WATCH My Latest Recipes!

Standard

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! 🙂

Make THIS Today!

Standard

fullsizerender-294

Hello, friends! It’s a gloomy day in Indiana, and looking at the forecast for the coming week fall weather has returned! I LOVE fall. There are so many wonderful things about fall. Warm days, crisp evenings, apples, bonfires, sweatshirts and jeans are just some of the many things I enjoy about fall. Another thing I like about fall is the return of comfort food to my menus. Don’t get me wrong, I love homegrown produce and grilling in the summer. However, after a while I’m ready for soups, stews and pot roast.

fullsizerender-295

Can you smell the deliciousness?!!

 

Pot roast is the focus of my blog today, but not just any old pot roast, my yummy, warm, comforting Mexican pot roast. I used my homegrown tomatoes, onions, and peppers, as well as my homemade Mexican tomato sauce to make it. See my previous post, “Roast These For Optimal Nutrition!” to make my delicious sauce, read to the end for the Mexican version!  https://vitalvaldecap.com/2016/08/12/roast-these-for-optimal-nutrition/ If you don’t grow your own veggies, you can easily use produce from the grocery store or farmer’s market. Just make sure to use organic products whenever possible.

When I made my pot roast the other day, it was so delicious that I forgot to take pictures of the finished product; I was busy shoveling it into my mouth! Because Danielle is now in her own apartment, I’ve been diligently freezing leftovers for her to take with her for days when she doesn’t have time to cook. I  froze the leftovers and sent them with Danielle to her apartment, and she was kind enough to take pictures of the plating for me. This roast is EASY to make, just use your crockpot and assemble the ingredients in the morning, and by the time you’re ready to eat it will be done. The smell in your house/apartment by the time you return will be to-die for!

Crockpot Mexican Pot Roast

  • 2.5-3 lb chuck roast
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion rough chopped
  • 2 bell peppers, any color
  • 1 large tomato, chopped
  • 2 jalapeno peppers (ribs and seeds removed)
  • 2 cups Mexican flavored tomato sauce or red enchilada sauce
  • 1 teaspoon chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

fullsizerender-288

Place the chuck roast into your crockpot. I used one of these cool crockpot liners that I found at Target, you just line your crockpot with one, add the ingredients, cook, and after you serve your meal you can just throw away the liner. No clean up- fab! 🙂 Add half of the chile powder, cumin, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper directly to the meat. Next, include the extra virgin olive oil.  Pour the sauce on top of the meat. Sprinkle the rest of the chile powder, cumin, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper on the sauce.

fullsizerender-292

Chop onions, peppers and tomatoes, and then place them on top of the meat and sauce. Cook on low for 8-10 hours, or 4-5 hours on high. Serve with green beans, potatoes, or tortillas. Olé!

fullsizerender-293

Thanks for the pictures, Danzy! 🙂

 

This roast is protein rich, as well as full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, so it’s super healthy, and the flavor is warm, juicy and bursting with deliciousness.  You’ll love it, I promise! It’s also inexpensive to make, as chuck roast is one of the cheapest cuts of meat, and the vegetables are not expensive either. Eating food that is good tasting and good for you like my Mexican pot roast will help you live a life of vitality- with Valerie! 🙂

You need THIS at your Labor Day Cookout!

Standard
FullSizeRender (286)

Jacsy was the inspiration for this post, as she has loved veggies and “dip it” since she was a little girl!

 

Hello, friends! Are you ready for Labor Day weekend? Doesn’t it seem like instead of one day of feasting, it’s a three day gorge-fest?!! It is like that for me. If your holiday weekend is like mine, I have two delicious dips you can make that are super easy to prepare, and healthy to boot. You can make these in advance, put them out whenever you are celebrating, and they won’t derail your healthy eating plan.

One common ingredient in both dips is Greek yogurt. I wrote all about the health benefits of Greek yogurt in a past post “One of the BEST ways to start your day!”    https://vitalvaldecap.com/2016/03/10/one-of-the-best-ways-to-start-your-day/  Click on the link provided to check out all the great Greek yogurt facts. I also provided a scrumptious morning yogurt recipe in that post.

IMG_8227

To summarize, FULL FAT plain Greek yogurt has loads of calcium, probiotics, and protein. It has little sugar or carbohydrates. It also contains high quality fats which are essential for every part of our bodies. But that’s not all the healthy ingredients my dips contain.

One of the dips is made with cannellini beans, which are actually white kidney beans. Kidney beans are considered one of nature’s superfoods owing to their high mineral, vitamin, protein and fiber content. Due to that high fiber content, they are also among the best foods for weight loss, because fiber leaves you feeling full for longer and keeps food cravings at bay. They are also rich in antioxidants, which are are known to have anticancer properties. Kidney beans are high in vitamin B9 also called folate or folic acid, which makes them heart healthy, and in B1 or thiamin, necessary for formation and operation of brain cells.

