Secret Romano Marinara [red sauce]

Photo: Francesco Tonelli for The New York Times

I am 100% Italian as far back as we know. Maiden name- Romano. My dad’s side- Sicilian and my mom’s from Northern Italy. My mom knows. how. to cook. and my dad – is the pickiest Italian man on the planet (but knows good food!). You can trust this sauce is delish, authentic + honestly, quite simple. We make it in large batches and throw it in the freezer, this way every time we cook we don’t have to make a fresh batch. It would be a sin in our house to use sauce from a jar- I think my parents would disown me entirely so I’ve learned freezing in batches DEFINITELY helps. There are variations of this sauce- she has a meat sauce, fish sauce, vodka sauce- it goes on and on but for today- lets start with the basic marinara sauce. 


  • 3-4 Tbsp of olive oil [enough to coat bottom of the pot]
  • 3-4 Cloves fresh galic, chopped
  • 1-2 Tbsp of sugar [we typically use 1.5 Tbsp sugar but you can sub 2 tsp Truvia]
  • 1 20oz can of Progresso whole tomatoes w/ basil [you can also use fresh tomatoes if you’re really feeling adventurous- we mostly use Progresso]
  • 1 Tsp dried or fresh basil


  1. Pour tomatoes into blender and blend just for a few seconds, until finely chopped
  2. In a medium sized saucepan, saute garlic and oil. Do not let garlic brown.
  3. Pour in blended tomatoes and add remaining ingredients.
  4. Salt and Pepper to taste
  5. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 20-30 min

That’s it! Kinda silly that people are terrified of making homemade sauce when you see how easy it is! I think the biggest mistake is too many ingredients. Over seasoning is a real thing folks + sometimes simple is best.

-The Romano + Neilan Family-

Patrick’s Eggplant Parm

Photo: Blair, The Seasoned Mom

There are three foods I always request on my birthday: stuffed artichoke, eggplant Parmesan + rice krispy treats. This year my husband surprised me and made eggplant parm when I came home from work on my birthday (which recently passed beginning of January- shout out to fellow Capricorns!). I’m just as surprised as you are that Patrick doubles as a chef! Doctor by day, chef by night- who knew! BUT I will say- I was definitely leery when he said he was going to attempt eggplant parm- I don’t even order it in restaurants- simply because, I grew up in a Sicilian home + my mom’s is just the best. I’ve tried eggplant parm from “great” Italian restaurants and they have always been sub-par. That being said, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I LOVED the eggplant parm recipe Patrick found. I love Patrick but I’d never tell him something tasted amazing if it didn’t- I’m Italian aka I can’t lie about food. It is VERY different from the Romano (maiden name) eggplant parm I grew up on- but I truly love both. I will also share the Romano eggplant parm recipe with you guys soon- that one is more like an eggplant lasagna- cut an entirely different style than Patrick’s. 

From the Doctor + Dietitian: Eggplants are high in fiber; therefore, great for GI and cardiovascular health. This is because foods high in fiber have been shown to lower bad cholesterol (LDL) and in turn, decreasing heart attacks and strokes. Eggplants are a rich source of vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin B6, niacin, magnesium, copper, fiber, folic acid, potassium, manganese, thiamine, and phosphorous. Because eggplants are high in calcium and iron, they are considered great for bone health and preventing anemia.

Fun Fact: Did you know eggplants are technically considered a fruit?! They are related to tomatoes and some even consider eggplant a type of berry! Because of the low sugar/nutrient content, in our minds- it’s still a veggie!

Before we get to the recipe, Patrick followed the recipe [below] exactly; however, we will add some vegan friendly modifications. Feel free to modify amount of cheese/type of cheese. Lastly, you can use your favorite tomato sauce or sauce from a jar- Patrick used my family’s Red Sauce Recipe- which I highly recommend- it’s straight from my Italian ancestors and super simple! It will make this dish a million times better too. Of note, if you’re going to make your own red sauce- we recommend doing this before you get started on the eggplant recipe so it’s ready to go!



