Let’s Talk About The Mediterranean Meal Plan Cookbook with Neda Varbanova

We are in for such a treat today because Neda Varbanova is here to talk about her new cookbook and give us a taste with FOUR of her favorite recipes from it. (Did you spot the two puns?)

Anyway, you may know Neda as @healthywithnedi on Instagram where she shares tons of healthy cooking ideas, easy recipes, the cutest ever trips with her Grandma and her super cute outfits too.

Lauryn and her met years ago in New York City over cucumber martinis (Nedi’s specialty), and since then Neda has come on the blog twice, here and here, to share healthy recipes with The Skinny Confidential community. She is a bright light in the influencer space, meaning she is so positive & encouraging. We’re so happy to welcome her back to the blog today.

Let’s let Neda take over to talk about he Mediterranean Meal Plan Cookbook.


Tell us about The Mediterranean Meal Plan Cookbook – who is the audience?

Neda Varbanova: I’m so excited to have published The Mediterranean Meal Plan Cookbook. The book is a culmination of an entire lifetime of cooking Mediterranean-inspired recipes in the kitchen with my mother and grandmother from Bulgaria to Athens and New York City, and my work creating Healthy with Nedi – my healthy lifestyle and nutrition brand.

The recipes aren’t just salads and smoothies (though it does include a few), rather a collection of hearty, delicious, Mediterranean-inspired recipes that also happen to be healthy. Some recipes are low-carb, some are gluten-free, and all of the recipes are made from fresh and wholesome foods. The recipes are easy to follow and could truly please anyone. 

I created the book so that anyone can enjoy it — from the everyday healthy eater to people who simply love good food. If you’re trying to eat healthier in 2023, this book is perfect for you. The recipes are healthy without sacrificing flavor and the benefits are tremendous. I’ve seen people who shift to a Mediterranean-inspired lifestyle to experience all sorts of benefits, including feeling happier, becoming more energized, getting better sleep, experiencing radiant skin, and improving digestion and weight loss efforts. 

What if we want to eat healthy, but find it difficult?

NV: Just start cooking one wholesome meal a day or even once per week. Once you start eating healthy meals, you’ll start to feel more energized and will be encouraged to start incorporating healthy meals into all parts of your day. The Mediterranean Meal Plan Cookbook also includes a thirty-day meal plan to help guide you through creating habits around good food choices for people who like to have their meals scheduled. 

What’s your top recommendation for eating healthier in 2023?

NV: Buy my book! Lol, but in all seriousness, for me it comes down to eating real food, spending more time in the kitchen and sharing meals with people that you love. Eating a Mediterranean-style diet is one of the best things you can do for your health. Year after year The Mediterranean Diet is voted one of the-if not the– healthiest diet and the best thing about it is all you need to do is eat real food.

Eating a Mediterranean-inspired diet includes eating meals that are full of fresh vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and lean meats, as well as a bit of indulgence. This style of eating is less about counting calories and more about enjoying the abundance of fresh food. If you start eating fresh, wholesome food for every meal, it is almost guaranteed that you’ll feel more satisfied and full of energy. 

When you cook your own food and share it with your loved ones, not only can you pay attention to what’s going into your meals, you can also find more joy and connection in what you eat.

♡ What are the most common ingredients in The Mediterranean Meal Plan Cookbook?

NV: The most common ingredients in the book are probably high-quality extra-virgin olive oil (look into high phenol olive oil for health btw — the benefits are incredible), leeks, spinach, feta cheese and lemons. These ingredients are simply the foods that I use the most in my kitchen at home and so of course they made their way into all of my favorite dishes.

To say that I am a feta cheese lover is an understatement, lol. I can have feta anytime of the day and I actually love to mix it with sweet and savory dishes. Try the Orange French Toast from my cookbook and sprinkle feta cheese over it. It’s heavenly! 

One of my favorite portions of The Mediterranean Meal Plan Cookbook is a chart that helps you make healthier swaps for common ingredients such as refined white bread, white sugar and dairy products, just to name a few. I really wanted to give the readers all the tools that they need to eat well, feel great and look fabulous. 

Recipes from The Mediterranean Meal Plan Cookbook

I’m so excited to share a few recipes from the cookbook with you. Here are recipes for a low-carb breakfast, a heartwarming starter (the stew), a vegan entrée and a gluten-free dessert that could get you through a whole day of eating the Mediterranean way! Try them out and let me know how it goes — I love to hear about people’s favorite Healthy with Nedi recipes.

Greek Style Eggs with Spinach and Leeks 

{Image credit: Oksana Pali}

These eggs are the perfect dish for breakfast, brunch or a light dinner. There is no better taste than creamy feta with spinach and leeks. It reminds me of spanakopita, but without the extra calories or carbs. This dish is packed with antioxidants and fiber and may reduce inflammation and aid weight loss. When you cook the eggs, watch them carefully, as they are easy to overcook. Turn off the heat when the whites are firm and the yolks are tender and runny. If you prefer the eggs well done, cook them for a few extra minutes.

