High Protein, Gluten-Free, Vegan Lasagna

As the weather gets colder, I crave savory, comforting foods, and I know I’m not alone. Whether I’m talking to my own clients seeking help with their plant-based diets or working at my other job (as a clinical dietitian) the general consensus that I’ve found is that cold weather = cravings for comfort food. It makes sense that most people seem to crave heavier meals and carbs in the winter. Limited sunlight means that serotonin production can be decreased causing low mood and cravings for simple carbs. While carbohydrates will improve your mood temporarily, I wouldn’t use this as an excuse to eat a bunch of cookies or a huge serving of mashed potatoes, because that good feeling will only be temporary. In order for your body to naturally produce serotonin and reap the benefits, you need protein. Specifically, protein foods that are rich in the amino acid tryptophan which is a precursor to serotonin. High amounts of tryptophan can be found in tofu, lentils, and beans (it’s also found in non-vegan sources like turkey, eggs, and cheese).

Along with the scientific reasons of why I’m sharing this recipe, I also just love getting nostalgic about food. Growing up, the months of November and December were filled with delicious home-cooked meals that my mom and grandma would make. Being Italian and Jewish (interesting combo, I know), I learned how to make a variety of holiday foods. Lasagna was one of my favorite foods to enjoy around this time of year, and since I love recreating vegan versions of my favorite meals, I decided to share the recipe for this lasagna with a healthy plant-based twist.

Two specialty ingredients that I used in this recipe are Explore Cuisine brand of lentil lasagna sheets and Miyoko’s vegan mozzarella. I found the lasagna sheets at Whole Foods Market, but if your Whole Foods doesn’t carry this, you have a few options. You can custom order it from them (ask customer service, they’re so helpful!), try amazon prime, you can also order it from Amazon without amazon prime, or order in bulk directly from Explore Cuisine brand’s website. For the Miyoko’s mozz, I’ve seen this at a few different places (Whole Foods Market, Fairway Market in the NY-Metro region, I think I’ve seen it at Trader Joe’s, and even smaller grocery stores will sometimes have it in stock). 

For the other ingredients, they’re all pretty basic, and you can find them in your local grocery store. This recipe packs 20 g of protein per serving, 6 g of fiber per serving, and is bursting with flavor. If you make it, let me know what you think!

High Protein, Gluten-Free, Vegan Lasagna

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Ingredients:

*you will need a pan for the stove, non-stick spray, a 9×9/square baking pan and tin foil for this recipe

  • 1 container (8 oz.) Explore Cuisine Organic Lentil Lasagna
  • 1 container (16 oz.) silken tofu
  • 25 oz. marinara pasta sauce (I didn’t make the sauce myself, I used Whole Foods brand)
  • 2 cups frozen spinach, or 6 cups fresh spinach
  • 1 glove of garlic
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp. basil (I used dried, feel free to use fresh if you have)
  • 1/4 tsp. oregano (same as above)
  • 1 tbsp. nutritional yeast
  • 1-2 oz. miyoko’s vegan mozz

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 375ºF
  • Finely chop a clove of garlic and using 1 tsp. of olive oil, and heat on low-medium setting in a pan on the stove
  • Add spinach and cook on low-medium heat for a few minutes
  • Remove spinach + garlic from the stove and place on the side for later
  • Drain silken tofu by pressing down with a paper towel, remove the tofu from the container and continue pressing down with a paper towel. The tofu will be soft in consistency, so don’t worry about the slightly off-putting, shapeless consistency
  • Spray the 9×9 inch baking pan with non-stick oil spray or lightly grease the pan with additional oil (use vegetable/safflower oil instead of olive oil which has a low smoke-point)
  • Place 3 sheets of lasagna on the pan so that the pan is covered, next add a layer of tofu, and a sprinkle of dried herbs (oregano, basil), add a little nutritional yeast, add a thin layer of the spinach-garlic mixture. Cover in a generous amount of sauce.
  • Add the next layer by placing 3 lasagna sheets in the same order as above, and repeat the sequence so that you have multiple layers of lasagna sheet-tofu-herbs-spinach-sauce. The final layer should be of 3 lasagna sheets. Top this layer with a generous amount of sauce, add pieces of Miyoko’s cheese (you could also shred it using a cheese grater), and add additional herbs/nutritional yeast if desired
  • Use a sheet of tin foil to cover the top of the pan, making sure the tin foil does not come into contact with the lasagna. This ensures moisture is locked in, without this, you may find that the top of your lasagna is dried out
  • Place in the oven and bake @ 375º for 40-45 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven, allow to cool a little, and cut into 4 squares
  • Enjoy! Save the remaining by covering completely and store in the fridge for up to 4 days

Nutrition facts per serving (recipe makes 4 servings): 320 calories, 7 g fat, 0 g cholesterol, 48 g carbs, 6 g fiber, 20 g protein, 15.5% DV calcium, 37% DV iron, 565 mg potassium, 126.8% DV vitamin A, 39% DV vitamin C.

