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

Last Minute Banana Chocolate Chip Brownies

Happy 4th of July! I wasn’t planning on writing a blog post today but I whipped up these amazing brownies to bring to a barbecue and I had to share. If you’re looking for an easy, quick dessert to bring to a gathering, try these delectable bites of bliss. This recipe requires having a few very ripe bananas (like the stage before they turn brown) on hand. If you don’t have bananas, try an equal amount of apple sauce or dairy-free yogurt.

Last Minute Banana Chocolate Chip BrowniesFullSizeRender-19

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour (I always use whole grain flour for extra fiber in my baked goods, but if you don’t have it, all-purpose flour will also work)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup or agave nectar
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I use trader joe’s brand)
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 3 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk or soy milk
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup sunflower oil or almond oil (or you can use vegetable or canola oil if you have those instead)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1.5 cups vegan chocolate chips (I use trader joe’s dark chocolate chips which happen to be vegan)

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F
  • In a large bowl, measure and mix all dry ingredients (flour, sugar, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder)
  • In another bowl, measure and mix wet ingredients (maple syrup/agave, mashed bananas, almond/soy milk, vanilla extract, oil).
  • Mix the wet ingredients into bowl of dry ingredients. Add the chocolate chips and stir.
  • Spray a 9×12 baking pan with non-stick spray, pour batter into the pan, and bake for 30 minutes
  • Allow to cool and then cut and share with family and friends!

 

Enjoy these chocolatey treats and have a great 4th of July!

-Jess

Vegan Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Happy Friday! This work week ended with a generous helping of delicious vegan chocolate chunk cookies for me and my coworkers. When I’m not writing about food or managing Vitamin Valentine, I’m working a full-time job as a community nutritionist for a nonprofit organization. At our office this week we celebrated the month of march (which also happens to be national nutrition month) with healthy baked goods. Yes, there is such a thing as a healthy baked good. Although I wouldn’t advise anyone to go on a diet consisting of only muffins, cookies, or cupcakes, baked goods can be made a little healthier with a few simple substitutions. I try to use whole wheat or whole grain pastry flour in place of white flour, which adds a little more fiber and b-vitamins. Using applesauce and almond milk in place of large amounts of oil or butter also helps cut down on calories and fat. There are many other ways to make ordinary cookies a little healthier with some creativity. These vegan chocolate chunk cookies were a big hit and I hope you enjoy them too! Each cookie clocks in at just under 150 calories and makes around 14-16 large, fluffy cookies.

Vegan Chocolate Chunk Cookies

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Ingredients:

  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 cup brown sugar (unpacked)
  • 1/4 cup white granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup almond milk
  • 1/2 cup apple sauce
  • 2/3 cup Earth Balance buttery spread (or, use 1/2 cup coconut oil)- softened
  • 1 cup Enjoy Life vegan semi-sweet chocolate mega chunks

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a cookie sheet with nonstick spray and then put a sheet of parchment paper on top
  • In a large bowl, mix softened earth balance or coconut oil with brown and white sugars, add vanilla extract. Mix with a spoon until uniform in consistency.
  • In a separate bowl, add flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda together until mixed
  • Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, then add the almond milk and apple sauce and mix
  • Add the chocolate chunks and mix well
  • Using your hands, mold the dough into balls and then flatten. This recipe will make about 14-16 medium-large cookies, or 20-24 smaller cookies
  • Bake for 10-12 minutes. For larger cookies, time may be longer.
  • Allow to cool, share with your friends, family, or coworkers, and enjoy 🙂

-Jess

Sunrise Spelt Brownies

If you’re wondering about the title of this post, let me explain. I created this recipe while being awake at 6 AM which is just a few minutes past sunrise where I am, and thinking about how I really wanted a brownie. As a nutrition enthusiast, I realize brownies are not an ideal breakfast food, but a girl can dream and dreaming leads to creating. Make no mistake, these definitely aren’t a health food, but using whole grain spelt flour adds a bit of fiber. These brownies aren’t super chocolatey, so feel free to add chocolate chips or something else to add more flavor. FullSizeRender-9

Ingredients:

