I have a small confession to make: Hot Chocolate is one of my weaknesses. When cold and windy, snow-dusted evenings come along, I’m all about a giant cup of hot chocolate topped with a fresh pile of that real-deal whipped cream. In fact, the more whipped cream, the better.
I remember drinking Swiss Miss growing up. The kind with the weird after-taste and the fake mini-marshmallows. It was weird, indeed. I topped mine with extra Reddi-wip and zero regrets. Little did I know that making your own rich and creamy hot chocolate could be easier than you ever imagined.
Happyyyyyy Monday. Who else is drinking a pot of coffee this morning?
I have a million things to do before I begin my next month full of trips. This weekend I’m headed to Miami to attend the BlogHer food conference, then I’ll be jetting off to see Tony in North Carolina for a few days. The next week I’m going to New Mexico for a family reunion hosted by my one and only zumba-lovin’ Grandma (she’s incredible).
Soooo of course there’s travel prep, and that means a giant to-do list which has me running around like crazy. Plus, I’ve also been working out like a mad woman so I’ve needed lots of snacks. No joke, there are chickpea snacks, trail mixes, oranges and bars in my car.
One of my favorite on-the-go snacks are these chickpea snacks from The Good Bean. They’re high-fiber, low-fat, and high protein. They recently started an online store, where you’re able to purchase all of their delicious flavors. If you’re wondering which flavor to try first, I say go for the Chocolate Berry Fruit & No-Nut Bar — SO GOOD.
Happy Friday! I want to introduce you to someone very special. Meet Jessie of Wool and Whiskey.
I went to college with Jessie; she always had the brightest smile and her love of travel was well-known. In fact, we both studied abroad in Australia! Today, Jessie spends her time making the most beautiful, cozy hand knit scarves! I LOVE her scarves because they’re high quality, incredibly warm, and gorgeous!
More about Jessie: She first started knitting while living and teaching in South Korea. After returning to Minnesota, she continued her love for knitting by making big, cozy scarves for herself to keep warm during the chilly winters. After a few days of wearing her own hand knit scarf, Jessie began receiving compliments. The rest is history; Jessie started an Etsy shop and named it Wool and Whiskey, not only because the name has a nice ring to it but also because both seem to keep one warm on those below zero days!
Hi. I missed you. We are in need of some quality time together, don’t you think?
I arrived home from Australia on Sunday. You guys, it was one of the best trips I’ve ever been on; Tony (my boyfriend) and I had such an amazing time! Don’t worry; I’ll be sharing all of my photos and details of my trip soon. For now, I’m busy getting caught up at work, unpacking suitcases, and catching up on sleep.
In the meantime, I wanted to share with you a fun event I’m taking part of: Avo Awards by Avocados from Mexico! With Hollywood’s Big Night coming up on March 2nd, Avocados from Mexico is creating a fun event on their Facebook page.
So what is it, you ask?
Some of my favorite avocado recipes are going up against three other bloggers in a friendly Facebook competition. It’s super easy to vote for your favorite recipes in the Avo Awards by visiting Avocados from Mexico’s Facebook page February 21-March 5.
Wednesdays are such hump days. We need a pick me up. That’s why I’m giving away a 12-pack of the NEW Blend Yoplait Greek Yogurt!
Recently Yoplait sent me samples of their new product to try and I fell in love! I mean you guys know how much I love greek yogurt (because I bake with it obsessively). This blended greek yogurt? HOLY FREAKING LOVE OF MY LIFE. It is so yum!
So, what else makes this yogurt great? Well, I didn’t find it sour or chalky like some of the other brands out there. Plus, there are some pretty amazing flavors: Blueberry, Coconut, Pineapple, Strawberry Raspberry, Tangerine and Vanilla – all containing 150 calories or less per serving and 100 percent more protein than regular yogurt.
Now on to the giveaway!
Here’s how it works: I will randomly select ONE winner who will receive: 1 case (12 cups) of a Yoplait Greek flavor of their choice.
How to enter: Leave a comment below and answer the following question: If you could create any Greek Yogurt flavor, what would it be? (BE CREATIVE!)
For additional entries: Each follow on one of social networks below will get you an additional entry. Please leave a separate comment letting me know which social networks you follow me on.
It’s time to talk nutrition, clean eating and weight loss on Ambitious Kitchen. I’m sure you all know how important it is to feed your body with nourishing, good-for-you foods. You could run for an hour every single day but if you aren’t eating right, you’ll never see the results you desire. To top it all off, there are SO MANY diet out there; how do you even know what’s right? While I agree that it’s best to eat for your body type and what makes you feel good, I am also a huge advocate of clean eating.
So, what is clean eating? It’s basically a no-junk approach to your diet, plus it’s actually incredibly simple AND delicious! You don’t have to sacrifice the things you love, you just make alternative choices.
Here are some examples:
Roasted vegetables with herbs instead of chips — I roast veggies with a tiny bit of olive oil and an array of spices. YUM!
Sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes — Sweet potatoes are a complex carb, which means they take longer for your body to break down. I love topping mine with a tiny bit of almond butter or maple syrup.
