Busy yet balanced

February has been a busy month for me, but one of my goals is to write more on Vitamin Valentine.  This month has been filled with school assignments (I’m working on my master’s thesis) and some very exciting (yet nerve-racking) professional developments.  I submitted my dietetic internship applications this month and I’m hoping to get accepted into an internship.  If you’re new to my blog, I’ve been working on a B.S./M.S. in Nutrition for the past four years in order to become a Registered Dietitian (RD).  It’s extremely competitive to get into a dietetic internship (DI) and completing the DI is a requirement of the education and training to become an RD, so I’m hoping I match.  Nutrition is my passion and I hope to get into an internship in order to gain the knowledge necessary to help people.  Registered Dietitians are truly the experts in the nutrition field because of the training and education they receive.  I’ve dreamt of becoming an RD for so long, so wish me luck!

Because I’ve been so busy lately, I’ve been finding ways to save time when it comes to preparing healthy food.  Sometimes I make a big batch of food and eat the same thing for lunch for a few days during the week, and other times I try to mix it up.  Either way, I try to stick with the same formula for making my meals as balanced and colorful as possible.  I try to include at least two veggies, a source of protein, and a healthy fat.  Sometimes I’ll also add some whole grains, but today I skipped that component.  For a “side dish” or snack, I usually stick to fruit or a protein bar.  Lunch today was so colorful and delicious.  It consisted of a purple potato on top of collard greens, 1/2 a medium avocado, some cherry tomatoes, and a serving of hummus.  For my snacks, I had a fruit salad (sliced papaya, kiwi, and pineapple) and a gomacro bar (a vegan protein bar).  I also took an apple with me but I decided to save it for another time.

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Delicious, colorful, and easy!

It took me about 10 minutes in total to prepare this.  Instead of baking the potato, I put it in the microwave, which saves a lot of time.  I love preparing my meals ahead of time like this, especially because when I’m hungry at work it’s so tempting to go out and buy something.  Do you have any ways to save time or money while staying healthy?  Feel free to share below, or connect with me via facebook or instagram @vitaminvalentine

-Jess

Roasted Veggie One-Layer Lasagna

For the past few weeks (up until now), I haven’t been inspired to cook anything exciting but I am excited about something…my classes for fall semester start next week! I’m excited because it means I’m one step closer to my master’s and the beginning of my career. On a food-note-I wanted to make a dish for the next few days so that when I come home, I can just heat this up for an easy lunch or dinner (or healthy midnight snack). The following recipe is chock full of nutrients in the form of root veggies and whole grains. You can also roast some green veggies, like kale or brussels sprouts and add them to this recipe (which I didn’t do, but just thought would taste amazing). If you’re not a vegan, feel free to add some cheese, but this version I made is vegan.

photo 3-11Ingredients (serves 3)

  • 6 sheets/pieces of whole grain lasagna
  • 2 large beets, chopped into cubes in a size to your liking
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 1.5 cups tomato sauce
  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil or olive oil (but not extra virgin olive oil, because this is going in the oven)
  • 1 additional carrot to be grated
  • pepper, to taste
  • a sprinkle of garlic powder

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit
  • Place chopped veggies, pepper, and 1 tbsp. oil in an oven safe dish and mix so that the oil covers the veggies
  • Roast veggies at 400 degrees for 30 minutes
  • While the veggies are roasted, boil a large pot of water
  • When the water comes to a boil, place sheets of lasagna in water. Don’t break them to allow them to be fully submerged, just wait until half of them become pliable enough to fit entirely in the water.
  • After 8-12 minutes, the pasta should be ready.
  • Remove from stove and drain. Then, pat dry or lay them across a surface to dry
  • Remove the roasted veggies from the oven after 30 minutes
  • Grease another oven-safe dish and then lay three of the lasagna sheets down on the dish
  • Add a layer of tomato sauce to the lasagna sheets
  • Add most of the roasted veggies and sprinkle garlic powder, add 1 tbsp. oil, and another layer of tomato sauce if desired
  • Add the second layer of lasagna sheets (you should have three remaining) on top of the roasted veggies/tomato sauce mixture
  • Add one more layer of tomato sauce on top, and (optional) a few more roasted veggies on top of the sauce
  • Grate a carrot using a cheese grater and add on top (like you would with cheese)
  • Stick in the oven at 400 degrees for 6-8 minutes
  • Remove from oven, allow to cool, and serve (or save for later)
  • Enjoy!

-Jess

An Ode to Oats

A while ago, I wrote a post about several different ways to prepare oats. Tonight, I was hungry, but didn’t really feel like cooking an elaborate meal. I also had a bunch of veggies that I wanted to use, so I decided to make a savory oat recipe that combines veggies, whole grains, and a good helping of plant-based protein and healthy fats. Next time you’re craving something filling yet quick, try this recipe. Oats are a great grain to use because they’re rich in fiber and leave you feeling full for quite a while. They’re also so easy to make and mild in flavor on their own, so think beyond breakfast when it comes to oats.