Makes 6 servings

+ 3 tbsp (45 ml) extra virgin olive oil

+ 3 leeks (white and light green parts), chopped

+ ¼ cup (60 ml) water

+ 1 lb (454 g) fresh baby spinach

+ 3 tbsp (12 g) chopped fresh parsley

+ 2 tbsp (7 g) chopped fresh dill, plus more for garnish if desired

+ Sea salt and pepper to taste

+ 6 eggs

+ ⅓ cup (50 g) crumbled feta cheese, plus more for garnish if desired

+ 1 tsp dried oregano

+ ¼ tsp chili flakes

+ Lemon zest, for garnish, optional


+ Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the leeks and cook for 1 minute, covered. Then add the water and continue cooking for 5 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the leeks are soft. Add the spinach, parsley and dill, and season with salt and pepper. Turn the heat to high and cook for 5 minutes, until the water starts to evaporate. Bring the heat back down to medium.

+ Using a large spoon, form six nests in the mixture and crack one egg into each nest. Sprinkle the feta around the eggs, then do the same with the oregano and chili flakes.

+ Cover the pan and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until the egg whites are cooked but the yolks are soft. (Cook for longer if you prefer the eggs well done.) Serve hot, topped with lemon zest, feta and chopped dill.

Nedi’s Tip:

♡ Frozen spinach can be used in place of the fresh spinach if needed. Thaw it in a bowl or colander and squeeze it with paper towels or your hands over a strainer to remove excess water before using in this dish.

Yiayia’s Meatball Stew with Artichokes

{Image credit: Oksana Pali}

I’ve been dreaming about this stew since I had it last year. I had spent an entire day at the airport in Greece, trying to get on my flight back to New York City. The flight kept getting delayed and finally was canceled in the evening. I headed back to my grandma’s house and she had just finished cooking this meatball stew. I was starving and it felt like the most comforting meal one could have. The next time I visited my yiayia we made the stew together and I’m so glad I got to learn her technique. Cooking together creates so many special memories for me that I know I will treasure forever. I hope you enjoy this dish as much as I do.

Makes 6 servings

+ 2 tbsp (30 ml) extra virgin olive oil

+ 1 leek (white and light green part), chopped

+ 1 medium yellow onion, chopped

+ 1 large carrot, chopped

+ 1 red cubanelle or bell pepper, chopped

+ 8 artichoke bottoms, cut in half (see Nedi’s Tips)

+ 1 large russet potato, peeled and chopped

+ 2 qt (1.9 L) low sodium vegetable broth

+ 2 cups (480 ml) hot water

+ 1 lb 2 oz (500 g) ground beef

+ ½ cup (90 g) dry chickpea rice or regular dry rice (see Nedi’s Tips)

+ 1 tsp cumin

+ 1 tsp pepper

+ ½ tsp turmeric

+ ½ tsp cinnamon

+ ½ tsp smoked paprika

+ ½ tsp oregano

+ ¼ tsp chili flakes

+ Sea salt to taste

+ ½ cup (75 g) gluten-free all-purpose flour blend

+ 3 tbsp (12 g) chopped parsley


+ Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat and add the leek, onion, carrot and pepper. Sauté for a few minutes, until tender. Add the artichoke bottoms and potato and sauté for another 2 minutes. Pour in the vegetable broth and water.

+ In a large bowl, add the ground beef, chickpea rice, cumin, pepper, turmeric, cinnamon, paprika, oregano, chili flakes and salt. Mix well and form small meatballs, about 1 tablespoon (15 g) each. Spread the flour on a plate and lightly roll each meatball in the flour to prevent them from falling apart.

+ Gently toss the meatballs into the stew. Bring to a boil then lower the heat to medium. Cook for an hour, lightly covered. Garnish with the chopped parsley at the end and turn off the heat. Serve while hot and enjoy!

Nedi’s Tips:

♡ Artichoke bottoms can be purchased in cans from Amazon. I always have my pantry stocked with them. They are packed with fiber and nutrients and make a great low-carb substitute for potatoes. If you can’t find artichoke bottoms, one or two additional russet potatoes can be used instead.

♡ Chickpea rice can be found from the brand Banza. I like to use it as it has more protein and fiber than regular rice.

Spaghetti Squash with Lentil Bolognese 

{Image credit: Oksana Pali}

This lentil Bolognese sauce is packed with nutritious ingredients such as onion, garlic, carrots, mushrooms and lentils. The meatless sauce is tasty, hearty and meaty enough that a meat lover won’t complain that anything seems missing. Spaghetti squash is a nutritious winter vegetable that offers lots of fiber, beta carotene and folate. 

Makes 4 servings

+ 1 large spaghetti squash

+ Sea salt and pepper, to taste

+ 4 tbsp (60 ml) extra virgin olive oil, divided

+ 1 medium white onion, finely chopped

+ 1 carrot, finely chopped

+ 3 cloves garlic, minced

+ 2 cups (140 g) cremini mushrooms, chopped

+ 1 (14-oz [397-g]) can cooked lentils, drained and rinsed

+ 1 (14-oz [397-g]) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes

+ 1 cup (240 ml) tomato sauce

+ 2 tsp (8 g) coconut sugar

+ 1 tsp dried oregano

+ 1 tsp dried basil

+ ¼ tsp chili flakes

+ ¼ cup (10 g) chopped fresh basil, plus more for garnish

+ ½ cup (56 g) shredded plant-based mozzarella (I used Daiya)


+ Preheat the oven to 400°F (205°C).

