagne!) with your Valentine's dinner!

Drink wine (Champagne!) with your Valentine’s dinner!

3. Drinking wine instead of beer or mixed cocktails with dinner is definitely a healthier choice for your Valentine’s dinner- and it’s more festive too! See my previous post “A Healthy Way to drink in the New Year!” for further info on healthy alcoholic beverages. And remember, moderation is ALWAYS the healthiest way to go, any day, any time. If you do overindulge, see my post, “Holiday Overeating/Overdrinking? Healthy remedies for indigestion!” for information about ways to feel better quickly, though I hope you won’t need that tomorrow night!

 

Do something ACTIVE together!

Do something ACTIVE together!

4. Chose an activity that allows you to MOVE! We are going to make a blown glass piece of art together. It’s something we’ve never done and I think it will be fun and active too. Look at that woman’s arms- that’s incentive enough for me! And we will take home our mutually created piece of art and display it proudly in our home no matter what it looks like! 🙂

 

Sky Zone is active family fun!

Sky Zone is active family fun!

5. If you’re celebrating Valentine’s Day with your children, consider an activity like going to Sky Zone and jumping around TOGETHER. Don’t just drop the kids off and leave. They have special family times during holidays and it would definitely be an active thing to do. 30 minutes of moderate jumping BURNS 256 CALORIES! That’s healthy family fun!

These are my suggestions for a healthy Valentine’s Day that won’t derail you from your fitness goals. I will definitely be following my own suggestions this weekend, and I’ll have fun too! Having a healthy Valentine’s Day will help you to live a life of vitality- with Valerie!

A Few of my Favorite Things!

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YEP!

YEP!

In my last post, I mentioned that I’m not a big believer in New Year’s resolutions. So often, it seems a resolution is yet another thing on a much too long to do list, and when it is not followed through with, it leads to a sense of sadness and failure. Definitely not the way to go into a new year! Now that’s not to say that I don’t advocate eating healthily and exercising regularly, if you’ve read my past blog posts you know I am all about that. It’s just more about being good to myself, and setting aside regular time for ME! I’m definitely not very good at that. Are there any others out there who are the same? It seems I’m so good at being there for others, but not so good about that for myself. With that in mind I am trying to be better about doing things just for me, and I mentioned a few things on my list of things I love to do in my last post, “New Year’s resolution? Nah, just be good to you!”. Listening to music, reading my Kindle, and taking a luxurious bath were some of them, but there’s more, my friends, and I want to share some more with you now.

Ashes with my Jac!

Ashes with my Jac!

1. Spending spiritual time- In past posts, I have discussed my time spent each morning in meditation. I try to do that every morning without fail and most days I achieve that- at least 5-10 minutes worth. That’s only part of my spiritual time though. My favorite way to deepen my faith is by attending church services at my parish, Holy Spirit Geist (HSG).

Jac took this pic of our church and I think it's awesome!

Jac took this pic of our church and I think it’s awesome!

It is a young, vibrant parish and has rejuvenated my faith. I especially like to attend with my daughters, but that isn’t always possible these days since they’re attending church in their college town now. Still, they come back to go to church with me as often as they can, because they find the atmosphere at HSG as uplifting and inspiring as I do. I especially love the Sunday 5 pm mass, because they have a band and they play contemporary Christian music which I really like. My advice would be that no matter what beliefs you have, spend time with other people who believe similarly because it really helps me feel in communion with humanity and with a higher power too.

Ashes with Danz!

Ashes with Danz!

Another thing that uplifts me is to pray a daily rosary. For those of you who aren’t Catholic, the rosary is a series of prayers to Mary. We do not WORSHIP Mary, which is a popular misconception about Catholics, we only worship God but we do hold Mary in reverence as the mother of God. We pray the rosary for her to intercede for us to God on our behalf. I use a rosary made of Swarovski crystals that my Mama gave me, and it gives me such a loving feeling to use this gorgeous rosary given to me by MY beloved Mom to pray to Jesus’s beloved Mom!

That perfectly sums up my feelings about praying the rosary!

That perfectly sums up my feelings about praying the rosary!

