insanely delish comfort food (that’s also vegan & gluten-free)!

Two years ago, I was living proof of the adage, “Never trust a skinny chef.” I was experimenting a lot in the kitchen and cooking rather fabulous meals 3 to 5 nights a week, usually indulging in seconds because everything tasted so good, and found myself 15ish pounds heavier in less than a year’s time. Previously, I had experienced spurts of “clean eating,” yet never found it to be sustainable because boiled chicken and brown rice with sriracha are boring as hell. Wanting to shed my pretend freshman 15 while preserving a joy of eating presented a new challenge: how to cook super healthy food that is also delicious?!

After consulting the internet dot com, I chose Bon Appetit’s The Food Lover’s Cleanse cookbook as my new guru. The first thing I love about this cookbook is that it is not a cleanse. True cleanses are stupid, in my very humble and professional opinion. Your body needs food everyday to function properly, so don’t skip out on meals, pretty please. The brain alone burns 20% of all calories consumed daily, which is 300-400 calories (depending on your diet), so it’s imperative to fuel your body with enough nutrients to function properly.

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Buy this cookbook. Seriously. You’re welcome.

Another thing I love about The Food Lover’s Cleanse is the way it is organized by season, each having a two-week plan. I have yet to follow any two-week plan to the T, yet have used a ton of recipes from the cookbook, several of which are now on regular rotation in my kitchen! My absolute fave recipe in the cookbook is a romesco sauce which I paired with two other healthy food staples to create insanely delish, healthy, comfort food. As a result of making my culinary creations healthy, along with a lot of exercise, I did lose that freshman 15 plus some. Eating clean never tasted or looked better.

Zucchini Noodles with Roasted Portobello and Romesco is just as comforting as spaghetti and meatballs, yet gluten-free, vegan, and low-fat. Hope you enjoy!

Ingredients (serves 2)

Zucchini Noodles:

2 zucchini

6 cups filtered water

Roasted Portobello Mushrooms:

3 portobello mushrooms, stems removed

1 clove garlic, diced

2 tbsp. fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

2 tbsp. olive oil

1/4 tsp. kosher salt

freshly cracked black pepper

Romesco Sauce (adapated from Bon Appetit’s The Food Lover’s Cleanse)

1 bell pepper

2 medium tomatoes

6 cloves garlic

1 tsp. kosher salt

1/2 cup almonds

2 tbsp. + 1/4 cup olive oil

1 tsp. white vinegar

1 tsp. chili powder

*balsamic glace for garnish, such as Colavita brand

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Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Remove stem from bell pepper, cut in half and remove seeds. Place on sheet pan and roast in oven for 20 to 30 minutes, turning once.

Place almonds on another sheet pan and toast in oven for about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and cool before roughly chopping, then set aside.

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The original romesco recipe calls for almonds and hazelnuts, but using whichever nuts you have in the pantry is just fine.

In a medium saucepan over medium high heat, brown garlic cloves in 2 tbsp. of olive oil for about 2 to 3 minutes. While garlic is cooking, core and roughly chop tomatoes then add to saucepan with 1 tsp. of kosher salt. Sautee for at least 5 minutes, or until sauce becomes thick. Remove from heat and set aside.

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The garlic should be browned, but not burned for romesco sauce.

Thoroughly wash and dry portobello mushrooms, remove stems, cut into 1 inch slices and then cut in half. Put mushrooms in a large mixing bowl and add diced garlic, parsley, kosher salt, pepper, and olive oil, stirring to combine. Place in a glass dish and roast in oven for 15 minutes.

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The only professional kitchen job I had, my boss taught me how to make these simple yet scrumptious mushrooms. Thanks Kelly!

After the bell pepper is roasted, cut into slices and place 1/4 cup into food processor along with tomato sauce, almonds, 1/4 cup olive oil, vinegar, and chili powder, pureeing until smooth. Adjust salt and vinegar in romesco sauce to taste.

Cut ends off zucchinis and spiralize, using a hand-held spiralizer, such as this fabulous little OXO gadget I found at Sur la Table over the weekend (or a stand up mixer attachment) to create zucchini noodles. Btw, you can win an OXO hand-held spiralizer AND a cute apron PLUS a stainless steel garlic rocker in our first ever giveaway contest! Entry details can be found here.

Wipe out saucepan used for tomatoes and garlic and fill with about 6 cups of filtered water and zucchini noodles. Bring to a slow boil for 2 minutes then drain in colander.

Place zucchini noodles into large mixing bowl with 4 heaping spoonfuls of romesco sauce, stirring to combine.

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Zucchini noodles with romesco sauce.

To plate, place zucchini noodles with romesco sauce in a large bowl then top with roasted portobello mushrooms and drizzle with balsamic glace. If you have an especially athletic appetite, you could add a poached egg for extra protein.

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Roasted portobello mushrooms with lots of fresh flat-leaf parsley and garlic!

This dish is so delish and so healthy, you’ll instantly fall in love!

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Zucchini noodles with roasted portobello mushrooms and romesco.

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