Yet ANOTHER Source of Cancer Prevention For You!

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Wild and crazy garden!

 

Hello, friends! Happy late summer to you! We had some MUCH NEEDED rain this week, and my garden is growing like crazy with the added moisture. The herbs, tomatoes, onions and peppers are even more plentiful than they were! Another thing in my garden that is exploding right now is my tomatillo plant. I’ve never grown tomatillos before, but we found a plant when we were looking at tomatoes. I decided to get one to see what I thought about it. Now, I’m so glad I did! They are a delicious change from tomatoes, and I’ve made some great meals including them. I want to share what I’ve learned about tomatillos, and two different ways to utilize them in dishes.

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My tomatillo plant, with little tomatillos on it!

 

The tomatillo is actually not a tomato, it is a vegetable from the nightshade family, and is actually related more closely to cape gooseberries. Their scientific name is Physalis philadelphica and they are a staple in Central and South America. They have a light brown husk that will eventually break off when the tomatillo is ripe. The tomatillo has a tart flavor, rather than a sweet flavor like tomatoes.

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Tomatillos in their husks!

 

Tomatillos have high levels of dietary fiber, very few calories (approximately 11), moderate levels of vitamin C, A, K, niacin, potassium, manganese, and magnesium. They also have withanolides and flavonoids like lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta carotene.

Because tomatillos have high levels of fiber they are excellent for digestive health, as fiber can help add bulk to foods and speed their transit through the digestive tract, thereby eliminating constipation, excess gas, bloating, cramping, and even colon and gastric cancers. Fiber is also good at regulating the release of carbohydrates into the bloodstream, thereby regulating blood sugar levels, which is important for people with diabetes.

They also contain phytochemicals called withanolides, which have been directly linked to anti-cancer and antibacterial functions. Antioxidants help combat the effects of free radicals, which are the dangerous byproducts of cellular reproduction, that can kill or mutate healthy cells and turn them into cancerous cells. In addition, the vitamin A, C, and other flavonoids within tomatillos provide other cancer-protective effects, particularly lung and oral cancers.

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This is what they look like once they have been peeled!

 

The vitamin C in tomatillos is good for the immune system and collagen production, and the vitamin A and beta carotene helps with our vision and eye health. The high nutrient, low calorie and low fat in them also help with weight loss, because they help us feel full, acquire the necessary nutrients, and reduce the chances of overeating. The niacin helps us to increase energy, and the potassium is heart healthy. Did I convince you to try them?!!

I made two sauces with my tomatillos, one in which I roasted the tomatillos, and one with raw tomatillos. They’re both easy to make, but the raw tomatillos give the sauce a bright and vibrant flavor, and the roasted tomatillos make the sauce deeper and more intensely flavored. I loved them both, and I can’t decide which one I like better so I’m sharing them both with you.

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Roasted tomatillo Sauce- See the blackened bits in the sauce?! They add such a nice, smoky flavor!

 

Roasted Tomatillo Sauce

  • 10 tomatillos, peeled, rinsed and cut in half
  • 5 jalapenos, seeds and ribs removed for a milder sauce
  • 1/2 cup of chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Preheat broiler in oven. Peel tomatillos and MAKE SURE TO RINSE THEM AFTER PEELING. Tomatillos are very sticky and must be rinsed to remove the stickiness.

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Make sure you rinse them, to remove the sticky film!

 

Chop them in half and put them on a baking sheet with the chiles. Roast them 4 inches below a very hot broiler until darkly roasted, even blackened, about 5 minutes. Flip them over and roast the other side, 4-5 minutes more. They will be splotchy and blistered, and that’s perfect.

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Looks wrong, but it’s oh so right!

 

In a blender or food processor, combine the tomatillos, chiles, juice from the baking sheet, cilantro, water, onion, and salt until it’s a rough puree. Serve immediately or store it in the fridge.

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I served the sauce over a pork tenderloin I made in the crockpot. I added shredded Mexican cheese, and served with corn tortillas. It was smoky and yummy!

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To make the sauce without roasting the tomatillos, just throw all the ingredients into the blender or food processor, and blend until coarsely pureed.

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Raw tomatillo sauce, brightly colored and flavored!

 

The sauce is a brighter green when the tomatillos are left raw, and it has a more tart, mild vinegar flavor, but it’s still really, really good. I served it over ribeyes we had made, and added black beans on the side.

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That’s all there is to it! It’s a versatile sauce, whether raw or roasted, and can be used on tacos, nachos, burritos or enchiladas, on pork, chicken, beef or seafood; really any way you can think to use it. It’s delicious and healthy too, what more could you want?!! Eating tomatillo sauce is so good for you, and will help you lead a life of vitality- with Valerie! 🙂

Eat this to prevent cancer and heart disease!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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

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

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

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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:)

The Superfood You Need To Eat TODAY!

