Thursday, January 14, 2010

Review: 'Cooking Light'

Back in August I was asked by Time Inc. to take a look at, and review, the redesign of one of their magazines: 'Cooking Light.' It's a magazine I'd never heard of as I tend to read like most 'foodies' I know the more highbrow food magazines. Gourmet (RIP), Cook's Illustrated, Food & Wine, Bon App├ętit, Sunset, Saveur and so on. My schedule since the fall has been so horrendous that I haven't had time to keep up with my life let alone my blog. I hope that's changed now. In any case, a couple of days ago I finally started looking through 'Cooking Light' and I liked what I saw. It's actually not only about food; it's a lifestyle magazine. The format is not like the glossies mentioned above. It's a very busy, full to-the-brim publication with a lot of worthwhile content. There can be a lot to look at on the page but that's okay. Here, content is king. This magazine is all about living a healthy lifestyle while keeping costs affordable. Here's a tag line that sums up the magazine's philosophy: 'healthy can and does taste great.'

First and foremost 'Cooking Light' aims to help the overextended working individual or family eat healthily and economically by highlighting meals that are quick and easy to make without forfeiting nutrition or flavor. The magazine contains such sections as 'Restaurant Navigator' which offers healthy strategies for dining out; 'Feed 4 For Less Than $10,' healthy easy-to-make meals for a family of four; 'A Carb Lover's Guide to Nutrition,' this section offers guidelines on what carbohydrates to eat and how to eat them. In addition to the many pages of recipes, the magazine is full of lifestyle tips: diet and exercise guidelines, information on health and beauty, travel and shopping, food and nutrition.

When I first saw the magazine I was afraid there would be recipes with 'frozen' and 'can' on the ingredient lists but the opposite is the case. For the most part the ingredients are fresh. Many of the recipes list low-sodium products, skinless chicken, premium products like pecorino Romano, fresh herbs and spices, and the occasional exotic ingredient like spicy Sriracha sauce. This speaks to efforts to make the dishes both healthy and tasty. Not always easy to do. Once I became used to the idea that this wasn't the more staid design of those 'other' magazines; that it was, well, uhm -- busier, I liked it. It's clean, easy-to-follow, modern, and colorful. It grabs the reader and pulls them in. It's the kind of magazine that says 'hey, look at me! I have important things you need to know! Things that will make your life easier, healthier, happier!' and it works. Right up front on page six is a recipe index. Need something fast? Don't have time to read the magazine? Or to spend time thumbing through it? Find a recipe in the index and turn right to it. Single page layouts have category identifying banners across the top corner of the page ('Healthy Living Cooking' or 'Dinner Tonight!') and big, bold titles that grab your attention; many also have step-by-step instructions with numbers and lists that are boxed or shaded making it to easy to follow along. I like these touches. They make the pages accessible.

While the magazine outwardly has little to do with the idea of one hundred miles and sustainability, it does promote eating and living a healthy lifestyle and that alone is a very good thing. To be honest I wasn't sure I'd like the magazine when I first received it but after spending a little time with it I do. It's comfortable like a favorite pair of slippers. The redesign, the recipes, the writing are all very approachable. This is a magazine to use on a daily basis not to take to bed for bedtime reading. Leave it on the kitchen counter as you'll need to use it tomorrow.

Please Vote For Me! The Foodista Best of Food Blogs Cookbook Contest: I have entered my baked papaya recipe, 'Chef Wally's Baked Papaya,' into the Foodista Best of Food Blogs Cookbook contest. If selected the recipe will be published in cookbook published by Andrews McMeel Publishing. To vote go to the top of my blog to the Foodista icon. Thanks!

My Status: winter in Southern California -- warm days, cold nights, comfort food. Off to Yosemite at the end of January to attend a 'Chefs' Holidays 2010 at the Ahwanee' event: three days of cooking demos, lectures and eating with chefs Suzanne Goin, Duskie Estes and John Stewart. Can't wait! Also new cookbooks to try, some to review; new kitchen equipment to use. More cooking, eating, writing, and blogging.

Upcoming Posts: Reviews: Venezia: Food & Dreams by Tessa Kiros, My Nepenthe: Bohemian Tales of Food, Family and Big Sur by Romney Steele, The Spirit Kitchen: Everyday Cooking with Organic Spices by Sara Engram and Katie Luber and Kimberly Toqe.

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  1. I actually have a Cooking Light cookbook that highlights the best of 10 years, and it is one of my favorite books. The recipes are fresh and healthy without being crazy 'diet'. Glad that you liked the new recipes, I will have to check out the magazine again!

  2. Cooking Light has a huge array of great recipes. There are a few bloggers who feature meals from the mag all the time, and they always look good. They've done a great job with the mag's content!

  3. Though I don't subscribe to the magazine, I see the recipes from it that many bloggers post and they are pretty excellent! Thanks for a great review!

  4. I was also surprised by the content in Cooking Light. I thought, incorrectly, that it was all "low fat" and diety (things I run from) but I was wrong. I found this out when they picked up one of my recipes for their website a few months ago.

  5. Thanks, Kristen. I have been pleasantly surprised by the number of people I know who read, or have read, this magazine. So cool that they picked up one of your recipes! Congrats.