High Protein, Gluten-Free, Vegan Lasagna

As the weather gets colder, I crave savory, comforting foods, and I know I’m not alone. Whether I’m talking to my own clients seeking help with their plant-based diets or working at my other job (as a clinical dietitian) the general consensus that I’ve found is that cold weather = cravings for comfort food. It makes sense that most people seem to crave heavier meals and carbs in the winter. Limited sunlight means that serotonin production can be decreased causing low mood and cravings for simple carbs. While carbohydrates will improve your mood temporarily, I wouldn’t use this as an excuse to eat a bunch of cookies or a huge serving of mashed potatoes, because that good feeling will only be temporary. In order for your body to naturally produce serotonin and reap the benefits, you need protein. Specifically, protein foods that are rich in the amino acid tryptophan which is a precursor to serotonin. High amounts of tryptophan can be found in tofu, lentils, and beans (it’s also found in non-vegan sources like turkey, eggs, and cheese).

Along with the scientific reasons of why I’m sharing this recipe, I also just love getting nostalgic about food. Growing up, the months of November and December were filled with delicious home-cooked meals that my mom and grandma would make. Being Italian and Jewish (interesting combo, I know), I learned how to make a variety of holiday foods. Lasagna was one of my favorite foods to enjoy around this time of year, and since I love recreating vegan versions of my favorite meals, I decided to share the recipe for this lasagna with a healthy plant-based twist.

Two specialty ingredients that I used in this recipe are Explore Cuisine brand of lentil lasagna sheets and Miyoko’s vegan mozzarella. I found the lasagna sheets at Whole Foods Market, but if your Whole Foods doesn’t carry this, you have a few options. You can custom order it from them (ask customer service, they’re so helpful!), try amazon prime, you can also order it from Amazon without amazon prime, or order in bulk directly from Explore Cuisine brand’s website. For the Miyoko’s mozz, I’ve seen this at a few different places (Whole Foods Market, Fairway Market in the NY-Metro region, I think I’ve seen it at Trader Joe’s, and even smaller grocery stores will sometimes have it in stock). 

For the other ingredients, they’re all pretty basic, and you can find them in your local grocery store. This recipe packs 20 g of protein per serving, 6 g of fiber per serving, and is bursting with flavor. If you make it, let me know what you think!

High Protein, Gluten-Free, Vegan Lasagna

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Ingredients:

*you will need a pan for the stove, non-stick spray, a 9×9/square baking pan and tin foil for this recipe

  • 1 container (8 oz.) Explore Cuisine Organic Lentil Lasagna
  • 1 container (16 oz.) silken tofu
  • 25 oz. marinara pasta sauce (I didn’t make the sauce myself, I used Whole Foods brand)
  • 2 cups frozen spinach, or 6 cups fresh spinach
  • 1 glove of garlic
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp. basil (I used dried, feel free to use fresh if you have)
  • 1/4 tsp. oregano (same as above)
  • 1 tbsp. nutritional yeast
  • 1-2 oz. miyoko’s vegan mozz

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 375ºF
  • Finely chop a clove of garlic and using 1 tsp. of olive oil, and heat on low-medium setting in a pan on the stove
  • Add spinach and cook on low-medium heat for a few minutes
  • Remove spinach + garlic from the stove and place on the side for later
  • Drain silken tofu by pressing down with a paper towel, remove the tofu from the container and continue pressing down with a paper towel. The tofu will be soft in consistency, so don’t worry about the slightly off-putting, shapeless consistency
  • Spray the 9×9 inch baking pan with non-stick oil spray or lightly grease the pan with additional oil (use vegetable/safflower oil instead of olive oil which has a low smoke-point)
  • Place 3 sheets of lasagna on the pan so that the pan is covered, next add a layer of tofu, and a sprinkle of dried herbs (oregano, basil), add a little nutritional yeast, add a thin layer of the spinach-garlic mixture. Cover in a generous amount of sauce.
  • Add the next layer by placing 3 lasagna sheets in the same order as above, and repeat the sequence so that you have multiple layers of lasagna sheet-tofu-herbs-spinach-sauce. The final layer should be of 3 lasagna sheets. Top this layer with a generous amount of sauce, add pieces of Miyoko’s cheese (you could also shred it using a cheese grater), and add additional herbs/nutritional yeast if desired
  • Use a sheet of tin foil to cover the top of the pan, making sure the tin foil does not come into contact with the lasagna. This ensures moisture is locked in, without this, you may find that the top of your lasagna is dried out
  • Place in the oven and bake @ 375º for 40-45 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven, allow to cool a little, and cut into 4 squares
  • Enjoy! Save the remaining by covering completely and store in the fridge for up to 4 days

Nutrition facts per serving (recipe makes 4 servings): 320 calories, 7 g fat, 0 g cholesterol, 48 g carbs, 6 g fiber, 20 g protein, 15.5% DV calcium, 37% DV iron, 565 mg potassium, 126.8% DV vitamin A, 39% DV vitamin C.