IMG_5115

I have always loved white kidney beans or cannellini beans. They have such a delicate texture and flavor. I’ve always found red kidney beans’ flavor to be too strong and aggressive for me, however the white ones are versatile to use in many dishes due to their mild flavor. Does that convince you of the health benefits derived from these dips? Then, let’s move on to the recipes!

FullSizeRender (281)

White Bean Dip

  • 15 ounce can of cannellini beans, drained (if not using organic you must also rinse them)
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons full fat plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chives
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Put all ingredients in food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Add fresh chives on top for garnish.

FullSizeRender (284)

Veggie Dip

  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 2 scallions, sliced with greens and whites separated
  • 1 1/4 cups full fat Greek yogurt
  • 3/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

FullSizeRender (276)

Heat oil over medium heat and add onions and scallion whites. Cook about 10 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from heat and cool.

FullSizeRender (278)

Combine the rest of the ingredients. Add the sautéed onions to the mixture. Chill for an hour before serving.

FullSizeRender (285)

Still have lots of veggies from my garden, and this is a great way to eat ’em up!

 

And that’s all there is to both dips. I made them both in about 15 minutes and stuck them in the fridge to chill until ready to serve. I served them with various vegetables which also adds to the health quotient. I think the second dip tastes EXACTLY like the French onion dip my mom used to buy in the grocery store when I was young, and into which I loved to dip ruffled potato chips.I’m not judging if you want to dip a few chips, and I might have done so myself when I was making it. Chips are my guilty pleasure, so salty and crunchy, and the creaminess of the dip is perfectly balanced by the saltiness of the chips. Sometimes you’ve got to have a little of your guilty pleasure, whatever it is, so go for it and I won’t tell anyone! 🙂 Eating these healthy and yummy dips (and having an occasional guilty pleasure) will help you live a life of vitality- with Valerie! 🙂

Roast these for optimal nutrition!

Standard
FullSizeRender (246)

A cornucopia of tomatoes!

 

Hello friends! These are the “dog days” of summer, aren’t they? At least they are in Indiana. According to dictionary.com, dog days are “the sultry part of the summer, supposed to occur during the period that Sirius, the dog star, rises at the same time as the sun: now often reckoned from July 3 to August 11. A period marked by lethargy, inactivity, or indolence.” Well since most of the children are back in school, I’d say the inactivity part has passed, but the heat certainly causes me to feel a bit lethargic!

FullSizeRender (249)

However, I have no time for lethargy because my garden is producing in full abundance right now. It is certainly not lethargic either! I have more tomatoes, peppers and onions than I know what to do with, and I am very determined not to waste one thing that comes from my garden.

So, I’ve gotten creative at different ways to utilize all of my fruits and veggies, because there are only so many sliced tomatoes you can eat before you get tired of them. I started thinking about making my own tomato sauce. However, I wanted to roast them because I thought it would add a depth of flavor that non-roasted tomato sauce would not have. I began to look around for recipes and combined a few to create my own version of roasted tomato sauce.

FullSizeRender (237)

But here is another benefit to roasting the tomatoes to make a sauce besides taste, they are MORE NUTRITIOUS than an unroasted tomato! I’m totally serious! I didn’t know that, I only knew I liked the taste better. When tomatoes are roasted or cooked in a sauce, it helps to break down the plant cell walls, allowing us to better absorb the antioxidant lycopene. This nutrient helps safeguard our cells from environmental damage, may protect us from certain cancers, and is heart-friendly. Tomatoes do lose about 10% of their vitamin C from the cooking process, however the benefits of the increased absorption of lycopene far outweigh the loss of vitamin C. Some vegetables like peppers and broccoli are healthier when eaten raw, because cooking causes them to lose essential nutrients. This is not the case with tomatoes, as they are best for you when eaten roasted or cooked.

Now that you know how good roasted tomatoes are for you, I’m going to share my roasted tomato sauce recipe with you. It is SO AMAZING, if I do say so myself. I’m eating it right now over an Italian sausage with a piece of Colby Jack cheese melted on it. The sauce is creamy and it’s flavor can best be described as spunky! Please enjoy!

