Category Archives: Food

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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.

weight-watchers

Weight Watchers Meets Readers in the Middle with Balanced Food, Fitness Content

weight-watchers.jpgFor nearly 50 years, the largest, most successful weight loss program in the world has supported millions in their quest to get fit–an especially noteworthy fact since the diet craze is often fueled by the “it” celebrity of the moment. But its longevity and lifestyle-altering approach to food and fitness is what sets Weight Watchers magazine apart from the get-thin-quick gimmicks.

Founded in the late ’60s, Weight Watchers’ bi-monthly publication reflects the international company’s diet-and-exercise method of shedding pounds. Perhaps the stronger message is one of being your personal best, though, with its tips on beauty and fashion as well. Whether enrollees in the Weight Watchers program and or simply subscribers of the magazine, readers prize its motivational tone. One online review even likened it to being “almost as helpful as an actual meeting.”

Though several high-profile subjects have lent their star power to promoting the program (most recently Jennifer Hudson of American Idol and Dreamgirls fame), Weight Watchers magazine draws its inspirational examples from real people who’ve counted their meal points and succeeded.

About one-third to one-half of the magazine is dedicated to recipes, but the March/April 2010 issue’s suggestions on how to reduce portions and a three-day vegetarian challenge strengthen its food and cooking coverage. That’s not to say Weight Watchers magazine doesn’t provide ample nutritional information, as it is rich with tips and bonus recipes, but it isn’t all ingredient lists and scrumptious photos.

As the program encourages lifestyle changes, so does the magazine with a wealth of practical tips on selecting foods and planning meals. One of the many helpful examples in the March/April 2010 issue was a guide titled “Foods With Benefits,” which explained whether fresh or frozen choices would be packed with more nutritional power when it comes to meats, fruits and veggies.

Of course, each included recipe that makes use of those healthier suggestions is assigned a points value according to the organization’s well-known system.

Though readers say they are inspired to get cooking by the recipes, maybe most valuable is Weight Watchers magazine’s advice, like rejuvenating a diet stuck in a rut and diversifying meals. That, along with the attention to fitness and beauty, reinforces the program’s total lifestyle approach that is widely esteemed by those trying to lose weight or just make healthier choices.

Every Day With Rachael Ray Magazine a Smart Snack for On-the-Go Chefs

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When Rachael Ray was born into a family of cooks, her destiny seemed written. But the energetic television host, Food Network chef, bestselling cookbook author, magazine director and healthy kids champion describes the steps leading to her meteoric rise toward household-name status as a “happy, wonderful accident.”

Like her other endeavors, Every Day With Rachael Ray magazine helps further the appeal of her signature 30-minute meals, a welcome approach for people increasingly on the go and challenged to make smart eating choices.

Advice on preparing healthy, quick meals is nothing new in today’s expansive landscape of food and cooking magazines, television shows and websites. But where Every Day With Rachael Ray excels is its focus on budgeting in terms of real dollars. Everything for the cost-conscious cook is made readily available: week-long menu planner, shopping list (with prices), preparation tips and how to spice up leftovers. A section on $10-or-less dinners features “receipts” as a budgeting guide, as well.

Critics of Every Day With Rachael Ray magazine contend the content is not geared toward more experienced cooks. Noted one online reviewer, “It’s more of a snack than a meal.” Still, her fans find comfort in knowing it only takes a half-hour to prepare something homemade and healthy.

It’s true that her youthful vibe, which is evident in the magazine, is more apt to appeal to a specific audience. Busy, colorful layouts prevalent in each issue can often be confused with its ads. Plus there’s too many of those ads, complain some readers. Though the celebrity behind the success isn’t targeting one group over another, she definitely wants to appeal to families–kids included. She encourages them to get in the kitchen to work together to choose and create a healthier lifestyle.

Note that Rachael Ray is not advocating eschewing sweets and other indulgent foods. The cover of the April 2010 issue of Every Day With Rachael Ray makes that clear. “Eat what you love and still lose,” it declares, offering examples of cheese fries, pies and pancakes. The message is one of moderation, and it’s being touted by celebrity chefs like Rachael Ray as well as reality show stars and prominent public figures.

If Every Day With Rachael Ray magazine is an indication, the “new” dietary call to action is to enjoy life and enjoy eating, but do so responsibly. Editorial content advising readers how to be healthy while traveling, how to find the best restaurants when out-of-town and how to re-create lower calorie diner favorites seem to reinforce that message.

