Mine was wonderful. I caught up with a friend over margaritas and mexican food, and also enjoyed some yoga sculpt classes where I sweat my entire soul onto the mat. I absolutely love yoga though; there’s just something about it that makes me feel incredible. I compare it to a bit like a runner’s high, except with an emotional connection. Perhaps it’s a little difficult to explain, all I know is that I’m smitten with my yoga practice! In fact, I’ve been considered becoming a yoga instructor. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time especially because fitness is such a huge part of my life.
First though, I’m focusing on a redesign for Ambitious Kitchen which will take up an incredible amount of time. So if you see pictures of me with bloodshot eyes, it’s from staring at my computer for too long. Not from other things. Obviously.
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.
During my younger years, my Mom used to bring me along to grocery store while she went shopping. I was always excited to go on these weekly trips because I knew she would buy me the crispy wedge fries from the Deli counter. They were incredibly delicious and basically everything you need in your life at the age of four. Especially when you’ve got ketchup to dip them in.
I specifically remember the fries having this incredible crunchy golden brown coating on the outside with a hint of spice. But the inside? Pure bliss. An incredibly soft texture that I still remember to this day. We called them Joe-Joes; I’m still not really sure why.
Anyway there I’d be sitting and snacking delightfully on my little bag of Joe-Joes with a little (or A LOT) of ketchup all over my hands and face. I was probably grinning ear to ear.
Is it wrong that I kind of want to do that again? Probably. Well because adults don’t sit in shopping carts, nor do they have messy faces or hands.
Growing up is tough guys… especially when you grow out of eating joe-joes. However, I’ve realized that fries can be so much better with flavor combinations that could fill up an entire book and dipping sauces that are completely creative.
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.
Welp, it’s Monday. I have a lot of things that I need to share with you. So let’s just get to it!
1. I got an iPhone. My life has officially changed… I don’t know if it’s for the better since I’m pretty obsessed. This weekend my godson downloaded like 5 ninja apps. He also read my texts. Yes, quite entertaining. Oh and obviously I now have Instagram. I basically just take photos of food, brown butter, and things that don’t matter. SO COOL, right? Wrong.
2. I’m headed to NYC this week! Eeeek! Can you believe that I’ve never been before? I am SO excited. I’ll only be there a few days, but trust me,you are going to want to see the recap. We’re staying in the Trump tower! I also really need some incredible restaurant recommendations so send them my way puhhhlease?
3. My birthday is in like, a month and 10 days… but who’s counting? ANYWAY due to this immediate holiday coming up, I have to start thinking about what I really want to do. I have concluded that I need an incredible meal, followed by a HOMEMADE pumpkin pie served with real whip cream. Really, it’s all I want. Or a trip to Greece. Either one would work.
4. That being said, Thanksgiving is soon. There will be epic desserts on this blog in the next coming weeks. Bear with me as we expand our waistlines… OR you could just make the recipes for other people and give them yoga pants for Christmas.
5. This HUMMUS needs to be made by you. Also bonus points if you make homemade pita chips and eat it for breakfast because you know that’s what I did. I have to thank the fabulous Giada for the inspiration. I have to thank myself for slathering it over everything in sight.
My basil plant is still producing huge leaves, so I decided that it was time to use them up. Holy italian-hummus-love this is GOOD. The basil, garlic, and white bean hummus makes the perfect appetizer and is pretty great on just about anything.
Hummus on sandwiches. Hummus for breakfast. Hummus snacking is totally good. I would know, I dipped carrots, snowpeas, and every veggie imaginable in it. At one point I contemplated putting it on a granola bar, but decided that was taking it too far. But I don’t know. It might still happen.
Oh and the whole making your own pita chips thing? Probably the easiest thing you could ever do. I usually buy the 100 calorie whole wheat pita bread. Western Bagelmakes an amazing high-fiber, lower-carb pita bread, but feel free to use any you like!
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!
Sometimes I find myself in an entranced state when I cook. It’s as though I get lost in the food; in the flavors, the smells, and sometimes just the simple pleasure that good food brings to my soul.
I also get lost pinning things on Pinterest. Which is mostly just a distraction from what I’m actually trying to do which is work like a normal person and get to the gym.
Speaking of the gym, I have an update on my Big Foot/marine/professional wrestler trainer! Uhhh… he is legit crazy (yes I just said that). He made us do 30 jumpsquats, some weird miliary squats with weights, 20 billion planks, and suicides. It’s like high school basketball practice all over, and again, I thought I was going to die. Apparently he enjoys torturing people while he sits there and plans his next attack as Sasquatch or whatever he does in his free time. I mean he even told us to eat a Paleo based diet, which of course I won’t be doing. Only because I really like carbs and pumpkin pie season is coming (my obsession).
What?! No one tells me what to eat.
…Unless it’s someone really ridiculously good-looking like Pacey from Dawson’s Creek. Then I MIGHT consider his suggestion.
Bruschetta is delicious and quite healthy as far as appetizers go. Well unless you put fried onion rings and bacon on it.. then not so much.
However, I like good-for-you sorts of things. So toasted slices of whole grain french bread are slathered with one of my favorites: heart-healthy smashed avocado mixed with sea salt and fresh lime juice. Then I pile on a mixture of tomato, balsamic vinegar, garlic and olive oil. Oh and let’s not forget a little fresh basil!
Goodness. These cute toasts are simply delightful. Especially with fresh tomatoes from your garden!
They only take about 10 minutes to throw together.
Annnnndddd they are vegan! But I mean, if you hate vegan things you could just add a little goat cheese. Or bacon.
Hey by the way… did you guys know that I don’t eat pork or beef?
Whole grain slices of french bread are toasted to perfection and topped with smashed avocado and a garlicky tomato basil mixture.
1/2 loaf whole grain french bread (or 1 petite loaf), sliced 1/2 inch thick
2 avocados, smashed
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon sea salt, plus exta
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 large roma tomatoes, chopped
2 cloves garlic
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
3-4 basil leaves, chopped
Preheat oven on broiler setting.
Place slices of bread on baking sheet, spray with olive oil cooking spray and sprinkle with sea salt; broil slices in oven about 2 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Remove from oven and rub with one clove of garlic (make sure to cut it in half before rubbing).
In a medium bowl, mix smashed avocado, lime juice, and 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt and ground pepper.
In a separate large bowl, combine tomatoes, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. Mince other garlic clove and add it into tomato mixture.
Spread smashed avocado mixture onto each slice of toast, then generously spoon tomato topping on top. Garnish with basil and serve immediately.
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’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