Chocolate Chip Protein Banana Bread

It’s been a little while since I wrote a blog post and I’m excited to share why. I’m currently employed full-time during the week as a dietitian at a rehab center, working weekends as a dietitian at a hospital, AND managing to provide nutrition counseling to private clients through Vitamin Valentine Wellness–so I haven’t been updating this blog as often as I used to. Although I’m super busy, I’m also happy to be getting so much experience as a new dietitian.

Having limited free time made me realize that I really need to prioritize self-care and focus on activities that help me unwind. One thing that’s always helped me relax is baking. I love creating healthy baked goods that I can indulge in (healthily) after a busy day. The following recipe not only satisfies my craving for chocolate, but also packs a punch of protein, potassium, and fiber. Let me know how you like this recipe if you try it and feel free to leave a comment here or on my Instagram page @vitaminvalentine.

Chocolate Chip Protein Banana Bread

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Ingredients:

  • 3 cups garbanzo bean flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill brand)- if you don’t have this flour or can’t find it, feel free to swap it out for whole wheat flour, spelt flour, or your favorite gluten free baking mix
  • 3 scoops Vega Vanilla Protein Powder (or your favorite plant-based protein powder)
  • 4 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 cups unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 6 oz. Kite Hill unsweetened greek-style almond yogurt (or use your favorite plant-based, dairy-free yogurt)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips (I used Trader Joe’s brand)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 370°F. In a large mixing bowl, add flour, protein powder, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. In another mixing bowl, combine mashed bananas, almond milk, almond yogurt, and vanilla. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, then add chocolate chips. Mix well until contents are uniform. Using non-stick spray, spray a 9×11 brownie tin or baking pan of your choice. Scoop out batter into the pan. Bake at 370°F for 35-40 minutes. Allow to cool. Cut into squares (this recipe made 20 squares me for). Enjoy!

Nuggets on a Budget

My name is Jessie Valentine and I have a confession to make:  I am completely obsessed with the soy nuggets at Whole Foods Market!  I first found these delicious little meatless nuggets of bliss a few years ago while circling ’round the salad bar and since then I’ve been hooked.  Unfortunately for my wallet, a 1 lb. container of soy nuggets typically cost about $10, and as someone who is on a food budget, I wanted to find a way to make my own (similar) type of soy nugget.

The consistency of the soy nuggets at WFM are like a less chewy/spongy version of seitan.  If you’ve never tried seitan, it’s a meat replacement made up of wheat gluten and typically seasoned with soy sauce or some kind of vegetable broth base.  For my version of soy nuggets, I used soy flour along with vital wheat gluten.  You can buy vital wheat gluten and soy flour at any health food store.  It’s typically found in the baking/flour section.  I used Bob’s Red Mill brand for both.

For flavor, I used three different marinades, thus making three different flavors of these nuggets.  Feel free to use whatever you have available or if you have a certain flavor in mind (spicy, teriyaki, bbq, etc.) use dressings/sauces/seasonings that you prefer.

I hope you try this recipe and feel inspired to make your own homemade versions of your favorite foods. 

Protein-Packed Vegan Nuggets (serves 4)

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I served mine with some brown rice, beans, and veggies. 

Ingredients

  • 1 cup vital wheat gluten
  • 1/2 cup soy flour
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tbsp. soy sauce
  • seasonings- (choose whatever you want).  I made three varieties-  a teriyaki/seseame flavor (teriyaki sauce + sesame seeds), a buffalo sauce flavored variety (I used buffalo sauce marinade) and a spicy variety (I mixed taco seasoning + hot sauce.  Caution: muy caliente).
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Three varieties fresh from the oven

Directions

  • In a large mixing bowl, combine wheat gluten, soy flour, and water.  This combination will create a dough.  Knead and stretch the dough for a minute or so.
  • Cut the dough into small, bite-size pieces (nuggets)
  • Boil water in a large pot.  When the water comes to a boil, drop the nuggets into the dough, piece-by-piece
  • Lower the water to a simmer (it should not be boiling as the nuggets cook).  If the water is boiling, the nuggets will come out chewy and rubbery.
  • Allow the nuggets to simmer in water for 1 hour
  • Remove from heat and drain using a colander.  The nuggets should have expanded.  Allow to cool a bit.
  • Now, for the flavoring-  in a ziplock bag, allow the nuggets to marinate in whatever sauce/seasoning you choose for 1 hour-overnight (your choice).
  • After the nuggets have marinated to your liking, preheat the oven to 350°F
  • Spray cooking spray on a cookie tin or baking pan (both will work) and place the nuggets on the pan.  If you’d like, you can add more sauce at this point, as some will evaporate as the nuggets bake in the oven
  • Bake the nuggets for 20-30 minutes
  • Remove from the oven, allow to cool, and enjoy

 

-Jess

Peachy Keen Protein Dream Smoothie

If you’ve been following my facebook or instagram pages, you are well aware of my love of smoothies. I love experimenting with flavors and combinations to create healthy and delicious smoothies. I’m a big fan of smoothies because they don’t weigh me down yet they can be very filling. I like eating oatmeal for breakfast, but lately I’ve been craving something a little lighter and a smoothie really does the trick. This smoothie recipe is packed with fiber, antioxidants, and protein. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do 🙂

Peachy Keen Protein Dream SmoothieIMG_8923

  • 1 frozen banana, in chunks
  • 1 cup frozen sliced peaches (or use fresh, just make sure they’re ripe)
  • 1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1 scoop Garden of Life Raw protein-vanilla (or use your favorite vegan {or not} protein powder)
  • a little water if necessary

Measure ingredients and add to a blender. Blend well until smooth. Enjoy for breakfast, lunch, snack, dessert, or anytime.

