Cashew Mac + Cheese

Cashew Mac and Cheese - Under the Monkey Bars

This recipe is magical. It’s mac and cheese, without any cheese. I’m serious — no cheese! You have to try it to believe it. When I stopped eating dairy, I craved cheese like you wouldn’t believe. It’s unbelievable how cheesy this Cashew Mac + Cheese tastes! I swear it tastes even better than the real thing, and it’s super good for you!

Why would you want to make mac and cheese without actual cheese?
1. Dairy should be eaten in condiment servings, and most of us consume far more cheese than we should.
2. The “cheese” sauce is made of veggies. We could all use more veggies in our diet, am I right?
3. The cashews pack in extra protein, fiber, and healthy fats to fill you up and provide energy.
4. When you have a cold or seasonal allergies, avoiding dairy is really smart. So, therefore, this recipe for Cashew Mac + Cheese is brilliant!

Bean requested Cashew Mac + Cheese for her 10th birthday dinner two weeks ago. The monkeys love this dish so much that they actually jump up and down when I make it. High fives all around. After sharing the recipe with many friends, every single person has raved about it — from toddlers to teenagers. It’s especially great for kids on a veggie strike. Another way to get veggies into little monkeys is a winner for sure!

I double the “cheese” sauce recipe every time I make Cashew Mac + Cheese because it freezes really well. Why not make extra for another day? Doubling the recipe makes about 35 ounces of “cheese” sauce. The whole meal takes about 45 minutes from start to finish including sautéing some extra veggies to mix in (peas, zucchini, broccoli), and sometimes cooking up meat like bacon or sausage too (sorry vegan friends!).

Cashew Mac + Cheese is one of those dishes you can tailor to suit your dietary needs or the needs of your friends with food allergies! We’ve never been into breadcrumb toppings for mac and cheese, but if you like breadcrumbs, head over to the original recipe for that version.

Give it a try. I can practically promise you’ll love it. Cómelo todo!

Cashew Mac + Cheese
Serves 6
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  1. 8 ounces pasta
  2. 1 cup red or yellow potatoes, peeled and chopped
  3. 1/4 cup carrots, peeled and chopped
  4. 1/3 cup onion, peeled and chopped
  5. 1 cup water
  6. 1/4 cup raw cashews
  7. 2 teaspoons sea salt
  8. 1/4 teaspoon garlic
  9. 1/3 cup butter (or non-hydrogenated margarine if you’re vegan)
  10. 1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  11. 1 teaspoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  12. 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  13. less than 1/8 teaspoon cayenne (see notes)
  1. Cook your pasta according to the instructions on the box. Set aside.
  2. After chopping your potatoes, carrots, and onion, put the veggies and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Cover the pan and simmer for 15 minutes, or until veggies are really soft.
  3. In a blender, process the cashews, salt, garlic, butter, mustard, lemon juice, black pepper, cayenne, softened veggies, and cooking water until perfectly smooth.
  4. In a large bowl, toss the cooked pasta and blended cheese sauce until completely coated. Or, add the sauce to individual bowls and store the left overs in a glass container or mason jar.
  5. You do not need a high speed blender for this recipe.
  1. Choose organic ingredients when possible.
  2. I usually throw in extra veggies and it always tastes great.
  3. Leftover cheese sauce can be frozen (in glass ideally). Add a teaspoon of extra butter and and a tablespoon of water to reheat. Warm on low heat and stir frequently.
  4. Use left over cheese sauce to dip veggies or stir it into plain risotto with some veggies.
  5. If you're gluten free, we love Jovial or Andean Dream GF pasta. Also make sure your mustard is GF; we like Annie’s.
  6. When cooking for little ones, be mindful of the cayenne. I started with just two tiny shakes and worked my way up to 1/8 teaspoon for a double batch!
Adapted from VegNews
Adapted from VegNews
Under the Monkey Bars

Teff Almond Butter Cookies

Teff Almond Butter Cookie - Under the Monkey Bars

Teff Almond Butter Cookies - Under the Monkey Bars

Vegan cookies are the BEST kind of cookies. Why? Because you can eat the dough!! No raw eggs in this recipe. You are going to flip over these Teff Almond Butter Cookies!

No matter how healthy you are, you still need cookies! Am I right? I love, love, love cookies. These cookies are soft, rich, satisfying, and just the right balance of chip to cookie. They taste hearty and healthy like a molasses cookie but there’s no refined sugar. My favorite thing about Teff Almond Flour Cookies is that they’re really filling. I can eat two and feel satisfied (a.k.a., not devour the whole batch).

I know what you’re thinking: What is TEFF? I’d never heard of this grain until a friend sent me this cookie recipe. Teff is a whole grain from Ethiopia. It’s actually the smallest grain in the world. Teff is a nutritional powerhouse because its high in fiber, protein, calcium, and iron. So it’s super good for you and totally not a weird flour. Even Bob’s Red Mill makes teff flour so it won’t be hard to find.