  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten [ok to modify to cashew milk]
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 2 cups whole-wheat panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 2 (1-pound) eggplants, peeled and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices
  • Cooking spray


  • 1/2 cup torn fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (16-ounce) container part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten [sub with flax egg – 1 tbsp ground flax and 3 tbsp water mixed]
  • Remaining ingredients:
  • 1 (24-ounce) jar premium pasta sauce [we did not use this, see red sauce recipe]
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 8 ounces thinly sliced mozzarella cheese
  • 3/4 cup (3 ounces) finely grated fontina cheese
  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. To make eggplant, combine 2 eggs and 1 tablespoon water in a shallow dish. Combine panko and 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano in a second shallow dish. Dip eggplant in egg mixture; dredge in panko mixture, pressing gently to adhere and shaking off excess. Place eggplant 1 inch apart on baking sheets coated with cooking spray. Bake at 375° for 30 minutes or until golden, turning once and rotating baking sheets after 15 minutes.
  3. To make filling, combine basil and next 6 ingredients (through egg).
  4. To assemble, spoon 1/2 cup pasta sauce in bottom of a 13 x 9-inch glass baking dish coated with cooking spray. Layer half of eggplant slices over pasta sauce. Sprinkle eggplant with 1/8 teaspoon salt. Top with about 3/4 cup pasta sauce; spread half of ricotta mixture over sauce, and top with a third of mozzarella and 1/4 cup fontina. Repeat layers once, ending with about 1 cup pasta sauce. Cover tightly with aluminum foil coated with cooking spray. Bake at 375° for 35 minutes. Remove foil; top with remaining third of mozzarella and 1/4 cup fontina. Bake at 375° for 10 minutes or until sauce is bubbly and cheese melts; cool 10 minutes.

Recipe: Cooking Light


We hope you enjoy this delish Italian Delicacy!

-The Neilan Family-

Chickpea (Meatless) Meatballs

Hi everyone and happy Thursday! It has been a little crazy over here in the Neilan household, as I’m sure it’s been in your home too! Patrick is on a 7am-7pm/Mon-Fri schedule now. Which may sound terrible, but it’s actually pretty nice because he gets weekends off. Wahoooo Merry Christmas to us! Anyway, the holidays are upon us- and we love/welcome the chaos. We’ve got family coming into town soon and lots of cooking happening and gift wrapping to do BUT before we close out till after Christmas I wanted to share this Chickpea Ball recipe with you guys. I make spinach turkey meatballs often – this is the first meal I made for Patrick when we were dating (with pasta and pesto sauce) so it hits close to home! I will share the spinach turkey baked meatball/cashew pesto recipe with you all soon as well!  But back to the chickpeas- we don’t like to have meat every night of the week- so we swap chickpea balls over a salad bowl every other night. This way we include lots of plant-based meals too!

From the Dietitian: Chickpeas are great for digestion and satiety. They pack about 15g protein per cup- which makes it an awesome option when you’re trying to add some meatless nights into your weekly routine. Chickpeas are high in folate, magnesium, iron and phosphorus- wahoooo!!

From the Doctor: Studies have shown that 1.5 C of legumes a day helped reduce inflammatory markers and improved insulin resistance. Two awesome correlates in the fight against disease. Chickpeas are packed with soluble fiber as we discussed in the lentil soup recipe ( – making it great for diabetics, in moderation, as it slows the absorption of sugar. This happens because soluble fiber increases the viscosity (aka thickness) of the intestinal contents after each meal consumed. Even if you are not diabetic- we all want out blood sugar managed well and our insulin levels normalized- trust me. Once your insulin and blood sugar are at of whack it creates an abundance of issues in the body- to put it very lightly. Just a glimpse- diabetes is the leading cause of kidney disease, top cause for blindness, the reason for 60% of lower body amputations, 70% of people with diabetes have nervous system damage, diabetes causes- digestive problems, erectile dysfunction and increases risk of high blood pressure, stroke and heart disease. Moderation, healthy diet and a lifestyle of balance is the key way to avoid chronic disease. Now, on to the chickpea recipe!


