L2C Challenge – Mandy’s Gourmet Salads – Tokyo Salad

This week – TOKYO SALAD (p. 49) [also Roasted Chicken Breast (p. 149) and Tamari Salad Dressing (p. 155)]

Ok, I know that some may think that picking a salad book for my cooking challenge is cheating, but it’s not!!! Most of the recipes in Mandy’s Gourmet Salads have a cooked meat or substitute component and I have to make the dressing from scratch so, in my books, that constitutes “cooking”.

I chose to start with the Tokyo Salad because the ingredients (except for chicken, of course) were raw and it was all things that I could use again throughout the week – so no waste.

Ingredients –

  • Romaine Lettuce
  • Mesclun Greens
  • Carrot
  • Red Cabbage
  • Broccoli
  • Cucumber
  • Garlic

  • Tofu (used chicken instead)
  • Sesame seeds
  • Red Onion
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Tamari
  • Nutritional Yeast Flakes
  • Montreal Steak Spice
  • EVOO, salt and pepper

Difficulty level –

Full disclosure – I bought shredded carrots and broccoli florets, thereby reducing my prep time. I did, however, shred the cabbage myself (for the very first time!).

This salad has three recipes in one (a recipe for the actual gourmet salad, for the chicken, and for the dressing) and all of them are straightforward and easy to make.

Things I Googled While Making this Recipe –

  • What are mesclun greens? It’s a mix of chervil, arugula, leafy lettuces and endive.
  • What are nutritional yeast flakes? (I was more interested in seeing what the package looked like so that I knew what to look for in the grocery store!)

Alterations to Recipe –

I am not a fan of Tofu, so I substituted it with Mandy’s Roasted Chicken Breast recipe – it is delicious and makes enough for 6 salads, which left me with plenty for the rest of the week.

I didn’t have Montreal Steak spice, so I used The Keg spice mix instead.

The recipe calls for black and white sesame seeds; I used the white sesame seeds that I had toasted for a previous recipe and it tasted great!

Verdict –

The Tahini dressing was amazing; I used it all week. The chicken was moist and the Keg spice gave it the perfect taste. Plus, I had enough chopped up vegetables that I was able to make several salad meals. I literally looked forward to lunch almost everyday this week because of how fresh and flavourful this dish is.

And, it’s official, I think I am FOREVER going to have a salad bar in my fridge! Every day this week, I just grabbed a bowl, opened my fridge and mixed all of the veggies that I had already prepped and stored in there. Throw in the chicken (that I had already cubed), add some seeds, pour the dressing and lunch is served!

100% a make-again recipe.

Custom Home – Month 15: More Walls, More Prep…

Month 15 was fun!

There were people working at the house almost daily which was reassuring in that we may actually be able to take possession by the end of September. [If you’ve been following along then you’ll recall that our landlord wants to sell the house that we are currently renting and has advised that he will not extend our lease past September 30, so we need our home to be ready by then!]

Drywall was installed during the last few days of month 14 and then, this month, the walls were taped, mudded and painted! Yup – the house has been fully painted! We played it safe and used my favourite white – Benjamin Moore Chantilly Lace – throughout the whole house. In addition to that, most of our interior doors have been hung and the floors have been prepped for tile install.

Outside, they’ve started installing the stone and it is looking great! I will admit, however, that if there is one process of the design phase that I really do not enjoy it is picking the exterior colours. It Is Hard! We’re very happy with the stone selection but we have yet to finalize our stucco colour – we know we want grey but there are so many varieties of grey… If you pick one that is too warm, there’s a risk it will look beige; if you pick one that is too cold, it’ll look blue…

So here we are, 15 whole months later, and we still don’t know what our exterior colours will be.

On a personal note, it was my birthday this month and we celebrated at the house! We went after hours, set up a little picnic in the middle of our living room, had cake and it was perfect! Luca is next in our family to celebrate a birthday and we are so hopeful to host his first birthday at our new home in October!

In case you missed it…below is a round up of this month’s home decor finds that I am really looking forward to unpacking as soon as we move in.

Now that the walls are done and the floors are prepped, month 16 is (I hope) the month where all of our design choices will start to come together. Exciting times ahead!

Friday Home Finds – The Home Edit

With two books, a Netflix show and over 5 million Instagram followers, The Home Edit needs no introduction.

