How was your weekend? I know it’s Tuesday, but I feel like we can spend a little time reminiscing.
Mine was of course filled with food. I made Lobster Bisque for the first time; it was soooooo creamy and wonderful with a garlic ciabatta. On Sunday one of my best friends and I went out to our favorite Mexican restaurant where I ordered a skinny margarita and major amounts of chips and salsa. With the amount of political advertisements on the TV, sometimes margaritas are necessary.
Today though, I wanted to share with you another one of my obsessions. You know the latest and greatest.
I’ve been really into this sandwich for the past week or so. Okay actually I dream about this sandwich everyday. I make it for breakfast nearly every morning, and sometimes I have it for dinner too. I’ve been calling it the ‘power breakfast sandwich’ because of how healthy it is. The flavors are fresh, and I simply adore the creamy avocado and slices of tomato topped with fluffy egg whites and bits of sea salt and pepper. Yesterday I even added a little fresh basil on top.
It’s completely simple, isn’t it? In fact, I can’t believe I’m blogging about it. But… it’s sooooo good!
Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. I always look forward to it, even if it’s just a bowl of cereal or a slice of peanut butter toast. But the best breakfast? Pancakes. Obviously.
When I was little my Dad used to make me his famous pancakes; they were the size of a skillet pan, thin, and yet incredibly fluffy. I remember drenching them with rich maple syrup and devouring it in pure bliss. Every single bite would melt in my mouth. I loved waking up to those.
Since I’m trying to eat healthy while still enjoying my favorite breakfast, I’d thought that I would create a pancake recipe that’s tastes just like banana bread… because in case you hadn’t noticed, smashing bananas in baked goods is kinda my jam.
And besides putting hearty amounts of love into this recipe, I wanted these to be good for you, without sacrificing that amazing pancake taste.
Yesterday I enjoyed the day grocery shopping, eating a huge greek lunch with tzatziki (my favorite!), and drinking a little white wine… or A LOT of white wine. No biggie. For a quality nutritious dinner, I destroyed a giant cup of frozen yogurt with four flavors: pistachio, cheesecake, vanilla bean, and red velvet cake batter. Seriously extraordinary.
But then today a little bit of magic happened.
Cause I made this banana bread.
And I made it vegan.
And irresistibly healthy.
Because I love you, duh.
This recipe was inspired by my dark chocolate raspberry oatmeal banana bread, which happens to be my favorite banana bread EVER. The ingredients call for gluten-free oat flour and I love making it myself; all you do is throw rolled oats (oatmeal) into your blender and blend until they oats are ground into a fine flour. Simple and easy!
I’ll never forget the day I fell in love with baking. I was 7 years old.
My Mom decided that we would make a homemade pumpkin pie for the holidays. We spent hours deseeding and roasting pumpkins. I always enjoyed our time together in the kitchen because she gave me the best tasks.
On that particular day, I was in charge of making the pie crust look beautiful and fancy. Using my small hands, I tried my best to mimic the pie crust I had seen on the Thanksgiving dinner table, which of course resulted in something unsymetrical and pretty funny looking. Nevertheless, Mom was beaming at my accomplished pie crust and I was too! Eating the pie was the best part though; each bite brought me comfort and happiness knowing that I helped create a little slice of magic.
And so my love affair with baking began.
These days I find myself so busy that baking seems like a daunting task. It’s time-consuming, and sometimes a little bit complicated BUT I have to remind myself the results of home-baked goods are always unmatched. Lately I’ve been wanting to get back to real baking, the kind that is more like a project. And what’s more fun and interesting then making bagels from scratch? Seriously!
Now surprisingly, I don’t own bread machine, so I kneaded the dough by hand (talk about a calorie burner!); I felt accomplished and proud. Although, using an electrical mixer (such as a KitchenAid) would also work with this recipe.
