An Ode to Oats

A while ago, I wrote a post about several different ways to prepare oats. Tonight, I was hungry, but didn’t really feel like cooking an elaborate meal. I also had a bunch of veggies that I wanted to use, so I decided to make a savory oat recipe that combines veggies, whole grains, and a good helping of plant-based protein and healthy fats. Next time you’re craving something filling yet quick, try this recipe. Oats are a great grain to use because they’re rich in fiber and leave you feeling full for quite a while. They’re also so easy to make and mild in flavor on their own, so think beyond breakfast when it comes to oats.

This dish might not win any awards for being visually pleasing, but it is sure to leave your belly satisfied!

This dish might not win any awards for being visually pleasing, but it is sure to leave your belly satisfied!

Ingredients (serves 1 hungry person, or 2 people):

  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats (gluten-free oats are also an option, if you’re following a gluten-free diet)
  • 1/2 cup black beans (drained of excess water and salt)
  • 1/4 c. chopped onion
  • 1 cup diced mushrooms, bell peppers, or whatever veggies you have available
  • 1 cup spinach, or other leafy green
  • guacamole (or avocado slices)
  • red pepper hummus (optional), you can also use salsa if available
  • non-stick spray or 1-2 tsp. olive oil

Directions:

  • Spray a pan with nonstick spray oil (or pour some olive oil on a pan), chop up veggies, and allow to cook on medium heat
  • Measure oats and place in a microwave-safe bowl. Add the suggested amount of water listed on the box. Heat for about 3 minutes in the microwave (but watch the bowl, because sometimes oats like to overflow and then you’ll be spending some time cleaning your microwave. Not fun!)
  • When the veggies have lightly browned, add 1/2 cup black beans to heat them up (canned beans don’t really need to be cooked) for a few minutes
  • Remove the pan of veggies and beans from the stove
  • Remove the oats from the microwave and combine the two
  • Add hummus, guacamole, salsa, or whatever you think would complement this dish well. Get creative and enjoy!

-Jess

Farm to Table: Kale and Pumpkin Sauce

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When I’m not working on this blog, taking notes in class, or at work, I also volunteer for a cause that I’m passionate about: supporting local agriculture! Living on Long Island for most of my life has given me a huge appreciation for the local farmers that dedicate their lives to providing communities with real, fresh, sustainably-raised produce. Because of this, I spend time helping out at a Farmers’ Market where we sell all types of fresh fruits and veggies planted on Long Island. This past weekend, I picked up some kale (among other nutritious goodies) and was thinking about possible recipes I could come up with. I looked in my cupboard and saw that I had a can of pumpkin (it would be even better if I had fresh pumpkin, but it’s not late enough in the season for that). I decided to combine the two to make an awesome, delicious sauce that I’m sharing today. I made this sauce up as I went along, so feel free to adjust it based on your tastebuds.

Ingredients 

  • 2 cups of kale (raw), chopped
  • 1 twelve-ounce can of pureed pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix in a can!)
  • 1 cup unsweetened, plain almond milk, rice milk, or soy milk
  • 2 gloves of garlic
  • 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. fresh basil, chopped, or 2-3 tsp. dry basil
  • 2 tsp. dried oregano (I didn’t have fresh oregano, but if you have it, use it)
  • a dash of salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/8 tsp. of nutmeg (this is optional, nutmeg complements pumpkin really well, but if you don’t have any on hand, don’t worry about it!)

 

Directions

  • Finely chop garlic and use non-stick spray to grease a pan on low-medium heat
  • Allow garlic to sizzle a little
  • While garlic is cooking, use blender to combine kale and unsweetened non-dairy milk until uniform
  • Add 12 ounces of pumpkin and the kale/non-dairy milk mixture to the pan containing the garlic
  • Continuing to stir on low-medium heat, add olive oil, basil, oregano, salt and pepper, and nutmeg for 10 minutes or until warm and uniform in color and texture
  • Prepare your favorite pasta, rice, or protein and use this sauce to add an unexpectedly delightful feast your body and tastebuds will equally enjoy! I roasted some veggies and made some sprouted grain fettucine, but the possibilities are endless with a little imagination.

-Jess

A Protein-Packed Vegan Side Salad

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Eating heavy meals during the summer can make you feel lethargic, so a lot of people seem to eat more fresh salads and lighter fare. It’s still important to consume adequate amounts of protein, which is why choosing meat-free sources of protein may be especially appropriate for summer weather (meats can leave a heavy feeling in the stomach). The salad I’m sharing today makes an excellent side dish and the best part is that most of the ingredients (excluding the beans) can be found at your local farmers’ market or farm stand.

