We imagine Sandra Lee is a lifesaver in many households. She must be, if her steady production of new cookbooks is any measure. Her approach has you combining 70% ready-made foods with 30% fresh ingredients, so that in 20 minutes or less you have something ready to eat. In this book, she suggests combinations of main-course, side-dish, and dessert recipes so that you can quickly put together full meals.
Cooking from her books is not as simple as stumbling home, opening the book, and whipping something up. You have to plan ahead to have a pretty specific group of ingredients on hand – as always, Lee specifies the brand of ingredients she wants you to use. (Less mainstream ingredients will be hard to find.) You also have to have hard-boiled eggs on hand or other prepared ingredients for some recipes, which occasionally kills the 20-minute promise.
Chapters include Snacks & Starters; Pasta; Beef, Pork & Lamb; Fish & Shellfish; Chicken & Turkey; and Treats & Desserts (which includes a few cocktails). With some recipes, it is a misnomer to use the word "cooking;" it is more accurate to refer to "assembling" or "decorating."
As usual, we have serious reservations about some of her recipes. The Pink Strawberry Popcorn made with strawberry Kool-Aid looks horrible; the Chocolate Caramel Corn Candy Cubes contain about a billion calories each (and we never count calories!); and the Shrimp and Cheesy Grits suffer in both name and execution. For at least some of these recipes we ask ourselves if it wouldn't be simpler and just as tasty to buy something frozen at the grocery store? Lee's Fettuccine with Parmesan Sauce, in which you combine bottled white sauce with DiGiorno grated Parmesan cheese, looks like more work than simply buying Stouffer's Fettuccine Alfredo, and the result doesn't really look better (although Lee dresses hers up with a bit of fresh parsley and a touch of cayenne pepper).
There is no subtlety in the dishes presented in this book. Still, there is a good mix of innovative, creative, quick recipes, and if Sandra Lee is a lifesaver in your household, you'll like this book as much as or more than her earlier efforts.