If busy college students can eat like this, you can too!

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This post is credited completely to my wonderful daughters, Jacqueline and Danielle. It all started like this, the other day the girls were texting each other on the text group they created that includes me as well. Danielle asked Jacqueline if she could come over to her apartment for dinner the other night. Jac replied that she was just going to make a quick hot dog because she needed to work on a project that is due this week. I contributed to the conversation at that point (or butted in, depends on your perspective) and said that Jac should bring down some meat to defrost so they could have a proper dinner. Danz said she would cook for them because she really likes to cook. Jac put some chicken thighs in the fridge and off to class she went. I told Danzy to text me when she got to Jac’s apartment, and I would help her if she got stuck.

I know what ingredients Jac has available to cook with because I bought all her spices and herbs for her when she went to live in her apartment, so that was an advantage. I also know what my girls like to eat which made it easier to help them put things together. Jacqueline texted that she had spinach, white cannellini beans, and San Marzano canned tomatoes, so I knew with those ingredients a delicious meal could be made.

When Danielle got to Jacqueline’s apartment she texted me and said she didn’t know what to do with all these ingredients, so she waited her usual three seconds (she has her mother’s patience level), and when I hadn’t responded she called me and said HELP! Now it was Mom to the rescue, and I love to rescue people so I was in my element. I walked both she and Jacqueline through the recipe that I will share with you now, but the cool thing was that once I helped them get started, all the hours they’ve spent helping me in the kitchen kicked in. They knew exactly what to do, once they got over feeling overwhelmed. Here is what they created.

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Jandan cooking

Jac and Danz’ version of chicken, tomatoes, and beans  

  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 1/2 teaspoon each salt/pepper/garlic powder/red pepper flakes to season chicken
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 large can San Marzano crushed tomatoes
  • 1 15 ounce can white cannellini beans, drained
  • handful of organic baby spinach
  •  1 teaspoon each salt/pepper/minced garlic/ red pepper flakes/ Italian seasoning for sauce

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First, Jacqueline chopped the onions, while Danielle was seasoning the chicken thighs on each side, and she warmed the EVOO in the pan too. Jac put her chopped onions into the EVOO and sautéed them for a few minutes until softened.

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Next Danielle browned the thighs for five minutes on each side. Then she added the tomatoes, beans and seasonings to the chicken, and simmered it all on medium heat for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Last, Jac added the baby spinach and cooked it for another few minutes until the spinach was soft.

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And that was all there was to it. The girls were ecstatic and said that it was one of the best meals they’d ever had. It tastes so good when you make something you didn’t think you could. Look at how healthy it was for them too, they had protein, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants in the chicken, beans, tomatoes, and spinach. Healthy, delicious and easy- what could be better than that?!!

So if Jacqueline and Danielle, two very busy college students can do this, you can definitely do it too! Try this recipe and let me know how you like it. Eating meals like this will help you live a life of vitality- like Valerie (and Jacqueline and Danielle too)! 🙂

Eating Healthy Starts with this! Part Deux

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Good day, my friends! I’m now going to continue my healthy eating post by telling you the second thing you need to eat healthily at home. The first as you recall if you read part one, was a pantry stocked with lovely items to help you cook healthy meals. The second essential is a well stocked refrigerator/freezer. Or in my case refrigerators/freezers because I have two, one in my kitchen and one in the garage. They are both important to my healthy cooking strategy so I’ll talk about how I use them both. Again, please don’t judge my fridge organization or cleanliness, just the contents! In addition, all food mentioned is organic whenever possible.

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Fridge Essentials

1. Liquids for drinking- We don’t drink soda pop and I don’t have any in the house. Instead, I keep the fridge stocked with filtered alkaline water, chocolate milk, almond milk, healthy juices with no sugar or corn syrup, and half and half for my coffee.

2. Yogurt and hummus- We always have these two items, though I usually make my own hummus, for healthy snacking.

3. Cooking ingredients- I always have minced garlic, olives, parmesan cheese, mayonnaise, Dijon and regular mustard, ketchup, salsa, hot sauces, and pickles to help add flavor to my meals.