FullSizeRender (244)

My trusty sous chef, Danielle! 🙂

 

Valerie’s Roasted Tomato Sauce

  • 30 tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 1/2 cup chopped onions
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons basil, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon oregano, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon rosemary, chopped
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

FullSizeRender (236).jpg

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Take the halved tomatoes, core them, remove the seeds, and place them on 2 large sheet pans halved side up. Coring and removing the seeds is optional, and makes a more concentrated sauce. If you’re short on time, just halve the tomatoes and place them on the sheet tray. Make sure you add a half hour more to the cooking time because the tomatoes with the seeds and cores will have A LOT more juice to them, and therefore will need to cook a half hour longer. I sprayed my trays with organic olive oil cooking spray so the tomatoes wouldn’t stick, which would aid in my clean up.

Next, get a big bowl and add the rest of the ingredients to it. Microwave the bowl for 2 minutes and pour the contents equally over the tomatoes. Use your hands to make sure the oil mixture gets all over the tomatoes.

FullSizeRender (238)

Bake the tomatoes for 2 hours (2 1/2 hours if you didn’t remove the seeds and cores). Rotate the pans halfway through the baking process. Then, turn the oven up to 400 degrees and roast them for another 30 minutes. They will turn kind of blackened but that is PERFECT. You won’t believe how wonderful your house will smell while you’re doing this.

Now you have two options, you can either use a food mill and pulverize the tomatoes that way, or use a blender or food processor to beat up the tomatoes. I started using my food mill, but I felt it was leaving too many tasty bits unused, so I switched to using my trusty Vitamix. What I did was pour all the tomatoes into my blender, and blend on medium for about 20 seconds. Then, I poured the blended tomatoes into a pot, and cooked the roasted tomato sauce until thickened, about 15 minutes. I tasted it, added a 1/2 cup of red wine, and another 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper.

FullSizeRender (241)

Here’s a cool thing, the trays will have all kinds of bits on them and you may think, “oh my goodness, clean-up will be a huge ordeal!” but fear not, dear readers, I have a great and easy clean-up method that adds to the flavor of the sauce too. Take a cup of water and microwave it for 2 minutes, pour it onto the sheet pan, and wait a minute. Then, take a spatula, scrape off the bits, and pour the water/tasty bits into the sauce. It definitely adds flavor and makes clean-up easier too! That’s a win-win, my friends!

FullSizeRender (240)

This sauce is so versatile, you can use it on pasta, to make Italian sausage sandwiches, as a sauce for steaks, or the way I used it the other night, over my healthy chicken Italiano. I took chicken thighs, salted and peppered them, and cooked them on the stove in a little EVOO. After they were cooked through, I added a piece of prosciutto and provolone cheese to the top and cooked for another minute until the cheese melted. Then, I poured the sauce over the top and served with fresh green beans- DELIZIOSO!

FullSizeRender (243)

 

You can also turn this sauce into a Mexican sauce by adding chili powder, cumin, and jalapenos, and use it on enchiladas or in a taco sauce. Another variation is that you could add croutons, and turn it into a tomato soup. This sauce is so amazing, the sky’s the limit with it. You should definitely make this sauce, and if you make something super cool with it, let me know! Remember, cooked or roasted tomatoes are healthier than uncooked tomatoes, and far more delicious too! Eating like this will help you live a life of vitality- with Valerie! 🙂

Eat this to prevent cancer and heart disease!

Standard
FullSizeRender (221)

The family is gathered for dinner, Danielle is helping me prep the food, and life is good!

 

Hello, friends! I want to talk to you today about one of my FAVORITE things to eat. The greatest thing about it besides the deliciousness is how totally good it is for you. What I am referring to is…. the avocado. A simple and humble fruit, but WOW does it pack a healthy punch of nutrients and antioxidants that helps prevent all kinds of really bad illnesses. So my goal here is to tell you why you should be eating more avocados, and then show you a recipe for a scrumptious and easy avocado salad that I made the other day.

The main thing to remember about the avocado is that it is a fruit, but unlike most other fruits it contains healthy fats instead of carbohydrates. Each avocado has approximately 160 calories, 2 grams of protein and 15 grams of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs). Although it has 9 grams of carbs 7 of them are fiber, which means there are only 2 net carbs, making avocados a low-carb friendly plant food.

Avocados have:

  • Vitamin K: 26% of the RDA.
  • Folate: 20% of the RDA.
  • Vitamin C: 17% of the RDA.
  • Potassium: 14% of the RDA.
  • Vitamin B5: 14% of the RDA.
  • Vitamin B6: 13% of the RDA.
  • Vitamin E: 10% of the RDA.
  • Small amounts of Magnesium, Manganese, Copper, Iron, Zinc, Phosphorous, Vitamin A, B1 (Thiamine), B2 (Riboflavin) and B3 (Niacin).

