L2C Challenge – Mandy’s Gourmet Salads – BOOK REVIEW!

If you have ever been to Mandy’s Café in Montreal, then this book needs no introduction because you already know the recipes will be great.

If you’ve never been then you’re missing out! But, fear not, this book is actually a close second to the real thing!

Mandy’s was established by 2 sisters in Montreal back in 2004. Today, it has 8 locations around the Greater Montreal area and they now have 400 employees! Keeping true to their style, this book is aesthetically beautiful – the cover is the perfect shade of pink and the images make any vegetable look appetizing.

The book is set up much the same way as their café menus – chapters are divided into Smoothies, Salads, Dressings, Grain Bowls and Sweets.

While the recipes in this book are all great (except for anything involving hearts of palm (no thank you!)), what has stuck with me is the desire to forever have a salad bar in my fridge! Each week, instead of prepping only what the recipe called for, I would just chop up all of the vegetables and make extra meat so that I could have several salads throughout the week. I found that I was more likely to eat the vegetables if they were already prepped and quick to assemble. I think if this book teaches us anything, it is that we all need a Mandy’s Salad Bar in our fridge!

My only regret this month is that I didn’t get a chance to taste the “Sweets” Chapter but the good thing about having a cookbook obsession is that I own the book and get to go back to it any time I want! I definitely plan to keep this one at arms’ reach.

Next Month’s L2C Challenge Cookbook:

If you’ve been following along on our house building journey, you likely know we are hoping to move into our forever home at the end of this month. And, assuming you haven’t been living under a rock, you likely also know that there are currently huge production and supply delays on appliances. So, I will be taking a break from my own Learn to Cook Challenge until we are settled in our new home and we have appliances to store food in and cook on!

Until then, I hope my little personal challenge inspires you to do the same!

Custom Home – Month 16: Standing Still AGAIN…

The month of August started so strong. Floors were tiled, then hardwood was installed, then the millwork went in and then the countertops!

All of that sounds amazing but what we don’t talk about is the amount of time the house still sat untouched this month. Tile was done in three days; hardwood was another three days; millwork was one day and counters were in within a few hours. After that, nothing.

We expected trades to be working simultaneously on the inside and outside of the house since we have repeatedly communicated to our builder that our landlord is not extending the lease and we need to move out by the end of September. Still, a balcony needs to be built, covered deck needs to be finished, we haven’t chosen our stucco color, we are missing interior and exterior doors, septic has to be delivered and installed, showers need to be tiled, electrical and plumbing need to be connected, and countless other stuff that could have been done in the days that our house sat empty.

Needless to say that with all of the excitement at the things that we do see come together, we are beyond stressed. We’re trying to remain optimistic but the reality of the situation is starting to kick in and we are losing some much needed sleep over it.

I hope to give you a much more positive update next month!!! Until then, here’s a glimpse of our exterior elevation in its current unfinished state – I am beyond in love with our front door pillars!

L2C Challenge – Mandy’s Gourmet Salads – Keto Salad

This week – KETO SALAD (p. 127) [also Roasted Chicken Breast (p. 149) and Keto Caesar Dressing (p. 156)]

After having Theo, the Keto diet is the only thing that worked to get the extra weight off. In 2020, between being pregnant, being at home during the pandemic and then being at home with Luca, needless to say that I have not been eating healthy for a very long time and that I will have to work extra hard to lose the baby weight this time around; so, I am trying to get back on the Keto train. Lucky for me, Mandy’s cookbook includes a recipe for a Keto Salad!

Ingredients –

  • Mesclun greens
  • Avocado
  • Cucumber
  • Button mushrooms
  • Sliced canned hearts of palm
  • Skinless boneless chicken breast
  • Bacon
  • Lemon juice
  • Dijon mustard

  • Olive oil
  • Montreal steak spice
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Scallion
  • Basil leaves
  • Tarragon leave
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Eggs
  • Garlic

Difficulty Level –

Like all of the salads and dressings that I have made, this recipe is another easy one although I still found a way to make a mistake… In order to make the dressing Keto friendly, the recipe calls for the mayonnaise to be replaced by raw eggs but, for some reason, the dressing was very liquid – not the same consistency as the caesar dressing that I am used to.

