Jun
19

You guys know I’m a peanut butter lover for life. I mean whoever thought of grinding a nut into a magical spread is a FREAKING genius!

I literally slather peanut butter on everything in sight. I dream about it. I also wake up with peanut butter sandwiches next to my bed.

Yeah, don’t even ask.

Know what else I’m head over heels in love with? Almond butter! It’s ridiculously smooth and perfect on muffins, pancakes, and in chickpea blondies. After making this vanilla bean honey almond butter, I just don’t know if I can go back to the plain PB.

Almond butter is packed with nutritional benefits too; this includes fiber, protein, and good-for-you fats. I’m not sure about you, but I kind of want to dive face first into the jar.

Read more.


Jun
13

Yes, the weekend is here. I should be thrilled, but to tell you the truth, I am sooooooo tired. The only thing I’m thrilled about is the chance to sleep in.

I don’t think I’ve recovered from last weekend yet, plus my new job started on Monday so I’ve been going, going, going. Maybe I’ll take the weekend to recover just a little bit. This is really just me explaining why I haven’t been posting as frequently.

But here’s something to look forward to: A brand new redesigned Ambitious Kitchen! Yes, each day we’ve been plugging away on my new site! I’m excited for it to launch, but let me tell you, it takes more work than you would think!

Anyway since I’ve been on the go lately, I’ve needed to make sure that all of my meals and snacks are prepared ahead of time.

I’m also kind of on this no-wheat experimentation diet, thus I’ve been eating high protein breakfasts  — including these awesome veggie-packed egg white muffins.

Read more.


Jun
03

Well that title is certainly a mouthful. But guess what? I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I made you another delicious flourless treat without any weird ingredients. This time it includes two of my absolute favorite things: peanut butter AND nutella. OH BABY. And if you want to get really crazy, you can add bananas into that mix! But we’ll get to the various adaptations behind these bars in a bit. First I’d like to share some VERY exciting news with all of you!

I’ve taken a new job!

I will be joining General Mills as a full-time employee managing social for Gold Medal Flour and Bisquick. I’m completely thrilled as I have been working on and off with General Mills for the past two years in social media, thus it was only natural for me to move into a full-time role.

So what does this mean for Ambitious Kitchen?

You probably won’t notice a difference at all, other than my posts may be a little sporadic as I transition into my new role. Naturally you might hear me mention cereal and yogurt a bit more often (because I will be surrounded by it at work), but other than that I will continue to stay true to what I love: creating unique, (mostly) healthy recipes and sharing my passion for healthy living with all of you.

Again, thank you so much for your continued support of Ambitious Kitchen.

Note: Everyone has different opinions on the food brands they support; please know that Ambitious Kitchen is my personal food blog, and will continue to remain that way.

Read more.


Feb
21

Confession of the day: I’m an absolute lover of mini meals because I consider them real treats! For example, my go-to snacks are bananas rolled in toasted almonds, rice cakes with cottage cheese and honey, or cereal with ice cold almond milk. Oh and margaritas! Because those can be considered snacks, right?

Anyway I’m getting back to the point here… I eat a lot of carbs, and that’s a problem. But you guys, I just ADORE nooks-and-crannies english muffins and basically every flavor or Cheerios to ever hit the market (minus Dulce de Leche).

Raise your hand if I just described you, too.

Surprisingly I’ve managed to stop buying both bread and cereal so now the only carb-like food lurking in my cupboards is a pack of rice cakes, low-carb tortillas, and apparently marshmallow creme, which I ate from the jar last night while watching old episodes of Felicity.

I don’t know if you know this but teen drama from the 90s is extremely stressful.

So this whole low-carb thing means that I am  forced to give up pasta and opt for something else to pair tomato sauce with. That’s where spaghetti squash comes in handy; it’s gluten-free, low-carb, and freaking delicious! Did you know that one cup of spaghetti squash only has 42 calories and 8 net carbs? I can literally eat platefuls of it!

The real star today isn’t the spaghetti squash though; it’s my homemade arrabbiata sauce — a spicy tomato marinara sauce with garlic and herbs. I was reading somewhere that arrabbiato means angry in Italian, which for me just translates into one mean, spicy marinara! It is sensational, especially when paired with garden veggies.