Anyway, I began praying a daily rosary about 10 years ago and I prayed it with my daughters on the way to school. It’s a rhythmic series of prayers (1 Our Father and 10 Hail Mary’s followed by a Glory Be and a Fatima prayer- 5 times), and each day corresponds to a different set of mysteries about Jesus. I truly love to pray my rosary, and now I usually do it as I first awaken and am laying in bed trying to wake my brain up. Praying the rosary brings me so much comfort and peace. There have been MANY times in which I awaken in the middle of the night, and all my fears and concerns keep me from going back to sleep. I pray my rosary, and before I know it I’m calm and comforted back to sleep. I also say my prayers every day. I used to pray with my girls, and now I pray by myself in the morning after my daily rosary. I pray for just about everyone I can think of, all my family members, friends, and all of the sick and suffering I know about. It’s my way of helping those I love, and it makes me feel really good about myself.

Wine and a good meal!

Wine and a good meal!

2. A good meal and glass of wine- As you know if you’ve read my past posts, I LOVE a good meal accompanied by a nice glass of wine. I love to make the meals usually, however I’m a sucker for a delicious dinner that someone else has made. Since I cook so much, it is the ultimate luxury to have someone else cook for me, or to go out for a nice meal. Now, I said go out for a nice meal, not fast food which I in no way consider a nice meal. However, it doesn’t have to be FANCY to be a nice meal. I also love Chinese, Mexican, Thai, Vietnamese, Sushi, etc, etc, etc which are more simple meals. The only requirement is that the food HAS to be delicious! One of my favorite meals in Indianapolis is at a Vietnamese restaurant called Sandra’s Rice and Noodles. My roommate from college, Terri, took me to this restaurant the first time, though now I’ve been there many times. Their Pho is one of the most delicious things I’ve ever eaten, granted everything there is wonderful and I’ve never ordered anything I haven’t loved! It’s a very simple restaurant in which you can enjoy the most amazing meals! Eating is one of my greatest pleasures and even though I eat mostly healthy food I find that I savor and enjoy my food more now than I did when I ate less healthily. I go more for flavor and quality rather than quantity, which means that I eat less than I did and I enjoy it more. That’s a win-win!

Also, the wine doesn’t have to be expensive to be delicious, and I’ve had many great $10 bottles of wine that I’ve really savored. One of my favorite $10 bottles of wine is Kris Pinot Grigio and if you like Pinot Grigio I think you’ll enjoy this brand. Plus you can’t beat the price!

My favorite wine!

My favorite wine!

My favorite Pinot Grigio however is Santa Margherita which my stepmom introduced me to. It’s more like $22 for a bottle so I don’t drink it every day, but when I do I’m in heaven! It is truly a fine glass of wine. And remember, when you’re eating or drinking the really good stuff a little bit goes a long way, so a glass or two is all you need to satisfy.

So these are some of my favorite things- my church Holy Spirit Geist, my Swarovski crystal rosary beads given to me by my mom, praying my daily rosary, a delicious meal like I’ve had at Sandra’s Rice and Noodles, and a good glass of wine like Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio. These are things that give me comfort and help me be good to myself. I’ve got more for you so tune in for my next post to see what else I have. I hope you are good to yourself today. Doing so will help you live a life of vitality- with Valerie!

A Furry Stress Reliever!

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Lap time with Chewie makes me happy! And I'm not the only one- read on!

Lap time with Chewie makes me happy! And I’m not the only one- read on!

Hello friends! As I said in a previous post I’m a brand new empty nester and am still adjusting to this new phase of my life. It is very gratifying to see how well my daughters are doing, and in particular my first time college student! So it’s all good for them which definitely helps my adjustment process, but it’s a process and I have moments in which I kind of look around like something is missing. Well, in this case it’s two SOMEONE’S who are missing, and as I tell people it’s just WEIRD. That’s the word that best describes my feeling about this new phase.

My first dog, Princess, with my girls when they were little! They loved cuddling with her!

My first dog, Princess, with my girls when they were little! They loved cuddling with her!

