Kelsey Creates a New Lifestyle: New Year, New Beginnings

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Hello friends, Happy January.  I have to apologize for my lack of recipe sharing – I have a few reasons for that.  To be completely honest, I’ve been avoiding you.  Why? Well. Do you ever feel completely and incredibly overwhelmed?  Like there aren’t enough hours in the day to do what you need to do, while still been able to do what you want to do?  Before Christmas I was seriously doubting whether or not I would make it through the holidays.  With school on top of working 40 hours a week plus trying to get all my baking/shopping/meal preparing/party-planning/all-the-unnecessary-holiday-stresses-we-put-on-ourselves-every-year stuff, I got tired, I took on too much, neglected myself and didn’t take anytime to relax – I didn’t take any me time.  I was exhausted, stressed and grumpy.  I won’t lie – there were a few times that I cried a little.  Any I know, I was being crazy – I know this due to the look on my poor boyfriend’s face after I burst into tears while putting up Christmas lights because half of them were burned out.  I’m talking major crocodile tears, a little sobbing – it was all very dramatic.  Perhaps it was because I was under so much pressure with studying for my upcoming finals, that I felt my head was going to pop off, or because I’m a perfectionist and things, well, weren’t perfect, or maybe it was even because as an only child, I like things to go my way and have a tendency to have a temper tantrum when they don’t.  Either way, I was a complete basket case and needed to find a way to figure my shit out – for my own good, and everyone else’s.  I was a stress ball, a stress-y McStresserton, a flipping grump.  It’s like I ate a big giant batch of frownies (I wish I could take credit for that last one).

SO one morning, after Christmas and after about ten people’s worth of food in just a few short days, I was laying in bed – and I had an epiphany.  Okay, not really… I had this epiphany a long time ago, I just refused to realize it until now.  Let’s jump back a little bit.  When I was young… I was a little chubby.  And, by chubby, I mean I was really overweight.  My mother (god bless her soul) called it baby fat and told me I was big boned.  And, I believed her for a very long time.  I believed that, in time, I would be a normal sized little girl, just like my other classmates, and that my size had nothing to do with the bags of Doritoz or Ice Cream Sandwiches that I would devour on a regular basis, or the high sugar fruit punch I was obsessed with, or…any of the other sugar packed, high fructose corn syrup infused boxes of pre-packaged poison that I ingested every single day.  I was young, I didn’t know any better, and honestly, neither did my mom.

I’ve struggled with my weight all my life.  I’m a yo-yo dieter.  A diet whore.  I have been around my friends, like REALLY been around, I have tried them all and let me tell you, they all failed.  I will calorically starve my body, and then binge on whatever form of sustenance is in my kitchen – from stale pita bread to half a brick of cheese.  I’m a stress eater, a food lover and, well as my blog indicates, I love everything that has to do with cake batter, icing sugar and sprinkles.  I am always looking for a quick way to lose weight – but I’ve never actually said, hey, why don’t I cut the crap and make a commitment to be healthy instead of trying every fad diet I can get for free on the internet.  And when I say failed, I don’t mean I didn’t lose weight, of course I lost weight you silly geese I was likely consuming under 1000 calories a day, drinking my college freshman face off, AND (dare I say it) controlling my appetite by smoking cigarettes (don’t worry friends, I kicked that nasty habit 1 year and 5 months ago).  But of course, I would also yo-yo on right back up to an uncomfortable weight because, after a while, I just didn’t feel like depriving myself of all the yummy treats I was missing out on (and like… you know, real food, not plain cottage cheese and cucumber pita sandwiches).

In the past two years I have not bothered to make a serious effort to live a healthy lifestyle, and in all honesty it’s making me tired, and sick, and fat, and I hate it.  I don’t feel like me.  Every year I make a new years resolution to get skinny, well this year I want to get healthy.

A few confessions:
1. I don’t like it when people tell me that I don’t need to lose weight because I am skinny enough – I have gained 20 pounds in the last year and a half and I get winded walking up a flight of stairs… if that’s not the picture of health I don’t know what is.

2. I love everything deep fried and everything sugar packed, I just don’t like how I feel after eating it.

3. I have never committed to a fitness plan for more than a month (and in that month I am likely not consistent), because, like, I hate sweating n’ stuff.

