Category Archives: Food


Strawberry Cover Stories Bring Back Berry Good Memories

pauladeen_may-june.jpgFor as long as I can remember, strawberries have been one of my most favorite fruits. They usually hit their peak in the summer, meaning they were plentiful in the market for only a few months, so you’d better enjoy them while they lasted.

But recent spring covers of Southern Living, Cooking With Paula Deen and Taste of the South brought an even more precious memory to mind. My late maternal grandfather had a strawberry patch in his backyard garden of various fruits and vegetables that he tended most of his life. Though small in comparison to acres-long fields, the little plants and their promising blooms brought great joy to a little girl who loved strawberries, and left her awestruck that her grandfather knew how to grow them.

With so much attention directed at the strawberry, ’tis certainly the season for picking and preparing the luscious fruit. And if you like strawberries as much as I do, here’s a preview of the recipes you’ll find in the magazines that dressed the red delights up as their cover dessert.

Southern Living magazine, April 2010

Though the bulk of the issue’s focus is on Easter meals, one page was dedicated to the two featured strawberry desserts: Strawberry-Orange Shortcake Tart and Vanilla-Stuffed Strawberry Cupcakes.

Both recipes are fairly time consuming, since the tart shell and the vanilla bean custard for the cupcake (recipe included) are made from scratch. But the hands-on time for both dishes and the custard–which Southern Living assures is well worth the effort, helped along by an angel food cake mix shortcut for the cupcakes–is 30 minutes or less.

Cooking With Paula Deen magazine, May/June 2010

With Easter behind us, this issue showed a little more love to the strawberry, including a page on measuring berries, choosing and storing them, and providing a little history. For example, according to the magazine, American Indians made strawberry bread by crushing the berries into cornmeal, making a forerunner to a Southern favorite, the strawberry shortcake.

But the extra attention didn’t stop there. Nearly full-page photos accompanied two recipes, Strawberry Pie and Strawberry Cobbler. An absence of prep times means time-conscious cooks will have to settle for a few time savers. The pie recipe, for example, starts with refrigerated pie crust dough and subs JELL-O for strawberry gelatin. The cobbler directions call for baking it in small, serve-straight-from-the-oven ramekins.

Taste of the South magazine, May/June 2010

Aside from the cover recipe, strawberries were an ingredient–though not the sole berry–in only one other dish. The Meringue Torte with Custard and Berries called for blueberries and red and golden raspberries, in addition to strawberries.

Considering the meringue for the torte and the cake for the featured Toasted Almond-Strawberry Napoleons are made from scratch, these recipes are time consuming–especially without any recommended shortcuts.


Food & Wine Magazine: a Full-Bodied Read Short on Pretension

foodwine_may.jpgA growing number of consumers are at least interested in drinking wine, as its consumption has gradually risen in the U.S. since the early ’90s, according to the Wine Institute, a lobbying group for California vintners.

For the savvier, more inquisitive shopper looking to uncork both value and quality, Food & Wine magazine is a satisfying, authoritative resource for news and trends, travel, suggestions and pairings, and entertaining–all related to wine. Of course, wine enthusiasts will obviously find Food & Wine a more savory sip than readers who have no interest in the fermented beverage. They will find recipes that don’t require wine, though the unmistakable focus–and appeal–is the marriage of food and wine.

Memorable tastes from the April 2010 issue include a how-to for hosting a zodiac party accompanied by an interesting guide on tasting style, favorite foods and favorite wines by sign. Other features included ”20 Wine Pairings to Try Before You Die,” as well as helpful recommendations on glassware, necessities for hosting a wine tasting, and wine-infused sweets, such as red wine caramel.

Dismissed by some online reviewers as “pretentious,” Food and Wine magazine came across to me as especially refreshing because of one article in particular.

In the April issue’s “Journal” section, writer Rebecca Barry shares with engaging honesty her resistance to “winespeak.” The article, titled “How I Learned to Love Winespeak,” shares a message that sums up both Food & Wine magazine’s approach to wine as an intricate subject, as well as its attitude toward readers whose curiosity extends beyond merely having a drink.

Drinking wine is easy, and California wine sales, which tumbled 3 percent in 2009 because consumers purchased lower-priced bottles–often in U.S. food stores as a result of the recession, according to the Wine Institute–proves it.

But appreciating wine for its taste and texture is a process that was once intimidating to even the most learned critics. Packed with tips, quizzes, lists, guides and recommended wines for any budget, Food & Wine magazine makes acquiring knowledge bit by bit accessible and easy.

Though its content largely focuses on wine and its relationship to food, readers will find recipes accompanying most of the articles. Of particular interest is the selection of “fast” recipes. While the dishes do require 60 minutes, that includes info on how to juggle preparation of a meat dish and two vegetable sides.

Praised by some for the variety of its timely content and dismissed by others for the upscale lifestyle it portrays, Food & Wine magazine will not suit everyone’s taste. But those who uncork it shouldn’t be intimidated.


