Chocolate Chunk Pumpkin Spice Bread

October is my favorite month for many reasons: crisp fall weather, apple picking, and delicious pumpkin-flavored recipes! It’s also the month I met my fiance and the month we got engaged three years later (in the same pumpkin patch as one of our first dates), so October holds a very special place in my heart 🙂

Every year I like to experiment in the kitchen with fall-flavored recipes. Call me basic, but I like using pumpkin/pumpkin spice in my fall recipes because it’s such a good flavor and pumpkin is actually a nutrient powerhouse! Pureed pumpkin is loaded with vitamin A (great for skin & eye health) and fiber (nature’s laxative–besides coffee). Pumpkin seeds contain healthy fats, fiber, magnesium, zinc, and copper–which are involved in hormonal health and can help with PMS symptoms.

This year I made one of my best fall recipes yet and I’m super excited to share it with you. It uses whole wheat flour, and maple syrup for sweetness. Due to the moisture content, there’s no need for oil, so it contains less calories and fat than other recipes. As always, it’s vegan, and can be made gluten free if you use gluten free flour instead of whole wheat.

To step up the decadent factor, I added dark chocolate chunks–but if you prefer to keep this pumpkin flavored recipe more traditional, you can omit the chocolate chunks. Let me know if you try this recipe and what you think!

Chocolate Chunk Pumpkin Spice Bread

IMG_2506

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (I used Whole Foods Market 365 brand)
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 tsp. pumpkin spice mix (a combo of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, etc.)–I found this at Whole Foods Market
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 15 oz. can of pureed pumpkin
  • 3/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 tbsp. ground flax + 3 tbsp. warm water (to make a flax “egg”)
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chunks (I used Whole Foods market 365 brand, which according to the label, contains no animal products)

Directions:

  • Measure out all ingredients
  • Pre-heat the oven to 350ºF.
  • Lightly grease a 9×9 pan, or use parchment paper if you prefer
  • To make a flax “egg”, combine ground flax + warm water; mix and set aside
  • Combine dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices) in a large bowl
  • Combine wet ingredients (pumpkin puree, vanilla extract, maple syrup) in another bowl, mix well, and then add the flax “egg” into the mixture. Mix.
  • Add wet ingredients into dry ingredients and mix until the mixture is uniform
  • Pour mixture into the pan and bake at 350º for 40-50 minutes
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least 15 minutes
  • Cut into squares and enjoy!

 

Are you looking to improve your health and satisfy your hunger with delicious plant-based food and personalized nutrition counseling? Lets work together! (see my work with me page). Not ready for that yet? Lets keep in touch! Follow me on Instagram @theveganrd and let’s connect on Facebook at the Vitamin Valentine page for my latest recipes and nutrition tips.

-Jess

My Favorite Vegan-Friendly Dining Locations

Greetings! It’s been a few months since I last wrote a blog post. Sometimes I find it easier to post recipes/general nutrition tips on social media (mostly on Instagram) rather than in blog format, but when it comes to covering personal topics, I like writing my thoughts here. On that note, this past summer, my fiance and I made it a point to deviate from our usual date-location (Whole Foods Market salad bar/hot bar) to try as many restaurants as possible.

Since a lot of my readers and most of my clients are from Long Island, I thought I would share some of my favorite vegan (and vegan-friendly) restaurants/cafes/eateries. If you’re not from Long Island, consider this a simple veg-friendly guide if you ever travel here! Keep in mind, these are my opinions and I completely made up these categories for fun.

Best Summer Dining

I love The Purple Elephant (Northport, NY) for the outdoor seating overlooking Northport harbor, and for a menu that suits both vegans and non-vegans.

Processed with VSCO with f1 preset

Vegan nachos that we had as an appetizer

This Costa Rican restaurant features traditional South American food, with a fresh, plant-based approach. My favorite dishes here are the burnt ends enchiladas and the rainforest burger + yucca fries. I also love their kombucha on tap! Make sure you make a reservation here as it gets busy and it’s kinda on the smaller side.