Again, avocado is a high fat food. In fact, 77% of the calories in it are from fat, making it one of the fattiest plant foods in existence. But they don’t just contain any fat… the majority of the fat in avocado is oleic acid. This is a monounsaturated fatty acid that is also the major component in olive oil and believed to be responsible for some of its beneficial effects. Oleic acid has been linked to reduced inflammation and been shown to have beneficial effects on genes linked to cancer.

FullSizeRender (223)

When it comes to nutrients, the total amount of them is not the only thing that matters. We also need to be able to absorb them… move them from the digestive tract and into the body, where they can be used. Some nutrients are “fat soluble,” meaning that they need to be combined with fat in order to be utilized. This includes vitamins A, D, E and K… along with antioxidants like carotenoids. One study showed that adding avocado or avocado oil to either salad or salsa can increase antioxidant absorption by 2.6 to 15-fold. So… not only is avocado highly nutritious, it can dramatically increase the nutrient value of other plant foods that you are eating. This is an excellent reason to always include a healthy fat source when you eat veggies. Without it, a lot of the beneficial plant nutrients will go to waste.

IMG_1202

 

From a food perspective avocados are also very versatile to cook with and to eat. Besides guacamole, which most people think of when they think about making food containing avocados, you can use them in many different dishes. I slice them on top of meat, use them in salads, slice them on top of tacos or nachos, and I love them with eggs too.

I also love the recipe I’m going to share with you today. It’s an avocado salad and the reason I like it so much is that I love guacamole, but when I eat it I find that I eat half a bag of tortilla chips and that is too many carbs and calories for me. It also has black beans in it, which ups the fiber content as well as the protein, and makes it taste even better as well. I hope you enjoy it too!

FullSizeRender (230)

Avocado Salad

  • 4 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 15 ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 2 seeded and minced jalapeno peppers
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated lime zest
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (2 limes)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 2 ripe avocados, seeded, peeled, and 1/2 inch diced

FullSizeRender (227)

Add the tomatoes, pepper, beans, onion, jalapenos, and lime zest in a large bowl.

FullSizeRender (228)

Whisk together lime juice, EVOO, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, and pour over the vegetables. Toss well.

FullSizeRender (232)

Carefully fold the avocados into the salad before you’re ready to serve it. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed. That’s all there is to it!

I know you’ll love the taste of this avocado salad, it’s got the zesty punch of the lime juice and zest, combined with the creaminess of the avocados, the heat of the jalapenos, and the sweetness of the tomatoes. It’s a delicious variety of flavors! And remember, it’s super healthy for you too. Eating salads like this will help you live a life of vitality- with Valerie:)

How Does Your Garden Grow? Deliciously!

Standard
FullSizeRender (201)

The outer edge of the garden is for my herbs, and the inside is full of vegetables! Chewie likes to sniff the herbs, as you can see!

 

Hello, friends! It’s a beautiful summer day here. How is it where you live? I hope it’s as gorgeous as it is here! Because we now have our forever home, I have FINALLY been able to have the vegetable and herb garden of my dreams. We decided to make raised beds so I wouldn’t have to stoop or kneel to weed or pick my veggies and herbs. Now I’m really glad we made that decision. We also decided to make the raised beds out of stone instead of wood, because stone lasts forever, and we knew we would have to replace wooden beds in 3-5 years. I actually had to make the footprint of the garden larger twice while it was being built because I didn’t want to outgrow it too soon. We used organic soil once the stone was in place, and only use organic fertilizers on it as well. We never use pesticides or any chemicals of any sort on it, as there are lots of great natural ways to prevent infestations of bugs.

FullSizeRender (203)

This is my tomato section, you can see how tall and luscious they can get with organic fertilizer and soil!

 

Eventually I would like to have a massive garden, and grow veggies and herbs to sell to restaurants who are interested in providing their customers with organic, scrumptious and beautiful vegetables and herbs. For now, though, I am focusing on growing enough for our family. I am writing about this today because I want to encourage you all to grow your own vegetables and herbs. It’s astonishingly easy to do, and requires very little maintenance along the way to deliciousness. I also want to share my recipe for salsa from my home grown tomatoes, peppers, onions and cilantro.

FullSizeRender (204)

The back side of my garden with more herbs on the outside, and the inside has veggies, veggies and more veggies!

 

You don’t have to use stone, or make raised beds. Making a garden is as simple as clearing a spot for it, planting vegetables, adding organic fertilizer, watering every other day, picking weeds (I used to pull weeds every day and because they’re so small and tender they literally pull out in seconds, but now that the plants are so tall and well established they have pushed the weeds out), and enjoying the bounty of your garden. If you live in an apartment or condo (or like us were renting a home), you can grow your vegetables and herbs in pots on your patio.

