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 – Mandy’s Gourmet Salads – Keto Salad

This week – KETO SALAD (p. 127) [also Roasted Chicken Breast (p. 149) and Keto Caesar Dressing (p. 156)]

After having Theo, the Keto diet is the only thing that worked to get the extra weight off. In 2020, between being pregnant, being at home during the pandemic and then being at home with Luca, needless to say that I have not been eating healthy for a very long time and that I will have to work extra hard to lose the baby weight this time around; so, I am trying to get back on the Keto train. Lucky for me, Mandy’s cookbook includes a recipe for a Keto Salad!

Ingredients –

  • Mesclun greens
  • Avocado
  • Cucumber
  • Button mushrooms
  • Sliced canned hearts of palm
  • Skinless boneless chicken breast
  • Bacon
  • Lemon juice
  • Dijon mustard

  • Olive oil
  • Montreal steak spice
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Scallion
  • Basil leaves
  • Tarragon leave
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Eggs
  • Garlic

Difficulty Level –

Like all of the salads and dressings that I have made, this recipe is another easy one although I still found a way to make a mistake… In order to make the dressing Keto friendly, the recipe calls for the mayonnaise to be replaced by raw eggs but, for some reason, the dressing was very liquid – not the same consistency as the caesar dressing that I am used to.

Alterations to Recipe –

Still don’t like mushrooms, so I omitted those!

I used turkey bacon instead of regular bacon because that is what I had on hand.

Verdict –

I’ve never had hearts of palm before, so I was happy to try something new! Now that I’ve tried it, it’s not for me!

Maybe it’s because the salad dressing was too watery or maybe it’s because I didn’t like the hearts of palm but this has definitely been my least liked salad thus far.

Verdict for me – not to be repeated!

L2C Challenge – Mandy’s Gourmet Salads – The Fave

This week: THE FAVE (p. 53) [also Homemade Pita Chips (p. 150) and Honey Mustard Dressing (p. 170)]

I wasn’t too sure that this recipe would fill me since it’s lacking the protein that my other two recipes had but I wanted to try a salad with a dressing that I haven’t (and probably would never have) made before.

Ingredients –

  • Romaine lettuce
  • Arugula
  • Avocado
  • Broccoli florets
  • Corn kernels
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Pitas
  • EVOO

  • Shredded carrots
  • Parmesan flakes
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Honey
  • Dijon mustard
  • Sunflower oil

Difficulty Level –

Another easy recipe for the win. Ingredients were simple and mainly things I tend to have on hand anyway.

Things I Googled While Making this Recipe –

Nothing! There isn’t much to research with these clean ingredients.

Alterations to Recipe –

My grocery store didn’t have any broccoli florets in stock so I just omitted them from the dish. While I didn’t miss the broccoli in this salad, I actually really like raw florets so I would add them the next time I make this recipe.

Verdict –

I wasn’t sold on the first few bites – the dressing was sweeter than I like – but half way through I was hooked. A very fresh and savoury recipe. Next time around, I may add some meat source just for added substance.

Two bowls because the Mister saw mine and wanted some but I wasn’t about to share!

L2C Challenge – Mandy’s Gourmet Salads – Lumberjack Salad

This week – LUMBERJACK SALAD (p. 57) [also Roasted Chicken Breast (p. 149); Homemade Pita Chips (p. 150); and Caesar Dressing (p. 156)]

Full disclosure – I chose this recipe because I had some left over sliced turkey that I needed to use up. Plus, I’ve always wanted to make my own pita chips!