Alas! I’m here to convince you to make homemade (handmade?) bagels. I’ll take you step-by-step through the recipe so that you can make these too! It’s a wonderful weekend project and great to do with kids. These bagels also happen to be lower in calories than bakery style, plus they’re chewy and toast perfectly. It’s some serious magic.
And since it’s Fall, we might as well make them pumpkin bagels, right? Then top them with a homemade whipped cinnamon honey butter.
So, here’s how we start: we’re going to proof the yeast (basically activate it)! Begin by placing warm water in a large bowl and adding the yeast along with brown sugar. The yeast essentially feeds off the sugar.
After a couple of minutes add the pumpkin, spices, and 2 cups of bread flour and mix until a sticky dough forms (pictured above).
If you made my favorite brown butter + sea salt chocolate chip cookies this past weekend and left me a comment or sent me an email then quite frankly, I love you! I am trying my best to respond to each of you to let you know that your sweet (and funny!) messages make me smile and are sincerely appreciated.
I think the best part is that many have told me that they are the best cookie you have ever had! But most of all I think you should be proud of yourself because you officially now know how to brown butter (which will particularly good for more Fall recipes I have coming)! Hehe.
Of course, I realize that many of you read my blog for my creative, healthy recipes, but I’d like to emphasize that I believe in moderation. I once lived life eating healthy all the time, depriving myself of the things I wanted the most. I ate egg whites, oatmeal, protein shakes, vegetables and lean meats consistently. I rarely touched a cookie or ate pie (my favorite)… shocking, I know. However I realized the joy that came to me when cooking for others and especially loved educating on healthy eating; that’s why most of my recipes have healthy twists while still being creative enough to make you feel like a chef in your own kitchen. Simply put, Ambitious Kitchen is about inspiring you. I’m bringing my passion for food to life through your eyes.
Now, I don’t believe in any one ‘diet’, but I exercise almost daily, eat consistently healthy, and indulge occasionally. So although this blog is not a health or fitness blog, it is geared to those with active lifestyles or of course, anyone looking to learn to cook for themselves.
Or if you just love staring at photos of food like this delicious breakfast (or anytime, really) taco.
This recipe came about when I had an intense craving for smokey, salty salmon with warm, fluffy eggs; a combination frequently found on a typical restaurant’s brunch menu. So off I went to stalk Trader Joe’s where I made about 17 different loops around the store just to drool over everything new. If you shop at Trader Joe’s, you know what I’m talking about.
I was so excited when I found these amazing blue corn tortillas! I am even more excited that I bought two packages so that I can make homemade blue corn tortilla chips for football games I don’t even watch.
While I am not a huge football fan, I am a fan of anything wrapped in a taco that I can devour.
I woke up early this morning eager to bake a banana bread. I silently mashed bananas in my kitchen and watched the sunlight creep through the windows. I mean to be perfectly honest all I wanted to do was turn on Jay-Z’s 99 problems, sing loudly and change the lyrics to “I got 99 problems but BANANA BREAD AIN’T ONE!” Too bad my roommates were still sleeping or it totally would have happened.
Now that I think about it I’m kinda glad I didn’t as I can’t say that rapping is one of my talents. And if you don’t know who Jay-Z is then maybe we’ll just move on and talk about the real star here: Banana bread. With peaches. Annndddd cinnamon. A brown sugar topping too!
It just makes me feel all cozy and wonderful.
Since there are an abundance of peaches in August, I wanted to bring you a fun recipe. Of course peach pie is delicious and peach cobbler is amazing but those are classics, and I wanted to bake something a little creative to make you swoon. The answer happened to be staring right at me: ripe bananas on my kitchen counter! I don’t know, it’s like these bananas just beg me to be mashed into delicious breads or something. Or to be made into pie.
Either way I know that anytime there are ripe bananas around, magic is about to happen. Hehe.
Look at that crust on the top of the banana bread! No seriously, stare at it for a good minute.
The crust is simply perfectly golden brown and the result of sprinkling brown sugar on top before baking. The brown sugar caramelizes and hardens when baked then forms a nice crusty exterior for that superb crunchy topping.