Processed with VSCO with f1 preset

Rainforest burger with yucca fries 

Best Quick/Grab-and-Go Food

Processed with VSCO with f1 preset

Tofu + Fresh Veggies in a whole wheat wrap

Sometimes (—actually, oftentimes) I want food and I don’t want to wait. Organic Krush (Woodbury, NY) fulfills my needs for quick, healthy food, plus it’s right next to a great yoga studio (and the menu caters to those seeking light, balanced food). I love their overnight oats, smoothies, and wraps. They cater to both vegans and non-vegans. This location is pretty small (no reservations- it’s casual dining) and it’s great for “grab and go” type of meals.

Best Healthy Food

Processed with VSCO with f1 preset

Enjoying one of my faves (open-faced veggie burger)

When I think of dining out, I don’t necessarily think of healthy food. A lot of restaurants claim to be healthy, but the actual food comes out greasy and causes that heavy, bloated feeling afterwards. I love Bee Organic (two locations- Huntington & Great Neck) because the food tastes super fresh and everything is 100% organic. I recommend the fresh juices, smoothies, and open-faced sandwiches (vegan + non-vegan options). I also love their buddha bowl (add tempeh or tofu!) which is filling but won’t weigh you down with regret or indigestion.

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

Buddha bowl with tempeh

Best Date Night Location

I’ve heard great things about Tula Kitchen (Bayshore, NY) and I wasn’t disappointed when I went there for the first time this summer. I really love the ambiance here and the menu has so many delicious creations. This is a restaurant that caters to both vegans and non-vegans seeking a real-food approach to dining. I love their vegan tofu crab cakes, falafel, and their “summer lovin” dish which is basically just a bunch of vegetables roasted to perfection over forbidden rice topped with the most amazing miso dressing. Sometimes simple is best and Tula Kitchen definitely proves this! I don’t have any photos of food from this location–but I’m using this as an excuse to go back soon!

Best Desserts

Processed with VSCO with f1 preset

I’ll take one of each, thanks. 

If you’re a vegan on Long Island, there’s a good chance you’ve been to the Witches Brew (West Hempstead, NY). This was my #1 hangout during college when the menu was limited to coffee/tea beverages, desserts, and some snacks, but in the past few years, they’ve upgraded their menu to offer tons of vegan dishes and now their dessert options are extensive. I love trying a new dessert each time I come. I highly recommend the vegan rainbow cookie cake, vegan strawberry cheesecake, and the vegan brownie with a side of vanilla soy ice cream.

 

I can probably think of a few other restaurants that I’ve enjoyed, but I really wanted to focus on places that have a vegan focus, and I honestly haven’t tried all of the vegan places on Long Island, so perhaps I’ll be adding to this list in the future. In the meantime, I would love for others to share their favorite veg-friendly locations (in NY, or elsewhere) so feel free to comment here or on Instagram @theveganrd

-Jess

Secret Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Protein Bars (Vegan + Gluten Free!)

I love a good protein bar, but I don’t love paying up to $3 for a single serving bar that’s often lacking in wholesome ingredients. This weekend I made my own protein bar that tastes like peanut butter cookie dough–and is packed with fiber, protein, and healthy fats. I was inspired to make these after seeing many of my fellow dietitian friends enjoying Perfect Bars, but since these contain whey and honey, they’re off limits for vegans. My version of the perfect protein bar uses Vega brand protein powder, and chickpea flour (the “secret” ingredient–clearly I’m not good at keeping secrets for long!). Let me know what you think if you try the recipe.