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4. Vegetables and fruits- The vegetables I usually have on hand are romaine lettuce, asparagus, tomatoes, carrots, celery, and peppers. The types of fruit are grapes, strawberries, blueberries, apples, bananas, and watermelon. Many meals and snacks can be made from these vegetables and fruit.

5. Deli meat and cheeses- Important items here are turkey lunch meat, salami, cheddar cheese- both sliced and shredded, as well as romano cheese and parmesan for pastas.

6. Wine- no explanation needed here! 🙂

7. Eggs- Eggs are one of the things we eat often in my house. I make hard boiled eggs, fried, scrambled, poached, and egg salad. There are so many awesome dishes that can be made with eggs. Eggs are a great ingredient in other dishes as well, making them one of the most versatile items in my fridge.

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8. Leftovers- My outside fridge is mostly for leftovers, drinks and yogurt. I love leftovers and have written about that in many past posts. I eat them for lunch the next day or repurpose them into future meals. They are one of my favorite things in my fridge so don’t throw out the leftovers, this is your chance to be creative!

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Freezer Essentials-

1. Frozen vegetables- I always have frozen mixed vegetables on hand, mostly to make soups and stews, but I do like to have them for lunch sometimes.

2. Breakfast meats- We love breakfast in this house so I stock my freezer with bacon, breakfast sausage and chorizo to thaw for delicious breakfasts.

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3. Leftovers- Sometimes we don’t eat all of the leftovers in the fridge, despite my best attempts to polish them all off, and I definitely don’t want them to go to waste. I put them in the freezer, making sure to label the type of food and the date on the freezer bag, so I can ensure that when I defrost them I know what it is and how long it’s been in there. It’s so handy when I don’t have anything planned to cook. I just thaw the food item, and dinner is served!

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4. Meat- This is the heart of my outdoor freezer. I have different cuts of chicken in one section, beef in another, and lamb and pork in a separate area. I use the outdoor fridge to thaw the frozen meat a night or two before I am ready to cook, and then it’s ready to prepare.

5. Frozen fruit- I have frozen blueberries to make blueberry pancakes, and strawberries for smoothies.

Well, that’s what I consider essential for storing in the refrigerator and freezer. I hope you will stock what you like to eat and serve to your family and friends in your fridge/freezer. Eating at home is the best way to eat healthily. Eating healthy foods is the best way to live a life of vitality- with Valerie!

It’s an American meal staple, but did you know it’s healthy?!

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My Italian meatloaf is a family favorite!

My Italian meatloaf is a family favorite!

Hello my friends! I know all of you have this either in your refrigerator or freezer at home, or you’ve gone out and eaten it in the last week, but you didn’t know that what you’re eating is so HEALTHY. What I’m talking about is the humble, but nutritious ground beef.  However, make sure the ground beef you choose is local, grass fed, and has no antibiotics or hormones. This will make it a GREAT choice for you and your family/friends. And let’s face it, ground beef is pretty inexpensive so I can purchase the grass fed type, which is a little more expensive than regular ground beef, and still not break the bank! Plus, I will give you my recipe for yummy, easy Italian meatloaf so you can put a delicious meal on the table. Come along with me now!

Here’s why ground beef is GOOD for you:

1. It’s loaded with nutrients and antioxidants, including zinc, vitamin B6, and alpha lipoic acid. These are responsible for creating antibodies and keeping blood sugar levels in check.

2. A 3 oz. serving of 95% lean ground beef has just 164 calories and 4.5 grams of fat, but offers up 24 grams of protein.

3. Ground beef is rich in iron, a multitasking mineral that boosts energy and keeps muscles working properly.

4. As I’ve stated in my past blog post, “fat doesn’t make you fat”, fat is important for maintaining the health of our bodies. Ground beef gets a bad rap for being too high in fat and cholesterol, but fat is actually good for you, and cholesterol is necessary for our bodies to function properly.

5. Of course as with all types of meat, make sure you choose GRASS FED beef that hasn’t been given antibiotics or hormones. I also recommend purchasing from a local farmer if at all possible so that you can see exactly how they manage their farm and animals. I purchase from Royer Farms, which is a farm in southern Indiana. They bring their offerings to my local farmers market which makes it super convenient for me. However, they also have an online store and will ship anywhere in the US. It’s the best beef, pork, chicken and lamb I’ve EVER HAD. I highly recommend them.