Corn, Tomato, and Bean Salad

Ingredients

• One 12 oz. can of black beans (or a different type of bean that you like)
• 16 oz. baby tomatoes, or whole tomatoes, cut into smaller pieces
• ¼ cup diced onion
• 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
• 1.5 cups cooked corn (it can be fresh, canned, or frozen)
• a few leaves of fresh or dried oregano
• a few leaves of fresh or dried cilantro
• 4 tbsp. fresh or canned salsa
• salt and pepper to taste

Directions
• Boil water and boil or steam corn for a few minutes. Drain the corn (if it’s still on the cob, remove using a knife)
• Cut baby tomatoes or whole tomatoes into smaller pieces
• Heat the beans (I used a microwave) and drain so that some of the salt and other liquid is rinsed away
• Combine the corn, tomatoes, onion, herbs (oregano and cilantro), salt and pepper together.
• Drizzle olive oil and salsa on top and then mix gently
• Refrigerate or serve immediately
• Enjoy!

-Jess

Peanut Butter Crunch Noodles

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I love peanut butter and I’m pretty sure I could eat it with anything. One of my favorite dishes is peanut butter noodles, usually served cold. I decided to create my own version of peanut butter noodles with an additional crunchy vegetable component. I like playing around with different textures of food in the same dish, but feel free to sub cruciferous veggies for whatever tickles your fancy. This recipe is gluten-free because I used quinoa spaghetti which is made from quinoa, making this dish high in fiber and protein. Using natural peanut butter (without hydrogenated oils) along with just a tsp. or two of coconut oil also provides additional healthy fats. It’s always a good idea to eat your veggies with a fat source so that more of the vitamins and minerals are absorbed. Most importantly, this makes a delicious, easy dinner. I prepared this earlier in the day and came home late from work and ate this and it really hit the spot.

Peanut Butter Crunch Noodles (serves 2)

Ingredients

  • 4 oz. whole grain pasta. There are many varieties, I went with Ancient Harvest brand quinoa spaghetti. (You could also use wheat-containing pasta, if you want).
  • 2 cups Trader Joe’s cruciferous crunch medley (or any combination of your favorite vegetables)
  • 2 tbsp. natural peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp. tamari or regular soy sauce
  • squeeze of lemon juice
  • 2 tsp. coconut oil

Directions

  • Boil water in a pot, add 4 oz. of pasta when the water comes to a rolling boil. Be sure to stir frequently.
  • In a microwave safe dish, heat cruciferous veggies with a little water, cover with a paper towel allowing it to steam for 5 minutes, or steam using a steamer on the stove.
  • For the sauce, make sure the peanut butter is soft, not solid. You may have to heat it a little in the microwave.
  • Combine peanut butter, tamari, lemon juice, and coconut oil to create the sauce. Stir.
  • Drain the pasta after 12-15 minutes (taste to make sure it’s done)
  • Drain the remaining water from the veggies and add to the drained pasta.
  • In a bowl, mix in the sauce
  • Serve and enjoy!

-Jess

Summer Beet and Corn Salad

One great thing about summer is the abundance of fresh fruits and veggies that are available. Whether you get your produce from a farm stand, supermarket, or your own backyard, summer eating should be colorful and full of nutrition. Here’s a simple summer recipe for beet and corn salad, which can be eaten on its own, or as a side dish. If you’re heading to a barbecue, consider preparing a dish like this to impress your hosts and other dinner guests!

Simple Summer Beet and Corn Salad (serves 3-4)

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Ingredients:

  • 1 large beet, or 2-3 medium sized beets (greens removed)
  • 1/2 cup sliced onion
  • 3/4 cup corn
  • 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • squeeze of lemon juice
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

  • Boil water
  • As you’re waiting, remove outer layer from the beets using a vegetable peeler
  • If the beets are large, cut in half
  • Boil the beets for about 25 minutes (or until soft)
  • Remove corn from the cob, or if you’re not using fresh corn, measure 3/4 cup of corn and steam in the microwave
  • In a saucepan, heat the 1/2 cup sliced onion on low heat
  • Drain the beets when they’re finished cooking, and drain whatever excess water remains from the corn.  Remove the onion from the pan when it is lightly browned.
  • Combine the beets, corn, and onion, and add olive oil, lemon juice, and salt and pepper. Mix well with a spoon.
  • Refrigerate and enjoy when cooled

 

-Jess

Wrap it up: Tofu Salad!

