The Superfood You Need To Eat TODAY!

Standard

FullSizeRender (52)

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.

FullSizeRender (54)

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!

FullSizeRender (45)

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

FullSizeRender (46)

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.

FullSizeRender (48)

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.

FullSizeRender (50)

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

FullSizeRender (51)

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.

FullSizeRender (53)

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!

From Soup to Nuts, Soup’s got it all!

Standard

You might be thinking, “why is she writing about soup in August?” Here’s the reason, because I LOVE SOUP! I eat it year round because it is so homey and satisfying. It is also a nutritional powerhouse IF you don’t eat or make creamy soups with no vegetables in them. Although I must admit that I like an occasional bowl of clam chowder, when I eat that kind of soup I make it my meal and I have a salad before I eat it so I get my vegetables in.

I have written in past blogs about how I use soup as an appetizer before meals to fill up and get my veggies in before my entrée comes, which is a healthy eating strategy that I love to utilize. But sometimes I love to eat soup as the main part of my meal. If I do I make sure that the soup has protein in it; that’s not the time for the vegetable barley for me. My favorite soup to make, though, is chicken and rice soup. It’s another recipe from my cooking mentor, my stepmom, who got it from her cooking mentor, her mom. It’s simple and delicious. I’m delighted to share it with you!

Ingredients assembled and ready to go!

Ingredients assembled and ready to go!

Chicken and Rice Soup (Don’t be scared, it’s easy!)

  • 1 whole chicken cut up
  • 1 onion cut into big chunks
  • 1 cup of celery also in big chunks
  • 1 cup of carrots again big chunks
  • 2 tablespoons of minced garlic
  • 8 cups of water, chicken broth, or some combination of the two
  • 1 1/2 cups brown rice
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (A departure from my stepmom’s recipe but I like a little heat. Don’t use if heat’s not your thing.)
  • 1 teaspoon herbs de Provence, or fresh rosemary, thyme, and parsley (mine came from the garden!)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
All of the ingredients in the pot and ready to boil!

All of the ingredients minus the rice in the pot and ready to boil!

Put all the ingredients in a large pot, minus the rice, and boil the chicken for an hour with a low, rolling boil. After an hour, use tongs to remove the chicken from the pot and put it on a plate. Reserve the contents of the pot. Add the cup and a half of rice to the pot and boil for another 30 minutes. Wait for the chicken to cool for at least 10 minutes before touching it because it’s HOT.

This is what it looks like after the chicken and other contents have boiled for an hour!

This is what it looks like after the chicken and other contents have boiled for an hour!

After the chicken has cooled, I use my fingers to pull the chicken apart from its bones and skin. My dogs enjoy the skin and other parts I don’t use in the soup, except for the bones.  Dogs shouldn’t eat chicken bones because they are very splintery and could choke them. Ok, back to the soup, after I get done “picking the chicken” as I call it, I put most of the chicken into the pot but not all of it because that’s too much chicken for my tastes. I save it and make chicken salad or use it to make chicken tacos, but use as much as you’d like. I let the chicken, rice, and broth contents simmer on medium low heat for another 30 minutes. You may have to add a bit more water or salt, pepper and herbs at that point but again, use as much or as little as you’d like.

 

Finished chicken rice soup minus carrots because I didn't have any!

Finished chicken rice soup minus carrots because I didn’t have any!

That’s all there is to it! I personally think it is even better the next day after the flavors have time to marry, but we can’t usually wait until the next day to eat this delicious soup. I serve it with a salad and grilled cheese on gluten free bread but you can eat it however you want! When I’m pressed for time I substitute the whole chicken for boneless skinless chicken thighs but if you do that remember to use all chicken broth instead of water so the soup broth has enough flavor.

I hope you enjoy this soup, and if you make it please comment and let me know how it turns out. Thanks so much to all who’ve read and commented on my blog in the past.  Eating soup is something I love and sharing it with you brings me so much joy. It’s another way to live a life of vitality- like Valerie!