Yay for ground beef! So now that you know ground beef is good for you,  I would like to share one of my favorite recipes for Italian meatloaf. I make it all the time for my family and they never get tired of it. It’s delish and easy too as you’ll see, so here we go!

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Valerie’s Italian Meatloaf

  • 2 lbs grass fed ground beef
  • 1 large can pureed tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons each minced garlic, red pepper flakes, Italian herbs, and salt
  • 3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • ground pepper to taste
Ready for mixing- by hand is the ONLY way!

Ready for mixing- by hand is the ONLY way!

First, preheat the oven to 350 and prepare the meatloaf by combining the ground beef, breadcrumbs, egg, 1 tablespoon of the parmesan cheese, 1 teaspoon of the olive oil, minced garlic, red pepper flakes, Italian herbs and salt. Mix with your hands until combined and then form into a loaf. Don’t over work the meat or it will become tough and dry. Then, add pureed tomatoes, the rest of the minced garlic, red pepper flakes, Italian herbs and olive oil in a bowl and stir until combined. Pour over the meatloaf and add the rest of the parmesan cheese to the top.

Ready for baking!

Ready for baking!

Bake in a 350 oven for 50-60 minutes or until the ground beef is cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees. Let it rest for 5 minutes before serving and add extra parmesan cheese if it needs it. Bon Appetit!

That was my meal, seconds before it was consumed!

That was my meal, seconds before it was consumed!

That’s my wisdom for the day- ground beef is healthy and can be used in SO many different dishes so experiment and be creative. I hope you try my Italian meatloaf and that you enjoy it. Let me know if you do. Eating my Italian meatloaf will help you live a long and healthy 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!

Dont Be A Turkey- Make Turkey Burgers!

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My juicy, yummy turkey burgers!

My juicy, yummy turkey burgers!

Here’s the thing my friends, my title might imply a popular misconception about turkey that I plan to clear up for you right now. That is the following, that ground turkey is better for you than ground beef. I am not going to fill my post with untruths, I am here to clear up the untruths for my wonderful, loyal readers. So, when I tell you to use ground turkey it’s not because it’s better for you per se. Turkey is a lean form of protein which is why it got the rep for being healthier than ground beef. Here’s the problem with that though, first of all, ground turkey BREAST is lower in fat than lean ground beef, but as I wrote in my past blog “Fat Doesn’t Make You Fat”, low fat is not necessarily a health benefit for us. Also, because ground turkey breast is low in fat it is also low in flavor and juiciness, so you have to add that back into the meat to make it taste good. Ground turkey usually contains a mix of turkey breast and dark meat, and usually has more fat than ground beef. Which as I told you earlier is not a bad thing for us, I’m just trying to lay out all the facts for you so you can be properly informed.

You might ask me at this point, “Then why are you telling us to use ground turkey to make turkey burgers?” Excellent question my amazing readers, you read my mind on this one! Here’s why.  When properly prepared they are light, juicy and flavorful- perfect for a spring meal. I’m going to walk you through the steps I used to make my delicious and juicy turkey burgers. Here we go!

Ingredients for making my turkey burgers!

Ingredients for making my turkey burgers!

My Flavorful, Juicy Turkey Burgers

First, the burger ingredients:

  • 2 lbs ground turkey
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon gluten free bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 small cans mild green chiles
  • 1 tablespoon Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Next, the toppings:

  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • A slice of Colby jack or pepper jack for each burger
  • 1 onion thinly sliced
  • 2 jalapenos, seeds and ribs removed
  • A few pieces of romaine lettuce
  • 2 tomatoes sliced
  • Gluten free buns

Finally, the aioli:

  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
  • Pepper to taste

Remember how I said the turkey burgers would be dry and tasteless unless we add in fat and flavor? Even more so for me because I was using ground turkey breast the day I made this recipe for my family (and for my readers too!). At Fresh Market where I shop they grind it up fresh for you, and all they had was turkey breast so I used what they had. It was even more of a challenge for me to make them moist and full of flavor, but I like a challenge so that worked for me!

Meat and ingredients combined by hand, and NOT over mixed!

Meat and ingredients combined by hand, and NOT over mixed!

