EVERYONE should know how to make this- and it’s so easy!¬†

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Hello friends! Well life is so busy lately getting settled in the new house and doing some minor renovations, mostly redecorating really. It’s fun to “feather the nest” of our forever home, but the process can be exhausting! 

This week we are having the interior of the house painted because it was really white inside, which is not my preference, so we are warming it up with a grey/beige palette. Everything is all over the place right now, it’s almost like when we first moved in. It’s going to look great though. I’ll share pictures when it’s completed.

 Anyway, before the painting started and I couldn’t use my kitchen I wanted to roast a whole chicken. I love to do this because it reminds me of Thanksgiving, even though it’s a chicken not a turkey. The house smells the same and it’s a lot quicker and easier to do! I believe that everyone should know how to roast a chicken because it’s an elegant dish to make for company or for a family dinner. If you want to impress a boyfriend or girlfriend, this is the meal to prepare because it looks like you spent hours on it and it’s really just so simple! I’m going to show you exactly what to do so keep on reading and I’ll prove it to you. 

Instead of my usual recipe form I’m going to walk you through this step by step so I’ll be right next to you throughout the journey. 

Here’s what you need to buy or gather- one chicken 5ish pounds, one onion, one lemon, 2 stalks of celery, 2 cloves of garlic, 4 medium potatoes, 2 stalks of fresh thyme or rosemary, one tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. For the gravy, 2 cups low sodium chicken broth and 1 tablespoon of rice flour. 

  
First you preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Prepare the chicken by rinsing and patting it dry with paper towels. 

  
Take the lemon, cut it in half, the two cloves of garlic whole, and the two sprigs of rosemary or thyme and stuff them into the cavity of the chicken, making sure to take the giblets out of it first. 

  
Cut up the potatoes, onion and celery and lay them in a baking pan. Put the stuffed chicken on top of the vegetables, and pour the olive oil on top of the chicken, and add salt and pepper to taste. 

  
Place the chicken in the 425 degree oven and bake for 1 1/2 hours. When it’s done, take it out of the oven and remove it and the vegetables from the pan and onto a serving platter. 

  
Pour the pan drippings into a pot on the stove and add the rice flour to it and stir until combined. 

  
Then add the chicken broth and cook the gravy over medium heat for about 10 minutes or until thickened and bubbly. 

  
That’s all you do! Just carve the chicken, pour some gravy over the meat and vegetables and eat all you want of this delicious meal! It’s healthy too because the chicken is full of lean protein, and the vegetables are full of fiber and both are chock full of vitamins! Oh, and because I used rice flour the gravy is GLUTEN FREE too- yay! Simple, elegant AND healthy! Can’t beat that! So that’s my recipe that EVERYONE should be able to make. Making and eating meals like this will help you 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. 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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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!).

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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! 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!

Tasty, terrific turkey day part 1! How to eat healthy on Thanksgiving.

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Most of my clan at Thanksgiving last year!

Most of my clan at Thanksgiving last year!

Wow that time is already here, isn’t it? Now I don’t know about you but in the past I’ve had¬†a difficult time sticking to my healthy eating plan on Thanksgiving. It’s so easy to eat a lot and all the wrong things too. It’s like carb fest day! I’ll tell ya what I’m going to do!¬†The goal of this post is¬†to give you my¬†healthy eating tips and recipes so that you can eat and enjoy, but not gain 5 pounds in the process. Stick with me, and I’ll get you through it!

1. Be miserly with the unhealthy stuff- That includes stuffing, mashed potatoes, casseroley type dishes, creamy dishes, desserts, etc. Make sure you eat these types of dishes very sparingly, but do have a taste of¬†the ones you like¬†because I don’t believe in deprivation.

2. Eat lots of vegetables- Unless the vegetables are covered in cream, make your plate mostly veggies and you’ll¬†be¬†full and satisfied, because they have lots of fiber. I have¬†a great recipe for Brussels sprouts that even a veggie hater will love. I will include that in part 2 coming later this week.

