Surprisingly delicious: Salmon Caesar Salad

This week brought the sickies to our house. On Monday, the 4 year old came down with a bug. Of course this happened right when I planned to hit the grocery store…so we had scrap the meal plans and make do with whatever ingredients were already on hand. Would you believe, that is what produced this share-worthy recipe!

Original Plan:
Balsamic glazed salmon with a side of pasta alfredo or potatoes, and a tossed salad.

Plan B:
Whip up a protein-rich salad, served with hunks of homemade whole wheat French bread on the side.

Ingredients on hand:
4 frozen salmon fillets, a partial bag of romaine lettuce, box of baby arugula, 2 partial lemons, 2 avocados, a tomato, croutons, garlic, a hunk of parmesano reggiano cheese, a tube of anchovy paste, 2 eggs, dijon mustard, olive and vegetable oil, salt and pepper.

How it came together:
First, I scoured Pinterest for salmon salad recipes. I found quite a few that employed avocado and arugula, so then it was time to choose a salad dressing. I could’ve gone with a light Caesar-style vinaigrette or even just a lemon/oil dressing, but since this was going to be a main course salad, I wanted to give it a bit more heft. The egg yolks did precisely that. I went with the method on Bon Appetit to make my dressing – except I used a squirt of anchovy paste instead of whole anchovies. Thank goodness I happened to have that stuff in the fridge, and it was still good! I made the dressing in the morning so it would have plenty of time for the flavors to develop.

classic-caesar-salad-940
photo courtesy of Bon Appetit

In the afternoon, I made my French bread. I let it rise too long on the second rise, so it ended up falling…OOPS! But it was still pretty good dipped in olive oil. It tasted like a cross between French and focaccia.

Just prior to dinnertime, I took my thawed-out salmon fillets and patted them completely dry with paper towels. Do not skip this step. Throwing a soggy piece of fish in the frying pan will make you and your dinner companions feel soggy and dissatisfied too. Then, I seasoned it up with plenty of fresh ground salt and pepper. I drizzled a healthy glug of olive oil into the hot pan, and added the salmon. It cooked about 4 minutes on the first side, then only another minute or two after flipping. Near the end, I added the last bit of lemon juice that was leftover from making the salad dressing.

While the salmon sizzled away, I threw a mixture of torn up romaine and baby arugula into each bowl, then topped it off with diced avocado – about 1/3 an avocado per bowl. I added sliced tomatoes around the edge – yeah, I know, Caesar is no place for tomato! But in my hubby’s world, a salad’s not a salad without a tomato. I skipped them for myself but gave plenty to the guys. Then I shaved some additional parmesan on top, and drizzled a little dressing. As soon as the salmon was done, I served it atop the salads, drizzled more dressing, and threw croutons around the edge.

The result:
WOW! I really didn’t expect to enjoy this dish that much. I’m not a seafood lover, so usually when I cook with salmon I make sure to include plenty of yummy sides so I’ll have other flavors to balance it out. But, surprisingly (hence the title), this salmon just married itself to the pile of yummy greens and heavenly dressing! It didn’t taste “fishy” at all. The protein gave this salad just enough bulk to be a main course. It was full of good fats, too – avocado, omega-3s in the fish, olive oil, and the egg yolks. It got a thumbs-up from everyone at my dinner table – even the kiddos! I know most kids aren’t as open to trying new foods, but I was thrilled to see my little foodies devour this experimental dinner!

My apologies for the lack of photographic evidence…we devoured this meal too quickly to snap any pics! But next time, and mark my words there *will* be a next time, I will be to update this post with a visual aid. Until then, I hope you’ll try it and enjoy it as much as we did!

In His abundance,
Monique

Advertisements

Hey, I’m on Etsy!

I’m not really one for New Year’s resolutions, but as you can probably tell, I’m making a concerted effort to kick off this year with more consistent blog posts. That said, it’s time to do a little catching up.

