I am in love with this new blog that I found – 100 Days of Real Food. And when I say I’m in love, I really mean it, I’m totally in love with everything about this blog. Before I get started, please note that I currently have a batch of Skinny Peanut Butter Chocolate Swirl Brownies cooling on my counter. In saying that, I will point out that these are Skinny….with natural ingredients (for the most part), but we’ll cover that in tomorrow’s post. So what’s eating real food you might ask? This means cutting out highly processed or refined foods. Okay, so I don’t think I’ll be able to cut out EVERYTHING. It’s been a struggle to eliminate Splenda from my morning coffee and tea, but I’ve done it. The hardest part is cutting out my diet coke…I only have one a day…but after this case is gone (only a few left, promise!) I will also be eliminating all artificial sweeteners and sugars. I will avoid anything from a jar, can, or box, and if I have to go that route, I will try to stick with the organic option. It’s a work in progress, I know. But I am slowly getting there. Today I spent some time at the grocery store and I’m REALLY happy with what I found in the organic section. This post will have two recipes – and each recipe has 100% real food (I think? Still new to this..) – nothing highly process or refined. They all taste amazing, and I really need to share. The recipes I’m sharing today include: Chicken Marsala with Fettuccine Alfredo and Penne with a Spicy Red Sauce and a side of Meatballs. So. Flipping. Good.
I’ll start with tonight’s dinner and work my way back. So tonight we had homemade meatballs served with whole wheat organic penne and topped with a spicy red pasta sauce. I so wanted to make my own sauce, but the recipe I had would have taken a bit too long, and since I started cooking around six, I wanted to eat before my bedtime. So I searched the organic section for an organic pasta sauce. The sauce I found has no added sugar and all natural ingredients. You can find more info about the sauce here. What I like about this sauce is how little ingredients there are: tomatoes, onions, EVOO, salt, basil and pepper. I think the rule of thumb is usually five ingredient or less is best, but I’m okay with the sixth ingredient being pepper, no harm in that right? I first sauteed some red pepper flakes on medium heat in oil, then added about a cup of coarsely chopped spinach. Once the spinach was wilted and well coated with the oil, I added the jar of organic pasta sauce to the skillet. I let the sauce simmer while I cooked the meatballs. Once the meatballs we done I added 4 cups of whole wheat organic penne noodles and mixed until the noodles were well coated with the sauce.
I was a little skeptical before making the meatballs, mainly because I had never heard of adding carrots to a meatball. That’s strange to me. But this journey is all about trying new things for me, so I decided to take a chance and make them and I am so glad that I did. No part of me was disappointed. You can find the full recipe here. The recipe yielded twelve 2 oz meatballs, and I imagine substituting the beef for turkey would also be an option. I have never made meatballs before, and I’m happy that these were so easy to create. One thing i had a hard time finding was whole wheat bread crumbs. I definitely had no time to make my own, and I could seem to find them anywhere in the grocery store. I did some googling and found that rice bread crumbs work just fine, and they are dairy and gluten free which is always a plus. They did not compromise the taste of the ball. One thing I did find is that because I don’t own a food processor (surprising, I know), I had a hard time getting the carrots small enough. I grated them, and then chopped them into finer pieces, but I sure did miss a few, and that resulted in a slight crunch when biting into my meat balls of awesomeness. This didn’t bother me in the slightest but next time I think I’ll pick up a food processor to do the job. I finished off the dish by covering the meatballs with the sauce, and then topping everything off with some shaved fresh Parmesan. I’ve developed a serious appreciation for grating Parmesan… there’s something satisfying about doing it yourself. It takes FOREVER though, which is why I really need one of those little grater things, you know, where you put the cheese in a little container of sorts and then just turn a handle and it does the grating for you? Ya I REALLY need one of those. Like badly.
Whole Wheat Penne and Meatballs
Makes 12 meatballs (2 oz. each), approximately 100 calories per meatball (if using extra lean ground beef)
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 egg, beaten
- ⅓ cup whole-wheat bread crumbs
- ⅓ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- ½ cup carrot bits (you can grind them in a food processor, grate then dice them, or mince them)
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 ½ teaspoons red wine vinegar
- 1 ½ teaspoons soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Crushed red pepper, to taste
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
- Mix together all ingredients in a large bowl (I used my hands for this part)
- Generously grease a baking sheet with olive oil. And I mean generously, these things will stick if you don’t)
- Roll the beef mixture into 2 oz. meatballs. Place them in rows onto the greased baking sheet.
- Bake for 9 – 11 minutes or until brown all the way through.
- Serve meatballs on top of cooked noodles and warm pasta sauce. Garnish with extra Parmesan cheese if desired.
Pretty simple. And all real food. Which is exciting. An not bad calorically either, as long as you’re using extra lean ground beef (95% lean meat) your calories stay relatively low. Onward to my next pasta dish, which I made last Friday night. It was really REALLY good. I am a sucker for Chicken Marsala, but I’ve found that every time I order it in a restaurant, it’s heavily breaded, or there’s too much sauce and mushrooms, or it just doesn’t taste right. So a few months back I decided to make my own and it turned out fantastic. I adapted the recipe from Allrecipes.com. The only big change I had to make, was choosing all organic veggies, and using whole wheat flour instead of all purpose flour. Another change I made was the cook time. I like my chicken tender. Melt in your mouth tender. So I cooked in on low for much longer than the recommended 10 minutes, more like 20 minutes, and the result is fantastic. This chicken tastes like it’s been slow cooked, that’s how tender it is. The increased cook time gives the sauce a chance to seep into the meat, making this Chicken Marsala much better than anything I’ve ever ordered at a restaurant. I served it with Fettuccine Alfredo, a recipe I got from 100 Days of Real Food. You can find it here.
Chicken Marsala with Fettuccine Alfredo
Serves 4, approximately 286 calories per serving.
- 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
- 1/2 cup Marsala wine
- In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, garlic salt, pepper, and oregano.
- Dredge chicken in the mixture to lightly coat.*
- Heat olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Fry the chicken in the skillet for 2 minutes, or until lightly browned on one side. Turn chicken over, and add mushrooms. Cook about 2 minutes, until other side of chicken is lightly browned. Stir mushrooms so that they cook evenly.
- Pour Marsala wine over the chicken. Cover skillet, and reduce heat to low; simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, depending on how you like your chicken, or until chicken is no longer pink and juices run clear.
*Note: I always tenderize my chicken when making this recipe. I find it cooks much better. Place chicken breast in zip-lock bags and tenderize with a meat tenderizer until approximately 1/2 an inch thick.
For the Alfredo Sauce, you will need only three ingredients: butter, heavy whipping cream, and Parmesan cheese (finely grated). Melt 2 tbsp. butter and 2/3 cup of the heavy cream in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Once the cream and butter start to chicken (after a few minutes) add 4 cups of cooked Fettuccine noodles to the sauce. Turn heat to medium low and add an additional 1/3 cup of the heavy cream and 2/3 cup of Parmesan. Serve immediately. Garnish with Parmesan cheese and sautéed vegetables if desired. I sautéed mushrooms, onions, and spinach to top off the meal, with my Marsala Chicken on the side of course. The Alfredo sauce and cup of cooked noodles will run you about 442 calories.
So, fantastic recipes and ALL REAL FOOD. Very exciting. You want to know what else is exciting? My peanut butter and chocolate swirl SKINNY brownies, that I will be posting about tomorrow. They are amazing and I cannot wait to share the recipe. Get this – incredibly simple. Took 10 minutes to prep and 25 to bake. Perfect if you’re short on time and are they ever fudgy. Happy Baking!