Category Archives: Food


Why Jennifer Hudson Will Hit a High Note as Weight Watchers’ May/June Cover Girl

weight-watchers.jpgThe loveable, down-to-earth songstress and Academy Award-winning actress Jennifer Hudson isn’t the first to lend her star power to Weight Watchers and, thus, appear on the cover of the popular weight loss program’s magazine. But the warbling cover girl may just ring truest with readers, in part because of how she attained her fame.

In 2004, Jennifer Hudson belted her way into viewers’ hearts as a contestant on reality show sensation “American Idol.” That exposure helped propel her to success with a supporting role as Effie in the film Dreamgirls, an album and a reported role as Nelson Mandela’s wife in the upcoming film Winnie.

Not only does her story have a local-girl-makes-it-big feel, but her presence on a reality show makes her seem more accessible. Aside from her unmistakable talent and the serendipitous circumstances that led to her fame, Jennifer Hudson holds a deeper appeal, particularly for readers of Weight Watchers magazine and other similar publications.

Many women will identify with the new mom struggling to lose the post-baby bulge. Even as more females, some as young as fourth- and fifth-graders, fight to accept their body image, Weight Watchers magazine likely struck the right chord by celebrating a happy, healthy, curvaceous Jennifer Hudson on its cover.

Though American women claim to be dieting less, according to a weekly diet survey by the NPD Group, the trappings to get to a slimmer body–gym memberships and weight loss pills–continue to drive a multi-billion dollar industry.

While Weight Watchers magazine’s May/June issue may garner more attention than usual because of its featured star, it also promises a deeper appeal for readers who can relate to her struggles pound for pound. Sweeter still is the potential for this cover to illustrate to women that health and happiness can be achieved without being a size 2.


Food or Fame? Magazines Use Culinary Celebrities to Offer Both

foodnetwork_june.jpgCelebrity star power is used to help boost sales for everything from food to pharmaceuticals, and celebrity chefs help market everything from cruises to condos. So why not magazines?

Three of the four major cooking magazines that regularly feature famous faces on their covers–Every Day With Rachael Ray, Cooking With Paula Deen, Martha Stewart Living and Food Network Magazine–have each eclipsed the 1 million subscriber mark. Relying on celebrities for success can come at a price, but the closer a product is related to the star, the more likely consumers may purchase it, according to brand strategists. Since the art of cooking is what made these chefs famous, it’s a recipe for success in print.

Each issue, Every Day With Rachael Ray magazine and Cooking With Paula Deen magazine feature their namesake celebrities on the cover. Paula Deen, who is nearly synonymous with Southern cooking, is almost always featured with a dish in hand, while Rachael Ray is almost never featured with food.

Still, Every Day with Rachael Ray has been a runaway success–to the tune of 1.7 million subscribers–since its launch in 2005. That’s more than double Paula Deen’s magazine, possibly because Cooking With Paula Deen has more appeal regionally and with out-of-vogue non-calorie-counting cooks.

Martha Stewart doesn’t always appear on the cover of Martha Stewart Living magazine, but when she does, she isn’t the centerpiece of the photo. Yet of the four major celebrity food magazines, hers is the most popular with a subscriber base of 2 million–perhaps because of its broader approach that includes home decorating and crafts.

If these three magazines are using the presence of a star to draw in readers, Food Network magazine is taking it a step further with its “Cook Like a Star!” slogan at the top of every issue. The appeal, in part, of a product endorsed by celebrities is not only that they use it, but that they are also successful as a result.

Launched less than two years ago, Food Network Magazine has experienced sizzling success, boosted by its television popularity, entertaining approach and star power. With a circulation of 1 million, it is on the heels of some of the more established food magazines like Bon Appétit and Food & Wine. Food Network Magazine banks on multiple celebrities to draw in readers and utilizes short articles, tips and suggestions that mimic the faster pace of its TV shows.

All four magazines have an unmistakable appeal, offering readers the chance to decorate like Martha Stewart or cook like Paula Deen, Rachael Ray or any myriad of other Food Network stars. Based on circulation reports, capitalizing on fame isn’t the only thing that matters to readers, but the numbers also prove that it can’t hurt either.


Food & Wine Magazine Partakes Where Wine Spectator Observes

wine-spectator.jpgNow that wine consumption has gained more generational acceptance among Baby Boomers, Generation X’ers and Generation Y’ers according to a 2009 Wine Market Council study, savvier, more inquisitive consumers will likely be drawn to expanding their knowledge of the beverage as its popularity grows.

A Google search on “wine education” yields non-virtual results like classes held in conjunction with tastings and festivals, culinary courses, and seminars offered through various wineries. That’s in addition to the vast amount of information stored on the Internet.

Other introductions into the intimidating subject of wine come in the form of Food & Wine magazine and Wine Spectator magazine, both knowledgeable sources with different approaches to suit varying interests.

As its title suggests, Food & Wine gives ample attention to food and wine and their relationship to each other, while Wine Spectator offers more thorough insight into wine only. Casual drinkers would be satisfied with the array of recipes and information found in Food and Wine, but they would be disappointed if they were to expect the same from Wine Spectator.

