A Reintroduction (featuring a plant-filled Italian pasta salad)

It’s been almost a full year since I wrote a blog post, for many reasons. As some of my readers may know, when I’m not blogging about delicious recipes, creating delectable desserts, and talking non-stop about my love for plant-filled plates, I work in two busy hospitals. Over the past (almost) year I’ve worked on the frontlines to help deal with the pandemic that shall not be named, so coming home each night and trying to be creative in the kitchen definitely took a backseat to other priorities. Everyone I know has in some way been affected by the events in the past year, but recently I realized that NOT engaging in activities like blogging, cooking, baking, and connecting with others about food has made life harder than it has to be. I’m excited to hopefully share my recipes with you more consistently.

On another personal note, this past year has made me reevaluate the advice I give to clients/patients and how I can best support people in their individual health journeys. In the past, I really enjoyed working with people who eat mainly plant-based or identify themselves as vegans/vegetarians. But many of the patients that I talk to daily may not be able to follow a plant-based diet for a variety of reasons (access to food, personal preference, stage of life, specific nutrient needs). Over the past few years, I’ve realized that there is no one way of eating that’s perfect for everyone, and as someone who has recovered from disordered eating in the past, labeling ones diet may feel restrictive for some (I’ll likely be sharing more about this in the future). It’s important to keep in mind that although I love recipe blogging, I’m a registered dietitian with a psych degree, and a master’s degree, so to me it’s more important to understand people and share recipes, tips, and advice that isn’t triggering or restrictive. With this being said, I’ll continue to share vegan/vegetarian recipes, with additional suggestions for people who eat “everything”. Also know that you can make any adjustments to the recipes as you see fit while you’re cooking (IMO, that’s how the best dishes are created!). On another personal note/professional note outside of blogging, I’ve started a private nutrition practice where I’ll be focusing specifically on women’s health and nutrition. I’m super excited about it, and although it’s still in the beginning stages, you can follow me on instagram @ whole.woman.nutrition to learn more info.

Despite not spending as much time creating new recipes and ingredients, one of my favorite, easy, quick meals that I’ve been making these past few months is a delicious, easy pasta salad that all eaters will enjoy. You can enjoy this dish for a healthy lunch or a quick dinner, and I’ve found that all ages will appreciate the textures and flavors. It’s a spin on a classic Italian pasta salad recipe, which has always been a favorite of mine. I love the mixture of crunchy, raw vegetables and soft colorful pasta. The addition of protein and fiber from chickpeas makes this meal more hearty, healthy, and satisfying than a typical pasta salad. Another delicious, healthy perk of this recipe is using a homemade dressing of extra-virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and Italian herbs. Extra virgin olive oil is an excellent source of monounsaturated fat–a fat that has been shown to have heart health benefits and may reduce inflammation. Feel free to make any changes to this recipe that suit your taste and needs and let me know if you try it!

Healthy Italian Pasta Salad (serves 6)

Ingredients:

  • 1 box tri-color rotini
  • 1/2 cup diced red onion (about 1/3 of a whole, medium red onion)
  • 2 bell peppers, chopped (I like using green and yellow for the colors)
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, chopped
  • 3/4 cup rinsed, canned chickpeas
  • 2-3 plant-based or regular sausage of your choice
  • 3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil + 3 tbsp. balsamic vinegar + 1 tsp. dried basil + 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp. nutritional yeast, non-dairy or regular parmesan cheese

Directions:

  • Boil water in a large pot and pour rotini into pot when the water comes to a rolling boil
  • Boil pasta for ~8 minutes, drain pasta, and set aside (I recommend putting it into the fridge, you can add a little olive oil so that it won’t stick together)
  • Cut up veggies (peppers, tomatoes, and onions) and set aside
  • Cut up sausages into cubes or thin slices and heat in a pan over medium heat for ~10 minutes. If you’re using uncooked sausage, your cooking time will be greater. Remove from heat when cooked
  • Drain and rinse canned chickpeas, and set aside
  • To create the dressing, mix EVOO, basalmic vinegar, and herbs together in a jar with a top. Shake well
  • Mix pasta, vegetables, sausage, and chickpeas together
  • Mix in dressing
  • Add a tbsp or so of nutritional yeast or parmesan cheese
  • Mix well, refrigerate, or enjoy now!

-Jess

Creamy Tofu and Veggie Soup

A few weeks ago, I made a delicious creamy soup using whatever vegetables I had in my kitchen.  What I love about this soup is that although it tastes creamy, it has less fat than a cream-based soup and contains plant-based protein, fiber, vitamin C, and vitamin A.  I’ve been perfecting the recipe, and I think I’ve finally found the perfect combination of ingredients.  Feel free to try this out on a cold day, and feel free to add or omit any veggies depending on what’s available to you.

