Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Simply Salads: Book Review and Recipes

Jennifer Chandler's Simply Salads cookbook features over 100 tasty salads; what makes this book unique is that it incorporates prepackaged salads, as the base for most of them. That can be a big time saver for busy families. Using prepackaged greens also means that sophisticated restaurant type blends can added to our meals at home without the added expense and time involved in purchasing and preparing several different kinds of lettuces for one meal.

I was especially interested in this title because salads have long been a mainstay in my diet and when I was pregnant I ate one almost every day for lunch to help monitor and keep my blood sugar in check. Now that I'm not expecting, I still rely on salads several times a week to provide a healthy meal, but I'll admit I was beginning to fall into a salad rut. Mealtime was beginning to get boring, and as I love to eat...I needed to find a solution quick! That's why I was so happy to get an opportunity to review Jennifer Chandler's book full of creative ways to help me get excited about dinner time again!

One handy reference in it, that I really appreciated, was the Salad Blends 101, a visual and descriptive guide to each type of packaged blend that is used in the recipes. The pictures help you compare and see them all at once and figure out which ones are best for you and your family. The last chapter is also very helpful with easy to make dressings, that don't involve measuring a ton of ingredients. I liked the idea of having alternatives to bottled ones full of preservatives, but previously I always thought it would be too time consuming and a big hassle to make them from scratch. Chandler proves that simple but full flavored homemade dressings can be quick to make and add a lot more flavor to your salad.

I was very pleased with the selection and variety of salads in the Simply Salads, each one shown in a picture by the accompanying recipe. They are divided into the following categories: greens, poultry, meat, seafood, vegetables, fruit; beans, grains, rice & pasta. There is even a chapter devoted to slaws and one entirely of vinaigrettes and dressings. Classics such as steakhouse wedge salad and caesar salad make an appearance, as well as versions with a twist like a southern caesar salad with grits croutons and a roasted garlic dressing or a jalapeno chicken salad that's definitely a kicked up version of the classic picnic standby! I'm looking forward to trying more recipes like the grilled pork tenderloin salad with apricot balsamic vinaigrette, brown rice, corn, and grilled vegetable salad, and chicken stir-fry salad that skips the rice and uses baby spinach as the bed for meal. We've tried three great ones so far.
We love fruit and eat it a variety of them every day. Most of the time we eat it by itself, so I thought the Fresh Fruit Salad, found on page 161, with it's summer time fruit and poppy seed dressing would be the perfect way to mix things up. What a fun and healthy side dish addition to a light lunch. My daughter likes all the fruit in it, especially the raspberries; this one disappeared quickly from her plate.

The poppy seed dressing adds a sweet but not overpowering touch and the seeds gave the salad some extra crunch. I didn't serve it on top of lettuce, like Chandler suggests because if my toddler sees lettuce on her plate that's a sure fire way to ensure a tantrum will follow. Next time I am going to try the creamy vanilla-honey dressing suggestion. I think the mixture of 1 cup vanilla yogurt, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and a dash of ground cinnamon will be even better and that served up in one of my pretty glass dishes will go over really well as a healthy dessert with my daughter.
The Fajita Salad, page 82 in Simply Salads, was a big hit with the entire family. It's a great new way to serve a dish we already like, but with a few twists. The very first time I flipped through the book this one stood out for me, because instead of serving them in the traditional way, Chandler serves them in a simple to make tortilla bowl. As a diabetic, I am always watching my carb intake; tortillas can quickly add them up, because it's hard to eat one at a time. This way I can enjoy a favorite dish and not feel deprived of the tortilla. It's also a healthier version than the deep fried versions, often served with taco salads; and one that still gives the meal a delicious crunch.

When we eat fajitas, we normally slather on the sour cream and guacamole, both things I am trying to cut back on. So I curious as to how the salad version of fajita's would taste without our normal high fat accouterments. It was exciting to find out that the lime vinaigrette is so yummy and flavorful. Made primarily out of fresh lime and orange juice it's so delicious that you'll want to make extra and serve it on all kinds of salads. Along with the pico de gallo, there is plenty of fresh ingredient flavor in this dish; you won't even miss the high fat ingredients, really!

