Jan
27

Is it normal that I sleep with my iPhone under my pillow? Or that when I immediately wake up I check all of my SEVEN email accounts? Um, probably not.

I need to figure out a way to unplug from all of the communication sometimes. Or just find a balance. When I’m not working on my site, I’m constantly plugged in for my other job. As much as I tell myself that I need to take a break and relax, it’s hard to step away from the chaos of work and the busyness of life; I’m sure many of you can relate!

Usually the only thing that gets me away from all of it is the chaos of my own kitchen — my own little sweet happy spot. As soon as I put on a little music and begin to dice and chop, my creative energy pours into pots and pans, creating good food for loved ones.

This stew was made during an evening when my mind was cluttered and I needed a release. I had a busy day full of meetings. Okay and I was also dreaming about when I would actually get those girl scout cookies I ordered — like how long it would take for me to destroy 5 boxes this year? Whattttttt? Girl scout cookies are stressful to think about.

Anyway there was a jar of lentils that had been sitting in my cupboard along with gorgeous organic sweet potatoes from Whole Foods. It was time to put the iPhone down. A lovely pot of stew was an adventure I was ready to take on.

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Jan
14

This past weekend I spent my time catching up with a friend and enjoying a short trip to DC. I absolutely love weekend trips! You get in and out of cities with a few fantastic meals, memories to laugh over, and the excitement of travel. There’s only really one thing I despise: travel aftermath.

I always find myself in a state of chaos after an adventure. I’ll even fully admit to you that my suitcase isn’t getting unpacked for at least two weeks. There will also be piles of laundry starting at me, and it will take at least two days to sift through emails. Oh and then to top it all off I have to think about cooking myself dinner after dining out all weekend and guzzling margaritas like I have the metabolism of a gymnast… forget it! At that point all I desire to do is spread out in my bed and watch a marathon of shows that used to be cool in the 90s. Or the Food Network because it’s truly the only channel I need.

This is the time where super lean turkey sloppy joes come in. They’re so easy to throw together — and healthy too! Total travel worry diminished. Really you guys, you absolutely have no idea how obsessed I am with favorite childhood foods, particularly heaping tomato slathered juicy turkey sandwiched between a whole wheat hamburger bun. LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE. As a kid, I used to eat them with corn chips almost every day. Now that I’m an adult, I hold the hope that someone will create a sloppy joe food truck and park it in front of my house during lunch time.

Okay I admit that’s an unlikely scenario, but I really do adore them! These joes are a quick fix for my comfort food cravings.

Seriously how much easier could dinner get? Minimal ingredients. Healthy and easy. Just awesome flavor in your mouth. They remind me of being a kid! This recipe calls for a bit of BBQ sauce which means the sloppy joes aren’t as sweet, but instead have a perfect tangy, rich flavor with a hint of spice. I recommend using a bbq sauce with minimal sugar, and a spicy flavor, although your favorite sauce would work too. My favorite way to serve them? With sharp cheddar cheese on whole wheat crusty buns. Doooo it.

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Nov
06

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!

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Nov
02

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.

These days I eat breakfast for dinner about twice a week because really, who wouldn’t want to end their day with pancakes? Plus, I love to having fun with flavor combinations! Whole Wheat Banana Quinoa. Lemon Blueberry. Blueberry Chocolate Chip. Pumpkin Chocolate Chip. And now these.

Yeahhh pancakes… I’m just a teeny bit obsessed. 

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.

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Oct
30

There are certain things that we all take for granted. We easily forget how blessed we are to have caring people in our lives, to have good food on our plates, and to have opportunities in our future. Little things like a simple conversation with a friend or an embrace with a loved one may seem to always be there. We go through our day to day motions of buying overpriced cappuccinos and putting gas in our cars without a thought. We hardly ever think about how privileged we truly are.