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Tofu is probably one of the most versatile plant proteins to cook with. One of my favorite ways to eat tofu is in an egg-salad-like dish (sans eggs). This dish can be eaten in a wrap, a sandwich, on crackers, or on its own. Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients (serves four or more)

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  • 1/2 a package of firm tofu, drained
  • 1 carrot, peeled and cut into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 tsp. dill
  • dash of black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric (optional, used for color)
  • 1 tsp. mustard
  • 3 tbsp. vegan mayonaise
  • 1 tsp. soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 tbsp. tahini sauce (optional)

Directions

Drain the tofu and press out remaining water using paper towels. Chop the tofu into small pieces.photo 2-8

Chop the onions, carrot, and celery.photo 5

Combine the ingredients in a bowl, and add mustard, vegan mayo, soy sauce, and tahini. Add spices (pepper, turmeric, dill). Mix together and add to your favorite slice of bread, salad, or wrap.

I added salsa and spinach leaves to my finished product. Yum!

I added salsa and spinach leaves to my finished product. Yum!

Enjoy!

-Jess

How To Get Your Fruit Fix On

Summer is almost here (well, it’s almost a month away so that counts, right?) and summer is peak fruit season. Consuming at least two or more servings of fruit a day provides you with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and a healthy source of carbohydrates, but many people are so used to eating cereal or eggs for breakfast, and having cake or cookies for dessert, when fruit would be a healthier option.

Depending on where you live, different types and varieties of fruit may be in season during the summer, however, in most supermarkets and health food stores you can find fruit staples like oranges, bananas, apples, pears, and typically berries like strawberries and blueberries. If you’re lucky, you might also find mangos, papayas, and kiwis. During the summer months in the northeast, plums, peaches, and nectarines are all in season along with several different varieties of melons.

When thinking about ways to eat fruit, think out of the box! Fruit can be puréed and used in place of oil or eggs in muffin batter, juiced or blended into a smoothie, or added to accent a savory dish! Here are some other ways to enjoy fruit while getting a variety of vitamins and other nutrients.

 

Deconstructed Fruit Salads

Arrange fruit (and nuts, for a source of protein and healthy fats) on a plate and have a feast for your mouth and eyes. Children may especially be fond of these dishes due to the shapes and colors. For a fun activity, ask kids to describe the flavor and texture of each different type of fruit.

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Nutella-like spread, or similar nut butter pairs well with apples and bananas!

Nutella-like spread, or similar nut butter pairs well with apples and bananas!

Citrus fruit salad is not only fun to eat but visually appealing as well!

Citrus fruit salad is not only fun to eat but visually appealing as well!

 

Pair sliced fruit along with a whole grain product, like a berry-oat muffin, oatmeal, or whole-grain cereal.

Pair sliced fruit along with a whole grain product, like a berry-oat muffin, oatmeal, or whole-grain cereal.

 

Smoothies & Juices

For smoothies, use a banana, soy yogurt, or low-fat yogurt, along with any other fruit you enjoy to create a quick yet filling breakfast or snack!

For juices, sneak in some veggies, like carrots or beets, in with your fruit for an extra-nutritious beverage!


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Add to Savory Dishes

Try adding apples, citrus fruits, or mangoes to rice dishes, salads, or meals involving beans. I’ve found that fruit goes well with asian-inspired meals, especially with teriyaki sauce.

Kale salad with oranges, topped with pear dressing makes a vitamin A and vitamin C-rich meal.

Kale salad with oranges, topped with pear dressing makes a vitamin A and vitamin C-rich meal.

Sliced mango added to a bean salad topped with various veggies and teriyaki sauce is one idea for a fruit-infused main course

Sliced mango added to a bean salad topped with various veggies and teriyaki sauce is one idea for a fruit-infused main course

For a crunchy meal, shred jicama (a root vegetable) or prepare brown rice, and add oranges, kale, bell pepper, and top with hot sauce for a variety of flavors and textures!

For a crunchy meal, shred jicama (a root vegetable) or prepare brown rice, and add oranges, kale, bell pepper, and top with hot sauce for a variety of flavors and textures!

 

Get creative with fruit and always try new foods, new dishes, and experiment in the kitchen! If you enjoyed the pictures in this post, feel free to follow me on instagram @vitaminvalentine for even more creative visuals of healthy food and recipes!

-Jess

 

Oat-rageous Oatmeal Ideas

Left: Oats with apples and almond butter. Right: Oats with Heritage Flakes (dry cereal) and a peach

Left: Oats with apples and almond butter. Right: Oats with Heritage Flakes (dry cereal) and a peach

Have you grown tired of eating your oatmeal with brown sugar? Well, prepare to be amazed with some delicious oatmeal ideas.

