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!

If My College Students Can Do This, You Can Too!

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Hello my friends! Life is pretty cool in Indiana, well actually it’s pretty cold to be honest but it is pretty with the sun, snow and ice.  Here’s what my backyard looks like right now.

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Snowy but pretty, right? Anyway, when it’s cold and snowy outside I long for warm, comfortingly delicious but healthy food. My girls texted that they wanted to make dinner together in Jac’s apartment, and did I have any ideas for a good recipe for them? Did I ever! Danzy’s been a bit under the weather since going back to school, so I wanted to give them something that was healing and soothing too. A top priority though was something easy to make for them. I think we succeeded, so come and join me for another episode of “Cooking with Jac and Dan!”

Baked Chicken and Rice

  • 5-6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (evoo)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 1/2 of a large container of organic low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups brown rice
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

First, make 2 cups of organic brown rice according to package instructions.

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Preheat oven  to 375 degrees. Chop onion, carrots, and celery.

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Add the evoo to a large frying pan and add the carrots, celery, and onions. Saute until softened. Then, salt and pepper each side of the chicken thighs and add them to the pan.

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Brown for 5 minutes on each side. Add minced garlic and the remainder of the salt and pepper.

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Add the rice to the pan and chicken broth. Stir until combined.

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Pour that all into a baking dish and bake for approximately 45 minutes, or until the broth is absorbed. Enjoy with a salad of mixed greens lightly tossed in a vinaigrette.

IMG_6977That’s all there is to it! The chicken is loaded with protein, has 30% RDA for niacin, 15% of phosphorus, vitamin B6, and Zinc, and 10% of riboflavin. It’s high in healthy monounsaturated fats, and has 6% of your RDA for iron. The chicken and broth are known to have medicinal properties to help fight colds and infections, and the carrots, celery and onion have tons of vitamins as well. The brown rice is a great source of fiber, and protein, along with magnesium, phosphorus, thiamine, vitamin B6, niacin, iron and zinc.

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If my college students can make this, I know you can too! It’s delicious, warm, comforting, and healthy. This dish has it all! Jac and Dan’s opinion was that it was easy to make, but they didn’t like how long the rice took to cook (45 minutes!). My suggestion for that is to make a double batch every time you’re making rice and put the extra in the fridge. It will keep for a week so when you need to make dishes that contain rice, it’s ready and waiting for you! They thought it was delicious which is the most important part! Eating food like this will help you live a life of vitalty- with Jac, Danz, and Valerie! 🙂