My Oh My, Healthy Pie!

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Hi friends! Well, it’s almost Thanksgiving here, and in my third video blog I demonstrate how to make a super delish and healthy pie crust recipe that you have to try! There’s no flour, so it’s gluten free and low carb. In the video I show you how to make the crust, but I also am including my healthy pumpkin pie filling recipe that has NO SUGAR! Top it with some cinnamon whipped cream and you’ll have a wonderful Thanksgiving dessert that is easy to make! Here we go!

Gluten free, low carb pie crust

1 cup walnuts, ground

1 cup pecans, ground

4 tablespoons organic butter

2 teaspoons organic cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grind the walnuts and pecans in the food processor, and add the cinnamon. Melt the butter in the microwave, then add it to the food processor and pulse for a few more seconds until combined. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the crust is a golden brown.

Pumpkin Pie Filling

2 cans organic pumpkin purée

3 eggs

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup REAL maple syrup

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon each of ginger, cloves and nutmeg

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Whisk eggs together and then add the rest of the ingredients. Beat until combined and bake for 15 minutes at 425. Reduce temperature to 350 and bake for 45-60 minutes until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let sit until cooled. Garnish with cinnamon whipped cream and enjoy!! Happy Thanksgiving to all my wonderful readers!!

Eating Healthy Starts with This! Part One

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My kind of messy, but well stocked pantry!

My kind of messy, but well stocked pantry!

Hello friends! We all want to eat healthy, don’t we? At least most of the time, that is. ūüôā Here is one of my most important healthy secrets that I’m going to share with you right now, because I’m that kind of a nice person! Eating healthy starts with having the proper ingredients readily available. That means having a healthy pantry and fridge/freezer. If you don’t have the right kinds of things to eat in your pantry and fridge/freezer, you will never be able to eat healthy, at least at home that is.

If I've got the pantry door open, Chewie is in there checking it all out!

If I’ve got the pantry door open, Chewie is in there checking it all out!

And we all know it’s easier to eat healthy at home versus a restaurant, and it’s cheaper too. So, I’m here to guide you to stock the right things in your pantry and fridge/freezer to live a super healthy life. Today, we will talk about the pantry, and in part 2 we will talk about the fridge/freezer. I’m including pictures of my pantry, but please don’t judge me for the messiness, just the quality of ingredients in there! ūüôā As always, all items are organic if possible.

Pantry7

1. Nut butters/Coconut Oil– I have cashew, peanut, and almond butters in my pantry, along with a few different types of coconut butters and oils. These are super crucial for my family both to make a quick snack- nut butter on an apple or banana is a family fave, and to make my super healthy protein shake (see my previous post, “SHAKE your way to a life without sugar”). Both nut butter and coconut butter/oil¬†are essential.

Pantry9

Pantry10

2. Beans, tomato products, and sauce basicsРProbably the most utilized area in my pantry is my middle shelf which contains numerous types of beans (red kidney, white kidney, garbanzo, black, and pinto) and canned tomatoes (crushed, pureed, chopped, and whole tomatoes). Almost every recipe I make contains either beans or tomatoes, or both, so having different options for both beans and tomatoes adds variety to my recipes. I have many different sauce basics too, like chicken broth, verde sauce, Better than Bouillon, Barbeque sauce, Annatto paste (used in Mexican cooking) and red pepper paste (for Korean recipes). I make many tasty dishes with these pantry staples.

Pantry13

3. Potatoes, dried herbs, and onions– I usually have a few different types of potatoes, red, Yukon gold, fingerling, and Idaho among others. There are always onions in my pantry because almost every recipe I make contains them. I also have oregano, basil, and rosemary that I dried myself (see my previous post for more information, “Herbaceous, Wonderous Herbs! DRY THEM YOU’LL LIKE THEM!”), which makes for much more tasty dishes.

Pantry12

4. Oils, vinegars, and salsas– I have canola and extra virgin olive oil, balsamic, white, red wine, and white wine vinegars, and my favorite Herdez medium salsa. I use EVOO in most of my cooking, and I love experimenting with vinegars to make my own salad dressings. I also love salsa to make tacos, breakfast scrambles, and just to dip tortilla chips into.

Pantry8

Pantry16

5. Quinoa, rice, and pastas– Many of my recipes contain quinoa so I usually have a few different kinds in my pantry. I love brown rice and it’s super healthy too so I always have that. I also make risotto so I have Arborio rice for making that dish. Because I have a gluten allergy in the house I always have gluten free pasta, but there are a few different types of pasta my significant other uses to make his famous pasta and filet mignon dish (I’ll see if he will let me share the recipe in a future post!).

