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Kelsey Nixon's Healthy Cooking Essentials

Kelsey's positive attitude makes home cooking seem fun and her tips make it simple! (Photo courtesy of Kelsey Nixon)

We love Cooking Channel’s Kelsey Nixon for her fun, you-can-do-this approach to cooking with fresh ingredients. We caught up with the The Next Food Network Star finalist to chat about her show (Kelsey's Essentials is now in it’s second season, airing Saturdays at 2:30 p.m. EST!), the kitchen equipment she can't live without and to find out how she stays healthy and fit. Tell us about Kelsey's Essentials. Every episode focuses on an essential tool, tip or technique that I think every home cook should know, taking them one step beyond the basics in a fun way. The shows are also seasonal—I believe that if you cook with ingredients that are in season, it’s going to taste better and be more affordable.

What are your essential tools for healthy cooking? High-quality sheet trays for roasting—they make it easy to caramelize vegetables, which brings out their natural sugars. I'd also suggest tongs, a cast iron skillet for making an omelet or searing fish, a sturdy pan and a good sharp knife. A non-stick skillet is also a great tool because the chance of sticking is low and it doesn’t require as much fat to brown chicken or fish, so you can use less oil or fat.

How can a kitchen newbie get started cooking more healthfully? Take a trip to the farmers' market once a week, and challenge yourself to buy one vegetable or fruit that’s in season. Use that ingredient to drive dinner ideas for the week.

What’s your favorite workout? I used to Spin every morning at 6 a.m., but it was too much to keep up with, especially when I moved to New York City and started filming the show. Now, if I’m going anywhere that’s within 20 blocks, I walk there. I walk a lot and stay active, it’s just part of my lifestyle. I’m actually in better shape now than I’ve ever been.

What’s your go-to guilty-pleasure food? Banana Cream Pie. We did a whole episode devoted to pie, including my family’s signature recipe.

For a treat that's lower in calories than Kelsey's prized pie, but is still filling and delicious, try this complex carbohydrate-packed snack bar recipe.

Kelsey Nixon’s Homemade Granola Bars

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • ½ cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup whole-wheat flour
  • ¾ cup dried fruit, chopped
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ cup agave nectar or honey
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9 x 13 inch baking pan with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, flour, dried fruit, and salt. Make a well in the center and pour in the honey, beaten egg, oil, and vanilla. Mix well, folding the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Press the mixture evenly into the prepared pan.
  3. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes in the preheated oven, until the bars begin to turn golden at the edges. Cool bars for 5 minutes, then cut into bars while they are still warm. Do not allow the bars to cool completely before cutting or they will be too hard to cut.