+ Cut the spaghetti squash in half, lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds. Season with a light pinch of salt and pepper, and drizzle with 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of the olive oil. Place the halves cut-side down on a large, rimmed baking sheet, and bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until tender. (Smaller squash will be done sooner than larger squash.) Set the squash aside to cool. When cool enough to handle, use two forks to break up the squash into noodles and place the noodles on a serving plate.

+ Meanwhile, make the lentil Bolognese. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Sauté the onion, carrot and garlic for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the mushrooms and sauté until they begin to soften. Add the lentils, tomatoes and tomato sauce. Stir to combine.

+ Stir in the coconut sugar, oregano, basil and chili flakes. Simmer the sauce for 15 minutes, until it thickens, and all the vegetables are tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Turn the heat off and add the fresh basil. Stir and set aside.

+ Spoon the lentil Bolognese over the spaghetti squash noodles and sprinkle with the mozzarella cheese. Garnish with more fresh basil and enjoy.

Nedi’s Tip:

♡ Try this lentil Bolognese over zucchini noodles, gluten-free spaghetti or in a lasagna.

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Walnuts

{Image credit: Oksana Pali}

This is the most delicious, decadent, flourless chocolate cake that you will ever taste. My mom used to make this cake for birthdays and special family gatherings all the time. We have made the perfect tweaks to make sure it can be enjoyed in this Mediterranean meal guide. The ingredients consist mainly of chocolate, walnuts, eggs, butter and coconut oil. After all, there is no better combination than chocolate and coconut. Chocolate lovers will love this dessert!

Makes 8 servings

+ 6 eggs, at room temperature

+ Pinch of sea salt

+ ½ tsp fresh lemon juice

+ 1½ cups (180 g) walnuts, finely chopped

+ ½ cup (1 stick/114 g) soft butter, plus more to grease the pan

+ ¼ cup (60 ml) coconut oil

+ ½ cup (96 g) coconut sugar

+ 2 tbsp (30 ml) honey

+ 2 tbsp (10 g) cacao powder

+ 1 oz (50 g) dark chocolate

+ Sliced strawberries, for serving, optional


+ Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Grease an 8-inch (20-cm) cake pan with butter and place a piece of parchment paper on the bottom. Cut the paper to fit exactly in the pan.

+ Separate the yolks from the egg whites and place each in separate bowls.

+ In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt and the lemon juice using a mixer until they become white and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the walnuts to the bowl with the egg whites.

+ In a smaller bowl, beat the soft butter, coconut oil, coconut sugar and honey with a mixer. Add the egg yolks and cacao powder and beat until mixed well.

+ Take half of the mixture from the egg yolk bowl and add it to the bowl of egg whites and walnuts. Set aside the other half of the egg yolk mixture.

+ Add the egg white mixture to the prepared pan and bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Insert a toothpick in the cake; if it comes out with no crumbs, the cake is ready.

+ Let the cake cool completely then transfer to a serving platter. When completely cool, spread the remaining egg yolk mixture on top and over the sides. Grate the dark chocolate on top and serve with sliced strawberries if you like.

Nedi’s Tip:

♡ If the walnuts are not already chopped, then add them into a small food processor and pulse until they become finely chopped.

♡ These sound amazing, where can we buy the book?

NV: You can purchase The Mediterranean Meal Plan Cookbook: Simple, Nutritious Recipes to Eat Well, Feel Great and Look Fabulous in most bookstores nationwide.

 I’ll also be hosting a few book signing events in the coming months, follow me on @healthywithnedi to stay updated on new happenings. I’m so excited for everyone to try my recipes and find new favorite meals to eat well, feel great and look fabulous. xo

Mouth. is. watering. That chocolate cake anyone? To die for. We are just so excited to try some of Nedi’s recipes from her brand new cookbook. Be sure to follow Nedi on IG where she shares so many fun cooking videos, and our favorite… grocery store hauls! She finds the coolest stuff.

And keep in mind, try to support your local bookstore if you can! If they don’t carry The Mediterranean Meal Plan Cookbook: Simple, Nutritious Recipes to Eat Well, Feel Great and Look Fabulous you can ask them to order it in.

x, The Skinny Confidential team.

+ checkout Nedi’s favorite recipes for colder weather here.

++ if you’re into cooking, stalk this strawberry cake recipe.

+ Reprinted with permission from The Mediterranean Meal Plan Cookbook by Neda Varbanova. Page Street Publishing Co. 2022. Photo credit: Oksana Pali.


The post Let’s Talk About The Mediterranean Meal Plan Cookbook with Neda Varbanova appeared first on The Skinny Confidential.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published