Oh and the inside? So flavorful and moist! Plus who can feel guilty about this bread? Not me considering I already ate 3 slices.
This bread is downright sensational. The peaches add a juicy flavor and a gorgeous addition to the top. Of course the bananas are more prominent that the peaches flavorwise, but nevertheless the juicy bits of peaches surprise you with every bite and the cinnamon really makes the flavor pop.
I wanted to keep this bread lower in fat and calories so I used minimal butter and nonfat greek yogurt. I didn’t have any whole wheat flour in my cupboard, or I might have used some of that in the recipe instead of only using white flour.
Peach Banana Bread. Don’t miss out. I enjoyed mine with a drizzle of honey and a cup of hot coffee. Then I busted out the Jay-Z.
Succulent fresh summer peaches combine with a low-fat moist banana bread made with greek yogurt and a touch of cinnamon.
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon, plus extra for dusting
1 cup mashed banana
1 cup finely diced peaches (about 2 peaches), plus about 8-10 thin peach slices for topping
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar, plus 2 tablespoons for topping
2 tablespoons butter, browned or melted (you can also use coconut, olive, or canola oil)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup nonfat plain vanilla greek yogurt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9-inch loaf pan.
In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt together and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together mashed bananas, butter, 1/2 cup brown sugar until well combined. Add vanilla and egg and whisk again until well combined. Whisk in diced peaches. Add in dry ingredients and yogurt alternatively, folding together well combined.
Pour batter into loaf pan. Top with thinly sliced peaches and sprinkle 2 tablespoons of brown sugar over the top. Dust lightly with cinnamon. Bake for 60-70 minutes, or toothpick comes out almost clean in center.
Cool for 10 minutes in pan, then remove from pan gently and transfer to wire rack. Cool completely. Cut into thick slices and enjoy!
Can replace some of the all purpose flour with whole wheat flour. Bread is better the next day. Awesome toasted and drizzled with honey
In my dream world I’d live on the beach, have a Whole Foods salad bar in my kitchen, and eat magical zero calorie banana cream pie every day for dessert.
I’d enjoy every sunrise with a continental breakfast and buy a German Shepard just because I think they’re really cute. I’d visit Machu Picchu, bungee jump daily, and make s’mores for a bedtime snack. I’d own a banana bread only bakery that serves wine. Oh and I certainly would NEVER spill wine on my white jeans (it happened this weekend).
But that’s all just in my dream world.
In real life I’m making big batches of pancakes on Sundays, chasing dogs around the neighborhood when they run away, and convincing myself to exercise daily.
Lately I’ve been testing out recipes. Usually on kids because they never lie to you; they either like it or they don’t.
Here’s Ava testing out a layered cake I made. I think I need to start renting kids for recipe testing.
Next week I’m headed out to California again! From the moment I first visited, I fell in love with it. And now I couldn’t be more excited! I’ll take a million photographs and update myabout me page soon. There are so many things that I can’t wait to share with you.
For now, I made you some healthy pancakes. Wait… are they healthy if they have chocolate chips in them? That’s up to you! I try to keep them lower in calories by using egg whites, high protein greek yogurt, and quinoa. I also recommend using whole wheat white flour.
But first let’s just eat some feel-good super romantic and always delicious pancakes.
My only problem with pancakes? Deciding if I want blueberry or chocolate chip. Since I love both, I added them to my quinoa pancake batter. Yeah my brain is pretty weird; however, my taste buds are not. These are a gift from the universe.
Aren’t you a little intrigued? Maybe puzzled with the combination?
Whatever your thought, I assure you that these pancakes are a whole lot of deliciousness. Blueberry chocolate chip pancakes are kind of just an essential life experience. Something you need to try at least once.
Or a million times. Whatever!
Juicy, warm berries plus über creamy chocolate chips packed in a healthy little pancake. Take it over the top by serving them in pure maple syrup (or peanut butter!) and chasing with a glass of ice-cold milk.