That’s because Wine Spectator magazine’s content is deep, rich and full-bodied–perhaps even a little intimidating for those with only a leisurely interest in the fruit of the vine. But for the oenophile, however, who feasts on wine and all things related, it is a robust read.

The March 31, 2010, issue, for example, plucked an extensive feature from California’s Rhône wine-producing district, specifically focusing on its prized Syrah deep red grape and the often hard-to-find wines it yields.

Another article detailed two Napa Valley Cabernet producers’ construction of eco-friendly wineries that utilize Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) building standards, with a sidebar on other similar projects.

Aside from this more accessible general interest content, online reviewers criticize Wine Spectator magazine for showcasing a glitzy, high-end, sometimes unattainable lifestyle, while others appreciate living the good life vicariously through its oversized pages.

But Wine Spectator magazine’s 100-point wine rating guide by far generates the most controversy. “The Number” a wine receives can sometimes determine if it will be mildly popular or a runaway success, and some critics say the rating implies an incapable precision of human senses.

Online reviewers echoed similar sentiments, cautioning readers to understand their own tastes before being swayed by Wine Spectator magazine’s often outlandish claims (“Best Red of the Century”) or the high marks it might bestow.

Despite its affluent tone, Wine Spectator’s recommendations are surprisingly not all too pricey, with many in the $20-and-under-per-bottle range.

Still, casual consumers will find a more accessible introduction to wine and food pairings in Food & Wine magazine over Wine Spectator’s cerebral approach to wine alone, which is often delivered in the context of a lifestyle most can only enjoy from the outside looking in.


Tip, Tip, Hooray! Best Cooking, Kitchen Tips From May and June Magazine Issues

pauladeen_may-june.jpgTips, hints, tricks–whatever you call them–have long been valuable currency in the culinary world. Whether freely swapped or tightly guarded, this insider information, we often believe, holds the key to our good fortune in the kitchen. But did you ever wish you could collect those helpful tidbits in one place? Here’s a small start with some of the best tips culled from May and June issues of some of today’s most popular cooking magazines.

Unscent-itary: You can combat a smelly garbage disposal and give your kitchen a fresh citrus scent by grinding up quartered lemons. But the May/June issue of Cooking With Paula Deen magazine also suggests making vinegar ice cubes and sending them down the drain followed by a cold water rinse.

Wax On or Off: Save the waxed paper for preventing messes in the microwave, or while breading meats or decorating cupcakes, says Cooking With Paula Deen’s May/June issue. The paraffin wax-covered tissue-like paper is handy for clean-ups, but should never be used in the oven–which explains more than one of my near disasters in the kitchen! Parchment paper, which has a non-stick coating, is the answer for lining pans instead.

Veggie Bouquet: The best way to store asparagus spears is upright like flowers, in a container filled with a few inches of water, according to Taste of the South magazine‘s April/May issue. Before cooking, trim the ends.

Berry Good: Wash fresh strawberries just before using, says Weight Watchers magazine‘s May/June issue. Otherwise, when rinsed berries are refrigerated, they retain moisture, making them spoil more rapidly.

Zest for Limes: Cook’s Illustrated magazine‘s May/June issue recommends freezing zest of fruits like limes and lemons for up to three weeks, at which time they begin to lose their flavor. For garnishes, fresh zest should always be used, as the color of frozen zest will fade.

How the Cookie Crumbles: A Cook’s Illustrated reader suggested in the May/June issue that one should place rolls of cookie dough in a pan of rice to help retain its roundness, preventing it from going flat on the bottom.

What’s Up Doc: When choosing fresh carrots, don’t shy away from those with bolder or deeper pigments, according to the May issue of Better Homes and Gardens magazine. They taste no different than the typical orange-hued ones and actually are packed with more antioxidants and vitamins like beta carotenes and lycopenes.

Keep Your Cool: Keep iced coffee and tea drinks cold without getting watered down by using ice cubes made of leftover coffee and tea, suggests Better Homes and Gardens’ May issue. Even when the ice melts, drinks won’t lose their flavor.

Neat Treats: Use a round cookie cutter to neatly sprinkle toppings over muffins or cupcakes in the pan, says Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade magazine‘s May issue. This helps to prevent messes in the oven or even when they’re done.

Flour Power: The May issue of Clean Eating magazine suggests dusting raisins, dried cranberries and other dried fruit with a little flour to reduce stickiness so they can be more easily chopped.


Top 10 Recipe Indexes for Success in Popular Food Magazines

eating-well.jpgSince about 1600 B.C., recipes detailing food preparation have been a part of culinary culture. Since that time, those recipes crudely carved on clay tablets have evolved into sophisticated displays of glossy photos, crisp presentations and even paperless archives.

With the sheer number of recipes in print, especially in food and cooking magazines, an index to navigate the courses becomes as necessary as it is helpful. Analyzing and ranking the recipe indexes of 12 of today’s most popular titles is difficult because some are more specialized than others and all have some benefit.

