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 (to me) may be a sign that something is lacking in my diet. I decided to make these protein and omega-3-rich bean balls to provide these nutrients for vegan readers who may have similar cravings. Not only are they packed with healthy fat and protein, they’re delicious! 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

Oh, mega delicious chai spice walnut butter

Lately I’ve been noticing persistent, intense cravings for food that I don’t normally eat (salmon, greek yogurt, eggs, chicken).  Whenever I’ve had these cravings in the past, I would feel really conflicted because I have deep compassion for animals and all beings, and yet I’m a firm believer that cravings for groups of food (in my case, animal-based proteins) may be a sign of deficiency in one’s diet.  My most recent craving for salmon has been going on for a few months.  In the past, there were a  few times where my non-vegan cravings were so intense that I *may* have indulged in some non-vegan food, which led to confusion about my own veganism and a lot of self-judgment.  Recently, I’ve been feeling confused because I take a vitamin with algal-based omega 3’s so I feel like I take in enough of this essential fatty acid to keep fish cravings away.

I value authenticity and this includes my blog and my social media.  I sometimes really struggle with honoring my body’s non-junk food cravings and being true to my personal ethics of not harming others (animals included).  For the past few years (typically in the winter months), I find my body (or mind?) particularly craves heavier protein (from animal sources) and I proceed to spend months vacillating between staying true to my values and rationalizing why I should indulge in my persistent cravings.  I also spend time and effort doing research on the best sources of plant-based protein and amino acids, and make an effort to include at least 50-60 grams of protein each day (which based on my weight and activity level meets the recommended requirements–but may not be enough based on lab work and other symptoms).

There are so many reasons why veganism is important to me, to name a few:  I don’t want to participate in the mistreatment/abuse/slaughter of innocent animals, concerns about the environment and the sustainability of our current factory-farming system, my religious/spiritual beliefs of ahimsa (sanskrit for “do no harm to others”), health reasons, and the fact that I was never much of a meat-eater as a child, I became a vegan at 15, and it just kind of became my natural way of eating.

As a nutrition professional, someone with a master’s degree in nutrition, and a soon to be registered dietitian, if someone came to me stating that they had persistent cravings for certain foods (not junk foods, but foods with actual nutrients), I would examine their diet, and then make recommendations.  I would also check their blood work (if available), and ask them if they had any symptoms of a nutrient deficiency (fatigue, slow healing, light-headedness, hair loss, brittle nails, etc.).  I would never force my own personal beliefs on someone, as most people aren’t vegan, and a sure-fire way to make people defensive is to press your beliefs on someone.  I would probably recommend that this hypothetical client/patient include more protein in their diet (I would first recommend plant-based protein but if they wanted an animal-based protein, I can’t pressure them to be vegan/vegetarian).

I’m not one of my clients/patients, but I have been taking my own advice and eating more protein; however, the idea to just eat what I crave (animal based protein) is met with feelings of guilt and confusion.  It seems like this conundrum might just be a part of my life that I’ll have to deal with as both an empathetic person,  as someone who is well-versed in nutrition, and as someone who believes in honoring body, mind, and soul.

Because the craving for salmon is so specific, and because I know so much about nutrition, I’m thinking that maybe my vitamin with omega 3’s isn’t enough.  I’ve started including more whole food-based sources of omega 3’s that aren’t from a supplement.  One delicious source of omega 3 fatty acids are walnuts.  I was never a huge fan of walnuts, but I do love nut-butters, so I decided to see if I could make a walnut butter, and I was impressed about how it came out.  Below is the recipe for my walnut butter creation.

Oh-Mega Chai Spice Walnut Butter Processed with VSCO with f1 preset

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup raw walnuts (I used 365 Whole Foods Market brand)
  • 1 tbsp. organic virgin coconut oil (I used Trader Joe’s brand)
  • 2-4 tbsp. chai tea (I used pre-made tea from Oregon Spice brand)
  • 1/8 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp. Vermont maple syrup

Directions:

Measure ingredients and mix until blended smooth in a food processor.  Enjoy, or store in the fridge.  To soften, microwave for 45 seconds.

