Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Review: Simply Salads by Jennifer Chandler

I may be a stay-at-home mom now but I'm far from the typical housewife. My home is only clean maybe 30 minutes a week before my toddler tears it apart again. It's an endless battle to which I surrendered long ago. And admittedly, my husband does most of the cooking. I've tried to be a Martha Stewart clone and I can pull together a marvelous meal for a party if I plan well in advance. But those recipes are almost always time-consuming and require ingredients I don't regularly stock in the pantry or fridge. With our busy lifestyle, I can never keep up the momentum to recreate the recipes for our family. I need my menus to be reliable - quick and painless.

So, I was thrilled to get the opportunity on The PR Place to review a new cookbook on the market: Simply Salads by Jennifer Chandler.

I're probably thinking, "geez, do you really need help making a salad? It's just greens and veggies in a bowl for pete's sake!" But I desire something a little more substantial. I love gourmet greens with the works but I don't want to have to spend top dollar at an expensive restaurant. At home, I want to stretch beyond iceberg lettuce with cucumber, carrot and tomato, topped with some generic bottled dressing. That's where Simply Salads comes in handy.

Simply Salads offers more than 100 tasty salad recipes. But what makes this cookbook unique is that every single recipe is made from prepackaged greens and accessible ingredients that you probably already have laying around. It's so incredibly easy and convenient for busy moms (isn't that synonymous?). The author even has an introduction that discusses how to select salad blends and breaks down the ingredients used in each blend. Very helpful, especially since I honestly couldn't have told you the difference between American and Italian blends!

These salads are not just your typical vegetarian dishes. Recipes include poultry, beef, pork, seafood, vegetables, fruit, slaws and pasta - each with their own chapter so you can easily find what you're looking for. There are classic recipes like caesar salad with herb croutons, italian chef salad, and cobb salad with buttermilk garlic dressing. But there are also exotic flavors with recipes such as wild flower herb salad, lobster salad with grapefruit vinaigrette or spanish shrimp, orange and olive salad. So, whatever your mood, the occasion or dietary needs you have, there is a salad in this book that will appeal to you. And while you can take the easier way out and use bottled dressings, there is a whole section devoted to homemade vinaigrettes and dressings that you can prepare in a snap.

The author encourages you to use the recipes as a guide but to experiment to your heart's content. The recipes are flexible to suit your family's individual tastes. Include what you like and leave out what you don't. Even substitute dressings or different toppings for extra zip. Each recipe is accompanied by a beautiful professional photograph of the dish. I personally love seeing pictures of what the finished dish should look like. It's inspiring.

Simply Salads is not just a book filled with paltry appetizers. Sure, they can be appetizers if you wish but I'd say 2/3 of them could serve as main courses. Take for example the chicken tostada salad with salsa verde, baked polenta salad with goat cheese and herbs or cheese tortellini salad with sun-dried tomato vinaigrette. Any of these would be worthy entrees.

With the creative, enticing toppings, it was hard to decide what to try first. But after going over the names of the meals with my husband, we decided to make the spinach salad with roasted cherry tomatoes and balsamic dijon vinaigrette as an accompaniment to our grilled pork chops.

I had never roasted cherry tomatoes before but I was pleasantly surprised how easy it was. The directions were simple and easy to follow, even for a novice like myself. There were only 6 ingredients to the salad and 3 for the dressing so I didn't have to scrounge around to find what I needed. As a matter of fact, the only ingredients I didn't have on hand were the spinach and blue cheese crumbles, both of which were easy to locate at my local grocery store. The prep was relatively easy and it only took about 20 minutes total. Not bad for a homemade dressing and baked topping.

The saying goes that a picture speaks a thousand words.

Needless to say, the results were awesome. Both my husband and I went back for seconds.

I've already purchased the ingredients to make more yummy salads. Next on the list are the jalapeno chicken salad with avocado dressing, blt salad, and balsamic strawberry salad. Just the mention of them are making me salivate.

Bottom line: I highly recommend adding Simply Salads by Jennifer Chandler to your cookbook collection. You can't beat fast, easy and delicious.

BUY IT: You can purchase Simply Salads at your local bookstore or online at (ARV $24.99).

Disclaimer: I was sent a free copy of this book from the author to facilitate my candid review. I was in no other way compensated for this post.

Special thanks to Jennifer and Rutledge Hill Press for the review opportunity!


raveandreview said...

mmmm jalapeno chicken salad... Great, now I'm hungry :) I had the same thought you did about actually needing a salad cookbook, but I totally agree that one would be very handy. P.S. your salad looks delish!

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