In 2014, I sensed God leading me to launch a creative fundraising effort to aid my dear friend in bringing clean water, medical services, and education to rural Ethiopia. Enter CuppaLove Cupcakes for Ethiopia. God has blessed this little calling abundantly! I’ve been able to bake thousands of delicious treats for people all over my local community, which has given me a fun creative outlet, provided others with high-quality confections at a competitive price, AND helped bring life-giving relief to an impoverished community across the world!

CuppaLove is still going strong, and in 2015 the Lord put another endeavor on my heart. This time, my boys got to be involved too. It started with a homeschool project, making homemade playdough. We had just moved from summer into the cooler, cozier days of Fall, and I felt an urge to give our playdough a little added seasonal flair. So, we tinted it orange and added essential oils – orange, cinnamon and clove. Delightful!! We could not stop playing with it. We shared some with friends, and then quickly got to thinking how many other scents we could try.

Realizing this project was marketable, and could reach way beyond our local community, the boys and I whipped up a dozen scent varieties, and then launched our online shop, HappyDough!  Through it we’ve been able to raise even more funds for the latest project, a much-needed high school building…and the awesome thing is we can ship it anywhere in the USA! I hope you’ll visit our shop and check out what we have to offer. All proceeds are donated to the relief project, and once you try HappyDough you’ll never want the storebought stuff again!

Here’s our current scent lineup:
P1180290CinnamonP1180284
TangerineP1180301
Spiced OrangeP1180256
Lemonlime
Limecold and flu
Cold & Flu RemedyP1180323
SootheP1180501
LavenderP1180317
Chocolate MintP1180327
Gingerbreadrose.png
RoseP1180277
VanillaP1180258
Candy Cane

And Coming soon…
Fennel
Ginger (gold sparkle!)
and HappyDough toolkits, complete with rollers, cutters, and all sorts of fun accessories for hours of building fun!

Project FAIL: Coconut flour anything

P1180560

Most people consider me to be a pretty proficient baker. I’ve experimented with recipes ever since my mother allowed me to invade her neat-as-a-pin kitchen. I’ll never forget the time mom gave me the job of stirring a bowlful of ingredients. It was a stainless steel bowl on a laminate countertop. You know what happens when you get to stirring that thing super-duper-fast? The bowl spins! Fun! And the food spins! NOT FUN! Centripetal force took over and we had creamed corn splattered all the way to the family room. Whoops.

Or the time I took a take-n-bake pizza out of the freezer, sans-cardboard pan, and baked it. About 10 minutes in, it started to smell. Like pizza…but also like burning. Yep, oozing gobs of pizza dough/cheese/sauce were dropping through the oven grates onto the hot coil below. Did I mention mom had just cleaned the oven? Sorry mom.

But since those formative experiences, I’ve been a pretty successful cook. I’ve baked all my kids’ birthday cakes, a few wedding cakes, and thousands of cupcakes to raise funds for my favorite charity. I’ve perfected gluten-free, egg-free, and even dairy-free cake recipes to the point that NO ONE believes they aren’t “the real thing.” I can convert any recipe to a heart-healthy version for my husband, who is on a restricted diet. People consistently come to me for recipe advice.

Enter coconut flour. I have met my mortal enemy. Why, oh why did I ever purchase this evil substance?

Here’s how it started. My dad is type-2 diabetic. He’s been borderline for a couple years, never needed an insulin pump, but it’s getting worse now so he is being more careful. I wanted to make him some diet-friendly treats for Christmas, but I also wanted to avoid artificial sweeteners. So I scoured Pinterest and Google for healthy, diabetic-friendly, natural recipes. I found one for peanut brittle – one of his favorites! It was a raging success. All natural, low-glycemic, and delicious. Happy daddy. The other was grain-free shortbread, made with coconut flour. Looked good! Sounded good! Tasted NOT GOOD. You know you’ve failed when your dish is compared to paste, wet cement, Mockolate (oh how I miss Friends), and rat poison. No, I’m not kidding. It was THAT awful.

