Patrick’s Birthday Carrot Cake with Cinnamon Cheesecake

If you all follow us on Instagram,  you know we recently celebrated Patrick’s birthday with his favorite dessert [aka carrot cake cheesecake]. This is now my 4th time trying out different recipes and this is by far my favorite. Just know, the cake is large and you will definitely have lots to share. If you’d like it to be smaller, we recommend cutting the recipe in half! This cake is a bit time consuming [about 2 hours] but well worth it for special occasions!

recipe adapted from: life, love and sugar

ingredients

cinnamon cheesecake

  • 24 oz cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 4 large eggs

carrot cake

  • 20 oz peeled raw carrots
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, cut in cubes
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 large egg white
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 8 Medjool Dates, diced
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp cloves
  • 1/8 tsp all spice
  • 1 cup sweetened coconut flakes

whipped cream cheese frosting

  • 16 oz cream cheese, room temperature
  • 3 cups heavy whipping cream, cold
  • 1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 1/2 cups chopped pecans and/or walnuts

recipe

Cheesecake:

1. Preheat oven to 300°F. Line the entire inside of a 9 inch cake pan with aluminum foil. Press it into the pan to get it as flat as you can. Grease [we sprayed olive oil]. You’ll use the aluminum foil to lift the cheesecake out of the pan when it’s baked and cooled.
2. In a large mixer bowl, mix the cream cheese, sugar and flour together until combined. Use low speed to keep less air from getting into the batter, which can cause cracks. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
3. Add the sour cream, vanilla extract and and cinnamon and mix on low speed until well combined.
4. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing slowly and scraping the sides of the bowl after each addition.
5. Pour the cheesecake batter into the lined cake pan.
6. Place the cake pan inside another larger pan. I use a larger cake pan, but you can use a roasting pan or any other larger baking pan. Fill the outside pan with enough warm water to go about halfway up the sides of the cake pan. Bake for 1 hour.
7. Turn off the oven and leave the cheesecake in the oven with the door closed for 30 minutes. Do not open the door or you’ll release the heat.
8. Crack oven door and leave the cheesecake in the oven for another 30 minutes. This cooling process helps the cheesecake cool slowly to prevent cracks.
9. Remove cheesecake from oven and chill until firm, 5-6 hours.

Carrot Cake:

10. Puree carrots in food processor.
11. Preheat the oven to 350°F.Line the bottom of two 9 inch cake pans with parchment paper and grease the sides.
13. In a large mixer bowl, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until light in color and fluffy, 3-4 minutes. Don’t skimp on the creaming time.
14. Add the vanilla extract and vegetable oil and mix until combined.
15. Add the eggs one at a time
16. Add the egg white and mix until well combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed to make sure everything is combined.
17. Combine the dry ingredients in a medium sized bowl.
18. Add half of the flour mixture to the batter and mix until combined.
19. Add the carrot puree to the batter and mix until combined.
20. Add the remaining flour mixture and mix until well combined and smooth.
21. Stir in the coconut flakes and dates. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed to ensure everything is well combined.
22. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cake pans. Bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out with a few crumbs.
23. Remove cakes from the oven and allow to cool for 3-4 minutes, then remove from the pans to a cooling rack to finish cooling.

Frosting + Assembly:

24. Add the cream cheese to a large mixer bowl and beat until smooth, then set aside.
25. Add the heavy whipping cream, powdered sugar, vanilla extract and cinnamon to another bowl and whip until soft peaks form.
26. Add the cream cheese to the whipped cream and whip until stiff peaks form. It will happen fairly quickly. Set whipped frosting in the refrigerator.
27. Use a large serrated knife to remove the domes from the top of the two carrot cakes.
28. Place the first layer of cake on a serving plate or a cardboard cake round. Spread about 1 cup of frosting evenly on top of the cake layer.
29. Use the aluminum foil to lift the cheesecake out of the cake pan, remove the foil and place the cheesecake on top of the cake.
30. Spread another cup of frosting evenly on top of the cheesecake, then add the second layer of cake on top. If the sides of the cake don’t line up, use a serrated knife to trim off the excess cake or cheesecake.
31. Frost the outside of the cake
33. Sprinkle nuts on top of cake.

Happy Baking!

-The Neilan Family-

Chocolate Chip Jumbo Cookies [with optional pistachio + walnuts]

It’s been awhile since we posted a fantastic dessert recipe, so HERE. IT. IS. The best cookie of all time. There is only ONE way I love my cookies and that is super chewy/gooey. The key to this is making your cookies HUGE. Yes, that is the answer. I am still all about portion control sooo I typically cut our gigantic cookies in half or in fourths depending how I’m feeling/how hungry! Definitely give these guys a try and if you prefer crunch, just make them a bit smaller!

