L2C Challenge – Mandy’s Gourmet Salads – BOOK REVIEW!

If you have ever been to Mandy’s Café in Montreal, then this book needs no introduction because you already know the recipes will be great.

If you’ve never been then you’re missing out! But, fear not, this book is actually a close second to the real thing!

Mandy’s was established by 2 sisters in Montreal back in 2004. Today, it has 8 locations around the Greater Montreal area and they now have 400 employees! Keeping true to their style, this book is aesthetically beautiful – the cover is the perfect shade of pink and the images make any vegetable look appetizing.

The book is set up much the same way as their café menus – chapters are divided into Smoothies, Salads, Dressings, Grain Bowls and Sweets.

While the recipes in this book are all great (except for anything involving hearts of palm (no thank you!)), what has stuck with me is the desire to forever have a salad bar in my fridge! Each week, instead of prepping only what the recipe called for, I would just chop up all of the vegetables and make extra meat so that I could have several salads throughout the week. I found that I was more likely to eat the vegetables if they were already prepped and quick to assemble. I think if this book teaches us anything, it is that we all need a Mandy’s Salad Bar in our fridge!

My only regret this month is that I didn’t get a chance to taste the “Sweets” Chapter but the good thing about having a cookbook obsession is that I own the book and get to go back to it any time I want! I definitely plan to keep this one at arms’ reach.

Next Month’s L2C Challenge Cookbook:

If you’ve been following along on our house building journey, you likely know we are hoping to move into our forever home at the end of this month. And, assuming you haven’t been living under a rock, you likely also know that there are currently huge production and supply delays on appliances. So, I will be taking a break from my own Learn to Cook Challenge until we are settled in our new home and we have appliances to store food in and cook on!

Until then, I hope my little personal challenge inspires you to do the same!

L2C Challenge – Jamie Oliver 7 Ways – BOOK REVIEW!

Jamie Oliver is such an entertaining chef to watch on television; somehow, he makes cooking look so simple and fun. When I purchased his latest cookbook, I hoped that it would provide the same energy and inspiration but, while it was great, I’m not sure I would keep watching if the “7 Ways” book was a television show…

In this book, the chapters are divided by commonly used ingredients (referred to as “hero ingredients”) – such as chicken breast, avocado, broccoli, salmon, etc. – and then each chapter provides 7 recipes using the “hero ingredient”; in other words, each chapter provides 7 ways of cooking with a specific ingredient.

The concept of the book is great; I didn’t have to filter through every page to find something I liked. Instead, if I knew we were having chicken for dinner, I just looked up the chapters that listed chicken. I think most people would enjoy this layout and I particularly appreciated that each recipe includes an image of every ingredient within that recipe (it helped to figure out what I was looking for when I went grocery shopping).

The flip side is that there are obviously popular ingredients that I don’t like – such as mushrooms and sweet potatoes. Since it is unlikely that someone would enjoy every single one of the 18 hero ingredients, there will probably be whole chapters within this book that won’t appeal to you.

Every recipe that I made from this book exceeded expectations in terms of simplicity, flavour and taste. Each week, I even received a thumbs up from both Paolo and Theo – my two toughest critics.

So why would I not watch “7 Ways” if it was a television series instead of a cookbook? Honestly, for me, the book lacked enticement. While the recipes ended up being delicious, I was never enthused about making them. When I was earmarking recipes for the previous two cookbooks in this challenge, I was getting hungry just looking through the books but I didn’t get hungry with Jamie’s 7 Ways. It felt practical but mundane. Does it meet its purpose? Yes – it provides easy and delicious recipes throughout. Would I reach for this cookbook again? Probably not – this one will likely be filed on the top (somewhat out of reach) shelf for me.

Next Month’s L2C Challenge Cookbook:

Something about the summer months has me craving fresh big salads more than any other time of year. So this month, I am going to try to step up my lettuce game by learning how to make some of Mandy’s amazing gourmet salads!

The Mandy’s cookbook is based on the actual “Mandy’s” salad bars that originated in my hometown of Montreal, Quebec. It was established by two sisters back in 2004 and has grown to over 8 stylish locations across Montreal and they now sell come very cute merchandise – including some colourful large bowls that I will be putting to good use next month!

L2C Challenge – Skinnytaste One & Done – BOOK REVIEW!

The Skinnytaste series has been around for a long time and I have several friends who love them, so I figured I would give it a try. Obviously, I chose the one whose title promises “one & done” recipes!

