From what I can tell by reading the magazine, namesake Sandra Lee has generated a semi-cult-like following, between her TV show on Food Network and books. Somehow, I've missed catching her on Food. It seems like whenever I turn to that channel, it's still another episode of "Iron Chef." I've been told there are drinking games tied to the watching of that show, but I digress.
Sandra at first glance seems to be not as hard-core as Martha Stewart -- whose recipes and crafts, while beautiful, can be eye-rolling and unnerving in their complexity. She's also not as annoyingly cloying as Rachael Ray. (There's not a single utterance of "yummo" in Semi-Homemade. Whew!)
Even though Sandra attended prestigious culinary institute Le Cordon Bleu, "home cooks will not find an abundance of exotic ingredients with unpronounceable names in her recipes," writes Hoffman Media President Phyllis Hoffman in a three-page piece about why the magazine and why Sandra Lee.
There's no shortage of advertising and advertorial in the magazine. I used to grimace when the line between editorial and ads would blur, but in this economy and with magazines in the state they are in, c'est la vie. If plugging Sargento in every recipe that calls for cheese is the way to stay afloat, I understand, but the two-page spread featuring "Sandra's savory seven" was a bit much. If I knew where Sandra lived, I'd be tempted to break in just to see if she really does have Ore-Ida Country Style Frozen Hash Browns in the freezer and Hunt's Diced Fire Roasted Tomatoes in the pantry. Think of the expose I could do!
Although the cover story touts "181 Fast Recipes & Easy Ideas," "20-Minute Money-Saving Meals," "Brilliant Bakes" and "Fast-Fix Dinners," there is surprisingly more to this magazine than cooking, a lot of it really appealing.
Anyone who knows me knows that I'm "beyond green" and that I preach "re-use" even more than "recycle." It also helps that I'm cheap (read: poor). So the craft project that turns plastic aspirin and vitamin bottles into cute vases gets a thumbs-up. So does an herb garden that uses metal soup cans as planters, with drainage holes punched in the bottom. I did something similar with soup cans and grass seeds as a first-grader, but it didn't look nearly this chic.
A feature under the "Home and Garden - Encore" header that preaches my re-use mantra in that it shows different uses for an item. This issue, a typical medium-sized wood box gets a new life as it's moved from room to room.
The standout piece that I'm seriously thinking about scanning and sending to several of my overscheduled friends is about rediscovering relaxing under the "Just For You -- With Spirit" heading. The "relaxing reads" list is a waste of space for anyone with the ability to use an online book retailers' search engine, but the premise of the article is nevertheless a good one .
An interesting editorial element throughout the magazine is the use of inspirational quotes as an art element. Everyone from Julia Child to Helen Keller gets a shoutout. But I think the Oprah Winfrey quote on the last page of editorial is worth remembering: "The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate."
Published by: Hoffman Media