Before I get to that, let’s discuss how healthy oats actually are! Oatmeal has been shown to lower LDL cholesterol (the bad kind), decrease overall inflammation in the body, decrease blood pressure, and keep you full for a long time. When choosing an oatmeal variety, stick to the old-fashioned kind and not the instant one-minute kind and try to stay away from any with added sugars or fake dried fruit in the ingredients.

Here are some delicious, nutritious oatmeal ideas for your eating pleasure:

  • Cook oatmeal according to the directions on the box. Then chop an apple and add to the bowl. Top with 1-2 tbsp. of peanut butter and sprinkle with cinnamon. You can also slice a banana in addition or in place of an apple.

    mmm Oatmeal, Apples, & Peanut butter!

    mmm Oatmeal, Apples, & Peanut butter!

  • Prepare the oats, and blend berries in a blender. Mix the berries in with the oats and not only do you get a huge amount of nutrients in that bowl, you also get a beautifully colored masterpiece. Top with other fruit, such as an orange and coconut flakes for a nice finish. To add some healthy fats, you can also add almond butter or mixed nuts.photo-13
  • Cook oats, and add in canned pumpkin and top with raisins and cinnamon.
  • Use oats in a savory dish by replacing them in any recipe that calls for rice, quinoa, barley, or any other grain. Oats have a mild flavor, and when seasoned correctly can be done right in savory dishes.
  • Add a fiber-full  dry cereal to your oats, if you want some extra fiber!
  • Add oats to your favorite cookie or muffin recipe for some fiber. You may have to increase the amount of oil or liquid ingredients, but unlike flour, oats will not immediately soak up the liquid ingredients so play around with the recipe you’re using.

    Oats in a muffin makes this a healthy fibrous breakfast

    Oats in a muffin makes this a healthy fibrous breakfast

  • Eat oats for dessert! Cook oats, and then add 1 tbsp. of cocoa powder (I like 100% cacao, unsweetened). Add a tbsp. of brown sugar, some cinnamon, almond or peanut butter, and your favorite fruit.photo 5

 

Those are my favorite ways to use oats. What are some of your favorites? Feel free to post a comment if you’d like to share, and don’t forget to visit and like my new Facebook page for Vitamin Valentine for additional daily nutrition, motivation, and health news and updates.

 

-Jess

How To Keep Warm in This Never-Ending Winter: Hot & Spicy Tofu Curry

I live in the northeast and I can’t wait for this winter to be over. Luckily, the official start of spring is now less than a month away. To keep you warm for the remainder of the winter, I’ve made a delicious curry recipe and would love to share. Did you know that the spices in curry dishes have amazing health properties? Indeed, studies have shown that a compound found in curry has anti-cancer benefits, and Turmeric (another spice involved in curry dishes) may lower blood sugar and increase insulin sensitivity overtime. Besides the health properties, curry is so delicious and versatile. Adding heat to a meal also raises your metabolism, albeit only temporarily by 8%.

Spicy Coconut Curry Tofu with Sriracha-Hummus Quinoa on the Side

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Ingredients:

  • 12 oz. can of coconut milk (not coconut water, but the actual high-fat coconut milk)
  • 1 cup diced onions
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • small amount of oil for the pan
  • cilantro
  • bay leaf
  • 1.5 tablespoons curry powder
  • red thai curry paste
  • juice of one lime
  • 1-3+ tsp. chili powder (depends on how spicy you like it)
  • 1/2 tsp. ginger
  • 12 oz. firm tofu
  • 2/3 cup chickpeas (canned saves time)
  • 1/2 cup frozen or fresh peas
  • 1/2 cup dry quinoa +2 cups water
  • hummus
  • sriracha or hot sauce

Directions:

  • Dice the onions and garlic, oil the pan, and sauté until just about lightly browned.
  • Add the tofu (drain and press the tofu to get rid of excess water prior to cooking) and cook on medium heat until the tofu is lightly browned.
  • Add the coconut milk and red thai curry paste, curry powder, bay leaf, chili powder, cilantro ginger, and lime juice.
  • Add the peas
  • Simmer on low-medium heat for about 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the drained, already cooked chickpeas towards the end of cooking.
  • Quinoa takes about 10 minutes to cook. Add quinoa to a pan and then add water after a minute of heating the dry quinoa. Stir and if the quinoa is undercooked but soaking up water, lower the heat and add more liquid incrementally.
  • Remove the bay leaves (or leaf), serve the curry in a bowl with quinoa on the side. To the quinoa, add hummus (garlic or plain flavored works best) on top and finish with sriracha or hot sauce.
  • Enjoy!