-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

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

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

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

It’s Just Food, or Is It?

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To someone who has always had a healthy relationship with food, food is just food. Meaning food is simply something you eat to enjoy and to keep you alive, and yes, sometimes indulge in just for the sake of eating something tasty. But, for me, and for many other people I know, food is so much more than that.

For myself, food is something I spend a lot of time thinking about. As I’ve alluded to in earlier posts, a lot of people who get into nutrition have history of disordered eating (perhaps one day I’ll share more, but today isn’t that day). One reason why I chose to study nutrition is because I was so misguided as a teenager when it came to learning how to be healthy. I wish I had a qualified nutrition professional leading me in the right direction when I was younger, so now, I’m doing my part to help myself and help others in the future. But that’s not the only reason. I love cooking, I love creating healthy versions of recipes, and I believe proper nutrition is vital to living a healthy life. I’m also intensely passionate about science and scientifcally-based evidence when it comes to using nutrition to prevent and treat disease.

As a nutrition student, I’ve learned so much in my classes. My favorite courses so far have been Medical Nutrition Therapy, where we learn how to treat illnesses and symptoms like portal hypertension, ulcerative colitis, hepatitis, and others, and I also really enjoyed Cultural Aspects of Food. In Cultural Aspects of Food, we learned about how early man ate (surprise: the paleo diet, although very healthy, isn’t completely reflective of how cavemen ate), how different cultures eat, issues surrounding the global food source and how we’re going to sustain ourselves. Even though I feel like I’m getting a great education, I sometimes doubt myself when it comes to what I’m eating. Based on the recommendations in my Nutrition 101 class, I’m doing pretty well, nutritionally. I eat a lot of fruits and veggies, my grains are always whole and not refined, I limit sugars, and my protein is usually lean (I don’t eat meat for various reasons [but I completely understand that veganism isn’t for everyone] so I stick with beans, tofu, etc. which are low in fat). But, I also take in a lot of information from outside of my classes.

My MNT textbook, often found on my bed after a long night of studying.

My MNT textbook, often found on my bed after a long night of studying.

 

When you’re passionate, or dare I say, obsessive, about food/nutrition, you tend to want to learn as much as you can, and this can present some problems because it can be information-overdrive. Somedays I’ll read some article claiming gluten is the most harmful thing one could ingest, and the next, I’ll read a scholarly paper proving that whole wheat products are perfectly fine for non-celiacs. It can be really confusing to sift through information, especially because nutrition is such a new science. We’ve only been studying what we’ve been eating for a limited amount of time and in that time, there has been so much conflicting advice. In the 80’s and 90’s, fat (in all forms) was shunned. That did us no good. In the early 2000’s, Atkins was the boss. Low-carbohydrate diets have been shown to be effective for weight loss, but at what cost? Eating large amounts of meat, especially factory-farmed meat, has been shown to increase the risk of cancers and heart disease, and it’s unsustainable for our planet. Now, it seems like the focus is on eating is purity, or cleanliness. To be healthy means you must eat organic, gluten-free, dairy-free, etc. While I can agree that a diet consisting of mostly unprocessed, whole, organic foods is best, it’s not healthy to obsess over how pure your diet is, especially if it limits your social life or mental wellbeing.

So what advice as someone studying nutrition can I give to you (and myself!)? I think the answer is to find a way of eating that is a) based on nutritionally sound advice (we need carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals to sustain ourselves) b) balanced, based on the individual (some people really do feel better avoiding gluten even without diagnosed Celiac Disease, some people do well eating only plants, some people need less carbs to thrive) c) an ongoing experiment. Meaning you might experiment with the ratios of your macronutrients and see how it affects you, or you may want to see if going gluten-free alleviates some stomach pain, or you may find that a moderate diet of whole grains, dairy, fruits, veggies, and meat is working just fine. The important thing is to find a way of eating that makes you feel healthy, have patience in the process, and focus on yourself instead of buying into every new piece of advice that comes along.

 

-Jess

Working With What You Have: Cookie Edition

Is there such a thing as a "bad" cookie? No, only imperfect ones!

Is there such a thing as a “bad” cookie? No, only imperfect ones!