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Hello friends! As you know I always try to eat as healthily as I can. Lately though, I’ve been evaluating my diet and realizing that there are places in my healthy eating plan where I can substitute even healthier foods to get more nutritional bang for my buck. Last week I blogged about healthy cold and flu remedies, and I mentioned that I was experiencing viral symptoms myself. After I finished my post, I decided to make some chicken soup to aid in my healing. As I was thinking about chicken soup an idea popped into my mind. I thought that if there were a way to make chicken soup with QUINOA instead of rice, that would make it even healthier. I started searching around the internet and I found a recipe for a crockpot chicken and quinoa soup that sounded interesting. Since it was so close to dinner time, I didn’t want to use my crockpot so I changed the recipe to a stovetop soup,  adjusted some of the ingredients and cooking time- and voila! A delicious soup that is loaded with nutrition!

Now you may be wondering, why is quinoa so much better than rice or other grains? Excellent question, mi amigos, and now I’m going to tell you why. Quinoa is considered an ancient grain, along with farro, amaranth and barley, because they are almost exactly the same as they were hundreds or even thousands of years ago. Quinoa was even known as “the mother of all grains” to the Inca people when it was first cultivated over 5000 years ago. It usually comes in white, red, or black versions, I like to use a rainbow quinoa in my cooking. Of course, I also always use organic quinoa and try to use organic ingredients whenever possible.

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Consuming 2-3 servings of quinoa and other whole grain foods per day can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, colon cancer and obesity. Quinoa also provides a higher amount of antioxidants than other common grains used in a gluten free diet. Researchers at Columbia University’s Celiac Disease Center found that the nutritional content of gluten free diets was significantly improved by adding oats or quinoa to meals and snacks.

Whole grains like quinoa provide essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber which help to regulate the digestive system and to keep you fuller and more satisfied. In contrast, when you eat simple carbohydrates like white pastas, white rice, and white breads, they are quickly digested but offer little else in the way of nutritional value.

Quinoa is naturally gluten free and contains iron, B vitamins, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, vitamin E and fiber. It’s one of the only plant foods that is considered a complete protein and comprised of all essential amino acids. It also has a high protein to carbohydrate ratio when compared to other grain products, and it contains a healthy dose of fatty acids as well. 1/4 cup of DRY quinoa contains 160 calories, 2.5 grams of fat, 0 cholesterol and sodium, 27 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 0 sugars, and 6 grams of protein. Do you need any more convincing that quinoa is the grain for you?! I hope not! Now let’s look at the soup I made with quinoa, it will make your mouth water I promise you!

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Chicken and Quinoa Soup

  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 5 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 3/4 cups uncooked quinoa
  • 1 26 oz can diced San Marzano tomatoes
  • 6 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasonings (basil, oregano, parsley)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Parmesan Cheese

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Take a large pot, add the extra virgin olive oil, and warm over medium heat. Salt and pepper the chicken thighs on both sides and then add to the pot. Brown them 5 minutes on each side or until the pink totally disappears and remove them from the pot. Put them on a plate to cool a little.

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Add the carrots, onions and celery to the pot and sauté them for 3 minutes until softened. Take the minced garlic, combine it with the vegetables and stir it for a minute.

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Cut the now cooled chicken into decent sized chunks and add it back into the pot with the vegetables.

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Mix in the rest of the ingredients including the quinoa except for the parmesan cheese, and simmer for 30-45 minutes or until the quinoa is soft. As the quinoa cooks it will absorb more liquid so if want a more liquidy soup make sure to take it off the heat as soon as the quinoa is soft. You can also add more chicken broth, but I didn’t need to do that.

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Grate some fresh parmesan cheese onto the top of the soup and you’re ready to eat! It’s full of healthy chicken, vegetables, and quinoa, and it’s super delicious too. It’s also very easy to make with not too many ingredients. So make sure you eat more quinoa, and replace your simple carbs with complex carbs whenever possible. Eating like this will help you live a life of vitality- with Valerie!

One of my fave healthy dishes!

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Hello friends!! Summer is busting out all over, at least in my garden and at my local farmer’s market. I have so many peppers and tomatoes I almost cannot keep up with picking everything. My herbs are exploding too, especially my basil. One of my basil plants is over three feet tall! 

  
So I’m trying to think of as many recipes as I can to utilize all of my gorgeous veggies (I know tomatoes cucumbers, peppers and avocados among others are members of the fruit family, but since I use them like vegetables, for the purposes of this post I am considering them veggies) and herbs. Inspiration always comes from the mouths of (my) babes for me. Jacqueline has mentioned gazpacho a few times this summer, and I thought that it would be a good idea to make it again. I haven’t made it in years, so as usual I turn to my handy dandy Vitamix blender to help me out in this endeavor. 

  
 The reason I like gazpacho, salsa and other tomatoey foods is because they taste SO GOOD. Additionally though, tomatoes are SO GOOD for you too. They are on the top of any list of super foods, have cancer fighting properties and are full of caratenoids- alpha and beta carotene, lutein and lycopene. Lycopene has the highest antioxidant activity of all the carotenoids and tomatoes are LOADED with them. Tomatoes also contain three high powered antioxidants- beta carotene (works as vitamin A in the body), vitamin E and vitamin C. Most of us only get half the vitamin A we need, and a third don’t get enough vitamin C. Tomatoes also have loads of potassium (a cup of tomato juice has 534 mg and 1/2 cup of tomato sauce has 454 mg). They are part of the famed Mediterranean diet which leads to lower death rates from heart disease and cancer. A cool fact is that when tomatoes are eaten together with healthy fats like avocado and olive oil, the body’s asorption of phytochemicals increases by 2-15 times. I love that because I’m usually combining tomatoes with one or both of those healthy fats. 

