Creamy Cashew Pesto

photo: Le creme de la crumb

If you have been following us on instagram, you know 9 times out out of 10 I’m making some kind of pesto. It’s light, fresh + our absolute favorite. The best part, is that there are endless ways to mix it up. We have used this recipe and swapped out cashews for macadamia nuts, walnuts, pecans, pine nuts. The list goes on! We have even done a sunflower seed + kale pesto, which was also delicious. 

Mix up the recipe any way you want! Sometimes you can do spinach + sometimes you can do kale. We have even replaced the leaves with broccoli and another time we did edamame. So truly, the sky is the limit. A majority of the time we put it over spaghetti squash or Banza (chickpea pasta). I make sure I ALWAYS have ingredients in the house for pesto. It’s an after work staple because it’s so simple and a great way to get more veggies in.

ingredients

• 2 Cups spinach or kale

• 2 Tbsp Olive Oil [you can always add more if you want it thinner- at the end]

• 1/2 C Pine Nuts [or to be honest, any nut you have on hand is delicious]

• 4-5 Fresh Basil leaves

• 3 Cloves chopped garlic [if you don’t love garlic, start with 1-2]

• 1/4 C Cashew Milk

• 1 Tbsp Red Pepper Flakes

• Salt/Pepper to taste

• 1/4 C Parmesan cheese [optional]

Recipe

1 Mix all of the above in the food processor [except cashew milk]

2 Once everything is mixed, put your pesto in a frying pan and add cashew milk on low heat

3 If you would like sauce thinner, add a little more olive oil or a dash of water

4 Take of stove once pesto is warmed and throw it on top of your favorite pasta, spaghetti squash or zoodles!

5 Garnish with basil, cheese, and/or red pepper!

Enjoy friends! Definitely make double [or even triple] and throw it in the freezer for a simple + quick week day dinner!

– The Neilan Family –

Butternut Squash Mac + Cheese [Vegan]

hero_Caramelized_Onion_Mac_and_Cheese_with_Kale___0011___HERO
photo: plated

As promised here is the most delish vegan mac + cheese recipe! Paired with green peas, broccoli, kale and/or spinach- it is absolutely scrumptious and an easy way to get lots of veggies in.

Tip: We recommend using a high protein pasta if you are not going to add beans or meat. Two options would be black bean or chickpea pasta- just be sure you don’t overcook these kinds of pastas. They’re delish but when overcooked, quite icky.

ingredients

  • 1 C potatoes [peeled and chopped]
  • 1/2 C cauliflower [chopped]
  • 1 C butternut squash [frozen, diced]
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 C yellow onion [chopped]
  • 1/2 cup cashews
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 tbs lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp thyme [fresh- makes all the difference in the world]
  • 1 box pasta [we used Banza aka chick pea pasta]
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • baby spinach, broccoli, kale and/or green peas [optional]

recipe

  1. Place the potato, cauliflower, butternut pumpkin, garlic, thyme, shallot and cashews in a saucepan and cover with as much water as needed so that the vegetables are covered. Add a little salt to season and bring to a boil and cook for 10 minutes until fork tender. Do not drain.

  2. Place in a blender with 1 1/2 cups of cooking water with the all the rest of the ingredients except the macaroni. Blend until smooth. Taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary.

  3. While the sauce is blending bring a saucepan of water to a boil. Once boiling add the macaroni and cook according to packet directions. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water.

  4. Toss the pasta with the sauce until well combined. Add some of the reserved pasta water if you’d like slightly looser sauce  Add your favorite greens (if using) and serve.

    Modified Recipe: Delicious Everyday

We hope you enjoy!

-The Neilan Family-

Eggplant + Hemp Meatballs

Photo: Kitchen of Youth

We had two beautiful eggplants in our fridge this week and we’ve been making varieties of eggplant parm around the clock lately [or so it feels]. We wanted to try something new this time= so, we came up with- Eggplant + Hemp Meatless Meatballs!! They are super, SUPER yummy. They also happen to be gluten free, paleo, + vegetarian aka all the plant based goodness! This is one of those recipes that even if you’re not an eggplant fan, you’ll love. It’s a great option for Meatless Mondays or really any day of the week! Pair it with pasta, spaghetti squash, salad, crumble it up and make a tortilla- the sky is the limit [as always].

