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

Kidney Bean Tacos for a Cause

Can we just taco ’bout how good Mexican food is? I love using Mexican flavors in my cooking, especially when I want to make something healthy taste amazingly flavorful and spicy. I’ve been wanting to make vegan tacos for a while and I’ve also wanted to share a recipe using kidney beans because one of my friends is involved with raising funds for the National Kidney Foundation’s kidney walk on May 22nd on Long Island and what better way to show my support for raising awareness for kidney disease than with a little play on words (for the record, I’ll be at the kidney walk too and if you live on Long Island, come support by walking!). For more info on the kidney walk and kidney disease, please follow me on instagram @vitaminvalentine where I’ll have a link to register for the walk.

Although this recipe was specifically made using kidney beans, if you don’t have any, you can substitute black beans, pinto beans, or whatever you have in stock. If you’re not a fan of tofu, you can use seitan, tempeh, or whatever you’d like.

Kidney Bean Tacos (serves 2)FullSizeRender-16

Ingredients

  • 1/2 can kidney beans, or 3/4 cup dry kidney beans
  • 5 oz. extra firm tofu (or substitute with another protein)
  • 4 small soft-shell corn tortillas (I bought the ones I used at Trader Joe’s)
  • 1/2 tsp. chili powder (regular)
  • 1/4 tsp. chipotle chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 2 tsp. oil (for the pan)
  • 2 tsp. olive oil as dressing
  • salsa, pico de gallo (I bought two varieties at TJ’s, but if you have a salsa recipe you like, feel free to use that)
  • 1 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tbsp. lime juice
  • sprinkle of salt
  • 1 avocado
  • 2 cups chopped kale
  • 1/4 cup chopped tomatoes or sliced grape tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp. red onion, diced

Directions

  • Drain the beans and press the excess water out of the tofu. Slice tofu into smaller pieces
  • Dice red onions
  • In a saute pan, add 2 tsp. oil and add onions and tofu. Add in spices (chili powders, garlic powder) and lime juice as the tofu and onions simmer on low heat
  • Add beans as tofu starts to brown
  • As the tofu and beans cook, in a bowl, massage olive oil onto the kale
  • To the bowl of kale, add cilantro, tomatoes, and a sprinkle of salt
  • Slice the avocado
  • Microwave (or if you really want to be authentic, steam) the taco shells for ~30 seconds
  • Remove the bean and tofu mixture from the stove when all the lime juice is absorbed and beans and tofu are lightly coated with spices
  • Place the taco shells on plates
  • Add the beans and tofu, then add the kale salad mixture
  • Top with sliced avocado and salsas of your preference
  • Enjoy with some corn tortilla chips and salsa or guacamole 🙂

-Jess

Peanut Butter, Banana, and Chia Overnight Oats

Lately I’ve been obsessed with adding chia seeds to my food. Chia seeds are packed with nutrition. High in fiber, antioxidants, and omega 3 fatty acids and versatile in the way they can used, chia seeds are a great choice for anyone looking to add more nutrition to their meals. If you’ve never tried chia seeds or you’re confused about how to use them, have no fear. To make chia seeds edible, just soak in water or your favorite non-dairy milk, coconut water, or freshly made juice. For each tablespoon of chia seeds used, add two tablespoons of liquid. Let soak for several hours (overnight works best), and voila, your chia seeds are ready to be enjoyed. Chia seeds go great when added to smoothies, baked goods like muffins and granola bars, and my personal favorite, oatmeal. One of my favorite ways to make oatmeal and chia seeds together is in overnight oats. This involves soaking the oats and the chia seeds in liquid (along with other yummy additions) to make a tasty, easy meal that requires no microwaving or heating. Here’s the recipe for my favorite chia seed overnight oats. This recipe is so complete in nutrition and taste, I didn’t feel the need to add any additional sugars 🙂

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Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup soymilk (or nondairy milk)
  • 3-4 tbsp. water
  • 1.5 tbsp. chia seeds
  • 1 ripe banana, sliced or blended/smushed
  • a drop or two of vanilla extract (optional)
  • a sprinkle of cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp. natural peanut butter (the less firm, the better, so if you refrigerate your natural PB, take it out of the fridge beforehand)
  • (optional) 2 tbsp. granola (for topping)

Directions:

  • In a large mason jar, or bowl, measure and combine oats, soymilk, water, and chia seeds. Mix so that all the oats and chia seeds are mixed together and can move around in the liquid
  • Slice or mash the banana, and add to the jar/bowl
  • Add cinnamon and vanilla extract, if desired (this adds some flavor)
  • Mix in 1 tbsp. of peanut butter.
  • Add a sprinkle of cinnamon
  • Make sure that everything is mixed well
  • Put a lid on the jar or top the bowl with a piece of saran wrap/cover and let sit overnight or for about 8-10 hours
  • Remove from the fridge, remove lid/cover, add 2 tbsp. of your favorite granola for a topping (optional)
  • Enjoy!

-Jess

Crunchy Kale and Nut Salad

If you live in New York, this past weekend you were most likely stuck indoors due to the snow. This past weekend during the blizzard, I was supposed to be teaching my first donation-based yoga class, but that just wasn’t going to happen due to the weather, so my yoga class has been rescheduled for next month. If you read my last post about yoga, you know how excited I am about teaching this class! Getting back to being stuck inside, one of my favorite ways to pass the time when stuck inside is to cook. Or in my case, un-cook. I love kale and I especially love kale salads. The following kale salad will satisfy a crunchy craving and supply a good dose of healthy fats and fiber. It’s vegan, and if you use gluten-free soy sauce (tamari or shoyu) it can also be gluten free.

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Ingredients (serves 4 as a side dish, 2 if served as a main dish)

Salad

  • 4-5 cups kale, cut into small pieces
  • 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 a cucumber, diced
  • 1 carrot, shaved into slices or diced
  • 1/2 cup slivered raw almonds

Dressing (makes several servings, refrigerate and save remaining dressing)

  • 1/4 cup tahini (hulled sesame paste, can be found at most health food stores)
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 2-3 tbsp. water
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce

 

Directions

  • For the salad, cut veggies and set kale in a large bowl. Massage olive oil onto kale using your hands so that the kale becomes softened. Add veggies and slivered almonds.
  • For the dressing, measure and whisk together ingredients in a large bowl until uniform. Add 4 tablespoons of the dressing to the salad and mix with a large spoon. There will be a large amount of dressing leftover. Store the remaining dressing in a sealed cup or bowl and use within a few days.
  • Share with friends and enjoy!

 

-Jess