Monthly Archives: September 2012

Cedar Plank Salmon Salad

Ryan has been on this Omega-3 kick lately, so we’ve been eating more salmon, beans, winter squash, etc. When he suggested a salmon salad for dinner the other night, I decided to try to recreate my favorite salad from Coastal Flats, the Short Smoked Grilled Salmon Salad. Olivia’s not a great salad eater yet, but since this salad has red potatoes and green beans in it, she had a complete meal with the salmon without us having to make a separate dish.

The key to this salad is in the grilling. At Coastal, the salmon has a delicious smoky flavor and is crispy on the outside while buttery and pink on the inside. We tried to replicate some of that smoked flavor by grilling the salmon on cedar planks. It worked like a charm! Just be sure to buy cedar planks specifically for grilling (available at most big box hardware stores, Target, etc.), and soak them in water for at least an hour before grilling.

Cedar Plank Salmon Salad

2 salmon fillets
1 medium onion
5 medium red potatoes
2 cups petite whole green beans
1 medium tomato, chopped
1 cup crumbled goat cheese
1 (7 oz) bag of sweet butter lettuce or tender salad greens
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
pinch granulated sugar
balsamic vinaigrette (optional)

Cut your potatoes into quarters and boil until they pierce easily with a fork. Drain the potatoes and toss in a bowl with a drizzle of olive oil, salt, pepper, and any other seasonings or herbs you might want to add. Set aside.

Heat a tbsp of olive oil in a medium sauté pan over medium heat.  Roughly chop your onion and add it to the pan. Cook the onions until they are translucent. Add the balsamic vinegar and sugar and continue cooking until the onions are browned and soft. Remove from heat and set aside.

Prepare your salmon for grilling by rubbing with remaining olive oil and sprinkling with salt and pepper. Once your planks are ready, heat them on the grill according to the directions on the plank packaging. Add your salmon to the hot side of the plank and grill for about 12 minutes (no need to flip).

While the salmon is grilling, cook your green beans. I use frozen steam-in-the-bag petite green beans, so it just takes 5 minutes in the microwave. If you use fresh green beans, just steam them until tender or boil for a few minutes and then blanch in cold water.

Split salad greens between two plates and top each with tomatoes, caramelized onions, potatoes, goat cheese, and green beans. Place a salmon fillet on top of each salad and serve with your favorite balsamic vinaigrette if you desire.

Olivia’s Sunny Sesame Street Birthday!

My baby girl is two. I know it’s true because her birthday was September 21st, but I just can’t seem to wrap my head around the fact that my little baby isn’t really a baby anymore. She’s a full-fledged, opinionated, affectionate, tantrum-throwing, observant (sometimes too much so!) toddler. She’s a girl who knows her mind—especially when it comes to what she will and will not eat any given moment of the day.

So when I asked her what kind of party she wanted for her 2nd birthday, there was only one answer: Elmo. Well, it was more like, “Elmo, Elmo, Elmo! Super Grover! It’s my birthday! ‘Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you. . .’ —Mommy may me have some milk?—’Sunny days. . .’ YEAH, YEAH, YEAH!” 

Ryan and I with our little birthday girl

Invite designed by Better by Design

I had a lot of fun putting this party together. . . but it’s a good thing this happens only once a year because it’s exhausting! Still, to hear Olivia whisper “Wow” when she walked downstairs to see the garlands, balloons, food, and presents—that made it all worth it!

My friend Stephanie made this amazing, hand-painted sign for our front yard. The best part? There’s Velcro on the back of the sign where it attaches to the yard stakes. After the party, we were able to take the sign off and hang it in her bedroom above her door!

I made the garlands using colored card stock and the Martha Stewart Circle Cutter (a HUGE time-saver and worth every penny!). I free-handed the letters and cut them out, then I just glued everything together and strung them on some yarn.

My favorite part of the party planning—the Elmo and Cookie Monster cupcakes! They were much easier than I expected, though I recommend the gel concentrate food coloring if you want a saturated blue and red. I used regular liquid food coloring and mine ended up more “denim” and “hot pink,” but it worked!

