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

Spring Into Weight Loss- Low/No Carb Of Course!

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Low/No carb cornucopia!

Low/No carb cornucopia!

Well friends, spring is coming to the Midwest, I can feel it now and it feels SO GOOD! The snow is melting, the air is warming, and the sun is finally shining- to which I have to say, thank goodness! Along with this feeling of utter joy that the weather is so much nicer, I am also feeling the need for spring house cleaning. No, not in my actual house, but in my life. I realize that as the winter seemed to drag on forever, my eating habits got as heavy as my mood and I was eating more pastas, breads, and potatoes. Right after Valentine’s day I got on the scale and much to my dismay I had gained 5 pounds since early December. That happens a lot easier now as I grow older!

So I decided to follow my own advice and do some spring cleaning to my diet. Conveniently for me I gave up all sweets and snack foods for Lent so those things were the first to go. I’m not much of a sweets eater however I do love my dark chocolate so I’m really missing that right now. I also don’t eat a lot of snack foods but¬†occasionally I really enjoy chips and other salty foods. So that was a first step but I still wasn’t seeing much improvement- probably because I don’t eat too much of those kinds of foods anyway. I decided to practice what I preach and take the next step toward “decluttering” my body by cutting WAY back on carbs.

Hummus and vegetables is a great low carb snack!

Hummus and vegetables is a great low carb snack!

If you refer back to one of my past blog posts, “Fat Doesn’t Make You Fat”, you will see that contrary to popular opinion fatty foods like butter and bacon do not make you gain weight.¬†It’s difficult¬†even to overeat those foods because they are SO rich they will make you feel sick if you eat too much of them. What does cause major weight gain and belly fat is carbohydrates. Did you read that? It’s so important I’m going to repeat it: WHAT DOES CAUSE MAJOR WEIGHT GAIN AND BELLY FAT IS CARBOHYDRATES. Period. End of story.

It’s so hard for people to grasp though. They think, “Well I eat only 1600 calories every day and I should be able to lose weight, but I can’t.” What they don’t realize is that a calorie is not a calorie is not a calorie. In other words, all calories are not created the same. As I explained in my past blog post, the reason that carbs make you fat is that they overload the liver and then the liver turns the carbs/sugar into fat. Now you might say, “wait, I don’t eat sugar so I’ll be fine.” That’s untrue because carbs like potatoes, pasta, bread, muffins, etc etc etc, turn to sugar in your body, and then that sugar overloads the liver and turns to fat. Specifically it turns to belly fat, especially if you’re over 40. You don’t even need to eat many carbohydrates to overload your liver. Any small amount will cause this to happen. That’s why you get that ANNOYING muffin top that laps over the top of your pants, it’s because of carbs. Don’t forget too, that sugar hides in processed food so even if you’re cutting out sugar and carbs, you could still be gaining weight if you’re eating a ton of food that comes out of a box.

And by no sugar I mean all things that you eat that turn to sugar in your body!

And by no sugar I mean all things that you eat that turn to sugar in your body!

So, I went back to basics, no bread, pasta, or tortilla chips (my personal favorites), and VERY limited amounts of potatoes (obviously no French fries or mashed potatoes), brown rice and quinoa. I would only have ONE SERVING A DAY of the carbs on my very limited list. Here’s the deal, my friends, I lost that 5 pounds that I had gained over the past few months in three weeks! I also lost my muffin top in the process and found my abs!

I thought I would give you a sample of a day of eating for me, so you can see how to do this low/no carb thing, and then I will share a recipe for a delicious low carb chicken stew that you will love! Now obviously the amount of calories each person needs to consume in order to lose weight will vary from person to person, depending on your weight and how much you want to lose. With my size, I needed to eat approximately 1400 calories per day to lose weight. In my past post, “My Fitness Pal is my favorite Fitness Pal” I discussed my use of the app as a way to journal the foods I eat in order to better control my eating. In my post I relayed the information that journaling is known to be one of the most effective ways to lose weight and maintain that loss over the long haul. So I can look back at what I’m eating to see where I need to improve.