It certainly is a little part of my dream world come true.
Blueberry Chocolate Chip Quinoa Pancakes
Makes 8-10 pancakes
1 cup cooked quinoa
3/4 cup all-purpose flour or white whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
3 large egg whites
1/4 cup plain or vanilla nonfat greek yogurt
1/2 cup milk of your choice (skim, soy, almond, coconut)
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2/3 cup fresh blueberries
1/2 cup chocolate chips
Fresh fruit or fruit preserves (optional), for serving
In a medium bowl, whisk together quinoa, flour, baking powder, and salt. In another medium bowl, whisk together egg whites, yogurt, milk, and brown sugar until smooth. Add egg mixture to flour mixture and whisk to combine. Add vanilla and whisk again. Next gently fold in blueberries.
Lightly coat a large nonstick skillet or griddle with butter or cooking spray and heat over medium. Drop batter by 1/4 cup onto skillet. Cook until bubbles appear on top, about 2 minutes. Flip cakes and cook until golden brown on underside, 2 minutes. Wipe skillet clean and repeat with more melted butter and remaining batter.
I want to declare my love for this banana bread in some sort of outrageous way.
Hmmm maybe I should call Oprah and ask her if I can come jump on her couch like Tom Cruise did when he proclaimed his love for Katie Holmes?
Probably not a good idea. After all this bread is Scientology free and I don’t want people to think I’m nuts. Plus there’s absolutely no way to fall out of love with this bread.
We’ll just have to think of another way to tell the world about the best banana bread I’ve ever made.
In the case of banana breads, the saying ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’ is completely true. I hadn’t baked banana bread in over a month and was dreaming of a unique recipe for you. Luckily the lovely people at Driscoll’s sent me some coupons for raspberries. I knew right away what had to happen. Raspberries and dark chocolate are a combination I can’t resist, but putting them into a banana bread was like an epiphany.
Since I’ve been trying to eat less wheat lately, I decided that I would use oat flour in my recipe (yes, it’s gluten-free). Can I just say WOW?! The oat flour brought a hearty, incredible flavor to the banana bread! Thankfully oatmeal is naturally high in fiber and protein, which means it’s not only good for you but also super filling. I surprised myself when I didn’t inhale the entire loaf right when it came out of the oven.
Oh and by the way, did you know that making your own oat flour is really easy? Simply throw rolled oats (oatmeal) into your blender and blend until they oats are ground into a fine flour. Done!
I don’t know if it’s biting into the sweet tartness from the raspberries and the creamy bittersweet notes of dark chocolate, or if it’s simply this whole oat flour thing going on, but this banana bread just tastes like heaven. I plan on falling in love with it all over again this weekend.
So here’s what I’d really like to happen: You make this bread and inhale it. Or share it. Just tell everyone you know about it!
Here’s why: Raspberries are good for your health. And a little bit of dark chocolate won’t hurt you; it’s an antioxidant! There is also zero butter or oil in this recipe, minimal sugar, and the only dairy is from the two egg whites (if you want to make it vegan, try it without them)!
I freaking love everything about it. From the way it smells to the way it tastes. Completely devour-able.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray 9x5 inch loaf pan with cooking spray.
Make oat flour: Place oatmeal into blender and blend for 1-2 minutes until oatmeal resembles flour. You may need to stop blender and stir oats a couple of times to ensure that all oats have been blended.
Measure out just 2 cups of the oat flour and place in a medium bowl. Whisk in baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
In a separate large bowl, beat mashed bananas, dark brown sugar, vanilla extract, and eggs for 1-2 minutes until the consistency is smooth and creamy. Slowly add in flour mixture and mix until just combined.
Gently fold in raspberries and dark chocolate chips. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan and bake for 35-40 minutes or until knife inserted into center comes out clean. Cool 10-15 minutes, then remove from pan and place on wire rack to finish cooling.
It typically takes 2 1/2-3 cups of oatmeal to make 2 cups of oat flour, so you may have some leftover. This recipe only calls for 2 cups.
