Holiday Cranberry Mimosa!

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Hi friends! Thanksgiving has passed and if you’re like me, you have lots of leftover cranberries. I like cranberries sauce more and more every year, and I make a very delicious and easy cranberry sauce. I came across a Food Network show about the holidays, and in it they discussed mimosas. I had a eureka moment and thought, “Wow, what if I use my delicious cranberries to make a mimosa!” Well, I have to tell you that we have enjoyed them so much that we drink them frequently (but responsibly)! ūüôā I have included the recipe for my cranberry sauce and cranberry mimosas. They are so pretty and festive, besides being really darn good. They make a nice centerpiece to your holiday table. The cranberry sauce itself is so flavorful and bright, and with no added sugar is a healthy addition to your meals. Bon appetite!

Cranberry Sauce

  • 2 -8 ounce packages cranberries, fresh or frozen
  • 1 orange, zested and juiced
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 1 cinnamon stick

Put all of the ingredients into a saucepan over medium heat and simmer until the cranberries burst and the sauce thickens, about 15-20 minutes. serve at room temperature or cool and refrigerate. Remove the cinnamon stick before serving.

Cranberry Mimosa

  • 1 teaspoon of cranberry sauce
  • 1 glass decent quality champagne

Put the cranberry sauce into a champagne flute. Add the champagne to the glass and give it a quick stir. Serve and enjoy!

 

 

 

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!!

Creamy, Healthy, and Easy Soup du Jour!

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Hi friends! My second video blog is here for you today. I made a delicious, healthy, and easy soup that you will enjoy making almost as much as you’ll enjoy eating! Here’s the recipe:

Creamy Cauliflower Soup

4 cups chicken stock

1 cauliflower

1 brick cream cheese

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

4 oz butter

Salt and pepper

1/2 lb bacon

Paprika

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Chop the cauliflower into small florets, add to the stock and boil until tender. Cut the bacon into small pieces and fry until crispy. Drain and set aside. Add the mustard, cream cheese, and butter to the cauliflower in the stock. Use a hand mixer or a blender to combine until smooth. Add the bacon crumbles, paprika and walnuts as a garnish. It’s creamy and has so much flavor. You’ll love it! Eating low-carb soups 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.

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!).

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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.

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!

One Fish, Two Fish… it’s good for you, Fish!

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Lenten ladies!

Lenten ladies!

It’s Lent for me, and many other Christians in the world.¬†Lots of us follow the Lenten custom of not eating meat on Fridays until Easter. Now, not eating meat does not mean fish, because fish is not meat, even though fish is meaty. I get many questions about this from¬† people who don’t follow this custom, and I know it has a biblical foundation, though I’m not sure what it is exactly. Anyway, I think it’s a healthy habit to get into regardless of your religious affiliation, and I try to eat¬†fish at least 2 or 3 times a week. In today’s post I wanted to let you know why fish is so great for you and then give you a REALLY SUPER EASY RECIPE FOR A SUPER DELISH FISH DISH- I’m so rhymey today, aren’t I?!

Salmon is a rich source of Omega 3 fatty acids- the good stuff!

Salmon is a rich source of Omega 3 fatty acids- the good stuff!

Ok, so why is fish so good for us you ask? Great question, my friends! Well, first it’s low in calories and high in protein, which is always a good thing. Mostly, though, the reason fish is so good for us is because of Omega 3’s. Omega 3’s are fatty acids that improves the immune system, and helps prevent blindness, depression, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, lupus, kidney disease and cancer.

Rainbow trout is another excellent source of Omega 3's- and it tastes good too!

Rainbow trout is another excellent source of Omega 3’s- and it tastes good too!

The fish with the highest amounts of Omega 3’s are farmed Atlantic salmon, tinned anchovies, sardines, Pollock, oysters, Albacore tuna, wild caught Salmon, farmed rainbow trout, and my old friend canned light tuna. However, even white fish has a significant amount of Omega 3’s, so if that’s the only kind of fish you like, eat it and enjoy the Omega 3’s! The recipe I’m going to share with you next can be made with any kind of fish that you would like to use. I just always say to use the freshest fish available in your area and don’t be afraid to ask the butcher which fish is most fresh. He/she will lead you in the right direction. Here we go!

 

Ingredients assembled for Easy, Delish Fish Dish!

Ingredients assembled for Easy, Delish Fish Dish!

Easy Peasy Fish and Salsa

  • 1/4 cup chopped, pitted green olives
  • 2 Tbsp capers
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 1 handful parsley or cilantro, roughly chopped
  • ¬†Juice of one lime
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Fresh or pickled jalapenos chopped (optional)
  • 4 fish filets 4-6 oz each
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 large sheets aluminum foil
Salsa ingredients in the bowl and ready to go onto the fish!

Salsa ingredients in the bowl and ready to go onto the fish!

1. Make the salsa first- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees or heat your grill to medium low. In a mixing bowl, combine the olives, capers, cherry tomatoes, parsley or cilantro (cilantro is my personal choice), lime juice, olive oil and jalapenos if using.

 

Fish with salsa on top- ready to go into the oven!

Fish with salsa on top- ready to go into the oven!

2. Assemble the packets- Fold four sheets of aluminum foil in half lengthwise, and then unfold and lay them on the counter. Season each fish fillet with salt and place it on one side of the foil, parallel to the crease. Top each fillet with one quarter of the salsa. Fold the foil over so it covers the fish completely and then roll the edges tightly to seal the package.