We doubled the recipe + it lasted about a week.

ingredients

• 1 medium/large eggplant, diced

• 1 medium onion, diced

• 5 large garlic cloves, minced

• 1 Tbsp Hemp Seeds

• 1 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil

• sea salt and black pepper to taste

• 1 cup almond flour

• 1 tsp fresh or dried basil

• ½ cup Parmesan cheese, shredded [can sub for vegan Parmesan]

• 1 egg white, beaten with a fork [can sub for flax egg. Find out how to make this vegan option here, The Incredible, Edible Flax Egg + Green Muffin Recipe]

recipe

1 Preheat the oven to 400°F.

2 Line a baking tray with parchment paper.

3 Place the eggplant, onion, and garlic on the baking tray and toss with the oil and a bit of salt and pepper.

4 Roast in the oven for about 45 minutes, or until you start to see some charred edges.

5 Remove from oven and now reduce the oven temp to 375°F.

6 Scrape the roasted veggies into a food processor. Pulse 10 times — you want there to still be some chunks in the mixture.

7 Transfer the veggie mixture to a large bowl and stir in the almond flour, basil, hemp, Parmesan and egg white. Combine well.

8 Roll into golf ball – size balls. (I found it easier to do this with wet hands).

9 Arrange the balls on the baking tray (use the same piece of parchment paper).

10 Bake for about 50 minutes, without turning the balls over. You will know they are done when they release from the parchment paper without sticking. Make sure you let the balls cool before you try to release them completely; this will help them release more easily without sticking.

11 Enjoy your balls with your favorite pasta, sauce, salad, sandwich..

Modified recipe from Kitchen of Youth. 

Photo: Kitchen of Youth

Enjoy guys + Happy Friday Eve!

– The Neilan Family-

Blueberry Muffies

Lets be honest- we all love the top of the muffin the best. Whenever I make a batch in the house, I end up with a bunch of muffin stubs laying around. This is exactly why the blueberry muffie recipe was born.

You can either bake these in a regular baking dish or a muffin tin! The bottom layer is from another recipe we’ve posted: [Vegan] Dreamy Banana Date Bar – because why mess with perfection. The middle layer is chia seed jam and the top portion is a oat, hemp + almond crumble. It. is. delicious.

about sugar: Usually when it comes to sweet in a recipe, we say “to taste” often. This is because depending on what kind of sugar you use on daily basis- what’s sweet to me, might not be sweet to you! I have actually weaned myself off of Splenda and artificial sweeteners because I didn’t like that it took more and more for me to taste the sweetness. That is why you see pure maple syrup and pure honey in a majority of our recipes!

ingredients: base

  • 2.5 cups quick oats
  • 2 tbsp ground flax
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 2 overripe bananas sliced in half lengthwise then chopped up
  • 8 medjool dates (68 g without pits), chopped
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 packets Stevia or 1/4 C Honey – to taste
  • We added 3 Tbsp of hemp powder [consider your favorite protein powder or eliminate]

recipe for base

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Add the oats, flax, coconut, protein powder [if you’re using] and cinnamon to a bowl and stir to combine.
  3. Mix in the vanilla and almond milk. Fold in the chopped banana and dates. (Taste the dough and add a bit of stevia if you want them a little sweeter.)
  4. Place in either muffin tin OR baking dish
  5. Bake for 15 minutes.
  6. Set aside, it will go back in the oven after the jam + crumble topping.

ingredients + recipe: chia seed jam 

  • 2 heaping cups of frozen mixed berries (or fruit of your choice)
  • 3/4 C water
  • 1-2 Tbsp of Pure Maple Syrup
  • 1 Tbsp Chia Seeds
  1. Place berries and water in a small sauce pot- turn on medium heat- and bring to boil. Stirring occasionally.
  2. Use a fork or spoon to help the fruit breakdown
  3. Once liquid has been absorbed and the jam is your desired consistency [we prefer some clumps of fruit], remove pan from heat and add maple syrup + chia seeds.
  4. Whisk for about 5 minutes to make sure chia seeds don’t clump up on you
  5. After the base has baked for 15 minutes, add a generous amount of chia seed jam on top. We put a generous amount but you might have extra jam regardless [yay!]

ingredients + recipe: crumble topping

  • 1 C Rolled Oats
  • 1/4 C Sliced Almonds
  • 1/4 Hemp Seeds
  • 1/4 C Honey or to taste

recipe 

  1. Mix above ingredients in a bowl
  2. Crumble over chia seed jam
  3. Place muffies back in the oven for 15 minutes at 350

PS: To switch it up and get a little crazy, you can always layer some jam in the middle + top too!