Pantry6

6. Nuts, crackers and tortilla chips– My family is NUTS about nuts so I usually have a few different types for a quick and healthy snack. I usually have a few types of crackers though we really don’t eat them very often. I bought this new type that was made with cheese only, no flour at all, which was tasty so maybe we will switch to those, since I don’t like to have too many types of non-whole grain carbs in the house. I always have a few types of tortilla chips in the house to make nachos with, or just to dip since they’re gluten free. My favorite type is a brand called The Better Chip and they’re beet tortilla chips. It’s a blend of beets and corn, and they’re delish! Even people who don’t like beets like these chips.

Pantry11

7. Baking ingredients– I stock many types of flours, almond, oat, rice, and wheat for baking. I also have your basic baking powder and soda, chocolate chips, chopped walnuts and pecans, brown and white sugar, honey, agave nectar, and coconut flakes. I don’t bake very often but we make pancakes and bake¬†every once in a while so I like to have everything at hand just in case.

My chocolate stash- yummm!!!

My chocolate stash- yummm!!!

8. Chocolate of course– We have many types of chocolate bars and chocolate items for a SMALL treat- always dark chocolate though. Dark chocolate is VERY healthy in small amounts (see my post, “Dark Chocolate- A HEALTHY indulgence” for my information.) so I like to have that available when we need our chocolate fix. It’s essential to my life!

My spice rack- I love it!

My spice rack- I love it!

I keep my spices in a pull out cabinet next to the stove and though they’re not in a pantry, I can’t live without them so they deserve a mention. My essential spices are Himalayan sea salt, peppercorns, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, Italian seasoning, Herbs de Province, chili powder and cumin, among MANY others. I use them constantly and the great thing about spices is that they really SPICE UP your meals (LOL!). If you’ve read any of my past posts in which I provide a recipe, these spices are almost always in them.¬† I also love cinnamon, nutmeg and pure vanilla for sweet recipes.

I found him on the shelf one day and thought it was adorable so I am including it. I don't recommend stocking him in the pantry, though!

I found him on the shelf one day and thought it was adorable so I am including it. I don’t recommend stocking him in the pantry, though! ūüôā

These are the basics for a well stocked pantry, which will provide you with the ability to make many healthy meals for you and your family and friends. Please excuse¬†my less than perfect organization and neatness, that’s not one of my strengths! Keeping healthy meal essentials close at hand is¬†crucial to making healthy meals quickly and easily, and that is one of my strengths! ūüôā¬† Eating healthy meals and snacks will help you live a life of vitality- like Valerie!

A healthy way to start your day? Oats of course!

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Warm, creamy, yummy- and good for you! :)

Oatmeal- warm, creamy, yummy- and good for you! ūüôā

What is your typical breakfast like? Do you grab a quick bowl of cereal before running out the door? I used to eat cereal in the morning too. Here’s the thing though, that isn’t your healthiest option and here’s why. While it seems to be something good (and quick) to eat in the morning, cereal is loaded with fillers that add no nutrition, it’s processed which is never good, and has additives that can be harmful to your mood, behavior and biochemistry. And that is NO GOOD! Breakfast cereals can¬†also contain numerous chemicals, gluten, casein, trans fat, sugar, artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup, and genetically modified flavor enhancing compounds. Yikes, none of that stuff is the kind of thing I want to put in my body!

So what do you eat when you want a HEALTHY START to your day, and you need it quickly too? Why, oats of course! Oatmeal or granola with oats is one of the best ways to start your day, and I will show you how to make it so that you can have a delicious, nutritious,¬†and quick breakfast. My daughters are obsessed with this meal, and ate it twice while they were home for Thanksgiving. It’s easy, warm, comfort food that’s healthy- win win! Oats are low calorie, one cup of oatmeal cooked with water has about 166 calories, add 40 calories if you cook them with milk (like I do), and if you top with fruit add another 40 calories. Oatmeal provides about 4 grams of fiber per cup, which makes it filling and adds to the satiety of oatmeal. It’s considered a low-energy density food, which means that there are relatively few calories compared to the bulk of the food. In a 2010 study published in the “Journal of American Dietetic Association”, people who ate oats in the morning lost weight and enjoyed a greater decrease in their waist circumference measurement than those who ate the same number of calories in a low fiber food. So are you sold on the idea of eating oats in the morning? Good! Then stick with me and I’ll show you how it’s done!