Alterations to Recipe –

Still don’t like mushrooms, so I omitted those!

I used turkey bacon instead of regular bacon because that is what I had on hand.

Verdict –

I’ve never had hearts of palm before, so I was happy to try something new! Now that I’ve tried it, it’s not for me!

Maybe it’s because the salad dressing was too watery or maybe it’s because I didn’t like the hearts of palm but this has definitely been my least liked salad thus far.

Verdict for me – not to be repeated!

Custom Home – 6 Moving Tips For When You Have 30 Days To Go!

While we don’t have an official move-in date yet, we are roughly 30 days away!!! It feels like forever from now but, when at look at all that I have left to do until then, 30 days is not a lot! Here are a few things on my current to-do list…

1. TAKE DOWN WALL DECOR

If you haven’t already, take down all of the wall art and remove any nails or screws from the wall. Wall shelves can probably also come down now if they’re only serving a decorative purpose.

In addition to the wall art, you may want to also take down your wall-mounted televisions, provided you have the TV base on hand to use until move-out day. This way, you can start filling in the holes from the TV mounts, leaving you with one less thing to do at the end.

2. DISMANTLE FURNITURE

This might be premature if you’re actually still using the furniture but if you have a spare guest room that won’t be used for the next month, then consider taking apart the furniture now so that you have one less room to pack at the end.

3. SELL AND DONATE WHAT YOU DON’T WANT

We have been on a Kijiji selling spree lately! Now that the cabinetry has been installed in our new home and we can see the spaces come together, some of our current furniture isn’t going to work, so we’re selling it off to avoid having to move it next month.

In addition to that, there are certain items that we just don’t want anymore. We’re selling those too and donating anything that is not worth selling.

4. REVIEW YOUR MONTHLY SUBSCRIPTIONS

If you haven’t already done this, change the delivery address on your monthly subscriptions.

I’m actually putting a hold on our Amazon household deliveries for a month so that we don’t risk having items delivered at either address when we’re not there.

5. SET UP UTILITIES FOR THE NEW HOME

We’ve already put in the request to stop the utilities for our current rental to end on the last day of our lease. Now, I need to set up the utilities for our new home.

If you’re moving into a new build, like us, the utilities may not yet be connected (it is not uncommon for the builder to do that at the very end), but you can fill out the connection forms online and then, once the builder makes the necessary connections, your accounts will be set up.

6. CREATE AND COMPLETE YOUR PUNCH LIST

Our moving punch-list is an ever-evolving checklist of little things that need to be done to help make the move a little less hectic. The goal is to keep the list handy and add/remove items as you go… Here are a few of the items that are currently on my list:

  • ConfIrm moving details with moving company and set aside money for movers;
  • Back up all of the computers/phones (just in case we have internet connection issues when we move);
  • Use up all of the food in the house;
  • Remove keyless lock from door (it belongs to us) and re-install house lock;
  • etc.

There you have it – we’ve officially made it to the 30-day stretch! If you’re not quite at 30 days yet, be sure to check out my 90-day and 60-day posts for what we did to prepare for our move back then.

Friday Home Finds – Saje Natural Wellness

I have been wearing the same perfume for over 20 years now. At work, my colleagues know when I have been on the elevator simply by the lingering smell of my Chanel Coco Mademoiselle trademark. I find comfort in fresh and recognizable scents.

I want my home to be an extension of me in the scent department – does that mean I will be spraying my perfume all over the house? Don’t be silly, Coco is not meant for the couch!

The “extension” that I look to create is the familiarity that a scent can emulate. The same way my babies know the smell of their mama, I want them to immediately recognize the smell of their home. In order to do that, I have been using Saje products for nearly a decade now. I have tried many diffusers, candles, plug-in scents but Saje is the only one that I have found that does not smell artificial. Over this past year, I have expanded my love for Saje products to some other household items; below is but a short synopsis of my favourite Saje finds!