  • 2 eggs or 2 flax eggs to keep chickpea balls vegan (2.5 tbsp ground flax)
  • 1/2 C breadcrumbs
  • 2 C Chickpeas
  • 2-3 Garlic Cloves (or 1/2 Tbsp of garlic powder)
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp parsley
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp basil
  • 1/4 tsp marjoram (optional)
  • small handful of basil leaves (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 450
  2. Skip this step if using canned chickpeas. If using dried chickpeas, soak for 4 hours. Boil until they’re splitting, about 45 minutes to an hour.
  3. Drain the chickpeas and pinch the skin off [I didn’t take the skin off all the chickpeas and it turned out great- takes wayyy too long! But if you have the time, go for it!]
  4. Blend chickpeas in a blender until broken down [I added a few drops of water]
  5. Make your flax seed “eggs”  [2 Tbsp Flax with 6 Tbsp of Water- mix and let sit for 10-15min]
  6. Mix chickpeas and flax seed eggs [or regular eggs]
  7. Mix in the remaining ingredients
  8. If the mixture is too sticky, add more breadcrumbs a little at a time. If too dry, add a little water or oil [coconut/olive whatever you prefer]
  9. Form the chickpea mixture into meatballs and place onto a greased or parchment-lined baking dish.
  10. Bake the chickpea meatballs for 20-25 minutes, turning over halfway through, They should be golden and crispy.

Recipe Credit: Karissa’s vegan kitchen (modifications made)

Try “Everything But the Bagel” seasoning from Trader Joe’s- it is so so yummy. Sprinkled on avocado above!

Enjoy with pasta and pesto or over a bed of lettuce with all the veggies of your choice!

-The Neilan Family-

Matcha Pancakes

We are lovers of matcha forever + always [in and on all things]. My husband has now become equally [or more so] as obsessed as I am and that is the absolute, 100% truth. I am just as shocked as you are! A lot of pouting happens in the kitchen if we miss a morning without a dose of it before the hospital. But MATCHA IN PANCAKES- oh boy. Game changing. There are all the fancy pancakes in the world- which I love too- but matcha pancakes- always my fav. You can top it with the whipped cream recipe we also posted or a lot of the time I like matcha pancakes with coconut yogurt on top and almonds! Best part about it is- you can play with it – till you find what you like!

See earlier post on health benefits of Matcha:

Also check out morning “anti-gremlin” concoction for our morning matcha routine: 


  • 1 egg [for vegan option, use flax egg aka 1 tbsp flax/3 tbsp water and mix]
  • 1/3 cup milk [we used almond milk]
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter (plus more for skillet) [we used coconut butter]
  • 2 tablespoons sugar [we used 2 1/2 tsp Truvia]
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup flour [use flour of your choice]
  • 1 tablespoon matcha powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • 1/4 tsp spirulina [optional]
  • 1 tsp ground flax [optional]


  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, melted butter, sugar, and vanilla extract. Add the flour, matcha powder, spirulina, ground flax, baking powder, and salt, and whisk just until the batter comes together; the batter should be lumpy.
  2. Heat a skillet over medium-low heat. Brush with coconut butter or regular butter. Dollop circles of pancake batter onto skillet. Wait until bubbles appear and pop on the surface, then flip the pancakes and cook for another minute or so + stack!

Recipe Cred [although modified] from: Diane A Broad

photo: be well by kelly

Serve with coconut yogurt + almonds, honey or pure maple syrup- whatever your little heart desires!

– The Neilan Family-

Unique Travel: Georgia Edition


We love our jobs and thank goodness for that because between Patrick spending 80+ hours there a week and me working full time- we spend more time at the hospital than at home. Which is exactly why vacation is a top priority to us. While we love our home so much, sometimes you just have to get away- even if it’s for a weekend! Time to decompress is super important in this household and for overall health in general. Patrick finds it difficult to truly turn off from the hospital- still being “in town”- and I’m certainly not going to complain! 