There are two ways to make this recipe depending on how decadent you want to get or what the occasion is! Try subbing half the butter for applesauce to decrease some of that saturated fat! Delicious both ways, if you are bringing to an event or if it is an occasion or if you just feel like the real thing, we recommend keeping the recipe as is. It definitely is a cookie that will impress!!!

ingredients

  • 1 C Butter [cut into cubes for easier mixing] As mentioned above you can sub half of the butter for applesauce
  • 1 C Brown Sugar
  • 1/2 C Sugar [we used coconut sugar]
  • 2 Eggs [we used vital farms]
  • 2 1/2 C Flour [we used 100% whole wheat]
  • 1/2 C Coconut Flour [if you don’t have it, just add another 1/2 of reg flour or whatever you used for the above- we just love that little hint of coconut]
  • 1 Tsp Corn starch
  • 3/4 Tsp Baking soda
  • 1 Tsp Salt
  • 2 C Chocolate Chips
  • 1 C Walnuts Chopped
  • 1 Package of Pistachio Pudding Mix OR 1 C Pistachios [this step is optional]

recipe

  1. Preheat oven to 410 degrees
  2. In a mixing bowl, cream together butter, brown sugar, and regular sugar until creamy
  3. Add eggs one at a time
  4. Stir in flours, cornstarch, baking soda and salt. Mix just until combined without over mixing
  5. Stir in chocolate chips, walnuts and/or pistachios
  6. Separate dough into LARGE balls and place on pre-greased cookie sheet.
  7. The dough should make 8 extra large cookies [they will look gigantic]
  8. Bake for 9-12 minutes. They will look like they are not thoroughly cooked but they are!
  9. Let them sit for 10 minutes
  10. Enjoy!

We hope you enjoy this sweet treat!

– The Neilan Family-

-T— jkfj

Dare I say: Pesticides. A chat about whether or not to choose organic!

Organic-Do-Not-Spray
Photo: The Organic & Non-GMO Report

First off, if you feel like you are “all over the place” with your thoughts on this topic, that’s because it’s a very challenging topic to study. It would be “unethical” to do the kind of studies necessary on humans to more definitively say if pesticides, specifically glyphosate [from round up], is safe for humans- that’s why, a majority of the research has been done on animals. Typically, I don’t love research that has only been done on animals but you have to take what you’ve got sometimes! HOWEVER, the fact that it would be “unethical” to do it on humans should tell you something right there. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the health effects of pesticides are not well understood, but their use has been associated with conditions such as cancer, diabetes, and neurological effects. [2]

Definitions: 

Glyphosate: a broad-spectrum contact herbicide to kill weeds in fields prior to the planting of crops. It was also approved for weed control in a variety of non-crop settings. Glyphosate use is the highest of any pesticide in the USA.

GBHs: glyphosate-based herbicides. They are always used as a mixture of glyphosate plus numerous other so called inert ingredients, which are added to alter the herbicide’s physicochemical properties and enhance its herbicidal action. Unfortunately, the full list of these chemicals, collectively known as adjuvants or coformulants, is treated as a “trade secret” by the manufacturers. The composition of GBHs are unknown. GBHs have been shown to be more toxic than glyphosate.

Pros of GMOs + Pesticides: We as consumers often reap the benefits of pesticide use with lower costs and a wider selection of food and clothing. As a way of conserving food supply and lower food costs, they also help to combat hunger and related problems in various parts of the world. [2]

What we know: 

  • Current safety assessments rely heavily on studies conducted over 30 years ago [1]
  • The WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) made the decision in 2015 to classify glyphosate as a grade 2A probable human carcinogen followed an extensive review and evaluation of the weight of all available evidence. [1] The outcome was driven by: (1) limited human evidence from case–control epidemiology studies, including high-quality studies reporting a link with non-Hodgkin lymphoma [1]
    •  (2) sufficient evidence from unpublished animal studies, which identified an elevated frequency of rare kidney tumors in male mice, hemangiosarcoma in male mice, pancreatic islet-cell adenoma in male rats, and skin tumours and other non-malignant growths in mice and [1]
    • (3) strong mechanistic evidence, such as numerous studies demonstrating that glyphosate is genotoxic and can induce oxidative stress in humans, human cells, non-human mammals and non-mammalian species. Some of these studies also suggest increases in lymphoma in male mice exposed even to the lowest doses evaluated (14.5 mg/kg/day). [1]
    • HOWEVER. Joint meeting on pesticides residues (JMPR) of the WHO used the IARC hazard assessment evaluation (the one mentioned above, concluding that glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen) to establish a safe level of exposure for humans JMPR would not exclude the possibility that glyphosate is a human carcinogen, but concluded that it ‘is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans from exposure through the diet’. [1]There is a lotttttt of drama with the conclusion JMPR came to as far as establishing a safe level of exposure. They drew their conclusions based only on studies of glyphosate alone; studies of GBHs were not included in the EFSA assessment.  The problem with this, is that GBHs have been found to be more harmful than glyphosate alone. Also, studies conducted that suggest causal links between glyphosate and cancer in exposed rodents have been dismissed by agencies including the EPA and EFSA due to speculation about a viral infection in the animal colony, even though no adverse health effects of such an infection have been shown [1]

