Judge Ian Visser will have the Cream of Sum Yung Guy, with a side of Coney Island whitefish.
"I often recall the slow-cooked Sunday dinners we had when I was growing up, and wish that I could enjoy one right now."—Martha Stewart
Is anyone else hungry? Martha Stewart presents thirty of her fast and easy recipes for the hungry and impatient out there.
Facts of the Case
Unless you've had your head in a 5½ quart, all-clad copper core Le Creuset dutch-oven for the past twenty-odd years, you know who Martha Stewart is. She's the domestic diva, the queen of the kitchen, the lover of "good things." Since starting her own catering business back in the 1980s, Martha has gone on to create an empire of cookbooks, home decorating guides, and lifestyle how-to manuals. Something of a late-comer to the DVD market, Martha has launched a series of releases addressing holidays, dinners, and entertaining. Before the court is Martha's dinner disc The Martha Stewart Cooking Collection—Martha's Favorite Family Dinners.
The dinner recipes are organized into five categories, each one getting six different kitchen concoctions.
I'm not going to get into a debate about whether Ms. Stewart is a godsend to domestically-challenged housewives, or a cruel slave-master that drives women to be chained to an ideal that cannot possibly be met in our busy world. The fact is this: my wife likes Martha Stewart, my mother-in-law likes Martha Stewart, and my own mother likes Martha Stewart. Whatever opinion I may have is going to be drowned out by the sound of a wooden spoon being rapped sharply on the side of a mixing bowl.
So does The Martha Stewart Cooking Collection—Martha's Favorite Family Dinners meet the expectations of its audience? The answer is most certainly a "yes." Throughout the course of thirty recipes, Martha presents fast and easy dinners that require only a few ingredients and are able to be attempted by even minor-league cooks. Some recipes, like the Rice and Beans get away from Martha in terms of difficulty, but much of this is due to the occasional guest chefs that are brought in. Their recipes tend to be a little more complicated, but this is only the case in a few of the examples.
The recipes offered cover a nice mix of cooking and ingredients. The basics of fish, meat, pasta, and chicken are covered by a variety of recipes, and the inclusion of a vegetarian category is a nice nod to the non-meaties out there. Martha leads the viewer through all the steps of the preparation and cooking, and having the content on DVD allows one to simply "pause" the disc and catch up as required while following along. The menus are organized in a simple, easy-to-use interface, and a "play all" feature is handy for someone watching the disc for the first time.
The packaging is a mixed bag. I like how all the recipes are listed on the back of the case, and any pictures used have their corresponding recipe in the caption so a viewer can find something if it is appealing to their eye. Unfortunately, The Martha Stewart Cooking Collection—Martha's Favorite Family Dinners comes in the dreaded snapper case that Warner Bros. still insists on using, making it more susceptible to damage. The DVD also comes with inserts for other Martha Stewart OmniMedia products, including her magazines, CDs, and other DVD releases. These inserts come dangerously close to being junk mail, and are better left out. I understand cross-marketing, but at least switch to the keeper case format so that these flyers can slip in somewhere and aren't left to float around in the case.
As the recipe episodes are all taken from recent broadcasts of a television show, the full-frame presentation should come as no surprise. That being said, the picture throughout the DVD is very sharp and clear, with no visible defects. The 2.0 Dolby Digital audio track is clear and balanced, with the cooking instructions easily audible over the hiss and crackling of the cooking. Subtitles are offered in French and Spanish. The package claims that English subtitles are also available, but I could not find this option on any part of the presentation.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
At this point, you may be assuming that this is a bare-bones disc with no special features. This isn't the case. The viewer gets a short but entertaining blooper reel, proving that Martha Stewart can laugh as hard at a penis-shaped carrot as anyone. Also included is a series of ten short clips taken from the television show that demonstrate such techniques as how to secure a cutting board, keep track of the TV remotes, and so on. Both of these extras are decent, and worth including.
The ball gets dropped on the third set of extras. Included is a printable list of recipes, shopping lists, and project instructions covering the thirty dinners on the DVD. On the surface, this is a great idea. You can get the recipe, the ingredients, and the tips to help with the cooking projects you have just watched. The problem comes when you try to access this feature. The information is not actually on the disc, and instead the user must be connected to the internet and using their computer, which will then allow the information to be available.
Except that it doesn't work. On two different computers I attempted to access the printable material, but nothing happens. All I got was a message that I should be using a PC with a DVD-ROM drive and an internet connection (which I was). The back of the case says that I must install InterActual, a spy ware-laden program, along with Flash 5.0 or higher to make the instructions accessible. I wasn't offered this option when I loaded the disc, so I have no idea how to install the necessary programs. Instead, I was instructed to visit the Martha Stewart website and download the individual files I needed.
I cannot see any reason why the text information could not have been offered on the disc. Many families have a television in the kitchen these days, and just seeing the information on-screen would be helpful. Even worse, the packaging claims the printable information is not available to Apple users, which isn't going to win any fans.
It's too bad the recipe lists and other text features aren't actually available on the disc. It would be nice to be able to refer to what is required for a recipe without having to print pages or go on-line. That being said, The Martha Stewart Cooking Collection—Martha's Favorite Family Dinners still manages to deliver plenty of quality recipes that are fast and easy to make.
Not guilty. Martha Stewart and her pixies are ordered to create a better feature for printable extras.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
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