Jennifer Chandler's "Simply Suppers"


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  • Natalie Root
Hitting the bookstores today is Memphian Jennifer Chandler's latest cookbook Simply Suppers, a followup to Simply Salads.

Chandler, who studied at Le Cordon Bleu and was co-owner of the much-missed prepared-foods market Cheffie's, took the time to answer questions about Simply Suppers and her new role as spokesperson for French's Mustard.

Your new book Simply Suppers offers no-hassle recipes, everything from your grandmother’s eggplant casserole to fish tacos and buttermilk pie. Did you have an audience in mind when putting together the book?
Yes, I did have an audience in mind. Folks like me!

Even though I’m a trained chef, I am a mom first. I deal with the same challenges of trying to put a delicious, home-cooked dinner on the table after a long day at work or an afternoon of driving the kids around.

I wrote Simply Suppers to make dinner time easier. In addition to the 100+ recipes in the

book, I provide strategies like having a well-stocked kitchen, "Freezer Go-To's" for those nights when you truly don't have time to cook but want a home-cooked meal, short-cut tips, and a list of 10 ways to give leftover chicken (or rotisserie chicken) a makeover.

What's a reasonable amount of time to spend cooking a meal, say, on a weeknight?
In my opinion, 15 or 20 minutes max should be the active prep time in making a weeknight dinner. Some dishes may bake or simmer longer ... but I can be free to help the kids with homework, do household chores, or just take a minute to sit and relax (well, that may be in my dreams at my house!) while the dish is finishing.

With that in mind, in Simply Suppers I provide "Do-Ahead Tips" for many recipes ... and have a list of 30 recipes that can be made from start to finish in about 30 minutes or less.

I've got to know: What's your weekly home-cooked meal-to-dinner from Taco Bell ratio?
My family has a home-cooked meal 5 to 6 nights a week. (The other nights are usually at a restaurant.)

That said, I am not necessarily cooking each night. I keep my freezer stocked with my home-made spaghetti sauce, beef stew, and various soups for those extra-busy nights. My "Freezer Go-To's" make the difference for me between fast-food or delivery pizza.

Even though my family might like a Taco Bell night every once in a while, I try not to do fast food. About once every 6 weeks or so, I break down and will pick up dinner at Chick-fil-a. (I have to admit I love their chicken and waffle fries just as much as the kids!) But fast food is truly an exception at our house. Books like Omnivore's Dilemma have ruined fast food for me!

You're a new spokesperson for French's Mustard. How'd you get the gig and what does it entail?
I believe French's chose me because I am a real mom. I understand the challenges of putting dinner on the table. But thanks to my culinary background, I have learned how to take the stress out of meal time. My job is to show other moms that dinner time can be easy.

In my cookbooks, I have always stressed that having a well-stocked kitchen with quality ingredients is key to taking the stress out of dinner time. Products like French's Mustards and French's French Fried Onions can easily add extra flavor, helping to turn a bland meal into something tasty the whole family will enjoy.

As national spokesperson, I will be developing recipes for French's recipe resource as well as doing radio, TV and print interviews.

For example, when I was in New York two weeks ago, I met with several national magazines, went on a couple of radio shows (both regional and national), filmed cooking segments for Better TV and as well as did a satellite media tour demoing recipes to news audiences across the country.
Any inside info on how to avoid that first watery squirt?
All you have to do is give the bottle a good shake before serving. That simple! It's a good habit to get into with all condiments that come in a squirt bottle.

Simply Suppers is a follow-up to Simply Salads. What's next?
I love writing cookbooks and hope that I get to write another one. (Who wouldn't love playing with food for a living?!)

We have a couple of ideas, like Simply Grilling, that we are considering. Whatever the topic, the book will be geared toward making everyday home cooking easier.

Simply Salads and Simply Suppers are available wherever fine books are sold or at Amazon.

Upcoming booksignings:
September 25th, 1 to 3 p.m. at Babcock Gifts
September 28th, 7 p.m. at Davis-Kidd Booksellers
October 12th, 11 a.m. at the Collierville Burch Public Library

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