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!

 

Nutrition facts: (per square) 155 calories, 3 g fat, 26 g carbohydrates, 4 g fiber, 7 g protein. 8.1% DV Calcium, 10.9% DV Iron, 193.2 mg potassium

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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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For this particular day, I felt inspired by collard wraps that I had tried at Bareburger. I also made sure to include a variety of colorful produce at breakfast + lunch.

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 used to LOVE trying all new kinds of mock-meat and vegan protein sources like “chik’n”, soy nuggets, marinated tofu, etc. But these items can be costly, and they don’t necessarily taste good in a variety of meals. 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), so opting for pre-seasoned, expensive vegan “meats” stopped making as much sense to me. Instead, now I buy plain tofu and canned beans which saves a ton of money and allows me to use these items in a variety of meals throughout the week. Keeping it simple when it comes to protein also limits the amount of added salt, sugar, and preservatives in the food you’re eating.

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 bread product (like sprouted grain bread or tortillas) and 1 pasta-type product (lately it’s been 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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Taking a Coffee Break

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Today I’m sharing my on-and-off again relationship with my first love–a powerful elixir named coffee! Coffee and I go way back. I think my love of coffee began sometime in high school and ever since then, I’ve been hooked. In college, I craved the “peppy” feeling that coffee would give me as I studied throughout the night and I loved hanging out in coffee shops near my school (shoutout to The Witches Brew + The Cup on Long Island for fueling my first degree!). Any time I started the day without my daily fix, I would be plagued with debilitating headaches. I realized sometime in my twenties that I was completely dependent on caffeine to get through the day so one summer I attempted to quit coffee cold turkey, and I was actually successful for 45 days! Then I decided to indulge in an iced coffee and it was all downhill from there. I’m exaggerating, but my coffee habit picked up right where it left off.

Coffee is known to be addictive. It’s the most widely available and used stimulant out there, but just because many people are dependent on coffee doesn’t mean it’s bad. Coffee has many benefits and it happens to be a powerful antioxidant that may be useful in preventing some forms of diseases and cancer. Regular coffee drinkers may have a decreased risk of diabetes (just hold the cream & sugar), Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and cancers of the liver and colon.

I’m definitely not anti-coffee, but this summer while I was studying for the RD exam I realized I don’t LOVE coffee like I used to. Ever since I started drinking coffee (over 10 years now), my sleep has been affected. I know coffee can make me anxious at times, but in the past, the energetic coffee buzz was worth it. What changed for me recently was realizing that I actually don’t like that jittery, peppy feeling anymore. As I was driving to take the test, I stopped at Starbucks for my daily ritual, but I was so nervous that I took one sip of coffee and decided that would be my last sip for a while. I couldn’t bare to be any more anxious than I already was.

It’s now been over a week since I had regular coffee (I did drink decaf for the first 3 days) and I feel surprisingly…normal. I didn’t experience any caffeine-withdrawal headaches but I was nauseas for the first few days, which I wasn’t expecting. I think I avoided having headaches by drinking a ton of water and taking naps when needed. I’m not sure how long I’ll be coffee-free. Unlike previous attempts at ditching the bean, I don’t feel like I need to eliminate coffee due to an actual addiction, I’m just kind of over it.

Are you a regular coffee drinker or do you prefer something else? Let me know! I love hearing about other peoples’ views on my (former favorite) caffeine-bean 🙂

-Jess

Jessie, the RDN!

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Greetings! It’s been a little while since I last posted, and for good reason–I’ve spent the past two months studying for the RD exam and now I can happily say I’M OFFICIALLY A REGISTERED DIETITIAN NUTRITIONIST! When I saw the words “Congratulations! You’ve passed the credentialing exam” I was in disbelief. Despite feeling prepared prior to the test, I just couldn’t believe that all my hard work over the past several years had finally paid off. It was such an amazing feeling and I don’t even think it’s fully hit me yet that I’m actually an RDN!

Studying for these past few months was probably one of the most stressful times of my life, because the exam covers EVERYTHING in dietetics that a DPD program and internship encompass but the exam itself is only 125-145 questions. So, there’s a whole bunch of material that candidates need to review, conceptualize, and memorize, but you never know which topic(s) will actually show up on your exam.

Studying was also stressful for me because I have a tendency to overdo things and I studied anywhere from 5-10 hours/day, 6 days a week, for 2 months. My actual studying strategy was first attending the Jean Inman review seminar (a 2-day review course) and then studying the Inman guide like it was the bible (I’m pretty sure I have the entire guide memorized at this point). In order to retain things, I need to write them down (more than once), so I would copy down any important points from the guide and write them in a notebook, and then make flashcards. When I was finished studying a topic/domain, I would complete 10-25 questions, and then focus on the things I got wrong. I tried to understand the WHY behind each topic and really focused on learning the concepts of the material in the study guide. One thing that I noticed while studying is that some of the questions are purely common sense, and others want you to really think and use critical thinking skills. Of course, there are those topics that you just have to memorize (like temperatures, drug-nutrient interactions, BMI categories, etc.). There were some topics that I felt I needed more background info on so I used several of my nutrition textbooks from over the years and also used an app called Pocketprep ($20–so worth it!) which really helped with providing additional practice questions and explanations. Three days before the test, I also found additional study materials online and focused on test-taking strategies because I could already feel my nerves taking over.