This is what the diary looks like on My Fitness Pal!

This is what the diary looks like on My Fitness Pal!

For instance, on Tuesday of this week I started the day with my typical cup of coffee with coconut creamer and cinnamon. For lunch I had chicken salad with mayonnaise, celery and onion on lettuce and a half cup of steamed cauliflower, broccoli and carrots with a teaspoon of butter. For dinner I had a slice of meatloaf, made with no breadcrumbs, 2 glasses of Pinot Grigio (it’s a must), a salad with cucumbers, tomatoes and a homemade vinaigrette, and caprese tomatoes made with extra virgin olive oil, slices of mozzarella, and basil. That day I consumed 1503 calories but burned 201 calories with exercise, so I had 258 calories remaining. I left those calories on the table, so to speak. My Fitness Pal app tells me that I consumed 53% of my calories from fat, 29% from protein, and 18% from carbohydrates. That’s a really good nutritional breakdown for a day of eating, especially if weight loss is the goal.

The best part is that because I’ve pretty much replaced the carbs with vegetables I find that I feel more full after I eat, because vegetables are full of fiber and fiber fills you up. Plus vegetables are¬†also full of vitamins and antioxidants¬†so I’m getting a big bang for my nutritional buck! That’s a win-win!

With that in mind, I made a chicken stoup (Rachel Ray term for a dish that’s somewhere between a stew and a soup) that I really like. It’s low carb and full of flavor. I had it for lunch yesterday and it was so delicious and satisfying.¬†I think you’ll really like it and I’d love to share it with you now.

 

Chicken “Stoup

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 carrot, peeled, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 14 oz can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 14 oz can chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 2 chicken leg quarters (about 1 1/2 lbs total)
  • 1 15 oz can organic kidney beans, drained
Veggies, chicken broth and chicken into the pot!

Veggies, chicken broth and chicken into the pot!

First, heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat and add the celery, onion and carrot. Saute the vegetables until the onion is transluscent. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the tomatoes with their juices, chicken broth, basil, tomato paste, bay leaf and thyme. Add the chicken leg quarters and press to submerge them into the broth.

Getting all warm and bubbly in the pot! The smell is to die for!

Getting all warm and bubbly in the pot! The smell is to die for!

Next, bring the cooking liquid to simmer, then reduce the heat to medium low and simmer gently uncovered until the chicken is almost cooked through, turning the chicken over and stirring the mixture occasionally, about 25 minutes. Using tongs, transfer the chickien to a plate and let it cool for a few minutes. Discard the bay leaf from the broth. Add the kidney beans to the pot and simmer until the liquid has reduced into a stew consistency, about 10 minutes.

Chicken out of the pot and ready to be de-boned and skinned!

Chicken out of the pot and ready to be de-boned and skinned! I was pulling the meat from the chicken bones when I got called to the door. When I returned most of the chicken had disappeared, including the bones and skin, and there were two very guilty looking but satisfied dogs sitting nearby. Luckily, they left me enough to finish the stoup with!

Discard the skin and bones from the chicken. Shred or cut the chicken into bite sized pieces and return the chicken meat to the stoup. Bring it back to a simmer, hit it with a little salt and pepper, and you’re ready to serve it.

My delicious chicken stoup ready to eat and it is DELISH!

My delicious chicken stoup ready to eat and it is DELISH!

Well that’s it for today, my friends. I’m here to tell you it really does work for sure to cut out most of the carbs you eat. You will not miss them and you also won’t miss the pounds you lose as well. Message me if you have any questions about your own diet that you’d like me to help with. Eating like this is so much better for your body and will help you live a life of vitality- with Valerie!

 

 

Being Thankful is GOOD for your Health! And Turkey Leftovers Part 2!

