Original Recipe: Heart-Warming Fall Veggie Soup

Hi, friends!

I’ll start by, as always, apologizing for the delay in posting. My, how time flies! I have this ongoing list of great blog post ideas, and I need to start crossing it off. I’m the worst procrastinator.

I couldn’t wait to share this soup with you, so it had to be first. I’m excited about it for two reasons: 1) here in Virginia it’s PERFECT soup weather, so I crave it constantly and 2) my improvised on-the-spot recipe came out really, really good.  Soup is a filling yet typically lower calorie meal choice, making it ideal if you’re watching your weight or trying to eat “clean.” A good soup should have lean protein, preferably some type of beans, and lots, and lots, and LOTS of veggies — like this one!

I’ll get to the point (and likely why you’re here) — the recipe! This is ridiculously easy and a fantastic way to clean out that crisper drawer. Feel free to experiment using other assortments of vegetables, depending on what you have available.

Start with your veggie line-up. The amount used here made about 10 cups of soup, enough for at least a week’s worth of lunches.

Turnips, carrots, and kale, oh my!

Turnips, carrots, and kale, oh my!

  1. Chop into cubes: 1 large Yukon gold potato, 2 turnips. Place in crockpot.
  2. Make a mirepoix: Finely chop 1 carrot, 1 stalk celery, 1/2 an onion, 2 cloves garlic. Saute in 1 Tbsp olive oil for 3-4 minutes or until beginning to soften. Add to crockpot.
  3. Pour in: 1 quart unsalted vegetable broth, 1 cup water, and 2 cans chickpeas (rinsed and drained)
  4. Season: black pepper, pinch of sea salt, 2 bay leaves, 2 tsp oregano (or use 1 drop Young Living Oregano essential oil)
  5. Turn crockpot to high and let it do its thing for the next 3 hours.
    Get it cookin'!

    Get it cookin’!

     

  6. Using an immersion blender, puree some of the chunks of soup. (I just pushed some of the potatoes/turnips/chick peas to the bottom and then turn the blade on. Do this maybe 6 times.) This gives great texture to the soup.
  7. Rinse and chop 1 large bunch of kale. Throw the stems in there too — they’ll soften right up!
  8. Turn crockpot down to low; add kale. Cook another 30 minutes or so until the kale is softened but still green.Almost done...
  9. Done! Portion out into individual glass containers, or transfer to a large one with a lid. I split this batch up so I could take some for lunch the next day. Will last a good week in the fridge. Whatever you don’t eat, freeze! 20161120_205031There you have it. I’ll be making this one again, for sure! Look for more blogs coming soon. Up next: Healthy holiday dishes! Stay tuned!

Original Recipe: Spicy Marinated Tempeh Tacos

Tacos are one of my favorite foods ever. Well, to be clear, Mexican food is my favorite cuisine, and tacos are way up there on the list. Unfortunately, Mexican food has a reputation for being one of the unhealthiest out there. Fear not! I’m here to change all of that. As my followers know, I love making over foods with a healthy twist, and usually with a vegan spin. Behold — the tempeh taco! Feel free to experiment with different toppings and seasonings. You can even set your dinner up buffet-style and let people build their own taco creations. Endless possibilities!

If you’re not familiar with tempeh, it is a sort of cake made of compressed soybeans. It is gluten-free, cholesterol-free, packed with protein , and has basically no flavor on its own. This makes it incredibly versatile for everything from tacos to vegetarian chili to veggie burgers. The package looks something like this:

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Spicy Marinated Tempeh Tacos

Serves 3 (or two if you’re really hungry!)

Prep time: 10 minutes                Cook time: 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 package tempeh
  • 3/4 cup tomato sauce
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 2 Tbsp sriracha or other hot sauce
  • 6 small corn tortillas (soft or crunchy; I prefer them soft) or 4 soft taco-size flour tortillas

Toppings

  • Shredded Napa cabbage
  • Guacamole or chopped avocado
  • Sauteed mushrooms, peppers, and/or onions
  • Taco sauce
  • Salsa
  • Cilantro
  • Vegan shredded cheese, such as Daiya
  • Cashew cheese (see my mac n’ cheese recipe for how to make this)

Directions: Cut the tempeh in half lengthwise, then cut into strips about 1/2 inch wide. Place in a shallow bowl and add the tomato sauce, chili powder, cumin, and sriracha. Set aside and let it do its thing for a few minutes.

