All of a sudden I have this urge to bake a cherry pie this weekend. Why? Well I’m sitting here noshing on a Trader Joe’s broccoli & kale salad with plenty of dried cherries. I almost forgot how much I love cherries and their slightly tart flavor. Cue all cherry cravings.

Unfortunately pie baking won’t be happening as most of you know via my Instagram & Snapchat that I’ve been sampling Chicago doughnuts all week for the Chicago Series. HALPPPPP ME.

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Fun fact: I’m half Puerto Rican. I grew up on a mostly vegetarian diet, enjoying my Mother’s Spanish inspired cuisine whenever I could. Each week, she’d make a big batch of slow cooked puerto rican rice and beans, fried plantains, pozole and empanadas. Our food always seemed different then my friends, and I never understood why they didn’t have enchiladas at Thanksgiving until I was much older.

Dad, on the other hand, was very much into comfort food. Each Sunday, we’d sit down and enjoy a big batch of Dad’s fried chicken, sweet corn, the creamiest mashed potatoes and if we were lucky, soft rolls. Sometimes green beans were included too. Oh and cake! There was always cake or pie for dessert; usually yellow cake with rich, thick chocolate buttercream or my Grandma’s favorite creamy lemon meringue pie. Yes we loved, loved, loved our sweets.

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How was your weekend, friends? It seems like Spring finally decided to come out over the weekend and I’m feeling extra joyful because of it.

On Saturday, Tony and I went consignment and resale store shopping. I spotted a mid century modern bookshelf for $60 and knew immediately I had to have it for my office! I’m trying to best to get organized, so having a bookshelf for photography props and books is a must. I opted to paint the bookshelf white and it turned out absolutely stunning. I’m very, very excited to show you my office makeover (hopefully soon!).

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First I want to start off weekend favorite by saying that if you’re not following me on Snapchat, you should! Yesterday was all about doughnuts, but a lot of times I’ll share recipes, fitness motivation and more! Today I’m planning on making a delicious baked oatmeal recipe via Snapchat (that will also be on the blog on Monday) so be sure to stop by to see it in action. Also Milly makes plenty of appearances.

Anyway what’s new with you? Are you following the debates? My cab driver had a 5 minute convo about who he was voting for yesterday. Sometimes you can’t do anything but nod and listen. You feel me?

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Last week on Instagram I shared an exercise video and described how I’ve lost 20 pounds since 2014. If you’ve been following Ambitious Kitchen for the past few years, you know that I’ve been on a journey to find a balance between health, fitness, eating healthy and indulging. Finally I’m feeling like I’m in a good place, where no food is off limits and my general attitude towards food feels very positive and balanced. To be honest, it took me quite a while to get to a point where I wasn’t binging, restricting nor denying myself the food I love.

I want to give you more insight into my ENTIRE journey at another time, simply because I know it’s going to be a longggggg post. Today we’re going to be chatting about healthy snacking & how I incorporate it into my life. Snacking is never bad for you if you do it in moderation and are mindful about what you’re fueling up with. I’ve mentioned this before, but I need to have something to munch on every few hours otherwise my blood sugar crashes and become hangry real quick. So, snacks basically are a necessity in this girl’s life.

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I have an endless supply of recipe ideas sitting in my drafts for you at all times. Like these peppers, who have been waiting to make their glorious appearance on Ambitious Kitchen for nearly two months.

Somedays I wish I could live in my kitchen, leaving the writing, editing, photography and all the other things behind. My happy place is recipe creation; fitting flavors and ingredients together like a puzzle. It’s my favorite part about my job. And also you all. Seeing all the recipes you make of mine makes me extraordinarily happy. I’m in awe that I get to create this life for myself, which keeps me inspired and feeling creative on a daily basis. You’re making this girl’s dream come true.

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Hi friends! How are you? This week flew by didn’t it? I swear that the older I get, the quicker time flies. All the adult responsibilities keep you busier than you thought you’d ever be. Also tax season… whomp, whomp.

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It always feels exceptional to wake up and notice banana bread sitting on the counter waiting to be devoured. You know it’s going to be even better than it was the first day, if that’s even possible. Yet you tell yourself you’ll have it later, perhaps for an afternoon treat.

