Category Archives: Food


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


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.


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.


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.

Better Homes and Gardens Favors Practical Approach to Cooking

betterhomes.jpgIn 1922, the publication that would become Better Homes and Gardens magazine published its first issue. Today, nearly 90 years later, the title remains as relevant as ever. Packed with tips for the cost-conscious shopper and for cooks looking to
stretch a dollar, Better Homes and Gardens is a trusted
resource reviewers say they turn to–whether it’s a current issue or a
treasured copy from years ago.

Sure, like many other magazines, it’s treading lightly and cautiously through the changing publishing landscape. It’s revamping and reorganizing to mobilize its message using technology scarcely dreamed of in the Roaring ’20s.

While its practical approach doesn’t always appeal to younger readers–even in today’s economic climate–others who found the traditional, conservative approach to cooking and gardening less relevant in their youth have discovered a familiar friend once family came along.

Part of the magazine’s charm is its focus on recipes, like the coconut cake on the cover of the April 2010 issue. It’s recognizable enough to jar a sweet childhood memory.

But the content and approach of Better Homes and Gardens magazine
isn’t stuck in a long-ago decade. Instead, it’s comparable to its
contemporary food publication peers.

For example, the April issue approaches one ingredient, the egg
(timely both for Easter and National Egg Month in May), and prepares it
seven ways for seven different dishes. Think poached, hard-cooked,
frizzled, baked, scrambled, sauced and whipped, for an array of courses
from appetizers and breakfast items to entrees and desserts. Quick and
healthy meals, lightening up classic recipes and cooking on a budget are
consistent topics. 

But beyond the act of cooking, Better Homes and Gardens, as its title
would suggest, provides a holistic view of cooking and dining. An
article in the April 2010 issue on kitchen health, which covers food
safety; understanding food expiration, cleaning and defrosting; and
determining the “done”-ness of ingredients, offers both current and
timeless value.

The strong undertones of practicality make Better Homes and Gardens
magazine hard to beat as a how-to guide. The April 2010 issue alone
covered how to crack coconuts (for that cake on the cover), how to pick
artichokes, how to spice up leftovers, and how to pick, store and
understand the differences between organic, free-range and cage-free

That’s not to say that the editorial content isn’t creative or fun.
Perhaps trying to step out of its perceived conservative mold, the
magazine has recently delivered clever presentations one might expect
only from its contemporary competitors. For example, with a nod to
Valentine’s Day, the February 2010 issue paired variations of famous
food couples: chocolate and vanilla, salt and pepper, and steak and
potatoes. Features like this one–practical with a little twist–are
indicative of Better Home and Gardens magazine as a whole.

Cooking With Paula Deen Ain’t All Butter-Smothered and Deep Fried, Y’all

pauladeen.jpgThe signature “Hey, y’all” greeting drawl and unabashed cooking love affair with butter synonymous with Southern cook, restaurateur, author and Emmy Award-winning television personality Paula Deen is carried through in her namesake magazine.

But while traditional Southern cooking is queen in the pages of Cooking With Paula Deen magazine, everything isn’t all butter-smothered and deep fried–even if her internationally known Savannah restaurant, The Lady and Sons, attracts a line that forms around the block for her fried chicken, creamed corn, black-eyed peas, collard greens and trademark gooey butter cake, which is as rich as it sounds.

With a multimedia following that has grown since her restaurant opened in 1996 and her Paula’s Home Cooking show premiered on Food Network in November 2002, Cooking With Paula Deen magazine not surprisingly draws a heavy following from her viewers across the country.

Paula Deen, the institution, is credited with buoying Savannah tourism, after the newness wore off the Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil movie craze. But for Paula Deen, the honest, down-to-earth, Southern-hospitality-personified celebrity chef, fans will drive halfway across the United States just to meet her at a book signing.

An unlikely celebrity, Paula Deen shares in her memoir, It Ain’t All About the Cookin’, that she suffered from agoraphobia, an anxiety disorder generally associated with public places. But finding solace in Southern comfort foods helped her overcome her fears and start a modest lunch business, all while supporting her two sons as a single mother.

Her identity is intimately wrapped up in Savannah; she serves an average of 1,100 customers per day at The Lady and Sons, many of whom are drawn to the city because of her. But online, readers complained that the city is too strong of a focus in her magazine. I found that while it is a major influence, the content is neither completely Savannah-centric nor fully deep fried.

The March/April 2010 issue of Cooking With Paula Deen features a cheesy veggie pizza on the cover (with homemade crust), as well as refreshing fruit smoothies–just in time to cool down in the deep South–with some interesting flavor combinations: Honeydew-Cucumber Mint, Banana Coconut, and Apple-Grape.

Beyond the magazine’s non-recipe content, the reading isn’t just empty calories. The latest issue serves up a feature on Julie Powell, the “Julie” of Julie & Julia book and movie fame. She also offers cooking tips freely throughout the magazine, so true to her voice that you can
almost hear her unmistakable Southern drawl. Cooking With Paula Deen magazine proves to be as folksy and accessible as the Lady herself appears to be in the many outlets of her multimedia empire.