Liked this recipe? Comment below that you tried it. For more ideas, follow me on instagram @ vitaminvalentine

-Jess

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

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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 @vitaminvalentine and let’s connect on Facebook at the Vitamin Valentine page for my latest recipes and nutrition tips.

-Jess

Last Minute Banana Chocolate Chip Brownies

Happy 4th of July! I wasn’t planning on writing a blog post today but I whipped up these amazing brownies to bring to a barbecue and I had to share. If you’re looking for an easy, quick dessert to bring to a gathering, try these delectable bites of bliss. This recipe requires having a few very ripe bananas (like the stage before they turn brown) on hand. If you don’t have bananas, try an equal amount of apple sauce or dairy-free yogurt.

Last Minute Banana Chocolate Chip BrowniesFullSizeRender-19

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour (I always use whole grain flour for extra fiber in my baked goods, but if you don’t have it, all-purpose flour will also work)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup or agave nectar
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I use trader joe’s brand)
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 3 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk or soy milk
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup sunflower oil or almond oil (or you can use vegetable or canola oil if you have those instead)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1.5 cups vegan chocolate chips (I use trader joe’s dark chocolate chips which happen to be vegan)

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F
  • In a large bowl, measure and mix all dry ingredients (flour, sugar, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder)
  • In another bowl, measure and mix wet ingredients (maple syrup/agave, mashed bananas, almond/soy milk, vanilla extract, oil).
  • Mix the wet ingredients into bowl of dry ingredients. Add the chocolate chips and stir.
  • Spray a 9×12 baking pan with non-stick spray, pour batter into the pan, and bake for 30 minutes
  • Allow to cool and then cut and share with family and friends!

 

Enjoy these chocolatey treats and have a great 4th of July!

-Jess

Some Updates and Happy Fourth of July!

I’m writing this post a little early because I know tomorrow I’ll be celebrating with family and friends.  It’s been over a month since I last posted and I completely forgot to post my June blog entry because June was a busy month for me.  June is a special month for Vitamin Valentine, because my first blog entry was in June of 2013.  When I first started writing VV, I mainly shared things that I was learning in my classes.  This summer is the first summer that I’m not taking any classes so I’ll be writing more personal things and continue to share my amazingly delicious and nutritious recipes.

So what else have I been doing instead of posting my usual entries?  Lately I’ve been going to the gym more often (yay!), but also not doing as much daily yoga as I would have liked (not so yay).  I probably only did yoga 2 times/week every week in June which may sound decent, but daily yoga and meditation really helps keep me grounded.  My goal for July is to get back to doing yoga on a daily basis.  To help me stay motivated, I bought a really funky planner that I’m loving right now. It’s called the Happy Planner.  It’s filled with inspirational quotes, places to track goals and to-do lists, and it’s super colorful which is always fun.

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My planner and one of my favorite breakfasts (a whole grain bagel, almond butter, and banana)

For the fourth of july, I’ll be spending the day outdoors and hopefully I can do some yoga on the beach.  I hope you have a great fourth of july 🙂

-Jess

Vegan Gingerbread Muffins

Just because the holidays are over, doesn’t mean you have to get out of the holiday spirit! If you went overboard on cookies and other sweet things for the past few weeks but can’t get rid of that gingerbread craving, don’t fret. The following recipe is sure to delight gingerbread fans year round and because it’s healthier than a cookie and relatively low in calories, you can have your cake and eat it too ;). It’s of course vegan, and can be made gluten-free by using brown rice flour instead of whole-wheat.

Vegan Gingerbread Muffinsphoto.PNG-14

Ingredients (makes 9-12 muffins):

  • 2 cups whole wheat, spelt, or brown rice flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. cloves
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp. dried ground ginger
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup blackstrap molasses
  • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk (add more if the consistency is too dry)

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a muffin tin with muffin paper or spray with nonstick spray
  • Measure dry ingredients and add together in a large mixing bowl. Mix well.
  • Measure wet ingredients (molasses, applesauce, almond milk) and add to the bowl of dry ingredients. Mix together well until the batter is uniform in consistency.
  • Using an ice cream scooper or large spoon, spoon the batter into muffin tins
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes. The muffins are ready when a toothpick or fork can be inserted into the center and comes out dry.
  • Remove from the oven, allow to cool, and enjoy!