I enjoy making homemade tomato sauce because I love knowing what ingredients are being used plus the flavors are always bold and fresh. I thought it would be fun to show you how I make my favorite sauce without canned ingredients so that you can enjoy it too! Trust me, once you try this you won’t go back. Read more.


Nov
29

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.
Enjoy!

Sep
19

 

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.

I’ve also been making a lot of brown butter and sea salt chocolate chip cookies. While they are amazing, I can’t say they benefit my waistline. Oh well… WORTH IT.

To balance it out, I eat A LOT of veggies. Roasted in garlic and tossed in olive oil. I could eat the entire pan… and often times I do.

Snack time happens a lot. I’ve been drinking vegan kale green monster smoothies (I have a recipe coming soon).

I think they totally make me kissable. My kale bag thinks so too.

Read more.


Aug
31

I have a little confession…

I don’t eat a lot of Italian food.

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?

Yep.

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!

Read more.


Jun
24

There’s something about pizza that’s irresistible.

Who can just stop at one slice? Especially kids! Seriously, put a large pizza in front of two kids and it will be gone in approximately 5 minutes… then they’ll want cupcakes immediately after. How do they do it?! Bottomless stomachs.

I’d love to go back to that carefree world and eat a whole pizza for breakfast.

I’m being serious here.

I ate bagel bites alllll the time when I was a kid. Cute, delicious little pizza bagels is what they were. And let’s not forget about stuffed crust pizza! Too good. But please NEVER eat a pizza crust stuffed with hot dogs… that’s just disturbing.

As perfect as pizza can be, in any shape or form, I’ve never been a huge fan pepperoni; however, I made a spicy pepperoni tomato sauce, spooned it on top of skillet chicken, and topped it with mozzarella cheese. MIND BLOWING is what it is.

WHAT? The sauce is DAMN good. Quite possibly now the love of my life. No big deal though, I’ll walk you through the deliciousness so you can experience it for yourself in less than 30 minutes!

First we start with the best ingredients for the best sauce: roasted garlic pasta sauce (any type of tomato sauce would work such as marinara), fresh minced garlic, pepperoni, oregano, and fresh basil.

Saute pepperoni and fresh garlic for a few minutes. Savor the smells.

Note: I used turkey pepperoni; it tastes the same but has half the fat and calories of regular pepperoni. You can usually find it at your local grocery store.

 

Next, add your pasta sauce to the pan and add oregano.

Look at that steam rising!

Add red pepper flakes if you desire to make the sauce spicy, otherwise you can leave them out.

But please do add them. My motto: Spice up your food, spice up your life!

Now we add in the million dollar basil. Stir, and get a little obsessed.

Set the sauce aside. Sprinkle chicken with black pepper and cook in a skillet until golden brown and juices run clear.

Once chicken is cooked, spoon the pepperoni sauce on top. Resist the urge to just eat the sauce by the spoonful. I have no willpower sometimes.

Add cheese and place the skillet under the broiler for two minutes.

Remove and garnish fresh basil leaves, extra cheese, and/or extra red pepper flakes!

Even though I’m not a parent, I know that it can be difficult to find healthy meals that kids will enjoy. Just trust me on this: put something in front of them that tastes like pizza, and you’re golden. Using reduced-fat cheese and turkey pepperoni makes it even better for them and you!

Of course there are endless possibilities with this: Throw it on top of pasta or stuff it in a whole wheat pita (pita pizza)!

It’s a truly simple, healthy weeknight dinner that can be whipped together in a flash. I’m all about that.

 

Something else I’m all about? That Magic Mike movie. Drool.

 

Skillet Chicken with Spicy Pepperoni-Tomato Sauce

Cooking spray

2 cloves of garlic, minced

20 slices pepperoni (I used turkey), coarsely chopped

1 1/2 cups healthy tomato pasta sauce*

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 1/2 pounds chicken breast tenderloins

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup reduced fat shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions

  1. Preheat broiler to high.
  2. Heat a saucepan over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add garlic and pepperoni; cook 2 minutes or until garlic begins to brown, stirring frequently. Add oregano; cook 30 seconds. Add tomato sauce; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in basil.
  3. Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil. Sprinkle chicken with pepper. Add chicken to skillet; cook 5-6 minutes or until lightly browned, turning after 3 minutes and cook until chicken juices run clear. Spoon sauce over chicken; sprinkle evenly with cheese. Broil 2 minutes or until cheese melts.