  
I love gazpacho in the summer, or anytime of the year actually I just really love it. It’s full of delicious flavor and it’s super healthy for you. Not just the tomatoes, but it contains lots of other veggies and heart healthy extra virgin olive oil too. It’s also really easy and it’s very low in calories. 12 ounces of gazpacho contains 106 calories, 637 mg of potassium, 3.3 g of fiber, 4 g of protein, 28% of your RDA for vitamin A and 81% of vitamin C. Very healthy, right?!!  My recipe is super easy and tastes so delicious that I can’t wait to share it with you now.

  
Valerie’s Gazpacho

  • 5 large tomatoes 
  • 1 large cucumber
  • 1/2 large onion
  • 1 medium bell pepper
  • 2 jalapeños
  • 1/3 cup cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons EVOO
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder(I used Aleppo pepper which is a moderately heated, fruity spice used in Mediterranean foods)

Here’s the easy part. First rough chop all the vegetables and put them in the blender, then add the rest of the ingredients. Start with the blender on low and slowly turn it up to medium. Blend on medium for 30 seconds. And that’s it!

  
I garnish the gazpacho with chopped cucumbers, cilantro, and thin slices of avocado for Jacqueline. 

  
In addition, I added 3 crumbled up tortilla chips to mine because I like the crunch. Salt and pepper to taste of course. 

  
I promise you this is easy and delicious. It is so refreshing and surprisingly filling. Don’t forget that it’s very good for you too! Try it, you’ll like it! It will help you live a life of vitality- with Valerie! 🙂

Four Reasons I’m Zealous about Zucchini!

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Gorgeous, grilled zucchini!

Gorgeous, grilled zucchini!

My new love these days is zucchini. It’s a vegetable I haven’t been all that excited about in the past, but lately it’s been calling my name! I’ve been cooking with it and trying new recipes for my family. Now we are all loving zucchini. My favorite new zucchini dish that I’m sharing with you today is a recipe for lasagna made with zucchini instead of pasta noodles. The advantage is that with the zucchini replacing pasta, there are much fewer carbs in this dish. Remember that carbs turn into sugar in your body and cause weight gain and other illnesses like cancer, heart disease and a whole host of other awful things. Also, replacing the super carby pasta with a cool vegetable like zucchini means gaining lots of nutritional advantages which I will highlight for you next. Last, I will share my zucchini lasagna recipe with you.

1. Nutrition– Zucchini and all summer squash is 95% water, which is naturally low in calories (33 for a medium zucchini), a gram of protein and less than a gram of fat. It has 6 grams of carbohydrates but two of them are fiber, this makes it a low glycemic food which will not spike blood sugar, but will instead provide a steady source of glucose to your system.

2. Vitamins– Zucchini is a great source of two antioxidant vitamins which help boost immunity and supports healthy aging, 35 milligrams of vitamin C (between 39-46% RDA for adults) and 392 IU of vitamin A (13-27%).

3. Potassium– One of the main electrolytes in your body needed in proper balance (2 to 1) with sodium . The typical American diet tends to be very high in sodium which throws the balance off and leads to high blood pressure. A medium zucchini has 512 mg of potassium, or 11% of your daily needs.

4. Very versatile vegetable– Raw zucchini gives an extra crunch to salads, It can be cut into strips or rounds for dipping in hummus. It’s great in stir fries and soups. Also, who doesn’t love zucchini bread or muffins? I definitely do! In about a month, they will be abundant in backyard gardens, so you’ll have plenty of this veggie to work with soon.

Delicious, nutritious zucchini lasagna!

Delicious, nutritious zucchini lasagna!

Zucchini Lasagna

  • 1 LB ground beef
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped
  • 3 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tbs chopped fresh basil
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 medium zucchini
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 large egg
  • 4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
Slice and salt your zucchini first!

Slice and salt your zucchini first!

The first thing you want to do is thinly slice your zucchini lengthwise with a mandolin. If you don’t have a mandolin (I don’t) slice it as best as you can. Lightly salt the zucchini and set aside for 15 minutes to get as much of the water out of it as you can. Then blot with paper towels.

Brown your ground beef!

Brown your ground beef!

In a large pot, sauté the onions and garlic in the olive oil, and then add the ground beef and brown. Add the tomatoes, basil, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and pepper to taste. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally for 25 minutes.

Gotta grate the cheese, please!

Gotta grate the cheese, please!

In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, Parmesan, mozzarella and egg.

Grill the zucchini and start the layering of the lasagna!

Grill the zucchini and start the layering of the lasagna!

Now, preheat the oven to 375 degrees, spray your baking dish with nonstick cooking spray, grill the zucchini for 2 minutes each side to make it less soft, and start layering the lasagna. Spread 1/3 of the meat sauce, 1/3 of the zucchini, and 1/3 of the cheese mixture. Then, 1/3 zucchini, 1/3 cheese, 1/3 meat sauce and repeat one more time until the pan is full. Cover with foil.

Ready for the oven!

Ready for the oven!