The first bite was…okay. The flavor is pretty good. I used real butter, which is a must for shortbread. Then you try to chew it. It doesn’t chew. It forms this wretched sandy paste in your mouth and you can’t swallow. You’re like that poor dog trying to lick the peanut butter spoon in the Got Milk commercial. After that, you’re running to the fridge for a drink, spitting in the sink, and/or laughing hysterically at your ridiculous tongue-smacking. No one wants another bite. Not even my 4 year old, and he likes Stinky Socks trick jelly beans. So, there you have it. Shortbread that makes you want to eat dirty socks.

Don’t make this recipe. But please, for the love of all that is grain-free, will someone PLEASE tell me how to properly use coconut flour? Because I have about a cup left, and I’m deciding whether to throw it out or bake more shortbread to leave on the doorstep for as payback to whomever stole our Christmas packages last week. Bwa-ha-ha-ha…

THE RECIPE – from The Pink Sprinkle
6 TBS coconut flour
4 TBS butter, melted
1-2 TBS honey
1/4 tsp almond extract or vanilla (I used almond)

METHOD
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a small bowl, mix all ingredients together until it is the consistency of a thick paste.
Shape into balls and place on a lined baking sheet. Press down on the tops gently (VERY gently – they crumble to bits when you look at them sideways!) with a fork.
Bake for 8-10 minutes until lightly browned on the bottom.
Let cool completely on the pan or they will crumble (they crumble no matter where you cool them!)If you’re going to attempt to consume these, keep a gallon of milk and plenty of napkins right there on the counter. Because you’ll be spitting gobs of cookie paste into the napkins, and washing away whatever remains with the milk.

Then, go make some fabulous, healthy peanut brittle instead!

Of course, I had to go and use the coconut flour in half of the Christmas dessert, peach cobbler, too. It refused, utterly refused to be crust – instead, infiltrated the poor innocent fruit below, and made a weird, glue-y, pasty, stringy glob of yuck. Just say NO. To coconut flour. The end.

In His humility! 🙂
~Monique

Do You Wanna Build a Snowman?

515b4075-1dda-4e54-8462-e2b16a368acd

Confession: I have never seen Frozen. Gasp. My kids have, and they, unlike everyoneelseintheworld, were not impressed. Thus, no exposure for mommy. I do sing “Let it Go” whenever they bicker with each other, which is mommygenius because it forces them to instantly team up in an all-out mutual effort to silence me. Heh. Heh. Heh.

But that is beside the point. Despite the fact that I’ve seriously neglected this blog all year long, I’m gonna post a fun DIY to keep on file for next year’s Christmas shenanigans. Ready?

Felt. Snowman. Wall.
Easy as 1-2-3, and makes for hours of creative, mess-free, wintry FUN. Did I mention the no mess part? No paint, glitter, sprinkles or cookie crumbs to sweep/wipe/scrub off the floor. Those activities are glorious, of course. But THIS project is one where you can send your precious little mess-makers whilst you detox the house from the aforementioned explosively-festive crafts.

First: buy some felt. It’s cheap, folks. Buy a couple yards of your background material – I chose red – don’t use white! You could use black, grey, brown, blue…whatever floats your boat, but not a color you plan to use a lot in the foreground. Because a snowman in a blizzard just doesn’t have the same appeal. Buy several other colors as well – white, green, yellow, brown, orange, black, red, etc. You can get half-yards at the cutting counter or those little sheets of felt they sell in crafting supplies.