Shortly after you open the pantry and peer into the fridge, you realize you’re absolutely having that banana bread for breakfast. There’s no stopping you. You’re craving it NOW.

That was my situation last week and it ended with me enjoying two thick slices with peanut butter on top. Plus a few fresh strawberries, chia seeds and huge chunks of dark chocolate. Because antioxidants, right?

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*Warm up with a 20 minute walk or jog and/or active dynamic stretching {high knees, butt kicks, jumping jacks, air squats with arms reaching overhead}.

Goblet Squat + Calf Raise

how to do it:

  • Stand holding the top of a dumbbell close to your chest. This will be your starting position.
  • Squat down between your legs until your hamstrings are on your calves. Keep your chest and head up and your back straight.
  • At the bottom position, pause and use your elbows to push your knees out.
  • Push through the bottom of your feet to standing position coming up onto your toes into a calf raise
  • Lower your heels to return to the starting position, and repeat for desired reps


Hopscotch Squats

how to do it:

  • Bouncing off the balls of your feet, jump your feet wide.
  • Hop back to center on your left foot, then jump your feet wide.
  • Hop back to center on your right foot, and continue alternating in this pattern.


Messier Squats

how to do it:

  • Position feet shoulder width apart and toes slightly pointed out, holding the dumbbell with both hand at the center of your chest
  • Contract core and maintain an upright chest position
  • Flex at the hips and knees by pushing in a backward motion to lower body into a wide squat stance
  • Slowly lower hips until tops of thighs are parallel to floor
  • Keeping your knees in line with your toes, shift to your center into a lateral lunge stance
  • From this position shift hips through the starting position into the opposite lunge stance
  • Continue to shift hips side to side while keeping your chest high and core tight


Heisman Bounds

how to do it:

  • Assume a half squat position facing 90 degrees from your direction of travel.
  • Allow your lead leg to do a countermovement inward as you shift your weight to the outside leg.
  • Immediately push off and extend, attempting to bound to the side as far as possible.
  • Upon landing, immediately push off in the opposite direction, returning to your original start position.
  • Continue back and forth for several repetitions.


Table Top Glute Stamps + Dumbbell

how to do it:

  • Start in a tabletop position, knees under hips, hands directly under your shoulders
  • Place dumbbell behind one knee bent at 90 degrees, flex foot and thrust foot up into the air activating your glutes and hamstrings.
  • Perform all reps on one leg and switch legs for the second set


Dumbbell Swings

how to do it:

  • Stand with feet shoulder width apart holding weight out in front of the body.
  • Lower the weight back between your legs keeping your back straight (move your butt back not your knees forward).  T
  • hen thrust the hips forward squeezing those glutes and keeping the core tight to swing the weight up to approximately shoulder height.
  • Continue this swinging movement with control for desired reps


Squat + Donkey Kick

how to do it:

  • Start with your legs shoulder width distance apart, arms comfortably at your sides
  • With weight in your heels, chest lifted perform a squat; bringing your arms/hands forward toward your chest
  • Keep your butt back and chest lifted as you push up, pressing your hips up and forward
  • Return to standing position
  • Bend your right knee to 90 degrees and kick it straight back towards the wall behind you
  • Bring knee back into starting position and back to initial squat position
  • Repeat squat and donkey kick back with your left foot
  • Continue to alternate legs with a squat between each kick back


Lunge + Squat Jumps

how to do it:

  • Stand with your left foot in front of you and point both feet forward. Lunge down while leaning your torso forward slightly without rounding your spine.
  • Jump straight up, swinging your arms over your head and extending your torso.
  • Land with both feet in a standard squat position
  • Lower into a squat and explode up landing with your right foot forward in a lunge
  • Continue to alternate lunge jump, standard squat, jump lunge
  • Repeat the entire set for desired reps


Disclaimer: Always consult your doctor before starting a new fitness regime. While Lee from Fit Foodie Finds and Monique from Ambitious Kitchen worked with a professional trainer to design the Summer Sweat Series exercise program, you are participating at your own risk. Please listen to your body and modify as needed.

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