We DallasEats girls are equal-opportunity when it comes to cooking shows. Between the two of us, we can find something to like in pretty much any program. That's not to say we don't pick favorites (FP was *this* close to erecting a shrine in Ina Garten's honor, before I pointed out that so many candles in close proximity to all those Barefoot Contessa books might present a fire hazard...), but when cooking is your favorite spectator sport, the Food Network is your oyster. Or something like that.
My love of Semi-Homemade Cooking with Sandra Lee is a perfect illustration of this philosophy. Over the years, I've developed a fondness for Sandy (that's what her nieces, nephews and devoted fans call her) and her creative, quirky twists on traditional and trendy dishes. For those of you who haven't tuned in to this program, the premise is that Sandra Lee uses "shortcuts" in the form of canned, jarred, frozen or otherwise prepared foods to execute recipes in a quick-and-easy fashion. Her show is aimed at average home cooks, as opposed to amateur Iron Chefs who might experiment with sous vide in their spare time. In addition to fully-coordinated theme menus, her shows also feature cocktail recipes and decorating tips. In fact, that's probably what attracted me in the first place. How can you not love a show that offers up a new cocktail recipe almost every week?
Over the years, I've enjoyed tuning in and soaking up Sandra's concoctions. I've even made a few at home myself - her cake and cookie recipes are especially tempting. When she's veered into Salisbury Steak territory, I've turned my head and hummed a tune, more than willing to allow her a few moments of 50's-era regression in the name of nostalgia. And if a "tablescape" or two struck me as a little on the tacky side (or downright over-the-top), who was I to judge what someone else might deem the perfect theme for their next Bunko night with the girls? Sandy had, after all, cruised with P. Diddy on his yacht, sipping vodka and Red Bulls with one of the coolest guys on the planet. Really. That should count for something, right?
Well, the episode entitled Easy Elegance which aired this past weekend made me take a good hard look at this rationale. The menu it featured was shocking on so many levels, I had to watch it twice to soak it all in. In addition, her table decor and matching outfit crossed the line from cute and kitchy to borderline brothel. And so, in the name of good blogging I've crunched a few numbers to help us all make sense of the shark-jumpage...
Semi-Homemade Cooking - Easy Elegance
The Shocking Totals:
Cans of Soup:
6 (4 condensed, undiluted)
4 (including, but not limited to, Shake and Bake, Onion Soup and Vanilla Pudding Mix)
Misc. Other Ingredients:
1 lb. ground beef
1 1/4 lbs. ground pork
2+ Cans Evaporated Milk
1 Pound Cinnamon Rolls
4 Cups (light!) Butter Pecan Ice Cream
(Paltry) Fresh Vegetable Count:
Keep in mind that these recipes are meant to be served together as a complete menu for 4-6 people. That's one whole can of prepared soup and 6 oz. of meat per person, just for starters. Yikes! I mean, she's never claimed to be a healthy chef, but this is ridiculous. This episode should have come with a disclaimer for diabetics and those suffering from high blood pressure. The worst part? It looked kinda good to me after watching her show all these years. Sad to say I can't say the same for the show's theme decor - it brought to mind an antique store tea room on acid. I think I'm going to have to re-evaluate my cooking show criteria, and in the meantime, I'll be keeping an eye on Sandy.