I have been obsessed with everything that Clea, Joanna and the THE team do for several years now and have been slowly building my collection of their product lines. The day that Canadian Tire announced they would be carrying the THE products in Canada was like Christmas morning for me! Unfortunately, some products – such as their collection of Canvas Steele baskets – are not yet available in Canada but, no worries, I am not above driving across the border to pick up those beauties!

1. Egg Bin – I usually get my eggs from Costco in packs of 30, so the standard bins don’t work because they only hold a dozen. These bins however hold 15 eggs and are stackable; hence, solving the Costco dilemma!

2. 2-Tier Turntable – Currently, I have three of these turntables spread across my house. We use them to hold everyday beauty products in the bathroom and coffee accessories in the kitchen – the possibilities are endless. They are sturdy, turn seamlessly and clean easily.

3. The Home Edit Books – I purchased each of the THE books on their respective release dates! The first book comes with a sample of the THE custom labels, which I’m still using to this date. Clea’s wittiness and Joanna’s sweetness is spread all over these books and they share many useful and doable home/life organization tips.

4. All-Purpose Stackable Divided Drawer – You might not be able to tell from the image but this drawer is substantial in size and very durable. I was hesitant thinking that the “drawer” aspect wouldn’t glide very well when full, but it does!

5. Divided Turntable – This turntable houses all of my cooking oils and vinegars in our pantry. When put together, the bottles are pretty heavy but this turntable is strong enough to hold it all.

6. Canister – This canister comes in several sizes and I have slowly been building my collection of all of these. A glimpse at the THE Instagram account will show you just how versatile these canisters are.

7. 3 Bushel Elevated Truck – I literally designed the millwork in my laundry room around this truck! There are many versions of the Canvas Steele baskets out there but, so far, The Home Edit’s collection is the only one that I’ve been able to find that has customizable labels (and anyone who enjoys home organization knows that it is all about the labels!).

8. Shelf Divider – We likely won’t be getting custom closet systems in our home for quite some time and will be making do with the builder grade shelves that are included in the build. I used these dividers to keep all of our t-shirts and sweaters in place in our last home and will be doing the same this time around!

In Case You Missed It – the team at The Home Edit just finished filming another season of their Netflix show! I predict my THE collection will be growing even more in the near future once the episodes are released and I get further inspired by their creations!

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 – Jamie Oliver 7 Ways – BOOK REVIEW!

Jamie Oliver is such an entertaining chef to watch on television; somehow, he makes cooking look so simple and fun. When I purchased his latest cookbook, I hoped that it would provide the same energy and inspiration but, while it was great, I’m not sure I would keep watching if the “7 Ways” book was a television show…

In this book, the chapters are divided by commonly used ingredients (referred to as “hero ingredients”) – such as chicken breast, avocado, broccoli, salmon, etc. – and then each chapter provides 7 recipes using the “hero ingredient”; in other words, each chapter provides 7 ways of cooking with a specific ingredient.

The concept of the book is great; I didn’t have to filter through every page to find something I liked. Instead, if I knew we were having chicken for dinner, I just looked up the chapters that listed chicken. I think most people would enjoy this layout and I particularly appreciated that each recipe includes an image of every ingredient within that recipe (it helped to figure out what I was looking for when I went grocery shopping).

The flip side is that there are obviously popular ingredients that I don’t like – such as mushrooms and sweet potatoes. Since it is unlikely that someone would enjoy every single one of the 18 hero ingredients, there will probably be whole chapters within this book that won’t appeal to you.

Every recipe that I made from this book exceeded expectations in terms of simplicity, flavour and taste. Each week, I even received a thumbs up from both Paolo and Theo – my two toughest critics.

So why would I not watch “7 Ways” if it was a television series instead of a cookbook? Honestly, for me, the book lacked enticement. While the recipes ended up being delicious, I was never enthused about making them. When I was earmarking recipes for the previous two cookbooks in this challenge, I was getting hungry just looking through the books but I didn’t get hungry with Jamie’s 7 Ways. It felt practical but mundane. Does it meet its purpose? Yes – it provides easy and delicious recipes throughout. Would I reach for this cookbook again? Probably not – this one will likely be filed on the top (somewhat out of reach) shelf for me.

Next Month’s L2C Challenge Cookbook:

Something about the summer months has me craving fresh big salads more than any other time of year. So this month, I am going to try to step up my lettuce game by learning how to make some of Mandy’s amazing gourmet salads!