This dish might not win any awards for being visually pleasing, but it is sure to leave your belly satisfied!

This dish might not win any awards for being visually pleasing, but it is sure to leave your belly satisfied!

Ingredients (serves 1 hungry person, or 2 people):

  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats (gluten-free oats are also an option, if you’re following a gluten-free diet)
  • 1/2 cup black beans (drained of excess water and salt)
  • 1/4 c. chopped onion
  • 1 cup diced mushrooms, bell peppers, or whatever veggies you have available
  • 1 cup spinach, or other leafy green
  • guacamole (or avocado slices)
  • red pepper hummus (optional), you can also use salsa if available
  • non-stick spray or 1-2 tsp. olive oil

Directions:

  • Spray a pan with nonstick spray oil (or pour some olive oil on a pan), chop up veggies, and allow to cook on medium heat
  • Measure oats and place in a microwave-safe bowl. Add the suggested amount of water listed on the box. Heat for about 3 minutes in the microwave (but watch the bowl, because sometimes oats like to overflow and then you’ll be spending some time cleaning your microwave. Not fun!)
  • When the veggies have lightly browned, add 1/2 cup black beans to heat them up (canned beans don’t really need to be cooked) for a few minutes
  • Remove the pan of veggies and beans from the stove
  • Remove the oats from the microwave and combine the two
  • Add hummus, guacamole, salsa, or whatever you think would complement this dish well. Get creative and enjoy!

-Jess

A Protein-Packed Vegan Side Salad

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Eating heavy meals during the summer can make you feel lethargic, so a lot of people seem to eat more fresh salads and lighter fare. It’s still important to consume adequate amounts of protein, which is why choosing meat-free sources of protein may be especially appropriate for summer weather (meats can leave a heavy feeling in the stomach). The salad I’m sharing today makes an excellent side dish and the best part is that most of the ingredients (excluding the beans) can be found at your local farmers’ market or farm stand.

Corn, Tomato, and Bean Salad

Ingredients

• One 12 oz. can of black beans (or a different type of bean that you like)
• 16 oz. baby tomatoes, or whole tomatoes, cut into smaller pieces
• ¼ cup diced onion
• 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
• 1.5 cups cooked corn (it can be fresh, canned, or frozen)
• a few leaves of fresh or dried oregano
• a few leaves of fresh or dried cilantro
• 4 tbsp. fresh or canned salsa
• salt and pepper to taste

Directions
• Boil water and boil or steam corn for a few minutes. Drain the corn (if it’s still on the cob, remove using a knife)
• Cut baby tomatoes or whole tomatoes into smaller pieces
• Heat the beans (I used a microwave) and drain so that some of the salt and other liquid is rinsed away
• Combine the corn, tomatoes, onion, herbs (oregano and cilantro), salt and pepper together.
• Drizzle olive oil and salsa on top and then mix gently
• Refrigerate or serve immediately
• Enjoy!

-Jess

Peanut Butter Crunch Noodles

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I love peanut butter and I’m pretty sure I could eat it with anything. One of my favorite dishes is peanut butter noodles, usually served cold. I decided to create my own version of peanut butter noodles with an additional crunchy vegetable component. I like playing around with different textures of food in the same dish, but feel free to sub cruciferous veggies for whatever tickles your fancy. This recipe is gluten-free because I used quinoa spaghetti which is made from quinoa, making this dish high in fiber and protein. Using natural peanut butter (without hydrogenated oils) along with just a tsp. or two of coconut oil also provides additional healthy fats. It’s always a good idea to eat your veggies with a fat source so that more of the vitamins and minerals are absorbed. Most importantly, this makes a delicious, easy dinner. I prepared this earlier in the day and came home late from work and ate this and it really hit the spot.

Peanut Butter Crunch Noodles (serves 2)

Ingredients

  • 4 oz. whole grain pasta. There are many varieties, I went with Ancient Harvest brand quinoa spaghetti. (You could also use wheat-containing pasta, if you want).
  • 2 cups Trader Joe’s cruciferous crunch medley (or any combination of your favorite vegetables)
  • 2 tbsp. natural peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp. tamari or regular soy sauce
  • squeeze of lemon juice
  • 2 tsp. coconut oil

Directions

  • Boil water in a pot, add 4 oz. of pasta when the water comes to a rolling boil. Be sure to stir frequently.
  • In a microwave safe dish, heat cruciferous veggies with a little water, cover with a paper towel allowing it to steam for 5 minutes, or steam using a steamer on the stove.
  • For the sauce, make sure the peanut butter is soft, not solid. You may have to heat it a little in the microwave.
  • Combine peanut butter, tamari, lemon juice, and coconut oil to create the sauce. Stir.
  • Drain the pasta after 12-15 minutes (taste to make sure it’s done)
  • Drain the remaining water from the veggies and add to the drained pasta.
  • In a bowl, mix in the sauce
  • Serve and enjoy!

