Creamy Cashew Cheese Sauce and Vegan Mac & Cheese

vegan mac and cheese with caramelized onions and spinach

News update! Today, we went live with the Goodies page of the website. It is your go to resource for things you may need during the Shed program. Go check it out! I will update it occasionally with new finds, too. Also, I decided to test out putting the recipes at the top of the post to make it easier to get to. Babble underneath will give you some other ideas on how to use the sauce! :) Let me know what you think of the new "shop" and format! xo


Creamy Cashew Cheese Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups roasted cashews (I soaked for about 20 minutes, but my food processor is strong. If you are using a blender that may not have strength, soak for a couple hours)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • 1/4 cup of water (use until you reach your desired consistency)

Instructions

Blend ingredients in food processor or blender! Use in the following recipe and store excess in the fridge for up to 5 days. 

    vegan mac and cheese with sedalini

    8D086761-A620-4964-9919-22BEAC759C31.JPG

    Vegan Mac & "Cheese"

    (SErves 4)

    Ingredients

    • 1 tbsp olive oil
    • 1 onion, sliced
    • Salt 
    • 2 cups spinach
    • 12 oz sedanini lentil pasta (from Trader Joe's)
    • Cashew cheese sauce above (use enough to cover pasta)

    Instructions

    In a medium pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and salt (coat in a layer). Lower heat to medium-low and stir onions occasionally, making sure that they don't stick to the pan (add more oil, if necessary). Continue until onions are golden brown (this can take as long as 40 minutes), salting occasionally.  Add spinach to onions, coat with oil from the pan and stir until wilted.

    Meanwhile, cook pasta according to directions on package. Drain, and put back into pot. Add cashew sauce, mix well. Serve in bowls with onions and spinach mixture. NOMS. 


    As I mentioned in last week's post the blizzard we had in Chicago really put me in a cooking frenzy.  And severe winter weather means comfort food. I got very excited to try my hand at making cashew "cheese" sauce to make some healthy mac and cheese!  I've seen recipes with butternut squash, but I wanted to keep this as simple as possible. It's a really versatile sauce. You can serve it over: 

    • Any gluten-free pasta - chickpea, brown rice, sedanini, etc. 
    • Steamed cauliflower - mix the sauce with Frank's hot sauce, it's to die for!
    • Chicken with marinara sauce- like a healthy chicken parm! 

    Basically, this is an awesome sub for anything you would want cheesy goodness. I would love to hear if you decide to try it! Cheers to "cheese"! -AHS

    Cashew sauce in all it's glory. 

    Cashew sauce in all it's glory. 

    I clearly did not listen to my own advice, and had lots of onion stick to the pan. 

    I clearly did not listen to my own advice, and had lots of onion stick to the pan. 

    Pumpkin Spice Oatmeal Pancakes (GF, DF, & Sugar-Free!)

    pumpkin spice glutenfree sugarfree dairyfree pancakes with blueberries
    My mom's pup frolicking in the snow. Is this not the most joyful picture you've ever seen??! Photo courtesy of Marju Eisenberg. 

    My mom's pup frolicking in the snow. Is this not the most joyful picture you've ever seen??! Photo courtesy of Marju Eisenberg. 

    Last weekend it was snow heaven. So much snow. Schools were canceled. I measured the snow sitting on top of our flower beds- we ended up with 13 inches! People were cross country skiing in the parks. And yes, I live in Chicago, this should not be shocking. But it was a legit magical snowfall. I don't complain about the snow- I am a weird breed of Chicagoan that gets upset when people complain about the weather all the time. "It's too hot. It's too cold. There's too much snow." Move to LA or take some vitamin D. But really, I have had a garage for the past 4 years so I do not stress about snow. #blessed Chicagoans are kinda crazy with the street parking. Dibs is very real and I have no interest in getting involved in any of that! 

    Anyways, so it was snowy and cozy and you know what that means! Fun in the kitchen! I experimented with quite a few cozy winter recipes that day (more to come soon!) basically because the cold makes me crave carbs. It seemed like a great day to make the oatmeal pancakes from the Shed plan. But because I am incapable of following a recipe to save my life (even my own!) - I ended up improvising and coming up with a new fun variation on the traditional recipe. These pancakes are #shedapproved for both month 1 and 2! 

