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Better Homes and Gardens Fresh & Easy Meals
ISBN: 0470485833
Publisher: Wiley
Publication date: May 12, 2009
Format: Paperback
List price: $19.95
Sample recipe:Fajita Beef Salad
Intended audience: novice advanced beginner good home cook gourmet professional
Apparent goal: stocking stuffer sampler comprehensive coffee-table Biblical stature
Competition: outclassed follower in the pack strong challenger likely champ
Variety: too little too much unusual nice mix just right
# of recipes: <50 <100 <200 <300 ≥300
Practical recipes: <20% <40% <60% <80% ≥80%
# of ingredients: ≤4 ≤7 ≤10 ≤12 >12
Ingredient hunt: 7-Eleven airfare required online pantry supermarket
Recipe complexity: too hard simple medium challenging professional
Instructions: inadequate verbose bare-bones full-figured educational
Time conscious: unconscious outright lies white lies realistic honorable
Cooking time: weekend project takes all day takes time ≥30 minutes <30 minutes
Added info: zip overwhelming scant balanced generous
Photos/drawings: none distracting decorative instructive glorious
Recipe results: ≤dorm food casual food family meals fancy food fit for royalty
Nutritional info: nada overwhelming hit or miss adequate comprehensive
Tone: food police intense neutral supportive comforting
Result: guilt-inducing heavy-handed balanced encouraging inspiring
Format/Ease of Use
Layout: ugh cluttered fine considerate work of art
Legibility: unpleasant challenging tolerable clear brilliant
Production quality: cheesy dubious years of service gift quality stunning
Page numbers: non-existent hard-to-find spotty sufficient every page
Table of contents: AWOL frustrating passable useful excellent
Index quality: none tragic adequate good a treasure
Page flipping: upsetting tedious acceptable rare never
Writer: beginner food writer writing cook personality auteur
Cook: unknown self-taught chef teacher celebrity
Fulfills ambitions: falls short almost there satisfactory exceeds home run
Flavor delivered: sad inconsistent tasty delicious exceptional
Overall tone: sterile trying too hard straightforward best friend mom
Value: ouch! a little pricey worth splurging on the money a deal
Overall rating: skip it good very good excellent Ochef Top 100

Comments:Our question is this: When did Better Homes and Gardens stop using real food? Have we not been paying attention? Its books from a couple of years ago had real food, but this one is chock full of refrigerated or frozen egg product, heat-stable granular sugar substitute, fat-free mayonnaise dressing, frozen fat-free whipped dessert topping, low-calorie liquid sweetener, sugar-free pancake and waffle syrup product, (which is apparently different from) maple-flavored syrup, and fat-free cream cheese (the manufactured product we detest most on earth).

Now, we have no problem at all with the publishers of this world producing diet cookbooks. We have a huge problem with the publishers of this world producing diet cookbooks and acting as if they're mainstream cookbooks!

There's not a word on the front or back cover or the first few pages about this being a low-calorie, diet book filled with substitute food products. It says "good for you" and "wholesome." If eating engineered foods on a daily basis is better for us and more wholesome than eating real food, we have much bigger problems than can simply be put down to red states or blue states.

There are a few other issues where we take exception. Are the references to shredded orange and lime peel what most people call zest? Must our meatless tomato sauce be "purchased?" Yes, it most likely will be, but if we had the uncontrollable urge to make some tomato sauce, may we not do it? Does everyone know that specifying a "12-inch Italian bread shell" in a pizza recipe is essentially a reference to the trademarked product "Boboli?"

All recipes include nutritional information per serving, as well as an estimate of the preparation and cooking time involved. There is a chapter of slow-cooker recipes, which mostly look fine, but the special-occasion chapter recipes don't look very special.

If you're selling a diet book, call it a diet book. People will flock to it. As a diet book, this looks good, and the signs of Better Homes and Gardens' very lofty production standards are visible everywhere. But don't try to fool people who don't want a diet cookbook into thinking that this is mainstream cookbook. It is not.


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