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

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

Notes from an RD-to-be

Greetings readers!  It’s been way too long since I wrote a blog post.  I’ve been extremely busy with the clinical rotation of my dietetic internship which has been the focus of my life for the past few months.  If you’ve new to this blog or you just need a recap, I’m currently a dietetic intern in order to become a Registered Dietitian (RD).  The dietetic internship consists of several rotations in different settings such as hospitals, long term care facilities, community programs, school food service, and others.  It’s a necessary step in the process of becoming an RD mandated by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND).  The process of the “rotations” is similar to how nursing students, MDs-to-be, and physician’s assistants gain experience in different areas of their fields after completing their schooling but before passing the certification tests.

Since January, I’ve been interning at a hospital and learning an immense amount about clinical dietetics.  I’ve really been enjoying this experience so far and I would love to work in a clinical setting after the internship and when I pass the RD exam (several months away, but I’m already nervous).  Every day I’m exposed to such interesting nutrition-related health problems and I’ve learned that I really enjoy being part of an interdisciplinary medical team.

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Some useful guides that I bring to the hospital each day

My typical day begins by reporting to the nutrition office.  Each day, I work with one of three preceptors who are all Registered Dietitians.  Every day there is a list of patients with some kind of nutrition-related health problem (i.e. diabetes, COPD, obesity, congestive heart failure, etc.)  that needs to be addressed by an RD.  A nutrition assessment involves reviewing the patient’s medical history, lab work, medications, and most important (for us) talking to the patient about their current diet at the hospital, their typical way of eating prior to admission, and any weight/appetite changes.  The most rewarding part of being in a hospital setting is educating the patient on how their diet affects their health.  Many people appear to be motivated to change after a hospital stay because no one enjoys being sick and it can be a wake up call to change ones’ habits.

On a personal note, I wish I could report that I’ve been living an exciting life outside of the internship, but in reality, this winter has been all about focusing on my work and trying to keep active at the gym.  Winter is my least favorite season, and I typically find that I’m less motivated to do fun activities, but I also know that staying inside all the time can be de-motivating in itself.  For me, being outside (even if it’s just a short walk) is necessary to keep the winter blues away.

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Beach life is more like burrrr life when it’s winter and you live on Long Island

How do you find motivation during the cold months?  Feel free to share, comment, here or through instagram/facebook @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

A moment to breathe

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Ah…that is my sigh of relief because I’m officially on “vacation” from my internship rotations for the next two weeks.  Yesterday was the last day of my community rotation.  If you read my last post, I’ve been working with the senior population, mostly in the scope of the meals-on-wheels program and other community programs for senior citizens.  I didn’t know what to expect of my community rotation.  Before I got into the dietetic internship, I worked in community nutrition as a nutritionist for the Women, Infants, Children (WIC) program, so I did have some experience in public health but clearly the WIC program is quite different than a program for senior citizens.  Anyway, my community rotation was fantastic.  I loved working with seniors and sharing nutrition knowledge.  If you read my last post, this rotation involved some public speaking along with making healthy baked goods to share with individuals at senior community centers, which was fun!  During this rotation, I had an amazing preceptor that truly wants interns to succeed and learn from each rotation which made it an overall positive experience.

I’m looking forward to this little break from the internship.  I’m hoping that I’ll have more time to devote to yoga, painting, running, taking long walks outside (my vitamin D levels are probably so low right now, thanks to winter), and just enjoying the holiday season.  I hope you have time to reconnect with yourself, too.

-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