Category Archives: Food


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.


Better Homes and Gardens, Cooking Light Magazine Offer Two Cracks on Coconut Cake

betterhomes.jpgWhen Better Homes and Gardens magazine made a fresh coconut cake the centerpiece of its April 2010 cover, it was in some ways to be expected. Not only because of the Easter season, but perhaps even more so due to its perception of being traditional and more conservative than its food publication peers.

When Cooking Light magazine prominently featured a fresh coconut cake on its April 2010 cover, some of its readers were likely surprised. With the cover headline “Yes! This is healthy” and an arrow pointing to the popular spring dessert, the health-conscious magazine seemed to expect the reaction.

This and other decadent dishes have made Cooking Light readers question the general editorial direction of their nutritional playbook, along with the articles that seem to justify why it’s OK to indulge.

That debate aside, how different are the two recipes? Is one significantly healthier or better for you than the other?

In comparison, the ingredients are evenly matched, though the
amounts used may vary slightly. But Cooking Light magazine’s version
makes a couple of noticeable substitutions. Butter instead of
shortening, Italian meringue instead of heavy cream, and coconut
shavings pressed into the frosting instead of icing filled with the
shredded fruit.

Featured in its “Recipe Makeover” section, Cooking Light compares
its “new” coconut cake to an “old” version described only in terms of
calories, total fat grams, saturated fat grams and the aforementioned
heavier ingredients that were substituted.

While Cooking Light magazine’s rendition of fresh coconut cake has
significantly reduced calories, total fat grams and saturated fat
grams, it would be worth an apples to apples comparison of the “old
way” recipe to Better Homes and Gardens’.

Despite the two coconut cake’s similarities, Better Homes and
Gardens doesn’t call for shortening or heavy cream–two ingredients
where Cooking Light magazine opted for lighter substitutions.

In the end, one slice of Cooking Light magazine’s coconut cake has
fewer calories (332 vs. 482) and carbohydrates (55.8 grams vs. 74
grams), and less fat (10.8 grams vs. 19 grams) and cholesterol (20
milligrams vs. 98 milligrams) than a serving of Better Homes and
Gardens’ version.

But the old version of the coconut cake that Cooking Light made over
had 622 calories per slice and 38.5 total fat grams. And though the
magazine’s new version is impressive for its reduction of calories and
fat, does it have more of a wow factor because it was put up against an
obviously very rich fresh coconut cake recipe? Would cutting the fat
grams in half seem as impressive as cutting them by three-fourths?

While that’s another debate, each magazine presented its recipe
differently while keeping with the magazine’s general tone. Cooking
Light gave very straightforward directions and a basic how-to on
cracking coconuts with minimal photos. In its very practical approach,
Better Homes and Gardens wove hints and tips in its directions, along
with step-by-step photos from start to finish.


Summertime, and the Cooking Is Easy, Thoughtful and Creative

pauladeen_may-june.jpgAs the weather warms up, so too it seems do social calendars, with sleepovers for the kids, graduations, college send-offs, weddings, baby showers and barbecues. The one common ingredient? You guessed it: good food!

And what better place to find simple, delicious recipes that are equal parts thoughtful and creative than some of today’s most popular food and cooking magazines? These are some of the more unique recipe/event ideas from May and June issues that I think are worth sharing.

Cooking With Paula Deen magazine, May/June 2010

School’s out for the summer but the education doesn’t have to end. Get kids in the kitchen making easy sleepover snacks, like Parmesan Popcorn Mix with pretzels, popcorn and mini cheese crackers.

Summer is the season for weddings and anniversaries. Recognize those newlyweds or that special marriage with a thoughtful gift basket filled with a homemade cheddar-almond cheese spread and store-bought goodies like chocolate truffles and a gift card.

What else precedes those weddings but bridal showers, and these menu ideas are both Southern and easy. A chilled corn soup with avocado relish served in small jars with lids make for easy transport and a pound cake dessert bar with fresh fruit, chocolate sauce and other toppings are sure to please any taste.

No wedding or shower would be complete without those yummy little butter mints, and now you can make your own with a cream cheese mint recipe that calls for cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, shortening and peppermint oil.

