I was just thinking about how much has changed this past year. I mean isn’t it a bit exhilarating how fast life happens? We’re learning tough truths, letting go of the things that are out of our control, and heck, we’re growing and changing!
Last year I was working on the east coast. I barely had any time to blog and was struggling with what I wanted to do with my life. I referred to it as my early quarter life crisis. It was like when Felicity had to choose Ben or Noah, and decided to become an artist (seriously, go buy all the seasons of Felicity). Anyway, it wasn’t until I was completely lost did I discover my passion that I absolutely had to pursue. It was so obvious at that point: food is the recipe to my heart and happiness! I love creating it, photographing it, and eating it.
I know I talk a lot about following your dreams and living your passion, but that’s because I completely believe in it! Helping you, whether it’s in your kitchen or in your life is essentially apart of my success.
Today’s success comes in the form of soup. A soup that I’m completely in love with. Of course, I’m in love with a lot of things, but simple soup fills me up with contentment. Adding crispy lime and salt studded corn tortilla chips on top just makes it that much better.
Soup is one of my favorite things during the cold winter months. I literally dream about the days where I can sit with a good book, a cup of soup, and a slice of crusty bread to soak up all that warm comfort left on the bottom of my bowl.
And of course in between eating pie for breakfast (there were leftovers!) and shoveling Christmas cookies in my mouth; my soul craves soup. Perhaps because it’s the only thing that isn’t made up of purely sugar and butter. Goodness, my body needs a break from that. And this soup? Well, it leaves me full, warm, and richly satisfied.
The butternut squash is roasted in the oven to bring out it’s natural sweetness. Meanwhile the apples, carrots and onions are sauteed with a bit of cinnamon. Lastly the maple and milk are added. The soup is easily pureed into a fairly thick and creamy delight which ends up being quite delicious paired with croutons, or a warm crusty bread for dipping.
It’s really quite perfect in between those overindulgent family get-togethers, cookies exchanges, and peppermint lattes.
I thought it would be fun to start off the week with 10 random things. Ready?
1. You should rent the movie The Lucky One. I watched it this past weekend and decided that the plot was weird but that Zac Efron is probably one of the most good looking human beings on the planet and totally worth staring at for 1.5 hours. Do it.
3. Trader Joe’s makes Nonfat Pumpkin Greek Yogurt. It’s like a drug, so plan accordingly. Swirl that in your oatmeal in the morning, dip a pita chip in it, or put it in a smoothie. Addictive. Like really freaking addictive.
10. October is National Chili month. Let’s celebrate by eating this chili! It’s vegetarian, hearty, and amazing with a smoked chipotle greek yogurt sauce. Extra points if you serve it with cornbread.
I ate this chili all weekend. At first it’s slightly sweet, but has a tiny bit of kick from the chipotle tabasco sauce (a must have condiment in my opinion). It’s also full of a medley of spices including tumeric, cumin, chili powder, cinnamon, and a pinch of nutmeg. Ugh it was everything I wanted: sweet, savory, and perfect for a chilly fall day.
I swear you’ll fall in love with it. And it’s hearty enough to last you a couple of days. Or if you prefer, you can freeze half of it and take it out later during the winter when you need a big bowl of comfort.
I just wanted to tell you all that I’m in a Starbucks writing this post. I’m hungrier than a lion and those little salted caramel cake pops are staring at me. Seriously, whoever invented those is a genius because I want to destroy about three of them… with my mouth.
Sorry if that was too much, but writing about food, staring at food, and smelling food is making me a little bit weird. Minus the fact that I’m already weird, so this post is just extremely weird. Got it?
Anyway I’ve gathered all of my willpower so we can chat about what’s been actually going down in my kitchen. About a month ago I posted a simple photo of tilapia on my Facebook page. Many of you asked for the recipe, so although I don’t have photos of the finished, plated meal, I thought that you would still enjoy it. But here’s some truth: half of the things I create or bake don’t end up on my blog. Sometimes it’s simply because I didn’t snap a photo; realistically it’s because I’m a little bit of a perfectionist now that I own a nice camera. Most of the food I create is made at night for dinner, so finding time to set up a photoshoot when I’m hungry can be difficult. Not to mention I only use natural lighting, so I’m a little bit bummed that it’s getting darker, earlier.
Let me introduce you what’s been happening. Usually my kitchen is a mess.
Mostly because I make a lot of pancakes. Like every morning. They’re always different and damn, they are delicious.
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 know, crazy right? I think it’s because I’m a tiny bit obsessed with all things Mexican (enchiladas, chips, guac, tacos… etc)! It’s just too good to refuse.
