Vegetarian Proteins

This week in my rotation, I have been working with FSNE (Food Supplement Nutrition Education)  which typically educates SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) eligible families on nutrition.  This week, we worded with University of Maryland Extension Close Encounters Program.  They hosted 4th grade students from schools all over the state, not exclusively SNAP eligible students.

The lecture that we gave focused on MyPlate and explained the different food groups and the importance of having all of them in a meal.  When talking about protein, we asked the students if they could name some non-animal proteins.  Some kids had answers, but most of them struggled.  This got me thinking about some of the reactions even college aged students had about vegetarians.  I have frequently heard people state that vegetarians have a hard time getting enough protein.  This is a really common misconception that couldn’t be further from the truth.

For a typical lacto-ovo vegetarian, they can consume eggs and milk products, both of which have a lot of protein.  They also contain B12, which is important for blood cell production.  B12 is a nutrient that can be lacking in vegan diets.

Vegans avoid all animal products, including eggs and milk.  Even so, there are still plenty of options for protein.  These lists are from the USDA.

Beans and Peas:

black beansblack-eyed peas
chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
kidney beans
lima beans (mature)
navy beans
pinto beans
soy beans
split peas
white beans

Nuts and Seeds:

hazelnuts (filberts)
mixed nuts
pumpkin seeds
sesame seeds
sunflower seeds

These are all natural, unprocessed sources of vegetarian protein.  These can be turned into products like falafel and hummus(chickpeas), veggie burgers (a variety of beans) as well as a nut and seed butters like peanut butter, sun butter, almond butter and cashew butter.

There are also some other commercially processed protein sources:

Soy Products:

texturized vegetable protein (TVP)


soy milk
hemp milk

Used in combination, all of these foods can be used to meet the protein needs of a vegetarian.  So many dishes can be made using these foods that becoming deficient is really not that common.  Calcium, zinc, B12 and iron are nutrients of concern in vegetarians and vegans, so they have to work a little harder to get enough in their diet or take a supplement.

I am not advocating one type of diet over another, but rather trying to dispel the myth that vegetarians are unable to meet daily protein needs.  With some thought, most diets can meet nutritional recommendations.

 Do you have any favorite vegetarian recipes that contain protein?


My Trip to the White House Gardens

A few weekends ago, my sister Jessie came to visit DC from South Carolina.  I met her and her roommate in the city for adventures and a visit.  One really cool thing that happened was that, randomly, the White House Gardens and Grounds were open to the public.  Apparently, this only happens once a year.  Tours are available through school trips, but not for just anyone, so we really lucked out!

We had breakfast in Georgetown at a French restaurant, Le Pain Quotidien. It was a really cute place with an earthy feel.  Most of their products were organic and they baked all of their bread on site, so you could sit down for a meal or just grab a loaf for later.  It was a little pricey for broke college students, but if you have a real job or parents with you, not completely unreasonable. The food was really good, however the service was not.  I hate to be negative, but they seem to be authentically French, allowing meals to be leisurely without much hustle.  It was parents weekend for Georgtown, so I’m guessing it was busier than usual and I think that our waiter must have been new.  If you know this going into the restaurant, I’m sure it would be fine, just budget a large amount of time for the meal.



After breakfast, we made a mad dash for the White House and got there just in time for the last tour!  We entered the grounds and had a self guided excursion.  We got right up close to the white house itself, about 25 feet from the entrance.  After that we wandered around and they had photos set up on the lawn, depicting past presidents and first lady’s planting trees, shrubs, and other landscaping done over the years.

Then we saw Sasha and Malia’s jungle gym, the tennis courts, putting green, the relatively new addition of the basketball court as well as fountains and small gardens.

A fountain, being protected by the secret service

The last section of the tour was the vegetable garden that Michelle Obama started to promote home gardening as part of her campaign to prevent childhood obesity.  The garden is also featured in her book, American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America. It was really neat to see after hearing so much about it in the media.  It was very beautiful with a wide variety of produce, 55 in total.

Photo taken by Jessie Baier

To accompany the garden, the Obama’s have brought in their own bees for pollination.  My grandfather is a beekeeper so I have always had an interest in them.  It wasn’t obvious if they harvested honey from the bees or just let them chill out with the flowers.

Overall, it was a great day and I’m really happy that I was able to see the White House close up as well as tour the impeccably manicured lawns and gardens.  After absorbing the culture and dignity of it all, had a little fun in our photo shoot, a staple in any Baier trip.


Do you have any stories about starting or working with a vegetable garden?