Gluten free oats are a must for my family!

Gluten free oats are a must for my family!

First, things first, it’s all about the oats you choose. There are different kinds of oats on the market, whole oats that still have their hard outer hull, oat groats that have their outer hull removed, steel-cut oats, which are roughly cut groats with an intact bran, and rolled oats, which are steamed, flattened groats. The less processed oats are better for you (naturally) so make sure to avoid instant oatmeal which has added sodium, and oatmeal with flavors added because it’s usually not added naturally. Something I didn’t know until my daughter had a gluten allergy is that NOT all oats are gluten free so I have to make sure to purchase gluten free oats for Danielle. However, I also have steel cut oats at home, they just require a longer cooking time, and I can’t make them when Danzy is in da houz!

Cooking the oats on the stove!

Cooking the oats on the stove!

I usually cook the oats on the stove using milk as shown in the above pic, however, if you don’t have time to cook the oats in the morning here’s a tip for you. Cook the oats in a slow cooker the night before! Take¬†one cup of¬†steel cut oats, 1 1/2 cups milk or if you’re dairy free you can¬†use almond milk, 1 1/2 cups water, 2 apples, peeled, cored, cut into 1/2 inch pieces, 2 tablespoons maple syrup, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 1/2 teaspoons of butter, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and FIRST SPRAY THE INSIDE OF THE SLOW COOKER WITH ORGANIC NONSTICK SPRAY (or¬†the oatmeal will¬†stick like glue), and add all the ingredients. Stir, cover, and cook on low for approximately 7 hours. But remember cook times can vary, so¬†if you have a programmable slow cooker make sure¬†to use the timer feature. You can put the ingredients in¬†your¬†slow cooker the night before and¬†awaken to the amazing smell of oats and apples! Either way you cook them, the leftovers store well in the¬†fridge and will even freeze well too.

Homemade applesauce mix in- it's amazing!

Homemade applesauce mix in- it’s amazing!

For me, the key to delicious oatmeal is the mix-ins ingredients with which I choose to flavor the oats. Pictured above is my favorite mix-in, my homemade applesauce. I shared the recipe in my previous post, “An Apple a Day- Makes Applesauce!”, and when added to oatmeal it tastes like healthy apple pie- scrumptious! Just add a few tablespoons of applesauce to your oatmeal (or more if you really like it, like I do) for great flavor with no sugar added.

Pecans- my favorite nut!

Pecans- my favorite nut!

My next favorite mix-in for my oatmeal is nuts, specifically pecans. Pecans are my favorite nuts and I add them to many of my recipes. I chop them and add a sprinkle to my oatmeal. The nuts add a nice crunch and additional fiber and protein too. Definitely a healthy add-in!

Love, love, love raisins!

Love, love, love raisins!

Another flavorful and healthy add-in is raisins. Organic raisins add natural sweetness, fiber and iron to the oatmeal. Plus I love when I put them in the oatmeal and the heat and moisture makes them plump up and get really juicy. So very good!

A great addition to oatmeal!

A great addition to oatmeal!

I love adding maple syrup to oatmeal instead of sugar. It adds a deep, rich flavor that I think tastes better than sugar and goes well with the cinnamon rich applesauce that I’ve already added to my oatmeal. As you can tell we like maple syrup so much that we used it all that morning!

It's a honey of a mix-in!

It’s a honey of a mix-in!

Honey is another great addition to oatmeal. It definitely adds a natural sweetness that substitutes for sugar and tastes light and sweet in the oatmeal.¬†It is always my go-to natural sweetener as I discussed in my post, “A Honey of a Cure!”. Try it, you’ll like it!

I always add a pat of butter to my oatmeal for decadent richness!

I always add a pat of butter to my oatmeal for decadent richness!

Butter is another essential for my oatmeal. It adds a creaminess to it and in my opinion nothing else adds that same richness that butter does. And now that we know butter is good for us as I wrote in my past blog post, “Fat doesn’t make you Fat!”, I can eat my butter and be happy! It’s a yummy mix-in!

Spices like cinnamon and nutmeg add tons of flavor and are good for you too!

Spices like cinnamon and nutmeg add tons of flavor and are good for you too!

Don’t forget your spices! Cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, etc, can add substantial flavor to your oatmeal and are non-caloric. It’s like loads of flavor for zero calories! I always add cinnamon to my oatmeal (and many other things as well). It really gives it a warmth that makes it delicious.