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Heat 1 Tbsp of good olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. While oil is heating, chop cabbage and other desired toppings. When pan is hot, add tempeh in a single layer, stirring every  minute or so. Cook about 5 minutes until most of sauce is absorbed, like so:

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Quickly toast the tortillas in the toaster oven until warm but firm enough to hold your toppings. Add whatever you like and chow down!

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My style: cabbage, sauteed mushrooms and onions, cheddar-style Daiya, and cilantro. I also used flour tortillas because that’s what I had in the house at the time. This is okay 😉 

Perfect winter dinner: salsa verde soup!

I’ve been making this soup for months and haven’t ever posted it, and I’m not really sure why. It’s delicious, one of the easiest recipes I know, and it’s incredibly convenient as it’s made in the slow cooker. When I get home, it’s ready, and no one has to wait, which is good because everyone’s usually starving by then! I usually serve it with something simple like mini vegan quesadillas or corn muffins. (Last night I made my jalapeno corn muffins — yum!)  This is a good one to please the non-vegans in your house, too. My husband’s exact words: “I was skeptical about this, but it’s actually really good!” Future note to self: find more vegan-friendly slow cooker recipes. Meanwhile, here’s this one:

Salsa Verde Soup

Serves 3-4 people

Dump the following into the crock pot:

  • 4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 cups beans (white or pinto work best)
  • 1 cup sweet corn
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 cup salsa verde*
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
  • Pinch of sea salt
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Because I forgot to take one this time, this is a screenshot from Instagram, when I first made it over a year ago!

Set slow cooker on low and cook for 7-8 hours. Turn down to warm, then add 2 cups of coarsely chopped spinach or kale. (You can do this in the beginning, but I found that the greens turned an ugly brown and kind of disintegrated, so I prefer to add it at the end.)

*Salsa verde – you can make this yourself by roasting and pureeing tomatillos, which isn’t difficult, but more time-consuming and unnecessary since you can find it at any grocery store. I did this once, but didn’t notice a difference in flavor. You can find it in the Mexican food aisle, and it looks something like this:

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I actually found this one at Big Lots 🙂

Serve with a squirt of lime, chopped avocado, and cilantro. For non-vegans, you can add some shredded cheddar cheese, but I really don’t think it needs it.

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The avocado provides a nice, creamy element and really compliments that little zing from the lime juice. 

Just for kicks, here’s that jalapeno corn bread recipe:

  • 1 7-oz package of corn bread mix
  • 1/2 cup non-dairy milk
  • 1 Tbsp ground flax mixed in 3 Tbsp water (this replaces the egg)
  • 1 small jalapeno, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 400. Spray muffin pan with nonstick spray and place in oven to warm up. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Remove muffin pan from the oven and spoon cornbread evenly into 6 wells. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

I would tell you to take the leftovers for lunch the next day, buuuuuut there won’t be any left 😉

 

Snacks you can feel good about

Happy New Year everyone!

One of my resolutions is to be more active on this blog. I have been gaining more followers and I don’t want to lose them out of boredom. Sooooo, you can definitely expect to see more from me this year! Hurray!

To start it off, we’re going to talk about snacks, because who doesn’t love snacks? Many of my clients feel that snacking is a bad thing. They feel guilty and hang their heads in shame when they admit to me they’ve been munching between meals. What do I tell them? Snacking is a good thing! It helps keep you satisfied when it’s not time for a meal, and can actually help keep you from overeating when you do have a meal. HOWEVER — WHAT you snack on very much matters. I’m always being asked for suggestions, so to help you make smart choices, I’ve compiled a list of snacks that you can enjoy without feeling guilty.