Bake for 30 minutes, then remove the foil, and bake 20 more minutes uncovered. Add some more grated parmesan to the top and bake for 10 more minutes. Let stand 5-10 minutes and serve.

Beautiful piece of lasagna!

Beautiful piece of lasagna!

Ladies and gentlemen, let me tell you that it was DELICIOUS! in fact, my family ate it in 1 sitting! They kept going back at it like savages until it was gone. According to my calculations one slice is 300 calories, compared to 400 calories for a slice of regular lasagna. And the health benefits are by far greater than the caloric savings as I mentioned above. It’s a win-win, my friends! Try it and let me know how you like it! Eating foods like this will help you live a life of vitality- with Valerie!

Cauliflower Pizza Crust- REALLY?!!

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The finished cauliflower crust pizza. Read on to see my opinions on it!

The finished cauliflower crust pizza. Read on to see my opinions on it!

Ok, so I’ve been reading a few different recipes for a pizza crust made from CAULIFLOWER instead of flour. What, what? It seemed strange, but I’ll admit I was intrigued. After all, not only do my children both have gluten allergies which necessitates substituting for flour/wheat, but I try not to eat gluten or most carbs either because carbs are what cause weight gain and lead to many diseases/illnesses. In addition, cauliflower is a very, very good for you vegetable which also interested me in the idea of a cauliflower crust. In fact, I love cauliflower and appreciate it’s advantages so much that I’m going to spend a paragraph talking to you about how super duper it is!

Crunchy, delicious, healthy cauliflower!

Crunchy, delicious, healthy cauliflower!

Cauliflower is a cruciferous vegetable that contains many vitamins and minerals that help us lead a healthy life. It contains sulforaphane, which is a sulfur compound that slows tumor growth in cancer stem cells. Also, that same sulforaphane helps improve blood pressure and kidney function. Cauliflower contains anti-inflammatory nutrients like indole-3-carbinol or I3C, which helps prevent inflammatory responses on a cellular level. In addition, one serving of cauliflower contains 77% of your RDA for vitamin C, which I wrote about in my past post, “Beyond the Orange, Better Sources of C”. It’s also an excellent source of vitamin K, protein, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, magnesium, phosphorus, fiber, vitamin B6, folate, pantothenic acid, potassium, and manganese. It’s an important source of fiber, which aids in digestion, and it’s full of antioxidants and phytonutrients which protect cells against attack by reactive oxygen species (ROS). Cauliflower is truly a super food!

So, with all that in mind and after looking at multiple recipes I decided to try one to see whether a cauliflower pizza crust could: 1. Taste delicious,  2. taste similar to a regular pizza crust, and 3. Be easily prepared with few ingredients. I chose Katie Lee’s recipe from http://www.foodnetwork.com because it seemed the most straight forward in terms of preparation and ingredients.

I have to say that I really liked it! It met my three criteria above and my family also liked it a lot. They said that you can taste the cauliflower in the crust, however the flavor is not totally in your face but more subtle, especially with the pizza toppings added.  I think even non-cauliflower fans would like it, and you can eat your pizza mostly guilt free because you are taking away bad carbs and adding in vitamins and fiber- that’s a win-win! I’ll share the recipe and my tips now. Try it and I’m sure you’ll like it!

Ingredients for cauliflower pizza crust!

Ingredients for cauliflower pizza crust!

Cauliflower Pizza Crust

  • One head cauliflower, stalk removed
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Break the cauliflower into florets and either chop them finely, pulse in food processor, or grind them up in your blender, a few at a time (that’s what I did).

Cauliflower in steamer basket on stove.

Cauliflower in steamer basket on stove.

Then, steam them in a steamer basket until they’re tender and drain WELL. I suggest preparing the cauliflower a good hour before serving it so it really has time to drain. If it’s well drained the crust will get crispy like a thin pizza crust. Or wring the cauliflower in a towel if you don’t have that much time; anything to get out all the water.

All ingredients combined and ready for the baking pan!

All ingredients combined and ready for the baking pan!

In a bowl, add the mozzarella, Parmesan, oregano, salt, garlic powder and eggs to the cauliflower.

Next, the oven!

Next, the oven!

Now, transfer the mixture to your baking pan and spread it into a circle, resembling a pizza crust. Make sure to spread it evenly so it will cook evenly.

Done and out of the oven it goes- ready for toppings!

Done and out of the oven it goes- ready for toppings!

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until it’s browned on the edges, and the center is firm. Last, add your toppings and bake for an additional 10 minutes. And voila, it’s done!

My mouth is watering just thinking about this pizza!

My mouth is watering just thinking about this pizza!

The toppings I added were mushrooms, pepperoni, Italian sausage, crushed tomatoes, 1/2 cup mozzarella, oregano and a little more garlic powder, but you can add whatever toppings you like. The best part is that this pizza crust weighs in at about 60 calories per slice (not including toppings) instead of 285 calories per slice of a 14 inch regular crust. That’s pretty incredible! And then when you add in the nutrient value, it’s a homerun, my friends! I guarantee you will like it, and best of all you won’t feel like you’re eating a “diet” food. I’m definitely not into deprivation, and you won’t feel deprived with this pizza. Let me know if you try it, and how you like it. Eating foods like this will help you live a life of vitality- with Valerie!

