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

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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.

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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.

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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

 

 

A Very Happy Valentine’s Day, the Vitamin Valentine Way!

If you were wondering about the name of this blog, my last name is Valentine, so I’m obligated to love Valentine’s Day. In my experience, the best way to show someone you care is to make them something special (this is also a great way to save money). I made two delicious, easy, vegan fudge recipes that are super-rich and flavorful.

Dark Chocolate Banana Fudge

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1/2 cup coconut butter (to soften, you can heat it in the microwave for 10-15 seconds, you don’t want it melted)

1 ripe banana

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/8 tsp salt

2 tbsp. honey

3 tbsp. cacoa powder (I used 100% cacao, unsweetened)

Blend ingredients using an electric mixer until everything is homogenized and there’s no huge particles of any one ingredient. Refrigerate over night, or freeze for 15-30 minutes and cut into the desired shape. Feel free to cut into heart-shapes for this holiday.

Peanut Butter Coconut Fudge

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1/2 cup coconut oil

1 cup peanut butter (I used creamy, but if you like chunky or natural style, or whatever else, feel free to substitute. Almond butter might also work in this recipe)

1/3 cup maple syrup

1 ripe banana

1 tsp. cinnamon

dash of salt

1 and 1/2 cups coconut flakes

In a glass dish/bowl, spread a thin layer of coconut flakes so that the bottom of the dish is covered. Don’t use the entire 1.5 cups. Set aside.

Combine all the other ingredients (minus the coconut flakes in the dish and the remaining coconut flakes set aside) and blend well until everything is mixed. Spread the mixture on top of the layer of coconut flakes. Then, use the remaining coconut and top the mixture creating a layer of coconut on top of the fudge. Refrigerate overnight or freeze for 15-30 minutes. Cut into desired shape & enjoy.

Have a Happy Valentine’s Day!

xo,

-Jess

How to Make and Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions

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Something to keep in mind when aiming towards any goal, not just New Year’s Resolutions

This post is not necessarily nutrition related, because I write mostly about nutrition and not everyone has a nutrition/health related New Year’s Resolution, although all of my tips can be applied to health goals, as well as goals in life in general.

Every year I get excited about making resolutions because it’s always a good idea to have goals for yourself. In 2012, I promised myself in 2013 I would accomplish a long list of goals, which I’m proud to say I did this past year. Some of the things on my list were to return to school in order to study something I’m passionate about and want to make a career out of (nutrition!), save money, start a blog (this one!) and run more. I realized I didn’t go into any situation unprepared, rather I had a plan of how to achieve what I wanted and I always took time to see if my plans were coming to fruition in a satisfactory way. Here are my tips for making your resolutions become a reality in 2014:

  1. Take time to reflect upon what did or didn’t work for you in the past year(s). It’s difficult to make goals, or resolutions, if you’re uncertain about what specifically is keeping you from what you actually want to achieve. This is the time to be a little self-critical, because it will help you become more focused on the prize at hand. There’s nothing wrong with recognizing your mistakes and faults, it only makes it easier to improve yourself in the future.
  2. Write down all the things you’d want to accomplish in 2014. You can be as realistic or not as you want, but keep in mind, you’ll have to work harder for those out-there-desires, and you might be disappointed come mid-March, if you haven’t even made a dent in your goal.
  3. Once you have your resolutions written down, you want to have a plan on how to achieve them. The quote, “A goal without a plan is just a wish” (Antoine de Saint-Exupery) sums it up nicely. You can have very specific goals, but without an actual plan on how to achieve them, you might be disappointed in the long run. If your goal is to lose 20 pounds, now is the time to plan out how you should achieve that. Also refer to #1 (reflect on what works vs. what doesn’t). If in the past, you tried to lose weight through a low-carb diet, but you hate meat and feel lethargic when you limit carbs, then you need to take that into consideration and explore another option.
  4. Your plan should include a timeframe of when you want to meet specific markers of your goal. This past semester I took a business management class (ask me why a nutrition student needs to take a business class, I have no clue, but I digress) and one very useful thing I learned was that most people plan best when given a 3-month timeframe. So, let’s say your goal is to go from couch potato to avid runner, you might want to sign yourself up for a 5 or 10k in March. That way, you can build up your running to a comfortable yet challenging level three months into the New Year.
  5. Your plan should also have short-term goals and long-term goals. For someone looking to improve their health through diet and exercise, some short term goals can be to eat at least 4 servings of vegetables each day, exercise for about an hour most days, use less salt in each meal, and drink at least 64 ounces of water daily. Long-term components of this goal would be to reduce blood pressure, lessen risk of obesity, possible weight loss, and other cardiovascular improvements.
  6. Put your plan into action. Time for another motivational quote (get excited!): “Thinking is easy, acting is difficult, and to put one’s thoughts into action is the most difficult thing in the world.” (Johann Wolfgang von Goeth). In other words, be prepared to work in order to accomplish your goals.
  7. Monitor your progress. If your goal is to lose weight, weigh yourself at regular, consistent times. Once a week is usually recommended. If your goal is something less concrete (say, one of your resolutions is spending more time with your family), you’ll need to look at the changes from a more qualitative, instead of quantitative, perspective.
  8. Reward yourself for your achievements. Positive reinforcement is a great motivator for behavior. Set up a system of rewards for each achievement in the New Year. For example, if one of your resolutions is to get in shape, make a chart and give yourself a star (or other marking) for each day that you went to the gym. If at the end of the week, you’ve earned 5 stars representing the 5 times you worked out, then reward yourself with something that makes you happy (not food or alcohol, which will probably negate the effects of the gym).
  9. Be Flexible. Life happens and sometimes life events get in the way of our immediate wants and needs. Stay focused on your goals, but don’t get disappointed if you get sidetracked. Whenever possible, just keep at it. It’s a clichéd saying, but progress is better than perfection so keep that in mind.
  10. The most important thing to remember is that goals can be made all year. Don’t put pressure on yourself to start planning an elaborate goal for the sake of having a New Year’s Resolution. Figure out what’s important to you throughout the year and have your goals be reflective of that.

Have a Happy achievement-filled New Year!

-Jess