So anyway, as I go through this process of getting used to life without my girls I find that I am getting a lot of comfort from my dogs. That’s not unusual for me, I’m a crazy dog lady after all, but I have been comforted by their presence even more than usual. Just looking at them helps me to feel better. I was surfing around on the internet the other day and I came across an article in Dr. Becker’s newsletter that talked about that very topic. Dr. Becker is a holistic veterinarian who has teamed up with Dr. Mercola (a holistic doctor) to dispense advice and sell products. In fact I highly recommend both doctor’s newsletters! Dr. Becker’s article talked about the emotional benefits of owning a dog and here they are!

Still getting comfort from her dog, in this case our current Golden, Delilah!

Still getting comfort from her dog, in this case our current Golden, Delilah!

1. Dogs relieve our stress- Dr. Becker mentions how many hospitals now have dogs come in to visit with patients, and schools that bring dogs in during finals to help relieve stress associated with both hospital stays and exams in schools. Last spring Purdue University had dogs and their handlers come in during finals week for students to come and pet/cuddle. Jacqueline went over and spent time with the dogs and she said it really helped her feel better and less stressed. She got straight A’s last semester so clearly the dog cuddling time helped her rock her exams!

My dogs encourage me to keep moving!

My dogs encourage me to keep moving!

2. They encourage us to exercise- Dogs need more exercise than just letting them out to do their business and wander your backyard. I don’t care how big or small they are, and how many other dogs or cats they have to run around with, they still need to exercise or they will become overweight and bored. Our little dog, Chewie, is a perfect example of that. He started to gain weight over the winter when I wasn’t walking him as much, but worse than that he got bored. Now, for Chewie boredom is NOT a good thing. He started to chew on things, get into things he wasn’t supposed to, and in general he became a nuisance. I learned that I HAD to take him on a walk each day to really wear him out so he wouldn’t get into trouble. The benefit of that was that I got out and walked with them, because they obviously can’t walk themselves. Now, if walking isn’t your thing you can throw a Frisbee with your dog, throw a ball, run, swim, and pretty much anything active that you like to do your dog would LOVE to do with you. If your dog moves and you move with him/her, it’s a win-win!

Chewie loves to cuddle with his sissies!

Chewie loves to cuddle with his sissies!

3. Dogs increase our “happy” hormone- Dr. Becker quoted a study in which they tested dog owner’s amount of oxytocin when they looked into their dog’s eyes. Oxytocin is the hormone that increases when we kiss or hug a loved one. It’s also stimulated during breast feeding, sex, and giving birth. What they found in this study was that the amount of oxytocin in dog owners continued to INCREASE the longer they gazed into their dog’s eyes. No wonder I like to look at my dogs all the time!

My mom even enjoys her cuddle time with my dogs!

My mom even enjoys her cuddle time with my dogs!

4. Dogs have the ability to heal us- Dogs are known to be helpful in those suffering from PTSD, depression, autism and various disabilities. Therapy dogs are utilized to aid those with various ailments. The number of illnesses that dogs can bring about healing for hasn’t been fully explored yet, and new ways dogs can help heal us are still to be discovered. The bond between human and dogs is very complex and in some ways deeper than the relationship between humans. I could’ve told you that!

They are definitely buddies!

They are definitely buddies!

5. Dogs help us in our relationship with other humans- A study showed that when you bring your dog along with you to different places, you are more appealing to others. It showed that 95% of study participants found people in the company of their dogs to be more approachable to members of the opposite sex. Guys did you hear that? Bring your dog along if you want to meet girls! I always meet people when I’m out walking with my dogs in the neighborhood. In fact, I just met a nice woman and her bichon this morning on our walk and we exchanged numbers to go on future walks together. I’m sure that wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t had my dogs with me. Thanks Chewie and Delilah!

So anyway, the upshot is that dogs are a great source of comfort and love for us, especially when going through stressful events. If you’re going through some stress, gaze into your dog’s eyes and feel your oxytocin levels rising! Also, just a 10 minute walk with your dog can ease your stress and give you some exercise too! Enjoy your dog, get some exercise, ease your stress and live a life of vitality- like Valerie!