4. I hate meat in my salads.  Try me – I will attempt them all.  But in the end, chicken, or beef, or some form of meat on my wonderfully leafy and fresh greens? Heck no.

5. I am a Monday diet starter and a procrastinator.  I like excuses, especially if that excuse allows me to skip a workout.

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Promises I am making to myself (and my readers!)
1. I promise I will not turn this in to a crazy, body building health nut blog – I mean, I’m committed but not THAT committed.  Like, I’d kill for six pack but I won’t give up carbs or try to suffocate my sweet tooth.

2. I promise not to whine, pout or complain about having to go to the gym instead of playing Xbox, or skipping dessert… well, I’ll try.

3. I promise to fill your life with salads, leafy greens, healthy snacks, skinny treats and homemade everything.

4. I promise to search high and low for healthy pizza crust, sugar free muffins, and low calorie cupcakes.

5. I promise this will be fun – not boring, bland or depressing. This will be an adventure.  Kelsey’s super cool healthy food search adventure! Orrrrr Kelsey’s wicked awesome adventure of incredibly tasty and nutritious food! Pick one.. it’ll grow on you.

I was on a three week blogging hiatus – and for that, I’m sorry, but I needed to, like I mentioned earlier, figure out my shit, and decide what was important to me.  I wasn’t making myself, or my health a priority, and I feel awful.  Eat like shit feel like shit.  You are what you eat. “Insert healthy eating quote here.”

It’s on like DONKEY KONG!

Chicken Fajitas with Homemade Flour Tortillas

It’s Monday (BOOO!!!). My least favourite day of the week.  I don’t mean to make this post a whiny one, but I can’t help but be grumpy on Mondays.  I always wake up extra tired and I avoid all conversation until I get at least one cup of coffee in.  Luckily, thanks to my current career choice as an administrative assistant, I rarely have to commit to any type of conversation before 10 a.m. on a Monday morning, and based on the reactions of my co-workers, I’m sure they don’t care either way.  My job has it’s ups and downs.  Sometimes it’s hard for me to like my job (when it’s so slow that I feel I have to create work for myself….it’s brutal and super boring), but other times I love my job (when it’s so busy that I barely have time to sit for lunch), either way, it’s a pretty good place to work and I get to work alongside a bunch of really great people.  Another great part about my job is that I get to be a part of my office’s social committee, meaning I get to plan a lot of really great events, such as the Friday afternoon beer tasting with our local brewery Stack Brewing.  It was tones of fun and we got to try four of their wonderful (and preservative free) beer.  As an organizer, I got to take home one full unopened beer, which given their large bottles was the equivalent of almost three beers, as well as any opened beers (I picked up an almost full bottle of a very dark been that I thought my boyfriend would really like).

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Ken and I spent most of our weekend at home.  I’ve been increasingly finding myself huddled up on my couch as the colder weather is starting to set in.  It was a rainy, gloomy weekend so I pretty well hibernated.  Weekends are often when I will make any new recipes, and despite my hibernation, I did attempt one new real food recipe that I would like to share.  Chicken Fajitas with Homemade Flour Tortillas.  I got the fajita recipe from Pamela Salzman and the Flour Tortilla Recipe from 100 Days of Real Food.  I was VERY happy with how everything turned out, and was pretty proud of my self for successfully making flour tortillas with only 3 ingredients (it was easy-ish, getting the tortilla shape was the biggest challenge, and some of my tortillas were…well let’s just say there were other shapes aside from circles).

The first step was to make the marinade for the Chicken:

  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper or to taste
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • ½ cup fresh lime juice
  • ¼ cup unrefined, cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped cilantro (optional)
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into small chunks

Mix all ingredients together in a non-reactive container (like glass).  Add chicken, cover and refrigerate for at least one hour.  Since I’m barbecue-less, I opted to cook my chicken in a skillet.  Cooke the chicken for a few minutes on each side on medium heat, then cover to ensure the chicken cooks through.  I let the chicken cook on medium for about eight minutes.

Once the chicken was done, I placed it in the over at about 200F degrees to keep it warm.  Then, I moved on to the Flour Tortillas.

