Island Inspiration

A few weeks ago I was spending some time scrolling through Instagram and I stumbled upon a Caribbean chef’s delicious food creations.  The flavors seemed to permeate through my phone screen, as I could almost taste the delicious dishes pictured in his photos.  I was also reminded of my childhood trips to Jamaica and how much I loved trying new things and exploring with my tastebuds.  I felt inspired to recreate some plant-based versions of what I saw on my screen and remembered from my past travels.  I headed to the closest ethnic market and picked up a bunch of exotic fruit and vegetables.  It was time to get cooking!

At the ethnic market, I bought up some yuca (a starchy root vegetable), plantains (similar to bananas but higher in starch and not as sweet), some brown rice, pinto beans, canned peas, green tomatillos (similar to tomatoes), and pre-seasoned barbecued jackfruit (jackfruit is a delicious, bubblegum-tasting fruit).

To cook the yuca, I first peeled it, cut it in half, and then boiled it for about 15 minutes-20 minutes.  Then I let it sauté with some onions and tomatillos in a skillet.  In a separate skillet, I sautéed the plantain with a tiny bit of vegetable oil.  The rice and beans were super easy to make (I cooked the rice according to the package but used vegetable broth instead of water for extra flavor, and then added canned pinto beans and canned peas).  The jackfruit came already seasoned so I just heated it up for a minute or two.

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Although this meal is very high in carbohydrates, it’s also high in fiber.  This meal was so tasty and it was so fun to work with new flavors.  I’m looking forward to my next cooking inspiration, so if you have a delicious, unique meal or cuisine you’d like to share, leave a comment of connect with me via Facebook or Instagram @vitaminvalentine 🙂

-Jess

Busy yet balanced

February has been a busy month for me, but one of my goals is to write more on Vitamin Valentine.  This month has been filled with school assignments (I’m working on my master’s thesis) and some very exciting (yet nerve-racking) professional developments.  I submitted my dietetic internship applications this month and I’m hoping to get accepted into an internship.  If you’re new to my blog, I’ve been working on a B.S./M.S. in Nutrition for the past four years in order to become a Registered Dietitian (RD).  It’s extremely competitive to get into a dietetic internship (DI) and completing the DI is a requirement of the education and training to become an RD, so I’m hoping I match.  Nutrition is my passion and I hope to get into an internship in order to gain the knowledge necessary to help people.  Registered Dietitians are truly the experts in the nutrition field because of the training and education they receive.  I’ve dreamt of becoming an RD for so long, so wish me luck!

Because I’ve been so busy lately, I’ve been finding ways to save time when it comes to preparing healthy food.  Sometimes I make a big batch of food and eat the same thing for lunch for a few days during the week, and other times I try to mix it up.  Either way, I try to stick with the same formula for making my meals as balanced and colorful as possible.  I try to include at least two veggies, a source of protein, and a healthy fat.  Sometimes I’ll also add some whole grains, but today I skipped that component.  For a “side dish” or snack, I usually stick to fruit or a protein bar.  Lunch today was so colorful and delicious.  It consisted of a purple potato on top of collard greens, 1/2 a medium avocado, some cherry tomatoes, and a serving of hummus.  For my snacks, I had a fruit salad (sliced papaya, kiwi, and pineapple) and a gomacro bar (a vegan protein bar).  I also took an apple with me but I decided to save it for another time.

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Delicious, colorful, and easy!

It took me about 10 minutes in total to prepare this.  Instead of baking the potato, I put it in the microwave, which saves a lot of time.  I love preparing my meals ahead of time like this, especially because when I’m hungry at work it’s so tempting to go out and buy something.  Do you have any ways to save time or money while staying healthy?  Feel free to share below, or connect with me via facebook or instagram @vitaminvalentine

-Jess

My favorite breakfast/treat

Fall is almost here but I’m relishing these last days of summer.  This summer, my favorite breakfast/snack/dessert was banana ice cream.  At this point, if you follow any vegan instagram accounts, I’m sure you’ve heard of banana ice cream (also called “nice cream”.)  This delicious frozen treat is made by freezing a few bananas and then blending the frozen ‘nanas with a little liquid (almond milk, coconut water, water, etc.) in a food processor.

I’m obsessed with eating banana ice cream for breakfast and trying different variations.  I love how simple it is to whip up a bowl of nice cream and I love how healthy and filling it is.  The trick is to only use a few bananas (you don’t need to eat 10 bananas at a time contrary to what fad diets might say) and and 3/4-1 cup. of another frozen fruit (if you want more flavor than just banana).  For toppings, I like using a sprinkle of oats or granola, cacao nibs, chocolate chips, or a table spoon of peanut or almond butter.  You can also add protein powder into the food processor if you’re looking for a post-workout meal or snack.

I’m sharing the nice cream creation I made this morning below.  What is your favorite way to eat nice cream?   If you’re looking for some ideas on how to make this deliciously healthy meal, be sure to follow me on instagram @vitaminvalentine for more nice cream recipes and daily food inspiration 🙂

Chocolate Peanut Butter Nice Cream

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Ingredients:

  • 2 frozen peeled bananas (I usually just break the bananas into 2-3 pieces each before freezing)
  • 1/4 cup coconut water
  • 1 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder (100% cocoa powder is usually vegan. I buy this at Trader Joe’s)
  • 1/4 cup whole-grain cereal
  • 1 tbsp. peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp. vegan chocolate chips (I buy these at Trader Joe’s)

Directions:

  • Blend frozen bananas, coconut water, and unsweetened cocoa powder together until creamy (about ~3 minutes).
  • Scoop out nice cream and transfer to a bowl.
  • Top with cereal, peanut butter, and chocolate chips
  • Enjoy and eat up, this can melt fast in warm weather!