The Mandy’s cookbook is based on the actual “Mandy’s” salad bars that originated in my hometown of Montreal, Quebec. It was established by two sisters back in 2004 and has grown to over 8 stylish locations across Montreal and they now sell come very cute merchandise – including some colourful large bowls that I will be putting to good use next month!

DIY – “Handwritten” Art Frame

These days, there’s an app for everything, right? Correct.

In my quest to find unique (yet budget friendly) wall art for the kids’ rooms, I thought of creating word art with lyrics or sayings that I often use with the boys. The only problem is that all my years of using a computer has resulted in me having terrible handwriting. So I found an app for that!

Step 1:

I downloaded “Fontise” – an app that allows you to create a whole font keyboard in your own handwriting. Once you create the font, you can then use it across different platforms such as Word, Excel, Pages, etc.

Step 2:

Then comes the fun part – open a blank document and write something in your own digital handwriting!

Full disclosure – I am terrible at remembering song lyrics and I can’t carry a tune if my life depended on it… So I usually just take words that I say often (such as “I love you”) and make a song out of it. (Luckily, my goal is to make some personalized art, not win America’s Got Talent…).

Step 3:

Print your creation.

There are several ways to go about this – you can print on regular paper at home and use a store bought wall frame or you can have it made into a poster. I suggest spending some time seeing what’s available from the major print suppliers in your area (VistaPrint, Staples, Walmart, etc.).

I printed mine on Foam Board. I wanted something that wouldn’t bend or fold and that had a matte finish.

Step 4:

Frame it and display it!

The foam board is thick enough to hang on its own but I didn’t like the exposed edges, so I decided to frame it. I found this value pack from Michael’s that fits perfectly without the glass (which I didn’t want anyway).

And there you have it – a one of kind meaningful piece for Luca’s room.

Friday Home Finds – H&M Home

Many people think of H&M as an affordable and trendy clothing store but their Home section is actually the first tab that I scroll to during my online shopping trips.

Paolo will tell you that I have an unhealthy obsession with throw pillows; I disagree with the “unhealthy” part but I am definitely obsessed with pillows. I think most living spaces need the texture and warmth that a pillow adds and switching out your throw pillows every once in a while is an easy way to spruce up a room without having to do any major overhauls. H&M Home is my go to for basic filler pillows. Meaning? I go there for the solid color pillows (linens in warmer months, velvet pillows in the cooler ones) that are relatively inexpensive (i.e.: $7 to $20 per cover) and then I throw in more detailed pillows into the mix to bring a space together. Below are just two of my latest finds but I’ve been buying pillow covers from H&M for years (many of which are no longer available) and they all still look great.

In addition to the pillows, H&M Home has come a long way over the last couple of years to add more unique and everyday items – all of which are at affordable prices.

1. Hanger Rack in Metal and Wood – The wooden balls on this hanger are pretty substantial in size, the black metal portion is sturdy and, at $12.99, this a great and unique piece. I bought two of these, one for each of the boys, and will be using them as hooks for their towels in the bathroom.

2. Poster – H&M Home has several different prints that could be used alone as a poster or within a frame. The paper quality is thick and, this particular design, is beautiful in person – it almost looks as though it was hand drawn in pencil.

3. Printed Cushion Cover – This pillow cover will go great in Theo’s room and may even end up in our playroom (once we actually finish it). At $6.99, I won’t have to worry if the kids get it dirty.

4. Striped Cushion Cover – I’ve been eyeing pillow covers with a similar design and texture as this one and they are all retailing for upwards of $80. This one is a thick weave fabric and you could never tell by looking at it that it only cost $25!

Pro Tip – If you enjoy scrolling through different home decor pieces, consider creating an H&M account on their App. They often send out member perks – such as regular 10% discounts and even 25% off on your birthday – plus they have a rewards system where you can earn points with every purchase. I like to save decor items in “my favourites” folder and then revisit them when I get a particularly generous discount code.

Please note that Casa Cres is not affiliated with this store; 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 I have personally made for my home.

L2C Challenge – Jamie Oliver 7 Ways – Crispy Salmon Tacos

This week – CRISPY SALMON TACOS (p. 96)

Since Jamie’s book is divided by ingredient, I thought it appropriate to venture out of the chicken chapter and try (for the very first time!) to make fish. I figured that anything in a tortilla with mangoes and avocados would be delicious; so, even if I screw up the fish, the other flavours could still make it taste great!