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Homemade Flour Tortillas

Ingredients:

  • 2½ cups whole-wheat flour
  • ½ cup oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup warm water (heat in the microwave for 1 min)

Instructions:

  1. In the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer set with a dough hook, pour in the flour, oil and salt. Beat until crumbly, about 3 to 5 minutes, scraping the sides as needed.
  2. With the mixer running, gradually add the warm water and continue mixing until the dough is smooth, about 3 minutes.
  3. Take out the dough and divide it into 12 equal sized pieces. You can do this by making the dough into a big log shape that is about 8 – 10 inches long. Then cut it in the middle and then  each of those pieces in the middle and so on until you have 12 pieces.  I found this part difficult as the dough was really sticky.  So I added a lot of flour on my counter and hands in order to divide the dough.
  4. Using the palms of your hand roll each piece into a round ball and flatten it out on a baking tray or board. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for at least 15 minutes or up to one hour.
  5. Heat a skillet over med-high heat. The pan should be fairly hot before you begin cooking the tortillas.
  6. On a lightly floured board or counter top, use a rolling pin to turn each ball into a 8 to 10 inch flat circle (measure against your recipe if printed on a 8.5X11 sheet of paper). Be careful not to use more than a teaspoon or two of flour when rolling out each ball into a tortilla because too much excess flour will burn in the pan.  I don’t think I actually ever got any of my balls of dough this big. they were still a little sticky and I wasn’t able to roll them out this big, but I averaged about 6 inches.
  7. Grease the pan with a touch of oil and then carefully transfer each tortilla, one at a time, to the pan and cook until puffy and slightly brown, about 30 to 45 seconds per side.  Use very little oil as it will be absorbed into the tortilla.  Set aside on a plate to cool slightly. Eat within an hour, refrigerate or freeze

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While the tortillas were sitting for their 15 minutes, I sauteed some sliced red peppers, onion, mushrooms, and jalapenos in a skillet with a little bit of oil.  I also made some homemade guacamole by crushing up an avocado and adding some lime juice and fresh cilantro into a bowl.  Along with the Sauteed veggies and guacamole, I served the Fajitas with fresh spinach, some hot sauce, and then topped it off with shredded cheese.

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The fajitas were amazing.  I think Ken and I will be doing this once a week for sure.  It doesn’t take much time and the result is extremely satisfying. I’m actually pretty proud of myself for making the flour tortillas.  They tasted really really really good and only about a half hour of my time from start to finish.  So, try it! It’s fantastic! Happy Baking.

Jalapeno Cheddar Burger with Turkey Bacon and Spicy Ranch Sauce

photo 5 (1)Anyone who knows me understands that I absolutely love spicy food.  I include jalapenos, red pepper flakes, chili peppers, cayenne pepper or any type of spice that will increase the heat of whatever I’m eating every chance I get.  And yes, I use Franks Red, and I literally do put that sh*t on everything.  Last year, after months and months of downing veggie burgers every chance I got, I re-discovered my love for real, 100% beef burgers.  As a child I was a simple burger girl, meaning I wanted a bun, a burger patty, and lots of ketchup. But as I’m growing so is my palette, and the plain old ketchup burger just isn’t working for me anymore.  I love jalapenos on my burgers, especially with cheese.  It cuts the spice so it’s not too overpowering but your burger still has a bite.  So, thanks to my almost preservative free household, I realized the other day that I’d likely have to start making my own burger patties.  I haven’t done this before successfully. I want to make a burger, and when people eat it, they’re like “Wow Kelsey, you rock my freaking socks off.”  I sat and pondered and thought, what do I love on a burger?  And then I thought, how can I keep it real? So the answer to my first question: cheese, bacon, some sort of tasty sauce, spicy jalapenos, onions.  And to my second: homemade patties, grass fed beef, turkey bacon, homemade sauce.  And so my beef burger making adventure began…

The first thing I did was go on an intense search for the perfect recipe (not really, I literally googled “Jalapeno burgers” and then switched it up a bit to make it my own.  I added onion, jalapeno, cayenne pepper, Worcestershire sauce, rice bread crumbs (I’m sure any bread crumbs will do) and 1 egg to my 1 lb of beef.  I made seven 4.5 oz burgers.  They were gone in 3 days. My boyfriend loved them so much he had seconds both Friday and Saturday.  I had the last one for lunch on Sunday.  They are, quite frankly, burgers that make you go “Wow, Kelsey, you rock my freaking socks off.” If I do say so myself.  I glazed the burgers with my guy’s favourite barbecue sauce.