So what you do first is take all of the ingredients for making the burgers, put them in a large bowl, and mix them together USING YOUR HANDS. Hands are the best way to mix meat to properly combine the ingredients. Here’s an important tip from me to you, DON’T OVER MIX YOUR BURGERS- NO MATTER WHAT MEAT YOU ARE USING- IT WILL MAKE YOUR BURGERS TOUGH. Yuck, who wants that?!! Then, form your burgers into the size you’d like them to be, and put a thumb sized indentation into the center of your burger. I saw that on one of Bobby Flay’s cooking shows on the Food Network. Putting an indentation into the center of the burger patty keeps the burger from puffing up in the middle. It really does stay flat that way- of course he knows what he’s talking about, he’s an Iron Chef!

In the pan and ready to be cooked!

In the pan and ready to be cooked!

Next either grill or fry your burgers until the centers just turn the lightest pink. During the last few minutes of cooking, add the cheese slices to the burgers and put a cover on the pan so the cheese melts. Then put them on a platter and cover them to let them rest.

Sautee onions and peppers in a pan until they're soft!

Sauté onions and peppers in a pan until they’re soft!

Now, add a half teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil to the turkey pan, add the onions and peppers, and sauté them until they’re soft and slightly browned. I pop the buns on top of the onions and peppers for the last few minutes to steam some flavor into the buns too. See, I’m always thinking about adding flavor!

Special turkey burger topping- easy and super good!

Special turkey burger topping- easy and super good!

While the onions and peppers are in the pan doing their thing, I prepare my aioli. It’s super easy, just add the mayo, Dijon, garlic salt and pepper to a bowl and combine. That was easy, wasn’t it?

Ready to eat!

Ready to eat!

Now the fun part, assemble the burgers! Spread the aioli on the buns, put a patty on the bottom bun, add the slices of avocado, onions, and peppers, and finish with sliced tomatoes and lettuce. I served the burgers with an old, secret family recipe for baked beans. That’s all there is to it! Obviously feel free to edit the ingredients based on your family’s tastes, but I promise they will be juicy and FULL of flavor. I love these burgers, not just because they taste good, but because they’re full of protein and vitamins. Try them and you’ll like them, I guarantee it! Meals like these will help you live a life of vitality- with Valerie!

Want To Feel Like a Spring Chicken?!

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Last sunset on our vacation!

Last sunset on our vacation!

Hello friends! It’s been a while, hasn’t it? I took a brief hiatus in order to go on vacation with my family, and I feel rested, renewed, rejuvenated, and ready to share more healthy living tips with you, my wonderful readers!

I love a beautiful, juicy baked chicken. One of my favorite foods on this earth!

I love a beautiful, juicy baked chicken. One of my favorite foods on this earth!

Today’s tip, besides to go on vacation to feel more rested renewed and rejuvenated, is to eat more chicken this spring. Chicken is one of the best non-vegetarian sources of protein out there, one chicken thigh contains 17 grams of the good stuff, which really helps build muscles. Chicken is also rich in phosphorus and calcium which helps our bones to stay strong, and selenium too which is thought to reduce the risk of arthritis. It contains magnesium which help soothe PMS symptoms (yay for us ladies!), is rich in zinc which regulates testosterone levels (yay for you men too), and is full of vitamin B6 which plays an important role in preventing heart attacks.

Chicken THIGHS are the way to go, my friends. Believe me!

Chicken THIGHS are the way to go, my friends. Believe me!

I always use chicken thighs in my cooking because I feel they are more flavorful than chicken breasts, and despite getting a bad rap for being less healthy than chicken breasts, are now thought to be healthier for us than breasts. Chicken breasts are lower in fat than thighs, which is why they were previously thought to be healthier. However as you can read in one of my past blog posts, “Fat doesn’t make you fat”, fat is not what causes us to gain weight, carbs cause that. Therefore, fattier thighs will help you feel more full and SATISFIED. Satiety is one of the keys to weight loss or weight maintenance. Personally, when I eat a chicken breast, I am so turned off by the lack of flavor and fat that I can hardly eat it.  However if that is what you like I’m not going to tell you not to eat it, so eat whatever floats your boat, so to speak. If you do cook with chicken breasts instead of thighs, please cook them with skin and bones on to maintain what little flavor they have. The WORST thing possible  in my humble opinion is a boneless, skinless chicken breast- absolutely no flavor or fat at all.