-Jess

Wrap it up: Tofu Salad!

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Tofu is probably one of the most versatile plant proteins to cook with. One of my favorite ways to eat tofu is in an egg-salad-like dish (sans eggs). This dish can be eaten in a wrap, a sandwich, on crackers, or on its own. Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients (serves four or more)

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  • 1/2 a package of firm tofu, drained
  • 1 carrot, peeled and cut into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 tsp. dill
  • dash of black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric (optional, used for color)
  • 1 tsp. mustard
  • 3 tbsp. vegan mayonaise
  • 1 tsp. soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 tbsp. tahini sauce (optional)

Directions

Drain the tofu and press out remaining water using paper towels. Chop the tofu into small pieces.photo 2-8

Chop the onions, carrot, and celery.photo 5

Combine the ingredients in a bowl, and add mustard, vegan mayo, soy sauce, and tahini. Add spices (pepper, turmeric, dill). Mix together and add to your favorite slice of bread, salad, or wrap.

I added salsa and spinach leaves to my finished product. Yum!

I added salsa and spinach leaves to my finished product. Yum!

Enjoy!

-Jess

How To Get Your Fruit Fix On

Summer is almost here (well, it’s almost a month away so that counts, right?) and summer is peak fruit season. Consuming at least two or more servings of fruit a day provides you with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and a healthy source of carbohydrates, but many people are so used to eating cereal or eggs for breakfast, and having cake or cookies for dessert, when fruit would be a healthier option.

Depending on where you live, different types and varieties of fruit may be in season during the summer, however, in most supermarkets and health food stores you can find fruit staples like oranges, bananas, apples, pears, and typically berries like strawberries and blueberries. If you’re lucky, you might also find mangos, papayas, and kiwis. During the summer months in the northeast, plums, peaches, and nectarines are all in season along with several different varieties of melons.

When thinking about ways to eat fruit, think out of the box! Fruit can be puréed and used in place of oil or eggs in muffin batter, juiced or blended into a smoothie, or added to accent a savory dish! Here are some other ways to enjoy fruit while getting a variety of vitamins and other nutrients.

 

Deconstructed Fruit Salads

Arrange fruit (and nuts, for a source of protein and healthy fats) on a plate and have a feast for your mouth and eyes. Children may especially be fond of these dishes due to the shapes and colors. For a fun activity, ask kids to describe the flavor and texture of each different type of fruit.

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Nutella-like spread, or similar nut butter pairs well with apples and bananas!

Nutella-like spread, or similar nut butter pairs well with apples and bananas!

Citrus fruit salad is not only fun to eat but visually appealing as well!

Citrus fruit salad is not only fun to eat but visually appealing as well!

 

Pair sliced fruit along with a whole grain product, like a berry-oat muffin, oatmeal, or whole-grain cereal.

Pair sliced fruit along with a whole grain product, like a berry-oat muffin, oatmeal, or whole-grain cereal.

 

Smoothies & Juices

For smoothies, use a banana, soy yogurt, or low-fat yogurt, along with any other fruit you enjoy to create a quick yet filling breakfast or snack!

For juices, sneak in some veggies, like carrots or beets, in with your fruit for an extra-nutritious beverage!


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Add to Savory Dishes

Try adding apples, citrus fruits, or mangoes to rice dishes, salads, or meals involving beans. I’ve found that fruit goes well with asian-inspired meals, especially with teriyaki sauce.

Kale salad with oranges, topped with pear dressing makes a vitamin A and vitamin C-rich meal.

Kale salad with oranges, topped with pear dressing makes a vitamin A and vitamin C-rich meal.

Sliced mango added to a bean salad topped with various veggies and teriyaki sauce is one idea for a fruit-infused main course

Sliced mango added to a bean salad topped with various veggies and teriyaki sauce is one idea for a fruit-infused main course

For a crunchy meal, shred jicama (a root vegetable) or prepare brown rice, and add oranges, kale, bell pepper, and top with hot sauce for a variety of flavors and textures!

For a crunchy meal, shred jicama (a root vegetable) or prepare brown rice, and add oranges, kale, bell pepper, and top with hot sauce for a variety of flavors and textures!

 

Get creative with fruit and always try new foods, new dishes, and experiment in the kitchen! If you enjoyed the pictures in this post, feel free to follow me on instagram @vitaminvalentine for even more creative visuals of healthy food and recipes!

-Jess