Book Review: The Mark of the King

Read on to learn more about The Mark of the King by Jocelyn Green. I hope you’ll read this book soon–it is amazing!

Read on to learn more about The Mark of the King by Jocelyn Green.

A description of the book from the publisher:

After being imprisoned and branded for the death of her client, twenty-five-year-old midwife Julianne Chevalier trades her life sentence for exile to the fledgling 1720s French colony of Louisiana, where she hopes to be reunited with her brother, serving there as a soldier. To make the journey, though, women must be married, and Julianne is forced to wed a fellow convict.

When they arrive in New Orleans, there is no news of Benjamin, Julianne’s brother, and searching for answers proves dangerous. What is behind the mystery, and does military officer Marc-Paul Girard know more than he is letting on?

With her dreams of a new life shattered, Julianne must find her way in this dangerous, rugged land, despite never being able to escape the king’s mark on her shoulder that brands her a criminal beyond redemption.

As usual, my five point review:

  • The characters in this book were stunning. No one was uni-dimensional, and no matter whether you loved or hated someone, their character and role in the story truly made a difference to the plot and outcome of the story. I am still torn as to whether Julianne or Marc-Paul was my favorite character, but no matter… their (surprising) romance was the highlight of this book.
  • Even though I do consider the highlight of this book to be the romance between Julianne and Marc-Paul, it was not overbearing, lovey-dovey, or predictable. Lots of twists and turns influenced their relationship at many different points… and they almost didn’t make it (in more ways than one). I love that sort of romance. It’s so real! But it would not have been possible without the grace both show towards the other, and to the people around them dealing with very hard circumstances.
  • Though the characters are influenced by Christianity, this book absolutely does not “feel” like a Christian romance novel AT. ALL. No lightly disguised evangelism here, and that’s not a criticism at all. The discussion of faith was very natural and at times, ambiguous. Real characters, real faith.
  • The writing was excellent. The novel was divided into three parts, each with a shocking twist. I managed to read this (a print copy) in less than two weeks, which is a recent record since it’s hard to read a print book with a baby in tow most days. I do most reading on my phone or Kindle these days, so you know that this must have been good!
  • 1720s Louisiana truly came alive in Jocelyn Green’s The Mark of the King. This is an often-forgotten time period of American history, something Green mentions in her readers’ notes. As such, I imagine researching this era took a great deal of grit and determination. Reading about everything from the abysmal living conditions to the devastating hurricane that ended up shaping the French Quarter of New Orleans was heartbreaking… and fascinating. I’ve said it before, but reading fiction is the best way to turn someone into a history lover, and this book is no different. I highly recommend it!

What are you reading lately?

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers. However, I was not required to write a positive review. The thoughts expressed above are entirely my own. Thanks to Bethany House for the chance to read this great book!

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A Night in Spain: A Review of CourseHorse and Dabble Studio

Disclosure: We received complementary tickets for this cooking class from CourseHorse. However, I was not required to write a positive review and was not compensated in any other way. The thoughts expressed below are entirely my own. Thanks to CourseHorse and Dabble Studio for a great date night!

A Night in Spain: A Review of CourseHorse and Dabble Studio

Recently Ben and I had one of the BEST dates we’ve ever been on. It’s hard to judge and rank dates, so my verdict might be influenced by the fact that date nights have been in short supply since a cute little baby entered our lives last May. Haha. But anyways, recently, we were able to check out a local cooking class at Dabble Studio, located near the Sounds Stadium in Nashville.

Date night!! A Night in Spain with @dabblestudiotn! #datenight #cookingclass #babyathome🍴💃🏻👩🏼‍🍳

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You guys, we had SO MUCH fun! I’ve never been that interested in cooking classes, to be honest, because I like to think I know how to cook pretty well. #truth But I had a little change of heart when I was contacted by CourseHorse, a website to help you find and compare a variety of classes, workshops, and tours in cities across the country. Helllloooooo date night! Now, I’m hooked and want to take so many more cooking classes!

CourseHorse’s official launch in Nashville is later this year, and it was fun to try their service a little early. They offer everything from food tours to cooking classes in Nashville, and I expect will eventually expand to other workshops and fun stuff too. Ben and I chose to attend A Night in Spain – Paella and Sangria, and you guys… it was SO DELICIOUS.