To ensure recipe is gluten-free, use gluten-free oatmeal when making your oat flour
Live deliciously. Fight for the things you want the most. Take risks. Dream big. Wear red lipstick and heels every chance you get. Go on lots of first dates, but few second ones. Be weird. Drink too many margaritas every once in a while. Laugh until you get a 6-pack. Be yourself. Be unforgettable. Live in a big city. Exercise. Learn how to roast a chicken. Get to know your grandparents. Don’t be a slave to the ordinary. Bungee jump. Go on a vacation. Kiss a stranger.
How do we accomplish it all? Start with a healthy breakfast full of whole grains.
I thought it would be better for my waistline if I stopped rolling out pie crust and started eating things like rainbow salads, better-for-you muffins, and loads of things made with quinoa. I don’t know if it’s the cuteness of this little nutty grain, or my general obsession for the taste, but quinoa is now featured in 72% of my weekly meals (not like I actually calculated or anything). It’s like when I was 18 and had this crazy obsession with Panera Bread’s veggie sandwich; I had it nearly every day for a month. That was weird.
However, I’m confident my love for quinoa isn’t just a phase I’m going through. It’s kind of like a real marriage. True dedication. I mean, blueberry quinoa pancakes and enchilada quinoa stuffed bell peppers… and now this breakfast quinoa? It’s time to step outside of the boxed mac & (neon) cheese or those Lean Cuisines that never fill you up.
Let’s make our lives a little more delicious.
Now my eating isn’t perfect, but I’ve realized that whole, clean foods in my diet make me happier and healthier. Quinoa is naturally gluten-free and packed with protein which means it keeps me full for hours. But that isn’t the only reason I love it for breakfast: it only takes about 15 minutes to prepare and can be stored in the fridge for reheating throughout the week. Sometimes I throw it in individual portioned containers with different add-ins or flavor combinations and zap in the microwave when I’m in a rush. It’s incredibly convenient and easy!
Intimidated by quinoa? Don’t be afraid to try out new foods just because they’re unfamiliar. I came across some great tips on making your quinoa fluffy from Kathy that I’ve consistently followed; I always end up with a bowl of perfect fluffy quinoa to fill my belly.
So how do you cook quinoa?
First start with a 1:2 ratio–one part quinoa, two parts water. It’s important to rinse your quinoa to prevent a bitter taste. Place water and rinsed quinoa in a medium saucepan, bring to a boil over high heat. (At this point I usually add in my spices or vanilla). Reduce heat to low, cover, and let simmer for 15 minutes or until all of the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and let stand another 5-10 minutes. Fluff the quinoa with a fork, add in fruit, nuts, milk, whatever your heart desires and serve!
I wanted to make my breakfast quinoa vegan so once I was done cooking it, I poured in a cup of coconut milk, added sliced bananas (which I actually grilled a bit), strawberries, toasted almonds and pecans, and sprinkled a bit unsweetened toasted coconut on top.
Of course, there are endless combinations to try with your breakfast quinoa including different berries, milks, nut butters, honey, and nuts. It’s just a feel good breakfast.
Strawberries, bananas, toasted nuts and are adding to a delicious gluten free and vegan breakfast quinoa.
1 cup of water
1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed
1 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 cups milk of your choice (to make vegan use coconut or almond milk), divided
1 small banana, sliced
1/2 cup strawberries, diced
2 tablespoons sliced toasted almonds
2 tablespoons unsweetened toasted coconut
Place water and rinsed quinoa in a medium saucepan, bring to a boil over high heat. Add cinnamon and vanilla and reduce heat to low, cover, and let simmer for 15 minutes or until all of the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and let stand another 5-10 minutes. Fluff the quinoa with a fork.
Divide into two bowls, adding 3/4 cup of milk. Top each bowl with bananas, strawberries, toasted nuts, and unsweetened coconut. Serve immediately.
