Did you know that I’m originally from Minnesota? Born and raised! That’s right I haven’t always lived in the Windy City. I grew up trudging through the long Minneapolis winters and wearing shorts as soon as it’s 40 degrees. I grew up eating Dairy Queen dilly bars, swimming in one of the many 10,000 lakes and eating plenty of casseroles.

I’ve been back in Minnesota for the past week and it’s more than nostalgic, especially during the summer months when the weather isn’t 0 degrees F. Abra and I flew in Tuesday for a new video series (after I did an amazing wine tasting in Chicago). We began filming with Just Bare Chicken on Wednesday and it was SO much fun. As I’ve mentioned before getting more into video has been one of my biggest blog goals for 2017. For me, it’s very fun to be on camera and challenges me in new, exciting ways. This blog has given me some of the most incredible experiences, and I am forever grateful for this journey as it continues to grow and change me.

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Happy Friday everyone! Abra here, the Brand Manager behind Ambitious Kitchen and Instagram artist behind #abrassalad. As you know Monique is in Cabo soaking up the sun and enjoying some well-deserved R&R, so she left me the honor of introducing myself and sharing my weekend faves with all of you.

Not gonna lie, palms are a little sweaty…but I’m so excited to be here!

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Hello hello. Welcome to the weekend friends. Yesterday I left for LA for a little meet and greet with Chef Curtis Stone & Bosch kitchen appliances. Since you guys know how much I love anyone who’s Australian, you’ll know that ME LOVE CURTIS STONE LONG TIME.

It does feel surreal to be back in California; it’s a little corner of the world I hold dear in my heart. It’s the place where I told myself that blogging could actually one day become my career, a place where I fell in love, a city that dazzled me from the beginning. And plus, the food scene out here is basically everything you could need. Indulgences, donuts, healthy food, acai bowls and all the sushi. I die.

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Hellooooo weekend! Doesn’t it feel like a breath of fresh air? Especially if you’ve had a long week. This week I tried to get into a better routine at the gym: I did Monday through Thursday at Crosstown Fitness and today I’m either going to go for a run outside or head to a yoga class.

This week went by all too quickly. I’ve been getting Abra up to speed on all things AK, testing new recipes, checking out wedding venues, heading to dinners and enjoying this fast-pace that life is presenting.

Last night Abra and I went to a wonderful dinner with Long Meadow Ranch wines. I had never tried their wines before but had the chance to taste several and was beyond impressed. There wasn’t a wine I didn’t like. Our favorite was probably the Rose-Pinot Noir, a wine you could drink anytime. Apparently they are sold at Whole Foods and if you live in Chicago, Mariano’s.

And here’s something else I can appreciate: LMR has their own organic farm on site and they farm their own cattle, make phenomenal olive oil, and of course produce grapes. I’m officially a fan girl so if you get a chance, I highly recommend checking them out.

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It’s baking season and I’ve been dreaming about spending my weekends cozied up in my jam jams (yes, that’s what I call them), sipping on hot cocoa with vanilla almond milk, reading a good book and baking all the things I can dream up. Throw in a trip to the vintage market and you’ve pretty much given me the best weekend ever.

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve loved pumpkin. LIKE LOVED. Perhaps because I only got to enjoy it during the holiday season and it seemed like such a special treat. Or maybe it was the spicy sweet flavors of warm pumpkin pie with dollops of whipped cream along time with my family that simply overjoyed my heart. Either way, pumpkin to me is both nostalgic and one of the tastiest things I can have.

I’ve been wanting to share a roundup of pumpkin recipes with you because I know most of you are pumpkin fanatics like me. It’s also the perfect time of year to roast a pumpkin and get your kitchen smelling like a Starbucks PSL.

Of course, not all recipes below are considered healthy. However they are balanced, tasty as hell and ready to be baked and enjoyed by you and your loved ones. So let’s do this!

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This weekend should be a good one! We’re heading to Austin, TX to check out Austin City Limits, a music festival. Tony and I are wicked excited because Mumford and Sons will be there, and if any of you have ever heard Marcus Mumford sing, then you know he is the ultimate man. We actually fell in love with their new album and so if you haven’t checked it out yet, I highly recommend.

Also if you have anything I absolutely must eat in Austin or hiking places, please let me know!

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Call this Wellness Wednesday a throwback one. To the deep dark days of my life where food was everything and nothing. Over the past few years, I’ve talked a lot on the blog about how my eating disorder affected myself, relationships and choices. It’s not an easy thing to share, however now that I know that many of you have struggled with disordered eating, I feel more confident to share my experience.

Even if you haven’t battled an eating disorder, this might be worth the read, simply for a little insight as to how devastating it can be.

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Who here loves chips? *Everyone raises their hand*

Seriously though, everyone loves a good crunchy, perfectly salted tortilla chip. They easily complete sandwiches, make turkey chili 10x better than it already is and just so happen to be the perfect companion to guacamole.

When I was growing up, there were several ‘staple’ grocery items my Mom always purchased: sesame bagels with salted butter, crunchy carrots with hummus, leafy greens, and… tortilla chips! She always had a bag of chips open and ready to be devoured. #ChipAddictSince1993

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May 20th people. How?!

With Memorial Day on the horizon, I think it’s safe to say that Summer is on the way. I just have to disregard the 45 degree windy weather every other day in Chicago. I KNOW 75 degrees in our future. I hope?

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I can’t believe gift guide number 6 is here! Another thing I can’t get over? The fact that my birthday is in 9 days. So far I have no major plans. Ideally, I’d love to just relax, stay off my computer, go ice skating and eat a really good dinner somewhere (probably Frontera Grill).

Anyway, today’s gift guide is focused around the home cook. Someone who loves to be in the kitchen, entertaining and cooking whenever they get the chance. It’s also for anyone who might need to acquire basic kitchen appliances like a food processor or a slow cooker.

These are all products I know and love so let’s get started!

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