    I think what I liked most about these was that compared to my favorite banana pancakes, these hold together beautifully. The combination of the oat flour and the pumpkin really make a nice batter! I probably didn't need the eggs- but I'm always glad to include some protein in breakfast! 

    I am also crazy about nut butter and berries. I learned this when I used to work at a juice shop. It is a life-changing combination. 

    The pancakes aren't sweet on their own, so the blueberries really add an extra something to them! 

    Having treats like this that are #shedapproved are really what makes living a healthy lifestyle something that you can do consistently! I highly recommend you make these bad boys. They may just change ya life! 

    Stay cozy, friends!

    AHS


    pumpkin spice oatmeal pancakes with blueberries and peanut butter

    Pumpkin Spice Oatmeal Pancakes

    Ingredients

    • 1/2 cup rolled oats 
    • 2 large eggs
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • 1/2 15 oz can of pumpkin puree 
    • pumpkin pie spice (use liberally)
    • olive oil spray 
    • 1-2 tbsp organic peanut butter 
    • 1/2 cup frozen organic blueberries (or fresh if they are in season)

    Instructions

    Blend or pulse oats in a blender or food processor until oats have the consistency of flour. Transfer to bowl. Add eggs, vanilla extract, pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice to bowl. Mix thoroughly (I used a hand mixer, you could use a tabletop mixer as well).

    Heat a nonstick skillet lightly coated with olive oil spray over medium heat. Ladle batter into skillet to form pancakes. Cook for about 3 minutes. When they look like they have a solid base, flip. Cook for an additional minute or so until they have firmed and are golden brown. Serve with peanut butter and berries on top. 

    Notes

    • While all oats should be gluten-free, due to how they are processed in the U.S. - often times they are not. Check the label to ensure they are gluten-free!
    • I don't keep my food processor out all the time. So if you want, you can pulse extra oats to make this task easier for the next time. Do it in small batches, the food processor will not work as well with large quantities. I store my leftover oat flour in a sealed container in the fridge. 
    • Alternatively, you can use butter on the skillet and on the pancakes if you aren't into the peanut butter berry combo. Note: this makes them only #shedapproved for month 1.  

    Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Wellness

    I have used stock photography of "wellness" or "meditation" throughout this post to demonstrate how unattainable wellness can feel. Wellness is achieved by doing yoga in a fjord, clearly.

    I have used stock photography of "wellness" or "meditation" throughout this post to demonstrate how unattainable wellness can feel. Wellness is achieved by doing yoga in a fjord, clearly.

    Have you ever felt overwhelmed by wellness? Like, you couldn't be taking good care of yourself if you aren't adding reishi ashwaghandha adaptogenic blends to your coffee (wait, excuse me, MATCHA) every morning. Or you drink alcohol (GASP!).  Or you just can't get yourself up for a 6am cardio class before work and then you end up skipping the gym that day and all is lost? Do you eat cheese? Like what is Keto? Why is everyone doing it? What is bio-hacking and should I call my IT guy to help me with it? Where does all of this fit into one's daily existence? 

    It is hard to keep up y'all. 

    I truly enjoy trying out all the new trends. I like seeing how each new superfood/ supplement/ vitamin/ way of eating/ workout / etc.  affects my body and mind. It's fun, it's interesting. And it is not what actually matters. 

    First, let me define wellness. 

    ˈwelnəs/ noun 
    1. the state of being in good health, especially as an actively pursued goal.
    Meditation is swimming in the ocean at sunset surrounded by mountains. 

    Meditation is swimming in the ocean at sunset surrounded by mountains. 

    Okay so great - pursuing good health. Yep, all about it! It’s great that all of these superfoods and supplements can help us feel awesome. It really is. More things that fuel the body, and help us kick some a- every day – hey all good. But sometimes it feels like the wellness industry chooses to be confusing. Really, to be well, you need to eat lots of vegetables, sleep, drink water, move your body.  The trends that require you to eat a certain way, those are just diets. Diets are fine, but diets are not sustainable. Diets are not wellness. You can add superfoods to your daily morning beverage, and that can aid in wellness- but you don’t need to spend excessive amounts of money on supplements and superfoods to be well. Being thin is not wellness. Sometimes it’s a byproduct of wellness, but not always. It can also be the byproduct of very unhealthy behavior. 