The premise of this book is straightforward – every recipe is cooked in one pot. Following that concept, the book’s chapters are divided by different cooking tools – recipes cooked in a skillet, sheet pan, air fryer, slow cooker, etc.

As you may have noticed from my weekly posts, the ingredients in this book were easy to find and the steps were all simple. Even as a newbie in the kitchen, I barely had to look anything up on Google this entire month!!!

I still have a long list of other recipes that I would like to get to in this book. To be honest, some of the most appealing are in the “Air Fryer” chapter, which we don’t have. So I’m keeping a list and once we decide to invest in the air fryer (all of my mom friends say I really need one), I’ll be sure to make my way back to this section of the book. Amongst some of those mouth-watering recipes are:

  • Buffalo Drumsticks with Creamy Cabbage and Kale Slaw (p. 171)
  • Glazed Korean BBQ Chicken Wings (p. 179)
  • Nuggets Three Ways (p. 183)
  • Philly Cheesesteak Egg Rolls (p. 93)
  • Crispy Beach Fish Tacos (p. 197)

Geez… I had to stop writing out my list, there are so many more in this book that look delicious! And now that I’ve actually taken the time to type out some of the air fryer recipes, I’m thinking we’re going to need to get one sooner than later!!!

I highly recommend this book for its clean and simple ingredients and for its easy instructions. I will note, however, that the “one & done” concept is a tiny bit misleading. It is true that the recipes are cooked in one pot but, in many case, lots of dishes are used in the prep stage before the meal actually goes in the oven. So while I wasn’t scrubbing lots of pots and pans for one dinner, I was still doing a fair share of clean up (washing prep bowls, etc.) after each meal. But honestly, don’t let that be a deterrent – I didn’t have any more dishes than other recipes and the simplicity and flavour of this book are worth a try!

Next Month’s L2C Challenge Cookbook:

Next month’s cookbook came about from my days of watching the Food Network. I love when Jamie Oliver is on television showing us how effortlessly he makes all of his delicious dishes… Plus, his accent is nice to hear! And while I’ve been watching Mr. Oliver on tv for a while now, I’ve never owned or tried any of his cookbooks – so I figured now is as good of time as ever to try. Hence, Jamie Oliver’s 7 Ways will be next month’s cookbook!

L2C Challenge – Half Baked Harvest Super Simple – BOOK REVIEW!

I had big expectations for this cookbook since I’d been following Tieghan’s recipes for a long time on Instagram. Tieghan’s first book, Half Baked Harvest, won her several awards back in 2016. Her Instagram page is mesmerizing – she posts beautiful photos of food with recipes linked to her blog and, everyday, she posts stories of a new recipe. It’s no wonder that she has almost 3 million followers; the only thing that is surprising is that she has accomplished so much and is so talented yet she is only 27 years old!

The Super Simple cookbook is laid out the way you would expect a restaurant menu to be. After going through the basics, the chapters are divided by meal courses – breakfast, appetizers, salad, pizza, meats, etc.

As I have noted in my weekly recipe reviews, Tieghan did not lie, her recipes were Super Simple! And that’s coming from someone who has limited cooking experience. Having said that, the recipes I’ve made were absolutely delicious that I think even the most experienced chef would enjoy this book and, of course, it goes without saying that this is a good “starter” book for anyone looking to find their way around the kitchen.

The four recipes I posted were not the only ones I tagged; in addition to those four, the following are on my to-make list!

  • Overnight Cinnamon Roll Bread (p.44)
  • Herb and Garlic Pull Apart Rolls (p. 57)
  • Broccoli Cheddar Soup with Seasoned Pretzels (p. 94)
  • Spinach and Three-Cheese Stuffed Shells (p. 121)
  • Lemon Butter Cod with Orzo and Asparagus (p. 243)

and the list goes on and on!

In case it is not clear by now, I LOVED this book and fully recommend it! The recipes I made were simple and delicious and I loved the fact that there was always plenty leftover for other meals.

Next Month’s L2C Challenge Cookbook:

I sort of feel bad for next month’s cooking challenge book since it has really big shoes to fill; however, I am hoping to be pleasantly surprised since next month’s book is none other than from one of the very popular Skinnytaste collection. I chose Skinnytaste One & Done in part because it claims that all of the recipes can be made in one pot from start to finish! Less dishes to wash at the end of a meal seems like a great reason to commit to a cookbook for a month!