3. Watch the salt- I’m a big believer in salt so some of you who know me may be shocked to hear me say this, but here’s why. Salt helps to retain water and makes you feel bloated. Some of the dishes you’re eating may already have a lot of salt added, so skip the salt shaker at Thanksgiving¬†and you won’t bloat up that night or the next day.

4. Bring your own dessert- If you’re going somewhere for Thanksgiving bring a fruit based dessert like a cobbler or a crisp because they’re lower calorie than something like pecan pie. I will show you a healthy way to make berry cobbler in part 2 of my post.

5. Take a walk or do something exerting after your meal- Even a ten minute walk will help you work off some of your meal and aid in digesting your food faster. Take your dog with you because dogs tend to get overwhelmed with all the guests, and said guests might have slipped them a bit of turkey too!

Ok, but what if you’re the one hosting the meal? That’s kind of awesome because you can control what you serve and which ingredients you use, thus ensuring you’ll be eating healthy food. I’m going to show you how to make¬†my really easy, delicious and healthy turkey and gravy today. Later in the week I will share my easy, delicious and healthy side dishes and cobbler so you can host the perfect Thanksgiving. And even if you’re not hosting I’ll give you recipes so you can take a healthy dish, thus ensuring you’ll at least eat one healthy thing on the big day!

Love me some turkey!

Love me some turkey!

Easy and Delicious Turkey and Gravy

  • 1 organic, fresh 15 lb turkey (feeds 8-10)
  • 1 orange, 1 lemon and 1 onion cut into wedges
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme, rosemary and sage chopped¬†(In a pinch you can use dried herbs de Provence)
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and pepper each
  • 6 cups organic, low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup gluten free rice flour
  • 5 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and position the rack to the lowest position in the oven. Rinse the turkey, pat it dry, and place it in the baking pan after removing the giblets from inside the turkey (funny story about that between my sister and I, remind me and I’ll tell you about it later). Take the oranges, lemons and onion and put them in¬†a bowl. Sprinkle a bit of the fresh herbs, EVOO, salt and pepper, stir them a bit, and then stuff them into the main turkey cavity. Cover the entire turkey with EVOO, the rest of the fresh herbs, salt and pepper.

Cover the turkey breast with foil and roast for 20 minutes. Pour 3 cups of broth into the pan and stir to scrape up any brown bits. Roast the turkey for 40 more minutes. Then, reduce the temperature to 350 degrees, remove the foil from the breast, add another cup of broth to the pan,, and continue roasting until a meat thermometer inserting in the thickest part of the thigh registers 165-175 degrees, or about 1 1/2 hours longer. Transfer the turkey to a platter, tent with foil and let stand for 30 minutes while making the gravy.

Glorious gravy!

Glorious gravy!

For those of you who’ve read my past blog on roasted chicken, “The Easiest Roasted Chicken, I Promise!”, I shared my gravy recipe and if you haven’t read it, you should! But, I’ll share it again for you now because it’s essentially the same for turkey as it is for chicken. Take the 5 tablespoons of butter and melt it in a large pan, then¬†add the 1/3 cup of gluten free rice flour and stir until combined. the reason I use rice flour is partly because Danielle can’t eat gluten, but what I’ve discovered is that I prefer using it over regular flour because it’s very fine and doesn’t clump up so makes for a nicely textured gravy. And it tastes better too! Stir for another minute to cook the flour.

Next, strain the pan drippings through a sieve to get rid of the chunks and pour it into a large measuring cup or something with a spout so the drippings won’t spill all over your stove. Add 1/3 of the drippings, stir, stir, stir until combined, and continue until all the pan drippings have been incorporated into the gravy. If you run out of pan drippings and the gravy still has a thick consistency you can add chicken broth, if it’s not thick enough, add more flour but don’t add it straight into the gravy or it will clump. In that case, combine 1 tablespoon of flour to 1/4 cup chicken broth in a lidded Tupperware container, shake the heck out of it until combined, then add it to the gravy. Finish the gravy with a little salt and pepper to taste, and continue to let it cook on the stove until thickened and bubbly. Pour it into a gravy boat and it’s good to go!