Practical Pinterest- Black Bean Brownies

Time for the second edition of Pinterest Possibilities, now being changed to Practical Pinterest.  This week, I decided to try a recipe that I had heard of before at UConn.  One of the chefs made a similar recipe, designed to give the student athletes a portable snack that they could make themselves and was high in protein.  Since then, I have seen this recipe pop up in many places and decided to try my hand at preparing it.  I won’t keep you in suspense any longer, I made Black Bean Brownies!

It sounds strange, but let me explain.  You replace the flour in your recipe with pureed black beans which will add a ton of protein as well as eliminate the gluten found in the flour.  So not only is this a tasty option for athletes, but it is also a great recipe for those with Celiac Disease or gluten sensitivities. I got the recipe from Chocolate and Carrots and here is how it went:


Ingredients       19   oz (2 1/2 cups) reduced sodium black beans, well rinsed and drained or dried beans that have been soaked and  cooked
2 eggs
1 egg white
3 tablespoons canola oil
1/4 cup dark cocoa powder
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

I ended up adding about 1/3 cup of cocoa to give it a little richer taste. I also added a full cup of chocolate chips.  Then:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Spray an 8X8 baking pan (I used a bread ban and they came out nice and thick)
  3. In a blender, combine all of the ingredients except the chocolate chips.  If you use a magic bullet like me and don’t have room for all of the ingredients, just blend the beans and add the rest of the ingredients in a bowl with a an electric mixer or by hand.
  4. Blend/Mix until it is a smooth consistency.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
  6. Sprinkle the chocolate chips on the top of the brownie batter.
  7. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. (I added about 10 minutes baking time because of the added thickness)
  8. Allow them to cool completely in the pan before removing, cutting and enjoying the brownies!

I tried these the next morning and they were delicious! The beans gave the brownie a nice, fudgey texture that is what I really enjoy but I find is hard to achieve with a traditional recipe.  They had a great, rich flavor.  Because of the protein, they were also much more satisfying.  You get the sweet treat, but you aren’t craving more 20 minutes later.  I would definitely recommend trying these, even if you can eat gluten and don’t need more protein.  They are simply a great snack for anyone!

Nutritional Facts: Servings: 12, Calorie: 169, Fat: 5.6g, Saturated Fat: 1.g2, Potassium: 246mg, Carbohydrate: 25.2g, Fiber: 4.9g, Sugars: 13.1g, Protein: 6.1g

Food Truck Friday

Melissa and I are currently stationed in DC for our rotation with IFIC.  One of the excellent perks of being here is the food!  Food trucks have become so popular lately, appearing in popular sitcoms, commercials and even getting their own food network show, The Great Food Truck Race.  Sadly, suburban Connecticut is not thriving with this trend so I really haven’t had a chance to get the full experience.

However, since moving to Maryland, I have made such an effort to sample, taste and enjoy as much of this cuisine as possible.  It started with the Funky Fresh Foodie Fest in DC in late august. Some of the other interns and I rode the metro into the city for this food truck FESTIVAL (so much excitement) that featured 10 different food trucks, with morsels ranging from Korean BBQ to tacos to tapas and cupcakes.  We had a great time and really got to immerse ourselves in this new trend.

Now that we are stationed in DC, I don’t have to wait for a festival to enjoy it.  Two blocks from where I work is a small park which attracts around 20 different food trucks every day for lunch.  Just like the festival, there is a huge variety of choice.  As a treat at the end of the week, Melissa and I have been embracing our Food Truck Friday.  It is nice to walk outside and experience the bustle of the city.  What I really enjoy is that everyone else is doing the exact same thing.  Sure, there are other young professionals grabbing a bite, but there are also men and women in suits, sitting on the grass, eating a falafel.  It takes some of the intimidation out of this very professional city and softens the people.

The fist week, we scouted through all of trucks, just to see what was available.  The most common offering was tacos/burritos, followed closely by Mediterranean food like gyros and falafel.  Low and behold, that’s what we have gotten both times.  To date, we have had gyros from three different vendors, each surpassing the last as the new favorite.

On Friday, I decided to venture out and try the other most popular item: tacos.  These were probably the most delicious tacos that I have ever had.  They came from DC Taco Truck.  I got one steak taco with spicy chipotle sour cream and one shrimp taco with the smoky cumin sour cream.  They were each loaded with cabbage, Pico de Gallo, cheese and a fresh slice of avocado.  I’m glad that I sampled both of the sour cream options.  They were so different from each other and gave the food a completely different vibe.  I also enjoyed the cabbage.  It was mild but it added a nice crunch and filled it out.  If you can’t tell, I would highly recommend DC Taco Truck.  To find their location, you can follow them on twitter, a strategy that most trucks are using nowadays to keep in touch with loyal customers.