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I fried the burgers in a skillet. I longed for a barbecue over the weekend, but unfortunately that would violate the building code in my apartment complex, so I settled on my stove and plan on bringing these babies to camp this winter in hopes that we can see the barbecue before next spring.  I served the burgers with a side of sweet potato fries,  I coated the fries with cornstarch before drizzling with olive oil and my favourite spices, as this helps crisp them up.

For the sweet potato fries….

 1 sweet potato per person
2 tsp cornstarch per large sweet potato
1 tbsp olive oil per large potato
Your favourite seasonings: I use cinnamon and cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes
Cut the sweet potatoes into thin fry like shapes.  Coat in cornstarch.  Toss in olive oil and then season.  Line a baking sheet with foil.  Try to separate the fries from each other, if they are too close together they will not crisp up, only steam.  Check out Sally’s Baking Addiction – that’s where I nabbed the cornstarch trick!

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For the spicy ranch sauce…

 1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 green onions, finely chopped
1 tablespoon minced seeded jalapeño
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

I got this recipe here.  It made ALOT of spicy ranch dressing (and this is the recipe already halved!) I plan on halving this recipe once more next time I make it, and reducing the amount of lime juice in the sauce.  Otherwise, it was fantastic and added a lot of taste to the burger.

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While the burgers were cooking I fried up some turkey bacon.  I used one strip per burger.  I am a HUGE fan of turkey bacon.  I love chewy bacon, not crispy bacon, or fatty bacon, but chewy bacon, which is why I died and went to heaven when I found turkey bacon.  It’s pretty well always chewy and has virtually no fat.

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For the jalapeño burgers…

 1 lb. of extra lean ground beef
1/4 large onion, diced
2 jalapenos, seeded and diced
1/4 cup fresh parsley
2 tbps. Worschestershire sauce
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/8 cup rice bread crumbs (or any bread crumbs)
1 egg

Cooking Directions:

1. Mix all ingredients together.  Using your hands is likely the easiest.  I diced the onion and jalapenos in my food processor.

2. Form the beef mixture into 4.5 oz patties. Next time I might make 5 oz. patties.  The patties shrunk quite a bit. Glaze with your fave BBQ sauce, or make your own!

3.  If using a skillet, cook covered on each side for 5 to 6 minutes.  Remove from heat, drain grease from the skillet, and then place back in skillet.  Place a slice of cheese on each burger patty  and continue to cook (covered) until cheese is melted.  Top with cooked bacon.

4. Garnish the burger with your favourite toppings and then covered with the spicy ranch sauce.  Serve on a whole wheat bun.

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No doesn’t that just look like the best burger you ever saw?  I serve my sweet potato fries with spicy ketchup (i.e., ketchup mixed with hot sauce…yummy). I am very happy with my first burger making experience!  Happy Baking!

Kelsey Bakes takes a Pledge to Eat Real Food

photo 1 (3)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.photo 1 (3)

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 photo 2 (3)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.

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Whole Wheat Penne and Meatballs

Makes 12 meatballs (2 oz. each), approximately 100 calories per meatball (if using extra lean ground beef)

Ingredients

  • 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

Cooking Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Mix together all ingredients in a large bowl (I used my hands for this part)
  3. Generously grease a baking sheet with olive oil.  And I mean generously, these things will stick if you don’t)
  4. Roll the beef mixture into 2 oz. meatballs. Place them in rows onto the greased baking sheet.
  5. Bake for 9 – 11 minutes or until brown all the way through.
  6. 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, photo 2 (5)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

Ingredients

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

Cooking Instructions

  1. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, garlic salt, pepper, and oregano.
  2. Dredge chicken in the mixture to lightly coat.*
  3. 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.
  4. 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 andphoto 1 (2) 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!