General rules – For most people, snacks should be under 200 calories and should contain at least two food groups — one of which should be a protein or healthy fat. If you eat only carbs, the satisfaction won’t last long and you’ll be hungry again in no time. Some great combinations:

  • Apple with 1 Tbsp peanut butter
  • Baby carrots with 1/4 cup hummus
  • Trail mix: 2 Tbsp dried fruit, 2 Tbsp raw almonds, 1 tsp dark chocolate chips
  • 6 oz Greek yogurt with 1/2 cup sliced fruit and 1 Tbsp hemp seeds
  • Small banana with 1 Tbsp almond butter spread on it
  • 1 slice whole grain toast with 1/4 avocado smashed on top
  • Homemade smoothie, such as the one below: 1 cup almond milk, 1 cup desired fruit, 1 cup baby spinach

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Now, for specific products:

Bars – you must be careful with these. Look for bars without HFCS (high fructose corn syrup), soy protein isolate, or ingredients you can’t pronounce. They often have over 200 calories and are loaded with sugar, so I don’t generally recommend a bar unless it’s meant as a post-workout refuel and meets the criteria above. Protein bars from GNC or other “nutrition” stores are usually poor quality. The brands I like:

  • Larabar (particularly Alt as they have 10 g of plant protein)
  • Kind (including Healthy Grains)
  • Kashi GoLean roll
  • Raw Revolution
  • Chia Warriorraw revolution

Really, you should make your own. There are tons of recipes out there. I love to make the energy balls from Rich Roll’s The Plantpower Way book:

  • 8 Medjool dates, pitted (soak in water for 30 minutes before making the recipe)
  • 1/4 cup cacao nibs
  • 2 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 4 Tbsp hemp seeds (Walmart carries them)
  • 1/4 cup walnuts

Grind walnuts in the food processor until mealy. Add in the nibs, cocoa powder, and half of the hemp seeds.  Add dates one at a time and blend until everything is a paste consistency. Turn off the food processor, remove the blade, and roll into balls. Roll the balls in the rest of the hemp seeds. The way I make them I usually get about 16 balls out of it, and 3 of them would equal about 180 calories.

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The energy balls I made last week.

Salty – when I say salty, I simply mean they taste salty. Everything listed here is still considered low sodium, although many of them don’t taste that way! Some Jean-approved products:

  • Skinny Pop — all varieties
  • Lesser Evil popcorn (try the wasabi — yum!)
  • Air-popped popcorn (not microwave…the bags have cancer-causing chemicals, yuck!)  — Can you tell I like popcorn??
  • Most brands of kettle corn
  • Newman’s Own protein pretzels (hard to find, Vitacost has them)
  • Snapea Crisps
  • The Good Bean crispy crunchy chickpeas
  • World Peas (see my review in the previous post)
  • True North Nut Clusters (bonus: also sweet!)

Sweet – now let me be clear on something: this should NOT be your first choice and should NOT replace healthier snacks. Sugar does not keep you full and you will likely end up craving more if you’re not careful. Treat these as desserts or emergency supplies (you know, like if you’re having the worst day ever or PMS). I personally allow myself a couple of pieces of dark chocolate every day after lunch, but wouldn’t eat it in place of my morning snack. It’s all in the balance! Some 200 calorie ideas:

  • Five Ghirardelli dark chocolate squares
  • 2 Tbsp dark chocolate-covered nuts
  • 1/2 cup ice cream (preferably non-dairy versions like cashew or almond)
  • 9 Hershey’s kisses
  • 2 fun-size candy bars

coco-ice-chocolate-pb

 

darkchocolate

Happy snacking!

Breakfast, baby!

I’m stuck at home after a snowstorm, so I had to take advantage and post this because I’ve been talking about it forEVER. Breakfast is my favorite meal of all time, and I’ve been saving up tons of pictures for this post. Most of these I’ve made up, but if it is a recipe and I have online access to it, I will provide the link or at least tell you where it came from. Why should you eat breakfast? What should a healthy breakfast contain? Your burning questions answered and your taste buds tantalized!

