Sandra Lee dishes on Halloween
Having trouble pulling together a Halloween costume? Try thinking up five of them. Sandra Lee shares recipes from her Halloween episode of “Semi-Homemade Cooking,” which aired at 11:30 a.m. ET this past Sunday on the Food Network.
That's how many costumes Sandra Lee sported for the Halloween episode of her Food Network show, "Semi-Homemade Cooking."
Picture Queen Elizabeth, Lady Marian, and Sandra Lee's own creation, a Faireen. In fairness, we should mention that she had somewhat of a dream team helping her out: the costumes are by Bob Mackie, the fashion designer who has famously outfitted Cher and Elton John in sparkly ensembles. Makeup and hair? Celebrity makeup artist Mark Payne.
Costume changes are always a part of the Halloween episode of "Semi-Homemade Cooking," now in its 14th season. The costumes are over-the-top and elaborate; Lee's approach to cooking is not.
Her cooking show is all about taking shortcuts with recipes by using store-bought ingredients. And she always shows a crafty way to set the table (she calls it a "tablescape") and how to shake a cocktail—a couple of bonus activities for the time you've saved on making dinner.
Lee has penned 21 cookbooks, too. Her most recent, "Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade: The Complete Cookbook," is filled with more than 1,000 recipes and 500 color photos. It's a compilation cookbook, but 200 recipes are new.
We caught up with Lee to talk about dressing up, cooking at home, and auctioning off this season's tablescapes for charity.
SheKnows: On your Halloween show, we'll see you dressed up as Queen Elizabeth, Lady Marian, and Robin Hood. Who else?
Sandra Lee: I have always been a huge fan of Halloween and I've always had the same [costume] team every single year. But they went so far out [this year] and above what we've ever done.
I invented a character called Faireen; it's queen and fairy put together—she's queen of the fairies. And Faireen is over the top. If I ever want to not be Sandra Lee and I need a new gig, I'm going to become Faireen. Faireen does cocktails in huge votive glasses and she does cheesecake on plume feather sticks. I close the show as Cher, the Dark Lady gypsy fortune teller—I make a cocktail called Crystal Ball Cocktail.
SK: You've taped hundreds of shows and have 21 cookbooks. How do you keep things fresh?
Sandra Lee: It's just what I do. As an idea comes to me, I write it down and keep it together. I'm very organized.
SK: Do you jot everything down in one place?
Sandra Lee: I have napkins, I have notepads, I have business cards; whatever is around when I come up with an idea.
SK: You're auctioning off your tablescapes from this season of "Semi-Homemade Cooking" for charity. How can people bid on them?
Sandra Lee: Because they are so spectacular and so special and popular, we're going to auction them off on eBay. Every single week a new tablescape is released through the end of the year, and you can pick the one you want and bid on it. You get what you see [in the photos of the tablescapes], everything but the food. You also get a signed copy of the new cookbook.
If you go to foodnetwork.com/sandralee or facebook.com/sandralee or sandralee.com, you will see that we have partnered for the benefit of Share Our Strength, which is an organization that feeds more than 17 million children in our country who are at risk for hunger every day [proceeds from the auction will go to Share Our Strength].
SK: Were you the first person to come up with the word "tablescape"?
Sandra Lee: Yes, I was; I also was the first person to put cocktail time into every show.
SK: On "Semi-Homemade Cooking," you typically make dishes using 70 percent store-bought ingredients and 30 percent fresh ingredients, but you've changed the format a bit this season, right?
Sandra Lee: In every single segment you're going to see recipes two ways. [We use] 70 percent store-bought, ready-made [ingredients], plus 30 percent fresh ingredients. If you want to cook fresher, we're shopping 70 percent on the perimeter of the [grocery] store (where you find produce, meat, and dairy sections) and 30 percent on the interior of the store (where you find pre-packaged foods). I'm just giving you two options for the same recipe. One might take a little longer than the other, but it's your choice; it's only to give you options.
SK: What's on your plate for Halloween?
Sandra Lee: I like to do something that is festive and delicious and quick and easy. There's black and blue quesadillas: you lay down a tortilla, put down Monterrey cheese, French's premade onion rings, sliced up steak tossed in Worcestershire sauce and barbecue sauce, or steak sauce, whatever you've got. Then, put blue cheese crumbles on top of that and fold it over, grill it or put it in a sauté pan, and you've got a black and blue quesadilla that's to die for.
SK: What are you making at home, away from the camera?
Sandra Lee: We're into baking, because baking is a good way for kids to learn how to cook. It requires exact measurements; it's almost like science meets food. It's fun, because when they're done, they feel accomplished and they have something to eat.
The big thing this week was a Halloween confetti cake. (Thirteen-year-old Michaela) calls me on the phone, I was at a personal appearance somewhere out of state, and she said, "Sandy, what can I put in here instead of water? " I said, "Well, honey, you want to pump up the flavor and I got you some Martinelli's sparkling apple cider, why don't you put that in there instead of water?" She did and her dad ate half the cake.
Sandra Lee shares recipes from her Halloween episode of "Semi-Homemade Cooking," which aired at 11:30 a.m. ET this past Sunday on the Food Network.