This nut butter makes a delicious addition to oatmeal and tastes amazing on toast.  I had it mixed with dairy free cashew yogurt + jam and topped it on my favorite sprouted grain toast.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

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Have you ever experienced persistent cravings for a particular food/group of food?  How did you deal with it? Are you a vegan/vegetarian who struggles with a similar issue?  Feel free to share or comment on this post or through my instagram account @vitaminvalentine

-Jess

Snowday Chickpea Blondies

This morning I woke up and saw that nature (and my car) was covered in a thick sheet of snow.  My email inbox was flooded with alerts from my internship program notifying us that we are not in session today due to the weather conditions (yay! Snowday!).  Snowdays are a perfect time to relax and in my case, get creative in the kitchen.  I decided to whip up these chickpea blondies after feeling inspired by my blackbean brownies that I made a few weeks ago.  If it’s snowing where you are and you’re feeling adventurous, feel free to try these delicious, fiber-packed blondies for a treat 🙂

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Ingredients:

  • 15 oz. canned chickpeas, rinsed
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 tbsp. unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup mini vegan chocolate chips (I used Enjoy Life brand)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Use non-stick spray to spray a 9×9″ baking pan.  Set aside the baking pan as the oven pre-heats.  In a food processor, add all ingredients except chocolate chips.  Using the food processor, mix all ingredients until everything is uniform.  Turn off the food processor, add chocolate chips and using a spoon mix the chocolate chips into the batter.  Using a spoon or spatula, scoop the batter into the pan and bake for 25-30 minutes.  Remove from oven, allow to cool, and enjoy!

Stay warm and safe

-Jess

 

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

What I’ve BEAN up to

Greetings readers!  I hope everyone enjoyed their Thanksgiving and got to spend some quality time relaxing.  I was lucky to have Thanksgiving off from my rotations and spent time with my family and friends.  Having a few days off from the dietetic internship allowed me to relax and reflect on the completion of my long term care rotation.  In my last blog post, I wrote about how the LTC rotation was a little challenging.  I found that particular rotation to be challenging because I didn’t have much clinical experience prior to starting, and I really didn’t know what to expect.  Although the rotation wasn’t the easiest for me, I learned so much about the needs of the geriatric population and how a medical team (involving registered dietitians, doctors, nurses/nursing staff, physical/occupational therapists, psychologists, social workers, and speech-language pathologists) must work together to assess the health of each resident at the long term care facility.  Malnutrition is a major health/nutrition-related concern for aged individuals and the most important component of geriatric nutrition is preventing weight loss.  Making sure that elderly individuals eat enough calories and protein was a huge part of what I learned as an intern during my last rotation.

In my current rotation, which is community-based, I’m working with the same population (seniors), but this rotation is less clinically-focused.  I’ve been learning about and getting involved in programs that prepare and deliver meals to homebound senior citizens.  I’ve also been learning more about geriatric nutrition and food quality of meals that are served at community senior centers.  I’ve really been enjoying this experience so far and I love that I can apply knowledge I gained from interning at the long term care facility in this rotation.  I also love cooking and preparing food, and part of this rotation involves observing food prep and being in the kitchens where the food is prepared.

Next week, I’m going to be doing a presentation at a few senior centers on the topic of beans and how to incorporate more beans into ones’ diet.  I’m particularly excited about this topic because if you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know I love beans and I love coming up with creative ways to eat them.  For this presentation, I’m going to make some delicious black bean brownies to show the seniors that beans can be prepared and added to foods in an unexpected way.   While I can’t take credit for the idea of this recipe, I tried to add my own personal touch from this black bean brownie recipe that I adapted from chocolate covered katie.  I plan on sharing these delectable chocolate treats at the presentation.  Hopefully the seniors get excited about eating beans in the form of a dessert!

If you’re not a fan of dark chocolate, feel free to use a sweeter, lighter chocolate.

