learning to cook

Strain then Stir: Kayla Itsines’ Cookbook (Part 1)

As mentioned/announced/proclaimed/etc. in yesterday’s blog post, I’m launching a new series on my blog called Strain then Stir, which will chronicle my attempt at becoming a better cook. To do so, I plan on working my way through cookbooks, cooking blogs, cooking shows, and those cooking videos that seem to plague our Facebook pages every once in a while.

First up on the list:

Kayla Itsines: The 28-Day Bikini Body Healthy Eating & Lifestyle Guide

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Now, I know a little bit about Australian born Kayla Itsines from her bikini body app. My best friend Allison and I have spent a good helping of weekday mornings laying on the floor of our gym, panting our way through the carefully constructed workouts. I’ve also done some thorough Instagram stalking, which led me to believe what many others already know: this girl knows her sh*t. So, when I saw her book sitting pretty on the top shelf at Target, I (figuratively) threw it in the cart, brought it home and immediately filled an entire sheet of paper with a grocery list.

Confession #1: I had/still have no plan to follow the diet plan in order, simply because I don’t have a schedule that would allow it. However, I plan on following as much as possible as closely as possible, because each day has meals carefully calculated to give you a good helping of all the food groups. Also, I figure skimming through the book solely to find the recipes involving carbs and chocolate would kind of defeat the purpose of this whole thing.

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Discovery #1: HEALTHY GROCERIES ARE FREAKING EXPENSIVE…(especially when you buy too many at one time because for some reason you shopped for the entire month as if you’d be unable to leave the house at any moment for the next 30 days.)

Lesson learned: try buying for about 2-3 weeks of meals at a time.


Recipes I’ve Tried (So Far)

I’m not exactly sure what the protocol is for giving out recipes, but I can’t imagine Kayla would be stoked about me buying her book on sale at Target and then giving out all the information for free on my blog. SO, I will not be provided the recipes in detail, because I’d really like to keep myself out of jail and in a space that provides an opportunity for Kayla and I to become besties one day. Instead, I’m just going to give you the name of the recipe and then recount what went on in my attempt at following it.

Let’s begin!

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Maple Banana Yogurt Muesli

Initial thoughts: What on earth is muesli?

muesli

Oh, okay, so oatmeal with a top hat. Got it.

Process: This recipe was pretty straightforward, though I wasn’t 100% sure of how to mix it together. I’ve never really worked with rolled oats before, so I wasn’t sure if I should scoop them in with a measuring cup or just throw them in there Emeril style.

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I ended up doing a combination of both.

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Additions: I added walnuts to shake up the texture of the dish which ended up saving it for me. And in case you’re wondering, I sprinkled them in the same way one might sprinkle rose petals on a bed: delicate, deliberate and probably slower than necessary.

Final thoughts: If I’m being honest, I didn’t love this right away. I’m not a huge fan of oatmeal and this was, if I may, very oatmeal adjacent both in taste and texture. It was essentially the bite equivalent of that kid on the playground saying “I’m not touching you,” even though it doesn’t matter if he’s touching you or not, he’s still annoying and this muesli is still oatmeal. #ProfessionalFoodLingo. That being said however, I would (and did) eat this again, if only because it makes you feel good afterwards. My morning stomach was like, Woah, are we satisfied yet completely lacking lethargy and regret?! What a feeling. Let’s get this day started.


Pulled Pork Sandwiches w/ Cole Slaw

Initial Thoughts: Pulled Pork Sandwiches w/ Cole Slaw

Process: Just about the time I’d pulled out all of the ingredients and mixed together the sauce, I realized that I hadn’t bought vegetable stock. So, I took to Google.

vege stock goodle

Purpose of Vegetable stock

Okay…sauce, no. Mashed potatoes, no. Braising! That’s what I’m doing here. Let’s read up on that.

vegetable stock

Oh, good. So it’s essentially the MOST IMPORTANT THING, without which I can never achieve mouthwatering perfection.

substitute for vege stock

Right, because if I forgot my 79 cent can of vegetable stock at the store, I definitely have celery seeds, marjoram and dill weed just lying around in full supply.

At this point I just chalked it up to a loss and I threw the meat in the oven, hoping the sauce I made would be enough to at least approach mouthwatering anything.