What’s the Difference Between Cooking Light and Eating Well Magazine?

eating-well.jpgAs part of a dietary regimen, cooking light would certainly lend itself to eating well, or healthily. But in terms of comparing Cooking Light and Eating Well magazines, the two have the same fundamental approach but marked differences otherwise.

Launched in 1990, Eating Well magazine seems to take the more connotative, strict approach to diet and nutrition. Like Cooking Light, its editorial is influenced by a panel of nutritionists and recipe developers.

One of the biggest differences for Cooking Light magazine, a mere three years older than Eating Well, is the backing it had from the largest, most popular regional magazine, Southern Living. Interest in Southern Living’s monthly “Cooking Light” column grew into cookbooks of recipes for the lighter way of life, which sold out two and three times over. Finally, only a monthly magazine satiated the growing desire to eat better.

Today, Cooking Light magazine counts a healthy 1.75 million subscribers in its
circulation, whereas Eating Well’s numbers are 350,000.

Overwhelmingly, online reviews praise Eating Well for its range of recipes that are simple enough for novices, yet still challenging for seasoned chefs. Among its highlights, readers say, are its useful recipe index, which provides caloric, fat, carbohydrate, fiber and sodium content for each dish.

While some appreciate the use of ingredients that aren’t overprocessed, others find it difficult to locate them in smaller cities and towns. Inexperienced cooks have felt they weren’t knowledgeable enough to make substitutions, though experienced cooks say they’ve made changes employing what was on hand or items even less expensive than those initially called for in a recipe.

cooking-light.jpgRecurring complaints are that Eating Well magazine includes a lot of recipes using meat, or that its content is leaning toward becoming redundant and preachy regarding sustainability issues. However, as other readers pointed out, Eating Well does not bill itself as a vegetarian publication.

On the other hand, Cooking Light magazine’s use of simple ingredients is applauded by readers, but some aren’t comfortable with what seems to be its “new” approach to what is healthy. For example, its May 2010 issue features a spread on pizzas, most of which hover near 20 grams of fat per serving. Other such content that drew a similar response was the article titled “10 Nutrition Myths that shouldn’t keep you from the foods you love!” That feature seemingly OK’d added sugar and fried foods in a “healthy” diet.

This new direction was introduced with editor-in-chief Scott Mowbray, who has been in place at Cooking Light since the December 2009 issue. The slightly relaxed attitude, he says in an April Washington Post article, is meant to spark discussion with the dietary caveat that one flavorful ingredient or item in moderation does not destroy an overall healthy lifestyle.

This approach may well draw more readers to Cooking Light magazine. And for those it might drive away, Eating Well magazine may just be the all-around “healthier” alternative they want.

Vegetarian Times Dishes on Subjects of Interest to All Eaters

vegetarian-times.jpgAs our collective diet takes a healthy turn toward “flexitarian,” Vegetarian Times magazine seems positioned to gain ground and readers.

Even with more publications
incorporating veggie-only dishes and vegetarian-focused content–for example, numerous food and fitness magazines, including Weight Watchers, tout a
meatless three-day plan for its health benefits–there
is still a place for Vegetarian Times magazine with its target audience
and beyond.

Recipes, such as the Spanish tapas and Spanish wines or the coffeehouse desserts and java featured in the March 2010 issue, hold allure for vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike. Though actual pairings of wine with each dish or coffee with each sweet would have been appreciated, the draw of the culinary content is strong.

Based on online reviews, a surprising number of Vegetarian Times readers are not vegetarian or vegan. In fact, many say they get creative with the recipes, experimenting with various flavors or adding meat to their taste. Still others find the featured vegan desserts to be the answer to reducing the sweet quotient for various health reasons.

Non-vegetarian readers gave negative marks for recipes that featured ingredients not commonplace in their own pantries. However, with the included shopping tips and a trip to a natural food store, the most often-used ingredients could quickly be found.

Vegetarian Times magazine has been dedicated to the dietary lifestyle pursued for reasons ranging from religion to health since 1974, and as such it is much more than a collection of recipes. Key to its broad appeal, according to various online reviews, are its educational articles. In addition to tips from chefs on selecting frozen veggies, March 2010 featured an impressively informative piece on community-supported agriculture (CSA), an increasingly popular way for consumers to buy seasonal foods directly from local farms.

At least one other food magazine gave a passing glance to CSA’s that month but the information and perspective provided by Vegetarian Times was at once personal, engaging and thought-provoking.

Another popular section is the “Carrot and Stick,” which gives kudos in vegetable form to companies for their eco-friendly practices. This allows consumers to support businesses whose values match their own. Conversely, the stick takes to task companies who have yet to walk the green walk. Each month’s standard features also include the uses and benefits of natural remedies and herbs as well as recommended beauty products and kitchen gadgets.

Truly educational, Vegetarian Times magazine’s information is presented with authority but without passing judgment or even being subtly persuasive toward non-vegetarians. Even better, the number of healthy veggie dishes using the most natural ingredients makes it a worthwhile read, though several online reviewers give the publication low marks for its thin page count.

All in all, Vegetarian Times magazine receives high praise both from vegetarians for serving their interests and from non-vegetarians who are simply trying to incorporate more healthy choices into their diets.


