Cookbook Review: Since When Does Semi Equal 70%?
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Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade Cooking 2

By Sandra Lee
ISBN: 0696227150
Publisher: Meredith
Publication date: September 2005
Format: Paperback
List price: $19.95  (Canada, UK)
Type: Quick & Easy
Sample recipe: Chocolate Buttermilk Pie
intended audience: novice advanced beginner good home cook gourmet professional
apparent goal: stocking stuffer sampler comprehensive Biblical stature coffee-table
competition: outclassed also-ran midrange strong challenger leads the pack
# of recipes: <50 <100 <200 <300 >300
practical recipes: <20% <40% <60% <80% >80%
# of ingredients: <3 <6 <9 <12 >12
ingredient hunt: 7-11 pantry supermarket online airfare required
recipe complexity: baby steps simple medium intense professional
instructions: inadequate bare bones full figured educational verbose
time conscious: outright lies speed of light fairly quick takes time takes all day
photos/drawings: skimpy adequate decorative instructive glorious
recipe results: dorm food casual food family meals fancy food fit for royalty
flavor quotient: disappointing fair good delicious exceptional
layout: ick cluttered clean kind to cooks work of art
legibility: microscopic challenging adequate clear brilliant
production quality: cheesy adequate years of service gift-quality stunning
value: ouch! a little pricey worth splurging on the money excellent
Ease of Use
page numbers: invisible hard to find hard to read adequate crystal clear
table of contents: missing frustrating passable useful great
index quality: none tragic adequate good excellent
page flipping: infuriating tedious acceptable rare never
writer: hack cook turned writer writer turned cook collaboration auteur
cook: self-taught non-restaurant chef teacher celebrity
overall rating: fair good above average excellent Ochef Top 100
Comments: Sandra Lee is back — smilingly singing her mantra of cooking with 70% prepared food and 30% fresh food. If you liked her first book, you'll certainly like the second.

Shopping is key to making this book work. You are unlikely to have all the ingredients on hand for any of these recipes, so you have to plan in advance and put together a pretty complete shopping list. Some of the ingredients are going to be hard to find — especially if you feel compelled to follow Lee's brand suggestions to the letter. We believe she tells you which brands to buy because she thinks they deliver the best taste, work best in her recipes, etc. But, to us, it's a little tiresome, and it is just plain silly — silly, silly, silly — to tell someone which brand of sugar to buy.

Some of the dishes in this book look little better than airline food (when airlines still served food). Some of the recipes fudge on the amount of time it will take you to get something ready (when an ingredient list calls for sliced onion, someone is going to have to slice it and it's going to take some time). Many recipes look over-spiced to us, since that is a way to compensate for the blandness of most prepackaged foods.

Yes, this is a book that will make food snobs weep, but it is many, many notches up from running out for fast food. (OK, the three variations on Kraft Macaroni & Cheese are only one modest notch up from fast food.) But there's a lot of variety in the recipes, some look quite good, and if this book gets a family eating at the table one or two more meals during the week, we're all for it.