This past week though I just had a craving for ravioli, lasagna, garlic bread or basically ANYTHING ITALIAN. Unfortunately all I had in my cupboard was tomato sauce, but man, did that sauce look good. Like I sort of wanted to eat it out of the jar and call it dinner.
Is that weird?
I thought to myself for a very long time about what I could do with the tomato sauce. I mean, besides spooning it into my mouth or just warming it up and pretending it was tomato soup. At one point I considered ordering breadsticks from Pizza Hut just so I could dip them in the sauce, but decided I wasn’t that desperate.
I ended up searching the freezer and found lean ground turkey. Obviously cute little meatballs came straight to mind!
Just look at that steamy goodness!
I especially love this recipe because it only takes about 30 minutes to throw together. The ground turkey is combined with an egg and the following spices: cumin, garlic salt, black pepper, red pepper flakes, a pinch of cayenne, basil, oregano, plus a bit of dijon mustard. Now that may seem like a lot of spices, but it results are drop dead delicious!
Everything about Fall is lovely. Warm sweaters, over the knee boots, sipping hot cider, apple picking, pumpkin pie (!!!!), soups, winter squash, lasgana…. I could go on forever. And yes, I understand that it may still be August but I’m already pulling out the fall recipes to share with you.
Out of all winter squash varieties, I’d have to say that acorn squash is probably my favorite. It’s creamy, slightly sweet, and incredibly good for you. Often times on Sundays I’ll roast a couple of squashes in my oven, and then enjoy them throughout the week for my meals. I especially LOVE eating it for breakfast with a little bit of honey and cinnamon and greek yogurt; you’d be surprised by how filling and delicious it can be. Sometimes I’ll even mash the squash and throw it in quesadillas with goat cheese.
Of course, stuffing them with southwest flavors is pretty incredible too.
These are probably one of my favorite dinners I’ve made in a while. The creaminess of the squash combined with the southwest black bean and corn filling and the tangy melted goat cheese is out of this world. And of course it’s healthy, easily vegan (take out the cheese) and gluten-free.
Sometimes in life you do things you aren’t proud of. Like that time I went to Chick-Fil-A and ordered their chicken nuggets because I was starving. At the moment little chicken nuggets (bites of childhood happiness) dipped in BBQ sauce sounded absolutely tremendous. What a mistake that was! The chicken nuggets were coated in a ridiculous amount grease (I literally had butterfingers) and the breading wasn’t crispy, but rather soggy. The entire meal just tasted like hydrogenated oils. I felt like I was committing a crime against my heart.
BUT let me tell you something even more disturbing: I ate them anyway.
Ew… I know. Perhaps because it was one of those days where I was really hungry, stressed, and greasy chicken nuggets seemed to rationalize hating my job. All I wanted was a little bite of comfort… but even loading (literally coating) them with sauce didn’t provide that. They still tasted like lard. I mean, not that I know what lard tastes like or anything, but you get the point.
However that day got me thinking about how easy it is to roll through the drive through, sometimes just for that comfort meal… or for that childhood moment! But more than likely because your kid is chanting and/or crying that they are hungry, and oh look (!) you see a fast food joint and well, maybe you’re kinda hungry too… so you order a burger and fries. Now your kid is happy but you’re feeling guilty. It’s happened to me, and I’m not even a parent. Sometimes it’s easy to give in to what’s convenient.
I won’t lie, sometimes I really crave a small fry from McDonald’s. BUT I realize that they aren’t even that great (salt overload) and that quite frankly, I could probably cook something better tasting and better for me at home. And you can do it too! In 30 minutes! Just give the kid an apple to tie them over.
Soooo what do you think? Wanna make some crunchy chicken tenders with me or what?
Great! Let’s get started.
While rummaging through the pantry, I found a box of Honey Bunches of Oats, and starting thinking to myself that they would be incredible on chicken; they’re sweet, crunchy and have a slightly nutty flavor from the almonds. Basically they are honey cornflakes! And who doesn’t want to put cereal on everything in sight? My thoughts exactly.
I knew I wanted my chicken tenders to be extremely moist because I really despise dry flavorless chicken. So, I marinated my chicken in nonfat plain greek yogurt and honey. If you want to make these honey mustard flavored all you have to do is all a little dijon mustard to your marinade.
Finally, I placed a couple of cups of the cereal into a ziploc bag, crushed them into tiny flakes, then placed my chicken in the bag and shook to coat. All I had to do was bake them until crispy and golden brown. See? Look at those perfectly cute little tenders.