With that being said, I want to share a recipe for a really yummy chicken dish I made right before I left on vacation. It is easy and quick too, and I hope you’ll enjoy it!

 

All the ingredients combined and baking in the oven!

All the ingredients combined and baking in the oven!

Baked Chicken Thighs with Thin Potato Slices

Chicken:

  • 2 LB chicken thighs
  • 1 TSP salt
  • 1 TSP extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 large Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and THINLY sliced (1/8 inch or less)
  • 1 cup sliced onions
  • 1 TSP minced garlic

Vinaigrette:

  • 2 TBS red wine vinegar
  • 1 TBS extra virgin olive oil
  • 1-2 TSP Dijon mustard
  • 1 TSP dried herbs de province (thyme, tarragon, rosemary)
  • 1/2 TSP salt
  • 1/2 TSP ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375, sprinkle chicken thighs with a thick salt like kosher or sea salt. Then, make the vinaigrette by whisking all the ingredients together.

Spread a teaspoon of EVOO in the bottom of a large (9×13) casserole pan. Then cover that with the thinly sliced potatoes. Sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Put the onions over the potatoes, then place the chicken thighs, skin side up if you’re using the ones with skin, on top of the onions. Sprinkle the minced garlic over the chicken, pour the whisked vinaigrette over the top of the chicken, and spread it around a little to make sure all pieces are well coated.

After it comes out of the oven all bubbly and delicious! The smell in the kitchen is to die for!

After it comes out of the oven all bubbly and delicious! The smell in the kitchen is to die for!

Bake uncovered in a 375 degree oven for 50 minutes for bone in skin on thighs, about 30 minutes for boneless skinless thighs. Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes before serving to allow the vinaigrette to thicken.

Sorry, I was already digging in before I remembered to take the picture, it was just that good! :)

Sorry, I was already digging in before I remembered to take the picture, it was just that good! 🙂

And that’s it people! My family said it’s one of the best chicken dishes I’ve ever made and I don’t disagree with them. Plus it was easy to make and clean up too. Try it and let me know if you like it! It will help you live a life of vitality- like Valerie!

 

 

 

Italian Chili? You Betcha!

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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!

 

 

Sick of Sandwiches? Here’s what to eat for lunch!

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This post is for my sister, Paula, who asked me to give her ideas for healthy lunches. I know what she means. I think lunch is sort of the forgotten meal of the day. Usually there is a lot of emphasis put on breakfast and dinner, but lunch kind of gets lost in the shuffle. That usually results in eating some sort of sandwich for lunch, which isn’t always the healthiest choice. I actually enjoy thinking of yummy and healthy lunch ideas. It pushes my creative boundaries. Especially when I was trying to think of lunches to make for Danielle, who hated her high school cafeteria choices, can’t eat gluten, and doesn’t like to eat the same thing every day! She always challenges me cooking wise! So I came up with a few good lunch ideas that I’d like to share with you today. I hope it inspires Paula and all the rest of you in your lunch choices.

Love my leftovers for lunch!

Love my leftovers for lunch!

1.Utilize your leftovers- Don’t be afraid to repurpose your leftovers for a tasty lunch. In the picture above, I heated up the pork carnitas I had made from the other night, with the quinoa I made a different night, and the guacamole I had made with the carnitas. I sliced some tomatoes and called it lunch! If you work outside the home or are making kids lunches and you don’t have access to a microwave, preheat the quinoa and carnitas, put it in a thermal container and it should still stay warm throughout the morning.

Chicken corn chowder with a bowl of mixed veggies!

Chicken corn chowder with a bowl of mixed veggies!

2. Soup, soup, and more soup- For a delicious and hearty lunch I love to have a bowl of soup. In the above picture I had an amazing chicken corn chowder from Urban Ladle, which is a small business here in Indy that makes tasty gluten free, all natural soups and salads. I found them at the Fishers Farmers Market this summer and I like that they have samples to try. I tried the chicken corn chowder and knew I had to purchase it. They sell some of their soups frozen and I put it in the freezer. I also purchased their chicken tortilla soup as well. With frozen soups, you just pop them in the microwave to thaw and then either heat in the microwave or on the stove. Easy and delish!