  As an additional treat, we got fro-yo from Frozen Yo, which has a shop right next to the green.  Typically, I get fruit as toppings (seriously) but when Melissa scoffed at my lack of chocolate, I decided to have a more decadent serving.  I still had plain vanilla as a base but then I loaded it with heath bar, Reese’s, a Kit-Kat and yogurt covered pretzels, and then drizzled the whole thing in chocolate sauce.  Healthy right? Well, I guess we don’t call it Fit Day Friday for a reason.

It was such a beautiful day, nearing 80 degrees and we got to enjoy a whole hour outside with what seemed to be the entire neighborhood.

What food trucks have you tried?

Natural Products Expo East Recap- September 22, 2012

I had the opportunity to attend the Natural Products Expo East, hosted at the Baltimore Convention Center.  It was a Imagegreat experience and gave me a chance to test out new products and to see what kinds of things are available on the market.

Tieraona Low Dog MD was the guest speaker, discussing her book, “Life is Your Best Medicine”.  She was an excellent speaker and had a lot of great personal stories.  She was pretty crunchy granola, definitely a non-traditional thinker.

After her talk, I explored the expo floor.  There, I had the opportunity to meet Bob Moore of Bob’s Red Mill and Ken Koopman, the author of Bob’s biography.  It was so exciting to meet them both!


I received a signed copy of “People Before Profit” and I cannot wait to dive right into it. Before the expo, I was unfamiliar with with this brand so I looked into it when I got home.

Bob’s Red Mill manufactures a wide variety of grain products including oats, cereals, granola, flours and more.  Because of their product diversity, they are a popular brand for those with Celiac Disease or a gluten intolerance.  The whole company seems to be very personal and has a traditional homeyness that is really nice.  When I test out the free sample I received, I will be sure to add an update.

   Bob’s station was only a tiny part of the expo that spanned what seemed to be the entire convention center with products ranging from snacks, to entrees, elixirs, shampoo, pet products and household cleaners.  We made out like bandits with all of the free samples.


   I was intrigued by the creativity of some of the products and presentation.  For example, the clam chowder was prepared as a quesadilla.  Strange? Yes.  Delicious? Absolutely.

   What is the most interesting product or display that you have seen with food?

Pinterest Possibilities – Broccoli Bites

“Pinterest Possibilities” is a vow to make a recipe found on Pinterets  once a week.  I will prepare, taste, and give my opinion on each recipe and keep an archive of all the success stories.

The first edition of Pinterest Possibilities will be Broccoli Bites!  I found this on Pinterest about a week ago and I had to try it.  The recipe is originally from Stacy’s Snacks.  It’s a very simple way to prepare broccoli in a delicious way that’s portable for lunches and store-able for a quick side dish.  I made some small edits to the original recipe, substituting mild cheddar cheese for a mozzarella/cheddar mix and I skipped the salt and pepper.

16 oz. package of frozen chopped broccoli, thawed
1 1/2 cup of grated cheddar cheese
3 eggs
1 cup of seasoned Italian breadcrumbs

To prepare:

1.  To thaw the broccoli, I just put it in a strainer and ran some cold water over it for a minute or so.  Let it stand., the smaller the pieces of broccoli, the quicker it will thaw.

2.  Add all the ingredients into a large bowl.


3.  Mix together, use your hands and get into it!

4.  Craft into patties and place on a lightly greased baking sheet, I just used a quick spritz of Pam.  My batch made 10, but it depends on how large you make the patties.


5.  Bake at 375° for 15 minutes.  Flip and then bake for another 10 minutes.  When they come out of the oven, let them sit for a minute then enjoy!

Tips: The breadcrumbs clumped together unevenly so I would recommend mixing the broccoli, cheese and breadcrumbs together first and then add the eggs one at a time.

Review:  These were excellent! They were very flavorful, a good size and a nice combination of fat, protein and carbohydrate to fill you up.  Because its so simple, it would be easy to modify by changing the cheese, type of breadcrumb or adding different spices.  So far I have reheated them in the over and the microwave and both work well.  Two thumbs up!

Nutrients: Calories: 149, Carbohydrates: 11g, Protein: 8g, Fat: 8g, Trans Fat: 0g, Saturated Fat: 4g, Sodium: 325mg, Fiber: 2g