FullSizeRender (205)

Ok, I admit, I already outgrew my raised garden and had to use the edge of the fenced in area to plant my melons, zucchini, and cucumbers.

 

The vegetables I am growing are onions, peppers, asparagus, cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, arugula, kale, potatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, corn, and garlic. The fruit selection is strawberries, cantaloupe, tomatoes (they are a vegetable!8 different kinds!), blueberries, and watermelon. The herbs are 5 different kinds of basil, 4 different types of oregano, 6 different types of thyme, rosemary, French tarragon, lavender, 3 kinds of mint, curry, and probably a lot more that I can’t recall right now. As you can tell I love herbs!

FullSizeRender (206)

Just outside of the fenced in area of our yard, I am growing potatoes and garlic!

 

One of the main advantages to growing your own over buying store bought produce is price. For example, if you buy herbs from the grocery store it can cost anywhere from $3-6, and you can use them for 1-2 meals. Buying potted herbs costs $2.5-4.00, and they can last anywhere from 8 months to indefinitely. I have rosemary and parsley in pots that I brought with me from our old house that are going on 1 1/2 years old now. They wintered inside our house, I took them outside once it got warm enough, and they are flourishing now! That’s a great return on a $4.00 investment!

Another reason for growing your own is that you can control what goes into your food. You can use organic soil, fertilizer and pesticides like I do. For me it is such a relief to know how my food is grown, and what is used in the process. In addition, store bought produce is often picked half-ripe so that it can ripen once it gets to the grocery store, causing it to not grow to its full potential of nutritional value. Home grown produce can be picked at the peak of ripeness, thereby getting the full value of every single vitamin and mineral it contains. It’s also super convenient, instead of driving to the grocery store, you can walk out into your yard, snip off some basil, pick a few tomatoes, peppers, and onions, and you are on your way to a delicious homemade tomato sauce.

So with the bounty I currently have from my garden, I made my yummy salsa the other day. It is so easy to make fresh salsa, but it’s even easier when I can go into my yard to pick the ingredients for it. I will share it with you now!

FullSizeRender (208)

Valerie’s Fresh Garden Salsa

  • 4-6 large tomatoes chopped into smallish pieces FullSizeRender (210)
  • 1 medium size onion, finely chopped (I used two large green onions) FullSizeRender (212)
  • 2 jalapenos– seeded and insides removed if you don’t like much heat, I put them in intact because we love heat in our salsa! I also used sport peppers (heat index, somewhere between bell pepper and jalapeno) and banana peppers too!FullSizeRender (211)
  • 3 tablespoons fresh cilantro FullSizeRender (215)
  • 1/2 cup each extra virgin olive oil and vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon garlic powder

Chop tomatoes, onions, peppers and cilantro and add to large bowl. FullSizeRender (214)

Add extra virgin olive oil, vinegar, minced garlic, salt, pepper, and garlic powder to the bowl and mix well. Taste and add more salt and pepper as needed. It tastes really good right away, but it’s even better the longer it sits. So if you make it in advance of the time you want to serve it, and let it sit and chill in the fridge that would taste extra amazing!

FullSizeRender (218)

And voila! The finished product! It tastes delicious and it’s so good for you too. It’s full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that our bodies need to be healthy. It also helps prevent all kinds of diseases like cancer and heart disease. So remember to grow your own herbs and produce, and make yummy things with that home grown produce like my salsa. It will help you live a life of vitality- with Valerie! 🙂

FullSizeRender (219)

A Delish (and Healthy) Side Dish!

Standard

FullSizeRender (207)

Hello friends! I hope you’re enjoying a safe and healthy summer! It’s been crazy around here, even though the 4th has passed, we have continued to gather for cookouts. Must be due to living in our forever home- finally!

FullSizeRender (194)

We have 3 acres and a big pond, so we have plenty of backyard in which to enjoy these gorgeous summer evenings.

FullSizeRender (193)

We also like to gather around the fire pit after dinner to roast marshmallows. One last great part of our yard is my HUGE herb and vegetable garden, more on that in a later post!

FullSizeRender (195)

I wanted to share a GREAT side dish/salad to consume mass quantities of at your next cookout. I call it “Super Cabbage Slaw”, because it’s far more than just coleslaw. But did you know that coleslaw is really good for you? Coleslaw comes from the Dutch word Koolsla, which means “cabbage salad”. Traditionally coleslaw is made with raw, shredded cabbage and some combination of shredded carrots, jicama, raisins and other healthy ingredients. It’s usually made with a dressing of mayonnaise, or buttermilk with vinegar and spices.

