I’m a Yoga Teacher!

The title says it all! Last weekend I taught my first big group yoga class held at a yoga studio. It was an amazing day :). My friends and some family were there plus a few other people who just wanted to donate to a wonderful cause while experiencing the amazing joys and benefits of yoga. All of the proceeds of this donation-based yoga class will go to God’s Love We Deliver, a charity that prepares and delivers nutritious meals to critically ill individuals in the NY-Metro Area.

This class was so special to me because of what I chose to focus on: limitless love, or put another way, unconditional love for oneself and others. The weeks leading up to this yoga class were kind of stressful. From december to early february I was suffering with a cough that didn’t seem get better with rest, fluids, lots of vitamin C, and a big dose of antibiotics. I hate being sick, so it was stressful and annoying to be dealing with an illness. Then a few weeks before the original date of my yoga class we had a big snow storm so the class had to be rescheduled. Then, the rescheduled date had to be rescheduled for other reasons, so I was getting frustrated. I was also getting frustrated with other people who had no control over any of these situations. The night before the class, I meditated on what I’ve learned from practicing yoga and what I wish to share through my practice and teaching.

 I realized before my yoga class that sometimes we get so caught up in things we can’t control and get angry, annoyed, and frustrated, but holding onto those negative feelings just makes things worse. I realized that all of the events leading up to this class were actually showing me that I needed to focus on the message of my yoga practice: limitless love for all things and people, especially when things don’t go as planned. 

The stress leading up to the class wasn’t so bad because it made me realize the importance of acceptance. It ended up being an amazing experience and I think everyone in the class felt the same. The feedback I received from the class made me so proud and I realized how much I absolutely love teaching yoga. I can’t wait to teach more and I’m excited for the weather to get warmer because I have big plans that combine nature + yoga (my favorite things besides cooking nutritious and delicious things!)  If you’re interested in learning more about the yoga sessions I provide, click the “services offered” tab above. I hope to hear back so that I can share my passion and spread the love with yoga.

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Me and my sister with our post-yoga glow 

Namaste,

Jess

 

 

Peanut Butter, Banana, and Chia Overnight Oats

Lately I’ve been obsessed with adding chia seeds to my food. Chia seeds are packed with nutrition. High in fiber, antioxidants, and omega 3 fatty acids and versatile in the way they can used, chia seeds are a great choice for anyone looking to add more nutrition to their meals. If you’ve never tried chia seeds or you’re confused about how to use them, have no fear. To make chia seeds edible, just soak in water or your favorite non-dairy milk, coconut water, or freshly made juice. For each tablespoon of chia seeds used, add two tablespoons of liquid. Let soak for several hours (overnight works best), and voila, your chia seeds are ready to be enjoyed. Chia seeds go great when added to smoothies, baked goods like muffins and granola bars, and my personal favorite, oatmeal. One of my favorite ways to make oatmeal and chia seeds together is in overnight oats. This involves soaking the oats and the chia seeds in liquid (along with other yummy additions) to make a tasty, easy meal that requires no microwaving or heating. Here’s the recipe for my favorite chia seed overnight oats. This recipe is so complete in nutrition and taste, I didn’t feel the need to add any additional sugars 🙂

Peanut Butter, Banana, and Chia Seed Overnight OatsIMG_8459

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup soymilk (or nondairy milk)
  • 3-4 tbsp. water
  • 1.5 tbsp. chia seeds
  • 1 ripe banana, sliced or blended/smushed
  • a drop or two of vanilla extract (optional)
  • a sprinkle of cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp. natural peanut butter (the less firm, the better, so if you refrigerate your natural PB, take it out of the fridge beforehand)
  • (optional) 2 tbsp. granola (for topping)

Directions:

  • In a large mason jar, or bowl, measure and combine oats, soymilk, water, and chia seeds. Mix so that all the oats and chia seeds are mixed together and can move around in the liquid
  • Slice or mash the banana, and add to the jar/bowl
  • Add cinnamon and vanilla extract, if desired (this adds some flavor)
  • Mix in 1 tbsp. of peanut butter.
  • Add a sprinkle of cinnamon
  • Make sure that everything is mixed well
  • Put a lid on the jar or top the bowl with a piece of saran wrap/cover and let sit overnight or for about 8-10 hours
  • Remove from the fridge, remove lid/cover, add 2 tbsp. of your favorite granola for a topping (optional)
  • Enjoy!