-The Neilan Family-

Dreamy Butternut Squash Mac + Cheese

Sweet-Potato-Mac-n-Cheese-Vegan-Gluten-Free-4-1024x683
Photo: The Colorful Kitchen

We adore mac + cheese [who doesn’t]. This recipe is our go to when we want the real deal- cheese included. When we make this recipe – since it’s pretty decadent- we think of it as a side and usually pair it with a salad. If you’re lookin for a Vegan version, check out our next post [coming out this week].

I know sometimes it’s annoying in recipes when you see something you don’t have on hand [trust us- hate that] BUT Gouda + fresh thyme is what makes this recipe SO delish. Without, it’s just not the same. So- definitely worth the trip to the grocery store! We promise.

We make this recipe with Banza pasta [aka chickpea pasta] and it’s great. Extra protein, extra fiber, less carbs- sign. us. up. The one thing to be careful with [with chickpea pasta, lentil, etc] is that you don’t want to overcook it or it just turns out to be mush. Personally, I don’t even follow the directions on the box. I only let Banza boil for 5 minutes and then take it off. That’s really all it needs!

We typically add kale and peas to this recipe but the nice this is you can get creative and add whatever floats your boat. Broccoli is another delish addition.

ingredients 

  • 1 box of pasta of your choice
  • Sea Salt
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 medium onion
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves, plus a few sprigs for garnish
  • 3 tablespoons whole wheat flour
  • 1 (10 ounce) box frozen cooked butter nut squash, defrosted
  • 2 Cups Chicken Stock
  • 1 cup cashew/almond [or milk of your choice]
  • 1 1/2 cups sharp Cheddar, grated
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Black pepper
  • 1/4 C Gouda Cheese
  • 2 Cups Kale and/or Green Peas and/or Broccoli

recipe

  1. Heat a pot of water to boil for the pasta. Salt the water then add the pasta and cook per preference [if using lentil or chickpea- recommend tasting every so often. we boil Banza pasta for 5 minutes only or else you’ll have mush!
  2. In a large pot, add the extra-virgin olive oil and butter. Place on medium heat. When the butter melts into the oil, add the thyme and onion directly into the pot. Cook the grated onion in butter and oil 1 to 2 minutes, then add flour and cook together 1 to 2 more minutes.
  3. Add chicken stock.
  4. Then stir in butternut squash
  5. Cook until warmed and smooth.
  6. Stir in milk of choice and bring to boil
  7. Stir in cheeses and season the completed sauce with salt, nutmeg and pepper. Taste to adjust seasonings.
  8. Drain cooked pasta well and combine with sauce. Serve alongside with broccoli, kale and/or peas!

We hope you enjoy!!

  – The Neilan Family-

Our Thoughts On: Intermittent Fasting + Diets

Water-inner-min

Intermittent fasting. You’ve likely heard of it or know someone who has tried it. Intermittent fasting is less focused on what you can and cannot eat and more so focused on when you eat. In a nutshell, intermittent fasting is the process of cycling through periods of fasting and “non-fasting” throughout the day aka voluntary abstinence from food or drink.

Example: Meals are eaten from 8am-3pm, with fasting during the remaining hours of the day. This is one method. Another is 5:2. The 5:2 diet calls for limiting your caloric intake to 500 calories two nonconsecutive days per week while eating a healthy diet in the normal caloric range (2,000 for women; 2,500 for men) the rest of the week.

We are going to get into the science and all of that good stuff BUT FIRST- lets conquer the “diet” culture issue.

It’s controversial- but it doesn’t have to be. Finding a diet that works means that it becomes easy for you and becomes your lifestyle. We are not all wired the same way which means not every type of “diet” will work for everyone. Intuitive eating works for us; however, we have seen patients that do well on ketogenic, intermittent fasting, weight watchers, etc. if you are following a diet correctly. If it works for you, if you find it easy, and you are able to create a lifestyle from it then go for it. A diet should be sustainable and make you feel healthy. It should not feel as if you are deprived. You should not be drifting away at work and obsessing about the foods you cannot eat. If this is you, you are on the wrong “diet” [and we don’t mean just being excited about your next meal- because who isn’t- no, we mean obsession].

But if your “diet” of choice is sustainable and keeps you from chronic disease/obesity- go for it. We give the word “diet” more power than it needs to have and to be honest we aren’t sure why. Diet: the kinds of food that a person habitually eats; therefore, technically, we are all following our own, personal “diet”. To try and put everyone in the same box, to try and say what works for one will work for all- isn’t the case, in our opinion.