    The second you begin to obsess over your food choices, your fitness level, etc- it is no longer wellness. That means “wellness,” “eating healthy,” or “fitness” is no longer serving you. That means it has become a distraction from the things that really matter. 

    Now that we cleared up what wellness actually is and what it is not…why do we pursue it? 

    Quite simply, good health is a means to help fulfill our work on Earth. Our soul's purpose... This is not about feeling 22 forever.  

    ....Woah, Alexandra. That just got intense! Soul's purpose? I don't know what that is?! 

    I know, I know. That's not an easy question to answer. 

    You too, can be well if you manage to meditate on the beach with your arms up in the air. 

    You too, can be well if you manage to meditate on the beach with your arms up in the air. 

    If you already know the answer. Fantastic. Now go and be well, and have food fuel you and movement inspire you! You are done here. 

    If you don’t have the answer to this, you may not have an answer for awhile. I encourage you to dig deeper. Start to meditate. Pray (yes, I said pray). Go to yoga or for a run - whatever gets you in your zone. Think about what lights you up. What gets you out of bed in the morning? How do you help others in your day to day life? Your purpose could be related to your career, or not. It could be related to your family, or not. I unfortunately don’t have a guide book for this (although I bet one exists). I don’t have the answers, only you have the answer inside of you.

    Balanced rocks in water - clearly you have reached the pinnacle of enlightenment if you sit near these bad boys. 

    Balanced rocks in water - clearly you have reached the pinnacle of enlightenment if you sit near these bad boys. 

    My action steps for you: 

    1. Reflect on what has sparked your interest in nutrition and wellness. We are human, having a booty like Eva Mendes is a fine answer- no judgement. 

    2. Keep it simple. If you enjoy wellness trends, feel free to jump on board - but you don’t need to eat like Amanda Chantal Bacon to be well (see links here and here). Remember at the end of the day, the wise Michael Pollan deduced healthy nutrition to: “eat (real) food, not too much, mostly plants.”

    3. I want you to stop sometime in the next day or 3- put down your phone. Turn it off. Spend some time alone and reflect. Reflect on what matters most to you. If you were to be gone tomorrow, what would you have wished you had done?

    4. Use that beautiful body and soul of yours to thrive!

    Yeah, I went deep on you guys. I hope if nothing else, this gave you some food for thought on this chilly winter day. I hope that this helps inspire the divine light within you. 

    Be well, 

    AHS

    Update: Brain Octane Oil and Bulletproof Coffee Trial

    So if you read my post from two weeks ago, you will know that I had been reading and learning about the differences on Brain Octane Oil, MCT oil, and Bulletproof coffee – but I hadn't really tried it out yet. I decided to pursue testing Brain Octane Oil and Bulletproof Coffee. 

    bulletproofcoffee1

    I started drinking Brain Octane Oil in my coffee around 2 weeks ago but took a couple days off because I wasn't at home. I immediately became obsessed with the frothy goodness. I love the richness it added to my daily cup o' joe. I realize what almond milk (alone) was lacking was FAT! It isn't quite as satisfying as regular milk, but I had gotten so used to it, I didn't realize what I had been missing. The days that I had coffee out of the house, I seriously missed the oil! 

    After a few days with just the oil, and seeing how much I loved it, I decided to give Bulletproof coffee a try. (Reminder: Bulletproof coffee is some type of MCT oil, in this case, Brain Octane, plus 1-2 tbsp of grass-fed, unsalted butter.) Guys, it became even richer and frothier! I was in heaven. All of the froth and richness. With this change, my morning cuppa became a sheer delight (and if you haven't realized already, I'm pretty obsessed with my morning cup). That being said, I am not going to add butter every day, just because I know from past experience my body does better with less dairy. 

