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‘Semi-Homemade’ Star Sandra Lee Lands Lifestyle Show with ABC

‘Semi-Homemade’ Star Sandra Lee Lands Lifestyle Show with ABC

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Sandra Lee is launching another television show

How long until someone creates the Sandra Lee Cocktail Time drinking game?

Sandra Lee, the longtime girlfriend of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and, of course, the former host of Food Network’s Semi-Homemade Cooking, has reportedly landed her own lifestyle television show with the ABC network, according to Page Six.

Lately, the politically connected hostess has been scheduling appearances on Good Morning America to promote Sandra Lee Cocktail Time Margaritas, the ready-to-serve tequila beverage created in partnership with Diageo.

The show does not yet have a name. Will Sandra Lee do any cooking, or, perhaps, cocktail-making on the show? We have no idea, but let’s hope she’ll at least figure out how to update her “tablescapes.”

Meanwhile, Lee’s longtime partner Gov. Cuomo has been busy fighting for a fare wage for the state’s fast food employees. This week, Cuomo announced that in order to bypass legislative approval, he would direct the labor commissioner to create a Wage Board, which will deliberate on a better minimum wage for New Yorkers.

Angelina Jolie's Semi-Homemade Birthday Cake for Maddox

She’s a working mom – one who juggles six kids, a movie career and philanthropy – but Angelina Jolie still found time to whip up a sweet treat for son Maddox’s birthday in August, thanks to TV chef Sandra Lee.

“I was really surprised when her friend let me know she made my No Bake birthday cake,” says Lee, whose show hit Food Network show, Semi-Homemade Cooking with Sandra Lee, provides viewers with no-fuss recipes prepared in minutes. “She’s a Semi-Homemade mommy just like the rest of us!”

The cake, which Lee says is 𠇊 beautiful display that anyone can do in five minutes,” starts with a store-bought white sheet cake, topped with a plain white round cake and then surrounded by cupcakes and pre-decorated cookies. “What’s great is that you get to personalize that beautiful display,” says Lee.

“She’s a very busy, overextended mother,” Lee, 43, tells PEOPLE. “I’m very proud not just that she made my cake but that someone of her stature isn’t delegating these [tasks], like her children’s birthday, to other people. I’m glad she loves the show and that the kids apparently also watch it too.”

The chef and New York Times best-selling author would know a thing or two about balancing a busy schedule. In addition to Semi-Homemade, she also has Sandra’s Money Saving Meals on the Food Network and will be releasing three new cookbooks (Semi-Homemade Money Saving Slow Cooking, Semi-Homemade Weeknight Wonders and Semi-Homemade Cocktail Time) on Oct. 25 – the same day she’ll be appearing on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.

Swapping spatulas for hammers – “I was sawing, drilling, carrying furniture, unloading trucks and making hamburgers for the community,” she says – Lee helped a family in Illinois rebuild their home and fundraised to pay off their mortgage.

“It was touching for me personally because they quit their corporate job to run a food bank,” says Lee, who recalls growing up on welfare and food stamps.

“The genius of Extreme,” explains Lee, “is that they’re able to, somehow, find these unique families in these unbelievable situations that do so much good in their community and are so selfless. I think this show should be on every single night of the week!”


Lee was born in Santa Monica, California, [3] in 1966, the daughter of Vicky Svitak and Wayne Waldroop, [5] who had been high-school sweethearts. When Sandra was two, her mother sent her, along with her younger sister, Cindy, to live with their paternal grandmother, Lorraine Waldroop. [6] [7] In 1972, after divorcing Wayne, Lee's mother moved with her girls to Sumner, Washington, where they acquired a new stepfather, whose last name (Christiansen) Lee took. Vicky had three additional children in the 1970s: Kimber, [8] [9] Richie, and John Paul. [10] Due to her mother's illness and the absence of her and her siblings' fathers, Lee effectively raised her four younger siblings. [10] [11] [5] In her youth, Lee learned how to feed her younger siblings frugally with a combination of food stamps and welfare payments, an experience that informed her future approach to cooking. [11] [12]