 

Fishies in foil, cooking away in the oven!

Fishies in foil, cooking away in the oven!

3. Cook the fish- Place the packets on the grill or in the oven. cook the fillets until their done all the way through, about 8-10 minutes on the grill, 20 minutes in the oven. Slash the packets open just before eating.

All done and ready to plate!

All done and ready to plate!

This is flavorful and simple,¬†however it¬†will definitely impress whoever you’re serving. It seems like a much more complex dish because of the flavors, but because of the quick prep and cook time you can seriously be ready to eat in 25 minutes, no joke. Make some brown rice to go along with this, serve with guacamole and you’re done!

This will be my lunch and I CAN'T WAIT TO DIG IN!

This will be my lunch and I CAN’T WAIT TO DIG IN!

So there you go, my friends, a little info about fish and one super tasty recipe for a simple fish dish. Remember to eat fish at least once or twice a week, and not just because it’s Lent. Fish is high in protein, low in calories, and it is full of Omega 3’s to protect you from some heinous illnesses. Enjoy your fish, it will help you live a life of vitality- with 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!

 

My favorite pork tenderloin meal in 45 minutes or less!

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My favorite pork tenderloin meal!

My favorite pork tenderloin meal!

 

Now you may think that pork is difficult to cook and not a healthy option but I’m here to tell you that neither is true! Pork is very good for you, it’s a rich source of protein as well as vitamins and minerals including thiamin, niacin, selenium, zinc and phosphorus. Pork tenderloin, in particular, is leaner than a chicken breast, and is juicier and tastier too. It’s also versatile, you can grill it, braise it, roast it, pretty much do anything to it and it tastes delicious. Pork has a nice, delicate flavor so you can spice it up for Mexican dishes, Italian, Chinese, Thai, etc., and it will always taste great. I love all types of pork- chops, roast, ribs, loin, bacon (!), ham, etc, etc,¬†etc… As always, I make sure that I buy my pork from a reputable local provider, or I will purchase it from my health food grocery store in a pinch. The quinoa is healthy too. It has protein in it which makes it a much healthier side dish, it’s got fiber and only 160 calories per cup of cooked makes it relatively lo-cal. It certainly beats mashed potatoes or pasta as a side dish.

As you can probably tell, pork is my personal favorite meat! With that in mind I created an¬†easy,¬†delicious and nutritious meal consisting of oven roasted pork tenderloin with basil pesto sauce, quinoa with onions and peppers, and tomatoes in basil and extra virgin olive oil, and I’d like to share it with you right now. Please enjoy!

Oven Roasted Pork tenderloin with basil pesto sauce

 

Pork tenderloin, garlic, herbs de province, EVOO, and basil pesto ready to go!

Pork tenderloin, garlic, herbs de province, salt, pepper,EVOO, and basil pesto ready to go!

 

So the first thing you do is preheat the oven to 350 degrees and then prepare the 1 lb. tenderloin for the oven. I rubbed it all over with extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), minced garlic, Herbs de Province, salt and pepper. I then threw it in the oven for a half hour or until it reached an internal temperature of 155 degrees.

Happily roasting in my oven!

Happily roasting in my oven!

I use an old school meat thermometer but if you have one of those new fangled instant read ones, by all means use whatever works for you. This is what the meat looks like when it’s midway through the roasting process.

 

Quinoa with onions and peppers

 

Everything is ready to make Quinoa!

Everything is ready to make Quinoa!

So while the tenderloin is roasting, I begin the quinoa. Don’t get intimidated, quinoa is simple dimple to make. First, you give one cup of quinoa a quick rinse under water, put a teaspoon of EVOO in a pan and saut√© the quinoa in it for 2 minutes. Then add 1/2 cup chopped onion and 1/2 cup chopped green pepper to the rice and saut√© it for another 2 minutes. After that, add 2 cups of chicken broth to the rice, onions and peppers and bring to a boil. Most quinoa cooking instructions call for water, but I think utilizing chicken broth gives it so much more flavor.

I think rainbow quinoa is so visually beautiful, and it tastes good too!

I think rainbow quinoa is so visually beautiful, and it tastes good too!

After the quinoa comes to a boil, reduce it to a simmer for 20 minutes or until the moisture is absorbed.

 

One minute tomatoes with basil and Olive Oil

Not only delicious but beautiful home-grown tomatoes with my home grown basil, EVOO, salt and pepper!

Not only delicious but beautiful home-grown tomatoes with my home grown basil, EVOO, salt and pepper!

I still have plenty of tomatoes from my garden so I sliced some tomatoes, added torn fresh basil from my garden, poured a bit of EVOO on the top, salt and pepper. That was my other side dish and it took virtually seconds to make, how great is that?!!!

When the tenderloin reaches an internal temperature of 155 degrees, take it out of the oven, and let it rest for 10 minutes. Then, use a quality jarred basil pesto and rub it on the tenderloin. I added a bit more EVOO, salt and pepper on the top and sliced it.

Voila! The finished meal!

Voila! The finished meal!

And that’s it! You just assemble the tenderloin, quinoa and sliced tomatoes, pour the wine, and you’re ready to eat! The pork was perfectly cooked, and the basil pesto¬†makes a warm, flavorful sauce for the top. The quinoa is a delicious side for the pork, and the tomatoes add a brightness to the meal. All in all a very memorable dinner. I hope you try this very easy and yummy recipe. Let me know how you like it! Eating meals like this will help you live a life of vitality- like Valerie!