1. Diffuser Blends – Scents are such a personal thing that I honestly believe you need to visit a Saje location in order to really get to know their different blends. After trying (and loving!) many, my two absolute favourites for our home are Refresh and Mountain High – both are crisp, clean, uplifting and blended with spearmint which always makes me feel as though I am at a Spa.

2. Diffusers – This is another component that is all about personal preference. I have several diffusers throughout the home – personally, I choose mine to match the decor of the space. The only downfall with Saje diffusers (up until now!) is that they are all plug-in diffusers, so you need to strategically place them near an outlet BUT (!!!) Saje has recently made its first Cordless diffuser – which I am obviously going to get! – and now the possibilities are endless!

3. Room Sprays – Similar to other (non-Saje) diffuser blends, room sprays often smell artificial, but not these ones! The Linen and Fabric Spray is one that I always have on hand to help spruce up any space in our home.

4. Wool Dryer Balls – If you read my DIY Scent Booster post (here!), then you already know that I add Saje Pure Essential Oils to my laundry wash. And for added fragrance and freshness, I also add the same drops to our Saje dryer balls.

5. Natural Bristle Dry Brush – This is one my latest Saje discoveries! All you have to do is stand in your shower (naked (of course!) and dry) and brush your skin starting at your feet and working your way up; then, shower as usual. This works as a natural exfoliator that also helps “wake up” your skin and leaves it feeling really smooth.

6. Aroma Roam – While I’ve already touched upon Saje’s diffusers in #2, this one deserves its own shoutout! If you spend a lot of time in your car or have pets/kids in there, you need this diffuser in your life! It fits in standard cup holders and plugs in to the car’s USB outlet (if you have one) or it also comes with a car adapter. Add water and your favourite blend and you’ll suddenly be fully zen while stuck in traffic!

If you have been clicking on some of my links above, then you’ve probably already discovered a whole world of amazing Saje products (I told you this was just a brief synopsis!). Give them a try and then come back to let me know how much you love them – I’m sure you will!

Please note that Casa Cres is not affiliated with this company; in most cases, the shops featured in my Friday Home Finds are not even aware of their feature prior to posting. The above are purchases that I have personally made for my home.

L2C Challenge – Mandy’s Gourmet Salads – The Fave

This week: THE FAVE (p. 53) [also Homemade Pita Chips (p. 150) and Honey Mustard Dressing (p. 170)]

I wasn’t too sure that this recipe would fill me since it’s lacking the protein that my other two recipes had but I wanted to try a salad with a dressing that I haven’t (and probably would never have) made before.

Ingredients –

  • Romaine lettuce
  • Arugula
  • Avocado
  • Broccoli florets
  • Corn kernels
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Pitas
  • EVOO

  • Shredded carrots
  • Parmesan flakes
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Honey
  • Dijon mustard
  • Sunflower oil

Difficulty Level –

Another easy recipe for the win. Ingredients were simple and mainly things I tend to have on hand anyway.

Things I Googled While Making this Recipe –

Nothing! There isn’t much to research with these clean ingredients.

Alterations to Recipe –

My grocery store didn’t have any broccoli florets in stock so I just omitted them from the dish. While I didn’t miss the broccoli in this salad, I actually really like raw florets so I would add them the next time I make this recipe.

Verdict –

I wasn’t sold on the first few bites – the dressing was sweeter than I like – but half way through I was hooked. A very fresh and savoury recipe. Next time around, I may add some meat source just for added substance.

Two bowls because the Mister saw mine and wanted some but I wasn’t about to share!

Friday Home Finds – Game Nights

This week’s Friday Home Finds is a little different. Instead of showcasing decor items that I’ve purchased for our home, I’m sharing my game night wish list!

My one hope for our forever home is that it becomes the place to be for our children and their friends. I want my boys – even the one I’m married to – to love being home. To make that happen, we are working to build not just a comfortable place but also a fun place. Friday night movies and game nights is seriously going to be a thing at Casa Cres!

I haven’t yet gotten of the below items but I’m keeping a list and these may even end up on Christmas list in case anyone is looking for gift ideas for this mama!

