Cooking Light Makeover: The Good, The Bad, and The Peanut Butter

A few weeks ago I received an email from a Cooking Light rep about checking out their September issue, which was the first month to sport their “new look.” As you may have read prior, I broke down earlier this year and indulged in a subscription (read my note at the end before you think about doing it yourself!), so she didn’t need to send me a copy, mine was already on its way.

My take on the “new Cooking Light?” Well, I have been reading Cooking Light since some time in the mid-90’s, so I had grown very familiar with their format, and I can say they have shaken things up a bit. Here are a couple sample pages to offer the color scheme and department-thing they are going for:


The Bad:

The “look” is really 1980’s if you ask my husband and I. They have gone out with the solid-colored backgrounds, and brought in white pages with red writing and what looks to be bigger fonts (possibly good, but does this mean less content?). It does make the food photos pop more, but gives the mag a cheaper look in my opinion. Also, the pages seem “busier,” which bugs my eyes a bit. Of course, these factors don’t affect the content, so I am sure I will get used to it!

The only content complaint I have is the new flow of the magazine. I actually really, really liked how the first half of the magazine focused on health living stories and tidbits, while the second half focused on the actual recipes and cooking. I always enjoyed reading the substance first and then feeling rewarded for my attention with the abundant food photography and recipes after. Plus, it made it easy for me to go back and find a story even if I couldn’t remember the name. The new format jumbles everything altogether, a story here, a recipe there. It will take me a little time to get used to the new flow I think.

The Good:

At least one photo with every recipe. Need I say more? Well, you really can’t shut me up so … I am not sure if this means less recipes overall, but thus far, I haven’t felt slighted. I wasn’t someone who was yearning for all of those photos, but who am I to complain about additional eye candy?

They seem to be keeping up with the times. There has been a huge shift in the magazine’s focus (at least from what I noticed) to fast and frugal. Words like “easy” abound, with a feel for more simple home cooking and money-saving tips.

They have added several more “departments,” which I find quite fun. The magazine seems much more compartmentalized, with more consistent base topics each month allowing you to look forward to your favorite sections each month. Just a few include the The Superfast 20-minute dishes, Dinner Tonight 7 easy menus, 10  Things to Know About, Stress Free, Ask Our Dietician, and my current favorite … New Uses for Everyday Ingredients … which brings us to …

The Peanut Butter:

The “New Uses for Everyday Ingredients” section offers up a few fun suggestions for using three everday ingredients that you may not have thought of. The September issue highlighted ground red pepper (cayenne), fresh rosemary, and good ol’ PB. As you may have noticed, I am on a PB kick lately, so I was most excited about some of their suggestions:

  1. Substitute 3 tablespoons of creamy or chunky peanut butter for 1 egg as a binder for meatballs with an Asian flavor profile. ~ you can bet I will be trialing this idea!
  2.  Use 1 to 2 tablespoons natural or chunky peanut butter to add body to a brothy soup. ~ I actually love this technique in African Peanut Soup, but could see some more potential.
  3. Stir 1 tablespoon creamy peanut butter into a broth-based pan sauce for pork or chicken in place of the dairy butter to finish the sauce and add richness. ~ The husband isn’t a fan of PB with meat, but I have used other nut butters this way (cashew, brazil nut, and pine nut) and it is awesome!

Now there is one more great use for PB or other nut butter that I just discovered, which they didn’t list here:

Alisa’s #4: Stir 1 to 2 tablespoons of nut butter into a tomato rich soup or sauce to cut the acidity of the tomatoes a bit and mellow the flavor. I did this just this week with a tomato basil soup, and it really did cut the acidity and added to the overal flavor/texture. Now, if I can find my dang notes, I will post the recipe!

Do you have any other ideas for using PB or nut butters? Have you seen the new Cooking Light look? If so, what do you think?

Two final notes:

There is a feature in the October 2009 issue of Cooking Light (on newsstands now) called “How to Build a Better Noodle Bowl.” Oh my goodness, if you love all types of noodle dishes (from Japan, China, Malaysia, Italy, Singapore, Spain, and Thailand) then you must check this article out! I am hoping to trial every single one of the noodle bowl recipes.

Since discovering that the recipe indexes and all of the recipes for the issues are now posted online, I won’t be wasting the paper on print issues in the future. I had no idea! So to help save some trees, I suggest you check out the Cooking Light Current Issue page online, before deciding that you need the full thing in print. A handy new feature for us E-recipe junkies.