So that’s how I make amazing oatmeal! I make it either on the stove or in the slow cooker, but it’s¬†super both ways¬†thus it really doesn’t matter how you cook it. Make sure you don’t use processed oatmeal with artificial flavors, and make your mix-ins healthy and flavorful without adding sugar if possible. Let me know what mix-ins you like to use. You’ve got it now? Ditch the cereal and eat oatmeal. It will help you to live a life of vitality- like Valerie!

Stay perky while eating your turkey! Healthy Thanksgiving eating tips part 2.

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Making stuffing is a team effort during my family Thanksgiving!

Making stuffing is a team effort during my family Thanksgiving- lol!

Hi All! So earlier in the week we talked about different ways to eat in a healthy way during MY FAVORITE EATING DAY OF THE YEAR! I love it so much it deserves all caps! I also shared my recipe for the most delicious, healthy and easy turkey and gravy in part 1.¬†Today I want to focus on my healthy side dishes and dessert. Now, I love all the ooey, gooey side dishes at Thanksgiving- mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, stuffing, green been casserole, corn pudding, etc, etc, etc… However, those side dishes are full of calories and all kinds of badness, so I’m giving you some alternates to bring to someone else’s gathering, or to serve at your own.

So first we go to the stuffing- Ok, I have to admit that I LOVE stuffing!! I’m not much of a bread person but when it’s all mushed together and baked it becomes delectable! A healthy swap for all that bread though is my stepmom, Karen’s wild rice stuffing and I want to share that with you now.

Delish!

Delish!

Wild Rice Stuffing

  • 1 small bag of gluten free stuffing (or rip up 1/2 loaf of gluten free bread)
  • 2 boxes of Long grain and wild rice
  • 32 oz. container of organic free range chicken broth
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion (I don’t like big chunks of onion in my stuffing)
  • 3 teaspoons fresh thyme, rosemary and sage
  • Teaspoon each of salt and pepper

First, saut√© onions and celery in a dab of butter or EVOO, in¬†a big pot that¬†you’ll make the stuffing in. Then, make the stuffing according to package directions. In a separate pot make the rice according to the directions. When the rice is done, add it to the stuffing, onions and celery, and add the chicken broth to make it super moist. Last, put the mixture into a greased baking pan and put it in the oven at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until the top is crusty but the inside is still soft- and that’s it! No sausage or any meat in it, no stuffing it into the turkey (that thought makes me nauseous), and no big hunks of bread. It’s just one small bag of stuffing and most of the recipe is long grain rice which is whole grain. Yay! By the way, it is completely delicious too and you’ll really like it.

Next up are my wonderful Brussels sprouts. Now you may hate Brussels sprouts, as many in my family did before this dish, but these will turn you into a believer in the sprouts from Brussels!

They are really good- I promise!

They are really good- I promise!

Brussels sprouts with bacon

  • 4 strips bacon
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 pound organic Brussels sprouts, halved
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste

First, cook the bacon in the same skillet you’ll make the Brussels sprouts.¬†Place the bacon on a plate with a paper towel to rid of grease, and chop it. Drain the fat from the skillet but leave the bits at the bottom of the pan. Add the butter to the pan and saut√© until melted. Then add the onion and Brussels sprouts and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are golden brown, or approximately 8-10 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste, and then put the bacon back into the pan and give it all a toss to combine. Then, serve. The sprouts get this golden brown crust that is so delicious and the bacon and onions give them such a great flavor. My mouth is watering just thinking about it! Can you see how this is a healthier dish than green bean casserole in which most of the ingredients come from a can?!! Yes, I thought you would!

Now I know that when everyone thinks about dessert and Thanksgiving they think about some kind of pie, apple, pumpkin, pecan, etc,etc, etc., and I think of them too. But instead I make a gluten free berry crisp and let me tell you why. You get all the flavor of a pie without all of the calories. One slice of pecan pie is approximately 520 calories versus my berry crisp which comes in at 295 calories. And it’s really good too! Here we go!

I love me some gluten free berry crisp!

I love me some gluten free berry crisp!

Gluten Free Mixed Berry Crisp

 

  • ¬†1 medium sized package frozen mixed berries thawed
  • 1 tablespoon organic honey
  • 2 cups gluten free baking flour
  • 2 cups gluten free oats
  • 1 1/2 cups packed organic brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 cups butter

First, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Next, combine the berries and the honey in a large bowl and set it aside. In another bowl, combine all the rest of the ingredients except for the butter. Then, cut in the butter by using two knives and cutting until the mixture is crumbly. Last, you take half of the crumbly mixture into a 9 by 13 baking pan, then add the berries, and top with the other half of the mixture, and bake it for 30-40 minutes or until the fruit is bubbly and the topping is brown. It’s just sooo good and far better for you than pecan pie!