Jennifer Chandler the author is Simply Salads is happy to share this recipe with my readers. Reprinted with permission.

Fajita Salad

Shake-up some margaritas to accompany this sizzling salad in home-made tortilla bowls. Add some hot sauce to spice it up a bit if you like. Makes 4 dinner salads.

For the Pico de Gallo:
1/2 small white onion, finely diced
1 large tomato, cored, seeded, and diced
1/2 green bell pepper, seeded and finely diced
1 teaspoon chopped seeded fresh jalapeño
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

For the Lime Vinaigrette:
4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons canola oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

For the salad:
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
3 tablespoons tequila
1 tablespoon cumin
1 garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 pounds flank steak, cut across the grain into 1/2-inch thick slices
4 8-inch round flour tortillas
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
1 green bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
1/2 red onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 bag (10 ounces) Leafy Romaine salad blend

For the Pico de Gallo:
In a medium bowl toss together the onion, tomato, bell pepper, jalapeño, lime juice, and oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

For the Lime Vinaigrette:
In a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice, orange juice, and sugar until the sugar has dissolved. Slowly add the oil in a stream, whisking to emulsify. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

For the salad:
In a small bowl whisk together the lime juice, tequila, cumin, and garlic. Pour the marinade over the flank steak, cover, and marinate 1 hour.

Pre-heat oven to 375F. In oven-proof bowls similar in size to your serving dish, place tortillas. Press down on each tortilla until it is the shape of a bowl. Bake until slightly golden and crispy, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature.

Season the steak with salt and pepper. In grill pan over high heat, warm oil until a few water droplets sizzle in pan. Add the steak and sear, stirring often, until well browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the red bell pepper, green bell pepper, and onion and sear, stirring often, until the vegetables are browned and the steak is cooked to desired doneness, about 4 more minutes for medium-rare.

Place the salad blend in a large salad bowl. Add the vinaigrette to taste and gently toss. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Place the tortilla "bowls" on the individual dishes. Fill with the salad blend. Top with the warm fajita mixture. Garnish with pico de gallo. Serve immediately.

Tip: If feeding a crowd, serve this salad true "fajita-style" on a platter with warm tortillas on the side.
Over all our favorite salad was the Club Salad with Honey Mustard Dressing, which got tried on a fluke. It was a busy day with lots of errands and running around. Come home and I'm short one or two things needed for dinner; yet another trip to the grocery store is the last thing I want to do. I'm so beat; wouldn't a drive through be much better?

We were almost out the door, when I spied Simply Salads still out on the counter and thought maybe we can find a recipe that uses things we already have on hand. A quick browse and this one fit the bill. In the time the bacon cooked we had the rest of the ingredients ready to go.

It was very quick to pull together and I really liked the honey mustard dressing. Now if you knew me, you'd know that is a huge shock. I really really really don't like mustard except for plain ol' yellow and then only on a couple of things. But in keeping with my review goals, I wanted to be faithful to the published recipe the first time I made them. I know you can mix them up and personalize them but I wanted to try each tested recipe exactly how Chandler envisioned them.

I just ate the salad again for lunch yesterday, because I kid you not I was dreaming about that honey mustard dressing the night before. Odd thing to dream about I know, but when I woke up all I could think about was how good the combination of the spicy sweet dressing went with the crunch of crisp salty bacon, the sharp taste of the green onion, juicy tomatoes, and creaminess of the cheese. I think it was love at first bite!

Jennifer Chandler is also happy to share this recipe from Simply Salads with my readers. Reprinted with permission.

Club Salad with Honey Mustard Dressing

A takeoff of the traditional club sandwich, this salad is a classic favorite. This honey mustard dressing was a popular item at my restaurant, Cheffie's. My customers used it for everything from a salad dressing to a condiment for sandwiches to a dip for chicken fingers. Makes 4 Dinner Salads

For the Salad:
1 bag (11 ounces) Just Lettuce
1/4 cup coarsely shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1/4 cup coarsely shredded Cheddar Cheese
1/2 pound deli roast turkey, cut into strips
6 slices applewood smoked bacon, cooked, drained, and crumbled
1 large tomato, diced
1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions

Place the Just Lettuce in a large salad bowl. Add the dressing to taste and gently toss. Divide the salad among individual plates. Layer with the Jack cheese, Cheddar cheese, turkey, bacon, tomato, and scallions. Serve immediately.

