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!

No Sugar, No Gluten- Nothing but Happiness!

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No sugar, gluten free amazingly easy and yummy banana nut muffins! P.S. It's already been consumed as I write this!

No sugar, gluten free amazingly easy and yummy banana nut muffin slathered with sweet, creamy butter! P.S. It’s already been consumed as I write this!

Hello my friends! How have you been lately? As for me, it seems my girls have been home more often these days, and in two weeks they’ll be home for the summer which will make me the happiest Mom on the planet! There’s nothing I like better than to have my chickadees back in the nest. I also love to cook for them when they’re home, and they beg for me to cook as often as I can because they’re homemade meal deprived college students.

They are desperately grateful for anything I make them to eat, but we are especially happy sitting in our pajamas eating breakfast and sipping our coffee/tea together. I would have to say that breakfast is my favorite meal to make, no matter what it is I’m cooking. I guess because I have the best memories of my mom making pancakes and bacon on the weekends, and my dad making waffles, eggs, and bacon.

If you’ve read my blog in the past you know that I have pretty much cut sugar completely out of my diet because sugar is a toxic poison to the body, and since my youngest has a gluten allergy and the rest of us seem to do better without it too, I don’t use gluten in my cooking either. That makes sweet breakfast foods particularly challenging. I mean, I do lots of eggs, bacon and sausage which covers the protein end of the breakfast, but sometimes in the morning you just want a muffin, doughnut, waffle or pancake, ya know?!

I ran across a really cool recipe for a gluten free, no sugar muffin that sounded intriguing because it contained no flour or any weird ingredients. Sometimes with gluten free baking the recipes call for obscure flours or strange ingredients like xanthan gum. Who has that sitting around in their pantry? Not me for sure. Plus, I’m not much into baking so another reason I really like the recipe is that it was simple and I had all the ingredients. So I decided to give it a try and my family LOVED them! You can’t tell they are gluten free or sugar free, and I’m not even sure how they are actually muffins since they contain no flour, but they’re so good! I made some adjustments that work better for my family, and I think they’re easy and delicious so I’d like to share them with you now.

Here are the ingredients!

Here are the ingredients!

Easy Peasy Banana Nut “muffins”

  • 1/2¬†cup all natural almond butter
  • 1 large ripe banana
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup organic honey
  • 1/2 cup gluten free oats
  • 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 medium apple, peeled, cored and chopped
  • 1/3 cup walnuts or pecans
Sprayed- got it!

Sprayed- got it!

Preheat oven to 375 and spray a muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray.

Throw everything in there!

Throw everything in there!

Add all ingredients to a high speed blender and blend it up until batter is smooth and creamy. I had to use the tool that came with my blender to tamp all the ingredients down by opening the clear plastic part in the center of the blender lid and smushing everything down until it blended.

Now just pop them into the oven and wait to smell the amazing aromas that will begin to emanate!

Now just pop them into the oven and wait to smell the amazing aromas that will begin to emanate!

Pour the batter into the muffin tins to about 3/4 full and bake for about 15 minutes or until the tines of a fork when inserted into the muffins come out clean.

Makes 9 muffins but they don't last long at my house!

Makes 9 muffins but they don’t last long at my house!

The muffins are loaded with fiber from the oats, flaxseed, apple, banana, nuts and nut butter. They also have protein from the nuts, flaxseed,¬†and nut butter, and tons of vitamins and antioxidants from the fruit. As far as I can calculate they have approximately 120 calories per muffin. That’s a great bang for my caloric buck!

When I’m serving these muffins or any other sweet baked good for breakfast I always make sure I serve plenty of protein with it. Usually I will make scrambled eggs and bacon with these muffins. If I’m making pancakes or waffles I make fried eggs and bacon or sausage (because I like to break my fried egg yolk all over my pancakes and waffles, and eat them all together). Protein is key to give you energy for your busy day!

Anyway, there you go my friends! I hope you try them and if you do I know you’ll like them! They’ll help you live a life of vitality- like Valerie!

