monique and a cookie

Year in Review: 2014, you were wonderful.

Celebrating a wonderful year: 2014 was wonderful! See some of my favorite highlights from this year including travel, food, and people I love.

Monique with glasses

Thanks for being weird with me.

I’ve officially been blogging for 3 1/2 years now. I remember when I first started out I didn’t know what I was doing, only that I wanted to share my creations with other people who loved food just as much as I do. Now years later, I feel like I’m focused, more passionate, knowledgeable and creative then I ever was before.

2014 was a huge milestone personally and professionally; I can’t thank you enough for being here reading along as this blog continues to change and grow.

collage of recipes

So as we continue on this journey together, I thought I’d share some of my absolute favorite recipes, photos and moments over the past year and also, my plans for 2015.

January 2014 started off slow. I did a juice cleanse that I despised (not posted on the blog). Tony and I spent a lot of time together. It was the worst winter I ever experienced in Minnesota. We booked a trip to Australia for one of a close friend’s wedding. I made homemade salted dark chocolate almond butter, a detox salad, skinny coconut oatmeal banana bread and a pretty delicious stir-fry.

2014 Year in Review | Ambitious Kitchen

photo courtesy of Susannah Schuh

February 2014 was a definite highlight in my year. Tony and I traveled around the world to Australia. We snorkeled with sea turtles, kayaked on the ocean, swam above sharks and attended the most beautiful wedding.

tony and monique

Tony and I experienced some of the best coffee and bread we’ve ever had in Oz. I’m convinced that I will return again soon; it just feels like home there.

Food wise, I made this cozy butternut chickpea moroccan stew and these reader favorite healthy banana bread breakfast bars. Both are gluten free!

monique with a cake

March 2014: Here’s my first cooking video! I fell in love with making videos and was so lucky to be able to do it while I worked at General Mills. We made several and I’d absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE to do more this year, but unfortunately it is rather expensive to hire someone who does high quality work. (If you know of anyone, seriously feel free to let me know!)

collage of recipes and monique

I traveled to Arizona to visit Tony while he was at Spring training. It was beautiful and warm. We climbed Camelback Mountain. Some of my favorite recipes from March were my chicken enchilada meatloaf muffins and my gluten free and dairy free chocolate chip cookies.

Above all, March was a huge month for me as I was really beginning to appreciate and accept myself more. I worked out consistently. I tried my best to eat a balanced diet and paid more attention to my emotions and what my body was telling me. Overall, I felt a million times better.

I also started toying with the idea of leaving my job. Just thinking about it. Nothing concrete just yet. It would take me months to be certain — more on that later!

tony and monique

April 2014 was crazy busy. I was traveling a lot to see Tony and didn’t have time to cook for the blog because work was hectic plus I was finishing up the redesign plans for AK. Somehow I managed to post this incredible carrot cake banana bread. Craving a slice right now.

collage of recipes and monique

At this point I was working out hard and baking pretty much every day. It was really hard for me to find a balance between eating and working out. I wanted to do both ALL the time.

monique's grandparents

May 2014 was full of travel. I went to Miami for the BlogHer Food conference, traveled to New Mexico to visit my family and headed to North Carolina to spend a few days with Tony. My good friend Angie also got married and it was a complete vintage wedding out of Pinterest.

monique and her mom

The recipes in May were some of my favs too! I made a wild blueberry smoothie that I still love to slurp up every now and then. Other recipes I loved were my toasted pecan butter chocolate chip cookies (they’re flourless and gluten free!). And of course my favorite greek yogurt buttermilk pancakes with a how to video!

Summer Travel - Miami & The Carolinas

June 2014 was terrific. A brand new redesigned Ambitious Kitchen was launched, Tony and I went on a mini vacation to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and I was feeling really great and healthy thanks to a mix of yoga, cardio and weights.

tony and monique

But of course, I baked a few batches of cookies and these blueberry white chocolate coconut oatmeal ones were TOPS.

collage of recipes

July 2014 was all about food. I was trying my best to get back into cooking for the blog. I made a fresh summer chicken chopped salad, green chile black bean burgers, double chocolate zucchini muffins, experimented with coconut flour successfully and made spicy vegetarian enchiladas.

