I just arrived in Minnesota, but I have to admit that I’m already missing California. I was really enjoying the ocean, running in the sunshine, and the warmth. Last week I ventured down to the pier to snap some photos before the sun set. It still felt like summer with my toes in the warm sand and the salty ocean breeze on my face.
Even though California is beautiful, I have to admit that there is nothing better than Fall in Minnesota. I can actually enjoy a steaming cup of hot chocolate filled with jumbo marshmallows. I can go apple picking and make the best apple crisp. Oh and what about soups?! I plan on eating spicy chili for a whole week! Plus who could forget about Fall fashion? I plan on shopping for cute hats. scarves, mittens, and boots.
But do you know what the best thing about Fall is? THE absolute best? Dessert! You know the ones that are served with a cup of hot coffee and good conversation.
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!
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’ll never forget the day I fell in love with baking. I was 7 years old.
My Mom decided that we would make a homemade pumpkin pie for the holidays. We spent hours deseeding and roasting pumpkins. I always enjoyed our time together in the kitchen because she gave me the best tasks.
On that particular day, I was in charge of making the pie crust look beautiful and fancy. Using my small hands, I tried my best to mimic the pie crust I had seen on the Thanksgiving dinner table, which of course resulted in something unsymetrical and pretty funny looking. Nevertheless, Mom was beaming at my accomplished pie crust and I was too! Eating the pie was the best part though; each bite brought me comfort and happiness knowing that I helped create a little slice of magic.
And so my love affair with baking began.
These days I find myself so busy that baking seems like a daunting task. It’s time-consuming, and sometimes a little bit complicated BUT I have to remind myself the results of home-baked goods are always unmatched. Lately I’ve been wanting to get back to real baking, the kind that is more like a project. And what’s more fun and interesting then making bagels from scratch? Seriously!
Now surprisingly, I don’t own bread machine, so I kneaded the dough by hand (talk about a calorie burner!); I felt accomplished and proud. Although, using an electrical mixer (such as a KitchenAid) would also work with this recipe.
Alas! I’m here to convince you to make homemade (handmade?) bagels. I’ll take you step-by-step through the recipe so that you can make these too! It’s a wonderful weekend project and great to do with kids. These bagels also happen to be lower in calories than bakery style, plus they’re chewy and toast perfectly. It’s some serious magic.
And since it’s Fall, we might as well make them pumpkin bagels, right? Then top them with a homemade whipped cinnamon honey butter.
So, here’s how we start: we’re going to proof the yeast (basically activate it)! Begin by placing warm water in a large bowl and adding the yeast along with brown sugar. The yeast essentially feeds off the sugar.
After a couple of minutes add the pumpkin, spices, and 2 cups of bread flour and mix until a sticky dough forms (pictured above).
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 that the title of this recipe is a little absurd and dramatic, but I couldn’t think of any other way to present this cookie to you.
Quite frankly, this is a chocolate chip cookie that will change your life.
Updated: Here’s a fun video I made with Gold Medal Flour. This video doesn’t include the stuffing of the nutella, but it’s still fun to watch how they’re made.
These cookies came about when my friend asked me to bake something that he could bring to an event he was going to. Of course, anytime someone asks me to make a dessert I usually end up baking my famous brown butter + sea salt chocolate chip cookies (because they are absolutely phenomenal); however, I wanted to do something a little different with the cookies that would be surprisingly unexpected and delicious.
So off to the grocery store I went, where I proceeded to pace the baking aisle for a good hour. I kept putting things in my basket and taking them out. No real surprise there, the grocery store is my sick obsession. I think I want to live there.
Then I realized that there is one delicious little nut butter that isn’t featured in any of my recipes: NUTELLA! I put a jar in my basket and ran to the check out lane absolutely giddy about what was going to take place. I mean, was I really going to stuff Nutella in the middle of a cookie?! I couldn’t wait! I’m not kidding… I really couldn’t wait; I ate some Nutella on the way home from the store. After all, taste testing is really important.
Once I got home, I popped the jar of Nutella in the fridge so that it would be easy to scoop out and place in the middle of the cookies. Next I begin to brown some butter. I should note that browning butter is a crucial part to the flavor of these cookies; it brings out a nutty, caramel flavor. The French even call call brown butter beurre noisette, which translates to hazelnut butter. How perfect is that since these cookies are stuffed with a chocolate hazelnut butter!?
After letting the brown butter cool, I mixed my cookie dough and let it chill for two hours in the refrigerator –another VERY important step when it comes to making cookies!
Now you are probably wondering why you have to wait so long when all you want to do is devour a cookie. I’ll explain: putting warm, gooey dough in the oven will result in a thin and crispy, spread out cookie. Also the longer the dough spends in the refrigerator, the longer it has to relax and absorb the flavors of the butter, which in turn will result in a better tasting, chewier cookie.
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.
How was your weekend? Mine was full of cooking! My roommate and I made arugula salads with fresh fruit vinaigrette, chicken stir fry, and spent hours making chile verde and the best apple crisp in the world. Our bellies were happy.
After all of that cooking, I wanted to bring you something simple: a green chile sauce that goes on top of nearly everything! I’m also a huge fan of how easy this recipe is. All you have to do is roast chiles (or you can used canned), put a couple of ingredients in a pot, and let it simmer for 30 minutes.
This green chile sauce is slightly spicy, but it reminds me of all things Summer. You can put it on anything, and is now a staple in my diet. I put it in on eggs, chicken, over enchiladas, in tacos, basically anything… oh and it’s incredible over squash. See?
Doesn’t that look good? I can’t wait to share a million other things that make Fall the best season everrrrr.
Until then, I’ll savor ice cream cones, shorts, the bright blue ocean, fresh fruit, iced coffee, and everything else that makes Summer oh so good. Here’s a look at some photos that I’ve snapped over the past month. (The recipe for the sauce is at the end of this post.)
Won’t you savor the rest of Summer with me? Preferably with this roasted green chile sauce; I’m telling you it’s soooo worth it!
Now, if you don’t know how to roast green chiles, here’s a great tutorial (with photos!) from the Pioneer Woman. Basically all you have to do is place green chiles under the broiler for 10-15 minutes. Cool, huh?
You’re gonna need this recipe for another recipe I have coming soon!