Pop in It’s a Wonderful Life or While You Were Sleeping, and start snipping: cut out your building pieces. Fabric scissors are best here. Cut big white blobs (snowman body parts), stick pieces (arms), little black blobs (coal), – or multicolored buttons if you’re really up for a challenge! – orange triangles, mittens, boots, hats, scarves, etc. You can cut out big green trees and geometric shapes for presents, or brown geometric pieces to build gingerbread houses…the possibilities are endless! I added lots of white strips and geometric shapes to build giant snowflakes. My kids requested a felt nativity set to put on their wall, but by then Mama’s hands were stiff from all the cutting. Next year, kiddos.

Adhere your backing piece to the wall. We have a big blank wall in my kids’ room that worked perfectly. It ended up being about 5 feet high, 6 feet wide. Next year I hope that wall will be filled with shelves, frames, etc. so we will have to find a new spot. If you have to go over any outlets or switches, measure where they are and cut them out from the backing piece, so they aren’t covered up all season long.

You can stick the felt backing on with painter’s tape (I used green! So festive!), but the bigger it is, the more reinforcement it will need. I busted out the stapler and punched a few staples in where my wall was saggy. If you can’t do that, you could always make tape loops and put them all over your wall prior to sticking/smoothing the felt.

Find a basket or bin to store the building pieces, and let the kids go to town. My kids played with it day after day for hours! Since we used a whole wall, they could both build simultaneously without disturbing each other’s creations. It makes for a fun room decoration when it’s all up, too! Next year, besides cutting a Nativity, I might cut out pieces for them to play felt tic tac toe or other games on their wall.

What would you make for your kids to build? I’d love more ideas!

In His joy,
Monique

 

 

Bible craft: David & Mephibosheth, 2 Samuel 9-10

20150322_153144

My goodness, I’ve been a bad blogger. So many crafts, cakes, DIYs, homeschool activities…so little time to blog about them! Better late than never, right?

This weekend the kids’ ministry at our church was to study 2 Samuel 9-10. In this passage we find the beautiful story of King David’s kindness to Mephibosheth, the crippled son of his deceased best friend, Jonathan. I love this story. If only all of us took the opportunity to lavish kindness and love on one another, especially those who deal with lifelong hardship! I am so thankful to be part of a church body that teaches children beyond the favorite Bible stories that you find in a children’s picture Bible. The story of David and Mephibosheth is a hidden gem that can stir little children’s hearts to show love and kindness, especially to those who might look different. Think of the bullying, name-calling, and harshness our little ones are exposed to every day. This little lesson on compassion could make such a positive impact on their character!

For the lesson, my fantastic teaching partner, Aaron, brought his two older kiddos to perform the story as a skit. 24 preschoolers sat motionless as the play unfolded. It was simple, but illustrated the love of David for his friend’s son, despite differences and family hostility. The children were left with the truth that “God can help me show kindness to others.”

I wanted to send the children home with a memento of the lesson, so I came up with a simple craft. They colored a picture of a boy, added crutches and bandages to show Mephibosheth’s condition, and then added a table and food to show how David provided for him. Easy, check! Fun, check! Inexpensive, check check! Below are the materials and steps to complete the craft. Let me know if you have any ideas to improve it…Maybe older children could include David at the table with his crown.

Enjoy!

2 Samuel 9-10 Craft

20150322_161159
Materials:
Mephibosheth Coloring Sheet (below)
Crayons
Scissors
Craft sticks
Gauze/white fabric
Liquid glue
Brown paper
Food magazines/coupon books/etc

2 Samuel 9-10

Teacher prep: Cut the brown paper into strips. I cut the strips lengthwise, about 1/2 inch, and then cut a short end off and split it lengthwise for two table legs. Cut your gauze/fabric into small squares (two per child). Cut out plenty of food images from magazines, catalogs, and coupon books. Kids love picking out their favorite foods for the table!

In class: Children color the picture first, then glue on the crutches and bandages (in our 3s class, teachers apply glue to avoid waste, and so everyone finishes in a timely fashion). Add more glue for the table, and finally the food. Done! Such a simple craft, but each one comes out unique, and they all convey such an important message of love and kindness. If you’re looking for a way to illustrate 2 Samuel 9-10, I hope this craft will help you!

