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

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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

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Nuggets on a Budget

My name is Jessie Valentine and I have a confession to make:  I am completely obsessed with the soy nuggets at Whole Foods Market!  I first found these delicious little meatless nuggets of bliss a few years ago while circling ’round the salad bar and since then I’ve been hooked.  Unfortunately for my wallet, a 1 lb. container of soy nuggets typically cost about $10, and as someone who is on a food budget, I wanted to find a way to make my own (similar) type of soy nugget.

The consistency of the soy nuggets at WFM are like a less chewy/spongy version of seitan.  If you’ve never tried seitan, it’s a meat replacement made up of wheat gluten and typically seasoned with soy sauce or some kind of vegetable broth base.  For my version of soy nuggets, I used soy flour along with vital wheat gluten.  You can buy vital wheat gluten and soy flour at any health food store.  It’s typically found in the baking/flour section.  I used Bob’s Red Mill brand for both.

For flavor, I used three different marinades, thus making three different flavors of these nuggets.  Feel free to use whatever you have available or if you have a certain flavor in mind (spicy, teriyaki, bbq, etc.) use dressings/sauces/seasonings that you prefer.

I hope you try this recipe and feel inspired to make your own homemade versions of your favorite foods. 

Protein-Packed Vegan Nuggets (serves 4)

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I served mine with some brown rice, beans, and veggies. 

Ingredients

  • 1 cup vital wheat gluten
  • 1/2 cup soy flour
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tbsp. soy sauce
  • seasonings- (choose whatever you want).  I made three varieties-  a teriyaki/seseame flavor (teriyaki sauce + sesame seeds), a buffalo sauce flavored variety (I used buffalo sauce marinade) and a spicy variety (I mixed taco seasoning + hot sauce.  Caution: muy caliente).
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Three varieties fresh from the oven

Directions

  • In a large mixing bowl, combine wheat gluten, soy flour, and water.  This combination will create a dough.  Knead and stretch the dough for a minute or so.
  • Cut the dough into small, bite-size pieces (nuggets)
  • Boil water in a large pot.  When the water comes to a boil, drop the nuggets into the dough, piece-by-piece
  • Lower the water to a simmer (it should not be boiling as the nuggets cook).  If the water is boiling, the nuggets will come out chewy and rubbery.
  • Allow the nuggets to simmer in water for 1 hour
  • Remove from heat and drain using a colander.  The nuggets should have expanded.  Allow to cool a bit.
  • Now, for the flavoring-  in a ziplock bag, allow the nuggets to marinate in whatever sauce/seasoning you choose for 1 hour-overnight (your choice).
  • After the nuggets have marinated to your liking, preheat the oven to 350°F
  • Spray cooking spray on a cookie tin or baking pan (both will work) and place the nuggets on the pan.  If you’d like, you can add more sauce at this point, as some will evaporate as the nuggets bake in the oven
  • Bake the nuggets for 20-30 minutes
  • Remove from the oven, allow to cool, and enjoy

 

-Jess

Protein-packed pasta with veggies

Sometimes when I tell people I’m vegan, the first thing I’m asked is “where do you get your protein?”.  I’m not alone, most of the vegans I know have been asked this question at some point.  I actually love answering this question because there are so many sources of vegan protein!  Beans, tempeh, tofu, seitan, whole grains, veggies, brown rice, vegan protein powder, and the list goes on.  In the recipe I’m sharing today, I used a pasta made with lentil beans, and for even more protein, I added veggie “meat” crumbles (which have a similar consistency to ground meat minus the cruelty, and cholesterol).

I discovered the lentil bean pasta at Trader Joe’s, but feel free to explore other pasta brands and types if you don’t love lentils.  Banza brand has a line of chickpea-flour based pastas which are so good and rich in protein.  If bean-pastas aren’t your thing, you can use a whole grain pasta.  The veggie “meat” crumbles can be found at most grocery stores.  I typically see it being sold next to the tofu/veggie burgers at conventional supermarkets.

I love making this pasta because it goes well with any veggies and I usually make a big batch of it and eat the leftovers as my lunch at work for the next few days.  I hope you enjoy this deliciously plant-based, protein-packed pasta!