Optional add-ins: honey, agave nectar, peanut or almond butter, berry variety, mango, pineapple, apples, applesauce or toasted nuts If you'd like you can double the recipe and store the extra quinoa (without milk and toppings) in a container and place in fridge. Take out portions during the week, reheat, and add toppings.
I hope you had a great 4th of July with your friends and family!
I did! Summer cocktails were flowing, potato salad was piled high, burgers were chowed on, cheese and crackers were consumed, and the cake was gone; it was a day full of endless eating. In fact, I caught myself mindless munching all day. And now that my mind realizes what went down, I’m upset about it. Summer BBQs win again!
I know just what I need: some seriously good-for-you, juicing smoothie vegan stuff. With spinach, or kale… Or I don’t know… JUST GIVE ME ANYTHING BUT CHIPS AND CAKE!
Are you feeling the same way? Please say yes.
I’m a HUGE fan of protein shakes. I drink one at least once a day. And no, I do not have muscles like Arnold Schwarzenegger, thank you very much. They’re a delicious snack that fills me up and usually keeps me from reaching for Nutter Butters and chips at 3pm.
Now I definitely can’t claim to be a health or nutrition expert, but I do know how to prepare healthy snacks and meals. And since so many of you are interested in eating healthy, I wanted to take this opportunity to talk about the types of foods I normally eat and give you ideas for some healthy breakfast recipes that can be easily prepared at home.
So what do I normally eat? Usually clean, unprocessed whole foods, including whole grains, lean meats, fish, some dairy, healthy fats, and fresh fruits and vegetables. This means cooking at home, preparing meals ahead of time, and resisting the urge to bake cookies and drink margs. And let me tell you, THAT is super difficult sometimes.
BUT with all of these delicious options below (and in my recipe index), I think you’ll have enough recipes to start your morning off healthy and delicious.
Whole Wheat Banana Quinoa Pancakes— these are one of my favorites especially topped with natural peanut butter! Make a batch, pop the leftovers in the freezer, then during the week simply take out two, reheat in the microwave and enjoy! Throw in blueberries in the batter or chocolate chips if you’d like. They are pancakes made easy.
Eggs — I eat eggs at least once a day for either breakfast or dinner. Sometimes I make egg sandwiches like the one in the picture above. Usually though I’ll whip up an omelet using 1 egg and 3 egg whites; I also like to mix up my fillings. Here are some suggestions of what you can stuff or top your eggs with: smoked salmon, goat cheese, asparagus, green chile, avocado or guacamole, black beans, low-fat cheese, tomatoes, onion, etc. For more great, easy egg recipes head over to Fitness Magazine’s site. I’ll also be posting a how-to make your own omelet sometime soon!
Things you can put on whole grain toast or english muffins: mashed avocado, hardboiled eggs, low sugar jam and natural nut butter, whipped low-fat cream cheese and smashed raspberries, non-fat greek yogurt, low-fat cottage cheese sprinkled with toasted almonds and drizzled with honey, bananas and peanut butter.
And what about this protein shake?
Well, this shake packs flavor in a glass. Bananas and blueberries are a great combination together. It will fill you up and takes less than 5 minutes to make.
You really have no excuses to miss breakfast with this delicious little thing staring at you.
My hope is that some of these ideas and recipes will inspire you to get in your kitchen, eat breakfast, and be a little healthier. We all know breakfast is easy to skip, but it’s also the most important meal of the day.
Let me know what your favorite healthy breakfast is in the comments below!
Banana Blueberry Protein Shakes
2 cups milk of choice (skim, almond, coconut, soy)
2 scoops of vanilla protein powder (I use whey protein)
1 cup of fresh blueberries
1 large ripe banana, peeled and cut into chunks (best if the banana is frozen)
3/4 cup of ice cubes
Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into chilled glasses and enjoy.
Feel free to add any of the following: 1 cup of spinach for a green smoothie, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter, flax seed, chia seed, etc.
You can also use different berries or a mixture of fruit instead of blueberries