Martha Stewart Living a Must for Unlocking Your Domestic MacGyver

martha-stewart-living.jpgWhether you love her because she can seemingly do anything, or hate her for the same reason, Martha Stewart is a multimedia empire who has cooked, crafted and cleaned her way into our modern Heloise with television shows, magazines, radio programs and products for the home, kitchen and even pets to her credit.

But Martha Stewart mania doesn’t end there. Just recently, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc., announced a partnership with Majesco Entertainment to develop exclusive interactive content for video games targeted at women, who as a group have shown increased interest in social gaming.

The foray into the gaming world would be more of a surprise if it were anyone but Martha Stewart. In many ways, she is to the home what secret agent MacGyver was to solving problems, and she proves it in the pages of Martha Stewart Living magazine.

There, she gives advice on cooking, cleaning, organizing, entertaining, sewing, crafts, gardening, fitness and pets. Though all subjects seem to be covered evenly, each article is rich in useful, practical tips that compensate for the magazine’s broad focus.

For example, the April 2010 issue suggested adding on-hand staples and spices to an almost-empty bottle of mustard to make just enough marinade for one flavorful meal. 

Other creative tips include using bleach or colored pens to create batik designs on cotton or linen placemats, assembling Easter treats as a “basket” placed in a jar, and some Easter egg designs that would put the traditional PAAS color kits to shame.

The April 2010 issue celebrated “the best” in cooking, entertaining and gardening with three different covers back to back. The first “best” issue collected tips and reader favorites from across the years, and in some cases, the end result was modified to reflect the season, turning December 1999/January 2000′s gingerbread puzzle cookies into April 2010′s Easter puzzle cookies.

Though special issues are nothing new, Martha Stewart Living magazine managed to pull it off without being too repetitive or contrived. Also, the photography is an unexpected treat in the sense that it is artistically visually pleasing above and beyond what’s generally expected in a food magazine.

The May 2010 issue of Martha Stewart Living is especially stunning for its vivid graphics and bright hues that bring to life every article and all relate to its theme–color.

In general, online reviewers praise her step-by-step instructions for making what could otherwise be an intimidating recipe or process seem more accessible, while others say she utilizes hard-to-find ingredients or materials for dishes and crafts that have become more time-consuming.

While the range of projects and recipes would appeal to beginners and those a little more experienced, there are practical tips of use to anyone, meaning there are plenty of “good things” to find in Martha Stewart Living.

Southern Living Reveres Regional Food with Hospitable, Modern Flair

southern_living.jpgWhen it comes to regional publications, Southern Living magazine is the belle of the ball. With a circulation 2.8 million strong it’s the largest of its kind.

But what is the appeal for all things Southern, especially among an overwhelmingly female (and avid) readership that, according to Southern Living’s published demographic data, resides primarily below the Mason-Dixon Line?

For all its historical scars and shortcomings, the South has an unmistakable mystique: a slower pace, a penchant for entertaining, and good cooking (even if it hasn’t always been the healthiest), all wrapped up in more sunny days than not. Popular movies have perpetuated and romanticized the regional way of life, punctuated by “y’all” and other colloquialisms not typically found outside the Deep South.

But while Southern Living magazine pays tribute to traditional customs–food, family and entertaining–it does not do so in a clich├ęd way. Instead, it’s almost as if the South is finally shaping up, at least where her signature deep fried cuisine is concerned.

Still, Southern Living magazine’s recipes cover the expected staples: fried chicken, okra, gumbo, biscuits and cobblers. Its monthly section on healthy cooking shows a shift away from heavy comfort foods though. One of its monthly food features, “Mama’s Way or Your Way?” compares mom’s classic recipes to a next-generation version, at once paying homage to the region’s collective cooking heritage and the ties that bind while adding a little updated flair.

For fabulous party ideas, Southern Living magazine is a must, as
entertaining is given a generous focus in each issue. February 2010
detailed the elements for a sweet get-together, pairing mini cupcakes
and unusual tastes with sparkling wine.

Upgraded flavors from the old batter-buttercream standby included
salted caramel and chocolate, citrus with ruby red grapefruit glaze, and
mocha latte and cappuccino. With the sparkling wine pairings and
presentation suggestions, all the details are covered.

Heading full speed ahead into wedding season, the April 2010 issue
was equally handy for tips on hosting showers, covering everything from
what to serve to what to serve it on. An entire make-ahead menu
including appetizers, salads, pizzas, cocktails and desserts. Mementos
for the happy couple are also included.

Just as one online reviewer noted, Southern Living magazine is as
good a source for entertaining with food as it is for providing
delicious recipes.

Additionally, Southern Living magazine offers insight into where to
find good (or unusual) food and drink in the quirky region it covers.
For example, the April 2010 issue’s travel piece, titled “Southern Beer
on the Rise,” highlighted what is “thought to be the first beer
commercially brewed with whole roasted pecans”: Southern Pecan Nut Brown
Ale from Lazy Magnolia Brewing Company in Kiln, Miss. Only in the
South! And therein lies Southern Living magazine’s charm and appeal.