A Night in Spain: A Review of CourseHorse and Dabble Studio

Jamie was our host/instructor. She owns Dabble Studio with her parents, and their story is so fun. Jamie went to cooking school in NYC as a career change move from her corporate job, then convinced her parents to open a business to allow people to “dabble” in all sorts of fun! Coincidentally… or not, this fun aligns with the family’s passions–and each area allows someone to shine! From food tours to painting classes to cooking classes, Dabble does it all. We loved how friendly and accommodating Jamie was. She did a great job at making everyone in our class feel comfortable and confident in the kitchen.  I also loved the cooking tips she peppered in throughout the evening–how to cut an onion, seasoning tips, how to use a mandoline cutter, etc. as well as restaurant recommendations for Nashville.

A Night in Spain: A Review of CourseHorse and Dabble Studio

Even though it was an interactive event with a large group of strangers, it still was a fun date night. Maybe not a fun first date though, haha. There was a good mix of couples and groups of friends of all ages, including a few repeat customers. So grab some gal pals for a night like this–it’ll be a blast!

A Night in Spain: A Review of CourseHorse and Dabble Studio

Our menu for the evening included: a fabulous cheese and charcuterie plate, a delicious salad made by Jamie that included Spanish Anchovy, Fennel and Preserved Lemon, Spanish Potato Omelet, Spanish Paella, and Red Sangria. So much good stuff!! Everything was so fresh and flavorful. The portions were also huge and Jamie was thoughtful enough to provide boxes for leftovers so nothing went to waste.

A Night in Spain: A Review of CourseHorse and Dabble Studio

We cooked the omelet and paella ourselves, and were even given copies of the recipes to take home to make again. Despite the fact that we all initially found these recipes complicated to make, the step by step instructions and demos made these dishes accessible for even the newest cooks. I think we’re on the market for our own mandoline so we can make this amazing omelet (above) sometime soon! But it will be sad to have to do all the clean up ourselves afterwards, haha.

A Night in Spain: A Review of CourseHorse and Dabble Studio

So, to sum it up… if you’re looking for a fun date night/girls’ night, do check out a cooking class (especially at Dabble Studio in Nashville, or with a trusted partner of CourseHorse elsewhere in the country)… even if you already know how to cook. You’ll have fun, I guarantee it! 🙂

You can find Dabble Studio on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook,  Trip Advisor, and Yelp. Connect with CourseHorse on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook too.

Lentil Veggie Macaroni and Cheese

Who doesn’t love mac and cheese? This version is fancied up with some lentils and veggies for a more complete version of a childhood favorite.

Who doesn't love mac and cheese? This version is fancied up with some lentils and veggies for a more complete version of a childhood favorite.

When it comes to macaroni and cheese, I usually gravitate towards the baked variety. Don’t get me wrong, a box of Kraft or Annie’s is pretty much always in our pantry for those desperate nights… but when I REALLY want mac and cheese, this is what I’m talking about. Ben and I can make our way through a pan of that stuff in just a few days… it’s crazy good. And now that #BabyVolde is eating more and more of my regular cooking, heaven help us. When I made that mac and cheese a few weeks ago, he gobbled it up.

Sunday dinner… baked mac & cheese with roasted broccoli. All of us loved it (especially #BabyVolde)! 🧀

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While that mac and cheese will always always always be my favorite, sometimes I want mac and cheese… but with a little less cheese and a little more nutrition. Yeahhh… especially since I have a pretty non-picky-baby eater right now and I want to keep it that way. So that’s when I bring in Lentil Veggie Macaroni and Cheese. You still have your cheese and pasta… but with a little extra protein (helllllllooooo lentils) and some extra veggie power. I won’t say the lentils and veggies aren’t noticeable, but they do make this dish a bit heartier and a little healthier. I can’t wait to make it again soon–it’s absolutely delicious!

Who doesn't love mac and cheese? This version is fancied up with some lentils and veggies for a more complete version of a childhood favorite.

One last thing before I go… I did make this recipe into a baked mac and cheese cause that’s my favorite. #crispynoodlesforlife But if that’s not your thing, or you’re in a time crunch, you can omit the panko topping and the baking step, no problemo! Enjoy!

one year ago: Chocolate Chip Butterscotch Bars
two years ago: Butternut Squash and Mushroom Tart
three years ago: Oatmeal Fudge Bars
four years ago: Neely’s Lemon Pasta Salad
five years ago: Pineapple-Apricot Teriyaki Chicken
six years ago: Sweet and Tangy Pork Chops with Pineapple over Coconut Toasted Rice

Lentil Veggie Macaroni and Cheese

  • Servings: 8
  • Time: 45 minutes
  • Print

slightly adapted from The Lean Green Bean

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces dry pasta
  • 3/4 cup lentils
  • 3 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3-4 cups mixed vegetables, diced – can be fresh or frozen, or a combination
  • 5 ounces frozen spinach, defrosted – or 3 handfuls fresh baby spinach
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 2/3 cup panko breadcrumbs

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a large baking dish – 9×13 inches or similar and set aside.