Research:

  • Epidemiology studies suggest associations between GBH exposures and adverse health outcomes including chronic kidney disease and some cancers [1]
  • Unexplained chronic kidney disease has killed thousands of rice farm workers in Sri Lanka and sugarcane workers in Central America; exposure to herbicides including GBHs has been documented in some of these populations. Some have attributed these issues to dehydration [AKA more research needs to be had before the blame can 100% be placed on pesticides alone]
  • A number of studies have evaluated the association between exposures to GBHs and other health effects in humans including cancer. In fact, some of the most compelling studies in human populations suggest associations between GBHs and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. [1]
  • Exposure to large amounts of pesticides is usually more likely for people such as farmers who may frequently touch and/or breathe in pesticides. [2]
  • The effects of long-term exposure to small amounts of these pesticides are unclear, but studies have linked them to a variety of chronic health conditions such as diabetes, cancer, and neurological defects. [2]
  •  Studies have shown preliminary evidence that chronic, low-dose exposure to pesticides increases the risk of cognitive impairments and diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s later in life [2]
  • A study of 50 pesticides and more than 30,000 licensed pesticide applicators linked exposure of seven pesticides that contain chlorinated compounds (including two herbicides, two organophosphate insecticides, and two organochlorines) to increased risk of diabetes [5].  Exposure to pesticides has also been associated with increased infertility in women and developmental problems in children [2]
  • Research also shows that pesticides may have a negative impact on the microbiome. 

Where is it BANNED + why [from organicconsumers.org April 2018]

• Belgium: In 2017, the Flemish government banned individual use of glyphosate and voted against reliciensing glyphosate in the EU. 
• Bermuda: The island outlawed the private and commercial sale of all glyphosate-based herbicides.
• Colombia: In 2015, the country forbid the use of glyphosate to eliminate illegal plantations of coca, often used to make cocaine, due to concern that the herbicide causes cancer. However in 2017, the country reinstituted its controversial fumigation program. But instead of using aerial fumigation, glyphosate is now sprayed manually, from the ground.
• Netherlands: Dutch officials have banned all non-commercial use of glyphosate.
• Sri Lanka: In 2014, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa mandated an all-out ban on glyphosate, following a study linking Roundup to Fatal Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD), the second-leading cause of death among males in the country. Sri Lanka was the first country to issue a nationwide ban on glyphosate.
• El Salvador: Passed a law banning glyphosate, citing the same study linking fatal chronic kidney disease to Roundup.
• Middle Eastern countries, including Saudi ArabiaKuwaitQatarBahrainOman and the United Arab Emirates, have stopped glyphosate use.
• France: President Emmanuel Macron announced in Novemenber 2017, an outright ban on glyphosate, to take effect “within three years.”

Choosing organic + what it means:

I’m going to say something that you guys probably aren’t going to love + I certainly don’t love it either. While organic farming certifications prohibit the use of glyphosate, organic products do not always end up completely free of glyphosate residue. This is because glyphosate use has skyrocketed in the past decade, and it maintains the ability to adhere to water and soil particles long enough to travel through the air or in a stream to nearby organic farms. It’s presence in the environment is nearly unavoidable. [4]

How we see it:

The lack of conclusive evidence ruling out negative effects of chronic exposure to low doses of pesticides means that we should still work to minimize exposure to pesticides when possible [2]. Would I choose a job where I am working with round up daily and in large quantities? Absolutely not. Do we choose organic when we can? Most of the time but honestly, not always. When we eat out, we know that we aren’t being served all organic, and we are both totally fine with it. Everything comes down to – how much you’re having. Many things become toxic when you over consume. Even vitamins! The problem is that the research is not wonderful as to what that toxicity threshold is for glyphosate and GBHs. “The verdict is still out about pesticides and fertilizers as far as the long-term impact on health. There are so many other variables in the environment. It’s hard to say it’s the pesticide on the peach that was the primary cause of a health-related issue,” says Kathy McManus [Registered Dietitian, Department of Nutrition at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital].

