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 @ theveganRD

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

-Jess

Secret Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Protein Bars (Vegan + Gluten Free!)

I love a good protein bar, but I don’t love paying up to $3 for a single serving bar that’s often lacking in wholesome ingredients. This weekend I made my own protein bar that tastes like peanut butter cookie dough–and is packed with fiber, protein, and healthy fats. I was inspired to make these after seeing many of my fellow dietitian friends enjoying Perfect Bars, but since these contain whey and honey, they’re off limits for vegans. My version of the perfect protein bar uses Vega brand protein powder, and chickpea flour (the “secret” ingredient–clearly I’m not good at keeping secrets for long!). Let me know what you think if you try the recipe.

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Vegan/Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Protein Bars

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup garbanzo bean (chickpea) flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill brand) Note: You can also use oat flour, which I’ve made too, if you prefer a more mild flavor
  • 1/2 cup almond meal (I used Trader Joe’s brand)
  • 3 scoops Vega Vanilla Protein Powder
  • 1/2 cup natural, smooth peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips (I used Trader Joe’s brand
  • 1/4-1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk

Directions:

Mix all ingredients (except for chocolate chips) together in a large bowl, use your hands to mold into a dough. Line a pan/cooking tin with parchment paper and mold the dough into a layer. Then, using your hands, place the chocolate chips into the dough, pressing down so the chocolate chips become embedded in the mixture. Place in the freezer for 30 minutes. Remove from the freezer, cut into squares, or rectangles and enjoy! I loved cutting these into tiny squares and putting them on PB toast and in my morning almond milk yogurt.

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Nutrition facts per serving (makes 18 squares): 141 calories, 6 g fat, 15 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 7 g protein.

-Jess

Quick and Easy Thai-Inspired Curry

Lately I’ve had limited time and I find myself getting bored with my go-to quick and easy recipes. I noticed that I had been making a lot of veggie-filled pasta dishes and nutrient-dense salads, which are delicious and healthy, but can get repetitive. My food rut led me to create this super-flavorful thai-inspired dish that took me ~30 minutes to prepare. It makes about 4 servings and keeps well–which is important, because after a long, busy day, there’s something so satisfying about coming home to a meal already prepared (just re-heat for ~3 minutes in the microwave). What I love about this dish is how warming and filling it is, making it perfect for cold winter evenings when you crave a hearty meal. Each serving packs a punch of plant-based protein, 116% of daily value of vitamin A, and about 40% of daily calcium requirements. One thing to note about this recipe is that the measurements for the spices are estimated, as I tend to improvise as I go. Feel free adjust the spices as you see fit.

Thai-Inspired Curry with Tofu + Veggies

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup quick-cooking basmati brown rice (I used Trader Joe’s brand)
  • 1/4 cup diced yellow onion
  • 2 cloves of fresh garlic, diced
  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 1 container of Trader Joe’s “Harvest Hodgepodge” frozen veggies- or use a frozen (or fresh) veggie combination of your choice
  • 2 cups unsweetened, unflavored coconut milk (I used Trader Joe’s brand)
  • 1 block of firm, organic tofu
  • 2 tbsp. soy sauce/tamari/or coconut aminos
  • 2-3 tsp. curry powder
  • 1/2- 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. chili powder (use less if you prefer less spice)
  • juice of 1/2 a lime
  • 1 oz. cashews

Directions:

  • For the rice- measure 1 cup cup quick-cooking brown basmati rice and 2.5 cups water and heat in a pot. Bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat and allow to simmer for ~20 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside
  • As the rice cooks, remove tofu from its container and press out all liquid using a paper towel and a slightly heavy object on top of this (I usually use a book, or if you have a tofu press- use that)
  • While the tofu drains, heat the onion, garlic, and celery in a skillet (I use non-stick pans which don’t require oil)
  • Add frozen veggies to the skillet and allow to cook, adding ~1 tbsp. of soy sauce (or tamari/coconut aminos)
  • Add 2 cups of coconut milk, lime juice, and some of the curry powder, ground ginger, and chili powder to the veggies and allow to cook on low heat
  • While the veggies are cooking, cut the tofu into squares and add some of the curry powder, ground ginger, and chili powder. Heat the spiced tofu in another skillet until the tofu is lightly browned, stirring occasionally
  • After the tofu has cooked, add it to the skillet with the veggies + coconut milk. Add any additional spices (if desired), and then add the cashews
  • Stir for a few minutes, allow to cool
  • Enjoy this delicious dish with the side of rice prepared in the first step

Let me know how you like this recipe by commenting on my latest Instagram post or by letting me know below. I love getting feedback on quick and easy recipes!

-Jess

 

Chocolate Chip Protein Banana Bread

It’s been a little while since I wrote a blog post and I’m excited to share why. I’m currently employed full-time during the week as a dietitian at a rehab center, working weekends as a dietitian at a hospital, AND managing to provide nutrition counseling to private clients through Vitamin Valentine Wellness–so I haven’t been updating this blog as often as I used to. Although I’m super busy, I’m also happy to be getting so much experience as a new dietitian.