Mmmmmmm tasty crunchy chicken tenders that don’t make me want to die. This is a miracle! You don’t understand how awesome it felt to not have a cup of grease on my fingers after eating these (Chick-Fil-A please take note).
BUT seriously I can’t tell you how mega good these are. The honey cornflake exterior is complimented with a slightly nutty crunch, and the chicken stays incredibly moist. I recommend dipping them in my homemade honey mustard sauce.
Let me know if you or your kids approve as much as I do.
Oh, and do you guys notice the new font on my blog? I kind of love it! I also added an easy print button for the recipes! Let me know if you like it.
Baked Honey Cornflake Chicken
Recipe type: Main Dish, Dinner, Kid-Friendly, Healthy
Chicken breasts are marinated in honey and greek yogurt to ensure tenderness, then the chicken tenders are coated in a honey cornflake cereal and baked until golden and crunchy.
Olive or Canola Oil Cooking spray
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into vertical strips
2 cups plain nonfat greek yogurt
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons dijon mustard (if desired)
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 1/2 cups of Honey Bunches of Oats (either with almonds or honey roasted) cereal, crushed
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Rinse your chicken breasts strips and pat dry with a paper towel; set aside. Add greek yogurt, honey, salt, and dijon mustard (if desired) to a large bowl. Place chicken into bowl and toss to coat each in yogurt, cover with plastic wrap and place in fridge for 20 minutes.
Next, place 1/2 of the crushed cereal in a zip loc bag and add 1/2 of the yogurt covered chicken to the bag, shaking to coat. Remove and place on large greased baking sheet then repeat with second half of the cereal and chicken.
Spray the chicken with cooking spray and bake for 20-25 minutes or until chicken is thoroughly cooked.
Baking time will depend on how large or thick your chicken tenders are. Check after 20 minutes for small tenders.
These can also be made into chicken nuggets, just cut chicken into smaller cube like pieces before marinating.
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
Delicious, healthy salmon has never tasted SO good.
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
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
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.)
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.
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.
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!
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.
During college I was in love with a salad from a local restaurant. It was always refreshing, consistent, and filling! My best girlfriends and I ate it at least once a week — it was our favorite! I swear the waiters began to know us by name, but that MIGHT have been because we always took at least 10 of the free lollipops they set out in a large bucket. I don’t know why we thought free meant endless supply?
Anyway ordering dirty martinis and a chopped salad with no bacon and dressing on the side was our tradition.
I do have a little advice for you: always eat food before martinis. Seriously remember that.
So, what’s a chopped salad anyway?
It’s simply a salad that includes fresh produce and ingredients that have been ‘chopped’ (or just cut up to fairly equal size), then the salad is typically tossed together. Flavors can be adjusted and dressing may be used. Chopped salads are very popular in restaurants as they make the perfect lighter meal.
I know the question you want to ask me. And the answer is YES, you will look like Heidi Klum if you eat salads like this for dinner… every night… for the rest of your life.
To make the salad I started with fresh romaine hearts then I added protein: pulled chicken breast and chickpeas. The rest? Grilled sweet corn (or whatever you have on hand), fresh grape tomatoes, avocado, crumbled goat cheese, and fresh chopped cilantro. Then tossed (or drizzled) with any dressing you desire. I drizzled mine with my favorite BBQ sauce; it was heavenly.
Seriously this salad is just GOOD. It makes you feel good. In fact I’m starting to think it even makes good things happen. Just the other day I found $20 I never knew I had. Yesterday I made the best banana bread I have EVER made in my life. Today I had an amazing meeting! Oh, and I’ll be traveling again soon!
In any case, I need to eat more chopped salads. That way I can eat more cake.
A healthy, delicious salad that's super easy to whip up.
2 large romaine hearts, washed and chopped
1 cup pulled cooked chicken breast
1 (15.5 oz) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 cup grape tomatoes, sliced in half
3/4 cup sweet corn (I grilled mine)
1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese
1/3 cup cilantro, washed and chopped
1 small avocado, diced
1/2 cup BBQ dressing, if desired
In a large bowl add lettuce, top with all ingredients except for avocado and BBQ dressing. Toss salad gently.
Place into cold salad bowls. Garnish with diced avocado and drizzle with BBQ dressing if desired. Serve with low-fat corn tortilla strips.
To make vegan omit chicken and goat cheese. Add in roasted diced red peppers for more flavor.
You may you any dressing you like. Sometimes I like adding 2 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice and find that I don't need any dressing at all.