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Vegan oatmeal-banana pancakes with figs and strawberries – recipe from Moosewood Collective Cookbook and is in an earlier blog post 🙂

Now, the FAQs:

Does it really matter if you eat breakfast?

In a word, yes!! Think about it — you’ve been sleeping for (hopefully at least eight) hours, and your body is ready to replenish. If you don’t eat breakfast, your metabolism still thinks you’re asleep and therefore conserves any energy it would release to your cells. Breakfast — BREAK the FAST — is meant to give you that kick start so you will start using energy, and therefore, burning calories. Studies have shown people who eat breakfast are leaner for this very reason. In addition, breakfast eaters have improved mood, increased concentration, and get fewer headaches than those who skip it. If you’re stomach isn’t growling, you can focus on what you’re supposed to be doing at work/school/whatever it is you do all day 🙂 With children, all of the above benefits are shown as well as better test performance. It’s a win-win, really!

What should I be eating?

Breakfast should contain 2-3 food groups, two of which should be carbohydrates and lean proteins or healthy fats. The third is usually fruit or a dairy/dairy equivalent. Carbohydrates provide that cell energy, protein/fat keeps you full, and fruit gets some vitamins and fiber into your system. Choose from the following foods to maximize the benefits. Avoid greasy meats, large quantities of cheese, pastries, donuts, biscuits, or anything else with a high fat or sugar content. This will just cause a blood sugar crash and subsequent sleepiness, which is definitely counterproductive!

I’m not hungry in the morning. Do I still need to eat?

Again, yes! For some people, it takes a little training to get your stomach used to it. Start with something small, like a fruit & almond milk smoothie or a slice of toast with peanut butter. After about a week, you will start waking up hungry and ready to take on something bigger. Remember, you’re not trying to pack in a whole day’s worth of calories. 300-350 is plenty for more people, but if you exercise early in the day, go up to around 500 calories.

Build your Breakfast!

Carbs: Oatmeal, high-fiber cereal (5 g fiber or more), sprouted grain bread (like Ezekiel), whole-grain bagel or English muffin, stone-ground grits (NOT instant), whole-grain waffles or pancakes (such as Kashi), flatbread, wrap.

Proteins: Eggs (free range for better cholesterol content), egg whites, tofu, quinoa, organic cheese, low fat organic milk, soy milk, Greek yogurt, soy yogurt.

Healthy fats: Nuts, chia seeds, hemp seeds, flax seeds, avocado, almond milk, coconut milk, coconut shreds or oil

The combinations are almost endless. Get creative, and feel free to veer away from traditional breakfast foods. As long as it meets the above criteria, you can basically eat anything. I know people who don’t like breakfast food, and end up eating last night’s leftovers instead. Again, the rules are yours to make, but make sure to get your 3 food groups!

All of the following meals take less than 5 minutes to prepare, making them perfect for busy weekday mornings! All pictures are mine. I’m getting better at food photography, I think!

Gluten-free rolled oats with chunky almond butter, hempseeds, and pomegranate stewed apples

Gluten-free rolled oats with chunky almond butter, hempseeds, and pomegranate stewed apples

Avocado on Ezekiel bread with a clementine

Mashed avocado on Ezekiel bread with a clementine

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Blueberry soy yogurt with muesli, dried cherries, and pomegranate arils

Half a whole-grain bagel with peanut butter and sliced apple

Half a whole-grain bagel with peanut butter and sliced apple

A less traditional route: Mashed sweet potato with raisins, walnuts, and a little maple syrup.

A less traditional route: Mashed sweet potato with raisins, walnuts, cinnamon, and a little maple syrup.

Smoothie bowl: Beets, banana, strawberries, hemp, and chia seeds. Sprinkled with granola for some crunch.