Having limited free time made me realize that I really need to prioritize self-care and focus on activities that help me unwind. One thing that’s always helped me relax is baking. I love creating healthy baked goods that I can indulge in (healthily) after a busy day. The following recipe not only satisfies my craving for chocolate, but also packs a punch of protein, potassium, and fiber. Let me know how you like this recipe if you try it and feel free to leave a comment here or on my Instagram page @vitaminvalentine.

Chocolate Chip Protein Banana Bread

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Ingredients:

  • 3 cups garbanzo bean flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill brand)- if you don’t have this flour or can’t find it, feel free to swap it out for whole wheat flour, spelt flour, or your favorite gluten free baking mix
  • 3 scoops Vega Vanilla Protein Powder (or your favorite plant-based protein powder)
  • 4 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 cups unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 6 oz. Kite Hill unsweetened greek-style almond yogurt (or use your favorite plant-based, dairy-free yogurt)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips (I used Trader Joe’s brand)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 370°F. In a large mixing bowl, add flour, protein powder, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. In another mixing bowl, combine mashed bananas, almond milk, almond yogurt, and vanilla. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, then add chocolate chips. Mix well until contents are uniform. Using non-stick spray, spray a 9×11 brownie tin or baking pan of your choice. Scoop out batter into the pan. Bake at 370°F for 35-40 minutes. Allow to cool. Cut into squares (this recipe made 20 squares me for). Enjoy!

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

Planning, Creating, and Saving, Part I

Several years ago, I posted how much I LOVE Whole Foods Market Salad Bar (that blog post can be found here). I find Whole Foods Salad bar so appealing because of the vast array of vegan options and fresh ingredients, but this is not the case for all salad bars. I’ve been to some sad salad bars where the only vegan options are wilted lettuce and stale carrots. I still love going to Whole Foods salad/hot food bar over any other salad bar, but I also really love saving money (who doesn’t)? Thus, my twice daily Whole Foods habit became more of a bi-weekly treat.

When I decided that I needed to start a food budget, I had to figure out which foods I really enjoy eating and which foods often go to waste in my fridge. As a dietitian, I also knew which foods were the most nutrient-dense. Today I’m sharing a few tips to help you get started with planning, preparing, and creating delicious, affordable meals that will give you energy, and save you money. I’ve decided to make this a series because I have SO many tips to share.

Today’s tips:

1.  Have a budget

Before you go food shopping, have a budget so that you can plan what you’ll be making and how much to spend. It can be a flexible budget (by $5-10) or you can keep it strict–but remember, the stricter your budget, the more planning you’ll have to do. Once you figure out how much you want to spend, think about where you want to go shopping. I’ve found that Trader Joe’s has the best prices for frozen food and some packaged vegetables. Other times, I’ve lucked out at Whole Foods Market (especially the 365 Brand products). Sometimes your best bet is to stick with independently-owned grocery stores or conventional stores that offer cheaper produce. If it’s spring/summer/fall and there are farmers markets near you, definitely check them out because local produce is usually much cheaper than produce that’s been packaged and shipped. Remember, do what is easiest and most cost-effective for you.

2.  Plan on including colorful fruits and veggies

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Eat the rainbow!

The focus of your grocery shopping list (and meal prep/plan) should be fruits and veggies. The more deeply-colored a vegetable (or fruit) is, the more nutrients it packs. Carrots, sweet potatoes, beets, dark leafy greens (like kale, swiss chard, arugula), purple cabbage, berries, tomatoes, and squash are packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and they’re so tasty! But, you’ll definitely need to do some planning before you make your shopping cart look like a rainbow, which leads me to tip #2.

3.  Find some inspiration

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Getting all the colors for breakfast + some snacks

Instead of packing your shopping cart with a bunch of colorful produce that you don’t know what to do with, have a plan. Before I go food shopping I pick 2 different colorful veggies that I haven’t been eating and find recipes that are appealing to me using Pinterest or Instagram. For example, on Pinterest, I’ll search “vegan beet recipes”. You can also use blogs to find delicious recipes (I’ve posted a ton of recipes over the years so use the “search” button/tab on this blog). I also love using delicious meals that I’ve had at restaurants for inspiration. Some of my favorite meals to recreate at home are vegan pizza (using whole wheat dough, cauliflower crust, or tortillas as the base), vegan sushi, and any kind of mexican food (mmm just thinking about bean burritos).

4.  Keep it simple when it comes to protein

I like to create different flavors with my meal prep (for instance, italian seasoned tofu at one meal, mexican-flavored beans and rice for the next). I recommend using unflavored mock-meats and plant-based protein (like seitan, tofu, tempeh) and then adding your own seasonings, oils, and spices, unless you find a flavored variety that fits into a particular recipe. Buying unseasoned vegan protein makes it easier to use in a variety of meals.

5.  Pick 1-2 grains to work with for the week

If you’re doing a weekly food prep/plan, choose 1 or two whole grain products to include in you meal prep. What I love about grains is how diverse they are and how they can take the flavor of whatever you’re cooking. Typically, I’ll buy 1 or 2 breads a week (like sprouted grain bread or tortillas) and 1-2 pasta/rice/grains (lately my fave is Trader Joe’s brown-rice lentil spaghetti).

In my next post, I’ll share more tips about planning your meals and making them super flavorful and creative. Check back soon, and be sure to follow my instagram account (vitaminvalentine) for more tips on being the healthiest vegan you can be!

-Jess

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