High Protein, Gluten-Free, Vegan Lasagna

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

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

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

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

High Protein, Gluten-Free, Vegan Lasagna

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Ingredients:

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

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

Directions:

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

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

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

-Jess

Chocolate Chunk Pumpkin Spice Bread

October is my favorite month for many reasons: crisp fall weather, apple picking, and delicious pumpkin-flavored recipes! It’s also the month I met my fiance and the month we got engaged three years later (in the same pumpkin patch as one of our first dates), so October holds a very special place in my heart 🙂

Every year I like to experiment in the kitchen with fall-flavored recipes. Call me basic, but I like using pumpkin/pumpkin spice in my fall recipes because it’s such a good flavor and pumpkin is actually a nutrient powerhouse! Pureed pumpkin is loaded with vitamin A (great for skin & eye health) and fiber (nature’s laxative–besides coffee). Pumpkin seeds contain healthy fats, fiber, magnesium, zinc, and copper–which are involved in hormonal health and can help with PMS symptoms.

This year I made one of my best fall recipes yet and I’m super excited to share it with you. It uses whole wheat flour, and maple syrup for sweetness. Due to the moisture content, there’s no need for oil, so it contains less calories and fat than other recipes. As always, it’s vegan, and can be made gluten free if you use gluten free flour instead of whole wheat.

To step up the decadent factor, I added dark chocolate chunks–but if you prefer to keep this pumpkin flavored recipe more traditional, you can omit the chocolate chunks. Let me know if you try this recipe and what you think!

Chocolate Chunk Pumpkin Spice Bread

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Ingredients:

  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (I used Whole Foods Market 365 brand)
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 tsp. pumpkin spice mix (a combo of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, etc.)–I found this at Whole Foods Market
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 15 oz. can of pureed pumpkin
  • 3/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 tbsp. ground flax + 3 tbsp. warm water (to make a flax “egg”)
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chunks (I used Whole Foods market 365 brand, which according to the label, contains no animal products)

Directions:

  • Measure out all ingredients
  • Pre-heat the oven to 350ºF.
  • Lightly grease a 9×9 pan, or use parchment paper if you prefer
  • To make a flax “egg”, combine ground flax + warm water; mix and set aside
  • Combine dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices) in a large bowl
  • Combine wet ingredients (pumpkin puree, vanilla extract, maple syrup) in another bowl, mix well, and then add the flax “egg” into the mixture. Mix.
  • Add wet ingredients into dry ingredients and mix until the mixture is uniform
  • Pour mixture into the pan and bake at 350º for 40-50 minutes
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least 15 minutes
  • Cut into squares and enjoy!

 

Are you looking to improve your health and satisfy your hunger with delicious plant-based food and personalized nutrition counseling? Lets work together! (see my work with me page). Not ready for that yet? Lets keep in touch! Follow me on Instagram @ theveganrd and let’s connect on Facebook at the Vitamin Valentine page for my latest recipes and nutrition tips.

-Jess

Quick and Easy Thai-Inspired Curry

Lately I’ve had limited time and I find myself getting bored with my go-to quick and easy recipes. I noticed that I had been making a lot of veggie-filled pasta dishes and nutrient-dense salads, which are delicious and healthy, but can get repetitive. My food rut led me to create this super-flavorful thai-inspired dish that took me ~30 minutes to prepare. It makes about 4 servings and keeps well–which is important, because after a long, busy day, there’s something so satisfying about coming home to a meal already prepared (just re-heat for ~3 minutes in the microwave). What I love about this dish is how warming and filling it is, making it perfect for cold winter evenings when you crave a hearty meal. Each serving packs a punch of plant-based protein, 116% of daily value of vitamin A, and about 40% of daily calcium requirements. One thing to note about this recipe is that the measurements for the spices are estimated, as I tend to improvise as I go. Feel free adjust the spices as you see fit.

