Linda Yu and Monique Volz of Ambitious Kitchen photographed at the Sun-Times studio. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Food We Love: Grandma’s zest for life inspires Ambitious Kitchen’s Monique Volz


She was 9 years old when she rolled out the dough, roasted the filling and put together her very first pumpkin pie. Monique Volz’s mom and dad both loved to cook, so she spent many hours of her childhood with them in the kitchen, and she, too, came to love cooking. Dad particularly liked to bake, so that’s where her pie-making skills came from.

During college, when she was searching for a balanced way of eating, Volz started sharing pictures of the healthy food she was creating simply because she enjoyed it.  She found others enjoyed learning about her healthy dishes, and as social media sites emerged, Volz found her calling.

Bran muffins made by Monique Volz of Ambitious Kitchen. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Bran muffins made by Monique Volz of Ambitious Kitchen. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Ambitious Kitchen( is just seven years old, but it’s already amassed more than 250K followers on Facebook and another 151K on Instagram.   Fans of the two sites like Volz’s “good-for-you meals,” which they can choose to pair with her exercise programs, as tips on how to buy the healthy ingredients she puts into her recipes. Volz gives lots of credit to her Puerto Rican mom and grandmother for teaching her about the spice of life … as well as lots of different spices to add flavor to her recipes.

Volz admires her grandmother, Gloria Rivera, a senior citizen who doesn’t believe she is one: she salsa dances, line dances and flies down water slides face-first!  Many of grandmother Gloria’s finest dishes make it onto, but always with Volz’s healthy touches — changing to a more robust ingredient here, taking away some calories there, adding spices you never thought of — to enrich the taste.

For Food We Love, Volz teaches us to make Grandmother Gloria’s bran muffins, with Monique’s special touches to make them moist and just the right amount of sweet.

Grandma Gloria’s Bran Muffins


TO MAKE VEGAN: Use two flax eggs instead of regular eggs (2 tablespoons flaxseed meal mixed with 6 tablespoons cold water).

TO MAKE GLUTEN FREE: I have not tried to make these muffins gluten-free. It kind of defeats the point of a bran muffin. However, I do think you could sub all-purpose flour or chickpea flour for the whole wheat pastry flour if you are looking for a flour alternative.


Dry Ingredients

  • 1 cup wheat bran
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Wet ingredients

  • ¼ cup brown sugar (or sub coconut sugar)
  • ¼ cup blackstrap molasses
  • ⅓ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 eggs
  • ¾ cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • ⅓ cup melted and cooled coconut oil (or melted butter)

Optional add-ins, if you like:

  • ½ cup raisins
  • ¾ cup fresh or frozen blueberries
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts


  1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a 12 cup muffin tin with only 10 liners and spray the inside of them with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl mix together brown sugar, molasses, applesauce, eggs, almond milk, apple cider vinegar until well combined, smooth and creamy.
  3. In a separate large bowl mix together dry ingredients: wheat bran, whole wheat pastry flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix with a spatula until just combined. Stir in melted and cooled coconut oil, mixing again until just combined.
  4. Divide batter evenly into 10 muffin liners and bake for 15-20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean or with just a few crumbs attached. Cool muffins for 5 minutes then remove and transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling. Muffins are best served warm with a little butter on top.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this episode of “Food We Love with Linda Yu.”  Next week, Linda talks to Welz Kauffman, the CEO of the Ravinia Festival, about a risotto recipe that he has been perfecting for years and now serves to many performers after they grace the stage at Ravinia.


RELATED ARTICLES:WATCH:  Linda Yu shares her family recipe for Chinese Rice StuffingWATCH: Best friends Linda Yu & Sylvia Perez cook up something specialWATCH:  Who knew prunes could be so amazing? Learn two recipes from Koval Distillery.

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