So that’s what I’ll be making next Thursday, what will you be making? Let me know what you like to make, and I hope you try some of my recipes.¬†Drop me a note¬†if you do. Food like this will help you live a life of vitality- like Valerie!

 

HEALTHY coffee is my favorite way to start the day!

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Coffee11This morning after a late night at the Fleetwood Mac concert, which was such fun by the way, I really needed my morning coffee. My coffee is a necessity to give me a much¬†needed boost of energy in the morning. It’s also warm, homey and comforting to me. It really is a hug in a mug! I have previously spoken of my love for coffee and it’s benefits but today I want to talk about the stuff that goes into your coffee and how important it is to keep those things healthy. Otherwise, you can add HUNDREDS of calories to your coffee, and it can easily go from a healthy start to your day to a caloric wasteland. Besides being high in calories, some of the things you can add to your coffee can be downright BAD for your health, full of chemicals that can’t even be pronounced. I wanted to use this opportunity to save you all the calories and chemicals, and show you what I use so that you can benefit from my experience and drink delicious, HEALTHY coffee.

My coffee area highlighted by my Nespresso espresso machine!

My coffee area highlighted by my Nespresso espresso machine!

1. Start with high quality coffee- If you can find organic coffee, by all means use that. I have an espresso machine that I’ve used for the last few years. I really enjoy espresso but I recognize that many people don’t like the intensity of it, so use whatever works for you.¬†But for me the first step is to use really good coffee/espresso that doesn’t have any artificial flavors or additives in¬†it (artificial flavors=chemicals). Nespresso sells high quality, sustainably raised coffee in their espresso cubes. You¬†put the cube¬†into the machine and it¬†makes delicious¬†espresso.

I use an aeroccino or as I call it, a milk frother.

I use an aeroccino or as I call it, a milk frother.

2. Add REAL cream- I don’t use artificial creamers in my coffee. I will only use half and half, but the cool thing is that I use a milk frother. I pour the half and half into the frother, press the button, and it whips the milk up into a foamy deliciousness that makes me feel like I’m getting my coffee from a professional barrista! Of course I only use organic half and half also. I use an organic hazelnut half and half and add a¬†splash of that to the regular half and half and whip them together so I get a bit of sweetness into the cream.

I use Mexican hot chocolate bricks to impart sweetness into my coffee!

I use Mexican hot chocolate bricks to impart sweetness into my coffee!

Organic hazelnut half and half adds a bit of sweetness to the cream.

Organic hazelnut half and half adds a bit of sweetness to the cream.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. NO FAKE SUGARS- As I’ve said in previous posts, artificial sweeteners are bad for your health in MANY ways. They are full of chemicals and are NOT a component of a healthy lifestyle. In an effort to keep the calories down and impart sweetness to my coffee, I use a small splash of hazelnut half and half as I said above, and I also shave a small amount of Mexican hot chocolate into my coffee. I use a very small grater and shave no more than a half teaspoon of it into the coffee before adding the cream. I let the chocolate melt into the coffee, and then I add the cream and stir a few times to combine everything without adding too much air to take the fluffiness out of the foam.

Spices like cinnamon add tons of flavor to your coffee and are good for you too.

Spices like cinnamon add tons of flavor to your coffee and are good for you too.

4. Add different flavors to enhance your coffee- Spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom can really jazz up your coffee, adding a lot of flavor without adding calories. I add organic cinnamon to my coffee whenever I make it. Cinnamon is a healthful spice and has been said to help prevent diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and blood sugar spikes. It also is very warm and flavorful, and really complements the flavor of coffee. It’s a must for me!

There it is, all done and waiting for me to drink it!

There it is, all done and waiting for me to drink it!

Well, that’s how I make a perfectly delicious and healthy cup of coffee. The idea is to add layers of flavor so that you get an amazing¬†taste without adding a lot of chemicals or calories. Coffee can help enhance your memory and workouts, as well as preventing liver damage, helping to lessen the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, lessen our stress, and add antioxidants to our bodies. So I am perfectly justified in indulging in my morning cup of Joe, and I know it’s good for me too. Drinking coffee with healthy additions to it can help you live a life of vitality- like Valerie!