1. Lawn Game Scoreboard – This is marketed as a lawn game scoreboard but you can use it for any game with two teams. I know Theo would be excited just to be able to control the scoreboard on game nights.

2. Marble Tic-Tac-Toe Game Set – I grew up playing tic-tac-toe with friends and family (I’m kinda really good at it!), so this is a must for any game time. I’ve seen this one in person and it is substantial in weight; it’s beautiful enough to be a permanent fixture on our coffee table.

3. Bocce Ball Lawn Game Set – Bocce Ball can be such a relaxing game (provided you’re not the competitive type). This one is by one of my favourite designers – Joanna Gaines. In true Magnolia style, it will be fun to play and beautiful to have tucked away.

4. 2-in-1 Bean Bag Toss – I love a good toss game; I rarely actually get the bag in but I still enjoy it. This one would be great to play on our covered porch and will match perfectly with our deck furniture.

5. Puzzle Accessory Board – Puzzles are my thing! Currently, I do my puzzles on my phone since I don’t have space to set up a puzzle board but I’ve already earmarked a corner in my future home office for puzzle making and a board like this will allow me to do my puzzles at my own pace, without worrying about losing any pieces.

The above is by no means an exhaustive list; it is but a small wish list of the many games I’m hoping to get for family game nights. Throw in a few floor pillows, some cold evenings by the fireplace and hot chocolate (with marshmallows on the side for Theo of course) and I’ve just described my dream night with the family!

L2C Challenge – Mandy’s Gourmet Salads – Lumberjack Salad

This week – LUMBERJACK SALAD (p. 57) [also Roasted Chicken Breast (p. 149); Homemade Pita Chips (p. 150); and Caesar Dressing (p. 156)]

Full disclosure – I chose this recipe because I had some left over sliced turkey that I needed to use up. Plus, I’ve always wanted to make my own pita chips!

Ingredients –

  • Romaine lettuce
  • Avocado
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • White mushroom caps
  • Chicken Breast
  • Bacon
  • Sliced turkey
  • Pita bread
  • Montreal Steak spice
  • Mozarella cheese
  • Scallion
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Mayonnaise
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Lemon juice
  • Dijon mustard

Difficulty Level –

Every salad in this book has at least 2 (usually more) recipes within one – you have the main salad bowl, the meat and the dressing. I actually love that it’s divided that way because I can prep things at my own pace (sometimes even the day before…). Difficulty level for this one is a ZERO, straight forward and simple (and kinda fun!). Plus, we all know how much I love leftovers, it makes me feel as though my “hard work” continues to pay off during the week… This recipe was no exception – the roasted chicken breast recipe is enough for 6 salads, the salad dressing recipes yield about 2 cups each and, in this case, there was lots left over from the pita chips recipe.

Things I Googled While Making this Recipe –

  • Difference between scallions and green onions? They’re the same! Different stores just use different names because apparently keeping things consistent would not be fun…

Alterations to Recipe –

  • I’ve tried (repeatedly) to like mushrooms but I just don’t – so I omitted the white mushroom caps.
  • I didn’t have any pork bacon on hand so I used turkey bacon instead.

Verdict –

Delicious! When I was putting this salad together, I honestly kept thinking of the saying “everything and the kitchen sink!”… It felt like I just kept adding meats and veggies together. Somehow, it all works!

Would I make this salad again? Absolutely. Would I make the caesar dressing again? Meh… It was good and paired well with the other ingredients but it was certainly not better than the store bought caesar dressings that I usually get from Costco so not sure it was worth the time (although you can whip it up in under 2 minutes).

DIY – Laundry Scent Boosters

For the last 16 months, I have had DIY withdrawal.

We always had a project on the go in our previous homes but, since we’re living in a rental (and our tools are packed away), we haven’t been able to do much in terms of DIY’ing our space. In the past, if I wasn’t updating an area of our house, then I was usually sewing a quilt or clothes for Theo but I haven’t been able to do that either for lack of space. So, my urge to create something (anything!) has got me looking to change up some of my household products that don’t tend to match my decor.