IMG_1193

Vegan/Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Protein Bars

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup garbanzo bean (chickpea) flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill brand) Note: You can also use oat flour, which I’ve made too, if you prefer a more mild flavor
  • 1/2 cup almond meal (I used Trader Joe’s brand)
  • 3 scoops Vega Vanilla Protein Powder
  • 1/2 cup natural, smooth peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips (I used Trader Joe’s brand
  • 1/4-1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk

Directions:

Mix all ingredients (except for chocolate chips) together in a large bowl, use your hands to mold into a dough. Line a pan/cooking tin with parchment paper and mold the dough into a layer. Then, using your hands, place the chocolate chips into the dough, pressing down so the chocolate chips become embedded in the mixture. Place in the freezer for 30 minutes. Remove from the freezer, cut into squares, or rectangles and enjoy! I loved cutting these into tiny squares and putting them on PB toast and in my morning almond milk yogurt.

Processed with VSCO with f1 preset

Nutrition facts per serving (makes 18 squares): 141 calories, 6 g fat, 15 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 7 g protein.

-Jess

Healthy Eating, Veganism, & Eating Disorders

IMG_9163

A typical healthy meal prep spread that I’ve shared on social media

I recently read an article claiming that meal prep, veganism, and healthy eating on Instagram can trigger eating disorders. At first when I read the article, I felt a little conflicted because I post photos of vegan food, I love to meal prep, I’ve recovered from disordered eating, and I also happen to be a Registered Dietitian who understands the multiple causes and treatments of eating disorders.

What this article failed to mention is that eating disorders are not about food (seems counterintuitive, right?). Many people develop eating disorders as a result of trauma and/or underlying depression and anxiety. To blame social media or pretty pictures of salad in mason jars takes the focus away from the complex causes and treatment of addictive behavior and maladaptive coping mechanisms.

That being said, some of my meal prep photos do feature recipes low in calories, protein, and fat, so the article made me think “do I really want to present plant-based eating/vegansim in a restrictive way”? (the answer is NO because that’s not what veganism is about).

A huge part of my own recovery from disordered eating was intense therapy. Another aspect of my recovery was learning about nutrition and how to adequately fuel my body (from an RD). I learned how to prepare food and enjoy it without anxiety, which led to my love of cooking and meal prep. I learned that a balanced diet includes all types of food- including veggies AND ice cream. I learned that messages about dieting, weight control, and health will always be there and that’s ok because through therapy I gained the skills to acknowledge what does and doesn’t serve me, without placing blame on things that could possibly be triggering.

In treatment, I also reflected on my reasons for being vegan. I became a vegan when I was 15 due to many reasons, some of them more selfish (like wanting to lose weight). I then learned about the impact of factory farming on our environment. But because of the association between veganism, weight, and food restriction, letting go of labels during recovery was important. I was able to return to return to eating a vegan diet when I was stable in mind and body. I’ve also admittedly had some bumps in the road where I haven’t been a strict vegan (alert the vegan police!), but ultimately, I believe that if you feel a certain way, you’ll always go back to what is important to you.

I try to use my nutrition knowledge (as a dietitian) and my passion for plant-based eating to share how easy, nourishing, healthy, and satisfying it can be, with the right intentions. Being aware of my own history, I would never want to promote veganism strictly for weight loss. I think adopting a more plant-based diet can be a useful tool for overall health–but diet is completely individual.

If you feel like you might be using veganism/vegetarianism to mask an eating disorder, I encourage you to please let go of labels. If something is causing you to feel anxious around food and/or engage in disordered eating, it’s ok to to re-assess your intentions & figure out what works for you.

I have a lot more to say on this topic and I’ll probably share those thoughts in a separate post. But for now, I hope you take time for yourself and do things that bring you health and healing in mind, body, and soul.

-Jess

Quick and Easy Thai-Inspired Curry

Lately I’ve had limited time and I find myself getting bored with my go-to quick and easy recipes. I noticed that I had been making a lot of veggie-filled pasta dishes and nutrient-dense salads, which are delicious and healthy, but can get repetitive. My food rut led me to create this super-flavorful thai-inspired dish that took me ~30 minutes to prepare. It makes about 4 servings and keeps well–which is important, because after a long, busy day, there’s something so satisfying about coming home to a meal already prepared (just re-heat for ~3 minutes in the microwave). What I love about this dish is how warming and filling it is, making it perfect for cold winter evenings when you crave a hearty meal. Each serving packs a punch of plant-based protein, 116% of daily value of vitamin A, and about 40% of daily calcium requirements. One thing to note about this recipe is that the measurements for the spices are estimated, as I tend to improvise as I go. Feel free adjust the spices as you see fit.