I came up with themed names for all of the dishes (Mr. Noodles Noodles for macaroni and cheese, Abby’s Magic Wands for fruit kabobs, Big Bird’s Bird Seed Muffins for corn muffins with poppy seeds, etc.) Though I probably stretched it a bit with Bert and Ernie’s Famous Beef Brisket. Can’t say I’ve ever seen B & E actually eat brisket, but I liked the alliteration.

The party favors included Sesame Street cereal bars from Earth’s Best, stickers and books from Target, and Goldfish Crackers. The favor boxes were from Target, and I just wrote “Thank You” on the front. Had I thought about it, I would have designed and printed stickers for the front, but that one slipped through the cracks.

Overall, I’d say the party was a huge success—we had good weather, yummy food, and great friends and family to help us celebrate! Best of all was the one thing we DIDN’T have. . . a meltdown! Bring on the two’s!!


Waging War on the Toy Clutter!

This is what the corner of our living room has looked like for the last year.

Our house was quickly becoming one huge playroom, and the Type A control freak in me just couldn’t take it anymore. I don’t mind toys being out and all over the place when we’re home and Olivia is playing. But when she goes to bed and the wine is uncorked, I like to relax in a room that doesn’t look like Toys R’ Us threw up everywhere.

Getting rid of her toys really wasn’t the answer (I’m not nearly that mean!), so organization was the key to my sanity. I knew I’d found the solution to our problem when I visited my friend Jessie and saw this bookcase from One Step Ahead in her living room. It holds tons of books and has storage bins below for toys.

Canvas Sling Bookshelf, $79.95

Done. I went online and bought it the next day. We still had to move some of her toys upstairs because it really was a little ridiculous, but we went from the chaos above to this:

Ahhhh! I really think organization helps me breathe easier, and it keeps me healthy—in part because now it’s far less likely that I’m going to step on a rogue Lego and go flying sideways into the wall.

Easy DIY Paint Chip Art

I have been an art-making fool lately! We had our downstairs painted recently (Luna by Valspar, which is a pale bluish greenish gray), and the new color totally changed the way our house looks. This was mostly for the better, but we suddenly found ourselves living in a sea of blue and green with not so much as a pillow to contrast the monotony. So I set out to liven things up as cheaply as possible (hence all the homemade art).

This was our foyer before. The wall color was a dirty-looking cream that was here when we bought the house, so I tried to introduce a bit of color with the framed pattern (actually cheap wrapping paper from Target’s $1 spot!), choice of photo, and background color for the quote. Not great, but it worked fine until we could paint.

Once we had the new paint on the walls, however, everything sort of blended together; so I decided to switch out the framed wrapping paper for something in the orange family. I was inspired by Katie Bower from Bower Power (awesome blog if you’ve never checked it out!) and her paint chip sea urchin, so I decided to give it a shot. Plus (hello!) paint chips are FREE. I hit Home Depot and pulled about 20 of my favorite paint chips in varying shades of orange, coral, and pink.

When I got home, I used a ruler and an Exacto knife to slice the paint chips into strips of various widths, working only with the portion that didn’t have the paint name and number printed on it. Once I had everything cut up, I started gluing each strip in a diagonal pattern to a piece of cardstock that was slightly larger than would show through the mat in the frame. After it all dried, I trimmed down the edges, taped it to the back side of the mat, and voilà! My own little paint chip masterpiece!

I also swapped out the colored cardstock with the quote (I just wrote it in the first place, so this was a super easy change). I’m planning to switch out our family photo after our photography session this fall, so that should hopefully have some nice browns and oranges in it since we’re taking the pictures outdoors. Here’s what our foyer looks like today:

Grand total for my tiny little foyer switcharoo was $0.50—I only had to pay for the cardstock to glue the paint strips on and the scrapbook paper to rewrite the quote! (I did, however, already have glue, so that helped.)

Have you made any art using paint chips from the hardware store? I would love to see it!