There are days when we even take ourselves for granted. We forget what we love to do, those passions we all have, and get lost in the big world for a moment or two. Often, we put our dreams aside because we’re afraid to fail. We forget to say I love you to those who matter. And sometimes, we just forget to be ourselves. Our pursuit of happiness gets buried somewhere.

And so before we talk about super amazing things with bacon and maple syrup, I thought I’d write you a little inspirational post about how awesome you truly are. Because I think sometimes we all need a little reminder about the things we should never forget.

Never forget you’re beautiful and unique. You aren’t like anyone else on the planet, so don’t even try to be normal. Always, always be yourself. Embrace your quirks and weirdness. Be who you are and then you will find what you want.

Never forget to believe in yourself and those around you. This is life. We’re all just getting along on our journey; figuring it out and taking those uphill battles one day at a time. In some way, we’re all struggling, so offer compassion to those around you. Be encouraging to both yourself and others. Projecting kindness never feels bad.

Never forget to follow your dreams. Don’t be afraid of failure, because it leads to success. Having a passion is daring, but it makes you inspiring and remarkable. Remember that part of life is pursuing a happiness. Forget what others think or say, go after what’s in your heart. Life is short and moments are always passing.

Never settle. On love or in life. You deserve something amazing because you are amazing.

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Sep
10

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.

 

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Jul
25

I promised myself that this Summer I would try to set out some time for myself each day. Lately it’s enjoying a perfectly sweet cocktail while watching tangerine painted sunsets; those moments make me want to savor summer forever.

I’ve also discovered that one of my favorite things to do is to get a little crazy cooking in the kitchen. It’s like a competition with myself; how many dishes can I create in one day?

Last Sunday, I pulled five recipes out of my head and made it my mission to finish them all before the night was over. It’s quite possible that I looked like I was on some sort of drug; every inch of kitchen counter space was filled and my pants had about nine different stains on them. Dough flew, marinades were made, and I probably chopped about 23 vegetables; it was so much fun! And no, I’m not being sarcastic.

Sometimes I believe that good things come from chaos. Just take a look at this buttery, sweet, melt-in-your-mouth salmon.

Mmmm I lovvveeeeeee me some fish and the man behind the butcher counter at my local grocery store knows this for a fact. I have been stalking him for weeks asking when he was going to have walleye in (the Minnesota state fish). Apparently the waters have been too warm in Canada so they haven’t been able to net them. Don’t you worry though, I’ll continue to ask. I mean I’m practically there daily anyway.

Instead of walleye, he suggested I bake salmon for a sensational summer meal. Okay… he didn’t actually use the word sensational, but I felt like that’s what he was voicing to me. Anyway in an effort to make the salmon CRAZY GOOD, I marinated the life out of it with an asian inspired sweet teriyaki sauce.

HOLY. WHAT THE… it’s SO, SO GOOD. Even better than…

Well, you know I’m not sure what it’s better than. It’s just really, freaking good. The marinade is simple enough to make yourself and baking salmon is like baking chicken. No really, it is! Don’t be nervous about overcooking it, just at least give it a try for me. Pretty please?! I’ll bake you cookies if you do.

Oh, you’re convinced now? Well that was easy.

For ease, I purchased teriyaki sauce from the grocery store (soy sauce would also work), then whisked in olive oil, garlic, ginger and a little honey and brown sugar for sweetness. I poured it all over the salmon and marinated it until I got hypoglycemic hungry… like to the point of passing out. I wanted to eat my arm. What? Food is so much better when you’re ready to eat everything in sight.

Oh, and don’t you worry about that quinoa, because we’ve already discussed the ease of making it fluffy and delicious in 15 minutes or less. This time it’s cooked in a little bit of garlic salt for that bit of pizzaz. All you really need to do is stir-fry veggies and drink a little sangria… or guzzle it, I mean, whatever works best for you. I choose guzzle.

See? It’s not complicated or time consuming. And now you’ll have extra time to spend time with your honey. Or just in case your single, catch up on reality TV and pin things on Pinterest. For me? Grocery shopping and butcher stalking… totally normal!