In His love,
Monique

Egg-free Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

Well hello there, blog! I’ve missed you. Between homeschooling and Cuppa Love, this mama has been b.u.s.y. But I just had to squeeze a little time for a blog post today, because I created a new recipe last night and it was so delicious, I can’t bear to forget it!
Last month I was honored to participate with several other vendors in a benefit to push the Clean Water Fundraiser over the top – and we DID IT! Yeah! It was such a delightful time, and I got to meet so many beautiful ladies who all share a heart for this cause. One of these sweet gals ordered cupcakes for her baby’s first birthday – with one special dietary restriction – no eggs. I’ve never made egg-free cupcakes before but I promised her I could pull it off! We tossed flavor ideas back and forth, and finally landed on pumpkin because it would pair well with whipped white chocolate ganache (since my buttercream has eggs). Then I thought – hey – chocolate chips wouldn’t hurt, would they? So we decided to do half with mini chocolate chips and half without.
I found a recipe for egg-free sponge cake on Pinterest, and then played around with it to make this:

IMG_20141018_123217

Pumpkin. Chocolate Chip. Cupcake. EAT ME!

I was worried being egg-free would make my cupcakes too flat/dense/muffin-y. But this was definitely not the case. The recipe is very specific on when and how to mix the ingredients, which I suspect is the key to success. To pumpkin-ify them, I withheld a bit of the yogurt and subbed solid pack pumpkin. I didn’t want to mess with it too much, so I only used 1/3 cup. Next time I’m going to try boosting it to 1/2 cup and test the results.
They were light, moist, with an ever-so-slight-nutty pumpkin taste. The mini chocolate chips really took the cake (har har), though! Why have I never used these before? They are perfect for a mini cupcake – not overwhelming, and they disperse more evenly into the batter. The whipped ganache on top complimented the flavors beautifully. You could also do a whipped dark chocolate ganache, but I liked the white.
20141018_082444

This is what the cupcakes turned out to be – Hungry Caterpillar! The last time I made a Hungry Caterpillar cake was for Roo’s first birthday…2 and a half years ago! Molding all these little food shapes in the wee hours of the morning took me right back to the labor of love that was my baby’s cake. *Snif snif*

Recipe time! Hope you enjoy~

THE CAKE:

Ingredients
1.5 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup plain yogurt (original recipe suggests room temperature but mine was cold and worked fine)
1/3 cup pumpkin
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 and 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup neutral oil (I used canola)
1 tsp of vanilla extract
2/3 c. mini chocolate chips (optional)

Method
Preheat oven to 350F. Place cupcake liners in cupcake pan (this recipe, half with chocolate chips and half without, made 27 mini cupcakes. It would probably make 24 without chocolate chips, and maybe 30 with all chocolate chips).

Whisk the yogurt and pumpkin well, removing any lumps, and add sugar. Beat well and add the baking powder, baking soda and salt. Beat again and set aside for 5 mins until you see small bubbles on the surface of the mixture. Add vanilla extract and oil. Mix well until the ingredients are combined. Sift in the flour. Gently fold the mixture using a whisk until you see no more streaks of flour. Gently fold in chocolate chips. Drop by scoop into the prepared pan (I used a medium size scoop, full but not overflowing). Tap it firmly on the counter top a couple times to get rid of the air bubbles. Bake 12-13 mins until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting and serving.

THE GANACHE: Inspired by Michelle gives a great tutorial for making ganache.

Ingredients
1 cup heavy whipping cream
3 cups white chocolate chips

Method
Pour cream and chocolate into large microwave safe bowl. Follow Michelle’s directions – heat at half power for several minutes, stopping at 30 second intervals to stir and incorporate the mixture. Once it is completely melted, beat with a whisk until totally smooth. Cover tightly with plastic wrap (wrap right up against the ganache, not just over the top of the bowl) and allow to cool. Once it is cool and a peanut-butter consistency, beat with the whip on your stand mixer until bright white and fluffy. Place in a piping bag and frost away!