Ingredients –

  • Romaine lettuce
  • Avocado
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • White mushroom caps
  • Chicken Breast
  • Bacon
  • Sliced turkey
  • Pita bread
  • Montreal Steak spice
  • Mozarella cheese
  • Scallion
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Mayonnaise
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Lemon juice
  • Dijon mustard

Difficulty Level –

Every salad in this book has at least 2 (usually more) recipes within one – you have the main salad bowl, the meat and the dressing. I actually love that it’s divided that way because I can prep things at my own pace (sometimes even the day before…). Difficulty level for this one is a ZERO, straight forward and simple (and kinda fun!). Plus, we all know how much I love leftovers, it makes me feel as though my “hard work” continues to pay off during the week… This recipe was no exception – the roasted chicken breast recipe is enough for 6 salads, the salad dressing recipes yield about 2 cups each and, in this case, there was lots left over from the pita chips recipe.

Things I Googled While Making this Recipe –

  • Difference between scallions and green onions? They’re the same! Different stores just use different names because apparently keeping things consistent would not be fun…

Alterations to Recipe –

  • I’ve tried (repeatedly) to like mushrooms but I just don’t – so I omitted the white mushroom caps.
  • I didn’t have any pork bacon on hand so I used turkey bacon instead.

Verdict –

Delicious! When I was putting this salad together, I honestly kept thinking of the saying “everything and the kitchen sink!”… It felt like I just kept adding meats and veggies together. Somehow, it all works!

Would I make this salad again? Absolutely. Would I make the caesar dressing again? Meh… It was good and paired well with the other ingredients but it was certainly not better than the store bought caesar dressings that I usually get from Costco so not sure it was worth the time (although you can whip it up in under 2 minutes).

L2C Challenge – Mandy’s Gourmet Salads – Tokyo Salad

This week – TOKYO SALAD (p. 49) [also Roasted Chicken Breast (p. 149) and Tamari Salad Dressing (p. 155)]

Ok, I know that some may think that picking a salad book for my cooking challenge is cheating, but it’s not!!! Most of the recipes in Mandy’s Gourmet Salads have a cooked meat or substitute component and I have to make the dressing from scratch so, in my books, that constitutes “cooking”.

I chose to start with the Tokyo Salad because the ingredients (except for chicken, of course) were raw and it was all things that I could use again throughout the week – so no waste.

Ingredients –

  • Romaine Lettuce
  • Mesclun Greens
  • Carrot
  • Red Cabbage
  • Broccoli
  • Cucumber
  • Garlic

  • Tofu (used chicken instead)
  • Sesame seeds
  • Red Onion
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Tamari
  • Nutritional Yeast Flakes
  • Montreal Steak Spice
  • EVOO, salt and pepper

Difficulty level –

Full disclosure – I bought shredded carrots and broccoli florets, thereby reducing my prep time. I did, however, shred the cabbage myself (for the very first time!).

This salad has three recipes in one (a recipe for the actual gourmet salad, for the chicken, and for the dressing) and all of them are straightforward and easy to make.

Things I Googled While Making this Recipe –

  • What are mesclun greens? It’s a mix of chervil, arugula, leafy lettuces and endive.
  • What are nutritional yeast flakes? (I was more interested in seeing what the package looked like so that I knew what to look for in the grocery store!)

Alterations to Recipe –

I am not a fan of Tofu, so I substituted it with Mandy’s Roasted Chicken Breast recipe – it is delicious and makes enough for 6 salads, which left me with plenty for the rest of the week.

I didn’t have Montreal Steak spice, so I used The Keg spice mix instead.

The recipe calls for black and white sesame seeds; I used the white sesame seeds that I had toasted for a previous recipe and it tasted great!

Verdict –

The Tahini dressing was amazing; I used it all week. The chicken was moist and the Keg spice gave it the perfect taste. Plus, I had enough chopped up vegetables that I was able to make several salad meals. I literally looked forward to lunch almost everyday this week because of how fresh and flavourful this dish is.

And, it’s official, I think I am FOREVER going to have a salad bar in my fridge! Every day this week, I just grabbed a bowl, opened my fridge and mixed all of the veggies that I had already prepped and stored in there. Throw in the chicken (that I had already cubed), add some seeds, pour the dressing and lunch is served!

100% a make-again recipe.