Alright time for you to get a little crazy in the kitchen. Sensational salmon is calling your name.

Sesame Ginger Sweet Teriyaki Salmon with Garlic Quinoa Stir-fry
 
Author: 
Recipe type: Dinner, Salmon, Fish
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Delicious, healthy salmon has never tasted SO good.
Ingredients
  • For the Salmon & marinade:
  • 1 cup teriyaki sauce
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
  • 2-4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 pound salmon
  • For Quinoa Stir-fry:
  • 3/4 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 2 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar snap peas or snow peas
  • Extras
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, if desired
  • extra soy or teriyaki sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl whisk together the marinade ingredients: teriyaki sauce, olive oil, garlic, ginger, brown sugar, and honey. Place salmon in large ziploc bag and add marinade. Place in refrigerator for 1 hour. (I marinated my salmon in a baking pan because I ran out of ziploc bags.)
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degree F. Spray baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Remove salmon from ziploc bag and place skin side down. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until salmon easily flakes with fork. I found that 18 minutes was absolutely perfect. **See notes for additional information on cooking times.
  3. While salmon is cooking, prepare quinoa stir-fry. Bring 1 1/2 cups of water with garlic salt to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat to low, add quinoa and cover; simmering until all liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and let stand another 5-10 minutes. Fluff the quinoa with a fork and set aside. While quinoa is cooking, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add minced garlic, ginger, and sliced bell peppers; cook for 1-2 minutes. Add sugar snap peas and cook for 2 minutes more. Add quinoa to vegetables, then add salt and pepper to taste and red pepper flakes if desired.
  4. Spoon quinoa stir-fry evenly into 4 bowls or plates. Immediately place salmon on top. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and cilantro. Glaze with extra teriyaki sauce. DIG IN!
Notes
Inspired by How Sweet Eat's Toasted Sesame Ginger Salmon
Salmon is very sensitive and can dry out easily if overcooked, so make sure you watch your fish! For every inch of thickness of the salmon, generally it takes about 10 minutes to cook. Usually salmon fillets are about 1 1/2 inches thick.
Preparing quinoa ahead of time makes this dish even easier; simply reheat quinoa and add to stir fried veggies.

Aug
28

Pancakes in the morning. Ice Cream every other Sunday from Dairy Queen. Animal humane society visits. After school reading. Nature walks. Kite flying. Watching scary movies together. Poking fun at Grandma. Doing math homework. Making sandwiches. Watching America’s Most Wanted. Cooking fried chicken. Going to the State Fair.

Those are some of my favorite memories with my Dad.

He was special. No, actually he was more than that…  He was extraordinary.

One of my favorite pictures, my Dad and I at the Minnesota State Fair

 

My Dad had bright blue eyes, a big smile, and a voice that could fill any room.

He was the type of person who loved getting up early in the morning, just so he could enjoy the day longer.  The type of person who knew to enjoy the sunlight and appreciate every hour, every moment.

In my eyes, he could do anything.  He could fix my brakes, paint my room, bake the best yellow cake, give advice on life, and even make me laugh in my worst moments.

 

Four years ago on August 29th, 2007, I lost my Dad.  A day that I never knew was coming until I got a phone call.  I’ll never forget it.

But, I’ll also never forget how much he influenced me and made me the person I am today.   How much he is still present in my life.

I think of him often and miss him.  I wish he could have seen me graduate college, begin my career, and even this blog.  I know he would have been proud.

And so I bake.  I bake for the memories. I bake for joy.  I bake to soothe my soul.

I bake for you Dad.

 

Dad always loved a classic yellow cake with chocolate.

Bake these. Say I love you with them. Say Happy Birthday with them. Say thank you with them.

They’re extraordinary cupcakes, for something or someone extraordinary.