When it comes to vacation, most importantly, is doing something you both enjoy. Because travel can of course add up, we try to save in other areas (cooking at home is just one example- which isn’t challenging for us- because we don’t have much time to go out to dinner often anyway). For us- our ideal vacay includes nature, quintessential towns & foodie restaurants. We love to be outside scoping out a new city or just being secluded in the mountains (or wherever). I am also a major sucker for an adorable, unique airbnb. We have stayed at a good amount of unique places- so I figured I would start sharing them with you guys-in an effort to hopefully save you a headache (or two) trying to plan your own vacation away! Lets start with Chickamauga, Georgia!

Candelight Forest- Treehouse

This spot was SO amazing. I cannot stress it enough. We just randomly stumbled upon it. We thought we were going to be in the middle of no where Georgia in this tree house (which we were totally ok with too) BUT turns out Chattanooga is only 20 minutes away. Along with the super cute city of Chattanooga, right outside, is the cute, small little town of St. Elmo. Definitely recommend getting a cup of coffee in St. Elmo before heading into Chattanooga and just enjoying the simplicity of the town. The people that live and work there are so friendly and only have the greatest things to say about the area- Patrick and I have actually considered moving to St. Elmo/Chattanooga one day because it’s just such a great location with lots of activities and outdoorsy things without the huge city hustle and bustle.  Also, while in Chattanooga- check out Ruby Falls (Cavern Waterfall) and Rock City. Rock City is amazing- almost like a nature theme park is the best way to explain it. Large waterfalls, old/gorgeous bridges looking over wild deer (including albino deer- so cute). You can also “see” 7 states from the highest point of Rock City. Beautiful cliff with a magnificent waterfall.

Back to Candlelight forest. They describe it as a “simpler times resort”. Patrick and I walked around the grounds for 3 hours because it was so breathtaking- surrounded by mountains and built so flawlessly. We truly felt like we were transported back to the good old days. We stayed in one of their two tree houses. It was only Patrick and I but there was A TON of room in this tiny (or not so tiny) tree house. There was room for four kids and two adults. For larger groups you can check out the “cottage”. Besides the different accommodation options they also have this adorable, “olden day” town. Complete with ice cream shops, convenient stores (The Plucky Peacock Farm-stand), hiking trails, canoeing, badminton, paddle boarding, s’mores by the fire pit and fishing-all within the resort grounds! We could have easily stayed in this spot over a week with all the different activities and sites to see in the area. Wildly enough, there are also residents that live on the 200 acre property.

Above is just us venturing around the property- running into all kinds off cool spots!

If you are looking to get away from the craziness and relax in a beautiful area without the cost- I’d definitely check this place out. Patrick and I plan on taking many trips back without a doubt!! Especially when we have a family, because the space upstairs is so unique and adorable for kids!


The photo above shows where the four bunk beds are. The space is just huge! On the opposite side of this room there is also a coloring desk and bookshelf for kiddos.


Here is the link the the treehouse we stayed in and the other tree house as well: (where we stayed) (to rent out the cottage or for more info on the resort-check out their website)

The only con: Not pet friendly.

Hope you all have carved out some time to unwind + relax with the fam whether it’s at home or away!

Happy Friday Eve Everyone!

The Magic of Spirulina


Good morning everyone! So let me first just say- My husband and I are like big kids. You tell us we can have our yogurt blue WITH added health benefits and you’ve already got us sold! As we type, we are both sipping on our morning matcha concoction (under recipes) and having our yogurt parfait- both of which, contain none other than…SPIRULINA! Really excited to share some information with you guys about why we’re sneaking it in whenever and wherever we can. If you follow me on instagram, doctormeetsdietitian, you saw me post earlier this week on the Spirulina Bowl and you may have also seen my green pancakes that I make sometimes for Patrick and myself. We could just have our yogurt/pancakes/tea plain OR we could have it blue/green with some wonderful added health benefits. I pick BLUE (and green)! 

From the Dietitian: First of all what is Spirulina? Spirulina is a blue green algae that grows in both fresh and salt water. When you buy it, it comes in powder form. But boy is it loaded with nutrients! Fun fact- Because you can grow it in space, NASA uses it, so astronauts can reap the health benefits. Smart cookies that they are. Going back even further, the Aztecs used it back in the day too!