The Hungry Caterpillar decorations are entirely made of modeling chocolate. I’m not going to go into directions for modeling chocolate on this post, but let me know if you’d like a tutorial for that!

In Him,
Monique

 

Cuppa Love update & a simple Sunday school craft

Last month I was so excited to share my new little charitable endeavor with y’all. Well, we had our first Sales Week and it was a HIT! Just wanted to give an update – after nineteen orders, we were able to raise $500 for clean water in Ethiopia. Of course it’s just a small fraction of the overall project cost (46k!), but it means we are inching ever closer towards our goal! Only about $3000 left in the entire project. Two weeks from tomorrow Cuppa Love will be featured at one more sales event for the year, and I’m hoping and PRAYING that puts us over the top. It is so much fun to make friends happy with delicious, gourmet treats, and all the better for a life-giving cause! Thanks to everyone who helped support Cuppa Love and clean water.

10342012_331180927047070_8051715936313053432_n

My first official box full ‘o love, delivered to a dear friend and supporter

Now, a change in gears. I haven’t posted any kid-crafts to the blog yet, but I’m constantly coming up with something of the sort because I teach Sunday school 6 months of the year. Doing crafty stuff takes up so much time…finding time to blog about it seems to happen for only about 10% of the things I make! Anyone have a brilliant solution to this problem? I vote we add a few hours to the day…but unfortunately I can’t control the axis of our globe…;)

This month we’ve been in the book of Exodus, both in “big church” and in the kids’ wing. It’s been fun to discuss the stories with the preschoolers, and with my kiddos at home as well. I’m hoping parents will notice the parallels and build on our weekly Bible stories with their own growth in the Word – just layer upon layer of God’s truth. It’s a good thing!

Anyway, back to the craft. A couple weeks ago we taught the story of Moses striking the rock (Ex. 17) to provide water to God’s people. I love the stories of Exodus, and the way they portray eternal truths about Jesus Christ. He is our Rock (1 Cor. 10:4) who was smitten (Is. 53:5) and out of Him pours living water (John 7:38) that gives eternal life. Even the account of Christ on the cross further illustrates the fulfillment of this story (John 19:34).

I wanted the children to have something to remember the story, and also tie it to Jesus. I happened to have several dozen smooth stones from a project, and my vision was to make little paperweights that would serve as a reminder of the Exodus story, as well as Jesus’ living water.

20140810_090016

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:
Several smooth stones (one for each child, and some examples)
Sharpie
Blue paint
Dixie cups or little sample paper cups
Paper plates
Clear or blue glitter
Liquid glue (that dries clear – like Elmers)
Several small twigs (one for each rock)

STEP BY STEP:
First, make examples. Make one for each table of kiddos – we have two tables in the 3’s room so I made two. Write what you want your children to remember with Sharpie – I chose “Jesus is the Rock” but you could use your memory verse, or just Exodus 17, or whatever you like. Place your rocks on a paper plate, squirt paint into a Dixie cup, and pour over the rock so it runs down. Sprinkle on glitter – glitter makes everything better! It makes your “water” look more realistic too. 😉 Add a dab of glue, and put the twig on top (Moses’ rod). The steps with the children are obviously the same, but let them do as much of it as they can. I pre-wrote on the rocks, let them choose their favorite, and wrote their name on the paper plates (not really part of the craft – just for catching stray paint and glitter, and so moms/dads could pick them out of a lineup). The kiddos poured on the paint however they liked, did their own glitter, and glued on their twigs. I love how they came out! Pretty simple, but fun, and no two crafts were exactly the same. I think the children enjoyed these, and I hope they’ll spur on good Bible discussions at home!

20140810_091105

In Him,
Monique