  • 1 and 3/4 cups of whole grain spelt flour or other whole grain flour of your choice (use brown rice flour to make this gluten free)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 7 tbsp. cocoa powder
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened apple sauce
  • 1/4 cup dark agave nectar
  • 1 cup unsweetened soymilk
  • 1/2 cup earth balance vegan spread
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
  • Measure dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking soda, and cocoa powder) and mix together in a large bowl.
  • Melt the earth balance spread, measure apple sauce, agave nectar, vanilla extract, and unsweetened soy milk and combine in a bowl. Mix with a whisk or spoon.
  • Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix well.
  • Grease a brownie pan and using a spoon, transfer the brownie mixture to the pan, spreading with the spoon if necessary.
  • Bake at 350ºF for about 27 minutes (figure 25-30 minutes is ideal, check with a toothpick for readiness).
  • After baking, allow to cool, cut the brownies, and enjoy (in moderation!)

 

-Jess

Feed Your Soul!

I’m finally done with another semester of being a nutrition student, yay! This semester was probably my toughest one yet because of the amount of courses I decided to take, along with yoga teacher training, balancing a job, and trying to fit in time for my own yoga practice. One thing that definitely helped me this semester was fitting in time to de-stress. Yoga helped, as did some other activities, such as baking, spending time outdoors, and curling up with a good book. If you find yourself overwhelmed, I recommend doing some activities that take your mind off whatever is stressing you out. During my finals week, I realized how important it is to do things that feed your soul instead of focusing either exclusively on work/obligations or doing things that provide a sense of fleeting fun.

Although technically the following recipe isn’t a “baked good”, it still kept me occupied in the kitchen and turned out to be a really healthy, filling little treat. Coming up with cheaper alternatives to my favorite packaged snack foods is now an official hobby, so I present to you, my raw balls. Okay, get your mind out of the gutter. These delicious balls are made of (mostly) all raw ingredients and are chock full of healthy, plant-based fats and fiber. They also make a great present if you haven’t bought your holiday gifts yet.

 

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Chocolate Chip Variation

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups medjool dates (make sure you take the pit out of them!)
  • 3/4 cup raw cashews
  • 1/2 cup raw almonds
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (Trader Joe’s sells a vegan version)

Directions:

In a large bowl, combine pitted dates, nuts, and vanilla extract. Transfer to a food processor and process/pulse for a minute or two. The mixture should be easily moldable with your hands. If the mixture is too sticky, add a few more nuts by the tablespoon, and continue to use the food processor. If the mixture has too many nuts and won’t mold together with your hands, try adding a few more pitted dates. Transfer back into the large bowl and add chocolate chips. Mold into ball shapes with your hands and refrigerate. Enjoy!

Dark Chocolate Cherry Variation

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups pitted medjool dates
  • 3/4 cup raw cashews
  • 1/2 cup raw almonds
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of cocoa powder

Directions:

Combine pitted dates, nuts, dried cherries, and cocoa powder together and transfer to a food processor. Process until blended for about a minute of two. If the consistency is too dry and the mixture won’t mold with your hands, try adding a few more dates. If it’s too sticky, add a few more nuts by the tablespoon. Transfer to a bowl and then using your hands, mold the mixture into ball shapes and refrigerate. Enjoy!

-Jess

In Summer: Frozen-Inspired Treats

one of my frozen-inspired treats (recipe below)

one of my frozen-inspired treats (recipe below)

 

Here in New York, the weather is getting warmer, which means it’s time to think of healthy frozen treats to cool down with! In addition to summer approaching, I was inspired to create some frozen recipes because I recently saw the movie “Frozen” and I am totally obsessed! I love everything about the movie and I can personally relate to Princess Anna’s character, so this movie particularly resonated with me. If you haven’t seen “Frozen”, you should, as it differs from most Disney movies and doesn’t really stick to the princess + prince charming = true love forever equation that’s typical of fairytales but I won’t give too much away in case you haven’t seen it.