SHAKE Your Way to a Life without Sugar!

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Angels anxiously awaiting their shake!

Angels anxiously awaiting their shake!

Did you eat sugary desserts during the holidays? I know I ate more of those kinds of foods than I usually do. Christmas cookies are delicious, especially when homemade by a talented baker, and it’s really hard to resist them, isn’t it?

But, the downside to this is that sugar is just not good for you, in fact, sugar is considered more toxic for your health than smoking! Besides the weight gain issue, the reality is that sugar is considered to be the number one culprit in causing cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and other deadly diseases. See my previous blog post, “Sugar- the new cigarette?!” , for more details about the dangers of consuming sugar. The problem is that sugar isn’t just in baked goods and sweets, sugar is in ALMOST EVERY PROCESSED FOOD we eat, so even though we as a nation are using less sugar from the sugar bowl, we are consuming more sugar through processed foods than ever before.

True!

True!

So what is the solution to this problem and how do we eliminate sugar from our diets? I believe the answer is to avoid as much processed food as possible by cooking almost every day, and then utilizing the leftovers on the days I don’t cook. Also, choosing organic and local foods whenever possible for the freshest meats, fruits, and vegetables helps create food with lots of flavor so I don’t have to used processed items to enhance the taste of my dishes. Another solution is to patronize restaurants that serve local, fresh and in house made food items, which ensures that the food you’re eating when going out for dinner doesn’t contain sugar.

I recently attended a conference and heard a speaker named JJ Virgin who was talking about the dangers of consuming sugar and how prevalent sugar is in many foods we eat. I really liked her as a speaker and felt her message mirrored many things I’ve posted about in my blog. She had a recipe for a shake she called “Sugar Impact Shake” that I have used as a model for my shake recipe, with a few modifications. I’ve been making this shake and I really like it, both as a healthy meal replacement, and as a way to detox from all the sugar. The shake contains no sugar or fruit, but it tastes really good. Here’s the recipe!

Sugar free Protein Shake

1. Start with 1 cup of almond, coconut or cashew milk, and pour it into your blender.

1. Start with 1 cup of almond, coconut or cashew milk, and pour it into your blender.

2. Add one scoop of high quality protein supplement. Mine is from Guyer Institute and contains many vitamins and minerals in addition to the 10 grams of protein per scoop.

2. Add one scoop of high quality protein supplement. Mine is from Guyer Institute and contains many vitamins and minerals in addition to the 10 grams of protein per scoop.

3. Add one tablespoon of coconut oil.

3. Add one tablespoon of coconut oil.

4. 1-2 tablespoons of NATURAL ground flax, chia, hemp or nut butter (not peanut). I used freshly ground almond butter.

4. 1-2 tablespoons of NATURAL ground flax, chia, hemp or nut butter (not peanut). I used freshly ground almond butter.

5. Add 1 teaspoon of a good quality probiotic. This one is from Guyer Institute and contains 600 billion healthy bacteria per serving.

5. Add 1/2 teaspoon of a good quality probiotic. This one is from Guyer Institute and contains 600 billion healthy bacteria per serving.

6. Add as much ice as you'd like and blend until smooth. Then pour and drink!

6. Add as much ice as you’d like and blend until smooth. Then pour and drink!

This shake tastes so nutty and fresh with the almond butter/milk, and coconut oil. I like a lot of ice so it’s super cold too because I think it’s even better that way. I don’t miss the sugar in this shake and I don’t think you will either. I drink it as a meal substitute and it’s very satisfying as such. It has only 405 CALORIES PER SHAKE TOO!! It also contains healthy fats from the almond butter and coconut oil, fiber from the almond butter, 17 grams of protein from the almond butter and protein powder, 180 mg protassium and 10% RDA for calcium from the almond milk, additional calcium, iron and vitamins from the Guyer Institute protein powder, and 600 billion friendly bacteria from the Guyer Institute Ecobiotics. Try this no sugar shake to help detoxify from all the sugar in your life, and try to avoid processed food as much as possible. Avoiding sugar and drinking this shake will help you live a life of vitality- with Valerie!

 

A Healthy Start for the New Year! Drink Matcha Green Tea!

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Me and my Matcha green tea!

Me and my Matcha green tea! Drinking it as I write!

Hello Friends! I hope you had a wonderful Christmas! I did and I’m really revving up for a healthful and fabulous 2015! One of the ways I’m doing that is by drinking Matcha green tea. Now, I’ve always known that green tea is good for me, though I’ve never really been a tea drinker (see my previous post “HEALTHY coffee is my favorite way to start the day!”), as coffee has always been my morning drink of choice. Lately, I’ve been doing some research on green tea, Matcha specifically, and I was intrigued enough to try it. I have become a believer about the health benefits of Matcha green tea and I’d like to share my findings with you today.

Matcha green tea is an important part of the Japanese tea ceremony.

Matcha green tea is an important part of the Japanese tea ceremony.