Creamy Tofu and Veggie Soup

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Ingredients (serves 3-4):

  • 2 cups vegetable broth (I use store-bought broth. Check ingredients if you’re following a vegan diet because some can contain animal products).
  • 1.5 cups unsweetened, plain soymilk, or unsweetened plain ricemilk
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp. safflower or almond oil
  • 1/2 a standard block of firm tofu, cut into small cube shapes
  • 1.5 cups of fresh or frozen broccoli
  • 1 cup fresh, canned, or frozen corn
  • 1 cup fresh, canned, or frozen carrots
  • 1 medium potato, cut into smaller pieces (purple-skinned potatoes and yukon potatoes work great in this recipe)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • a pinch of garlic powder
  • a pinch of dried rosemary (omit if you don’t care for this herb)

Directions:

  • Measure all ingredients
  • On low-medium heat, use oil to grease a non-stick large pan or pot and lightly brown garlic and tofu cubes
  • When tofu has browned slightly, add vegetable broth, soy milk, and potatoes to the pan or pot, simmer for about 5-10 minutes
  • Add other veggies (broccoli, corn, carrots) along with garlic powder and dried rosemary. Add a bit of salt and pepper if you’d like
  • Simmer on low heat until potatoes are soft. Stir frequently. Remove from heat and serve. Refrigerate the extra or share with a friend!

-Jess

Pumpkin Spice Almond Treats

October is here and I am happy!  October is my favorite month because I love fall, halloween, and everything pumpkin spice flavored/scented. To celebrate the start of fall, yesterday I made raw vegan pumpkin spice almond treats. These almond treats have all the sweet flavors of fall and are full of healthy fats, fiber, and vitamin E.  I made this and ate 2 for breakfast along with pumpkin spice banana nicecream (frozen bananas, pumpkin puree, and pumpkin spice flavors) but you can eat them as is for a snack or dessert.

Pumpkin Spice Almond Treatsimg_0907

Ingredients:

  • 10 pitted, medjool dates
  • 1 cup raw almonds
  • 1/2 tsp. ground vanilla bean or vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp. cloves
  • 1/8 tsp. ginger
  • optional- you can also add 1 tbsp. pumpkin spice “butter” spread from Trader Joe’s (its vegan!) and adds a bit more sweetness

Directions:

  • Add all ingredients to a food processor, and process until the mixture is sticky and moldable
  • Mold into balls, bars, or squares and enjoy or refrigerate. These treats taste best at room temperature, so when you’re ready to enjoy them, take them out of the fridge 30 minutes-1 hour before.

P.S.- to make the pumpkin spice nicecream, see my earlier post on “the best vegan breakfast” and combine frozen bananas and canned pumpkin puree in a food processsor. Add the spice mixture above (cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger) and enjoy.

-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

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

Very Vegan Mac & Cheese

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, in the past I’ve deviated from a vegan diet due to cravings for animal protein. The more I learn about nutrition, the more apparent it’s become to me that we are all unique and the most important thing is to listen to your own body while being mindful of nutrition. It’s also important to not judge yourself when it comes to what you eat and instead be an observer of how your food makes you feel! Maybe you’re a vegan for ethical purposes but find yourself having an occasional craving for animal products. Take a look at your diet and see if you’re missing out on an important nutrient, like iron, protein, calcium or omega 3’s and then see if eating more plant sources of those nutrients alleviates some of your cravings (in my experience, that piece of advice really helped!).  Above all, always try your best, but know that “diet perfection” doesn’t exist.

One thing that I’ve also realized is that sometimes eating the same things can get really repetitive and can also lead to cravings for things that you wouldn’t normally eat. With this in mind, I decided to try my hand at making vegan macaroni and cheese because who doesn’t love a serving of comfort food every now and then? This recipe is actually a combination of a few recipes gathered from Daiya brand’s website and from a dish that my favorite health food store makes as one of their “hot lunch specials”. I put my own spin on it by adding some vegan mock-meat sausage for added protein and a spicy taste, but feel free to omit that component if you’re looking for a more classic mac and cheese taste.

Very Vegan Mac & Cheese (serves about 6-8)FullSizeRender-10

Ingredients:

  • 16 oz. whole grain elbow macaroni (whole grains can be brown rice noodles or speciality gluten-free noodles if you’re following a gluten free diet)
  • One 16 oz. package of Daiya brand vegan cheddar style shreds
  • 3 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 2.5 cups unsweetened, plain almond milk
  • 1/2 cup Earth Balance vegan buttery spread
  • black pepper (I didn’t measure, just sprinkle at your discretion)
  • garlic powder (about 1 tsp)
  • paprika (about 1/2 tsp)
  • 2 Field Roast Italian vegan sausages (omit if you’re following a GF diet)
  • Breadcrumbs or oat bran (to use as a topping. Omit if you’re following a GF diet)

Directions:

  • Boil water in a large pot (big enough to fit an entire 16 oz. package of macaroni)
  • Once the water has come to a rolling boil, allow macaroni to cook until tender
  • Remove the pot from the stove and drain the macaroni, set aside.
  • In a medium saucepan, melt the vegan buttery spread on low heat.
  • While the buttery spread melts, cut up the Field Roast vegan sausage into small pieces and cook in a separate saucepan on low heat until brown (about 5 minutes). Remove from heat and set aside.
  • Add the nutritional yeast and pepper to the vegan buttery spread saucepan.
  • Add the almond milk to the above saucepan.
  • Add the Daiya cheddar shreds to the above saucepan. Use a spoon to mix on low-medium heat.
  • Preheat the oven to 350°F
  • Once the Daiya cheddar shreds have melted, turn off the heat.
  • In a large oven-safe casserole dish, mix the drained macaroni and Field Roast vegan sausage. Add the vegan cheese mixture and use a spoon to make sure that the macaroni is evenly topped with vegan cheese.
  • Top the mixture with breadcrumbs or oat bran.
  • Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the top is golden.
  • Remove from the oven, allow to cool, and enjoy!