Notes

  • *Use any pasta sauce you like, I recommend healthy low-sodium marinara sauce or a roasted garlic
  • Adapted from Cooking Light
  • Leave out red pepper flakes if cooking for kids, or if you don’t enjoy spicy food

Jun
03

Google has the answer to everything.

I mean, have you ever wondered why old people love butterscotch candies so much? I did and I googled it… here is the answer. Please read the entire explanation.

I think the best part is the last sentence. Spot on, right?

I’ve discovered that my soul must be about 70 because some of my favorite sweets include butterscotch candies, Fig Newtons, peppermint patties, and Almond Joys. Simplicity is good in the candy world. The sweet and salty versions and contrasting textures that make up a good bar.

Almond joys are great examples: coconut, almonds, and dark chocolate. I mean, it’s kind of just simple perfection. Or perfect enough for me to want to put the ingredients on top of my ice cream anyway.

When you dream and work in the food world — you always want to experiment with what you create. To be wild and explorative makes things interesting. Adding bourbon to sauces and cookies, baking with brown butter, adding green chile to eggs. These things are totally what I’m about–keeping it fearless and sassy.

Like what about cake? Sometimes baking cakes can be complete experiments. No fear. Upside Down Salted Caramel Apple Pecan and dark chocolate raspberry are so much more fun–to eat AND make. In fact the other day I got some wonderful news regarding my Chocolate-Coconut and Pumpkin Marble Bundt Cake that won a recipe contest last fall. Nordic Ware contacted me and asked if they could use the recipe in their new cookbook coming out this Fall… of course I said yes! There’s even a chance it might make it on the cover.. yay!

Anyway my point is that applying more spontenaity to my actual life could be beneficial. These days I tell myself to pursue the projects I think I might enjoy. If they don’t work out, then it’s not meant to be. Right now, I’ve got A LOT of thing I’m working on… including a guest post from someone VERY special this week!

Opportunities are endless.

Can ice cream be endless too?

Without a doubt. Especially when it’s healthy and vegan. Although I will admit that this really isn’t ice cream — it’s a one ingredient guiltless summer treat. All you need is a couple of frozen bananas and a food processor (or a blender). Once the frozen banana are processed, they turn into a creamy treat that mimicks your favorite soft serve! Make sure you use ripe bananas to ensure sweetness and an irresistable texture. You’ll be surprised by this one.

I’ve even thought up some outrageous toppings to add. Head on over to the Food Network’s Healthy Eats and check it out!

 

Banana “Ice Cream” with Toasted Coconuts, Almonds, & Dark Chocolate

To make the banana ice cream:

Start with 2-4 ripe bananas. Peel your bananas and cut them into small chunks. Freeze for just 2-4 hours on a plate or in a plastic bag. Place into food processor and process (you can use a blender as well), making sure to scrape down the bowl when they stick. Again process the bananas until they create a creamy puree. Serve in a cold bowl or in a cone. Each banana will make ½ cup of “ice cream.”

To make Almond Joy version:

Add 2 tablespoons of toasted coconut, 1 tablespoon of chocolate chips, and 1 tablespoon of chopped almonds to a medium bowl. Sprinkle on top of banana ice cream.

 


Apr
11

I have some very important information to share with you.

I’m on a no pie diet. The importance of that statement can’t be questioned.

Does this mean you won’t see sweet recipes? Nope, it just means I’m going to bake and eat brownies, cookies, and homemade pop-tarts instead. Pie baking is saved for special occasions only (otherwise my thighs would hate me). Wait, my half-birthday is coming up! That’s a special occasion… right? More pie please!

Focus Monique. Obviously we’re not taking about anything sweet here. What we are talking about is a Sweet Potato & Chicken Mexican Stir-Fry that you’ll want every day for the rest of your life. Facts only.

Read more.

 
 
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