As with all of my recipes, these cookies are pretty flexible and allergy friendly. Use whatever kind of nut butter you have: almond butter, peanut butter, sunbutter, etc. This Teff Almond Butter Cookie recipe is gluten free, dairy free, vegetarian, soy free, refined sugar free, and safe for egg allergies! 

The monkeys made this batch so I know you can do it. Only six ingredients people! Stock up your pantry so you can make these cookies any time you want. Drop me a note in the comments or write a review if you make them. I’d love to hear from you!

Cómelo todo!

Teff Almond Butter Cookies
Yields 22
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Cook Time
13 min
Cook Time
13 min
  1. 1-1⁄2 cups teff flour
  2. 1⁄4 teaspoon sea salt
  3. 1 teaspoon baking soda
  4. 1 cup chunky almond butter
  5. 1 cup pure maple syrup
  6. 1⁄2 cup chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Combine flour, salt, and baking soda in one bowl.
  3. Combine almond butter and syrup in another.
  4. Pour dry ingredients over wet and blend until just combined.
  5. Fold in chocolate chips.
  6. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  7. Drop batter by heaping teaspoons onto cookie sheet.
  8. Leave cookies free-form or press down dough with tines of fork in crisscross pattern.
  9. Bake 13 minutes or until just lightly browned. Don’t overbake them!
  10. Remove from oven and place on wire rack to cool.
  1. - Amount of cookies is dependent on how much batter you eat!
  2. - Don't make these cookies without parchment paper. They will stick.
Adapted from Terry Walters
Adapted from Terry Walters
Under the Monkey Bars

Banana Bowl

sliced banana - almond butter - chia seeds - shredded coconut - mini chocolate chips

sliced banana – almond butter – chia seeds – shredded coconut – mini chocolate chips

You wouldn’t believe how many bananas I buy each week. One time, the woman scanning my groceries asked me if I had monkeys at home. Actually I do! And one of them has a birthday today. Happy 7th Birthday to my Sweet Pea! 

Back to the bananas. I’m obsessed with anything in a bowl lately, probably inspired by my favorite lunch spot. One night after we got the monkeys to bed, Don and I were both starving. We each cut up a banana and added a few things to our bowls. The Banana Bowl was born!

A Banana Bowl is a healthy banana split. It’s a quick snack for any time of day — or even breakfast if you’re in a pinch. No need to measure. Just throw in what you have, mix it up, and enjoy! It’s so easy that little monkeys can even make a Banana Bowl themselves.

Here are some ideas to customize your Banana Bowl:
– Nut butter or sunbutter
– Fresh chopped berries
– Drizzle of honey or maple syrup
– Nuts: hazelnuts, pistachios, almonds, walnuts
– Seeds: sunflower, hemp, chia, pumpkin
– Chocolate chips or a broken up chocolate bar
– Cinnamon
– Granola or Paleonola (Have you tried it?!? Mmmmm)
– Shredded coconut or Dang

I love that bananas are such a controversial fruit. It’s the sugar and carbs that give bananas a bad rap. But they are loaded with potassium, magnesium, fiber, vitamins B6, and vitamin C. And we LOVE them. Bananas are so easy to take on the go. And cheap! When we went gluten free, we joked that bananas were our new granola bars. So great to balance energy levels after a work out too.

How do you eat bananas? Try a Banana Bowl this weekend!

Mediterranean Ratatouille

Mediterranean Ratatouille - Under the Monkey Bars

Ratatouille is a French dish loaded with succulent Mediterranean vegetables. Think juicy tomatoes fresh off the garden vine, giant zucchini ready to split, and of course shiny purple eggplant.

This is an easy weeknight meal that makes a giant pot full of yum. I can practically promise you leftovers. Serve Mediterranean Ratatouille in a bowl on its own, with crusty bread, over risotto or even lentils. Maybe add a side of grilled chicken or make it a Meatless Monday! Ratatouille is super heart healthy, high in fiber, and low on the glycemic index. How could it not be with all of those veggies!

Speaking of veggies, do you have a CSA? We have been getting lots of eggplant with our weekly Boston Organics deliveries and I’m so glad I remembered this recipe. Save it for when you have more eggplant and zucchini than you know what to do with!

Ratatouille is a fantastic recipe for anyone with food allergies or sensitivities because it’s naturally gluten free, paleo, vegetarian, vegan, dairy free, soy free, and nut free. That’s a long list!! Keep this Ratatouille recipe in mind for your summer cook outs too. Or pair it with the Disney movie movie and maybe the monkeys will be more apt to eat it!

Bean will devour two bowls of Ratatouille whereas Sweet Pea asks for a small bowl without eggplant. I make a few dishes with eggplant and occasionally she will eat one or two pieces but she’s not a huge fan of the texture. I’ve always been flexible with the foods that the monkeys don’t like. However, I continue to serve them and never leave them out of a meal. I firmly believe that you have to try a food at least 10 times before you can say you don’t like it. And that’s not just for kids! Grown-ups too. Our palates change over time and you never know – you might surprise yourself!

