For the majority of my life, I was a 50/50 girl: 50% health nut, 50% eat-whatever-I-want. To me, "it's all about balance" was a way to justify eating way more junk food than I knew I should be eating. I thought it was cute. Mathematics aside, 50/50 is NOT balance. Think about it: can you really give just 50% effort to your training for a big race and expect to place (or even finish)? Can you decide to study only 50% of the material for an important exam and expect to do well?
In wellness, and in most situations, balance is about doing your best the majority of the time and being okay with the fact that the rest of the time doesn't have to be perfect: rest, learn, and, well, eat-whatever-you-want.
Ever since I woke up and realized that a green smoothie on Sunday (followed by mimosas and pancakes at brunch) isn't going balance out my five PBRs and large pizza from Saturday, I've made it a point to recreate all of my favorite "treats" into things that I can be happy about eating, and have slowly become more of an 85/15 girl. I feel better, I'm happier, and I'm still eating whatever I want.. like these nachos:
A friend of mine recently posted a paleo-friendly version of nachos on Instagram, and I loved his idea of using thinly sliced and baked sweet potatoes in place of crisps! Genius. Once I saw it, my brain started spinning with ideas for my own version. Before I knew it, I was in the kitchen. Here's what I came up with:
- The crisps: sweet potatoes, thinly sliced & baked to perfection. Obviously, not my idea. Thanks, Bob!
- The meat: my raw/vegan walnut and chickpea* "taco crumbles." Yes, the walnuts add a significant amount of fat, but they're those "good fats" that everyone is talking about.
- The cheese: leftover butternut squash "cheese sauce" from my Healthier Mac & Cheese.
- The toppings: diced tomatoes, avocado, and jalapenos. Classic, and in no need of an upgrade.
These nachos are amazing. Aside from being delicious and perfect for a Netflix binge for the big game, they're filling in a good way: they fill you up without making you feel like a slob, and you stay fuller longer (so you're not constantly pausing your episodes or missing plays to raid the cabinets for everything/anything else to eat).
Vegan, Gluten-Free, Paleo* // Serves 2
- 2 Sweet Potatoes (I used one purple and one jewel)
- 1-2 Tablespoons Coconut or Olive Oil
- 1 Tomato, diced
- 1 Avocado, diced
- Handful of Cilantro, to garnish
(For the "Taco Meat")
* If you are paleo, omit the chickpeas and sub coconut aminos for the soy sauce.
- 2 Cups Walnuts
- 1 Cup Chickpeas
- 1 Tablespoon Soy Sauce (I used Nama Shoyu)
- 2.5 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 1 Clove Garlic
- Spice Blend: 2 Teaspoons Chili Powder, 1/2 Teaspoon Cumin, 1/2 Teaspoon Paprika, 1/2 Teaspoon Turmeric, 1/2 Teaspoon Coriander, a few twists Freshly Ground Pepper
- 2/3 Teaspoon Kelp with Cayenne (see photo, optional, but awesome! This is in place of salt)
(For the Butternut Squash Cheese Sauce)
If you made my Healthier Mac & Cheese, you'll have the perfect amount left over for this! If you're just making this, you can follow the recipe below, and either cut the recipe down to 1/3 or make it as-is and save the rest for a Mac & Cheese night, to mix into pasta, or to smother on sprouted bread with mashed avocado and Sriracha on a chili night!
- 1/2 Medium-Sized Butternut Squash (roughly 2 cups)
- 1 Teaspoon Olive Oil
- 1 Can Full-Fat Organic Coconut Milk (~13 oz)
- 1/2 Cup Cashews, soaked for 2+ hours
- 1/2 Yellow Onion, sliced
- 2 Cloves Garlic, minced
- 1 Cup Nutritional Yeast
- 2 Tablespoons Coconut Oil
- 2 Tablespoons Whole-Grain Mustard (or your favorite Dijon)
- Juice from 1/2 Lemon
- 1 teaspoon Turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon Paprika
- Pinch of Cayenne Pepper & Sea or Pink Salt
- Freshly Ground Black Pepper
- Optional: 2-4 drops of Liquid Smoke for a deeper flavor (this was a last-minute addition and was pretty good!)
(If making the cheese sauce, skip to step 6, begin there, and then jump back up to step 1 once complete)
1. Preheat your oven to 275.
2. Wash, dry, and thinly slice the sweet potatoes into rounds. You may opt to use a mandoline if you have one, but be careful!
3. In a large bowl, toss the rounds with 1-2 Tablespoons Coconut or Olive Oil to coat.
4. Place the rounds on lightly greased baking sheets in a single layer and bake, flipping halfway through. Mine took about :30 on each side, but play around! Every oven is different. Once the rounds begin to brown and curl at the edges, remove from heat and set aside to cool and crisp!
5. In a food processor, combine walnuts, chickpeas, soy sauce, olive oil, spice blend, and garlic and pulse to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning if desired.
6. If making cheese sauce, follow the directions below. Otherwise, skip to step 7.
- Begin by roasting your squash (you can choose to boil peeled and cubed squash for 20 minutes to save time, although I love the flavor that roasting brings out of it! Plus, I think it smells like creme brulee!). Preheat your oven to 450.
- Place halved and seeded squash onto a lined baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil (about 1 teaspoon). Rub the oil in to cover the squash. Bake for 1 hour, and set aside to cool completely.
- Warm a skillet over medium heat. Add coconut oil, onions, and garlic, and saute. Stir occasionally. Cook until fragrant, golden, and slightly translucent, about 5+ minutes.
- If squash has cooled, use an ice-cream scoop or spoon to scoop flesh out of squash. Add to blender.
- Add the remaining ingredients: coconut milk, cashews, onion and garlic mixture, nutritional yeast, lemon, mustard, and spices to blender and blend to combine. Taste. Adjust seasoning as desired.
7. Assemble! Layer the sweet potato crisps at the bottom of your dish, top with walnut and chickpea crumbles, tomatoes, and avocados, and pour on the cheese sauce! Garnish with cilantro and any extra toppings that you love!
Approximate Nutrition Facts for 1 Serving (Makes 2, facts for half plate of Nachos + half of 1/3 Cup of Cheese Sauce):
Remember, these numbers don't include all of the vitamins, minerals, and other goodness that you're getting instead of heavy, greasy.. stuff.
1300 Calories | 100g Fat | 70g Carbs | 25g Fiber | 13g Sugar | 33g Protein | 650mg Sodium