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A busy mom's guilty pleasure - my top ten cooking shows worth watching


I have to admit it.  I have been a cooking show addict for many many years.  I may be dating myself but I can remember the day when there was no such thing as a Food Network.  The only cooking shows to be found were on PBS and highlighted the brilliant yet sometimes confusing recipes of Julia Child and a very young Jaques Pepin.  These days we have our pick of a variety of culturally diverse shows as well as shows designed to meet every culinary budget.  How can one possibly come up with the top ten shows available today?  Well, the first criteria should be simplicity of instruction.  Just how well can the host explain the art of complex cookery?  Then, the topics should be varied and accessible to many different types of cooks.  An entire series on curry, perhaps, would be a little limiting in scope and appeal. With that in mind, after the many hours I have spent watching endless recipes being played out, I humbly suggest that the top ten cooking shows today are as follows;


10. $40 a day with Rachel Ray

Let's face it.  We may all be a  little tired of Rachel Ray.  I mean she was cool a few years back.  But now she has the backing of Oprah and has become a mega Brand of her own.  This show was taped back when she was still the little simple Rachel from the backwoods of up state New York.  Her mission every week was to visit a new city and eat an entire day's worth of meals while spending under under $40.  Most days she would manage to eat more than I could put away in a week. Her trips were intriguing though because you managed to get a snapshot into places you'd like to visit or reminisce over places you've been.


9. Healthy Appetite with Ellie Krueger

While her recipes can sometimes get a bit mundane, Ellie Krueger really does get across the every day healthy cooking methods that most families can incorporate into their busy lifestyles.  She is not flashy but very clear, concise, methodical and dependable.  Just like a nice healthy serving of Edamame.


8.  Paula's Home Cooking with Paula Deen

I must admit that Paula's style of cooking does not really fit in with my lifestyle.  I am not from the South and I do not usually have the time to whip up massive meals for family and friends.  But if I did, I would do it up just like Paula Deen.  She has a personality that is larger than life and a heart of gold.  Plus, her personal story is a very inspirational one.  I'd love to be a guest at one of her dinner parties!


7. Semi Homemade Cooking with Sandra Lee

Now, normally, this kind of show would not be my cup of tea.  I'm  all about making simple but healthy meals from scratch.  But something about the way Sandra Lee puts a menu together is really comprehensive.  And I mean, she designs the whole enchilada (no pun intended) from her "table scapes" as she calls them, (a very elaborate and fun way of decorating your table to meet your theme), to very fancy and intricate cocktails that match each meal.  Plus, she manages to put it all together with some store bought products and make it all look genuine and home made, or well, semi home made.


6. Boy Meets Grill with Bobby Flay

Now, if I had my way, I would list the original "Hot off the Grill with Bobby Flay."  It was awesomely under produced.  Just Bobby and his sidekick partner Jacqui Malouf.  They made a great pair, just hanging out at an outside bar, blending up some cocktails and grilling up some summer bites.  Alas, the Bobby Flay we have now is much more polished and shiny.  His current shows are very well done, however, and this one seems to capture the simplicity of the earlier Bobby Flay.  Plus, I have a whopper of a crush on the guy.  I'd pretty much watch him wash the dishes on prime time television.


5. Guys Big Bite

OK, again, this is not really a cooking show, but a show about restaurants around America that serve some of the best All American Food that you have ever seen. The reason this show made the list is because every time I watch his show I am incredibly awed by how mouth-watering the food looks and also by Guy Fieri's ability to eat absolutely everything that is unhealthy for you and still look pretty good.  Really, it's just a great show to scope out some of the country's best "simple" restaurants.


4. Barefoot Contessa with Ina Garten

I dare you to watch this show and not want to move to New England and grow hydrangeas by your back door.  I just want to be her friend and get invited over to her simple yet to-die-for kitchen in the Hamptons.  I can promise you that nobody makes a roast chicken look better.  Her simple recipes are packed with the best ingredients and she makes every meal look simply delicious.  In my next life I want to be her.



3. Giada at Home

Again, it's kind of all about the host.  Sure she makes simple and beautiful Italian dishes from her glorious yet simple home kitchen.  But it's her relaxing and warm demeanor that really draws you in.  She's like a cooking show version of Xanax.  Plus, my husband admires the way she always has a low-cut shirt on.  I guess it can't hurt her ratings.  Still she is utterly nonthreatening and delicious to watch.



2. Good Eats with Alton Brown

If you can get over his decidedly bizarre sense of humor and his wacky sketches featuring his "family" and friends, this might just be the most informative cooking show that has been produced to date.  It focuses on the science behind cooking yet still manages to make quite a few daunting techniques seem simple.  This is a show worth watching for both the experienced and inexperienced cook.


1. Nigella Bites

My favorite part about Nigella's shows (other than her complete and utter contempt for skimping on butter and fat) is that she is always talking about what foods are great for a hangover.  I mean, that's a real person.  I trust her to give me some reliable advice.  She also throws in great recipes for Bloody Mary's for "the day after."  Doesn't she sound like a hoot.  She manages to make roasted lamb with potatoes look like the best thing that's ever been created.  Not to mention that every show ends with her scavenging her fridge for a late night snack.  I need more friends like that.


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