Spice up your meals with my secret ingredients!

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Hi friends! I hope you are well today. It’s been a crazy week around here but today is fairly calm and peaceful, thus I have a moment to share my favorite meal saviors with you. 

  
 
Ok so yesterday was a frantic day. I had to take Chewie (my little dog) to the vet for tooth cleaning, mouth x rays and eventual removal of his two main chewing teeth on the top at 7 am (one hour round trip). Then I rushed back home to get Danielle’s breakfast before she went to her nannying job, did laundry, straightened the house, took care of Delilah (my golden) and went back to pick up Chewie after his procedure (one hour round trip). Came home, fed both dogs and took them out, gave Chewie his meds, and then thought, “What the heck are we having for dinner?”  

Now my first instinct was that I definitely wasn’t cooking, I mean, I was tired and stressed from worrying about my little dog and all the running around. But I immediately reversed my thinking because I’m trying not to eat out as much these days. Eating out, even when you make healthy choices, results in higher caloric intake from larger portions and things like a basket of bread on the table than eating at home. So, I pulled my secret ingredients out of my back pocket (or out of my pantry and fridge), and put them together for an easy, tasty and healthy meal which I’m going to share with you right now. I made this recipe up one day out of desperation, and it has become one of my family’s favorite meals. It’s easy enough for my college aged readers to make in their apartments too. Come on and follow me, here we go!

  
Valerie’s Chicken, Chorizo and Black Bean Tacos

  • 1 chopped onion
  • 5 boneless skinless chicken thighs and 2 boneless skinless breasts
  • 2 cans organic black beans
  • 1 jar of Herdez Verde Sauce
  • 1 lb Mexican Chorizo sausage
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

First, sauté an onion in a bit of oil in a big pot on the stove over medium heat until softened and translucent. Next, add the chicken, cumin, salt and pepper, and cook until it’s no longer pink. Take the chicken out of the pot and chop it into small pieces. (This step is optional, if you want large pieces of chicken and have no time to chop, skip this step.) 

  

Next, add the chorizo and cook until it is browned. Add the chicken back into the pot.

  
Last, add the entire jar of verde sauce, drain the black beans, and add them to the pot. Heat for a minute or so until warmed. 

  
And that’s it! This is such a flavorful and versatile mixture. It can be served on tortillas, tortilla chips or in burritos. You can eat it by itself too, as I usually do with a little shredded cheese on top. The chicken, chorizo, and beans are an excellent source of protein, and the verde sauce is full of vitamin C. It’s flavorful without being too spicy and it’s SO EASY! Plus I always enjoy a one pot meal because the clean up is a snap. Actually, the pot is chilling in my second fridge right now, just waiting for me to use the leftovers for a few more meals because it makes about 10 servings. AND, all of those ingredients are pretty inexpensive too. I love to save a buck where I can.

   

Since I always have chicken and chorizo in my freezer, and cans of black beans and jars of verde sauce in my pantry, this meal is always on hand for me to make at the last minute, like last night. So try it, you’ll like it! Eating meals like these will help you live a life of vitality- like Valerie!

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!

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. 🙂 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! 🙂 As always, all items are organic if possible.

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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.

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2. Beans, tomato products, and sauce basics– Probably 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.

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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.

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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.

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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!).

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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.

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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! 🙂

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! 🙂  Eating healthy meals and snacks will help you live a life of vitality- like Valerie!