Healthy, Easy, Delicious Christmas “Baking”!

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Dark chocolate bark!

Dark chocolate bark!

Hi friends! I’ll admit something to you right now, I don’t really like to bake. As you know, I LOVE to cook, so it’s somewhat a conundrum that I don’t like to bake, but I don’t. I think it has something to do with the precision required to bake. I mean, you have to measure EVERYTHING because if you don’t, your cakes, cookies or breads will turn into flat, hard hockey pucks. When I cook I employ a more “free form” method, where I throw in a little of this and a little of that, depending on my mood and ingredient availability. You can’t do that with baking, which is one of the main reasons I don’t bake. Also, I don’t like to use sugar and I especially try not to eat sugar, and it seems that most baking is very sugar oriented. At Christmas time though I like to do a little baking with my girls. They like to do it and it’s a nice Christmas tradition, so I employ a method I like to call “faux baking” or “fake and bake”. It’s where I don’t actually¬†do any traditional baking, but we manage to make something tasty and somewhat healthy, and have some fun in the process.

This year we made dark chocolate bark. It’s called bark because it resembles the bark of a tree, and it can be topped with any kind of toppings you’d like- there’s that free form thing that I enjoy so much. I used 60% dark chocolate which is a chocolate that is mostly cacao, therefore, it has less sugar than milk chocolate or other forms of dark chocolate with lower amounts of cacao. I don’t like to use more than 70% cacao because it is so bitter that it does not taste good to eat in my opinion. And remember dark chocolate contains lots of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals so eating this treat is actually protecting your body. It’s a dessert that is actually good for you- you can’t say that about too many other desserts! The toppings that we chose were coconut, chopped walnuts and pecans, and dried cherries, all healthy toppings too. The sky’s the limit as far as the toppings go, you can use peppermint candies, dried fruit of any kind, peanut butter, raisins, sliced almonds, etc etc etc. Just remember that the toppings should be healthy too so that you can keep the overall dessert healthy. You get the picture. Here are my step by step instructions for making the bark, it’s so easy you’ll be shocked!

First, chop the chocolate!

First, chop the chocolate!

1. I used 4 large bars of Ghirardelli dark chocolate with 60% cacao. The next step is to get someone to chop the chocolate into smallish pieces- Danielle was my somewhat willing volunteer for this endeavor. If you don’t want to chop, just break it into hunks and put it in a medium sized mixing bowl.

Next step is to melt the chocolate!

Next step is to melt the chocolate!

2. The next thing you need to do is to get the chocolate melted. There are two ways to do this. The harder way is to “temper” the chocolate by slowly melting it over a bowl of water heated to between 110-120 degrees. This prevents the chocolate from getting those whitish spots on it that you’ve probably seen on homemade chocolate baked goods. However, since this chocolate dish is covered with toppings you won’t notice the white spots so I say melt the chocolate in the microwave. Do this on low heat for 30 seconds at a time and stir in between times until it’s totally melted. Easy peasy!

The melted chocolate is then spread onto parchment paper.

The melted chocolate is then spread onto parchment paper.

3. Take a large piece of parchment paper and spread the chocolate with a rubber spatula to about 1/2 inch of thickness on it. I put a cutting board underneath it to hold the weight of the chocolate and enable me to move the chocolate to other areas of my kitchen.

Now add the toppings!

Now add the toppings!

4. Next is the fun part, adding the toppings! As I said we used coconut, chopped pecans and walnuts, and chopped dried cherries. Just add them right on top of the melted chocolate and put the entire thing into the fridge for an hour to cool and harden.

Voila! They couldn't wait to sample the finished product! :)

Voila! They couldn’t wait to sample the finished product! ūüôā

5. The easy and fun finish to this dessert is to break up the bark into bite sized pieces and enjoy or share with friends and family. We sure had fun making this dessert- and eating it!