    I didn't immediately notice any cognitive benefits that you are supposed to see with the oil (with the exception of my morning meditation struggling because I couldn't tame the thoughts! Or was that the caffeine?... Tough to say). Then I realized that I had been not using the full dosage. I had started using 1 tsp, had worked my way up to 2. Well, I was supposed to be using 1 tsp, working my way up to 2 TBSP. So, makes sense I wasn't seeing the level of results I was anticipating.

    bulletproofcoffee2

    With the adjustment (I landed at 1.5 tbsp) I did see vast improvement. I didn't notice any difference in results with Brain Octane Oil or proper Bulletproof Coffee, though. One of the benefits of adding butter is that it should supply steady, long-lasting energy, which may have happened, but I ate breakfast most days because I was hungry (the Bulletproof guys make it a meal replacement). So it's tricky to say if it was tied to the my morning drink. They say you won't get hungry, but I did. I kept it light: either a green smoothie or an egg with a slice of sprouted grain toast. 

    Without further ado, here are my observations: 

    • I felt less brain fog than usual. I felt sharper in whatever I was thinking, writing, or saying. It mayyyyy have increased my ability to focus - hard to say. I'm very ADD (with an actual diagnosis) so I think I saw an improvement, but not really sure. 
    • I drank my coffee faster than usual to avoid oil separation, which did lead to stomach aches a couple times. I like drinking my coffee slowly: I end up drinking less that way. So I would consider this a negative. 
    • Relating to stomach... adjusting to the oil initially made my poop a bit looser than usual. Not bad though. (Apologies if that's TMI, but thought you should know if you are experiencing that while taking the oil, it's normal! ;))
    • One of the biggest surprises was when I added a tbsp to my lunch smoothie. Normally, I do my best work in the morning - no matter what. By drinking it in my afternoon smoothie it kept my brain sharp all afternoon, when I typically struggle the most! 
    • I also noticed that by the evenings I was absolutely famished, which is not common for me. It may have increased my metabolic rate! I have lost a little bit of weight, but I have also been following Shed guidelines this month to start the year on a good note. So could be a combination of the two. 
    • One other negative, I have noticed an increase in heartburn. As I've mentioned, I've been eating very clean, so I am wondering if the oil/butter are having an impact. It could be unrelated though. (If anyone knows anything about heartburn, help a sister out! #thisis30) You all now know way too much about me. 
    brainoctanecoffee1

    In sum, I will definitely keep Brain Octane Oil as a part of my routine. I may split up 2 tablespoons - 1 in the am, 1 at lunch. The cognitive benefits were really noticeable when I increased my intake. It really upped my morning coffee game. I clearly am obsessed with the frothy yumminess. Adding butter to my coffee has really been a treat, I will probably keep using it several days a week. Although, I may try removing it for awhile though to see if helps my heartburn situation (cue *tears of laughter and of sadness at the same time*). 😂 😭 🤦🏻‍♀️

    Have you guys tried Brain Octane Oil or Bulletproof coffee? I would love to hear what you think of it! Leave a comment below or on insta. Bottoms up! -AHS

    Three Sisters and Feta Spinach Quinoa Cakes

    three sisters and feta spinach quinoa cake

    There was a restaurant near my old job called Moxee. It recently closed (shame, it was really good!), and they had a dish called the "Three Sisters." To be 100% honest with you, I never had ordered it because 1) beans cause indigestion for me - and I didn't want to eat them at work and 2) typically work was paying, and I went for a higher priced item, like a blackened salmon salad. That being said, this was a favorite for a lot of my colleagues (apparently they didn't have the same issue with beans... *side eye*).  I was asked recently to try and recreate it. The humor in all of this is that I had never eaten it. So I basically I took the ingredients and made my own #shedapproved version. 

    But first, I was intrigued, I hadn't heard of the "three sisters" before this, so I did a quick google, and I was fascinated by my findings. According to the all-knowing Wikipedia, apparently, the three sisters are the three main agricultural crops of various Native American groups in North America: winter squash, maize (corn), and climbing beans.