-Jess

Crunchy Kale and Nut Salad

If you live in New York, this past weekend you were most likely stuck indoors due to the snow. This past weekend during the blizzard, I was supposed to be teaching my first donation-based yoga class, but that just wasn’t going to happen due to the weather, so my yoga class has been rescheduled for next month. If you read my last post about yoga, you know how excited I am about teaching this class! Getting back to being stuck inside, one of my favorite ways to pass the time when stuck inside is to cook. Or in my case, un-cook. I love kale and I especially love kale salads. The following kale salad will satisfy a crunchy craving and supply a good dose of healthy fats and fiber. It’s vegan, and if you use gluten-free soy sauce (tamari or shoyu) it can also be gluten free.

Crunchy Kale and Nut Salad FullSizeRender-14

Ingredients (serves 4 as a side dish, 2 if served as a main dish)

Salad

  • 4-5 cups kale, cut into small pieces
  • 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 a cucumber, diced
  • 1 carrot, shaved into slices or diced
  • 1/2 cup slivered raw almonds

Dressing (makes several servings, refrigerate and save remaining dressing)

  • 1/4 cup tahini (hulled sesame paste, can be found at most health food stores)
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 2-3 tbsp. water
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce

 

Directions

  • For the salad, cut veggies and set kale in a large bowl. Massage olive oil onto kale using your hands so that the kale becomes softened. Add veggies and slivered almonds.
  • For the dressing, measure and whisk together ingredients in a large bowl until uniform. Add 4 tablespoons of the dressing to the salad and mix with a large spoon. There will be a large amount of dressing leftover. Store the remaining dressing in a sealed cup or bowl and use within a few days.
  • Share with friends and enjoy!

 

-Jess

Blueberry Bliss Muffins

Something about baking makes me quite introspective (see some earlier posts here, here, and here). As I was baking these muffins, I started to reflect on how food (and really anything that brings us pleasure) is a lot more enjoyable when you actually work for it. It’s easy to buy food that other people prepare, but when you actually prepare your own food and take time to learn about what appeals to you, the result is a lot sweeter (…or saltier depending on the recipe 😉 ). Obviously, as the writer of a food blog, I’ve realized this quite a long time ago, but sometimes you have to remind yourself to enjoy your own hard work and recognize that the best things are things that you can imagine, work for, and create (and that goes way beyond the topic of food!)

Back to the muffins, the following recipe is full of fiber and antioxidants from the wild blueberries. If you can’t find wild blueberries, regular blueberries (fresh or frozen) will work just fine.

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Ingredients

  • 2 cups whole grain flour (whole wheat, whole spelt, whole brown rice, etc. all work)
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1.5 cups unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 tbsp. safflower oil
  • 1 cup non-dairy milk (I used hemp milk for this recipe). Add more if needed.
  • 1.5 cups frozen wild blueberries
  • 1/2 cup oat bran

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F
  • Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and oat bran together in a large bowl and mix well.
  • Add the oil, applesauce, non-dairy milk.
  • Add the wild blueberries (no need to defrost if you’re using frozen ones).
  • Grease a muffin tin or use muffin tin cups. Using a spoon, transfer the muffin batter into each cup evenly.
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes. The muffins will be ready when golden in color and if the “toothpick test” comes out clean (insert a toothpick into the center of a muffin. If done, none will remain on the toothpick after removing if from the center of the muffin).
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
  • Enjoy!

-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

Sleep for Your Health: Some Sleep Hygiene Tips

As any health-conscious person knows, sleep is essential to feeling your best. Nearly everyone at some point in their lives has trouble sleeping. I sometimes wake up very early in the morning (like 3 AM-early), but I’ve found several strategies to help lull me to dreamland–and keep me there! Here are some tips I’ve learned on becoming relaxed to induce a night of zzz’s and a get full nights rest:

  1. This might sound like a no-brainer, but avoid coffee and any source of caffeine in the afternoon/evening hours. Even small amounts in chocolate and tea might have an effect on your system, so it’s best to avoid it. If you are a coffee drinker, try to stick with 1-2 cups in the morning and make it a goal to say “no” to that tempting mid-day iced coffee.
  2. Turn off any unnecessary electronics (i.e. TV, radio, computer), and keep your phone away from your bed when it’s time to go to sleep. Charge your phone away from your bed.
  3. Try to get outside or be around natural light in the daytime. This will help your body get more in tune with evolutionary-based circadian rhythms. Come nighttime, avoid bright lights and try to limit exposure to TV and computer screens.
  4. Even though you might be tired throughout the day, taking a long nap (longer than 30 minutes) might affect your sleep cycle and make it harder to fall asleep. Instead, try exercising or engaging in a physically or mentally stimulating activity to keep your energy up when you’re tired during the day.
  5. On the topic of exercise, find a time that works for you, and stick to it. Some people find that working out in the morning is not only more convenient, but sets the stage for a more energy-filled day. Others like to exercise at night. As long as it doesn’t prevent you from falling asleep, exercising at night should be fine. If you are indeed feeling a little pumped up after a PM workout, try taking a hot shower or bath to soothe and relax your muscles.
  6. If you’re sensitive to light while falling asleep, consider blackout curtains or an eye pillow.
  7. Pets are lovely, but if your dog or cat has a tendency to make your head its personal pillow at night, consider sleeping apart from your furry friend.
  8. If anxiety keeps you up at night, try to figure out what’s behind your worries. Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) is a form of therapy that can be done via specific self-help books or with a therapist, and involves changing cognitive distortions (or negative ways of thinking) that can lead to depression and anxiety. Also, journaling might be helpful to sort through your own thoughts. Try not to judge your own thoughts and instead let your thoughts flow from your mind to your pen to the paper. Then, see if you can find a pattern in your thinking.
  9. Get comfy. I’ve mentioned making sure your sleeping space is dark and distraction free. You can also use aromatherapy, massage, and yoga to relax your body and mind. Lavender, chamomile, and jasmine are some scents that can come in the form of essential oils and lotions, and really do help one to relax. Yoga poses along with breathing exercises can help connect your brain to your body in a relaxing, healing way.