Organic soups you can buy in the grocery store.

Organic soups you can buy in the grocery store

If you don’t have access to a wonderful local soup business, you can purchase great tasting soups from the grocery store. Above are two examples of soups that I enjoy,  Amy’s organic and Pacific. I also eat a lot of lentils and vegetables so these two types of soups fit perfectly within my desired flavor profiles. Use a thermal container if you eat lunch away from home and you’re good to go!

Egg salad- Salad!

Egg salad- Salad

3. Egg salad/chicken salad/tuna salad- Salad- This was one of Danielle’s favorite lunches that I’d pack her when she was in high school. Instead of making egg salad/chicken salad/tuna salad on bread, I’d make it on a salad tossed with a vinaigrette dressing. She LOVED this lunch. I make my own chicken salad with a tablespoon of mayonnaise, teaspoon of Dijon mustard (we like a tang to our chicken salad), 1/4 cup chopped onion, handful of grapes cut in half, 1/2 cup of chopped pecans, and salt and pepper to taste with 2 cups of chopped chicken. I usually make it when I’m making chicken soup because I will have leftover chicken. Or when I get a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store I will use the chicken that’s left. I l would send egg salad- Salad during Lent when we don’t eat meat on Fridays because we’re Catholic. To prepare it I boil 6 eggs, peel and chop them, then add a tablespoon of mayo, a teaspoon of yellow mustard, 1/4 cup capers, and salt and pepper to taste. Yummmmm! Danielle doesn’t like tuna salad, but Jacqueline and I LOVE IT! We like to use pink salmon sometimes and white albacore tuna other times. It depends on our moods. I use a tablespoon of mayo, 1/4 cup each of chopped onion, celery and kosher dill pickles, 1 teaspoon of spicy mustard, and salt/pepper to taste. Again, I serve it over a lettuce salad lightly dressed with vinaigrette. My vinaigrette is 1/4 cup of white wine vinegar (but any type of vinegar would work), 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic, salt and pepper to taste. I pack it in a round Tupperware container with a lid, throw in a fork and out the door they go!

Quinoa- so versatile and a great lunch ingredient!

Quinoa- so versatile and a great lunch ingredient!

4. Quinoa- It’s one of my favorite things for lunch. And you can do sooo much with it. Whenever I make quinoa for dinner I always make twice as much as I need and use the rest for lunch. I either serve it warm as a side dish, like in the first picture at the top, or I serve it cold as a salad with lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and vinaigrette. You can use quinoa as a warm oatmeal type dish with milk, cinnamon, honey, and cooked apples or peaches too. It’s so versatile you can do just about anything you want to it and it would still taste good. It can be easily packed for a lunch on the go by using a thermal container. I just love quinoa!

Love me some hummus!

Love me some hummus!

5. Great sides- Now don’t forget your lunch side dishes! My favorite lunch side dish is hummus with carrots and celery to dip in it. I eat it quite often. I like the Sabra brand hummus with tapenade in it, but hummus is easy to make and more delicious that way. Just take 3 cups canned garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained, 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic, and 8 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil. Put all ingredients into a food processor or blender, and blend on high until smooth. Salt and pepper to taste- yummy!

Salsa rules!

Salsa rules!

Another of my favorite sides is chips and salsa. I use gluten free, non-gmo tortilla chips. My current favorites are beet and corn chips called The Better Chips. They taste SO good, even if you don’t like beets I think you’ll like these. They’re salty and tasty! I eat chips and salsa almost every day. Just remember the chips are carbs so take that into account when you’re eating them. Also, pay attention to serving size, a typical serving size is 12 chips for 140 calories. I usually count out my chips and put the bag away before I start eating so I won’t overindulge. Salty is my thing so I have to do that because I could eat salty snacks ALL DAY without stopping.

Well friends, that’s my list of healthy lunch choices. Since I don’t usually eat breakfast, lunch is my first meal of the day and I like to make it really count. Let me know what you like to eat for lunch. I hope you’ll try some of my lunch choices because they’ll help you live a life of vitality- like Valerie!