By the way, there is very little bark left in my house at this moment, it was consumed by my hungry college students! So that’s it, folks, an easy, healthy and delicious cheater Christmas dessert that looks like you spent hours on it. In reality, though it took probably 30 minutes from beginning to end, which left us with lots of time to spend watching one of my favorite Christmas movies, “Christmas Vacation”! Let me know if you have a “fake and bake” healthy Christmas dessert that you enjoy making. You should definitely make this one though, because eating it won’t weigh you down, and¬†it’s super speedy to make. Making this bark recipe will help you live a life of vitality- with 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!

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!

 

The best fall breakfast ever!

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Jacsy enjoying my Apple Cinnamon Pancakes last weekend!

Jacsy enjoying my Apple Cinnamon Pancakes last weekend!

Hello, wonderful readers! I have a great one for you today! This is a breakfast I’ve been making lately and it is¬†THE quintessential fall meal. It’s delicious and warm- just what you need for this time of year. It’s an easy peasy way to make apple cinnamon pancakes¬†and eating this in the morning will make your day complete!

I've included the recipe for my dear friend Chris' applesauce so you can make it if you don't already have it!

I’ve included the recipe for my dear friend Chris’ applesauce so you can make it if you don’t already have it!

Ok, I have to admit that this isn’t my healthiest recipe since it starts with a pancake mix, and this mix is not a whole grain mix, which I normally insist on. My Honey brought it home one day and while I was disapproving at first,¬†I have to admit that it makes delicious pancakes. Plus, the apple and¬†pecans¬†in it ups the fiber and nutritional content so that helps.¬†Additionally, when paired with an egg and bacon, you get your protein which is so important for energy,¬†and helps to balance¬†the empty carbs.¬†Just remember, everything in moderation, so don’t eat these every day or have 16 of them at one time and you’ll be fine! If you use a whole grain pancake mix it would be even healthier so do that and you can eat guilt free!

Main ingredients needed for Apple Cinnamon Pancakes!

Main ingredients needed for Apple Cinnamon Pancakes!

This is a quick and easy recipe that I made up a few weeks ago when I had a lot of applesauce that I had made and I wanted to use it up. So here is what you do, you start with a good pancake mix and instead of adding oil to it, I added¬†1/2 cup of my homemade applesauce and two tablespoons of apple cider. I also added 1/3 cup of chopped pecans and a teaspoon of cinnamon for additional yumminess (I don’t think that’s a word but oh well!). Then, I followed the rest of the recipe on the mix as usual.

Apple Cinnamon Pancakes sizzling in the pan! Yummm!

Apple Cinnamon Pancakes sizzling in the pan! Yummm!

As the pancakes are cooking up in the pan, I sprinkle a tad bit of cinnamon on the top of them to add a little more spice.

A plate of Applewood Smoked Bacon- AKA a plate of heaven!

A plate of Applewood Smoked Bacon- AKA a plate of heaven!

As the pancakes are cooking, I have already been frying the bacon in a separate pan so the bacon is finished approximately the same time as the pancakes. Then, I put the eggs in the same pan I just got the bacon out of and fry them in a teaspoon of butter, after draining the bacon grease. I leave the bits of bacon in there because I think it makes the eggs taste better.

I took the broken yolk egg, always the sacrificing Mom!

I took the broken yolk egg, always the sacrificing Mom!

Now here’s the best part, I take a bowl, put about a cup and a half of applesauce in it, microwave it for 1 minute or until warm but not boiling, and that becomes the topping for the pancakes. When the pancakes come out of the pan, I butter them and spread a bit of the warmed applesauce on top of them. The warm, sweet, cinnamony flavor on top of the buttery pancakes is one of the best things on earth! The delectable apples and cinnamon smell stays in your house most of the day which is an added bonus. If you don’t have homemade applesauce you can use jarred but it won’t taste as good as if you made it with your own, two hands. It’s definitely worth the time it takes! So that’s one of my favorite breakfasts lately and I promise if you try it you will absolutely love it. The applesauce and cider in the pancakes, combined with the warm applesauce on top of the pancakes takes the apple flavor to the next level in this dish. I hope you’ll try these. Let me know how you like them when you try them. They’ll make your day and help you to live a life of vitality- like Valerie!