First item that comes to mind – the not-so-pretty bright blue/pink/purple laundry scent boosters. No amount of pretty glass canisters can make those things blend in with my home style. So I’ve made my own – it is super easy, fresh, affordable and (obviously) pretty! [Not to mention more sustainable, non-toxic and better for the environment].

Here’s what you will need:

JAR AND SCOOP

This one is optional but self explanatory – you have to have something to hold the scent boosters, might as well make it look nice.

EPSOM SALT

There are a number of salts that would work here – epsom salt, rock salt, kosher salt. I happened to have Epsom Salt on hand and it’s worked great, so I will likely stick with it. Epsom Salt helps soften your clothes (Fun Fact – many fabric softeners actually contain epsom salt!) and the chloride in the salt helps keeps clothes bright and white.

BAKING SODA

Baking soda is a “superhero” as far as ingredients are concerned. It has countless benefits including fighting odors and it’s also a natural fabric softener.

ESSENTIAL OIL

Any high grade essential oils will work for this recipe. I happen to be a huge fan of Saje Essential Oils – I use their blends in my diffuser daily and love trying different combinations of their pure oils to give my scent boosters the fresh, clean scent. In this recipe, I combined Saje Eucalyptus Oil, Saje Lavender Oil, and Saje Lemon Oil.

How To:

Ingredients –

  • 3 cups – Epsom Salt
  • 1 cup – Baking Soda
  • 60 drops – Essential Oil (add more to taste (or is it smell?…))

Instructions –

  1. Whisk together all ingredients in large bowl until well combined.
  2. Add one scoop (app. 1/4 cup) to washing machine either before or after adding any clothes. I prefer putting half before and the other half on top of the clothes. Use the same amount of laundry detergent as you normally would.
  3. Store in air tight container. Mixture will last up to a year but you’ll likely use it all long before then.
  4. BONUS: For an added fresh scent boost, you can add the same Essential Oil drops to your dryer balls and toss them in the dryer.

And there you have it! Fresh, clean smelling laundry and a pretty mixture on display (for when not in use!). Hope you try this soon and let me know how you like it!


Friday Home Finds – McGee & Co.

Anyone who has a penchant for home decor and interior design is likely familiar with all things Studio McGee and their online store, McGee & Co. I’m not one for girl crushes but, if I had the opportunity to emulate just one design influencer, it would be Shea McGee. Her style is clean and timeless and she and her husband have created an empire out of making the ordinary beautiful.

While this week’s Friday Home Finds may be short, don’t be fooled – my wish list for McGee & Co. items is long!!!

1. Raw Steel Stand – This stand is a bit of an investment piece as far as home decor goes but it is incredibly versatile. It is one of those pieces that can be used in numerous spaces throughout the home all year long. Plus, the stand itself is a statement and elevates any art or photos that you put on it.

2. Mix Metal Pepper Mill – When purchasing items for our home, I try to be conscious of what we use daily and purposefully pick durable pieces that have function but also look great when not in use. This pepper mill is a perfect example of that – something that we’ll use regularly but that will also blend with our kitchen decor.

3. Rounded Edge Easel – If you’ve been following my Learn To Cook Challenge then you know that I have a bit of an obsession for cookbooks. I’ve been on the hunt for a really long time for the right easel for my kitchen. This one is metal, painted white and doesn’t topple over when you’re turning the pages of your cookbook.

4. McGee & Co. Planter – Simple but gorgeous. I love that it comes with a saucer to catch the water.

5. Paulownia Wood Tray – By now, it’s no secret that I have a thing for trays! This one will make its debut in my kitchen but, since it is so versatile, don’t be surprised if you eventually see it displayed elsewhere throughout our home.

6. Make Life Beautiful – And in case you’ve been MIA from the world for the last year, the McGees wrote a book! It doesn’t have many pictures but it tells the beautiful story of how Studio McGee and McGee & Co. came to be. Perfect bed side read (and decor piece!).

Please note that Casa Cres is not affiliated with this company; in most cases, the shops featured in my Friday Home Finds are not even aware of their feature prior to posting. The above are purchases that I have personally made for my home.