Liked this recipe? Comment below that you tried it. For more ideas, follow me on instagram @ theveganRD

-Jess

Secret Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Protein Bars (Vegan + Gluten Free!)

I love a good protein bar, but I don’t love paying up to $3 for a single serving bar that’s often lacking in wholesome ingredients. This weekend I made my own protein bar that tastes like peanut butter cookie dough–and is packed with fiber, protein, and healthy fats. I was inspired to make these after seeing many of my fellow dietitian friends enjoying Perfect Bars, but since these contain whey and honey, they’re off limits for vegans. My version of the perfect protein bar uses Vega brand protein powder, and chickpea flour (the “secret” ingredient–clearly I’m not good at keeping secrets for long!). Let me know what you think if you try the recipe.

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Vegan/Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Protein Bars

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup garbanzo bean (chickpea) flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill brand) Note: You can also use oat flour, which I’ve made too, if you prefer a more mild flavor
  • 1/2 cup almond meal (I used Trader Joe’s brand)
  • 3 scoops Vega Vanilla Protein Powder
  • 1/2 cup natural, smooth peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips (I used Trader Joe’s brand
  • 1/4-1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk

Directions:

Mix all ingredients (except for chocolate chips) together in a large bowl, use your hands to mold into a dough. Line a pan/cooking tin with parchment paper and mold the dough into a layer. Then, using your hands, place the chocolate chips into the dough, pressing down so the chocolate chips become embedded in the mixture. Place in the freezer for 30 minutes. Remove from the freezer, cut into squares, or rectangles and enjoy! I loved cutting these into tiny squares and putting them on PB toast and in my morning almond milk yogurt.

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Nutrition facts per serving (makes 18 squares): 141 calories, 6 g fat, 15 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 7 g protein.

-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.

Peanut Butter and Jam Overnight OatsIMG_0156

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

Green Garden Vegan Alfredo

I was inspired to make this dish because of two things 1. I really wanted to somehow recreate a canned version of vegan alfredo sauce that I once tried, and 2. I spent the day in my grandma’s garden and came home with a bunch of fresh produce ready to be put into one of my kitchen creations!

Tomatoes fresh off the vine!

Tomatoes fresh off the vine!

The following recipe might take some time to cook, but it’s worth it!

The Sauce

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup yellow onion, thinly chopped
  • ¼ cup (or less) unsweetened, plain soy milk
  • ¼ tsp. sea salt
  • pepper, to taste
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • several leaves of fresh basil, or ½ tsp. dried basil
  • several leaves of fresh rosemary or ½ tsp. dried rosemary
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • ½ cup raw, soaked whole cashews
  • ¼ cup nutritional yeast

Directions:

  • Before starting anything, soak the raw cashews in a bowl with warm water for a few hours.
  • Well, don’t just sit there. Find something to do during those few hours 😉
  • Chop the onion and garlic
  • Add olive oil to a large pan, and add onion and garlic. Cook on low heat.
  • In a blender, blend the cashews, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and herbs together. If needed, add a little of the soaking water into the cashew/herb mixture to blend into a very thick liquid
  • Add the cashew mixture to the pan containing the oil, garlic, and onion. To obtain a thick, creamy mixture, add a little plain soymilk and stir. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cook on low until the mixture is a thick liquid, uniform in texture.

The Veggies (to sautée):

  • ¾ cup cut baby bella mushrooms (or use regular large portabella mushrooms and cut into small pieces)
  • ½ cup onions, diced
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 cup kale, chopped
  • 1 cup baby tomatoes, each one halved
  • several leaves of fresh basil

Directions:

  • Use non-stick cooking spray or a tsp. or two of olive oil to grease a pan
  • Add onion and garlic, and cook on low-heat
  • As the onion and garlic cook, add in mushrooms, kale, and halved baby tomatoes
  • Cook for a few minutes and for the last minute or so, heat the basil in the pan (there will be some discoloration of the basil as it cooks, that’s ok!)

The Pasta

  • 4 oz. of your favorite fettucine noodles. I used a special edamame-flour noodle found at a specialty health food store (that I happen to work at), but feel free to use whole wheat fettucine, brown rice fettuicine, etc.
  • Boil water in a pot, and cook noodles until tender.
  • Drain when done and allow a few minutes to pass so that all the moisture drains.