Here’s the thing, all tea (white, green, oolong, black, and pu-erh) comes from the same plant, camellia sinensis, which is a woody shrub native to southern China that is generally kept plucked to its picking height of 3-4 feet.  Now, Matcha is a high quality green tea that is covered before picking to accentuate the color, and then stone ground after being picked and before being sealed into small tins. In Japan, Matcha tea is a very important part of the tea ceremony. It has a somewhat grassy taste, but the type I drink enhances the green tea taste with other flavors like blood orange and peach. It’s definitely important to make sure you purchase high quality Matcha tea, as with all varieties, to ensure you are receiving the maximum benefits.

Isn't Matcha a beautiful color?! Full of antioxidants too!

Isn’t Matcha a beautiful color?! Full of antioxidants too!

Matcha green tea is powdered which makes it easier to prepare. You just add hot water if you want to drink it warm, or cold water if you want it as a cold beverage, stir and you’re done! No steeping of tea leaves involved with Matcha tea. Next, I will discuss the health benefits of drinking it, and then I’ll let you know the type I’m currently drinking.

greentea2

1. Matcha tea is high in antioxidants– Remember that antioxidants are the nutrients and enzymes responsible for fighting against the negative effects of UV radiation, giving us younger looking skin, and fighting off a number of life-threatening illnesses. We know that fruits, vegetables, red wine, and chocolate have antioxidants, but Matcha green tea has FIVE TIMES THE ANTIOXIDANTS AS ANY OTHER FOOD IN JUST ONE SERVING! That makes it worth it for me to drink it!

2. Tons of Catechin, EGCg– Green tea has a specific set of organic compounds called catechins. Catechins are among the most potent and beneficial antioxidants out there. One specific catechin, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCg), makes up 60% of the catechins in Matcha green tea. Out of all antioxidants EGCg is the one most widely recognized for its cancer fighting properties. Matcha contains over 100 times more EGCg than any other tea on the market.

3. Enhances calm but increases energy (What the what?!!)- Here’s how that works, the amino acid L-Theanine in Matcha tea leaves promotes the production of alpha waves in the brain which induces relaxation without the drowsiness caused by other “calming products” out there. It also contains a combination of nutrients that gives increased endurance and more energy which can last UP TO SIX HOURS. It doesn’t have the usual side effects of stimulants, like nervousness and hypertension. Samurai warriors drank Matcha green tea before going into battle because of the tea’s energizing properties, and Zen Buddhist monks and Chinese Daoists drank it as a way to relax and meditate while remaining alert. So it calms you, AND give you energy- naturally! That’s a win win!

4. Boosts memory and concentration– Another side effect of L-Theanine is that it produces dopamine and serotonin which enhance mood, promote better concentration, and improve memory. I need that so that’s yet another benefit for me!

5. Burns calories and detoxifies the body, yet is very low in calories– Drinking Matcha green tea has been shown to increase metabolism and help the body burn fat about four times faster than average, but unlike diet aids on the market does not have any negative side effects like increased heart rate and high blood pressure. Yay for me! Also, the Matcha leaves are covered to deprive them of sunlight during the last three weeks before tea leaves are harvested, which causes a huge increase in chlorophyll production. This not only gives the tea its vibrant green color, but it is also a powerful detoxifier capable of naturally removing heavy metals and chemical toxins from the body. It is very low in calories too. The Matcha I drink has 20 calories per packet and it makes 12-16 ounces of liquid. That’s amazing!

6. Fortifies the immune system and improves cholesterol– The catechins in Matcha tea have been shown to have antibiotic properties, which promotes overall health. Also, one serving provides substantial quantities of Potassium, Vitamins A and C, Iron, Protein, and Calcium. In addition, the nutrients in Matcha may have the ability to inhibit the attacks of HIV on human T-cells. Another cool thing is that people who drink Matcha on a regular basis have lower levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol and higher levels of HDL (good). Men in particular who drink Matcha tea are 11% less likely to develop heart disease than those who don’t drink it.

The Matcha green tea I am drinking- and I highly recommend it!

The Matcha green tea I am drinking- and I highly recommend it!

I am drinking Jade Monk Matcha green tea powder in the cranberry blood orange flavor right this instant and I’m loving it! It doesn’t have the bitter flavor that some teas do, and I don’t have to add any milk, or lemon, or sweeteners like sugar or honey to make it taste delicious. I’m drinking it cold right now, but I prefer it warm. And remember it’s low in calories- one packet contains 20 calories. It’s super easy to make too. If you prefer to drink it warm what I do is use a measuring cup and put 14 ounces of filtered drinking water into it, throw it into the microwave for three minutes and then add it to a drinking glass, pour in the packet, stir and drink. If you’d like it cold, you can add cold filtered water to a drinking glass, pour the packet in, and stir. It’s also really convenient if you’re running out the door to put a water bottle into the fridge to get it cold, pour the packet in, shake and you’re done!

Matcha's benefits in a nutshell!

Matcha’s benefits in a nutshell!

So that’s why I’m loving Matcha green tea right now. The health benefits are numerous, AND NATURAL! I can’t think of any negatives either, which is rare for any product on the market. I purchased the Jade Monk Matcha tea from Whole Foods, but you can purchase it online too. Try it, you’ll like it! It will help you lead a life of vitality- with Valerie!

 

Walking in a Winter Wonderland? How to Protect and Hydrate in the Cold!

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Stay warm and hydrated this winter!

Stay warm and hydrated this winter!