A tablespoon of Spirulina contains: 4 grams of quality protein (better than beans but not as complete as eggs/dairy), 11% of the RDA for Thiamine, 15% of the RDA for Riboflavin, 4% of the RDA for Niacin, 21% of the RDA for Copper, 11% of the RDA for Iron and wide variety of minerals including potassium and magnesium. Spirulina also contains Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. A lot of people will say “gram for gram” it’s one of the most nutritious foods naturally found on our little planet.

From the Doctor: While we do not believe in a majority of (fad) diets, an anti-inflammatory diet is one that, in our opinion, has the best benefits for health/longevity. Spirulina has both antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. In our matcha post, we went over the benefits of antioxidants. Spirulina contains Phycocyanin. This is what, not only gives it it’s blue/green color, but it is also what fights free radicals in the body. Phycocyanin is a very powerful anti-inflammatory agent. By protecting against oxidative damage, you are in turn, contributing to the decreased risk of cancer and other diseases.

Spirulina & Cholesterol: A study completed showed that when patients with high cholesterol added 1 gram of Spirulina to their day it decreased their triglycerides by 16.3% and LDL by 10.1%.

Spirulina & Cancer: Studies have been done linking Spirulina to anti-cancer properties- more specifically oral cancer. The study looked at 85 people from India with precancerous lesions (OSMF) in their mouth. After adding 1 gram of Spirulina to their diet for a year, 45% had regression of lesions (compared to 7% in the control group). There was another study completed comparing Spirulina to the drug typically used to combat symptoms from these precancerous mouth lesions and including 1 gram of Spirulina led to greater improvement than the drug Pentoxyfilline.


Spirulina & Blood Pressure: By consuming Spirulina, you are in turn, increasing your nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is a signaling molecule that helps the blood vessels relax and dilate. Further studies need to be completed; however, one study showed that higher intake of Spirulina daily (4-5 grams) can significantly lower BP.

Allergies & Spirulina: If you suffer from allergies, it can be pretty horrible. There has been suffice evidence showing that Spirulina is an acceptable alternative treatment for symptoms of allergic rhinitis. This is because Spirulina stops the release of histamine in the body. Histamine is what contributes to allergy symptoms. In a study where people consumed 2 grams of Spirulina a day, it dramatically decreased congestion, runny nose, itching, sneezing, etc.

Type 2 Diabetes & Spirulina: Animal studies have been completed comparing Spirulina to the popular diabetes drug, Metformin. More studies need to be conducted and currently the evidence is non conclusive. Therefore, DO NOT get off your diabetes medication and start taking Spirulina; however, adding it to your regular regimen (prescribed by your doctor) could be beneficial along with diet and exercise to possibly decrease insulin injection dependence. In the study, where patients were taking 2 grams of Spirulina a day, their Hba1c dropped by 1% – this is significant as studies show that a 1% decrease in Hba1c, can lower the risk of diabetes related death by 21%.

Links on DM and Spirulina:;

Back to the dietitian: So now that we got you all excited to use Spirulina. These are the kinds we use (Link Below). Typically we add the green to pancakes/tea and the blue to yogurt/smoothies/ice cream. You definitely do not have to buy both!

You can mix it up with chia seeds, almonds, berries, granola and all kinds of goodies and it is SO delicious and super fun for kids too. Moms are always on the prowl for an easy way to sneak in nutrients for kids- and in our opinion, this is a great way because it’s fun and colorful too.

A lot of people ask if you can taste it and in yogurt you really can’t (especially as a parfait). In the Morning Matcha Concoction and pancakes you can taste it a little bit more. It adds a delicious, light earthy flavor. If you are adding to a cup of yogurt – I would start with 1/4 tsp and increase to 1/2 tsp based on preference. Pancake recipe coming soon (perfecting it for you all)!




Enjoy Everyone! Have a wonderful weekend and feel free to send us a message with any questions you might have!