Thai-Inspired Curry with Tofu + Veggies

Processed with VSCO with f1 preset

Ingredients

  • 1 cup quick-cooking basmati brown rice (I used Trader Joe’s brand)
  • 1/4 cup diced yellow onion
  • 2 cloves of fresh garlic, diced
  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 1 container of Trader Joe’s “Harvest Hodgepodge” frozen veggies- or use a frozen (or fresh) veggie combination of your choice
  • 2 cups unsweetened, unflavored coconut milk (I used Trader Joe’s brand)
  • 1 block of firm, organic tofu
  • 2 tbsp. soy sauce/tamari/or coconut aminos
  • 2-3 tsp. curry powder
  • 1/2- 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. chili powder (use less if you prefer less spice)
  • juice of 1/2 a lime
  • 1 oz. cashews

Directions:

  • For the rice- measure 1 cup cup quick-cooking brown basmati rice and 2.5 cups water and heat in a pot. Bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat and allow to simmer for ~20 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside
  • As the rice cooks, remove tofu from its container and press out all liquid using a paper towel and a slightly heavy object on top of this (I usually use a book, or if you have a tofu press- use that)
  • While the tofu drains, heat the onion, garlic, and celery in a skillet (I use non-stick pans which don’t require oil)
  • Add frozen veggies to the skillet and allow to cook, adding ~1 tbsp. of soy sauce (or tamari/coconut aminos)
  • Add 2 cups of coconut milk, lime juice, and some of the curry powder, ground ginger, and chili powder to the veggies and allow to cook on low heat
  • While the veggies are cooking, cut the tofu into squares and add some of the curry powder, ground ginger, and chili powder. Heat the spiced tofu in another skillet until the tofu is lightly browned, stirring occasionally
  • After the tofu has cooked, add it to the skillet with the veggies + coconut milk. Add any additional spices (if desired), and then add the cashews
  • Stir for a few minutes, allow to cool
  • Enjoy this delicious dish with the side of rice prepared in the first step

Let me know how you like this recipe by commenting on my latest Instagram post or by letting me know below. I love getting feedback on quick and easy recipes!

-Jess

 

Chocolate Chip Protein Banana Bread

It’s been a little while since I wrote a blog post and I’m excited to share why. I’m currently employed full-time during the week as a dietitian at a rehab center, working weekends as a dietitian at a hospital, AND managing to provide nutrition counseling to private clients through Vitamin Valentine Wellness–so I haven’t been updating this blog as often as I used to. Although I’m super busy, I’m also happy to be getting so much experience as a new dietitian.

Having limited free time made me realize that I really need to prioritize self-care and focus on activities that help me unwind. One thing that’s always helped me relax is baking. I love creating healthy baked goods that I can indulge in (healthily) after a busy day. The following recipe not only satisfies my craving for chocolate, but also packs a punch of protein, potassium, and fiber. Let me know how you like this recipe if you try it and feel free to leave a comment here or on my Instagram page @vitaminvalentine.

Chocolate Chip Protein Banana Bread

DF9CF494-802F-483B-8D8B-7CE125EC1E56

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups garbanzo bean flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill brand)- if you don’t have this flour or can’t find it, feel free to swap it out for whole wheat flour, spelt flour, or your favorite gluten free baking mix
  • 3 scoops Vega Vanilla Protein Powder (or your favorite plant-based protein powder)
  • 4 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 cups unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 6 oz. Kite Hill unsweetened greek-style almond yogurt (or use your favorite plant-based, dairy-free yogurt)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips (I used Trader Joe’s brand)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 370°F. In a large mixing bowl, add flour, protein powder, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. In another mixing bowl, combine mashed bananas, almond milk, almond yogurt, and vanilla. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, then add chocolate chips. Mix well until contents are uniform. Using non-stick spray, spray a 9×11 brownie tin or baking pan of your choice. Scoop out batter into the pan. Bake at 370°F for 35-40 minutes. Allow to cool. Cut into squares (this recipe made 20 squares me for). Enjoy!