I wrote a post about change and self love. If you read it, you can see that I was in a huge debate about what I should be doing with my life. I felt like I had changed so much over the past year and that my career wasn’t reflecting it. Above all, I was nervous and fearful of the unknown. Could I do the blog full time? Did I want to? Should I move? These questions would swirl in my mind for the next month.

monique with a cookie

August 2014 was terrifying. I had made up my mind  that I was going to quit my job. I just had to. The only thing left for me there was stability and I was confident that I would be fine leaving it behind. Of course I didn’t plan on quitting as soon as I did. I thought that I’d make it until November, but there wasn’t a single part of me that could handle it any longer. I was unhappy and felt like quitting was the only thing I ever talked about.

Late one night, Tony and I talked about what it would be like to quit. Turns out all I needed was a little confidence, as the next day I resigned as an employee. It felt liberating but also scary. I really didn’t have a plan. Only that I needed to make blogging full time work for me. And it has. Goodness, I wish I would have quit months before that.

On the blog I showed you some of my Stitch Fix keeps. Some favorite recipes from August include: 10 healthy pancake recipes, lightened up greek yogurt blueberry scones, zucchini lasagna and a middle eastern chickpea salad. I also asked you kindly to fill out a survey for me (thank you for that!).

downtown cityscape

I started considering a move to Chicago after a visit to see one of my best friends.

monique and megan

September 2014 I left my full time job to pursue Ambitious Kitchen full time. Finally! It was scary, liberating and beautiful. I walked in one day, and that was it for me. Step one towards pursuing my passion was checked off and completed.

Tony was done with baseball season by this point and I traveled to Chicago to check out apartments.

collage of recipes

On the blog, my September favorites were stove top creamy mac and cheese, skinny banana chocolate chip muffins and some pretty epic cookie bars. This pumpkin zucchini chocolate chip bread was an absolute hit with you guys. Plus I shared how to make your own homemade buttermilk in a video!

monique and milly

October 2014 came and went too quickly. Tony and I celebrated our one year anniversary. I went to Kansas City for a food conference and bakery tour. Then I headed back to Minnesota to pack up my apartment for a move to Chicago. I also found a cat who stole my heart. (I recently was finally able to adopt her!)

donuts

I also rediscovered my love for pizza and doughnuts. All in moderation. And lots of walking thankfully because I now live in Chicago!

pizza on a table

November 2014 was insane, but wonderful. I went to Hilton Head Health and met some wonderful blogging friends. Turns out it feels like I really belong to a group of bloggers when I’m with healthy living bloggers. All of them were sweet and wonderful and really helped me figure out where I wanted to take Ambitious Kitchen.

Shortly after I launched Wellness Wednesday, a new healthy and wellness series focused on talking about real life issues relating to food, eating disorders, stress, health, fitness and anything in between. I’m THRILLED that you guys have been loving it so far – your comments always make my day so much better.

Wellness Wednesday: Losing Weight and Being Happy with it

I also shared my weight loss story with you to let you know that of course you are not alone. We all struggle with food and weight at some point in our lives. At first I was embarrassed, but I quickly learned that I didn’t have to care about what other people thought because we are all insecure about something.

December 2014 was cheerful and busy. I finally organized my apartment! We celebrated birthdays (Tony’s and mine!). Then Christmas at Tony’s; everything was delicious, wonderful and romantic. Bonus: We’re going to Cancun in January!

Food stuff: Here are all the recipes I made in December.

tony and monique

I’m really looking forward to 2015. I want to do so many things including write a cookbook and perhaps start my own local food business. Again, I’m so grateful for your readership – it means the world to me. xoxo.

5 Secrets to Healthy and Delicious Desserts

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