I want to start this post by wishing all the Moms who are reading a very happy Mother’s Day! Watching my Mom and Grandma in the kitchen gave me an appreciation for cooking and baking and I carry that with me every day. Today I woke up and realized I completely forgot to buy my mom a Mother’s Day present, and by forgot, I mean, I’m a student and my funds are limited. With that in mind, I had to be resourceful so I headed to the cabinet to see what I could create. No chocolate chips or oatmeal were to be found, so there went my idea for chocolate chip oatmeal-cookies. I did however have all-purpose gluten-free flour, trader joe’s hemp protein powder, almonds, almond butter, and raisins.

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Sounds like a weird combination, but I was willing to try it.

photo 2-6

 

I created the recipe below as I went along (which is something I frequently do) and I realized that my improvisational cooking method is somewhat symbolic for some things that I’ve realized since starting this blog. When I decided to go back to school to study nutrition and start this blog, I feared writing about myself at all because I think we constantly judge ourselves and fear judgement from others. Allowing myself to write about things I’ve dealt with personally (like calorie obsession) and things I’m learning has taught me that despite being imperfect, what I’ve learned can help others. All the best teachers and wisest individuals I’ve come across aren’t the ones who appear to be perfect, they’re the one’s who embrace what they have, appreciate the lessons they’ve learned and are willing to share it with others. So, what does this have to do with cookies? The following recipe may not be your cup of tea, but it serves as a reminder that you can work with what you have to bring joy into the world (in this case, joy was a smile on my Mom’s face because if there’s one thing my Mom can appreciate, it’s a baked good). Don’t worry if you don’t have the items I’ve used, as I’ve come up with a few alternatives listed next to each ingredient.

Almond Raisin Protein Cookies (makes 3 dozen)photo 3-5

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose gluten-free flour (you can use whole wheat flour, spelt flour, or any other kind of flour)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • dash of salt
  • 1/2 cup Trader Joe’s Hemp Protein Powder (you can use any kind of protein powder in a flavor you enjoy. The one I used was vanilla flavored)
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1/4 cup almond butter (instead of using oil, I used almond butter because it’s tasty, nutritious, and is a good fat source in place of oil or butter).
  • 1/4 cup almond milk (I used unsweetened original variety, but a vanilla flavor might also work well)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup of raisins (or another dried fruit that you prefer)
  • 1/2 cup almonds (whole, raw)- you can use any other kind of nut that tickles your fancy
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F and in a mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and protein powder.
  • In separate bowl, combine applesauce, almond butter, almond milk, and vanilla extract.
  • Create a well in the dry ingredients with your fingers or a spoon, and add in the wet ingredients. Mix.
  • Add in the raisins and almonds
  • Grease a cookie sheet, and drop cookie dough on the sheet using a spoon.
  • Place in the oven for 10-15 minutes (keep on eye on it, because all ovens differ in temperatures and each batch I made took a different amount of time).
  • Enjoy!

Experiment with this recipe with the ingredients you have and embrace imperfect, improvisational baking!

-Jess

 

 

How To Keep Warm in This Never-Ending Winter: Hot & Spicy Tofu Curry

I live in the northeast and I can’t wait for this winter to be over. Luckily, the official start of spring is now less than a month away. To keep you warm for the remainder of the winter, I’ve made a delicious curry recipe and would love to share. Did you know that the spices in curry dishes have amazing health properties? Indeed, studies have shown that a compound found in curry has anti-cancer benefits, and Turmeric (another spice involved in curry dishes) may lower blood sugar and increase insulin sensitivity overtime. Besides the health properties, curry is so delicious and versatile. Adding heat to a meal also raises your metabolism, albeit only temporarily by 8%.

Spicy Coconut Curry Tofu with Sriracha-Hummus Quinoa on the Side

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Ingredients:

  • 12 oz. can of coconut milk (not coconut water, but the actual high-fat coconut milk)
  • 1 cup diced onions
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • small amount of oil for the pan
  • cilantro
  • bay leaf
  • 1.5 tablespoons curry powder
  • red thai curry paste
  • juice of one lime
  • 1-3+ tsp. chili powder (depends on how spicy you like it)
  • 1/2 tsp. ginger
  • 12 oz. firm tofu
  • 2/3 cup chickpeas (canned saves time)
  • 1/2 cup frozen or fresh peas
  • 1/2 cup dry quinoa +2 cups water
  • hummus
  • sriracha or hot sauce

Directions:

  • Dice the onions and garlic, oil the pan, and sauté until just about lightly browned.
  • Add the tofu (drain and press the tofu to get rid of excess water prior to cooking) and cook on medium heat until the tofu is lightly browned.
  • Add the coconut milk and red thai curry paste, curry powder, bay leaf, chili powder, cilantro ginger, and lime juice.
  • Add the peas
  • Simmer on low-medium heat for about 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the drained, already cooked chickpeas towards the end of cooking.
  • Quinoa takes about 10 minutes to cook. Add quinoa to a pan and then add water after a minute of heating the dry quinoa. Stir and if the quinoa is undercooked but soaking up water, lower the heat and add more liquid incrementally.
  • Remove the bay leaves (or leaf), serve the curry in a bowl with quinoa on the side. To the quinoa, add hummus (garlic or plain flavored works best) on top and finish with sriracha or hot sauce.
  • Enjoy!

-Jess