Planning Delicious Vegan Meals (that you’ll actually want to eat)

IMG_5837.JPG

3 days of plant-based goodness: overnight oats + fruit for breakfast, cauliflower “fried” rice with tofu for lunch,  homemade protein bars (I’ll be sharing the recipe for this on Instagram in a future post), and Banza pasta salad for dinner.

In my previous post, I shared some helpful tips to get you started with food budgeting. Having a plan of what you want to cook (and buy for the week) can be helpful, because no one wants their hard-earned money to go to waste. It also doesn’t feel great when you buy a bunch of produce only to let it go bad in the fridge because you didn’t know what to do with it (I’ve been there!).

Luckily, I’ve learned from my mistakes and I’m sharing some additional tips that have helped me feel inspired and motivated to create delicious, healthy vegan dishes that are easy to prepare and affordable.

  1. I meant to share this in my last post, but before you go food shopping, check what you already have in your pantry and freezer. A lot of times I THINK I’m out of food because my fridge is empty, but I still have stuff to work with using canned foods, grains, and frozen veggies. For example, if you have rice and canned beans in your pantry, and some frozen veggies, you can create chipotle-inspired burrito bowls. You might just have to pick up additional spices and toppings which shouldn’t cost too much (aim for fresh, local tomatoes, or canned tomatoes to save on cost).
  2. Get inspired by your takeout choices. If you love getting Chinese food for lunch and always crave a slice of pizza for dinner– you can totally use this as inspiration for your vegan meal prep. For lunch, try recreating your favorite Chinese food at home. It’s easier than it sounds, and if you’re looking for inspiration, use Instagram or Pinterest. I love searching “healthy asian vegan recipes” on Pinterest. A lot of asian-inspired food tends to keep well so that’s another bonus when it comes to meal prep. Lately I’ve been making cauliflower “fried” rice using 1/2 cauliflower rice and 1/2 brown rice. I add a some colorful frozen veggies, tofu, and soy sauce and I feel so much better fueling my body with this food than any kind of takeout. For dinner, I often crave something carb-heavy and delicious like pasta or pizza, but I don’t want to feel like I’m in a food-hangover the next day. Instead of making regular pizza or a heavy pasta dish, I use cauliflower crust (found at Trader Joe’s) to make my own pizza and save the leftovers for the rest of the week. For pasta, I really like using chickpea pasta (like Banza) or other bean-pastas because they’re higher in protein and fiber.
  3. Don’t forget about sandwiches. Call me traditional, but I love a good sandwich for lunch. But, actually, don’t call me traditional, because my sandwiches are anything but boring! I love getting creative when it comes to sandwiches. Some of my favorite flavorful sandwich combos are:
    • almond butter, banana, and a few chocolate chips on sprouted grain bread or in a tortilla
    • hummus, avocado, tomato, sprouts and shredded carrot on sprouted grain bread
    • a veggie burger with hummus (tastes just as good when it’t not hot)
    • chickpea salad (kind of tastes like tuna)- mash chickpeas, add onion, celery, chives, and vegan mayo, and place between two slices of your favorite bread
    • avocado chickpea salad- do the same as above, but replace vegan mayo with mashed avo (SO GOOD!)
    • upgraded PB & J: natural peanut butter with fresh berries on sprouted grain bread

Do you have any helpful tips when it comes to getting inspired to create delicious meals? Feel free to share them in the comments or let me know on Instagram @vitaminvalentine

-Jess