Black Bean Brownies

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Ingredients

  • 1 (15.5 oz) can of black beans. (I used the low-sodium version and rinsed 2x to get rid of extra salt)
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp. melted coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2.5 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup chocolate chips (I used the vegan, semi-sweet variety)
  • (optional- add peanut butter or your favorite nut butter)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.  In a food processor, mix all of the ingredients except the chocolate chips.  After everything is well mixed, add 3/4 of the chocolate chips, scoop out the mixture and place on a lightly greased 9×9 baking pan.  Top the brownies with the remaining chocolate chips and bake for 18-20 minutes.  Allow to cool before cutting.  Enjoy with a cold glass of almond milk (or your favorite cold bevy!) and share with friends, or a senior citizen who needs some company 🙂

-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

 

A perfect plant based pizza

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Is there any food more perfect than pizza?  Pizza is without a doubt my favorite food.  Growing up, I think I ate pizza for at least 60% of my meals.  Nowadays, I still love pizza, but my diet has changed for the better.  I follow a vegan diet for many personal reasons, so when I do eat pizza, it’s without cheese, but I make sure it’s just as delicious as the slices I grew up on.

Although I’ve tried vegan pizzas at restaurants, I prefer to make my own at home.  I like making my own pizza because I can determine the size of the pie and it’s so much healthier than restaurant and frozen versions.  Pizza is surprisingly easy to make.  You can buy the dough at most supermarkets (I usually buy mine at Trader Joe’s).  I like using Trader Joe’s pizza dough because it comes in a whole wheat variety which is tasty and full of fiber.  If fresh pizza dough is not available at your closest supermarket, you can try buying dough at your local pizzeria.  If you’re feeling extra adventurous and want your pizza to be authentically Italian, you can try making your own dough (but this can take some time and skill to master).

For sauce, I once again take the easy route and use jarred tomato sauce.  My favorite tomato sauce to use for pizza is also from Trader Joe’s (see the picture below).  The sauce really matters to me because that’s where the bulk of the flavor comes from.  You can use sauces labeled “pasta sauce” or “pizza sauce”, but I’ve found pasta sauces to be a bit more flavorful and complex.  Try different sauces based on what you like, and don’t be afraid to make your own sauce (I use jarred sauce because it’s just easier for me).  If you’re following a low-sodium diet and want to cut down on sodium, you may want to make your own sauce because canned/jarred/prepackaged food tends to have more sodium than homemade.

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My favorite quick and easy tomato sauce

The second most important part of my vegan pizza are the veggies.  I’ve found that bell peppers, onions, and artichokes taste amazing on pizza, but use whatever veggies you like.  Some other veggies that taste great as toppings are spinach, arugala, olives, mushrooms, and eggplant.  Adding veggies to your pizza increases the nutrient content without adding a ton of calories.

The recipe I’m sharing serves two, so feel free to share with a fellow pizza-enthusiast or save the leftovers for a quick and easy meal.

A perfect plant-based pizza

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 of a package of Trader Joe’s whole wheat pizza dough (this is about 5-6 oz. worth of dough)
  • 1/4-1/2 cup tomato sauce of your choice
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • a tiny bit of flour (for rolling out the dough)
  • oregano
  • basil (fresh or dried)
  • black and/or red pepper
  • garlic and/or garlic powder
  • veggies of your choice

Directions:

  • Remove the pizza dough from the fridge and leave out for 20-30 minutes (or up to an hour).  This will help the dough stretch
  • Preheat the oven to 370°F
  • Once the time has passed, stretch out the dough with your hands and use a rolling pin (or a sturdy, smooth cup) and a little flour to flatten the dough
  • Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled pizza stone or nonstick surface
  • Brush the pizza with a small layer of olive oil
  • Add the sauce and some herbs and seasonings (oregano, garlic powder, etc.)- you can also repeat this step after adding the veggies
  • Add the veggies
  • Bake for 25-27 minutes at 370°F
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes
  • Cut into small slices using a pizza knife or a regular knife
  • Enjoy!

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For 1/2 of the pizza pictured above, there are 238 calories, 4.6 grams of fat, 49 grams of carbs, 10 grams of fiber, and 9.1 grams of protein.  It has 890 mg of sodium, which is high, but comparable to most slices of pizza (also see my tips above to cut down on sodium).  It contains 75% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin A, and 248% of the RDI for vitamin C.  Skip the takeout and enjoy a lower calorie pizza with this recipe.

-Jess