It’s cold out for many of us right now! Even if it’s not cold where you live, it’s probably still colder than it usually is. Therefore, you have the heat on in your house, you’ve got the fireplace going for warmth and atmosphere, or you’re going outside in the cold to enjoy outdoor activities and just walking to your car from work, a restaurant, the mall, etc. Did you know you can become just as dehydrated from the cold in the winter as you can from the heat in the summer? It’s true, we just aren’t as aware of our sweating when we are cold. Your skin and lips can become dried and chapped from the cold and wind too. I’ve got some healthy remedies to protect your body from the cold and I’d like to share them with you right now!

Simple, easy and inexpensive!

Simple, easy and inexpensive!

1. Carmex- Boy, I hate chapped lips, don’t you?! Carmex is my favorite remedy for healing chapped lips and preventing them as well. I’ve tried other lip balms but I feel Carmex coats and protects my lips the best. I prefer the Carmex in the little jar to the one in the tube because it’s thicker and coats better. Before bed, I coat my lips with Carmex, especially in the winter because I hate awakening with that chappy lip feeling. My niece, Alison, loves Carmex so much that not only does she receive cases of it for gifts, but she also dressed up as a tube of Carmex for Halloween one year. I guess it runs in the family as I’ve been using it since I was in middle school!

Ali the tube of Carmex! :)

Ali the tube of Carmex! 🙂

LOL! If you have another lip balm that works for you go for it! Make sure, however, that you coat your lips not only at night but whenever you’re going outside for a walk, ice skating, skiing, or any activity that will take you outdoors for a long period of time on a cold or windy day.

My favorite lotion, it Kisses my Face with moisture!

My favorite lotion, it Kisses my Face with moisture!

2. Kiss My Face-  Lotion is another one of my secret winter weapons, and I particularly like “Kiss My Face” lotion, both because of the silkiness of it and the smell. I use it all over my body, not just on my face though, does that break the rules?!! The coconut scent smells like heaven to me! My hands and face get particularly dry in the winter so the one thing that I do is to coat my hands with lotion before putting on my gloves to go outside. That way it helps the lotion to absorb better instead of evaporating in the wind. I also coat my hands before putting on my kitchen gloves. The warm water outside the gloves really helps the lotion to absorb into my hands. They feel so soft when I remove the gloves, and it really makes doing the dishes a bit more enjoyable! Before bed, I once again coat my hands with lotion, and I do my face at that time too. It seems like a lot but it’s worth it not to have chapped hands and a chapped face!

Alkaline water is a great way to hydrate in the winter!

Alkaline water is a great way to hydrate in the winter!

3. Alkaline water- Any filtered water is great for you at any time of year, however I have been enjoying the benefits of alkaline water lately. It contains more minerals like calcium, magnesium, potassium, and sodium, and it helps digest acidic food more easily. Also, since it contains 5-6 water molecules per cluster it penetrates our tissues more easily and hydrates 3 times more efficiently than normal, filtered water. In addition, it eliminates free radicals that can cause cancer, and because it has a PH of 8.5-9.5 it maintains the body in a healthy (ie, non acidic) state. It’s like water on steroids! It is important to stay hydrated. I read a study that said 80% of our feelings of hunger are really related to  THIRST instead. Water plumps up the skin and makes it glow as well so make sure to drink your water!

Love me some leave in conditioner!

Love me some leave in conditioner!

4. Leave in conditioner- Leave in conditioner is my best friend during the winter when my hair is so dry. I use it after I wash and condition my hair in the shower, but before I use my styling products. It coats my hair and moisturizes so I don’t get flyaways. Static cling in the hair is just no fun so I always make sure I use it. It’s one of my favorite winter remedies!

Don't forget your healthy fats!

Don’t forget your healthy fats!

5. Healthy Fats- It sounds strange but to keep your body properly moisturized in the winter it is important to get your healthy fats. Organic Fish, extra virgin olive oil, avocados, nuts, butter, lard, etc, all help to bring moisture to the body, and help battle against the dryness of winter. It really does work!

There you have it- my tips for keeping moisturized in the winter. It’s a challenge in Indiana where I live, especially with all of the wind, snow and ice we usually experience. That’s why I make sure to use my Carmex, lotion, leave in conditioner, and to drink my alkaline water and eat my healthy fats. I get a lot of positive comments on my skin so these remedies seem to work. Let me know what your winter remedies are, and how you like the ones I’ve presented to you here today. These remedies will help you live a life of vitality- with Valerie! 🙂

 

 

A Healthy way to Drink in the New Year!

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A good glass of wine makes everything fine- Thanksgiving 2013!

A good glass of wine makes everything fine- Thanksgiving 2013!

So the holidays are upon us, aren’t they? 9 more days until Christmas and a little over two weeks from the big drinking holiday, New Year’s Eve. Pretty much every adult I know over 21 will ring in the new year with a cocktail or two. Being an advocate for healthy living, I wanted to let you know what I feel are the five healthiest alcoholic beverages to drink, not just on New Year’s Eve, but any time of the year. Now, healthy to me means that not only is the cocktail low in calories, but it also has positive health benefits, and it tastes good too. That’s why you won’t see VODKA TONIC on my list. Yes, it is low in calories, but other than that it basically has no nutritional value and no flavor. Hence it is not a healthy cocktail in my book.