Cabbage is a cruciferous vegetable along with broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower, and they are renowned for their ability to protect against cancer. Recommendations are that you eat a minimum of 1 1/2 cups of cruciferous vegetables 2-3 times a week in order to reap the best benefits from this cancer fighter. Cabbage is an excellent source of a compound called sinigrin, which is particularly effective in helping to prevent cancer of the colon, prostate, and bladder. The health benefits of cabbage are greatest when it is eaten raw, as cooking it destroys much of it’s cancer fighting compounds, which is why coleslaw is such a great way to eat cabbage.

IMG_0670

Cabbage also is a good source of fiber, is high in vitamin C and K, and is loaded with calcium, potassium, vitamin A, vitamin B6, manganese and folate. In addition, it’s high in glutamine, which is an amino acid with anti-inflammatory properties. To top it off, cabbage is low in calories, only 50 calories per cup!

Why I call my side dish “Super cabbage slaw” because in addition to the cabbage, I make a vinaigrette as the sauce instead of a creamy dressing. The vinaigrette pickles the cabbage, which is great for the digestive system (see my previous post, “Peter Piper knew what he was talking about”  https://vitalvaldecap.com/2015/07/16/peter-piper-knew-what-he-was-talking-about-heres-why-you-should-do-it-too/ ). Also, remember that extra virgin olive oil is a healthy fat (monounsaturated fatty acid or MUFA), which adds even more good health to this dish. And it tastes delicious too!

It’s super easy to make, too, so it won’t take much time away from sitting outside and celebrating these beautiful summer nights. To borrow a phrase, it’s “semi-homemade”. All you need is a bowl and a knife to make this so here we go!

IMG_0664

Valerie’s Super Cabbage Slaw

  • One cabbage chopped finely or shredded (Or if you want to save time use a bag of already prepared coleslaw mix from the grocery store)
  • 1/2 of a red onion (provides pretty color) finely chopped
  • 1 large jalapeno (remove ribs and seeds if you don’t want a spicy slaw)
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • Fresh herbs- I used basil and chives- about a tablespoon each

IMG_0668

First, chop the cabbage (or open the bag of already prepared mix), and add to a large bowl. Next chop the onion and jalapeno, and add to the cabbage. Then, prepare the vinaigrette.

IMG_0672

Combine the last 6 ingredients in a smaller bowl and whisk. The last step is to add the vinaigrette to the vegetables and mix until it’s fully incorporated. Taste, and if it needs more salt, go for it.

IMG_0671

If you are not a coleslaw person, you will like my version, I promise you. It’s crunchy, light and flavorful. This is not your grandmother’s coleslaw! Danielle and I are actually making another batch right now as we speak (or as I write) with cabbage, onions and peppers I grew in my garden. It is addictive and we really can’t get enough of it!

So try this recipe, and you’ll like it. Oh by the way, you can add whatever healthy ingredients that you enjoy eating to this super slaw; you really can’t mess it up. Eating my super cabbage slaw will help you to live a life of vitality- with Valerie! 🙂

FullSizeRender (200)

 

FullSizeRender (199)

Grill Your Way to a Healthy 4th!

Standard

FullSizeRender (181)

Hello, dear friends! Yes, it has been a while since I’ve posted, and I apologize for that. I have been a frantic person lately trying to finish the renovations to our forever home in time for Jacqueline’s graduation party, which was this past weekend. I am relieved to say that all of that is over, it went without a hitch, and I am ready to get back to writing my blog again.

So, an important topic is our upcoming 4th of July holiday. I recently developed a recipe that would be PERFECT for the fabulous 4th; marinated and grilled sirloin steak. I just sort of stumbled upon the idea for this because I was buying meat from my favorite Royer farm at the Fishers farmers market and I thought, “I haven’t used sirloin because it’s a tougher cut of meat, but I know it’s flavorful so I want to see what I can do with it.” It was a challenge to myself which I always love, kind of like Chopped (that’s a cooking competition show on Food Network for those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about).

Here’s the good thing about sirloin, it’s a lean and nutritious cut of beef. It’s very high in protein, a 3 ounce portion has 25 grams of complete protein, meaning it contains all the essential amino acids. This macronutrient is essential for cell rebuilding, immune function, and muscle growth. Protein has a high satiety rating, ie it makes you feel full for a longer period of time. Sirloin is also low in calories; a 3 ounce portion has only 180 calories. Sirloin contains 33 percent of the RDA for niacin, 26 percent of B-12, 30 percent of selenium, 30 percent of zinc, and 19 percent of phosphorus. Selenium boosts the immune system and is important for thyroid function. Zinc is also an immune booster, and it helps with wound healing and cell production also. Phosphorus works in concert with calcium to strengthen bones and teeth, and it also helps to filter waste through the kidneys.