    "The three crops are planted close together and benefit from each other. The maize provides a structure for the beans to climb, eliminating the need for poles. The beans provide the nitrogen to the soil that the other plants use, and the squash spreads along the ground, blocking the sunlight, helping prevent the establishment of weeds. The squash leaves also act as a 'living mulch', creating a microclimate to retain moisture in the soil, and the prickly hairs of the vine deter pests. Corn, beans, and squash contain complex carbohydrates, essential fatty acids, and all eight essential amino acids, allowing most Native American tribes to thrive on a plant-based diet."

    I mean, I don't know about you, but I think that this is pretty much the most amazing thing ever. How cool that the Native Americans figured this out: 1) From an agricultural standpoint and 2) from a biological, nutritional perspective. This inspired me to do the dish justice. I got to work. 

    Here was the menu description: "Vegetarian hash with roasted butternut squash, corn, and pinto beans (3 sisters) topped with sweet peppers, onions and a light roasted garlic sauce with a grilled herb polenta cake."

    Well, no knock to polenta, but it's not shed approved, so it was out. To give homage to our South American Native Americans (hello Incans!), I thought quinoa could be a good substitute. As I had never made a "quinoa cake" before, I looked to pinterest for inspiration. It did not disappoint. I found a recipe from the Domestic Superhero that seemed would work perfectly. There was a catch, she had used breadcrumbs in her recipe (not Shed approved) – would it still work? Well spoiler alert: it worked just fine without them. Didn't miss them either! 

    Also, I made one other big change to the original menu item - the light roasted garlic sauce became tzatziki. This gives it a bit of a mediterranean flair (I'm Lebanese, what can I say, can't help myself!). The lemon zest and feta were just asking for the tzatziki. While these vibes seem to not be the same, I can tell you, the flavors complimented each other beautifully.  

    The rest of the recipe seems to speak for itself. I hope you try it- it's perfect for #meatlessmonday! Have a great day, beauties! 

    -AHS


    Three Sisters 

    Ingredients 

    three sisters feta spinach quinoa cakes 2
    • 2 tbsp olive oil, divided
    • 1 lb 5 oz butternut squash, cubed
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 2 tsp liquid aminos 
    • 1 can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
    • 1 can sweet corn, drained (it's winter- in the summer I would use fresh!)
    • 1 cup yellow onion, chopped 
    • 5 small sweet peppers, deseeded and sliced horizontally

    Instructions

    Heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Add butternut squash, cook for a couple minutes. Add garlic and add liquid aminos. When butternut squash is 75% finished (softer, but not cooked all the way through), add pinto beans and corn. Mix well. Cook until butternut squash is soft. 

    While butternut squash is cooking, in another skillet heat 1 tbsp olive oil over low heat. Add 1 cup chopped onion and sweet peppers. Cook until onions are browned and peppers are soft. 

    Serve onion and pepper mix on butternut squash mixture. Pair with Feta Spinach Quinoa Cakes. 

    feta spinach quinoa cakes

    (Adapted from Domestic Superhero

    Ingredients 

    • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
    • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
    • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
    • 5 ounces chopped baby spinach
    • 2 large eggs, beaten
    • 1 1/4 cups cooked quinoa
    • 2 ounces crumbled feta cheese
    • 1/4 teaspoon grated lemon zest
    • Tzatziki sauce

    Instructions

    Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the spinach and cook, stirring often, until wilted, about 3 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a medium-size bowl.

    Add the eggs, quinoa, feta, lemon zest, and 1/4 tsp black pepper and mix well. Let the mixture sit for a few minutes to allow the bread crumbs to absorb some of the moisture.

    Wipe out large skillet, and add extra virgin olive oil. Heat for a few minutes.

    Form quinoa patties about 2 1/2 inches in diameter and 1/2 inch thick. Place the patties in skillet, in batches if necessary. Cook the patties until they’re browned on the outside, 4 to 5 minutes per side, and then flip.

    Serve with a dab of Tzatziki sauce on each patty. 

    Notes

    • I eliminated breadcrumbs, a homemade sauce, and dill from the original recipe. 
    • Breadcrumbs were eliminated because they are empty calories. The recipe works without them, but I’m sure it would be great with them as well. 
    • To make life easier I thought it best to use pre-made Tzatziki which already has dill in it. Thought doubling up on dill was unnecessary. 
    • Lastly, you could try baking the patties as well to time the meal better. 

