Kelsey Makes a Change – Month One

Hello Friends! Sorry for the hiatus – I’ve been focusing on finishing my semester.  Come March I will be done until June… woohooo!! It’s been a little over a month since adopting a new, healthy lifestyle, and I have to say it’s much easier to do than what I remember (well, sort of… the workouts not so much).  I remember feeling grumpy when I would watch my friends eat their grease smothered pepperoni pizza, with the cheese pulling off in a long string as though it was straight out of a 90’s cartoon (you know the one)… and the smell, it made me drool.  I wanted to wear it as a perfume.  I scowled as I stared down at my dry and tasteless lightly seasoned chicken breast and side salad (dressing on the side, of course).  I was dreading this transformation.  Of course, I am completely capable of cooking a from scratch, preservative free meal.  But low calorie?  Unless we’re talking chicken and salad or baked salmon and steamed carrots I’m at a loss.  I’ve done TONS of healthy meals in the past, but they’ve never really tasted AMAZING.  Like I wouldn’t make it for a group of people and expect them to fall in love with my culinary skills.  So I’ve been experimenting, and trying to make some of my favourite meals and favourite tastes into something a little less… calorie dense, and I’ve also been looking for healthier recipes from cookbooks (like actual cookbooks… weird, right) and bloggers (the healthy kind).  I’d like to share some of the new recipes I have tried… they’re REALLY yummy.  And just give an update and what I’ve been eating. I’m far from perfect… hey, I’m a foodie. It’s tough to give up some things, but I’m trying and that’s all that matters, right?! Right.

First, lets start with a Spicy Thai Stir Fry.  I love this dish so much.  It was inspired by a a local restaurant – Sizzles, which is a Mongolian-style “build your own stirfry” grill.  SO tasty.  I try to hit it up a few times a month.  For this dish a sauté sugar snap peas and red peppers in a large skillet with olive oil and my favourite cooking sauce (which is Thai, it’s SOOO good – I am on the hunt for a light version).  I usually use about 2 tbsp in the skillet.  In a separate skillet, I cook about 10 oz. of chicken strips in a tad of water and 1 tbsp of the cooking sauce.  Cover and cook on medium, stirring and flipping every few minutes, until chicken is cooked through.  Place 1/2 – 1 cup of gluten free or whole wheat pasta on a plate, top with half the veggies and half the chicken (this recipe serves 2).

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I love wraps – veggie wraps stuffed with fresh spinach and crisp peppers, topped with avocado and shredded cheese, or Thai chicken wraps with cheese and fresh veggies… or even ground chicken soft shell tacos with homemade taco seasoning, Jalapeno peppers, onions, salsa, and shredded cheese.  I just love them.. I could very well have them every day for lunch without a complaint.  However, fun fact, I NEVER buy tortilla wraps.  I make them, from scratch. It’s actually relatively easy, especially if you have  a stand mixer and a dough hook.  You will need*:

  • 2 cups of whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup of unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1 cup of hot water
  1. Add flours and salt into the bowl of your stand mixer.  Sift to combine.  Add in the oil and using the dough hook attachment, mix on medium until the flour and oil are well combined, about 3 to 5 minutes.  Scrape down the sides as necessary.
  2. While mixing on medium, gradually add the water until a large ball of dough forms.  Again, scrape down the sides as necessary.
  3. Remove the ball of dough from the bowl and place on a lightly floured surface. Form it into a log that is about 10 inches long.  Cut the log into 16 pieces – cut in half width wise, and then cut each of those haves in half, and then each of those in half until you have 8 equally sized pieces, then cut lengthwise.
  4. Roll each piece into a disk and then place it on a baking sheet or cutting board lined with waxed paper.  Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 20 minutes.
  5. After 2o minutes, you are ready to roll out your flour tortillas! Roll out each disk, one by one, into a large circle (about 6 to 7 inches in diameter).  Place it in a frying panon medium heat (no need for oil) and fry it on each side for about 30 – 45 seconds.  Th pan should be hot before placing the wraps in.  Place on a plate to cool and enjoy!!

*Eat wraps within one hour or refrigerate.  Please visit  http://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2010/05/26/recipe-whole-wheat-tortillas/ for more info and how to incorporate more from scratch, real food into your life.

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I’ve also been enjoying sandwiches – using Ezekiel bread and Maple Leaf’s no preservatives added lunch meat.  But I’ve been thinking… what if I made my own bread?  My boyfriend eats store-bought almost everyday for lunch… maybe there’s a way to save money and eliminate preservatives by making my own?  So I borrowed a bread maker from a co-worker, and got to work!

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I think my absolute favourite smell in the whole entire world in fresh baked bread.  It literally makes my mouth water.  On my commute home from work we pass a bakery everyday and the smell of fresh baked yumminess seeps into our car.  It’s intoxicating.  So, when a co-worker of mine lent me her bread maker, naturally I was over the moon.  About an hour in, the poor old bread maker began making an awful clanky sounds-like-it’s-about-to-blow-up sound.  And…we it broke.  Lukily the first hour was the bread allowing the ingredients to sit and the yeast to activate.  I quickly pulled the ball of dough out of the machine, plopped it in a buttered bread pan, and covered it with a clean tea towel for 30 minutes.  Once the dough doubled in size, I plopped it in the oven and baked for about 35 minutes.  It turned out great!

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Ken and I each had a piece while it was still warm.  It was the best damn bread I ever had!  I got the recipe for the bread maker loaf here.  The only complaint ken had was that it was quite thick when I cut it (apparently I haven’t yet mastered how to cut the bread in relatively thin slices).  But I will continue to practice…and possibly buy an electric knife.

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The last thing I want to share is homemade pizza.  The crust uses quick rise yeast, so in total it takes only about 40 minutes to make the pizza.  For the crust, I used:

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 packet (or 2 1/4 tsp) of quick rise yeast
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 1/2 tbsp  sugar
  • 3/4 cup hot water
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Pour in hot water and oil and mix with spoon or hands until you form a large bowl.  I found the crust to be very dry at this point, so I plopped it on a clean, dry surface, added a teaspoon of water, and kneaded until the dough formed a large ball free of excess flour or flakes.

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Place the dough on a piece of wax paper.  Spray a piece of plastic wrap and cover the ball, sprayed side down, for about 20 minutes.  While your dough is rising.  Preheat the oven to 450 F degrees.

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Roll out dough until it is about 12 inched in diameter, being sure to roll it our to a relatively consistent thickness all around.  I like my pizza to have a thin crust in the middle, but I like a nice thick crust around the edges, so I place the dough on my 9 inch parchment paper lined pizza sheet and then fold the excess over to make a thick crust.  Press the dough into the pizza sheet. I do this to try to even out the thickness.

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Top the crust with your favourite ingredients.  I add sauce, spinach, jalapenos, feta, mozzarella and lean preservative free pepperoni slices.

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Bake for 15- 18 minutes.  I like to bake it a little longer to ensure the middle is crispy.

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Now doesn’t that just look like the best pizza ever?  And, fun fact, only 215 calories a slice. Pretty wonderful if you ask me. Well that’s it from me for now.  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!