In my next post I will share my favorite side dishes and my go to dessert. I hope you enjoy my turkey and gravy if you try it, and let me know if you do! Let me know if you have any healthy go-to Thanksgiving dishes. A healthy Thanksgiving will help you live a life of vitality- like Valerie!

 

 

 

 

The Easiest Roasted Chicken- I Promise!

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Delicious, inexpensive and easy balsamic chicken!

Delicious, inexpensive and easy balsamic chicken!

I totally mean this too! This is the EASIEST recipe and you’ll impress everyone by making it because it’s delicious. It’s also CHEAP so college students if you live in a house or apartment you can make this and feed yourself and your roommates in an elegant way. It sure beats mac and cheese from a box! I promise you, this is the real deal. Actually making this easy recipe was an accident for me because I had intended to roast a whole chicken but I defrosted a cut up chicken mistakenly. I decided, what the heck, I’ll roast the cut up chicken and I’ll tell you it was just as wonderful as the whole chicken in half the time. I will always do it this way from now on for sure!

 

Balsamic Roasted Chicken

Start with a chicken cut up- cheap and easy!

Start with a cut up chicken- cheap and easy!

First get a big, cut up chicken from the store. Easy so far, right? You can get them on sale frequently, and just throw it in your freezer until you need it. Thaw it out first of course before you try to cook with it though. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.

Arrange potatoes, carrots and onions in the baking dish.

Arrange potatoes, carrots and onions in the baking dish.

Next, cut up 4 potatoes, throw in a third of a bag of small carrots, and a whole onion chopped in large chunks. Cover all those with a quarter cup of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), a sprinkle each of garlic powder, herbs de province, salt and pepper.

Chicken is in the oven! Cook away!

Chicken is in the oven! Cook away!

Now take the chicken pieces, put them in the baking pan, and cover it with the same stuff as above, a quarter cup of EVOO and a sprinkle of garlic powder, herbs de province, salt and pepper. Add a half cup of balsamic vinegar to the chicken and put it in the oven, skin side up for 50 minutes uncovered.

Here’s the great thing, at this point you could be absolutely done and serve it the way it is as a¬†complete meal. I like to go a step further and make a gravy for the chicken because my family is saucy and always likes something to dip their food into. Don’t be afraid because gravy is really easy to make so if you have the time, take the next step.

The glorious, delicious, easy gravy!

The glorious, delicious, easy gravy!

Gravy is not difficult, believe me. You take a tablespoon of butter and melt it in a saucepan on medium heat. When it’s melted take 2 tablespoons of flour ( I use rice flour because it’s gluten free), and add it to the pan and stir until combined. It will suck up all the butter and make a sticky paste. That’s ok, don’t get nervous. I stir it around for another minute to brown the flour/butter paste a bit. Then, you add half of the drippings from your pan of roasted chicken and stir, stir, stir until combined. Next, you add the other half of the drippings and stir again. This is the point at which you make the decision, is it thick enough? Is it too thick? If it’s too thin, add more flour. If it’s too thick, add more pan drippings, and if you’re out of drippings, add chicken broth. I always add salt and pepper to my gravy and let it get a bit bubbly on the stove for a few minutes before serving. Then you pour it into a gravy boat (or just pour it from the pan onto your plates) and serve.

The finished product!

The finished product!

At this point, if you’ve made gravy, pour a little over your meat and veggies. If you haven’t then just serve it the way it is and it’s fantastic either way! The balsamic adds a nice flavor to the chicken and I’m not a big balsamic fan so believe me when I say that it really gives the chicken a lovely flavor. Plus, the balsamic gives the skin a nice dark color, and even if you take the skin off it still looks pretty to serve it that way.

So, that’s my quick, easy and delicious balsamic roasted chicken. Anyone can make it and look like a real chef to their husband, significant other, or roommates. It’s an elegant meal and a complete “one dish meal” too so that means not too much clean up which is always important to me since I can’t enjoy the rest of my evening until my kitchen is spic and span! Let me know how you like it if you try it. If you think about it, there are very healthy ingredients involved in this meal-meat, vegetables, spices, EVOO, salt and pepper. Eat this healthy meal and it will help you live a life of vitality- like Valerie!