Water instead of juice or a latte — Always reach for water. Most of the time when you think you’re hungry, you’re actually thirsty.
Nonfat plain Greek yogurt instead of sugar-packed ice cream — I could go on forever about the benefits of Greek yogurt and how I like to use it in recipes. My favorite swap is adding a packet of Truvia to Greek yogurt, then swirling in fresh fruit, pumpkin butter, peanut butter, or sometimes cocoa powder. Amazing!
Whole grain bread instead of white — If you must have bread, always go with whole grain or whole wheat. Read labels and watch out for breads with sugar added or high fructose corn syrup. Sprouted bread is great too.
Eggs instead of waffles every morning — It’s best to start your day off with a healthy breakfast. Think high protein and low sugar. Make a great choice to start the day, and you’re likely to stick with it.
So you’ve probably heard all of those before, right? Yes, eating clean is a conscious choice but it can also be a constant battle. Come on, are you kidding? I’m not perfect. I drool over Bon Appetit magazine and sometimes I just really crave an ice cream cone from McDonald’s. However, I live by the 80/20 rule which means most days I’m eating simple and clean. This makes me feel better, more confident, and in general, happier. I love the way my body feels when I’m eating healthy foods. Simply put, eating an apple is much more energizing then eating an Oreo. Wouldn’t you agree?
Now I’m not an expert or a nutritionist, I can only speak from my own experiences with weight gain/loss, dieting, and in general being a female. Obviously there’s a huge amount of pressure on women these days, and it’s easy to feel uncomfortable in your own skin. Most importantly, you also have to remember that only YOU are in control of your habits. If you want to make a change, you have to start somewhere. It’s certainly not going to be an easy road, but the good news is that little changes absolutely lead to BIG results!
If you’re not sure where to start on your road to clean eating and weight loss, here are my biggest tips:
Know how many calories you should be eating, then write down everything you eat. Yes, this is annoying but it will be a crucial part of your success. Monitoring what you are putting in your body is SO important. Most of the time we are unaware of how many calories that we’re actually consuming. I like to use the MyFitnessPal app on my phone, but you can also access it online!
Read nutrition labels. Nutrition labels are available to you for a reason. There are also serving sizes for a reason. Try to stick to these! Don’t make it a habit of purchasing foods with ingredients that you can’t pronounce.
Eliminate all of your ‘pleasure’ foods, but one (for a little bit anyway). This sounds difficult, and it is! Think of it more as a challenge. If you can take a look at your diet and see what foods you don’t need, then try to slowly eliminate them. I used to really love ice cream so every week I would go to Dairy Queen for a really big Reese’s Blizzard. I realized that this wasn’t making me feel good and that I didn’t really need it. Other examples would be cookies, pastries, your morning latte, chips at lunch, sodas, extra cream in your coffee, that sweet ‘granola’ bar, sugary cereals, etc. Keep one of your pleasure foods for one day a week to enjoy, then don’t feel guilty about it. Moderation is key!
Prepare, prepare, prepare, AND eat out less! Having healthy foods available to you will make eating healthier a lot more easy. Grill a couple of chicken breasts, make healthy breakfast burritos with egg whites, prepare oatmeal and soups in your crockpot for the week. Do what fits your lifestyle best, but try eating at home as much as possible. You will save calories and money! Here’s an example grocery list I created for The Food Network.
Try your best to NOT eat for emotional reasons: I have done this countless times, and perhaps it’s personally my biggest obstacle. Know what your triggers are. Currently I’m reading a phenomenal book on emotional eating. It’s really helped me in managing my stress and understanding my eating habits and triggers.
Always eat breakfast. Breakfast is the best; it kickstarts your metabolism, and allows you to stay on track the rest of the day! I love yogurt with fruit and nuts, an egg white omelet, or oatmeal!
Watch your fat and carb intake. Don’t get me wrong, healthy fats are wonderful. I love coconut oil, avocados, and nuts; however, these foods are easy to go overboard with and the calories quickly add up. Just make sure you watch your serving sizes — especially with cheese! As for carbs, I love them! They give you energy and make you feel happy, but you don’t need to eat a 6-inch Subway sandwich to feel good all the time. Look for good carb sources such as fruits or whole grains like oatmeal and quinoa. Power foods!
I hope that you’ll find some of these tips useful. I’ve found them successful for myself, but I’m definitely not an expert. I’m only sharing my knowledge based on what I’ve read and experimented with in my own life. You can consider that a disclaimer.
Now I think we can all agree that snacking is so much fun and it’s really difficult not to reach for that candy bar at 3pm. But I’ve got a brand that I think you will absolutely love! Quest Nutrition makes protein bars that taste like candy bars. Seriously, I think if I could eat these bars every day for the rest of my life, I would. Yep, obsessed!
Recently Quest Nutrition reached out to me and kindly sent me a sample package of their protein bars. OH MY GOODNESS, I was shocked at how incredible they were. These bars are truly perfect for someone who either loves to work out, is watching their figure, or for a low carb lover.