Better Homes and Gardens magazine, May 2010

betterhomes_jun.jpgTake three holidays and special occasions and combine them with one basic menu, and you get three different experiences suitable for Mother’s Day, graduation and Memorial Day.

The herb-garlic beef tenderloin pizza, layered red potato salad and green beans and pasta graduation menu becomes herb-garlic beef tenderloin sliders, chopped red potato salad and pickled green beans and spring veggies for Memorial Day.

But don’t forget dessert. Cupcakes adorned with a chocolate-covered cherry and topped with a mortarboard–a tiny cracker dipped in chocolate–honor the grad, while the waffle cone cupcakes for Memorial Day make it easier to hold in one hand while still participating in outdoor games.

Every Day With Rachael Ray magazine, May 2010

It’s all about celebrating four of life’s unique magic moments, including a couple’s first night in after tying the knot with a special menu of steak frites.

Appetizers like Sweet Cucumber Salad with Chiles and Peanuts, Crab Salad on Rice Crackers, Juicy Chicken Potstickers and a toast of a Pomegranate-Lemongrass Fizz help your BFF say goodbye to being single with an Asian-themed bachelorette party.

Close out your teen’s days as a high schooler with grown-up dishes like Herbed Crouton Salad, Tomato-Braised Lamb Shanks with Orange and Mint, and Pistachio Crème Brûlée as part of a delicious college send-off.

Or welcome a new baby with a special brunch featuring Lemonade-Mint Spritzers; Ricotta-and-Radish Crostini; and Shrimp, Arugula and Frisée Salad with Pesto Dressing. Top it off with a Coconut Angel Food Cake with Fresh Berries.


Food Network Magazine Delivers More Than Television Personalities

foodnetwork.jpgSince its first serving in fall of 2008, Food Network magazine has soared in popularity. Initially publisher Hearst Corporation printed 300,000 copies, but less than two years later, nearly 1.2 million copies are picked up at newsstands and sold through subscriptions, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

It’s an astounding success, particularly since growing numbers of working women and today’s modern conveniences have made the act of cooking another chore that someone or something else can do. In fact, the average American spends only 27 minutes per day on food preparation, plus an additional four for clean-up, according to writer and University of California, Berkeley journalism professor Michael Pollan. Understanding that we only have so much time, Food Network magazine touts 100-plus recipes prominently on its cover, along with other buzzwords with busy appeal like “fast,” “easy” and “fun.”

Tough economic times have taken a toll on dining out–a 3 percent drop in 2009, based on market research from NPD Group–and families looking to save a little by eating in will appreciate this publication’s attention to using inexpensive and readily available ingredients.

Though criticized by more advanced chefs for its casual approach and lack of in-depth coverage, Food Network magazine likely sizzles because of the changing face of cooking programs, posits Pollan. Viewers tuned in to Julia Child to learn the act of cooking, he writes, whereas fans of Food Network glean as much or more entertainment as instruction. That amusement presented in 30-minute segments and hour-long competitions no doubt buoys the popularity of its printed product.

And Food Network magazine capitalizes on it. Each issue’s “Star Search” guide features photos of the network’s celebrity chefs branded with the name of their show plus the page on which to find that star’s recipe or advice.

Shaped by seasons and holidays, the magazine’s ideas for Easter, Cinco de Mayo, Mother’s Day and Memorial Day barbecues are some of the obvious fare. This can give each issue a repetitive feel, according to some online reviews. That’s possible, but the ideas retain an overall speedy allure while also being creative or adventurous enough to keep things interesting. Think cinnamon sugar stick “fries” served with strawberry jam for an April Fool’s treat, a potato chip challenge, Kentucky Derby inspired muffin flavors, jalapeño margaritas for Cinco de Mayo, and a cupcake topiary for Mom.

Like Pollan said, it’s part quick cuisine and part entertainment, and this title makes successful use of the combination. But its short order use of multiple celebrity brands and their draw notwithstanding, Food Network magazine feeds off content that is timely and easy–what has broadly become today’s most fundamental qualities for cooking inspiration.