But here is an attempt at some debatable order:

10. Cooking with Paula Deen, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur
Disappointingly (especially you, Martha Stewart), all three are organized only by category. Helpful, yes. Room for improvement? Definitely. Located in back.

9. Food Network Magazine
The double-page spread of delectable dishes, each with its own photo and arranged by category, is delicious to look at, but offers little more than visual information. Located up front.

8. Weight Watchers
Part of the Table of Contents, this listing ranks recipes Basic, Intermediate or Advanced in terms of preparation difficulty.

7. Southern Living
With the hostess in mind, this categorized list’s key denotes dishes that are Quick Prep, Good for You, Make-Ahead and Party Perfect. Last page of Food section.

6. Every Day With Rachael Ray
Her youthful, cost-conscious approach comes through in this guide to identify Fast, $10 Spot, Menu Planner, Good for You and Veg Out dishes. Located in back.

5. Cooking Light
Planning a healthy menu for everyone is easy with this course listing that tags dishes as Quick and Easy, Make Ahead, Freezable and Kid-Friendly. Located up front.

4. Food & Wine
Double the indexes means more complete information on both. Categorized dishes are flagged Fast (45 minutes or less), Healthy (less than 5 grams fat and includes nutritious ingredients), Make Ahead (minimal last-minute prep), Vegetarian (no meat, poultry or seafood) or Staff Favorite. 

The Wine Index is divided by type (red, white, rosé and dessert) then by taste (light-, medium- and full-bodied). Along with general pairing suggestions, wines are identified as Great Bargain (under $15), Hard to Find (smaller production but worth it) and Staff Favorite. Both located up front.

3. Vegetarian Times
This niche interest nabs high marks for furthering its appeal to those who embrace its practicality. Courses are identified as Vegan, Dairy-Free, Gluten Free, Low-Calorie, Low Saturated Fat and 30 Minutes or Fewer. Located in back.

2. Bon Appétit
More than just a feast for the eyes, dishes are labeled Low Calorie, Low Cholesterol, Low Fat, High Fiber, Low Saturated Fat and Vegetarian. Located in back.

1. Eating Well
By far, the most impressive. Categorized dishes include caloric, fat, carbohydrate, fiber and sodium content. A key further describes recipes as Healthy Weight (reduced calories, limited saturated fat), High Fiber, Healthy Heart (limited saturated fat), Budget (less than $3 per serving) and Quick (45 minutes or less). Located up front.


Everyday Food Magazine a “Good Thing” in a Small Package

everydayfood_jun.jpgHaving been a subscriber to Martha Stewart Living magazine for several months, I expected more of the same when I signed up for its sister publication, Everyday Food magazine. In other words, a solid smattering of topics ranging from cooking to gardening to home. But when I received my first issue, I was pleasantly surprised.

Most noticeably, Everyday Food is not the slightly oversized and artistically colorful experience that is Martha Stewart Living. Nor does it proffer advice on gardening, decorating and crafts with a nod to food.

Instead, Everyday Food magazine packs only recipes and cooking tips between its small digest-sized covers. In a survey of online reviews, readers say they can’t get enough. Gone are the hard-to-find ingredients, the time-consuming prep and the increasingly difficult dishes for which some readers have criticized Martha Stewart Living.

Making meals that are fast and healthy is an obvious focus of Everyday Food. Recipes require few ingredients not readily available in your average kitchen, and most dishes even take fewer steps to prepare. As in Martha Stewart Living, each recipe contains active time and total time. But unlike the bigger publication, Everyday Food includes the amount of calories, fat, protein, carbs and fiber per serving.

Among readers, size is a popular feature of Everyday Food magazine, making it easy to store or take along while grocery shopping. Its range of recipes is another heralded plus, and online, readers say the variety will appeal to novice and experienced chefs alike. Note: While the occasional meat-free and gluten-free meals are included, vegetarians will likely be left with an unsatisfied appetite.

Some of my favorite features and columns in Everyday Food are:

Dinner 1-2-3: Preparing a meal in three easy steps is possible, and this section shares how.

In Season: Focusing on one fruit or veggie, this section covers selecting, storing and cooking what’s in season, followed by a variety of recipes.

Bites: Tips from the magazine’s test kitchen on subjects like how to best cut vegetables, how to pair wines with meals and must-have tool recommendations.

Cooking for One: Nutritious (and delicious) meals with ingredients cut down to solo size make take-out and frozen dinners a cop-out.

At Your Convenience: Cut corners with store-bought ingredients vs. fresh or from scratch using these recommendations and quick-fix dishes.

How To: An in-depth and illustrated look at perfecting a technique, along with recipes designed to test out the new trick.

Grocery Bag: This feature outlines a week of meals and provides a convenient tear-out grocery list. That’s followed, of course, by directions for making each dish.

On the Side: Have an entrée that needs a little company? This section provides ideas for simple sides to round out any meal.

Everyday Food magazine combines a simple and healthy, yet impressively flavorful approach to cooking that might be surprising given Martha Stewart’s do-it-all reputation. Everyday Food proves that she can make even the simple taste amazing.