The Final Product

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Add the veggies to the pasta and fold in the alfredo sauce. Serve on a plate or bowl and top with basil leaves. Add pepper to taste and enjoy!

-Jess

Eat Local: Mexican Inspired Summer Salad

One of the best things about summer is that it’s a great time to use ingredients that are grown locally. Shopping at farmers markets and stores that support community agriculture is one way to live healthier for yourself and for the planet. The following recipe was inspired by local tomatoes, corn, and beets. This recipe is vegan, gluten free, and makes a great main course, side dish, and can also be used as a dip or cracker topping. Whichever way you eat it, enjoy it!

Mexican Inspired Simple Summer SaladIMG_6567

Ingredients:

  • 2 beets, peeled
  • 1 ear of corn, cut off the cob (note: I didn’t cook the corn I used, but if you want, you can also boil it along with the beets).
  • 1 medium tomato
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 can of black blacks, drained
  • juice of 1 lime
  • cilantro (optional)
  • 1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

  • Boil water in a pot, and while you’re waiting, peel the beets and cut the other ingredients. The avocado and tomato can be diced or cubed. Remove the corn from the cob and set aside ingredients.
  • Place the beets in the boiling water and allow to cook for 15-20 minutes or until soft.
  • Remove the beets from the boiling water and allow to cool. Then, cube the beets using a knife.
  • Drain the black beans, and mix the corn, beets, tomato, and avocado together.
  • Add the lime and orange juice, salt and pepper, and optional cilantro. Allow to marinate for a bit (the amount of time is completely up to you!)
  • Enjoy as a main course by adding this to taco shells, or enjoy as a side dish.

-Jess

Maple-Nut Chocolate Chip Blondies

FullSizeRenderIf you haven’t noticed, I’ve been in a baking kick for the last few months. Something about the colder months makes a warm baked good even more tasty (and I don’t think anyone will ever complain about the scent of freshly baked cookies/muffins/bars etc. filling up the house). My latest recipe is a combination of a few of my favorite things: maple syrup, nuts, and chocolate chips! I made these in bar-form, but if you’d prefer a cookie, you can simply use a cookie sheet instead of an 8×8″ baking pan. You can also swap gluten-free flour for the wheat flour if you’re following a gluten-free diet.

Ingredients 

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour + 1 cup regular white baking flour (or, use 2 cups of brown rice flour or gluten-free baking flour if you’re on a gluten-free diet)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp. dark molasses
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup earth balance vegan buttery spread (melt in the microwave)
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened apple sauce
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 + 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup vegan chocolate chips (I found them at trader joe’s)
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans and/or walnuts
  • 1/4 cup gluten free or regular oats
  • cinnamon (to be sprinkled on top)

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 350ºF
  • In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and oats
  • In a smaller bowl, combine the maple syrup, molasses, earth balance spread, apple sauce, almond milk, and vanilla extract
  • Mix the contents of the smaller bowl into the larger bowl, mixing well until uniform in consistency
  • Add the chocolate chips and nuts into the mixture
  • Spray an 8×8″ baking tin or cookie sheet with nonstick spray, spoon the batter into the pan or scoop the batter to create cookie shapes if you’re making the cookie version
  • Top with sprinkled ground cinnamon and bake at 350°F for 30-35 minutes
  • Remove from oven, allow to cool, cut (if you’re making bars) and enjoy!

-Jess

 

Vegan Gingerbread Muffins

Just because the holidays are over, doesn’t mean you have to get out of the holiday spirit! If you went overboard on cookies and other sweet things for the past few weeks but can’t get rid of that gingerbread craving, don’t fret. The following recipe is sure to delight gingerbread fans year round and because it’s healthier than a cookie and relatively low in calories, you can have your cake and eat it too ;). It’s of course vegan, and can be made gluten-free by using brown rice flour instead of whole-wheat.

Vegan Gingerbread Muffinsphoto.PNG-14

Ingredients (makes 9-12 muffins):

  • 2 cups whole wheat, spelt, or brown rice flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. cloves
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp. dried ground ginger
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup blackstrap molasses
  • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk (add more if the consistency is too dry)

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a muffin tin with muffin paper or spray with nonstick spray
  • Measure dry ingredients and add together in a large mixing bowl. Mix well.
  • Measure wet ingredients (molasses, applesauce, almond milk) and add to the bowl of dry ingredients. Mix together well until the batter is uniform in consistency.
  • Using an ice cream scooper or large spoon, spoon the batter into muffin tins
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes. The muffins are ready when a toothpick or fork can be inserted into the center and comes out dry.
  • Remove from the oven, allow to cool, and enjoy!

-Jess