Ingredients –

  • Salmon fillets (skin on, scaled, pin-boned)
  • Tortillas
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Mango
  • Avocado
  • Scallions
  • Cajun seasoning
  • Limes

Difficulty level –

In true Jamie fashion, this recipe is very simple and something that even the most novice of cooks (like me!) can make. My only difficulty was removing the skin from the salmon – you have to cut it very thinly and I over cut in some sections.

Things I Googled While Making this Recipe –

Nothing! I am getting ssooo good at cooking! Or maybe it’s the fact that the instructions were straight forward. Either way, Google was not consulted in the making of this recipe.

Alterations to Recipe –

Jamie suggests toasting the tortillas directly over the flame of a gas range but, since we don’t have a gas range in our rental home, I just heated them in the microwave. They weren’t “toasty” but still worked well.

Verdict

I made fish and it tasted GREAT! The combination of sweetness from the mango and the tangy taste of the cajun spice paired perfectly; plus, the texture from the avocado and the crispy salmon skin makes this a perfect dish that I would never have known or thought to make.

Definitely a “make again” dish.

Custom Home – 6 Moving Tips For When You Have 60 Days To Go!

Sixty days to go!!! Honestly, part of me can’t believe we are so close; yet, it feels as though we are so far because there is still so much to do! If you missed last month’s moving post, see here for things you should be doing at around 90 days prior to moving.

In addition to the 6 items listed in my 90-day countdown post, here are 6 more “to-dos” to check off your list now that you are 60 days away from moving!

1. FIND A MOVING COMPANY

If you’re like us, you might not yet have a firm closing date which means you can’t actually schedule your movers. You can, however, start researching different companies and get quotes from at least a few so that you know what to expect when the time comes.

2. FIGURE OUT YOUR WINDOW COVERINGS

Window coverings have been on my mind a lot lately (see my recent post regarding our choices this time around). If you’re planning on getting any custom blinds or shades, the lead time is about 4-6 weeks (longer if you’re building during a world pandemic!), so now is the time to get a few in-home consultations done and put in your order.

3. GIVE NOTICE TO YOUR LANDLORD

If you’re in Ontario, most month-to-month leases require a 30-day termination notice but your lease might stipulate a longer period – I have seen a few that require 60 days. Read through your agreement and be sure to provide ample notice to your landlord to avoid any issues when it is time to vacate.

4. PACK SOME MORE BOXES

If you followed my advice from the 90-day checklist blog, then you’ve probably already packed away items that you know you won’t need until after you move (for us, I packed our winter gear since we’re moving at the end of the summer). Now that you are 60-days out, you have an even better idea of what you can likely do without over the next two months. Pack as much as you can while you still have the time to separate and label everything (it’s inevitable that, in the end, you will just be throwing all the remaining items in various boxes, so you might as well try to minimize the madness ahead of time).

5. USE UP THE FOOD YOU HAVE IN YOUR PANTRY AND FREEZER

I love having a stocked pantry and freezer but I don’t like moving food, especially fridge/freezer items. For starters, there’s always the chance that your appliances are not delivered on time and then you’re left with food you can’t store. If you’re like us, you already have an upright freezer that you will be bringing to the new home but we still have to disconnect and thaw it out before transporting. So save yourself the heartache of throwing out perfectly good food by making plans to consume it now!

6. BOOK TIME OFF WORK

Similar to booking your movers, if you don’t have a firm closing date yet you may not know exactly what days you will need to take off work but – trust me! – you will want to take a few days off when the time comes (if you can, plan for a week or even better, two, away from the office). Let your employer know now roughly when you expect to be moving so that you can plan your leave and your workload accordingly. That way, not only will you be able to move your belongings into your new home but you’ll have some time to also set up your space (i.e.: furniture, cable, internet, etc.) before returning to the daily grind.

That pretty much sums up my 60-day moving checklist. We are, of course, busy almost daily with planning things during the actual construction of our home, so I take solace in making these checklists for the other aspects of building a home that we sometimes overlook. Still can’t believe that there will only be 30 days left by the next time I post my last moving checklist – be sure to check back in a month for any tips and insights that I can offer.

Friday Home Finds – LD Shoppe

In the past few years, Melissa and Sasha Leclair have become to Ottawa what Shea and Syd McGee are to Utah – an interior design powerhouse team!

