Sandra Lee: Less Store-Bought, More Homemade

April Peveteaux

Sandra Lee
Semi-Homemade Cooking
Chef Sandra Lee has been a godsend to busy parents and celebrity fans alike, with her quick recipes that use 30% fresh ingredients and 70% ready-made items. Get it? You're cooking semi-homemade!

In an exclusive for The Stir, the Food Network has announced Sandra is flipping the fresh with the ready-made and will be teaching us all how to use 70% of fresh ingredients with our 30% pre-made, giving parents even healthier options, but still offering tips to cut down on mealtime prep while presenting dishes that look and taste like you've been slaving over a hot stove all day long. The new show airs September 27th.

Sandra talked to The Stir about who inspires her recipes and how to shop smart all year round.

How did you come up with the 70/30 combo in home cooking?

The Semi-Homemade philosophy, which uses 70 percent store-bought products that are right in your pantry with 30 percent fresh ingredients, is built on tips I learned from my Grandmother Lorraine. It's a solution that works for all kinds of homemakers, busy parents, working professionals and especially those who are looking to entertain at home. The best part is that you have more time to spend with family and friends and you can take 100 percent of the credit for a meal that presents as though it was entirely made from scratch.

Do you think there is a food revolution afoot?

With so many fantastic food programs, how can there not be a fabulous food revolution happening? I designed my television show Sandra's Money Saving Meals to help consumers adapt to the state of the current economy, by providing affordable, fresh and healthier meals.

Having just celebrated the one year anniversary of my magazine, Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade, I can share that we are focused on our own food revolution, clever crowd pleasing dishes.  

How do you feel about chefs, such as yourself, leading this revolution?

I have been blessed to have six wonderful years with the Food Network family. As a consumer advocate, I do all my own research to find what is going on in the marketplace and apply my 70/30 or philosophy or money-saving meals research to create dishes that never compromise taste or the integrity of the finished meal or product.

My days are filled with writing, selecting and developing recipes. My mind is always on the consumer: What does he or she need everyday? What's their life like? I always think, would this work for my sister Kimber or my best friend Colleen -- they're both terrific mothers who balance work and family. If the idea would not work for them, I don't do it.

What advice do you have for people who may not live close to a store or market that stocks fresh ingredients?

Keep track of sales at your grocery store and buy food in season when you can. When foods are out of season, prices more than double because of the shipping and handling costs. If an item is out of season, shop for it in the frozen-foods section and you will have the perfect solution.

Also, plan your meals out for the week. This way, if you need to stock up on fresh ingredients you will be shopping smart. By smart shopping you can save 39 to 50 percent savings on your grocery bill, which is a tremendous!

What is your favorite item in your kitchen? 

The slow cooker is my favorite kitchen appliance because it costs 3 cents in energy to run as opposed to 18 cents which is what a stove top costs -- an oven is about the same. And you can take inexpensive cuts of meat and make fall-off-the bone, exquisitely delicious main-course that impress. You can bake in it, you can make cocktails in it. You can serve in it. It's a one-pot wonder. My favorite is a Cuisinart 6.5 Quart Programmable Slow Cooker.

What is the one recipe every busy parent should have?

There is one thing we all as families have in common: our hectic schedules. A leisurely weekday breakfast with your kids and family dinners seem to happen less and less. Sundays are a perfect opportunity to reconnect and spend quality time together. Why not take time out to create a sweet moment with your family with our cinnamon rolls and turn Sunday into Funday? 

Pillsbury® cinnamon rolls are such an easy base for making a fabulous breakfast. Simply open the tube, arrange rolls in pan, bake and serve with the provided icing. My recipe for Apple Walnut Sticky Buns is a five-ingredient recipe that gets a quick start from Pillsbury® refrigerated cinnamon rolls and lets you enjoy all the goodness of a homemade treat. The best part? You don't have to waste time in the kitchen, precious time that you can now spend with your family.

What is your signature dish?

A fan favorite is my cowboy stew in my book Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade Weeknight Wonders.  This promises to please your cowboys and cowgirls at home. I like to use Hunt's Tomatoes that are flash-steamed and go from the vine to the can in hours. You can enjoy the backyard garden fresh taste of tomatoes year round with this dish.

Tune into the Food Network for Sandra's Money-Saving Meals and Semi-Homemade Cooking all week long.


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