So let me tell you a little bit about their bars: they’re gluten free, contain at least 15g of protein, are low-carb, and have no sugar is added. Yes, they are as amazing as they sound — I’m not kidding! For me these bars were wonderful before or after a workout or if I needed a quick breakfast in the morning. My favorite flavors are chocolate chip cookie dough, chocolate, peanut butter chocolate, vanilla almond, and strawberry cheesecake. And all of them taste incredible when microwaved for 15 seconds.
I can’t recommend them enough and lucky for you, Quest has agreed to sponsor a giveaway.
Here’s how it works: I will randomly selecting TWO winners who will receive a 12-sample pack of Quest Nutrition Bars.
We all our beauty routines, don’t we? I always have to put my mascara on with my mouth wide open; I fully believe it gives me better application precision. Or something like that anyway. My absolute favorite mascara has to Great Lash Mascara from Maybelline. Yes, it’s cheap but it also happens to work extremely well for me. I buy the Lots of Lashes kind in Blackest Black; it seems to coat every eyelash and does a fantastic job at accentuating my eyes.
My biggest tip for long lashes: Heat your eyelash curler for 10 seconds with a hair dryer and curl your lashes before you apply mascara. Then apply, and use your eyelash curler to finish it off. Trust me, you’ll notice a difference!
Now for your lips! I can’t stand chapped lips. You need to make sure your lips are well-moisturized at all times! Because really, who wants to kiss dry lips? I used to date this guy who always had chapped lips… UGH. Anyway, I recommend applying lip balm before you apply your lip gloss or lipstick. It also helps if you can find a lipstick with vitamin e and moisturizers built in.
My biggest tip for soft lips:Rub warm coconut oil on your lips before you go to bed. A little goes a long way, plus it tastes delicious!
I’ve neglected one of my favorite things: writing and cooking for you!
It’s been so beautiful that hot summer days and beach sunsets are getting my grocery shopping obsession a little bit off track. I just can’t help but soak up the sun and ocean every chance I get.
I’m also the girl who can never turn down breakfast, which is why I’ve been brunching around LA quite a bit. Brunching for hours is good for the soul. And quite tasty too! Fresh squeezed orange juice, dirty chai tea lattes (a must-try!), gorgeous fried egg-avocado sandwiches, acai bowls, blueberry buttermilk muffins; these things make me overjoyed.
I mean, you just know it’s been a good weekend when you can go to brunch and chow down on chocolate chip pancakes bigger than your face. Double points if you’re eating to cure a headache. Come on and laugh… you know it’s true.
It’s unfair that we can’t eat french fries and pancakes all the time, but with incredibly delicious vegan soups like this I don’t even miss them. That’s just a lie; I actually LOVE french fries all the time (especially with these homemade dipping sauces)!
Nevertheless this soup still is exceptionally good. The ingredients make the perfect combination of sweet and savory. It just reminds me of all things summer. Garlic! Onion! Carrots! Chickpeas! Tomatoes! Sweet Potatoes! Cumin! Fresh Basil!
I felt extremely satisfied after finishing off a bowl. In fact, I even told myself that it canceled out all that weekend eating and margarita downing. I only wish that were true.
This soup was inspired by a recipe for tomato-chickpea soup from one of my favorite new vegetarian cookbooks, Herbivoracious. A few weeks ago, I attended a book signing and cooking demonstration by Michael Natkin, author of the cookbook and blog Herbivoracious. The book if FULL of gorgeous vegetarian photos. I can’t wait to try out more recipes; some are even vegan and/or gluten-free too!
Michael sampled delicious stuffed polenta (a recipe in his book) at the event, signed my cookbook, and even told me he LOVED my blog name! Awwww.
One last thing. I’m excited to announce that I’ll be giving away this cookbook to one of my readers!
All you have to do is leave a comment below and tell me your favorite brunch spot (and what you eat there, obviously)! Also, be sure to like my Facebook page; where I’ll announce the winner a week from today!
Don’t forget to make this soup! You might love it as much as french fries.
Vegan Tomato, Chickpea, and Sweet Potato Soup -- healthy, easy to make and delicious!
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small white onion, chopped
1 orange pepper, diced
2 large carrots, diced
1-(16 oz. can) chickpeas
1-(16 oz can) diced tomatoes (I prefer fire roasted)
2 cups vegetarian broth
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon fresh chopped basil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced
salt and pepper for seasoning
fresh chopped basil, for garnish
1 sliced avocado, for garnish (optional)
Heat the olive oil in a medium pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic, and salt; saute for 2 minute. Add the diced orange pepper and carrots to the pot and saute for 5 minutes.
Add the entire can of tomatoes to the pot. Next add the chickpeas, vegetarian broth, cumin, basil, red pepper flakes, cinnamon, and salt. Bring to a simmer; reduce the heat to medium, add diced sweet potatoes. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes, or until potatoes are tender. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.
Serve, garnished with additional basil and/or avocado slices if desired. Serves 4.
Adding things like quinoa, chicken, pork, or turkey would make this dish higher in protein
Feel free to add parsley or cilantro instead of basil