Hmmm. An attractive blond woman telling you what music to listen to while you eat dinner, and it's not Martha Stewart? Indeed, it is not. Sandra Lee's Semi-Homemade Cooking is about as far from Martha Stewart's world as you can get. The recipes are child's play to prepare, rely on lots and lots of packaged prepared ingredients, and are fast. (In fact, the cover proudly states that "Nothing is Made from Scratch.") Needless to say, this doesn't taste like Martha Stewart's cooking either. But in this world, that's a trade-off many people are willing to make.
People who will make use of Lee's book are not looking for alternatives to Martha they're looking for alternatives to McDonald's, off-the-shelf microwave meals, and yet another night of Lean Cuisine frozen dinners. In that context, these recipes shine. They provide more variety than you find in the supermarket freezer case. And in many households, it's not that people can't cook, it's that they need ideas (simple and fast ideas) for what to cook.
The recipes start at breakfast, take in lunch, and move to main-course dinners (generally a pasta, or meat with an accompanying starch recipe), with appetizers, snacks, soups, salads, desserts, cocktails, and, yes, a few pet foods along the way. Lee also includes information on how expensive a dish is to prepare, as well as suggestions on the wine to accompany the meal.
We find the references throughout the recipes to which brand of soup and which brand of mashed potatoes to buy to be tedious and a little cheesy. Must we buy Wonder® raisin bread for the French Apple-Raisin Sandwiches instead of another
raisin bread? We're also pretty sure most people can figure out on their own which brand of granulated sugar to buy. We doubt Lee is getting kickbacks from the manufacturers, but it looks a little like it.
Also, Lee lives in Los Angeles, and may have much better access to certain packaged foods than most of us. We can't find cans of Aunt Penny's® hollandaise sauce or Mrs. Frieda® prepared crepes in our supermarkets for the Crepes Benedict. We noticed a few other recipes, as well, where the ingredient search may be a problem. But in the context of a solid, practical cookbook, these criticisms are modest.