 

5.0 from 3 reviews
Dad's Extraordinary Yellow Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache
 
Author: 
Recipe type: Cupcake
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
A yellow cupcake made special by my Dad.
Ingredients
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 2/3 cup whole or 2% milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup of granulated sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour
  • Chocolate Ganache:
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup of chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh coffee
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a cupcake pan with 12 cupcake liners. You can also double the recipe to make a 9 x 13 pan cake or 24 cupcakes.
  2. Mix together the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Put aside for later.
  3. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg.
  4. Next add the flour mixture alternately with the milk, mixing until smooth. Pour batter into cupcake liners, do not fill more than halfway. You may have extra mix left over.
  5. Bake in the preheated oven for 23-27 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out nearly all the way clean. Cool 10 minutes before removing from pan. Makes about 12 cupcakes.
  6. For the ganache: put the heavy cream, chocolate chips, and coffee in a microwavable bowl. Microwave in 30 second increments, stirring each time until melted. Dip the top of each cupcake in the ganache.


Aug
25

I know what you’re thinking.  You’re thinking about the title of this post.  But before I can explain it, I have to tell you something.

I’m completely jealous right now. Like green eyed full of envy jealousy.

The blogger that inspired me to create my own blog, Emily from SugarPlum, is doing something that food bloggers only dream about… She’s cooking with Giada De Laurentiis! Big congrats Emily, you deserve it!

I love Giada. She’s authentic, adorable and she puts Italian words into English conversation. Plus she’s an amazing chef.  I’ve been watching her religiously on the Food Network.  Ridiculously addicting.

The Food Network is taking over.

Sandwich King, Giada, Bobby Flay, Paula… oh and Cupcake Wars! What a great show. I even emailed the people from Cupcake Wars to see if I could compete on the show, but they said you need to have your own business. Well guess what, my ‘business’ is baking ridiculously amazing cupcakes. Just ask my mom, friends, or my dog.

What? Animals have rights. And Lucky loves cupcakes. Point is, the Food Network is missing out on my lovely cupcakes.

But this isn’t about cupcakes or Giada.

This is about potatoes. Sweet ones. With a little bit of spice. Okay, okay and everything nice. Just cause I made them for you. ha.

Spicy sweet potato fries.

Super easy, super healthy. And they are super super yummy. Wait, what? Super is a weird word.

But listen, if you want to eat healthy and you crave fries, these babies will welcome you with open arms.  Sweet potatoes have lower carbs and they are complex, meaning your body takes longer to digest them. That equates to you feeling fuller, longer.

That also means you won’t be going back for that second piece of pie… or third.  And I’m sure you like making healthy choices.

Or maybe you don’t?

If that’s case, we should become friends.  Because you’ll choose these over Mickey D’s fries any day.

 

Alright…  I’m getting to the blueberry part.

No silly it’s not tomato ketchup, it’s blueberry ketchup. It’s sweet, but salty… and it’s good.  

 

Spicy sweet potato fries and blueberry ketchup: A match made in heaven.

 

 

Where are your favorite french fries from? Do you make your own? Buy them? Are they from a restaurant/fastfood place? 

For Blueberry Ketchup, see recipe from Chocolate Covered Katie

5.0 from 1 reviews
Spicy Sweet Potato Fries with Blueberry Ketchup
 
Author: 
Recipe type: Side Dish, Vegetarian, Vegan, Gluten Free
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Spicy sweet potato fries paired with a cooling delicious blueberry ketchup.
Ingredients
  • 4 Medium Sweet Potatoes
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • ¼ teaspoon of cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon of chili powder
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F and spray pan with non stick cooking spray.
  2. Cut sweet potatoes to resemble French fries.
  3. Combine sweet potato strips, salt, olive oil, cumin, and chili powder in bowl. Toss with hands so sweet potatoes are fully coated.
  4. Place potato strips on pan.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes, then stir and bake another 15 minutes or until fries are crispy and golden.
  6. Serves 4
 
 
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