Thai-Inspired Curry with Tofu + Veggies

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup quick-cooking basmati brown rice (I used Trader Joe’s brand)
  • 1/4 cup diced yellow onion
  • 2 cloves of fresh garlic, diced
  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 1 container of Trader Joe’s “Harvest Hodgepodge” frozen veggies- or use a frozen (or fresh) veggie combination of your choice
  • 2 cups unsweetened, unflavored coconut milk (I used Trader Joe’s brand)
  • 1 block of firm, organic tofu
  • 2 tbsp. soy sauce/tamari/or coconut aminos
  • 2-3 tsp. curry powder
  • 1/2- 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. chili powder (use less if you prefer less spice)
  • juice of 1/2 a lime
  • 1 oz. cashews

Directions:

  • For the rice- measure 1 cup cup quick-cooking brown basmati rice and 2.5 cups water and heat in a pot. Bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat and allow to simmer for ~20 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside
  • As the rice cooks, remove tofu from its container and press out all liquid using a paper towel and a slightly heavy object on top of this (I usually use a book, or if you have a tofu press- use that)
  • While the tofu drains, heat the onion, garlic, and celery in a skillet (I use non-stick pans which don’t require oil)
  • Add frozen veggies to the skillet and allow to cook, adding ~1 tbsp. of soy sauce (or tamari/coconut aminos)
  • Add 2 cups of coconut milk, lime juice, and some of the curry powder, ground ginger, and chili powder to the veggies and allow to cook on low heat
  • While the veggies are cooking, cut the tofu into squares and add some of the curry powder, ground ginger, and chili powder. Heat the spiced tofu in another skillet until the tofu is lightly browned, stirring occasionally
  • After the tofu has cooked, add it to the skillet with the veggies + coconut milk. Add any additional spices (if desired), and then add the cashews
  • Stir for a few minutes, allow to cool
  • Enjoy this delicious dish with the side of rice prepared in the first step

Let me know how you like this recipe by commenting on my latest Instagram post or by letting me know below. I love getting feedback on quick and easy recipes!

-Jess

 

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!

Baked Carrot-Raisin Oatmeal

This week was the start of my renal rotation and I’m learning a ton.  I really like working with this population and learning all about dialysis and end-stage renal disease…but this rotation is a little far from my house so I’ve been having to do some extra planning when it comes to making my mornings run smooth.

To make my life a little simpler, I’ve been eating a delicious, healthy, and wholesome breakfast on the go of baked oatmeal that I prep ahead, which saves some time in the morning.  Baked oatmeal has all the benefits of regular oatmeal, and it tastes like a delicious baked good (yum!).

For this recipe, I wanted to use some of the veggies in my fridge so I added carrots, and I got even more creative by adding raisins, pumpkin spice seasoning, and vanilla protein powder.  The full recipe for this whole grain breakfast is easy to prepare and will keep you full for hours, and if you’re feeling adventurous you could eat in your car as you sit in standstill traffic (but maybe don’t do this, because you should always pay attention to the road)  🙂

Baked Carrot-Raisin Oatmeal (makes 4 servings)photo (2)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups dry, old fashioned oats
  • 2 scoops of your favorite protein powder (I use Vega Sport Vanilla)
  • 1 cup unsweetened apple sauce
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 2 tsp. pumpkin spice seasoning or use cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp. ground flaxseed + 2 tbsp. warm water (to make a “vegan egg”)

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 375°F
  • Measure oats, protein powder, and spices and mix together in a large mixing bowl
  • In another mixing bowl, measure and mix the apple sauce, vanilla extract, almond milk, carrots, and raisins together
  • In a small cup, create a “vegan egg” (a binder) by mixing 1 tbsp. ground flaxseed with 2 tbsp. warm water
  • Add the wet ingredients into the dry, then mix in the “vegan egg”
  • Using nonstick spray or a brush with oil, oil a 9×9 baking pan and spread the mixture onto the pan
  • Bake for 45 minutes at 375°F
  • Remove from the oven, allow to cool, divide into four servings, and enjoy

I’ve been eating this delicious creation with dairy-free plain yogurt and a tbsp. of my favorite nut butter(s).  Feel free to let me know how you like this recipe.