Cómelo todo!

Mediterranean Ratatouille
Serves 6
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Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
45 min
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
45 min
  1. 1/4 cup olive oil
  2. 2 large onions, finely chopped
  3. 4 cloves garlic
  4. 1 large eggplant, cut into 1" cubes
  5. 3-4 medium peppers, cut into 1" chunks
  6. 4-6 small zucchini, cut into 1/4' slices
  7. 5-6 large ripe tomatoes, finely chopped, or 1 28-oz can of diced tomatoes
  8. 1 teaspoon salt
  9. 1 teaspoon coconut or date sugar
  10. 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  1. Warm the oil in a large pot over medium high heat.
  2. When hot, add the onions and garlic and cook for about 10 minutes, or until tender.
  3. Add the eggplant and peppers and cook for 5 minutes longer, stirring frequently.
  4. Add the zucchini, tomatoes (with juice), salt, sugar, and oregano.
  5. Simmer uncovered for about 30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
  6. Adjust the seasonings and serve hot or cold.
  1. - Use organic ingredients whenever possible.
  2. - Cooks beautifully in my dutch oven.
Adapted from Eat Up Slim Down Annual Recipes 2005
Adapted from Eat Up Slim Down Annual Recipes 2005
Under the Monkey Bars
Note: If you’re in the Boston area, definitely look into Boston Organics. We’ve been a customer since last year and have been impressed with the convenience and quality. I absolutely love choosing what we don’t want to receive for produce week to week; the “No List” is the best. Use this code for 10% off your first delivery: 8319bob6jc.

Chalupa: A Weeknight Winner

Chalupa Crock-Pot Recipe

If there’s one thing we’re all lacking, it’s time. I’m always searching for recipes that I can throw together for a no-fuss weeknight dinner. Chalupa fits the bill and is really inexpensive to make. It takes five minutes to put in the crock-pot in the morning and cooks all day without stirring.

I started making this Chalupa recipe years ago — even before we went gluten free. It fits every diet except vegan and vegetarian (obviously!). We’ve served this dish for picky friends who have scraped their bowls clean. The topping bar is such a hit! Kids can add their favorite veggies by the spoonful, making their own unique creation.

Here's Sweet Pea's cheesy bowl of Chalupa. She likes her toppings on the side.

Here’s Sweet Pea’s cheesy bowl of Chalupa. She likes her toppings on the side.

Seven simple ingredients make up this rustic meal. I always recommend using organic ingredients when possible. I buy bags of 365 organic beans at Whole Foods (don’t trust the bulk bins if you have food allergies). The recipe calls for pinto beans but I only had kidney beans when I first made it. We loved the rich pinkish broth, so I kept making it with the kidney beans until recently. The pinto beans create a different flavor with a earthy brown broth. Now I alternate between pinto and kidney, usually letting my monkeys choose.

I stock up on cans of Hatch diced green chiles at Whole Foods because the ingredients are cleaner than the mainstream brands at the grocery store. Buy local pock chops at your Farmer’s Market or try Whole Foods for organic. Frozen pork chops work really well in this recipe. I rarely remember to defrost the chops in advance and the dish comes out the same either way.

Chalupas are traditionally Mexican served in a fried shell, but this recipe is not spicy. You could definitely add a hot pepper for a kick. With its rustic flavor, a bowl of Chalupa is perfect for any season. Chalupa tastes even more delicious with fresh cilantro, tomatoes from the garden, and corn scraped right off the cob. We’re looking forward to some Chalupa nights on the patio with friends this summer!

Serves 8
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Prep Time
5 min
Prep Time
5 min
  1. 2 pounds boneless pork chops
  2. 1 pound dry pinto or kidney beans (soaked overnight)
  3. 1 teaspoon oregano
  4. 1 tablespoon cumin
  5. 1 heaping teaspoon garlic powder
  6. 1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  7. 1 can of green chiles
  8. filtered water to fill the pot, about 5 cups
Topping bar ideas
  1. avocado
  2. fresh cilantro
  3. grated cheddar cheese
  4. chopped tomatoes
  5. chopped peppers
  6. chopped red onion or scallions
  7. organic corn
  8. sour cream
  1. Soak the beans overnight.
  2. Drain the beans and put them in a 6 quart crock-pot.
  3. Add filtered water to cover beans plus 1 inch more.
  4. Add spices and green chiles. Top with pork chops. The chops don’t need to be totally covered with water. It will create more liquid as it cooks.
  5. Cook in crock-pot for about 8 hours on low.
  6. Before serving, shred the pork chops.
  7. Serve with your favorite toppings.
  1. - If you serve with corn chips, you may always have to serve with corn chips. Little monkeys have good memories!
  2. - This recipe feeds my family of four plus 6 cups of leftovers that go straight into the freezer in a glass container.
  3. - I use garlic powder so that my fingers don't smell like garlic at 8am. Fresh chopped garlic tastes great too.
Under the Monkey Bars
Cómelo todo!