-Jess

The Benefits of Quinoa and a Few Recipe Ideas

Since I’ve been writing about gluten-free diets, I’ve decided to devote an entire post to my favorite gluten-free grain, quinoa. Did you know that quinoa is technically not a grain, but a distant relative to spinach and beets? Here is some additional info quinoa.

Benefits of Quinoa

Quinoa is a high-quality vegetarian source of protein that also has 3 grams of fiber per serving. In a ¼ cup dry serving, there are 160-175 calories (varies by brand). Quinoa is safe for people with Celiac Disease and gluten intolerance because it is gluten free and can be used in recipes as a replacement for gluten-containing grains. Another benefit of quinoa is its vitamin and mineral content. Quinoa is rich in iron, phosphorus and magnesium. Iron is especially important for women and for those following a vegetarian diet.

How to Cook It

For a recipe that calls for quinoa, cooking is quite simple. The most important part of the cooking process (in my experience) is rinsing the quinoa prior to cooking. Rinsing eliminates any granules of sand and also decreases the naturally soapy, bitter taste that can sometimes be present. To cook quinoa, use a saucepan and a small amount of oil/fat. I usually spray coconut oil or olive oil. Add ¼ cup portion to the pan just enough to lightly heat the dry quinoa for a minute without water. Next add enough water to cover the quinoa. For a ¼ cup dry serving, you can use ¾ cup or 1 cup of water. Simmer on low-medium heat. The quinoa is ready when the grains have softened, are soft when tasted, and when all of the water has been absorbed (sometimes more water needs to be added if it was cooked at higher temperature and still appears undercooked). Each quinoa grain has an O-shaped particle that will sometimes separate from the rest of the grain and both parts are edible.  Quinoa does not require rinsing or draining once it’s done.

How to Use it

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Quinoa in a mexican-inspired dish. Instead of rice, I used quinoa and added black beans, onions, broccoli, and topped with a generous helping of salsa and a few olives.

Quinoa can be used in many dishes. My favorite ways to use quinoa are in place of rice or pasta. Instead of adding rice to a burrito or Asian-inspired stir-fry, use quinoa as the base. The same spices can be added to the quinoa as it is cooking or after it is fully cooked. Quinoa can also be used in ways similarly to oatmeal. Add cinnamon, nutmeg, raisins, and other dried or fresh fruit to hot quinoa for breakfast. You can also use quinoa when making your own granola instead of using oats. The most interesting way I’ve used quinoa is in cookies (I’ve included the recipe below).

Other Quinoa Products

Quinoa is now on the market in a variety of food products, from quinoa pasta, quinoa flour, bread with added quinoa, and the list goes on. If you do follow a gluten-free diet, be sure to read the label of these products and make sure that wheat or other gluten-containing grains have not been added to the flour mixtures. Otherwise, enjoy quinoa in its many forms!

Quinoa Cookies

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Ingredients:

(makes about two dozen cookies)

  • 2 cups brown rice flour
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil (melted) or other fat
  • 1 mashed banana
  • ¼ cup grade A Maple Syrup
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup dry measured quinoa (when cooked, will greatly expand)
  • Optional: Raisins, chocolate chips, coconut flakes, and or brown rice cereal.

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. You’ll want to cook the quinoa prior to adding to the rest of the ingredients, so use the cooking method listed above (stovetop, in a saucepan. Be sure to rinse the dry grain before cooking!)

  •  Measure the dry ingredients (brown rice flour, brown sugar, salt, baking soda) and mix in a large bowl.
  • In a separate bowl, mix wet ingredients (melted fat, mashed banana, maple syrup, vanilla)
  • Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients using a wooden spoon or spatula to lightly mix the two together. Be careful not to overmix.
  • Once the quinoa is finished cooking, remove from heat, and mix in with the combined wet-dry mixture.
  • Add the rest of the optional ingredients
  • The mixture should now be the consistency of a chocolate-chip cookie dough. If not thickened due to the heat of the quinoa, allow to harden a little bit in the fridge.
  • Grease a baking pan (cooking spray does the trick for me), and use a spoon to scoop out dough onto the pan  I usually can fit  a dozen on the baking pan, but it depends on what size you like.
  • Bake at 375 degrees F for 10-14 minutes.
  • Allow to cool for a bit and enjoy!

-Jess