There’s no definitive “right” way to study for the RD exam, but I don’t think one needs to study as much as I did–especially because most of the material I studied wasn’t on the test, and stressing myself out by spending all of my free time studying made me anxious. I didn’t realize this fully until the night before the exam when I decided to take a relaxing bath set to spa music and thought to myself ‘hmm I should have really been doing this all along’.  My advice to anyone who has yet to take their RD exam or is making another attempt is to RELAX, especially by making the time to put your books away and do something that feels good to you.

Now that I’m officially an RD (RDN, the two terms are interchangeable), I’m so excited for the future! I’ll be posting more updates later in the week, so check back soon and if you have questions about how to study for the RD exam, or want to share your experience, feel free to leave a comment below 🙂

-Jessie Valentine, M.S., RDN!!!!

Baked Carrot-Raisin Oatmeal

This week was the start of my renal rotation and I’m learning a ton.  I really like working with this population and learning all about dialysis and end-stage renal disease…but this rotation is a little far from my house so I’ve been having to do some extra planning when it comes to making my mornings run smooth.

To make my life a little simpler, I’ve been eating a delicious, healthy, and wholesome breakfast on the go of baked oatmeal that I prep ahead, which saves some time in the morning.  Baked oatmeal has all the benefits of regular oatmeal, and it tastes like a delicious baked good (yum!).

For this recipe, I wanted to use some of the veggies in my fridge so I added carrots, and I got even more creative by adding raisins, pumpkin spice seasoning, and vanilla protein powder.  The full recipe for this whole grain breakfast is easy to prepare and will keep you full for hours, and if you’re feeling adventurous you could eat in your car as you sit in standstill traffic (but maybe don’t do this, because you should always pay attention to the road)  🙂

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Ingredients:

  • 2 cups dry, old fashioned oats
  • 2 scoops of your favorite protein powder (I use Vega Sport Vanilla)
  • 1 cup unsweetened apple sauce
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 2 tsp. pumpkin spice seasoning or use cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp. ground flaxseed + 2 tbsp. warm water (to make a “vegan egg”)

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 375°F
  • Measure oats, protein powder, and spices and mix together in a large mixing bowl
  • In another mixing bowl, measure and mix the apple sauce, vanilla extract, almond milk, carrots, and raisins together
  • In a small cup, create a “vegan egg” (a binder) by mixing 1 tbsp. ground flaxseed with 2 tbsp. warm water
  • Add the wet ingredients into the dry, then mix in the “vegan egg”
  • Using nonstick spray or a brush with oil, oil a 9×9 baking pan and spread the mixture onto the pan
  • Bake for 45 minutes at 375°F
  • Remove from the oven, allow to cool, divide into four servings, and enjoy

I’ve been eating this delicious creation with dairy-free plain yogurt and a tbsp. of my favorite nut butter(s).  Feel free to let me know how you like this recipe.

-Jess

Italian Seasoned Cannellini Bean Balls

I’m currently sitting at home because my internship program has declared today a snowday.  I’m trying to make today both relaxing and productive, so before I dive deep into my internship assignments, I thought I’d share the latest recipe I’ve been working on.  If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that I sometimes struggle with cravings.  Cravings for me are a sign that something is lacking in my diet, and my most recent cravings for protein- and omega 3-rich foods made it clear that I need to eat more of these nutrients.  I’ve created these delicious bean-balls that are packed with healthy fats, satiating protein, and savory italian flavors.  I hope you try them, and let me know what you think.

Italian Seasoned Cannellini Bean Balls

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Ingredients:

  • 1 can (~15 oz.) of cannellini beans (also called navy beans, white kidney beans)
  • 1/2 cup raw walnuts
  • 1/2-3/4 cup packed ground flax meal (I use Bob’s Red Mill brand). Adjust if the batter needs to be thicker (see below for desired thickness)
  • 2 cups raw baby spinach
  • several sprinkles of garlic powder- or use 1 small clove of garlic
  • 1/4 tsp. dried basil – or use 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 tsp. dried oregano

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375ºF.  As the oven heats, drain the beans well, and measure the rest of the ingredients.  Combine all ingredients in a food processor until well blended.  The consistency should be slightly thick, so you can mold the mixture into balls.  Using non-stick spray or a brush with oil, coat a baking sheet with a thin layer of oil.  Using your hands or a spoon, scoop out some of the bean batter.  Mold the batter into balls using the palms of your hands, as if you were working with clay or playdough.  Place the balls on the baking sheet.  Bake for 20 minutes, flip each ball individually, and bake for another 15 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool.

I enjoyed this delicious creation with spiralized zucchini, and sauteed spinach in a delicious (store-bought) pesto sauce.  Feel free to add these balls to your favorite pasta dish, as a topping in a salad, or whatever sounds good to you.

-Jess