Additions: Since my meat did end up being a little on the dry side, I put a some Miracle whip on the hamburger bun. I also added thin slices of green apple because I remember seeing that on a sandwich menu somewhere, and I chopped up a carrot and sautéed in garlic salt and threw that in too because, well, I have no idea, really…but it was pretty good!

Final thoughts: Even though it was nowhere near perfect, it had that inkling of potential, like if i did it right it would be fantastic. Regardless, I still enjoyed it enough to have for leftovers the next day. I’m sorry to have underestimated you vegetable stock. It won’t happen again. Also, next time I’m nixing the carrot.


 

Banana & Ricotta Cheese Wrap

Initial thoughts: That sounds freaking delicious.

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Process: This was the simplest recipe so far, which is always good in the mornings because 95% of the time I’m running late. Also, in a shouldn’t have been so shocking turn of events, I was floored when I realized I could use my panini maker to toast wraps. Who knew I was using that thing to its actual lowest potential?! A million regrets.

Final Thoughts: As predicted…it WAS FREAKING DELICIOUS. I didn’t make a single change to this masterpiece because it was just that. It was one of those meals that I thought about making again the second I finished eating it. The kind that you call your mom in the middle of traffic to gossip about. The kind that you mourn the day you run out of bananas. It was just. so. good. My picture of it however, was not.


Chicken, Sweet Potato, Caramelized Onion & Arugula Pizza

Initial thoughts: giphy (14)

Process: In typical Kim fashion, I forgot to defrost chicken for the CHICKEN pizza. But since I was already starving and had everything (except the arugula because I also forgot to buy that shrug_1f937) else out, I just decided to forgo the bird and move forward. #ItAlmostRhymed.

Additions: The recipe calls for pita bread, which I concluded was not up to the task of being a valid crust, so I cheated and bought these:

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I also decided to add some corn and zucchini, which we’ll say was due to innovation and not because my zucchini was starting to go bad and the corn had been frozen so long it was nearing frostbite.

Final thoughts: The end product was actually DELICIOUS! If given the opportunity I could have sat at my table and eaten both mini pizzas. However, much to my body’s appreciation, I was taking the pizza to go because I was headed out to see other humans and felt too much shame to show up with a plate piled as high as my head in pizza. Also, to be completely honest, I didn’t really want to share…


Banana & Strawberry Bruschetta

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Initial thoughts: Talk about toast 2.0

Process: It was another brief and straightforward prep, which was great because left little room for failure and made it easy to memorize the recipe after just one make. However, if I want to get nit-picky, I’d say my presentation could use some work. My bread appears to be drowning in fruit rather than featuring it in a balanced and nutritious way.

Final Thoughts: Similar to the banana & ricotta wrap, I instantly fell in love with this breakfast because it was 3 of my favorite things.

  1. Easy to make
  2. Quick to prepare
  3. Featuring maple syrup

And much to my surprise, this too made me feel satisfied but not gross, as many sugary breakfasts have in the past. Who knew eating healthy could feel so good?


Stuffed Sweet Potato w/ Chickpeas, Tomatoes & Spiced Yogurt Dressing

Initial thoughts: You had me at sweet potato.

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Process: This was quite the undertaking for me because it involved a lot of steps that needed to be timed just so. With one hand I was over here chopping an onion and with another I was over here slicing a sweet potato and with another I was over here stirring a pan on the stove. Then I’d come back to the cutting board, crying over a chopped onion and sweating over the now 400 degree oven, wondering if I should put on more deodorant, or maybe give up and order a pizza.

Final Thoughts: This was a recipe that called for “two serving plates.” Which is hilarious, because when I whisked up the spiced yogurt dressing and grazed it over the sweet potato like it was a cinnamon roll needing icing, I knew very well that I would only be needing one plate.


So, after my first week and a half or so of cooking from the cookbook, I’m happy to report I have NOT burned the house, or started any fires whatsoever. I did use about 45 dishes, slice a little piece of my finger, and stink up the whole kitchen with a tomato that went forgotten and moldy. But hey, who hasn’t?

Some other key lessons I learned about myself include:

  1. I LOVE feta cheese
  2. I consistently underestimate how long it takes to chop vegetables
  3. I talk to myself when I stir

Tune in next month to hear more stories about my (mis)adventures in the kitchen. And always remember strain then stir.