Prepare pasta according to package directions. Prepare lentils according to package directions.

While pasta and lentils are cooking, melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet. Add garlic and saute for 30 seconds until fragrant, then stir in mixed vegetables and spinach. Saute for 5-10 minutes until softened – less for frozen vegetables and more for fresh. Sprinkle with flour, paprika, and cayenne, then stir to coat. Add milk and cheese, stirring until well combined.

Carefully fold in pasta and lentils, then transfer mixture into greased baking dish.

In a small bowl, melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter in the microwave. Toss with panko, then sprinkle panko mixture over the macaroni mixture.

Bake for 15-20 minutes until bubbly. Enjoy!

Note: If baked pasta isn’t your thing or you’re in a time crunch, just omit the panko and baking steps. It’ll be just fine without it. 🙂

Trader Joe’s Chili Lime Chicken Burgers

A copycat version of a Trader Joe’s fave… chicken burgers spiced up with chili, lime, cilantro, and garlic. This is an epic burger you don’t wanna miss!

A copycat version of a Trader Joe's fave... chicken burgers spiced up with chili, lime, cilantro, and garlic. This is an epic burger you don't wanna miss!

If you’ve ever stepped foot into Trader Joe’s, you have probably seen tons of delicious-looking treats. At Trader Joe’s, I’m always tempted to buy so many more convenience foods than I ever would in a regular grocery store. I don’t know what it is about that insanely crowded grocery store with a death trap parking lot, but everything inside sounds SO FREAKING GOOD. I mean, seriouslyyyy. Is it just me? I sure hope not.

A copycat version of a Trader Joe's fave... chicken burgers spiced up with chili, lime, cilantro, and garlic. This is an epic burger you don't wanna miss!

One of my favorite things to get at TJ’s is their Chili Lime Chicken Burgers. Alright, I know they’re probably everyone’s favorite. Maybe that’s not true but I literally know SO many people who love them. After buying them one too many times, it’s no surprise that I sought out a homemade copycat version. Because… why not? These burgers are just as good (if not better) than their counterpart, and come together in a flash in your kitchen! Be sure to dress them up with all your favorite burger toppings–avocado is a must for me! Oh, and p.s. I suggest using non-smashed buns (don’t be like me–but I hate food waste so…yeah). ENJOY!

A copycat version of a Trader Joe's fave... chicken burgers spiced up with chili, lime, cilantro, and garlic. This is an epic burger you don't wanna miss!

one year ago: Buffalo Chicken Lettuce Wraps
two years ago: French Toast Casserole
three years ago: Tasty Mexican Lentils
four years ago: Quick Chocolate Pudding
five years ago: Alice’s Vanilla Tea-Infused Granola
six years ago: Roasted Tomato and Black Bean Soup

Trader Joe's Chili Lime Chicken Burgers

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Print

from Iowa Girl Eats

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • 1/4 cup red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • zest and juice of half a lime
  • hamburger buns
  • avocado, tomato, lettuce, cheese, etc. for topping as desired

Directions:

In a medium bowl, combine ground chicken, green onions, red bell pepper, cilantro, garlic, red pepper flakes, and lime zest and juice. Use your hands to mix together, then divide into four equal portions. Press into patties and coat each side with nonstick spray or brush with olive oil.

Cook in a skillet, set over medium-high heat, for approximately 3-4 minutes per side until cooked through. Alternatively, you can use a George Foreman-type grill.

Serve on a bun with desired toppings.

Menu Plan: Spring Style

Spring has sprung! And with that, here are some great eats to make your spring season a little tastier. 🙂 Enjoy!

Check out this spring-themed meal plan and celebrate with us! :)

Brunch

Check out this spring-themed meal plan and celebrate with us! :)

Check out this spring-themed meal plan and celebrate with us! :)

Check out this spring-themed meal plan and celebrate with us! :)

Entrees & Sides

Check out this spring-themed meal plan and celebrate with us! :)

Check out this spring-themed meal plan and celebrate with us! :)

Desserts

Check out this spring-themed meal plan and celebrate with us! :)

Check out this spring-themed meal plan and celebrate with us! :)

Check out this spring-themed meal plan and celebrate with us! :)

This month’s recipe round up was brought to you by:

The Pajama Chef | Ninja Baker | The Cooking Actress | Pies and Plots | The Spiffy Cookie | Foodtastic Mom | Kelly Lynn’s Sweets & Treats | Savory Moments

Pin this to your meal planning board for easy access all month long!

Check out this spring-themed meal plan and celebrate with us! :) Check out this spring-themed meal plan and celebrate with us! :)