With any lifestyle choice [including diet] moderation is key.

Example: with the ketogenic diet- make sure your sodium intake isn’t in excess. Be sure to watch your fat/cholesterol intake. With intermittent fasting- don’t be extreme, be moderate. Don’t fast for days [exceptions sometimes include religious purposes]. Fast because it fits in with your life and your schedule. Whatever makes your body feel good, is what is right for you.

In all honesty, Patrick and I have both seen people that have had wonderful outcomes with ketogenic, intermittent fasting etc. diets. We know of physicians and dietitians themselves on these diets. We know equally as many people who have gained weight from the diets and had a terrible experience. The difference between the people that do well and those who don’t is moderation. You shouldn’t be malnourished, obsessing, or wanting to binge on a gallon of ice cream whenever you get the chance. It should feel sustainable and simple. That’s what a realistic lifestyle change comes down to.

I love what a nutrition professor from Harvard University said,

“But intermittent fasting may have a beneficial effect on diet psychology for some people”, says Kathy McManus, director of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “One of my patients felt strongly that he didn’t want to be bothered with tracking calories and filling out food records. Instead, he opted for a 5:2 fasting approach, which has worked well for him”. The main goal is to develop a healthy eating pattern that is sustainable, McManus says.

Before we get into details on intermittent fasting, right off the bat, unless working very closely with your physician, we would not recommend this lifestyle for diabetics [as meals and snacks with insulin schedule is crucial], pregnant women, or people with other medical illnesses. This information is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for medical advice, so please consult your healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns.

Now back to details on intermittent fasting.


As with every diet, benefits are exaggerated and risks of taking the diet to an “extreme” are downplayed. That’s why knowing the science behind diets is important.

science behind intermittent fasting

“The idea is that during the fasting period, cells are under a mild stress and they respond to the stress adaptively by enhancing their ability to cope with stress and, maybe, to resist disease. Researchers compare this to vigorous exercise, which stresses, muscles and the cardiovascular system. As long as you give your body time to recover, it will grow stronger. There is considerable similarity between how cells respond to the stress of exercise and how cells respond to intermittent fasting.” – Mark Mattson, senior investigator for the National Institute on Aging, part of the US National Institutes of Health. Mark Mattson is also a professor of neuroscience in the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

findings from the studies

  • Participants who adhered to the diet lost 8% of their initial body weight over 8 weeks. They also saw a decrease in markers of oxidative stress and inflammation, and improvement of asthma-related symptoms and several quality-of-life indicators.
  • Intermittent restriction (fasting from 10-16hrs/day) was as effective as continuous restriction (5:2 method) for improving weight loss, insulin sensitivity and other health biomarkers.
  • Mattson researched the protective benefits of fasting to neurons. If you don’t eat for 10–16 hours, your body will go to its fat stores for energy, and fatty acids called ketones will be released into the bloodstream. This has been shown to protect memory and learning functionality as well as slow disease processes in the brain.
  • Even a single fasting interval (e.g., overnight) can reduce basal concentrations of metabolic biomarkers associated with chronic disease such as insulin and glucose.
  • IF [intermittent fasting] has been linked to warding off neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s
  • IF has been inked to improving memory and mood.
  • Per a study done at UF, intermittent fasting caused a slight increase to SIRT 3, a well-known gene that promotes longevity and is involved in protective cell responses.
  • The same UF study also showed intermittent fasting decreased insulin levels in the participants, which means the diet could have an anti-diabetic effect as well.

our take from this

We are going to be honest with you – it comes down to calorie intake. Whether it is ketogenic, intermittent fasting, weight watchers, low sugar, Mediterranean, etc- the above benefits are happening, to overweight and obese people, because they are losing fat. Getting rid of excess body fat will improve a person’s metabolic profile and lower cardiovascular risk but there’s no strong evidence that fasting adds health benefits beyond any other weight-loss strategy. If you are already a healthy weight- you already have those benefits mentioned above.

This is why it comes down to you. It depends on what works for you and what is sustainable. It depends on what motivates you. The second your “diet” becomes an unhealthy cycle of restriction and obsession, you lose every single health benefit. Happiness is moderation. Practice discipline without obsession. Do not let your diet define you. Focus on health and nourishing your body. Find your motivation to eat healthy whether that is to avoid chronic disease, feel better about yourself, or to just live your best damn life.