Another advantage to sirloin is that it is a relatively inexpensive cut of beef. It is around $6 per pound as compared to New York strip which is $9.50 per pound.

Now here’s the not so good thing about sirloin, it can be a very tough cut of meat unless it is prepared properly.  However, never fear my wonderful readers because I’m going to tell you my secret to tender sirloin every time. It involves preparing and cooking the meat in just the right way so that it turns out perfectly. Here we go!

FullSizeRender (177)

  • Prepare the marinade- This type of meat needs to be marinated for 24 hours in the fridge before cooking it. My marinade is very simple, 1 cup of Dale’s steak seasoning (can purchase in any grocery store), 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, 2 tablespoons herbs of your choice, 2 tablespoons minced garlic, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, and 1 teaspoons of red wine vinegar for approximately 3 pounds of sirloin. The acid in the vinegar helps break down the fibers in the meat, lending to a more tender steak, but too much and the meat can get mushy, so a little bit definitely goes a long way. FullSizeRender (180)
  • Dry the meat- After the sirloin sits in the marinade for 24 hours it will be super moist, and it needs to be dried so a good sear can be developed on the outside. Blot the meat with paper towels until the meat is dry.
  • Seasonings-Now more seasonings can be added to develop more flavor. I use 1 tablespoon dried herbs, 1/2 cup red wine, 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, and 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper. I rub the dried seasonings on the steaks, and then combine the wet ingredients to use on the steak as it cooks.
  • Grilling is the preferred cooking method- Here’s why: in order to develop the best flavor, you will need to use an extremely hot grill to sear the meat, followed by grilling at a moderate temperature to cook the meat. Instructions for grilling:
    • Turn all the burners on high and preheat with the lid closed for about 15 minutes.
    • Turn one burner down to medium.
    • Place the steak on the hot burner. Grill until well browned on one side for about 2-3 minutes. This is important to develop the crust. Flip the steaks and grill on other side for 2-3 minutes.
    • Move steaks over to cooler side of the grill. Put the lid down and grill for 5-6 minutes for rare meat, 6-7 minutes for medium rare, and 7-8 minutes for medium. DO NOT OVERCOOK THE MEAT. Overcooking leads to tough meat and remember all we did to try to make our meat tender? Let’s not blow it in the grilling phase!FullSizeRender (186)
  • Let it rest- It is important to allow the steak to rest before cutting so the juices settle back into the meat. Let rest for at least 5 minutes.
  • Cut the Steak- For maximum tenderness cut the sirloin against the grain. The grain is the direction that the muscle fibers are aligned. To cut against the grain means that if the grain runs left to right you would cut up and down, across but not parallel to the grain. Cutting through the fibers shortens them and makes it easier to chew through, since a lot of the hard work of breaking up the muscle fibers has already been done for you.

FullSizeRender (182)

Now comes the easy part- eat and enjoy! I served my sirloin with white cannellini and pinto beans (more vitamin B for us!), and a vinegar salad with cucumbers, tomatoes, red bell peppers, onions, and jalapeno peppers. We had grilled barbequed chicken thighs and beets too. Lots of protein and vegetables in this meal! Eating a meal like this abounding with healthy foods will help you live a life of vitality- with Valerie! 🙂

 

Brain Food- Really!

Standard

  
Hello friends! Are you busy with the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season? Are you attempting to juggle all of your various responsibilities? Afraid you will allow one of the MANY balls you keep in the air to drop because you’ve forgotten to do something, or buy that perfect present for Aunt Sally and therefore feel her wrath for the rest of your life? Or are you one of my many college student readers, and you’re trying to cram tons of knowledge into a brain that feels much too insufficient? Well, if you are feeling like this right now, (ME!!!!) take heart dear readers because I am going to impart some critical information that will help you deal. This post was written at the request of my stressed out college senior daughter, Jacqueline, who would love some nutritional help for her brain going into finals week. 

The answer to improving brain health lies in the food we eat. Yes, that’s what I said, plain and simple food. However, it’s not just any food that will help your brain, but some specific foods which I’m going to share with you right now. Come along for the ride, I promise this will help you!

Top Brain Foods

  

1. Blueberries– I researched many resources in coming up with this list, and blueberries were at or near the top of every one. One reason is that they contain an antioxidant called anthocyanin which is thought to cross the blood brain barrier, protect brain cells from oxidation and boost communication between brain neurons. A Harvard University study found that women over 70 who consumed 1/2 cup of blueberries twice a week remained sharper mentally than women who didn’t eat berries. Short term memory, navigational skills, balance and coordination are all improved by eating blueberries. 