 

Getting back to my frozen treats, there’s nothing greater than indulging in a cold dessert on a hot summer day, but ice cream, frozen yogurt, and gelato can be high in calories and make you feel tired if you’ve had too much. Instead, today I made 2 different “ice creams” using a few very simple ingredients. The base for both of these recipes is just a few frozen bananas and almond or coconut milk. Both recipes are vegan, gluten-free, and won’t make you feel guilty or weighed down afterwards.

 

Peanut butter-Banana-Chip Dream Cream (serves 2)

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Ingredients

  • 1.5 frozen bananas (freeze for at least 5 hours). Peel before freezing, and you may also want to cut into smaller pieces and place into a zip lock bag.
  • ¼ cup almond milk (I used an unsweetened vanilla variety)
  • 1 tbsp. natural peanut butter (I used a creamy, salted variety)
  • 1-2 tbsp. dark chocolate chips

Directions:

  • Place cut frozen bananas in a blender, add ¼ cup almond milk, 1 tbsp. natural peanut butter, and chocolate chips, and blend on high. If the mixture becomes too liquid-y, simply place in the freezer for a few minutes, or you can freeze the entire mixture for about an hour in a non-stick container and then re-blend to create an ice cream texture.
  • Serve in a glass or bowl and top with a few chocolate chips. Enjoy!

 

 

Cashew Coconut Banana Cream (serves 2)

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Ingredients

  • 1.5 frozen bananas (frozen for at least 5 hours). Peel before freezing, and you may want to cut into smaller pieces (like in the previous recipe
  • ¼ cup almond milk (I used an unsweetened vanilla variety)
  • a handful of raw, unsalted cashews
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ½ cup coconut flakes

Directions

  • Place cut frozen bananas in a blender, add ¼ cup almond milk, a handful of raw cashews, 1 tsp. vanilla extract, and coconut flakes. Blend on high. If mixture is too liquid-y, use the same method as in the previous recipe, and either freeze for a few minutes, or freeze for an extended period of time in a nonstick bowl and re-blend to get an ice cream consistency.
  • Serve in a glass or bowl and top with additional coconut flakes. Enjoy!

 

Stay cool!

 

-Jess

Healthy Gluten-Free, Vegan Microwave Brownies

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Microwave brownies are an easy way to treat yourself and a great way to exercise portion control. I know when I make brownies in the oven, I’m tempted to eat more than I even want just because I have a surplus of freshly baked goods. If you’re like me, having a single-serving of dessert is an easy remedy for this problem. Not only will the following recipe satisfy your chocolate craving, it also provides some healthy nutrition. Using almond meal is a great alternative to wheat flour or rice flour, the latter tends to be low in fiber and high in carbohydrates. Almond meal is a great source of vitamin E and contains fiber and healthy fats. Using 100% cocoa powder along with dark chocolate chips is a delicious way get some flavonoids that may help you decrease cholesterol and blood pressure over time. Instead of using sugar or honey, using whole dates (just remember to remove the pit before grinding) provides a little fiber (which will slow down digestion and won’t lead to high and then low blood sugar). I chose not to use eggs in this recipe because it tasted fine without them, but if you’re not a vegan and you want a thicker, more solid/cake-like brownie, feel free to add an egg white and microwave as described below.

Here’s my latest healthy, gluten-free, vegan microwave brownie recipe!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup almond meal
  • 1/4-1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce (you want enough apple sauce to allow the almond meal to not be in flour-y chunks)
  • 1 tbsp. 100% cocoa powder, unsweetened
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 medjool dates, remove pit (use a food processor + 2 tbsp. of water to turn this into a very thick liquid, or grind with a hand tool– you just want a paste-like consistency)
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp. chocolate chips
  • 1 tbsp. almond butter

Directions:

  • Mix almond meal, cocoa powder, applesauce, vanilla extract, and ground dates together in a microwave safe bowl
  • Microwave for 2 minutes and check to see if the mixture has thickened or stiffened. This recipe won’t get too stiff, but it’s more of a soft-fudgy consistency.
  • If not yet thick and if the mixture is still liquid-y, microwave for 45 second increments until it has thickened
  • Wait for the mixture to cool for a few minutes (2-5 minutes)
  • Top with chocolate chips, almond butter and sprinkle with cinnamon

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Enjoy!

-Jess