Our New Favorite Quinoa Recipe!

I wrote in this post last month that I was trying to incorporate more quinoa (aka the “super grain”) into our diets. I have lived up to my end of the deal by trying all kinds of different variations and recipes, but this one is now the hands down favorite! I started with this recipe from as a base, and then I made my own little tweaks. This dish has so much flavor, and you can even make it spicy if you want by adding more cayenne pepper and diced jalapeños. We ate this as a one-dish meal, but you could leave the chicken out and have it as a side dish.

Southwestern Quinoa

2 tsp olive oil
2 chicken breasts
1 tsp vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
3 cloves of garlic, minced
3/4 cup uncooked quinoa
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup frozen corn
1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro


Soak the quinoa in cold water for about 10-15 minutes and then drain the water. (Rinsing the quinoa like this cuts the bitterness.)

While the quinoa is soaking, heat the olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Use a meat tenderizer to flatten and even out the chicken breasts slightly (to about a half inch thick) before adding them to the pan. Cook the chicken 6-7 minutes on each side or until it’s cooked through. Set the chicken aside to rest before chopping it up.

Turn the heat down to medium and add the vegetable oil to the pan. Add the onion and garlic, and sauté until tender and slightly brown. Add the quinoa to the pan and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. This toasts the quinoa a bit and brings out the nutty flavor.

Cover the quinoa with the vegetable broth, and add the cayenne pepper, cumin, salt, and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil, and then cover, reduce the heat, and simmer for 20 minutes.

Dice the chicken while the quinoa is cooking. Once the quinoa is done, add the frozen corn and the chicken and cook for 5 more minutes. Finally, stir in the black beans and cilantro and remove from heat.


Mushroom Lentil Burgers

I saw this recipe in the August issue of Cooking Light, and since I am always looking for new vegetarian recipes to add to our menu, I decided to give it a shot. They were really good! As my husband said, you have to like mushrooms because it’s chock-full (though I can’t imagine why you’d make mushroom lentil burgers if you didn’t!).

If I had a con for these burgers, it would be that they’re really, really fragile. I suppose that’s to be expected with veggie burgers, but you have to be very gentle when flipping these—and even then, they may fall apart a tiny bit. Even with that, I managed to make four respectable and delicious burgers!

Mushroom Lentil Burgers
From Cooking Light

1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
3/4 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, chopped
5 regular or whole-wheat hamburger buns, toasted and divided
6 ounces presliced cremini mushrooms
1 (8-ounce) pouch precooked black beluga lentils (such as Archer Farms)
4 tsp Dijon mustard, divided
2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 ounce goat cheese, crumbled
1 1/2 tbsp canola mayonnaise
1/2 cup baby arugula

Preheat broiler.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 teaspoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion and garlic; sauté 3 minutes or until onion is tender. Remove from heat.

Place 1 bun in a food processor; process until coarse crumbs form. Remove breadcrumbs from food processor; set aside.

Combine mushrooms, lentils, 2 teaspoons mustard, and the next 3 ingredients (through salt) in food processor; pulse to combine.

Combine onion mixture, breadcrumbs, mushroom mixture, and egg in a large bowl, stirring well. Divide mixture into 4 equal portions, gently shaping each into a 1/2-inch-thick patty. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the remaining 2 teaspoons oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add patties; cook for 4 minutes on each side or until browned. Remove patties from pan; arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. Sprinkle patties evenly with cheese. Place under broiler for 2 minutes or until cheese is softened.

Combine canola mayonnaise and remaining 2 teaspoons mustard in a small bowl. Spread the top half of each of the remaining 4 buns with 2 teaspoons mayonnaise mixture. Top each bottom half of bun with 1 patty. Divide arugula evenly among burgers; top with top half of bun, mayonnaise-coated side down.


Tiny Toms!

How cute are these?! I swear, as Olivia gets older, the shoe selection just keeps getting cuter. If I’m not careful, I’m going to end up with a shoe obsession for both of us—but at least I can wear my shoes for longer than three months! Luckily, these Tiny Toms don’t break the bank (they’re cheaper than your average Stride Rite pair). Happy shopping!