-Jess

Double-Chocolate Brownies Fit For A Dad

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there! I’ve decided to make this post short and sweet because it’s beautiful outside and I want to spend as much time with my family as possible today. If you haven’t noticed, my go-to gift strategy for loved ones is baking something delicious, so this morning I woke up early and made a new brownie recipe. If you haven’t yet gotten your dad a gift, consider whipping something up in the kitchen. Baked goods from the heart are always sure to please!

Father’s Day Double-Chocolate Browniesphoto 1-10

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce
  • 1/2 cup soy milk
  • 2 tbsp. melted coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup. soy milk + 1/2 cup raisins (mix together in a food processor to make a thick liquid)
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cocoa powder).
  • Combine 1/4 cup soy milk and 1/2 cup raisins in a food processor to make a thick liquid
  • Make a well in the dry ingredients and add apple sauce, soy milk, melted coconut oil, and soy milk-raisin mixture
  • Stir, and then add in chocolate chips
  • Grease a brownie pan/tin and heat at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes.
  • Allow to cool, then cut and serve

 

Have a great, chocolate-filled Father’s Day, and Happy Father’s Day to my Dad, who always encourages me to work hard and follow my dreams!

-Jess

Working With What You Have: Cookie Edition

Is there such a thing as a "bad" cookie? No, only imperfect ones!

Is there such a thing as a “bad” cookie? No, only imperfect ones!

I want to start this post by wishing all the Moms who are reading a very happy Mother’s Day! Watching my Mom and Grandma in the kitchen gave me an appreciation for cooking and baking and I carry that with me every day. Today I woke up and realized I completely forgot to buy my mom a Mother’s Day present, and by forgot, I mean, I’m a student and my funds are limited. With that in mind, I had to be resourceful so I headed to the cabinet to see what I could create. No chocolate chips or oatmeal were to be found, so there went my idea for chocolate chip oatmeal-cookies. I did however have all-purpose gluten-free flour, trader joe’s hemp protein powder, almonds, almond butter, and raisins.

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Sounds like a weird combination, but I was willing to try it.

photo 2-6

 

I created the recipe below as I went along (which is something I frequently do) and I realized that my improvisational cooking method is somewhat symbolic for some things that I’ve realized since starting this blog. When I decided to go back to school to study nutrition and start this blog, I feared writing about myself at all because I think we constantly judge ourselves and fear judgement from others. Allowing myself to write about things I’ve dealt with personally (like calorie obsession) and things I’m learning has taught me that despite being imperfect, what I’ve learned can help others. All the best teachers and wisest individuals I’ve come across aren’t the ones who appear to be perfect, they’re the one’s who embrace what they have, appreciate the lessons they’ve learned and are willing to share it with others. So, what does this have to do with cookies? The following recipe may not be your cup of tea, but it serves as a reminder that you can work with what you have to bring joy into the world (in this case, joy was a smile on my Mom’s face because if there’s one thing my Mom can appreciate, it’s a baked good). Don’t worry if you don’t have the items I’ve used, as I’ve come up with a few alternatives listed next to each ingredient.

Almond Raisin Protein Cookies (makes 3 dozen)photo 3-5

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose gluten-free flour (you can use whole wheat flour, spelt flour, or any other kind of flour)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • dash of salt
  • 1/2 cup Trader Joe’s Hemp Protein Powder (you can use any kind of protein powder in a flavor you enjoy. The one I used was vanilla flavored)
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1/4 cup almond butter (instead of using oil, I used almond butter because it’s tasty, nutritious, and is a good fat source in place of oil or butter).
  • 1/4 cup almond milk (I used unsweetened original variety, but a vanilla flavor might also work well)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup of raisins (or another dried fruit that you prefer)
  • 1/2 cup almonds (whole, raw)- you can use any other kind of nut that tickles your fancy
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F and in a mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and protein powder.
  • In separate bowl, combine applesauce, almond butter, almond milk, and vanilla extract.
  • Create a well in the dry ingredients with your fingers or a spoon, and add in the wet ingredients. Mix.
  • Add in the raisins and almonds
  • Grease a cookie sheet, and drop cookie dough on the sheet using a spoon.
  • Place in the oven for 10-15 minutes (keep on eye on it, because all ovens differ in temperatures and each batch I made took a different amount of time).
  • Enjoy!

Experiment with this recipe with the ingredients you have and embrace imperfect, improvisational baking!

-Jess