-Jess

Staycation Fun

This week I took a vacation from work.  Although I find my work fulfilling and rewarding, everyone needs a vacation and I’m no exception.  I thought about going somewhere during my time off, but sometimes I find traveling more stressful than it is relaxing so I decided to make this vacation a “stay-cation”.

This past week I’ve been going to the beach and spending a lot of time meditating, which is something that I need to consistently do in order to reap the benefits.

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Went to one of my favorite cafes and enjoyed a delicious smoothie and a good read

I also took a few day trips to my favorite towns on Long Island and ate at my favorite vegan restaurants (I might write a separate blog post on that!).  This past week I also explored some nature preserves, attended a powwow, and visited a farm that I used to work at many summers ago.

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This preserve (Norman J. Levy Preserve) was built on what used to be a garbage dump. The high point where I took the photo from used to be a giant pile of garbage and now is home to native species of grass, small trees, insects, animals and birds.

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A picture of the farm I used to work at! I actually worked with the animals but I would love to get my hands dirty working with some fresh produce!

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A photo of one of the highlights from the powwow.  Group dancing to drums and hymns of Native American tribes made this a magical experience.

While I was relaxing on the beach this week, I decided that I was going to stop drinking coffee for the remainder of my vacation (and hopefully keep this up when I go back to work).  I made this decision because I notice sometimes when I drink too much coffee (which can be as little as 1-2 cups per day), I feel really anxious in my stomach– like an annoying, uncertain gut feeling related to nothing in particular which lasts about an hour or two after I’ve overdone it with the coffee.  I’ve written about my history of insomnia and sleep disturbances and I know that having any caffeine affects my sleep cycle greatly. I’m hoping that I can keep my cravings for coffee at bay. Tonight my plans include going to a coffee house, so this should be interesting. I’ll give an update soon along with some more info on my favorite vegan restaurants. For more personal updates and (almost) daily food pictures, you can follow me on instagram @vitaminvalentine 🙂

-Jess

Peanut Butter and Jam Overnight Oats

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know how much I love overnight oats (check out my other overnight oats recipes here and here). I love overnight oats because prepping them the night before saves time in the morning, which means more sleep and therefore, more happiness. I also love eating overnight oats during the summer because I eat mine cold and its makes for the perfect summer breakfast. I decided to add peanut butter and jam to my oats a few days ago and I think I’m officially in love with this combo. To add some extra nutrition (fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals), I also added blueberries, strawberries and a few cherries. Here’s the how-to on creating a delicious PB and J oat-filled breakfast.

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Ingredients (serves 1-2):

  • 3/4 cup rolled oats, use gluten free oats if you’re following a GF diet
  • 1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk, add a little more liquid for less thick oats
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp. natural peanut butter
  • 4 cherries, pitted, and sliced
  • 1/4 cup blueberries
  • 5 strawberries
  • 1 tbsp. of your favorite jam or preserves

To Prep (do this the night before you plan on eating the oats)

  • Measure all ingredients
  • In a bowl or mason jar, mix together oats, vanilla extract, almond milk, and stir in peanut butter
  • Add the layer of fruit
  • Refrigerate for about 8 hours or longer
  • Top with your favorite jam or preserves and enjoy (no need to heat)

I hope you love these oats as much as I do. If you love this recipe, follow me on instagram @vitaminvalentine for more delicious food creations.

 

-Jess

Kidney Bean Tacos for a Cause

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

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

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Ingredients

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

Directions

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

-Jess

Spring Super Smoothie

Today is the first day of spring and I’m excited! I love spring because it signifies new beginnings. As you go through your day today, try to meditate on what it is you’d like to start doing today, this week, this month, this season, or even this year. Now is a great time to dive into some exciting plans to improve your life.

For me personally, I’m going to try to eat more greens everyday. Even though I do eat vegetables every day, I’ve noticed that I could incorporate more nutrient-dense greens into my favorite meals. To get started on my new goal, I’ve created a deliciously healthy smoothie packed with nutrition. This is a green smoothie similar to what I’ve posted in much earlier blog posts but with a few twists. Feel free to try this smoothie and give me some feedback because I love hearing from my readers! You can email me, write a comment, or get in touch via facebook or instagram @vitaminvalentine 🙂

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  • 2 cups chopped kale
  • 1 banana, fresh or frozen, cut into chunks
  • 3/4 cup frozen or fresh mango
  • 6 oz. plain So Delicious Greek Coconut Yogurt (this is my favorite non-dairy yogurt because it has extra fiber and a unique texture that is great for smoothies, but if you prefer a different kind, use whatever you’d like)
  • 1 cup unsweetened plain or vanilla almondmilk
  • 1 tsp. spirulina powder (optional)

Cut and prepare fruits and kale. Measure almond milk and other ingredients. Add all to a blender and blend well until liquified. This smoothie is on the thick side, so if you want, you can add water or a little more almond milk. This can either serve one or two people depending on how hungry you are. Enjoy and keep in mind: what can you start doing today?

-Jess