Here’s the thing though, QUALITY IS BETTER THAN QUANTITY when it comes to the healthiness of an alcoholic beverage. No cocktail is healthy if you have more than 2 of them, and if you get to four or more than it becomes toxic to your body. So my advice to you is, BE A MODERATE DRINKER. That’s the best thing you can do for your health. With that in mind, I will share my healthy cocktail list with you.

Number one healthiest alcoholic drink and my personal favorite- WINE!

Number one healthiest alcoholic drink and my personal favorite- WINE!

1. Red or White Wine- This one is one of the healthiest and my favorite so I’m going to call it the number one on the healthiest cocktail scale. First, it contains 5% of your daily nutritional requirements for iron, 9% potassium, 5% magnesium, and antioxidants like flavonoids and nonflavanoids. Resveratrol, which is a nonflavanoid, reduces blood clots and lowers bad cholesterol. Calories range from 110-130 per glass so it’s not a highly caloric option. Taste wise you have many options in flavor. Whether you like dry or sweet, red or white, you can find a flavor that pleases your palate.

Michelada- a recently tasted cocktail and a good one too!

Michelada- a recently tasted cocktail and a good one too!

2. Michelada- I recently tried one of these cocktails at a delicious Mexican restaurant near my daughters’ university and I loved it. It’s a much more interesting and flavorful twist on a Bloody Mary (which is also a healthy cocktail option for you!). It’s spicy, salty, and so refreshing! The ingredients are beer, limes, Worcestershire sauce, Valentina hot sauce, black pepper, sea salt, and ice. Now, beer is not the healthiest ingredient in a cocktail (beer= carbs), but if a light beer is used it’s not too bad since most come in at under 100 calories. The Michelada I had was made with Modelo Especial which though it isn’t a light beer is really delicious, and I only had one cocktail. I don’t even like beer but I really liked this alcoholic beverage. It also contains lime juice which has tons of vitamin C. Vitamin C helps your immune system and neutralizes free radicals that damage our tissues. The hot sauce in this cocktail is made from chili peppers, which contain capsaicin (helps in fighting certain cancers). Chilis are used to aid digestion, reduce appetite, and increase metabolism. The sea salt in the drink helps replenish electrolytes, and the Worcestershire sauce has vitamin B6 (builds red blood cells and maintains nervous system function) in it from the molasses, garlic, cloves and chili pepper extract contained within the sauce. It also has antioxidants, vitamin C, vitamin K (protects against hemorrhaging and bone loss), and niacin, which aids in digestion. Try it, you’ll like it!

Manhattan- not the city but the cocktail!

Manhattan- not the city but the cocktail!

3. Manhattan- I’m not much of a mixed drink girl, but I know many of you are out there so in honor of all of you mixed drink fans, I’ve included the Manhattan as one of the best tasting and healthiest mixed cocktails. The ingredients are bourbon, sweet vermouth and Angostura Bitters. Bourbon is flavorful and only 97-110 calories per 1.5 ounces, vermouth is a wine fortified with herbs and contains 45 calories per ounce, and bitters are alleged to have restorative properties and are used to calm an upset stomach. It’s strong so only one cocktail will be plenty in this case. If you like a mixed drink, this is the one for you!

Mmmm Mimosa!

Mmmm Mimosa!

4. Mimosa/Bellini- Mimosas are champagne and orange juice, and Bellinis are champagne and peach juice. Now these are not particularly low cal drinks because of the juices, but they are delicious and satisfying, therefore one cocktail will be plenty. I had a cocktail while in Las Vegas that contained an Italian champagne called Prosecco, berry puree, and lemon juice that was delicious and so pretty. it was called Berry Prosecco Fizz so I’m including that drink in this category too. All of these drinks contain champagne, which is sweet and slightly caloric at 90-110 calories per glass, but champagne is a wine so it contains a ton of antioxidants. Orange juice and peach juice contain many vitamins and minerals that are great for you. One tip I got was to make the Mimosa with grapefruit juice instead of orange, because grapefruits have more fat burning properties than oranges do. Sounds delish to me!

Guiness is a healthy beer!

Guiness is a healthy beer!

5. Guinness- I’m not much of a beer fan as I said above, but I know many beer fans, so folks this one’s for you! Guinness is low in calories despite how thick it is, 128 calories for 12 ounces. Also, Guinness is made from more whole grains than most regular beers so it’s full of nutrients. Guinness is shown to have similar antioxidant properties to red wine, and a University of Wisconsin study showed that drinking it helps reduce blood clots and heart problems. Good deal!

Some others healthy alcoholic beverages that could’ve made my list are Sangria (wine and fruit), Bloody Mary (vodka, tomato juice, horseradish, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, celery, salt, pepper), and bourbon/whiskey and soda, all healthy drink choices. Remember though, that moderation is the way to go here, and please don’t excessively drink on New Year’s Eve or at any time. 2 drinks or less is the way to go, and the drinks that are on my list are so flavorful that you don’t need to drink a lot to get a delicious flavor and be satisfied. Enjoy your holidays with a healthy drink or two at the most. It will help you live a life of vitality- with Valerie! 🙂