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Kashi waffle sandwich with almond butter and banana

Peach-mango soy yogurt, chia/hemp seeds, dried persimmons and oat clusters

Peach-mango soy yogurt, chia/hemp seeds, dried persimmons and oat clusters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you have a little more time or can prepare ahead, you can make some more fun stuff like pancakes and breakfast breads. I absolutely LOVE these two recipes from Ceara’s Kitchen:

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Flourless Pumpkin Pancakes with almond butter, pumpkin butter, and chocolate chips. On the side – a beet, berry, and chia smoothie. These pancakes are made in the blender and are SO easy and SO amazingly delicious. This picture actually made me a pseudo-celebrity on Instagram, and was reposted by Ceara herself!

 

 

Vegan Banana Oat Breakfast Cake. I baked this last night and we ate half of it immediately! Great by itself or with a smear of vegan cream cheese or almond butter.

Vegan Banana Oat Breakfast Cake. I baked this last night and we ate half of it immediately! Great by itself or with a smear of vegan cream cheese or almond butter.

Links to recipes:

http://www.cearaskitchen.com/healthy-vegan-banana-oat-breakfast-cake/

http://www.cearaskitchen.com/pumpkin-oat-blender-pancakes-flour-free-gluten-free-vegan/

With awesome foods like this, fast food is COMPLETELY unnecessary and obsolete. If you don’t even have five minutes to make something, keep low-sugar, high-protein bars like Clif, Larabar, Kind, or your other preferred brand in the pantry. Also have plenty of fresh fruit, so you can grab a bar and a banana on your way out the door. This way, your belly is happy and you can confidently drive right past that drive-thru!

That’s all, folks. Happy breakfast-ing!!

Original Recipe: Carrot-Squash Curry Soup

I know it’s not fall yet, but that doesn’t mean I can’t start making butternut squash EVERYTHING. This past week I’ve pulled up a ton of carrots and while I love eating them raw, I wanted to get a little more creative. Soooo I made this soup! Since I have a terrible tendency to throw things together without measuring, I’ve done my very best to estimate the quantities for you. You may want to adjust the spices and heat to your liking, as well. Enjoy!

The final product!

The final product!

Carrot-Squash Curry Soup
Makes about 4 cups

Ingredients:

1 tsp olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 small apple, chopped
3 large carrots, peeled and sliced
1 can organic butternut squash puree (or 1 whole squash, cubed)
1 cup plain almond milk
1 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp crunchy peanut butter
Salt and pepper, to taste

Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan. Saute onion 3-4 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, steam carrots and apples until soft. Add carrots/apples to onions along with the curry powder, coriander, ginger, and cayenne pepper. Stir well to coat. Add in butternut squash and almond milk. (Note: if you like your soup thinner, you can also add a cup of veggie broth or water at this point. Personally, I’m a thicker soup kind of gal.) Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Using an immersion blender, break up carrot/apple chunks. (If you don’t have one, just pour the soup into a blender and puree until smooth, then return to the pot.) Simmer for 15-20 minutes. Just before serving, stir in the peanut butter and add salt & pepper to taste. Garnish with chopped cilantro. 

Vegan Lunch Box – new feature!!

Hey-yo! I’m starting a new blog feature — Vegan Lunch Box! I’m going to show you what I’m packing in my lunches, to show examples of what a well-balanced, energy-sustaining, vegan lunch looks like!

We are so busy in life. Between work, kids, workouts, grocery shopping, cleaning (need I go on?), the last thing we want to worry about is what to eat for lunch. Problem is, when we stop worrying about it, we start eating convenience foods and other “quick fix” items that might be wallet-friendly, but definitely not waistline-friendly. The solution is to pack your own lunch. That way, no matter where you are, you always have a healthy meal on hand. You’re welcome, busy people of the world!

To kick it off, here’s what I packed today:

Counterclockwise, from top right:

Morning snack – organic gala apple and a Raw Rev bar

Lunch – homemade vegan chickpea salad (Oh She Glows recipe, of course!), rice crackers, half an avocado. The salad came from the salad bar at work….take advantage of this! If you don’t have one, pack a salad or some other veggies too.

Pre-Zumba snack – Chocolate banana shake made with almond milk.

*The chickpea salad took 10 minutes to prepare. Everything else was ready to eat.*

Key to success: A well-stocked kitchen!