    a yoga mat, essential oil lotion + spray, supplements, and a dream journal = a peaceful mind at night.

    a yoga mat, essential oil lotion + spray, supplements, and a dream journal = a peaceful mind at night.

  10. Consider taking a magnesium/calcium supplement, or a small amount of melatonin before bed. (Always consult a doctor before taking any supplements though!)
  11. Keep a dream journal. I’m fascinated by my own dreams, although sometimes I wake up after a dream and can’t fall back asleep. Writing down themes of a dream and then doing something relaxing, like reading a beautiful poem or listening to a favorite song can help to you to relax and help you fall asleep again. Then in the morning, you can analyze your own dreams, if it interests you.
  12. Try yoga nidra, a type of guided meditation, or other guided meditation podcasts and tutorials that can be found using google or available through apple podcasts.
  13. Eat a light snack before bed if you’re hungry. Try to aim for a balance of carbs & a little protein. A small amount of trail mix, whole grain crackers with a tablespoon of almond butter, or 6 oz. soy milk & a banana are some suggestions.
  14. Try to stick to a routine. This includes when you go to bed, what time you wake up (or set an alarm to wake up) and what times you eat throughout the day. Although it’s fun to live spontaneously, our bodies were meant to sleep and eat at certain points. Get into healthy, realistic habits, and become more attuned to your body’s needs.

Well, those are all the things that have been helpful in my experience. I hope you have a good nights rest!

-Jess

Happy Birthday to Vitamin Valentine!

My blog is officially 2 years old this june (technically my blog’s “birthday” was June 10th). I’m proud that I’ve been able to make writing a commitment, even though I feel like I’m a lot less focused on this blog than when I first began. Part of this is actually for a really good reason. I’m a lot less fixated on food than I used to be. Throughout writing about recipes, nutrition tips and advice, I’ve learned quite a bit about what healthy eating actually is. Here are some things I’ve learned as a nutritionist and student of nutrition:

1. Healthy eating is different for everyone

When I started this blog, I was kind of obsessed with counting calories. I just couldn’t shake it. This was not healthy and made me have a really negative relationship with food. I’ve mentioned in past posts that I used to struggle with obsessive dieting, so counting calories was definitely something that I needed to get away from. Instead of taking the latest diet advice or trying to adopt a lifestyle that ignores your personal health needs, do what feels right to you. It might feel uncomfortable to trust your gut, but ultimately, it is the healthiest.

It's a wrap, with chicken in it, because I felt like it ;) !

2. Eat the rainbow

Ok, so you’ve convinced yourself that your “intuition” is telling you to eat burgers and fries? Let’s be real. Your body needs fresh food in the form of fruits and veggies. Things that grow from the earth offer an abundance of vitamins and minerals and are truly nourishing. Learning to prepare vegetables so that they taste good is fun, I promise!

3. Don’t compare your diet to anyone else’s

I used to follow a bunch of vegan people on instagram and then would feel guilty every time I ate something that was less than 100% organic, raw, sustainably-produced, blah blah blah. I realized I was spending more time feeling bad about my perfectly healthy diet than enjoying my food. I also became somewhat obsessed with posting my own food pictures! If you find yourself comparing your diet to someone else’s, try to remember that no one is perfect when it comes to eating. And remember to take anything food-related on social media with a grain of salt (no pun intended).

4. Always bring snacks

Wherever you go, there you are…and hopefully you brought a snack because you will get hungry! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been out running errands and became so hungry, I ended up overeating during my next meal. I’ve learned that keeping snacks in my bag really lets me avoid stuffing my face come lunch or dinner. Trail mix, granola bars, a bag of baby carrots, a piece of fresh fruit- these are all great snack ideas to have on hand.