-Jess

Unreal Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

March is always an interesting month because of the unpredictable weather (at least in the northeast US).  Yesterday was the first day of spring and today there’s a major snow storm, which caused my dietetic internship program to declare today yet another snow day (I’m not complaining, although I’m really enjoying my clinical rotation).

I always find snow days are the perfect opportunity to create new recipes in the kitchen.  I decided to make these delicious cookies using Unreal chocolate covered peanut gems.  They remind me of peanut m&m’s, but they’re free artificial colorings which delights me, considering I’m a health nut with a weakness for sweet treats.  Normally, I’m not a huge candy person (I’m more into baked goods and ice cream), but I felt intrigued because this brand has been showing up in my Instagram feed and seemed to win the approval of chocolate-lovers.  I was curious to see if these lived up to the hype and I can say that they definitely do.  If you’re craving something sweet, colorful, and a little crunchy, this cookie really hits the spot 🙂

Unreal Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

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Ingredients:

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated (white) sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 cup 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup old fashioned oats
  • 4 tbsp. chocolate chips (I used trader joe’s semi-sweet)
  • 32 (2 servings) of Unreal dark chocolate peanut gems

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F
  • Measure flour and sugars, combine in a large mixing bowl
  • Add baking soda, mix in with a fork
  • Measure and melt coconut oil in the microwave (30 seconds-1 minute)
  • Add oil to dry mixture
  • Measure and add apple sauce and vanilla extract
  • Add oats and mix everything together
  • Add chocolate chips and Unreal dark chocolate peanut gems
  • Using non-stick spray, coat a baking sheet with oil and use a spoon to scoop out the cookie dough into balls and place on the baking sheet (I made 18 cookies from this recipe)
  • Bake for 11-14 minutes
  • Remove from the oven, allow to cool, and enjoy

Is it snowing where you are?  How do you like to spend your time when there weather affects your normal routine?

-Jess

Italian Seasoned Cannellini Bean Balls

I’m currently sitting at home because my internship program has declared today a snowday.  I’m trying to make today both relaxing and productive, so before I dive deep into my internship assignments, I thought I’d share the latest recipe I’ve been working on.  If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that I sometimes struggle with cravings. Cravings (to me) may be a sign that something is lacking in my diet. I decided to make these protein and omega-3-rich bean balls to provide these nutrients for vegan readers who may have similar cravings. Not only are they packed with healthy fat and protein, they’re delicious! I hope you try them, and let me know what you think.

Italian Seasoned Cannellini Bean Balls

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Ingredients:

  • 1 can (~15 oz.) of cannellini beans (also called navy beans, white kidney beans)
  • 1/2 cup raw walnuts
  • 1/2-3/4 cup packed ground flax meal (I use Bob’s Red Mill brand). Adjust if the batter needs to be thicker (see below for desired thickness)
  • 2 cups raw baby spinach
  • several sprinkles of garlic powder- or use 1 small clove of garlic
  • 1/4 tsp. dried basil – or use 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 tsp. dried oregano

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375ºF.  As the oven heats, drain the beans well, and measure the rest of the ingredients.  Combine all ingredients in a food processor until well blended.  The consistency should be slightly thick, so you can mold the mixture into balls.  Using non-stick spray or a brush with oil, coat a baking sheet with a thin layer of oil.  Using your hands or a spoon, scoop out some of the bean batter.  Mold the batter into balls using the palms of your hands, as if you were working with clay or playdough.  Place the balls on the baking sheet.  Bake for 20 minutes, flip each ball individually, and bake for another 15 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool.

I enjoyed this delicious creation with spiralized zucchini, and sauteed spinach in a delicious (store-bought) pesto sauce.  Feel free to add these balls to your favorite pasta dish, as a topping in a salad, or whatever sounds good to you.

-Jess