  
2. Fatty fish-For two reasons, vitamin D and omega 3’s. Omega 3’s contain EPA and DHA which are highly concentrated in the brain and are critical for optimal brain function. Vitamin D, a nutrient plentiful in fatty fish like salmon, protects the brain. A Tufts University study found that people who ate fish like tuna, salmon and halibut 3 times a week reduced their risk of Alzheimer’s by 40%.

  
3. Avocados– are high in monounsaturated fatty acids which help promote healthy brain blood flow and benefits healthy brain function. And they’re good for your heart too because they’re loaded with potassium. That’s a win-win!

  
4. Nuts-Nuts are a good source of unsaturated fats and Vitamin E, both contributing to better brain function. Also, almonds, pecans, and walnuts are thought to prevent cognitive decline. 

  
5. Eggs-Saturated fat and choline are both contained in eggs. They help boost memory skills and overall brain health.

  
6. Olive oil, coconut oil-Both oils are healthy fats which contain polyphenols, powerful antioxidants that can help prevent or even reverse dementia and cognitive decline and help improve memory.  

  
7. Green leafy veggies-which are loaded with Vitamin K, like kale, collards and spinach, have been shown to slow cognitive decline. People who consume 1-2 servings a day have the cognitive ability of a person 11 years younger who consumed none.

So eat your healthy fats, like avocados, fatty fish, eggs, olive and coconut oils, your dark green leafy veggies like kale, collards and spinach, and your blueberries to help you get through finals, or for us older folk to get through the Christmas season (or life!). You’ll live a brain healthy life if you do, what could be better than that? Foods like this will help you live a life of vitality, with Valerie! 

A little bit of this, a little bit of that….

Standard

So the song goes, but did you know that a bit of this and a bit of that can make a wonderful meal? Read on, my dear readers, and you will see. 

  
Here’s how it all started, a few days ago I made gluten free pasta with meat sauce. We ate all the sauce but you know how there always seems to be more noodles than sauce left? That’s how it is around here at least. So anyway, I put a bag of penne noodles in my fridge and figured I would use them for something later. Then, I made meatloaf the next day. Meatloaf is something you can only eat for a day or two and, ugh, you can’t even look at it anymore. However, it was really good and I didn’t want to waste it so I stuck that in the fridge with the noodles, and didn’t think about it until two days ago.  I didn’t feel like cooking a new meal, and I was once again pondering the noodles and meatloaf in my fridge.

  
I make an Italian style meatloaf, as I wrote about in my blog post, “It’s an American meal staple, but did you know it’s healthy?!”. So that was my inspiration as I thought, “meatloaf, pasta, baked ziti!” Well it wasn’t quite that quick, but I though about making some kind of baked pasta dish using the meatloaf as kind of a meatball, so I started looking around on the Internet for ideas. 

Oh I also didn’t tell you that I hadn’t been to the grocery store since I moved, actually I hadn’t been to the store since a few weeks before we moved because I was trying to have less food to move. Therefore I was limited to what I could make. I saw a lasagna recipe using meatloaf but since I didn’t have ricotta cheese I decided to turn it into a baked pasta dish. It is quick, easy and delicious, take a look!

  
Leftover Baked Pasta

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 14 ounce can chopped tomatoes 
  • 1 14 ounce can tomato purĂ©e
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 one inch slices leftover meatloaf
  • 4 cups cooked pasta- any kind
  • 1 8 ounce bag of shredded mozzerella cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste

  
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat your EVOO in a pan on the stove and chop your onions and garlic. Add the onions and sauté until softened, then add the garlic and red pepper flakes for about a minute. Next, pour the tomatoes and tomato purée into the pan and let that warm up for a minute or two. Salt and pepper to taste.

  

Chop your meatloaf slices or pull them apart with your fingers and add them to the pan for about 3 minutes. Stir the pasta and 1/3 of the cheese in until they are combined with the sauce and meatloaf. Then, pour all of that into a baking pan. I sprayed the pan with a bit of organic olive oil cooking spray first though so the baked pasta wouldn’t stick. 

  

Add the rest of the cheese to the top and bake for 15 minutes or until slightly browned. If you’re so inclined, sprinkle Parmesan cheese on before serving. I made a salad, poured the wine and that was it! 

It really tasted yummy and it was pretty amazing that I made that out of leftovers. In addition, the ground beef has plenty of protein and iron, the tomatoes have lycopene and other antioxidants, and the cheese has calcium and other vitamins so you’re eating something that’s good for you too. 

  
So try it next time you’ve got meatloaf sitting around, I’m sure you like it. Eating meals like this will help you live a life of vitality- with Valerie!