Our recommendations: We recommend that people eat healthy by eating more fruits and vegetables, whether conventional or organic. Choose organic when you can/if you can, but don’t go broke over it + do not avoid fruits/veggies etc because of the possibility of glyphosate contamination. The benefits outweigh the unconfirmed risks. If you are planning on choosing organic but don’t know where to begin. I agree with Kathy McManus’s, RD from Harvard Health, recommendation to start with the dirty dozen + clean fifteen. The purpose is not to decide for you to choose organic but that if you WANT to choose some foods that are organic, to choose the ones that have a higher pesticide residue [typically those fruits and veggies without a tough skin and more surface area]. If you want to stick with conventional and wait for more research- that’s awesome too! Note: Research has shown that even those fruits + veggies on in the “dirty dozen” list are several orders of magnitude below levels required to cause any biological effect. As a result, the potential for synergistic effects resulting from pesticide combinations is negligible [aka even if you are choosing something conventional from the dirty dozen list, it’s still way under harmful limits]

2018 Dirty Dozen: strawberries, spinach, nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes, celery, potatoes and sweet bell peppers.

2018 Clean Fifteen [these foods had low pesticide residue according to EWG]: avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, cabbages, onions, frozen sweet peas, papayas, asparagus, mangoes, eggplants, honeydews, kiwis, cantaloupes, cauliflower and broccoli. 

Organic + Being Judgey

Just don’t judge. Damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Kind of my personal thoughts on choosing organic or not choosing organic. If you’re buying fruits + veggies no matter what kind- that’s a win! If you follow me on instagram, I talk a lot about my “every day” folder compared to my “once in awhile”. Same goes with choosing organic. The answer is- we don’t know if it’s 100% safe and that’s why we choose organic most of the time! A lot of people don’t want to say “I don’t know”. But sometimes- that is the answer! Can you say 100% that someone’s NHL (non-Hodgkin lymphoma) was not caused by using round up every day of their lives. Chances are, you can’t. What we do know, is that choosing organic over conventional, has likely never harmed/killed someone. Plus, some people choose organic for other reasons (ex: animal welfare, environment, or they prefer the taste). My point: don’t judge anyone’s decision to choose organic or to not choose organic. It’s their body and their prerogative. 

Towards the future:

There is current research oh glyphosate that is to be released from the EPA and FDA in 2019 on safety of glyphosate in diet. 

Want to read a little more?? I found this on Mayo Clinic:

There is a growing body of evidence that shows some potential health benefits of organic foods when compared with conventionally grown foods. While these studies have shown differences in the food, there is limited information to draw conclusions about how these differences translate into overall health benefits. [3]

Potential benefits include the following:

  • Nutrients. Studies have shown small to moderate increases in some nutrients in organic produce. The best evidence of a significant increase is in certain types of flavonoids, which have antioxidant properties. [3]
  • Omega-3 fatty acids. The feeding requirements for organic livestock farming, such as the primary use of grass and alfalfa for cattle, result in generally higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, a kind of fat that is more heart healthy than other fats. These higher omega-3 fatty acids are found in organic meats, dairy and eggs. [3]
  • Toxic metal. Cadmium is a toxic chemical naturally found in soils and absorbed by plants. Studies have shown significantly lower cadmium levels in organic grains, but not fruits and vegetables, when compared with conventionally grown crops. The lower cadmium levels in organic grains may be related to the ban on synthetic fertilizers in organic farming. [3]
  • Pesticide residue. Compared with conventionally grown produce, organically grown produce has lower detectable levels of pesticide residue. Organic produce may have residue because of pesticides approved for organic farming or because of airborne pesticides from conventional farms. The difference in health outcomes is unclear because of safety regulations for maximum levels of residue allowed on conventional produce. [3]
  • Bacteria. Meats produced conventionally may have a higher occurrence of bacteria resistant to antibiotic treatment. [3]

We hope you Enjoyed! Happy Sunday! 

Research

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5484035/ [1]

http://sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2015/gmos-and-pesticides/ [2]

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3791249/

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/organic-food/art-20043880 [3]

https://www.naturespath.com/en-us/blog/are-you-eating-glyphosate-organic-farming-can-help/ [4]

https://www.organicconsumers.org/news/germany-13-other-countries-say-no-glyphosate-what-about-us

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 hemp powder [Manitoba Harvest: Hemp Yeah, Max Protein]

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