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

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

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

IMG_6883

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

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

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

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

IMG_5734

  • 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 

IMG_5558

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

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

Falling for a Fall Recipe

I think fall is officially my favorite season in terms of seasonal produce. If you’ve read previous posts, you know that I love pumpkin. I also love kale, spaghetti squash, and tofu seems to be my go-to source of protein as of late. So what better way to enjoy my favorites than combine them in an incredibly nutritious, seasonal recipe. The following recipe is high in protein, healthy fats, fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, and doesn’t take too long to cook either. If you don’t have fresh pumpkin, feel free to use canned (just make sure you’re using pure pumpkin puree).

Spaghetti Squash with Pumpkin-Crusted Tofu and Kale (serves 2-3)photo-47

Ingredients:

  • 1 large spaghetti squash (if you’re unfamiliar with what it looks like, it’s yellow and kind of football-shaped)
  • 3 cups kale
  • 6 oz. firm tofu
  • 1/2 cup onions
  • 1 cup pumpkin (softened and then pureed using a food processor/blender. Alternatively, use canned pumpkin. Honestly, I used canned pumpkin and it worked well)
  • juice of one lemon
  • juice of one orange
  • 1 tsp. rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons tamari or regular soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • fresh or dried ginger (about 1-2 tsp.)

Directions:

  • Cut the spaghetti squash in half (the long way). Take a sharp fork or piercing device and poke holes to aerate the squash during cooking.
  • Place the squash halves (soft side facing up) in a microwave safe dish and add  1 cup of water, dividing half of the water beneath the squash and the remaining water poured into the exposed soft sides of the squash. Cover with either a piece of paper towel or press and seal wrap.
  • Heat in the microwave for 12 minutes
  • As the spaghetti squash is cooking, cut, drain, and dry tofu into smaller pieces (the size of the tofu depends on your preference)
  • Combine measured, soft pumpkin with tamari/soy sauce, olive oil, lemon and orange juices, vinegar, and ginger
  • Spread the pumpkin mixture over the tofu so that each piece if saturated in the mixture. You can also marinate the tofu in this mixture overnight for more flavor
  • As you let the tofu sit in the pumpkin mixture for a few minutes, cut the kale and onions into smaller pieces
  • In a large saucepan, spray the bottom with a little spray oil or lightly oil the pan and then add the tofu/pumpkin mixture, kale, and onions. Cook on a low-medium heat setting, just so the tofu is lightly browned and the kale and onions have softened
  • After the squash has finished cooking, remove from the microwave and allow to cool. *Important to keep in mind: the squash is going to be extra hot, especially as you remove the squash “innards” (my weird little name for the spaghetti-like insides). Take this time to taste the tofu-pumpkin/kale combo and feel free to adjust any spices, oils, or accompaniments that you feel would complement the dish.
  • After the squash has cooled a bit, take a fork and remove seeds. The rest of the spaghetti-like strands should be easy to remove. Place on a plate and top with the pumpkin-tofu, kale, and onions.
  • Serve immediately and enjoy!

 

-Jess

 

 

Adventures In Spirulina Smoothies

Lately I’ve been creating different smoothies because my schedule is so packed and having a liquified lunch is one way to get a ton of nutrients without spending too much time with food prep. My favorite new addition to my smoothies is spirulina, which is a blue-green algae that supplies a source of complete protein, vitamin K, vitamin A, B vitamins, and essential fatty acids (omega 3 & omega 6). You can find spirulina in any health food store in the supplement aisle. Although it’s not what one would call “delicious”, it’s nutritional profile makes it worth it, plus you can mask the taste by adding to a green smoothie with some fruit. Here’s the basic recipe for the spirulina smoothie I’ve been experimenting with.photo-46

Spirulina Smoothie

  • 1 frozen banana, cut into smaller pieces, or 1 fresh (unfrozen) banana + 3 ice cubes
  • 1/2 cup berries (strawberries taste pretty good in this recipe)
  • 1 cup vanilla coconut milk or almond milk
  • 1 tsp. spirulina
  • 1 cup chopped, raw kale, spinach, or other leafy green

 

In a blender, add ingredients and blend together until a smooth, liquid consistency is achieved. Pour into your favorite glass and enjoy!

 

-Jess