    Update 2/13/18: The first version of this post was missing the measurement for butternut squash. Error is now corrected. 

    Brain Octane Oil, MCT Oil, or Bulletproof Coffee? Send help!

    bulletproof brain octane oil

    Many of you have probably heard of Bulletproof coffee. It became all the rage a couple years back. Butter in coffee? Yuck or YES? Hard to say. Nonetheless, you probably heard something about it. If you looked into it you probably heard that bulletproof coffee consists of coffee + MCT oil or Brain Octane Oil + butter from grass-fed cows, frothed/blended into a "latte." I won't delve into all the pros of making this particular concoction in this article, but will focus on the unique oils that contribute to it. MCT oil and Brain Octane Oil seem to be everywhere. In matcha, coffee, smoothies, you name it- people are adding it! But what is it? It sounds scary and complicated. 

    Well, I wouldn't define it as scary, but to explain it I would just say it's "science-y". Let me break it down: 

    MCT is an abbreviation of medium-chain triglycerides also known as medium-chain fatty acids. All fats are categorized by how many carbons they have. There are short-chain (less than 6 carbons), medium-chain (6-12 carbons), and long-chain (13-21 carbons) fatty acids. Omega 3 fats (love those!) are long-chain. MCTs are absorbed in the body better than long-chain because they are smaller. It is easier for the body to utilize them for this reason. (Note: this does not mean to stop eating Omega 3s though! Omega 3s are anti-inflammatory, awesome for our cognitive function, and also may help lower the risk of heart disease, depression, dementia, and arthritis.) Did I lose you, yet? Don't worry, the worst is over!

    But why are MCTs a top source of essential healthy fats? According to Dr. Axe,  "Medium-chain fats are digested easily and sent directly to your liver, where they have a thermogenic effect and the ability to positively alter your metabolism. This is one reason why many people claim that MCTs, including coconut oil, are burned by the body for energy, or “fuel,” instead of being stored as fat." So basically, they can be awesome for weight loss. 

    Some of the reported benefits of incorporating MCTs in your diet:

    • Having more energy
    • Thinking more clearly
    • Feeling satisfied and full, which helps in maintaining a healthy weight
    • Reducing body fat by raising metabolic function
    • Better digestion
    • Hormonal balance
    • Mood improvement
    • Fight bacterial infection and viruses
    • Increased ability to absorb fat-soluble nutrients from various foods

    In addition to getting MCTs from supplementing, they also occur naturally in coconut oil, butter (from grass-fed cows), whole milk, full-fat yogurt, palm oil and cheeses. 


    So, where does Brain Octane Oil fit in? Well, it is a form of MCT oil. The fancy one of the bunch. It is also known as Caprylic acid or MCT C8. There are other variations of MCT oils, one of which is XCT oil (a mix of C8+C10). XCT oil was the original used in bulletproof coffee. I won't focus on the others, but know there are other variations. 

    The biggest perk I heard about Brain Octane Oil was that it helps your brain kick into gear quickly in the morning. According to Eduard de Wilde of Live Helfi, "The body rapidly metabolizes Brain Octane Oil into ketones that the brain can use for instant energy without the need for glucose from carbohydrates or sugar." This means it offers a higher level of brain performance than XCT Oil or other MCT oils.

    In addition:

    • (Brain) Octane Oil helps balance yeast in the digestive tract. If your gut is out of whack in this way, you could experience: bloat, IBS, depression, and other awful stuff. 
    • Brain Octane Oil has been known to help with hypertension and Crohn's Disease, to boot.

    Yes. This HP mug is bae. 

    Yes. This HP mug is bae. 

    Okay- so now we know this stuff seems pretty awesome. But what happens when you actually start taking it?  

    I am going to take Brain Octane Oil every day for a week and will report back with my findings. I can give you a mini preview:  it froths beautifully (see pic) and tastes amazing.  I will leave the rest of the updates for when I report back. 

    Also, I used the following articles to help form this post: 

    If you are looking for more details I recommend reading at your leisure! 

     

     

    Looking forward to updating you soon! Have a great week, loves! 

    AHS