The most beautiful melty, "cheesy", non-dairy meal I've ever had!

The most beautiful melty, “cheesy”, non-dairy meal I’ve ever had!

-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

Falafel With A Green Twist

Hello readers! It’s been almost a month since I last posted. As you can tell, I’ve been pretty busy! I started the spring semester in late january and my yoga teacher training is almost done (although, I still have a lot of work to do, including a yoga practical and teaching a class on my own!). This semester is jam-packed for me because I decided to double-up on credits, so I’m actually taking double the amount of graduate courses I’m expected to…whoops! Since this blog isn’t about my academic career, I’ll switch gears now and talk about the delicious recipes I’ve been cooking up. Having limited time has actually made me become a little more creative when it comes to cooking, which is good, because as any busy vegan can tell you, microwaved veggie burgers can get awfully boring after a while.

Falafel has been a favorite food of mine, and it’s my go-to order at any middle-eastern restaurant. I decided to create my own healthier version of falafel, with added collard greens into the mixture. This recipe is tasty, easy, and not too labor intensive, so have fun and enjoy!

My new favorite collard greens falafel with a nice amount of hummus in a wrap

My new favorite collard greens falafel with a nice amount of hummus in a wrap

Ingredients (makes about 9 falafel balls/patties)

  • 1 fifteen oz. can of chickpeas
  • 3 large collard leaves, stems removed
  • 3 tsp. cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. ground pepper
  • dash of salt
  • 1 tsp. curry powder
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour or other whole-grain flour
  • 3 tbsp. oil (for the pan)

Directions

  • Combine chickpeas, collard greens, spices, and flour in a food processor and process until you have a uniform mixture (about a minute or two of total food processing time). If you don’t have a food processor, you can try using a blender but the food processor is your best bet for this recipe.
  • Pour oil into the pan
  • Spoon out chickpea mixture into ball shapes and onto the pan and cook on medium heat
  • Allow each chickpea ball to lightly brown and then flip on each side
  • If you find that the chickpea balls aren’t cooking all the way through, feel free to flatten them a bit to create more of a “patty” than a ball. Don’t worry, it will still taste just as good!
  • After cooking, allow to cool, and then enjoy in a wrap, pita, or with a generous helping of hummus (or your favorite dip!)

-Jess

Mad About Muffins

Greetings readers! I’ve been busy with school, yoga teacher training, and a bunch of other stuff (like jewelry making…but I’ll discuss that a little later) hence why I haven’t posted much lately. One might think that being busy means that there’s no time to create healthy, delicious recipes, but cooking and baking is a priority for me. Not only because making healthy food is a necessity, but also because I’m a firm believer in doing activities that bring me joy, so even when I’m busy I try to make some time to play around in the kitchen. Tonight I made two really healthy muffin recipes that I’m sharing here. Both recipes are vegan, oil-free, and can be made gluten-free.

Blueberry Oat Muffinsphoto 1.PNG-2

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups whole wheat, spelt, or brown rice flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/3 c. sugar
  • 1 cup apple sauce
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk (or more. Aim for thinner than cookie batter but thicker than pancake batter)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup oats
  • 1 cup blueberries

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Measure dry ingredients and add together in a large bowl
  • Measure and mix in wet ingredients
  • Line a muffin tin with paper muffin cups, or use spray oil to prevent sticking of batter
  • Using a spoon, scoop batter into each cup and bake for 20-25 minutes
  • Remove from oven, let cool, and enjoy!

Banana Walnut Muffins

Indulging in a banana walnut muffin as I type this post!

Indulging in a banana walnut muffin as I type this post!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups whole wheat, spelt, or gluten-free flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/3 c. sugar
  • 1 cup apple sauce
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk (or more, depending on the consistency. Aim for thinner than cookie batter but thicker than pancake batter)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 bananas, chopped up or pureed
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Measure dry ingredients and add to a large bowl
  • Measure wet ingredients (I included bananas and walnuts in here, even though technically they’re “dry”. What can I say, I live my life by my own rules 😉 )
  • Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients in a bowl
  • Line a muffin tin or use muffin cups and transfer muffin batter to the tin/cups using a spoon
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes
  • Remove from oven, allow to cool, and enjoy!

As I mentioned above, I’ve been making a lot of beaded jewelry as of late (I find doing crafts to be a great way to procrastinate and a pretty decent stress-reliever!), so if you love both delicious food pictures and are interested in buying some of my crafty creations, follow me on instagram @vitaminvalentine