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Semi-Homemade Cooking    by Sandra Lee order for
Semi-Homemade Cooking
by Sandra Lee
Order:  USA  Can
Hyperion, 2002

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* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Semi-Homemade Cooking starts with an introduction by Wolfgang Puck! It then goes on to state that cooking not-from-scratch can produce fabulous meals using pre-packaged, brand name ingredients. After tips for making life easier, Lee starts with breakfast. The recipes are accompanied with suggestions for appropriate music, a ice touch. Using name brand ingredients the author creates a great Crepes Benedict, and suggests French Apple-Raisin Sandwiches, using prepared apple pie filling. Morning Glory Fondue sounds like it would do for a brunch as well as breakfast. Lee asks her readers' opinions on her Pumpkin and Cinnamon Pancakes.

For lunch, her Pepper-Peach Chicken Skewer sounds wonderful; love to try it. Southwestern Turkey Chili and Corn Bread, Prosciutto and Goat Cheese Pizza, Salad Chinois, Six-Cheese Tortellini - Wow! I'd sit at Sandra Lee's table any day. Barring that, I'll have to get busy making these easy dishes myself. For dinner, appropriate wine is suggested as well as music. The author has an interesting take on chicken with Dijon Chicken and Mushrooms. Steak Pinwheels with Sun-Dried Tomato Stuffing and Rosemary Mashed Potatoes look really good.

I want to try the Lemon Turkey Cutlets. Mushroom Steak and Sweet Mash take me back to family dinners when I was a child. That's a long time ago, but the picture brought a smile to this wrinkled face. I love salmon, so the different Tropical Salmon with a Chive Sauce and interesting Rice with Tropical Fruit Mix and Peanuts (along with the recommended Chardonnay) would more than make me happy. Semi-Homemade Cooking has truly decadent desserts, easy to put together. Lead me to Raspberry Trifle with Rum Sauce. Gorgeous. Talk about nostalgia - Vanilla Cream Pie! Or Berry Cookie Cobbler - to die for. I can't resist fruit in most forms, especially with the filling bubbling over the rim of the bowl. Irresistible. The simplicity of Gooey Mud Pie belies the taste thrill on savoring it.

Appetizers and Cocktails - an array of these goodies featuring Sesame Chicken Drumettes, Pan-Fried Dumplings, Chorizo Taquitas, Crabmeat Cucumber Rounds and Smoked Salmon and Olive Blinis would go well with Beer Margaritas, Raspberry Sake or Gin Plush. And I'm sure Champagne Punch would partner well with White or Dark Chocolate Fondue. The advent of cold weather brings thoughts of hot, hearty soups. Lee has wonderful choices of warming soups - Crabby Bisque, Cheddar Potato Soup, Santa Fe Five-Bean Soup. Bring on the crusty bread. Or perhaps the following salads - Bay Shrimp and Avocado Salad or Eggy Potato Salad. Pasta Gazpacho Salad appeals to me. All the soups and salads are embarrassingly easy to prepare ... and look soooo good.

Now to my secret passion - Snacks. Caramel Popcorn - I can almost taste it. Mini Biscuit Pizzas, Bagel Chip Dip, Hummus Pitas - bring them all on, or one at a time. Lee claims she can save or dress up any dish with the right gravy or sauce. These suggestions would enhance any food. Creamy Mustard Sauce can be poured over both meat and potatoes or rice. There is Easy Warm Pesto, Vegetable Cream Sauce, Horseradish Cream Sauce, Herbed Tomato Sauce - all quick and easy. For a surprise ending, Sandra Lee has included homemade pet foods - from Bone-Nanza Bones to Kitty Tuna Cakes and Critter Granola.

This is a big, beautiful book, with lush photos. It includes easy-to-fix foods along with $ signs to signify whether the dish is expensive, or relatively inexpensive, to make; a good and welcome touch.

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