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I'm so thankful for these two!! xoxo

I’m so thankful for these two!! xoxo

Since the holiday centered around thankfulness is tomorrow I started thinking about being thankful. I did some research and did you know that being thankful is actually good for your health? Yes, it’s true! People who have social connections- through family, friends or even companion animals- have longevity, survive serious diseases, and have better health than those who have no social connections. Also, the act of “being grateful” is associated with better physical and emotional health, which makes sense, doesn’t it?! People who have social support are found to have more of the immune system natural killer cell activity, and even people who care for companion animals get sick less and recover faster than those who don’t have animals. It makes me doubly thankful for my family, friends and animals this Thanksgiving! I’m also thankful for my love of cooking which comes in handy during this food centered holiday! Tomorrow I’ll be cooking turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, Brussels sprouts, cranberries and asparagus for my family and though it’s exhausting I’ll enjoy every minute of it.

A long ago Thanksgiving- I'm so thankful for my family!

A long ago Thanksgiving- I’m so thankful for my family!

So you’re done with all the cooking and you’re left with a mountain of turkey meat, what do you do with it all? My family will eat turkey in the traditional Thanksgiving way for maybe one more meal after that before they are sick of it and I’m forced to be creative. In my last post “Leftovers you’ll love, what to do with all that turkey part 1”, I shared a recipe for leftover turkey (or any kind of meat) enchiladas which I hope you enjoyed reading about. Today, I’m going to share with you a recipe for turkey hash that is delicious, easy, and will get rid of more of that turkey in a different way.

Ingredients gathered and ready to go!

Ingredients gathered and ready to go!

Leftover Turkey Hash– ingredients, 2 cups of leftover turkey (or any) meat, 6 small potatoes, minced garlic, one small onion, 5 small red, orange and yellow peppers, chili powder, cumin, red pepper flakes, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.

Nuke the potatoes first!

Nuke the potatoes first!

1. Microwave 6 small potatoes for 5 minutes or until slightly soft. I like to microwave my potatoes first so that they will mostly cook before I put them in the pot. It saves a little time for me, which is always a good thing.

Chop your veg next!

Chop your veg next!

2. Prep your veggies next by chopping them so they’re ready to go in the pan.

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3. Heat your pan, add a teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil, and toss your veggies in until they’re softened. Then, add a teaspoon of minced garlic.

Chop potatoes when they come out of the microwave!

Chop potatoes when they come out of the microwave!

4. After the potatoes come out of the microwave, cut them in half to let them cool for a minute or two, then chop them into small pieces and add them to the pot with the other vegetables. Also, at this time add a teaspoon each of chili powder, cumin, and red pepper flakes. Salt and pepper to taste at this time as well.

Everything happily cooking in the pot!

Everything happily cooking in the pot!

5. Add two cups of turkey¬†meat next. In this case I was using a ham I had made the previous night for my hash. I’ll be using turkey after tomorrow!

Time for the eggs!

Time for the eggs!

6. Now is the time to make your fried eggs because hash is best when it’s covered with a delicious egg. All that gooey yolk runs over the hash to add a level of unctuousness to it! I just add a bit of butter to a fry pan, crack my eggs in, and cook them until the white is solid. The secret to delicious fried eggs is to cook them low and slow- slowly over a low heat-¬†in order to keep them tender.

Yummmmm!!

Yummmmm!!

The only thing left to do at this point is to plate the hash, add the egg to the top of it, and eat! Add a few drops of hot sauce if you want a little extra kick, like I do. This meal can be eaten any time of the day or night because in my opinion eggs and hash are not just for breakfast. The picture at the beginning of this post shows my daughters digging in to this meal yesterday afternoon and they thought it was really great! So that’s it for today, and I hope you will try this recipe because it really is easy and delicious. I just want to say that I soooooo appreciate all of my readers, and know that when I count my blessings, you are one of¬†them! Thank you all from the bottom of my heart for reading and sharing my blog, it has been a life changing experience for me in every way! As I said earlier, being thankful is good for your health so take some time in the next few days to count your blessings as I will be. Being thankful will help you live a life of vitality- like 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!