 1. Burnt Chambray Tiny TOMS Botas, $36
2. Silver Karsen Tiny TOMS Classics, $29
3. Pink Academy Plaid Tiny TOMS Classics, $29
4. Burnt Chambray Tiny TOMS Classics, $29
5. Red Cord Fleece Tiny TOMS Classics, $29
6. Pewter Glitter Tiny TOMS Mary Janes, $36

National Family Pack Walk Giveaway!

This is Tater, our lovable 10-year-old beagle.

Look at that face! Yeah, we couldn’t resist either. Ryan and I adopted her as a little puppy when we were two poor college students who had only been dating a year. Now, 10 years later, we’re married with a daughter (aka Tater’s BFF), and Tater has firmly cemented her place in our family—not to mention her place on the back of the chair in the living room overlooking the front window. And to think that she was the runt of the litter and nobody else wanted her. . .well, we were more than happy to come to the rescue and welcome her into our family.

So when I was asked to participate in the National Family Pack Walk benefiting the Cesar Milan foundation’s efforts to rescue, rehabilitate, and find homes for abused and abandoned dogs, I was thrilled to help out in any way that I could. Unfortunately, we won’t be in town to participate in the walk, which takes place in DC on September 29, but I’m excited to support and promote the cause by giving away a prize pack courtesy of the folks at the National Family Pack Walk!

The prize pack includes a Scooby-Doo basket with a Scooby kids’ T-shirt and Scooby-Doo educational video game! Enter below for your chance to win.

If you are interested in signing up for this year’s National Family Pack Walk in Washington, D.C., click here. It will be a great day for everyone in your family (even the four-legged members)!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Lazy Gołumpki: How to Make it AND How to Say it!

When my family went to the beach a couple of weeks ago, we each took a night to cook dinner. My dad made stromboli; we made an antipasto, pasta, and salad; my brother and future sis-in-law made. . . Lazy Gołumpki. Ummmm, huh? I think we all collectively scratched our heads when we found out what we’d be having for dinner.

Caity (said future sis-in-law) is Polish, and Gołumpki (pronounced Gwump-key) is a classic Polish comfort dish. Her family makes an easier, slightly less labor intensive version, and it’s delicious! Seriously, this might be one of my new favorite fall comfort dishes. And my picky little sister ate it (had seconds even), so that’s saying something!

This recipe is from Caity’s Babci (her grandmother). Since her grandma always shared the recipe with anyone who wanted it, Caity gave me permission to share it with all of you! We had it with some grilled Polish Kielbasa and crusty bread, but it’s certainly a meal all by itself. Enjoy!

Lazy Gołumpki

1 head of cabbage
1 medium onion, chopped fine
3 cups cooked rice
1 lb very lean ground beef
3 cans tomato soup


Preheat oven to 350°.

Remove the core of the cabbage, and then chop it fine. In a large pot, parboil the cabbage just until limp and then drain.

In a large bowl, combine the raw ground beef, hot cooked rice, and onions. Season with salt and pepper and mix really well.

Using a large oven-proof pot, spread a layer of the beef and rice mixture on the bottom and top it with and even layer of the cabbage. Pour a layer of the tomato soup (diluted with a little bit of water) over the cabbage. Continue layering in this way until you are out of ingredients.

Cover the pot loosely with foil and bake for 1 1/2 hours.

Guitar String Ring

My little sister plays the guitar (which thrills my dad—at least one of us inherited his musical talent!), so what better gift for her 13th birthday than this guitar string ring from Uncommon Goods? When my stepmom sent me the link to show me what she and my dad had gotten as one of her birthday gifts, I immediately wanted to share it with you guys because I loved it that much. But I promised I would wait until after her birthday to keep the cat in the bag (yes, my 13-year-old sister reads my blog—how cute is that?!).

Even if you don’t play guitar, you have to admit, this ring is pretty awesome. And for only $20, it’s also an amazing steal!