Though the message may not differ dramatically from the rest of the cooking community, Every Day With Rachael Ray magazine is understandably a hit, not only because of its endearing celebrity subject. It offers a nutritional plan with the speed demanded by busier schedules; smarter choices necessitated by health and nutritional awareness; and a cost-conscious approach appreciated even more in a challenging economy.

midwestliv

Go Midwest, Young (Hungry) Man! Midwest Living Magazine Names Top Food Towns

midwestliv.jpgI’ll admit it. I love lists. Top five this, top 10 that – especially when it comes to food. So when Midwest Living magazine named its top food towns, I had to check it out.

In its annual Best of the Midwest issue, Midwest Living magazine dished on the region’s top five food towns, five favorite meals in each and more than 50 of the region’s best places to dine.

Midwest Living’s editors noshed through more than 700 meals at locally owned establishments in their coverage area, focusing on metropolitan areas of fewer than 1 million residents after surmising that bigger cities had bigger appetites, and thus, more of a variety and edge in dining than their smaller counterparts.

After pushing themselves away from the collective table, the editors tapped the Midwest’s best food town as Madison, Wis., followed by Traverse City, Mich., Ann Arbor, Mich., Bloomington, Ind., and Des Moines, Iowa.

What commonly received high marks were a city’s restaurants relying on locally grown products. Others made the grade for its dining scene’s quirkiness, variety, history or transformation.

To give readers a taste of each town, Midwest Living magazine shares its five favorite meals in each of its top five towns. In addition to this list, a special section recounts 54 Midwest meals that are worth the trip.

Part of the Better Homes and Gardens Network, Midwest Living magazine publishes its recommendations on dining, lodging and attractions in a special issue once a year. The 2010 installment is available on newsstands until Sept. 7, 2010.

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Don’t Judge May’s Vegetarian Times, Food and Wine By Their Very Similar Covers

foodwine_may.jpgThe featured dishes, the colors, even the placement of the elements make the May covers of Vegetarian Times and Food and Wine magazines nearly identical. Having already seen the cover of the latter, I had to do a double-take when I spied Vegetarian Times on the newsstand.

Perhaps with a nod to Cinco de Mayo, the Mexican celebration of victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla in 1862, both covers featured taco dishes on the cover. But if readers of both fear that the coverage is too similar or feel they must choose one over the other, they most certainly will miss out.

Granted, the two magazines appeal to different audiences. Vegetarian Times magazine extols the virtues of healthy eating with a diet, as its title would suggest, that eliminates meat and sometimes dairy. Food and Wine magazine favors the exotic in taste and travel, and serves as a gentle teacher for would-be wine aficionados.

Despite their somewhat niche allure, neither is too high brow to be inaccessible, nor too condescending or judgmental to rebuff readers. So it should come as no surprise that Vegetarian Times magazine and Food and Wine, even with their almost mirror image covers, manage to stay true to their very different missions.

The black bean and toasted corn tacos (and glass of water) that Vegetarian Times celebrated on its cover were actually part of a 21-day lunch challenge, and was but one recipe of seven suggested. The challenge urges readers to make their own lunch, schedule a 30-minute walk and set aside time for a meditation break every day for three weeks.

According to the article, the editors determined 21 days would be an attainable commitment and ample time to adapt to the lifestyle change. Along with boosting motivation, the challenge’s additional by-products would include increased energy and reduced stress.

Food and Wine magazine lavished more attention on their cover story, depicted withvegetariantimes.jpg grilled chicken tacos paired with a fruity Pinot Noir.

Touted as the new craze among American chefs, tacos of numerous flavors with suggestions on where to find the best, even in some unexpected places, were detailed in an information-packed eight page spread, which included a step-by-step “How to Make a Tortilla” illustration, the best taco spots and best new tequilas, surprising taco toppings and education terms sprinkled throughout.

The seven featured dishes celebrated everything from classic to Asian-inspired flavors, such as barbecue, fried fish and tofu tacos, which can be found across the nation from restaurants to food trucks.

But if you can’t make it to the West Coast, Chicago or Atlanta, Food and Wine magazine includes the recipes for each taco purveyor, along with preparation time, yield and, of course, a cocktail pairing suggestion.

Despite the marked differences between the two magazines, the nearly identical May covers of Vegetarian Times and Food and Wine were at first disheartening. But further investigation revealed that, just like books, you shouldn’t judge a magazine by its cover alone.