For the Honey Mustard Dressing:
6 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons prepared yellow mustard
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
2-3 tablespoons room temperature water
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

In a small bowl whisk together the mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, yellow mustard, and honey. Whisk in enough water to thing the mixture to desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Makes about 3-4 cups

Tip: Substitute any combination of your favorite deli meats in this salad.

About the Author from Thomas Nelson Publisher's Press Release: Jennifer Chandler graduated at the top of her class with Le Grand Diplome and a Mention Tres Bien in Pastry from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. She moved back to her hometown of Memphis and in 1999 opened Cheffie's Market and More, a prepared foods market and bakery. Voted best new restaurant in Memphis, Cheffie's received much acclaim and many awards. Jennifer is a full-time mom of two little girls, a freelance magazine writer and a professional salad eater.

Check out the rest of Jennifer's recipes in Simply Salads! See more of Jennifer Chandler at Cook with Jennifer, where you can also try the featured recipe from Simply Salads, currently the Confetti Chip Salad, or try one of her other recipes features in one of her many magazine or newspaper articles.

Thank you to Jennifer and Thomas Nelson Publisher's for providing the review copy.

************Please visit the following weekly linky recipe carnivals for more great meal ideas!
Balancing Beauty and Bedlam for Tasty Tuesday!
Blessed with Grace for Tempt my Tummy Tuesday
All the Small Stuff for Tuesdays at the Table
Momtrends for Friday Feasts
Amy Kroeker.Writer. for Food on Fridays

15 Friends Said:

Monica said...

These salads look so good,I'm always looking for new salad recipes since we eat so much of it.Thanks!

mub said...

Wow that book looks like a fabulous resource! Thanks for sharing the recipes, I can't wait to try them =)

Tonja said...

Katie those look delicous! I am going to have to try the fajita one asap!

I was going to let you know that I have my giveaway posted. I think I did it right =) Hope you stop by and check it out.

Tara said...

I could eat a salad for every meal. Unfortunately, my husband is more of a meat eater so I skip salads at home because I can't eat it all before it goes bad.

*Noelle* said...

those sound really good! gosh, i miss eating fruit salad so much!! i miss that more than the candy!!! lol

Lisa@BlessedwithGrace said...

These recipes look great! I am glad you joined us for TMTT this week.

Jerralea said...

Thanks for sharing these recipes. They look great. I like the idea of recipes using the bagged blends. I like to buy them and mix with my iceberg to give nutritional value.

Lisa said...

Each and every one of these salads look so yummy! Thanks for sharing such awesome warm weather recipes.

Cole said...

All these recipes look great! Thanks for sharing them. :-)

Preschool Playbook said...

Now I'm hungry!

Vickie said...

That is awesome that the book used prepackaged salads. I used to make my own, but it doesn't last as long. So I went back to the bags.

Ooouu, I will have to check out library for the book:)

Nicole Feliciano said...

Happy Friday! We love salads--thanks for this write-up. I hope you’ll stop by my Friday Feast link/recipe exchange and share this recipe.

http://momtrends.blogspot.com/2009/07/friday-feasts-couscous.html

Ann Kroeker said...

Great suggestions (and review)! My husband, the Belgian Wonder, and I were just today talking about eating more salads. He needs to watch his cholesterol, and the last time we brought it down naturally was with a big dose of healthy salads and homemade dressing (sneaking in all kinds of healthy stuff that I won't bore you with here). Thanks for these ideas, because if we get going on salads again, we'll need some variety!

Nicole Feliciano said...

Thanks so much for linking up to Momtrends' Friday Feasts. Hope to see you again next week!

minishoes1 said...

Yummy! I would love to make this! Thanks!

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