5. Get moving

Exercise is essential for staying healthy, both physically and mentally. Not only do you burn calories and build strength (depending on the activity), exercise has been found to decrease stress and increase mental awareness. Moving your body will you help you in every way to improve your health…plus it makes your butt look good :). Start small and increase the amount of time you exercise. Try different activities and see which one you really like. I used to hate yoga, and now in a few weeks, I’ll officially be a registered yoga teacher. Go outside your comfort zone when it comes to trying new activities, you might just find your passion!

6. Have some kind of routine

Routines can be boring, restrictive, and repetitive-or-they can be grounding, give you a sense of purpose, and help you get things done. It’s all about perspective! When making a routine (whether its related to exercise or when you’ll prepare your meals, etc.) consider what will be most realistic and doable for you. If you’re not a morning person, don’t force yourself to wake up at 5 AM to go for a run everyday, because that’s not exercise, that’s torture. Likewise, if you work 60 hours a week and don’t have a spare minute to prepare your food, don’t waste your free time cooking elaborate meals. Instead, aim to have simple staples and healthy options at the places you dine at.

7. Be a perpetual student

I started this blog the same month I decided to go back to school to pursue a second bachelor’s and a master’s both in nutrition. I’ve probably learned just as much about food outside of the classroom than in it. I’ve learned a lot about how to treat illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, cancer, etc. and I love my professors, but when it comes to learning about the best way to eat, that’s in your hands. Be curious about your food and figuring out what works for you. You know yourself better than any person- nutritionist, doctor, etc. and it can never hurt to learn about food from a variety of sources and then integrate what makes the most sense for you, personally.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the past two years of my blog! If you’re a student of nutrition, feel free to share this post!

-Jess

A Berry Good Smoothie

The spring semester has come to a close! (yay). I’ve completed another year as a nutrition student, and now I have just another year until I’m done with my master’s. One thing that got me through finals was having quick meals packed with nutrition. A favorite meal during finals (and whenever, really) is the following smoothie recipe. It’s packed with protein, fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and it’s delicious!

A Berry Good Smoothie

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  • 6 oz. blueberry or vanilla coconut milk yogurt (I use so delicious brand). You can also use almond milk yogurt or any other kind of dairy-free yogurt that pleases your tastebuds
  • 1 frozen banana, cut into chunks
  • 1/2 cup frozen mixed berries
  • 1 scoop vegan (or not) protein. (I use Garden of Life Plant Protein in smooth vanilla flavor)
  • 1/2 cup soymilk (or nondairy milk) + 1/2 cup water

Combine all ingredients in a blender, and blend on high until uniform in texture and appearance. Pour into a large cup and enjoy! This makes a large portion, so feel free to share with a friend or divide into two and enjoy half of it for a snack later.

-Jess

Over the Moon for Overnight Oats

If you’re like me, you rarely have time to eat a complete meal in the morning, or if you do, it feels rushed. Enter the genius concept of overnight oats. No longer will you feel frazzled as you try to prepare something healthy in the early hours of the AM, because you’re going to do it the night before (muah-ha-ha…that’s my attempt at evil laughing). These oats are packed with fiber from the oats, fruit, and chia seeds, along with some plant-based protein, and healthy fats.

Overnight Oats with Fruit, Chia Seeds, and Almond Butter 

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup rolled oats, uncooked
  • 2/3 cup soy milk or almond milk (or your favorite milk/nondairy milk)
  • 1 tbsp. uncooked chia seeds
  • 1/2 cup berries of your choice
  • 1/4 to 1/2 of a banana
  • (optional) sprinkle cinnamon

Directions *important- do this the day/night before you plan to eat this*

  • In a mason jar or bowl, add oats, then soy milk (or other milk), and chia seeds, stir. If the oats still seem dry, add a little more soy milk (or other milk)
  • Add fruit, and sprinkle cinnamon (if desired), stir mixture
  • Cover the mason jar or bowl
  • Transfer to the refrigerator and let sit for at least 10 hours (preferably 12)
  • The next morning, uncover your oat creation and add a tablespoon of your favorite almond or other nut butter
  • Enjoy!

This is a breakfast I’ve been eating lately and it makes my morning meal prep super easy because all I have to do is remove from the fridge and add a little AB (almond butter). The oats will be fluffy and ready to eat without microwaving, which makes this a great morning meal for the summer months (because who wants to eat a hot meal when its 90 degrees out. Not this girl!).  I look forward to sharing more of my healthy meal ideas as soon as my spring semester winds down!

-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