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Beef With Sandra Lee

Posted Sep 22 2011 12:05am

Those of you that are familiar with my recipes might have noticed a common theme: I always take the semi-homemade approach.

I applaud those that make baked goods from scratch and grow fresh herbs in their apartment, but I long ago accepted that truly homemade would never be my thing. I’m way too messy in the kitchen, and if a recipe has more than 5 steps, I will no doubt make a gigantic mistake.

Remember the Friends episode where Rachel Green tries to make a “Traditional English Trifle” for Thanksgiving desert ends up with a wacky food combination that’s a cross of Shepard’s Pie and some fruity dessert?

What's not to like? "Custard..good! Jam...good...Meat....goooood!"

Yeah, that’s me (without the perfect, trend-setting haircut).

So, that’s why I cook out of a box, can or pouch 90% of the time. And I’m not ashamed! The “Semi-Homemade” approach is easy, fun and still gives me that same “look, I baked” feeling of satisfaction. Win, Win.

But, you know what’s drives me crazy…

This woman – The Queen of Semi-Homemade , Sandra Lee.

Doling out sloppy joes and lookin' like Susie Homemaker...I don't get it!

As you all know, I’m not much of a people basher, so please, allow me to explain myself.

Love her recipes, love her website, love her show, even love her magazine…but Sandra Lee as a person to me is one big CONTRADICTION.

I remember the first time I saw her show. I was finally in my first “big girl’s apartment” post college in 2005 and the Food Network had become my latest night-time obsession. I almost changed the channel when I saw this proper, perfectly primped blondie on the screen. But, then I noticed a box of cake mix on the screen and decided to watch for a bit longer.

Actual photo from 2007! My first Semi-Homemade Pie!!

From there, I was hooked! Finally, somebody embracing the same concept my mother had been preaching to me for years! For some reason, the fact that this semi-homemade approach to cooking was featured on Food Network made it legitimate in my eyes. At the time, I was interning at a PR firm in Chicago, and I promptly walked into the office the next day with healthified cupcakes in tow proudly declaring, “They’re semi-homemade. You know, out-of-the box.”

Over the years, I’ve remained loyal to ol’ Sandra Lee and her semi-homemade recipes…but something’s always bothered me. As I’ve come to understand the true meaning of branding and speaking to your target audience through my day job, I’ve realized my issue with Sandra Lee:

Homegirl is NOT the picture of a semi-homemade woman.

Now, let me just caveat this statement with the fact that, being a true journalist, I have done my research. Her backstory , is in fact extremely compelling and admirable. I’m not taking anything away from that.

But, in my opinion, a woman who bakes from the box and out of the bag might not always be so…put together. I stopped watching her show because, frankly, I just don’t relate to her whatsoever. All of my fave celebrity chefs are people I feel like I can identify with on some level, and Sandra Lee, well, frankly girl, you’re out of my league.

Your kitchen is white…and you never spill.

The white kitchen doesn't fly in a Sometimes Healthy House.

A semi-homemade woman likely wouldn’t have a white kitchen because she would mess it up the minute she breaks out  the mixer…or if she’s a mother, one of her little angels would probably drip ketchup all over those lovely white walls.

Your always create perfect “matchy matchy” tablescapes expect a girl who is BFF with Betty Crocker and Duncan Hines to recreate this? Fo real?

Whenever I watch her shows, I want to pat myself on the back for following her recipe, but then she has to go and place that perfect food on a picture-perfect “tablescape.” One step at a time, Sandra. This Sometimes Healthy “Semi-Homemade” girl can barely clean the kitchen – now you’re telling me to put the food on a pretty table. Anyway, my point is that a semi-homemade woman (in my eyes) might not have the time or skills to throw the above table together, no matter how “simple” it might be. Can you just show me how to properly wipe off my countertop, instead Sandy? I’m still stuck on that step.

You always look like you stepped out of the cover of Good Housekeeping

If I figured out how to make cupcakes likes can bet I wouldn't look like that afterwards.

Okay, I get it. It’s a magazine cover – she has to look nice and “photo ready.” But, just once, I’d like to see her let loose a bit. Maybe throw that shiny blond hair in a messy bun? Perhaps sport a t-shirt and jeans? Heck, she could even go wild and actually take a big, obnoxious bite out of one of those juicy burgers she makes on her grilling episodes. She always looks so buttoned up to me, and I just feel like a “cake box baker” might have a hair out of place every now and then.

Semi-Homemade Does Not = Hot Mess

Overall, I find Sandra’s sheer perfection out of line with the semi-homemade concept. Now, I’m not saying that a semi-homemade person should be equivalent to a hot mess like some people you might know…

All I’m sayin’ is that if I could have my way, the face of semi-homemade would be more relatable…a little flawed…a little funny.

That's more like it ;-)

I’m sure Sandra has double crossed all of her t’s and triple dotted her i’s with the trademarking around anything and everything “semi-homemade.” So, no one will be taking over as the face of that brand anytime. But, just for fun, I thought it would be neat to play around with potential replacements:

Lorelai Gilmore – Gilmore Girls

This woman is capable of major kitchen disasters, but she can tackle the semi-homemade.

The picture says it all. She’s disheveled, yet completely together. She isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty, but clearly isn’t capable of executing a “from scratch” meal on her own. And she probably ends up looking like this after she turns on a mixer.

Lynette Scavo – Desperate Housewives

Her husband may have a pizzeria, but that doesn't mean she cooks from scratch. She's busy.

Bri = Sandra Lee. Lynette = Semi-homemade. Enough said.


Now, THIS is what a picture the “cake box” woman to be like. Dear Food Network: Please combine Sandra Lee’s simple recipes with Ellen’s approachable and entertaining dialog…You can thank me later.

I’m not a hater. I’ll still watch her show every now and then, and I’ll definitely surf her website for recipes. But, I’ll hold onto hope that one of these days she’ll let that hair down a bit and shed some light on the fun imperfections and quirky flaws that make up the modern day semi-homemade woman.

Until then, Sandra Lee, here’s my advice to you…


Who’s your fave celeb chef? Why do you like him/her?

Do you agree with my thoughts about Sandra Lee? Who would you pick to the face of the semi-homemade brand? Let’s discuss…

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