Keep in the pantry: beans, brown rice, quinoa, pasta, low-sodium diced tomatoes, pita bread, nuts and seeds, whole grain crackers, dried fruits.

Keep in the fridge: cut-up fruits and veggies, fresh herbs, sprouted bread (like Ezekiel), hummus, almond/soy milk, soy yogurt, nutritional yeast.

Keep in the freezer: vegetables, edamame, fruit, dinner leftovers

Keep at work: Various healthy snacks such as nuts, fresh/dried fruit, roasted chickpeas, whole grain crackers,

There are infinite possibilities and combinations using the above foods. Get creative and get packing! Stay tuned for more Vegan Lunch Box, coming soon!

New product review: Raw Revolution

Today, I am reviewing a bar I just tried for the first time. It’s an exciting day! (At least for me!)
Generally, I’m not the type of person to choose a bar over, say, nuts or fresh fruit as a snack. I also don’t insist upon gluten-free, since I don’t have celiac disease and there’s little evidence to support a gluten-free diet otherwise. However, I also cannot resist a good bargain, so when I saw these on one of my discount shopping websites, I had to try it.

raw revolution

Initially, my inner skeptic thought, “it’s vegan, raw, gluten free, and on sale, so it probably tastes terrible.” I am pleased to report that I was proven wrong. It was both chewy and crunchy with nice chunks of almonds. The raspberry flavor was perfectly balanced with the chocolate. It was pretty amazing, really.

Here’s the breakdown:

What I liked:
1) The flavor, obviously. You can’t really go wrong with anything called chocolate truffle. This particular brand comes in other flavors, too.
2) There are exactly eight ingredients: cashews, sunflower seeds, agave, dates, cocoa, almonds, raspberry powder, and flax (all organic!). I’m big on simplicity and pronounceability, so they got major points for this.
3) It actually filled me up. I’m known for being kind of a “bottomless pit”, so this is impressive. It’s been an hour since I’ve eaten it and I still feel satisfied.

What I didn’t like:
Honestly, there wasn’t really anything I didn’t like. I’m not sure how much these cost in retail, but I’m willing to bet they’re quite a bit more than what I paid. (I got them at http://www.zulily.com for about $10 for a box of 12.)

Basic Nutrition Facts: 220 calories, 5 g fiber, 7 g protein, 11 g unsaturated fats (including omega-3s from the flax, bonus!)

The bottom line: Worth it! If you can find these at a reasonable price, go for it. (Or go for it anyway if you don’t care about price!)
I look forward to trying some of the other flavors if I can find them on sale.

The chocolate lover’s dilemma

chocolate

As a dietitian, I am under significant pressure to set the perfect example for how one’s diet should be. If I am spotted eating chips, or — God forbid — some cake, people say, “You’re a dietitian, you’re not supposed to eat that!” What people forget is that I am, in fact, human, and have the same cravings as everyone else. Granted, I follow a vegan diet 90% of the time and probably eat things people would consider strange (kale chips, anyone??), but I like a good cupcake every once in a while, too. Chocolate is a particular vice. My day is not complete without it. Do I feel okay about this? Absolutely!

Case in point: Myself and the other two dietitians I work with all decided to give up chocolate for Lent (also known as 40 days of suffering). At the end of Lent (Easter Sunday), we all found ourselves with some major cravings. We began to indulge said cravings, eating chocolate chips right out of the bag and concocting desserts that even a stoner would envy. Then came the guilt-stricken dialogue that we dubbed “Confessions of Crazy Dietitians.” (Watch out, this could become a regular blog theme!) “What is wrong with us???” we lamented after one particular episode, “it’s like crack!” Which got me thinking. There are a lot of bad habits one could have, and if chocolate is the worst vice you have, then I’d say you’re doing okay.

The bottom line: Go with the dark chocolate — less fat, more antioxidants, and the rich flavor is more satisfying. Antioxidants fight cancer and promote heart health, so this is a perfect excuse to indulge. The dietitian approves!