The Premise: For her budget-friendly show, the queen of shortcuts Sandra Lee has taken a big step back to simple, truly homemade dishes. In the egg-themed episode we watched, we didn't see her use a single pre-made item. Really! Instead, she explained that it's cheaper to buy carrots whole instead of pre-cut, but recommended pre-sliced mushrooms instead of whole ones because they cost the same. These decisions seem to be purely cost based and less about quality, but the recipes themselves were pretty appealing: Savory Bread Pudding with Sausage and Mushrooms, Spinach and Potato Frittata, and Farmhouse Hash with Pot-poached Eggs.
The Style: The all-white kitchen set is also seriously pared down compared to what we're used to seeing on Semi-Homemade. You won't find curtains to match each meal's theme here. But there are still hints of the matchy-matchy Sandra we all know – some yellow flowers and cupcakes in the background matched her all-yellow outfit perfectly. And the show does have its own gimmick that we found a little irritating. As each recipe is explained, a graphic appears with the cost of each ingredient, Pop-Up Video style.
The Extras: At the end of the episode, Sandra introduced the "Round 2 Recipe" – a bonus dish made with leftover ingredients. A helpful idea, despite the goofy name. This time around, she used leftover Savory Bread Pudding Muffins to make Savory French Toast with Apple Mustard Sauce.
The Verdict: We're all for saving money, but this show takes it a little far with the pop-up graphics and constant comments about cost. We appreciate the made-from-scratch approach, however, and the recipes look simple and delicious.
$10 Dinners with Melissa d’Arabian
The Premise: The latest winner of The Next Food Network Star recently debuted her first show, and as the name suggests, it's all about dinners that can be made for $10 or less. We checked out the "Perfectly Priced Parisian" episode where she prepared an Apple Sauce Granita, Potato Torte with Gruyere and Bacon, and a mixed green salad.
The Style: Melissa's new to the TV world, and her delivery is a bit choppy at times. We wanted to tell her to breathe as she frantically placed applesauce and lemon juice into a pan for her granita and announced that it "takes about 10 seconds!" But as the episode went on, she seemed to get into her groove and calm down. She explained that she uses her French mother-in-law's pie crust recipe for the potato torte and cuts family member's initials into pie tops, just like her own mother used to do. She also offered several helpful tips: roll your pie dough onto the roller to transfer to the pan, rub garlic into the salad bowl to add flavor to the dressing, and add a splash of soy sauce to salad dressings for a little extra saltiness (and umami!).
The Reality: The money-saving angle is clear, but costs are given for each dish instead of each ingredient. Is the $10 promise realistic? We're not quite sure. You'd certainly have to be a very shrewd shopper to keep costs that low with ingredients like bacon, cream, Gruyere and butter.
The Verdict: We started off a bit skeptical, but Melissa won us over with delicious-looking food and interesting tips. She just needs to relax a bit.
Have you seen the shows? What's your verdict?