Our best diet recommendation: Increase your fruit + vegetable consumption to 10+ cups a day. Everything else is up to what works for you and what keeps you mentally and physically happy and healthy.


http://www.johnshopkinshealthreview.com/issues/spring-summer-2016/articles/are-there-any-proven-benefits-to-fasting

http://easacademy.org/trainer-resources/article/intermittent-fasting

https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2017/11/intermittent-fasting-may-be-center-of-increasing-lifespan/

http://news.ufl.edu/archive/2015/02/feast-and-famine-diet-could-extend-life-study-shows.html

Eggplant [or Zucchini] Lasagna

Ok guys. This is a Romano Family delicacy and it. is. so. good. Every birthday I am always asking for 1 of 2 things [+ my mom typically makes both]. It’s always either this recipe or the stuffed artichoke recipe. For my vegan friends, we just made this on Sunday without cheese and it tastes EQUALLY delicious. So you know to do with the recipe- kick out the cheese + you’re good to go. Plant based, delicious meal comin right up. 

Two options for this recipe. The traditional family recipe calls for  pan frying the eggplant; however, you can also bake! When I make this recipe at home we bake + it tastes the exact same!

From the Dietitian: Eggplants are an excellent source of fiber, folate, potassium and manganese, as well as vitamins C, K, and B6, phosphorus, copper, thiamin, niacin, and magnesium! For these reasons eggplants are beneficial for healthy skin + bones.

From the Doctor: Why I love eggplant- besides the great taste? It’s great for heart health. One study found eggplants reduced inflammation and improved ventricular function. This is because they are loaded with cardioprotective compounds known as phytonutrients. Also, eggplants lower LDL “bad” cholesterol levels, which in turn, aids in avoiding any plaque build-up [which eventually could lead to blocked arteries].

Eggplants are also an awesome veggie for diabetics due to the low carbohydrate, high fiber content.

photo: savory simple

ingredients

  • 1 or 2 eggplant [you can sub 4 or 5 zucchini- we have made it both ways and you can’t go wrong either way]
  • 3 eggs beaten [for vegan friends, 1 C almond milk]
  • All purpose flour [feel free to use whole wheat, oat, sprouted flour, coconut- this is just to coat the zucchini/eggplant]
  • Seasoned Breadcrumbs
  • Sea Salt
  • Olive Oil
  • 1lb Fresh Mozzarella [grated or sliced thin]
  • Grated Locatelli [Parmesan] cheese
  • Marinara Sauce [click link for recipe]

recipe

  1. Preheat oven to 425
  2. Make marinara sauce recipe above first [or your own red sauce recipe or jar of sauce per preference]
  3. Cut off ends and peel eggplant or zucchini
  4. Cut lengthwise [hot dog style] into slices of about 1/4 in thick
  5. For eggplant, to remove any bitter taste, sprinkle with sea salt and place in a colander. Set aside for a 1-2 hours for best results; then, remove slices, rinse and pat dry [skip this step if you have a time constraint OR if you are using zucchini]
  6. Lightly flour each slice of eggplant or zucchini
  7. Then dip in beaten egg [or almond milk] making sure each slice is thoroughly covered with egg [or milk].
  8. You can either pan fry OR bake.
  9. For Pan Frying: Place about 1/4 C Olive Oil  in a large pan, fry each slice, turning over so that both sides are lightly browned; then, remove from pan and place on paper towel to soak up excess oil. For Baking: After dipping eggplant in both flour + egg. Place as many eggplant as you can fit on a baking pan and bake for 5-8 min [you should be able to easily place your fork through eggplant]
  10. In a large roasting pan- cover bottom of pan with a layer of red sauce. Place slices of eggplant or zucchini in a single layer, side by side to cover sauce; then, top the slices with mozarella and sprinkle with grated cheese. Begin again with sauce and repeat layers until all slices have been used.
  11. Top with sauce and grated cheese.
  12. Cover pan with aluminum foil and bake at 425 for 20-25 minutes.
  13. Top with red pepper to taste.

Hope you enjoy one of our favorite meals of all time. It is so worth the bit of work that goes into it. We promise! Once you do it once, you will find it easy the second time around. Also, making red sauce in large batches and freezing – saves lots of time and helps avoid the “oh no, I’m out of time- have to grab a jar of sauce” situation!

photo: savory simple

Feel free to message us with any questions!

-The Neilan Family-