I first discovered the husband and wife duo almost ten years ago when Dylan – a former co-worker from my Future Shop days – posted photos of his condo remodel that Leclair Decor had done. Paolo and I had just moved into our first home in 2011 and, in 2012, I told my parents I wanted a consult with Leclair Decor as a birthday gift. [They had no idea what I was talking about but they wrote me a cheque anyway and I immediately had Melissa come by for an in-home consultation]. I have been a devoted follower of Leclair Decor – and then their shop, LD Shoppe – since then! So I figured, since this is my birthday week, it would be fitting that this week’s Friday Home Finds be LD Shoppe!

I’ve been collecting some of my favourite LD items over this past year (and keeping a running list of other decor purchases that I will want from there once we move in to the house!). Below are some of my finds!

1. Gold Candle Snuffer – Lighting a candle is one the easiest ways to create a calming and peaceful room. I have more decor candles than I care to admit and this snuffer is the perfect addition to creating my zen space.

2. Apothecary Large Bottle Matches – Leclair Decor always recommends creating vignettes in “3s”. I think that these matches, along with the above snuffer and one of my pretty candles, will make a great vignette and be LD approved!

3. Riza Vase – The online photo of this one does not do it justice. In person, it’s a dainty (but not cheap) piece and the color is perfect for a neutral color palate.

4. Safa Riser – I don’t know why but 2020 has instilled in me a love for risers! I don’t think you could ever have enough. This one will look perfect on an end table with a candle, beads, and match holder (coincidentally enough, I happen to have gotten all those items to go with my riser from LD Shoppe!).

5. Black Woodfire Tray – This is another piece that will stop you in your tracks when you see it in person. We will not have a wood burning fireplace (nor would I ever use something this pretty near fire!) but this will look great standing upright on one of my many open shelves through our home.

6. Olive Recycled Glass Beads – I love glass beads – sitting on top of books, in a trinket bowl, etc… This one is the nicest shade of green!

7. Sariah Paper Towel Holder – We’ve been using the same (broken!) paper towel holder for the last 10 years. This whole time, I’ve been searching for one that appeals to me, that blends in with my kitchen but that is also a decor piece in and of itself – this one hits the mark!

8. White Alphabet Pillow – This is cutest kid pillow without looking or feeling like a kid pillow! My initial thought was to use this in Theo’s room but now I’m thinking it would even look great in my office!

9. Willen Match Holder & Striker – Another perfect accessory for my candle obsession. The picture makes it look greenish but, in person, it’s just the right tone of grey.

My ideal day consists of grabbing a coffee, turning on some of my favourite tunes and driving across town to visit LD Shoppe. Once in there, I can literally stay for hours and I never walk out empty handed (as you can tell from the above). The shop has items for all price points – their furniture pieces are stunning, they have a wall full of rugs and the prettiest light fixtures on display! You pretty much need to walk the store at least three times at every visit – once to look at everything on the walls, once to stare at the lights on the ceiling and then once to look at all of the decor objects! If you go, keep an eye out for a woman with an oversized blue stroller, coffee in hand and mesmerized eyes looking around [hint hint – that would be me!].

Please note that Casa Cres is not affiliated with this shop; 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 I have personally made for my home.

L2C Challenge – Jamie Oliver 7 Ways – Crispy Golden Chicken

This week – CRISPY GOLDEN CHICKEN (p. 74)

So clearly, I have a type… it’s called chicken! I chose to play it safe this week and stayed in the poultry chapter. This one looked appetizing since it combines bacon, avocado and some hot sauce!

Ingredients –

  • Boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • Bacon
  • Avocado
  • Plain yogurt
  • Lemon
  • Flour
  • Sourdough breadcrumbs
  • Hot sauce

Difficulty level –

This was another simple recipe but I still managed to make some mistakes… The instructions required the chicken to be flattened but my rolling pin is still packed away (home building life!), so I thought pressing really hard with the bottom of a pan would do the trick. It didn’t work and the chicken took a lot longer to cook (because it was so thick) – the exterior ended up being slightly more burnt than crisp but somehow it wasn’t dry!

Things I Googled While Making this Recipe –

  • Difference between regular and sourdough breadcrumbs? I couldn’t find a difference…

Alterations to Recipe –

I had regular breadcrumbs at home and just used those.

Verdict –

DELICIOUS! All of the ingredients used were regular staples in our home but I had never mixed them together before. Mixing the bacon crumbs and avocado paste gave it a fresh and creamy texture. The hot chill sauce was the perfect topping!

Would I make it again? Yes but only once I get my rolling pin back!

Even without the rolling pin, I’m pretty sure I nailed this one!