Protein-packed pasta with veggies (makes 4 servings)

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So many plants on my plate!  I ate my pasta with some steamed broccoli in this picture

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups (dry) Trader Joe’s organic red lentil sedanini (or your favorite pasta type)
  • 1/3 of a package of Lightlife smart ground original veggie crumbles (or 1 cup)
  • 1.5 cups Trader Joe’s organic spaghetti sauce or use your own homemade tomato sauce (I sometimes like taking the easy route and using jarred sauce)
  • 1 medium bell pepper- orange, yellow, and red go best with this recipe
  • 1 cup baby portobella mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup diced onion
  • other veggies of your choice
  • pinch of garlic powder
  • pinch of oregano
  • pinch of basil

Directions:

  • Place water in a medium-size pot and heat on high-medium, bringing to a rolling boil
  • While waiting for the water to boil, chop veggies
  • Place veggies in a large non-stick saucepan and heat on medium until lightly browned/softened
  • When the water in the pot has boiled, add the pasta and boil for ~8 minutes
  • Lower the heat on the saucepan to low and add veggie crumbles and continue to heat for about 2 minutes (the veggie crumbles are already cooked, so no need to overcook)
  • Add tomato sauce and spices
  • Drain the pasta and let sit for a minute or two
  • Add the cooked pasta and turn off the heat
  • Mix and allow to sit for a minute or two
  • Serve warm, share, and enjoy!

Nutrition facts: (per serving)- 316 calories, 0.5 g fat, 0 g cholesterol, 650 g sodium, 335 g potassium, 53 g carbs, 8.6 g fiber, 7.6 g sugar, 24 g protein. 12.5% DV vitamin A, 79% DV vitamin C, 5% DV calcium, 22% DV iron.

Happy eating!

-jess

 

Island Inspiration

A few weeks ago I was spending some time scrolling through Instagram and I stumbled upon a Caribbean chef’s delicious food creations.  The flavors seemed to permeate through my phone screen, as I could almost taste the delicious dishes pictured in his photos.  I was also reminded of my childhood trips to Jamaica and how much I loved trying new things and exploring with my tastebuds.  I felt inspired to recreate some plant-based versions of what I saw on my screen and remembered from my past travels.  I headed to the closest ethnic market and picked up a bunch of exotic fruit and vegetables.  It was time to get cooking!

At the ethnic market, I bought up some yuca (a starchy root vegetable), plantains (similar to bananas but higher in starch and not as sweet), some brown rice, pinto beans, canned peas, green tomatillos (similar to tomatoes), and pre-seasoned barbecued jackfruit (jackfruit is a delicious, bubblegum-tasting fruit).

To cook the yuca, I first peeled it, cut it in half, and then boiled it for about 15 minutes-20 minutes.  Then I let it sauté with some onions and tomatillos in a skillet.  In a separate skillet, I sautéed the plantain with a tiny bit of vegetable oil.  The rice and beans were super easy to make (I cooked the rice according to the package but used vegetable broth instead of water for extra flavor, and then added canned pinto beans and canned peas).  The jackfruit came already seasoned so I just heated it up for a minute or two.

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Although this meal is very high in carbohydrates, it’s also high in fiber.  This meal was so tasty and it was so fun to work with new flavors.  I’m looking forward to my next cooking inspiration, so if you have a delicious, unique meal or cuisine you’d like to share, leave a comment of connect with me via Facebook or Instagram @vitaminvalentine 🙂

-Jess

Creamy Tofu and Veggie Soup

A few weeks ago, I made a delicious creamy soup using whatever vegetables I had in my kitchen.  What I love about this soup is that although it tastes creamy, it has less fat than a cream-based soup and contains plant-based protein, fiber, vitamin C, and vitamin A.  I’ve been perfecting the recipe, and I think I’ve finally found the perfect combination of ingredients.  Feel free to try this out on a cold day, and feel free to add or omit any veggies depending on what’s available to you.

Creamy Tofu and Veggie Soup

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Ingredients (serves 3-4):

  • 2 cups vegetable broth (I use store-bought broth. Check ingredients if you’re following a vegan diet because some can contain animal products).
  • 1.5 cups unsweetened, plain soymilk, or unsweetened plain ricemilk
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp. safflower or almond oil
  • 1/2 a standard block of firm tofu, cut into small cube shapes
  • 1.5 cups of fresh or frozen broccoli
  • 1 cup fresh, canned, or frozen corn
  • 1 cup fresh, canned, or frozen carrots
  • 1 medium potato, cut into smaller pieces (purple-skinned potatoes and yukon potatoes work great in this recipe)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • a pinch of garlic powder
  • a pinch of dried rosemary (omit if you don’t care for this herb)

Directions:

  • Measure all ingredients
  • On low-medium heat, use oil to grease a non-stick large pan or pot and lightly brown garlic and tofu cubes
  • When tofu has browned slightly, add vegetable broth, soy milk, and potatoes to the pan or pot, simmer for about 5-10 minutes
  • Add other veggies (broccoli, corn, carrots) along with garlic powder and dried rosemary. Add a bit of salt and pepper if you’d like
  • Simmer on low heat until potatoes are soft. Stir frequently. Remove from heat and serve. Refrigerate the extra or share with a friend!

-Jess

Rest and a Fresh Recipe

Have you ever changed your diet and felt amazing…only to go back to how you were eating and feeling before?  It can be hard to stick with eating healthy, even if we feel the benefits.  I often wonder why this is, and I’ve noticed that for me I’m a creature of habit and habits are hard to change, especially when you’ve been doing something or eating something for so long.

I mentioned in early August that I was taking a break from drinking coffee.  I quit coffee cold turkey and was coffee-free for over 35 days until I decided to indulge in an iced coffee. For the next week, I was drinking about a cup of coffee in the AM.  I also got on average about 4 hours of sleep each night that I had drank coffee in the morning.  Although caffeine shouldn’t affect my sleep so much, it does and I came to the conclusion that I’ve become extremely sensitive to caffeine and (for me) it just isn’t worth it any more.

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Of course I documented my iced coffee indulgence!

I’m happy I realized coffee was affecting me in a negative way instead of drinking even more coffee to make up for lack of sleep, which is something I used to do on a daily basis.  I’m also happy to share what I learned during this self-realization coffee experiment: don’t beat yourself up!  If you slip up on a health goal, diet, or exercise routine, etc., instead of berating yourself and feeling like poo, simply note the difference in how you physically, mentally, and emotionally feel when you’re doing something good for yourself vs. how you feel when you do something that doesn’t benefit your overall health.  Then, decide which feelings you’d rather feel.  In my case, if I kept drinking coffee, I’d probably feel energized for a few hours, but ultimately miss out on sleep and feel really tired at work, in class, and during my free time.

Being coffee-free also made me realize the importance of eating energizing foods.  I pride myself on practicing what I preach, but sometimes quick convenience foods are an easy option that I rely on.  These foods are ok in a pinch, but real, wholesome, unprocessed foods provide so much more.  I’ve decided to share a delicious meal filled with fresh veggies that I made recently.  It took me about 10 minutes to make the entire meal and it’s packed with fiber, lycopene, vitamin A, vitamin C, and deliciousness.

Zucchini Noodles with Tomato-“Cheez” Sauce

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Ingredients (serves 1-2):

  • 1 large zucchini
  • 2 vine-ripe tomatoes (or use about 1-1.5 cups of ripe cherry tomatoes)
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp. oregano
  • 1/4 tsp. basil
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of pepper
  • 5 kalamata olives
  • 1/4 cup raw cashews

Directions: * you will need a food processor and a vegetable spiralizer (or buy spiralized zucchini at a supermarket)

  • Spiralize the zucchini into spaghetti-shaped noodles and set in a bowl or plate
  • Using a food processor, blend the tomatoes, spices, cashews, and olives together for about 3-5 minutes, or until a sauce consistency appears
  • Top the noodles with the sauce and use whatever garnish appeals to you
  • Enjoy, and take care of yourself!

 

-Jess

My favorite breakfast/treat

Fall is almost here but I’m relishing these last days of summer.  This summer, my favorite breakfast/snack/dessert was banana ice cream.  At this point, if you follow any vegan instagram accounts, I’m sure you’ve heard of banana ice cream (also called “nice cream”.)  This delicious frozen treat is made by freezing a few bananas and then blending the frozen ‘nanas with a little liquid (almond milk, coconut water, water, etc.) in a food processor.

I’m obsessed with eating banana ice cream for breakfast and trying different variations.  I love how simple it is to whip up a bowl of nice cream and I love how healthy and filling it is.  The trick is to only use a few bananas (you don’t need to eat 10 bananas at a time contrary to what fad diets might say) and and 3/4-1 cup. of another frozen fruit (if you want more flavor than just banana).  For toppings, I like using a sprinkle of oats or granola, cacao nibs, chocolate chips, or a table spoon of peanut or almond butter.  You can also add protein powder into the food processor if you’re looking for a post-workout meal or snack.

I’m sharing the nice cream creation I made this morning below.  What is your favorite way to eat nice cream?   If you’re looking for some ideas on how to make this deliciously healthy meal, be sure to follow me on instagram @vitaminvalentine for more nice cream recipes and daily food inspiration 🙂

Chocolate Peanut Butter Nice Cream

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Ingredients:

  • 2 frozen peeled bananas (I usually just break the bananas into 2-3 pieces each before freezing)
  • 1/4 cup coconut water
  • 1 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder (100% cocoa powder is usually vegan. I buy this at Trader Joe’s)
  • 1/4 cup whole-grain cereal
  • 1 tbsp. peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp. vegan chocolate chips (I buy these at Trader Joe’s)

Directions:

  • Blend frozen bananas, coconut water, and unsweetened cocoa powder together until creamy (about ~3 minutes).
  • Scoop out nice cream and transfer to a bowl.
  • Top with cereal, peanut butter, and chocolate chips
  • Enjoy and eat up, this can melt fast in warm weather!

-Jess