Lee graduated from Onalaska High School, in Onalaska, Wisconsin, [13] and attended the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. [6] [14] [15] Lee claims her family is Catholic. [16] She was initially raised as a Seventh-day Adventist, but her family later became Jehovah's Witness. [17]

In December of her junior year, she left college to live near family in Malibu, California. [6] She later attended a two-week recreational course at Le Cordon Bleu in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. [18]

In the early 1990s, Lee created a product called "Sandra Lee Kraft Kurtains," a home-decorating kit designed to turn a wire rack and sheets, or other spare fabric, into decorative drapery. It was sold via infomercials and cable shopping networks. Home-shopping network QVC hired her as on-air talent. [18] In her first 18 months, Lee sold $20 million worth of merchandise. [19] QVC also selected Lee to launch its craft and home decorating categories on its networks in the U.K. and Germany. In 1994, she released her first DIY home improvement video series, which sold more than a million copies. [20]

Semi-Homemade Cooking with Sandra Lee premiered on the Food Network in 2003. The show ran for 15 seasons [21] and was in the top three new weekend shows on the network for its first five years. [22] Each episode contains entertaining and arts and crafts elements, in which Lee decorates the table setting and kitchen in accordance with the theme of the meal that she just prepared. [10] She refers to these as "tablescapes", a term she coined. [23] Lee's second Food Network series, Sandra's Money Saving Meals, began airing on May 10, 2009, [24] in response to the Great Recession. At the time, she was the only host on the Food Network with two cooking series running concurrently. Kurt Soller, writing for Newsweek, described her as "among TV's most successful female chefs". [11] As of 2019 [update] , her shows have aired in 63 countries. [21] She has authored 27 books, [25] including Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade: Cool Kids Cooking (October 2006) and a memoir, Made From Scratch, which was released in November 2007. [24] Her book Semi-Homemade Cooking appeared on the New York Times Best Seller list. [26] A magazine based on her show, Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade, was released in 2009. [27] In late 2009, Lee hosted Sandra Lee Celebrates, a series of four one-hour specials that aired on HGTV. [28] [29]

In 2012, Lee won the Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lifestyle/Culinary Host for Semi-Homemade Cooking. [30]

Also in 2012, she started a monthly lifestyle magazine, Sandra Lee, in partnership with TV Guide. [31] She is also starring in two new shows: Sandra's Restaurant Remakes and Sandra Lee's Taverns, Lounges & Clubs. [32] People magazine has included her in its list of "Most Beautiful" people multiple times. [33] [34] [35] [36]

In early 2020, Lee began creating her "Top Shelf" video series for, showcasing new ways to make meals from products commonly found in pantries. [37] [38] [39] An April 2020 New York Times article authored by Jessica Bennett called Lee "the queen of making something out of nothing". [12] In late 2020, Lee hosted a series of holiday segments, "It's a Wonderful Lifetime", on Lifetime. [25]

Hsiao-Ching Chou of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer wrote a review of Lee's cookbook Semi-Homemade Cooking that criticized both her recipes and her "semi-homemade" concept. [40] She then wrote a follow-up column, noting that the review received a response "that was more impassioned than I anticipated". Chou wrote that, though most readers agreed with her, a number of readers took Lee's side, including one who wrote, "Lots of people who don't want to take the time to shred a cup of carrots want to cook a good meal." [41]

Kurt Soller, writing for Newsweek, compared Lee's impact upon television cooking with that of Julia Child, noting that although Lee's show "is the furthest from Child's methods", both women "filled a niche that hasn't yet been explored". [11]

Amanda Hesser, in a 2003 review of Semi-Homemade Cooking in the The New York Times, wrote that Lee's recipes, in their use of prepackaged ingredients, can end up costing more, having harder-to-find ingredients, taking longer to make, and tasting worse than equivalent recipes made from scratch. Hesser also wrote that, in her cookbooks, Lee "encourages a dislike for cooking, and gives people an excuse for feeding themselves and their families mediocre food filled with preservatives." [42]

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, both Jessica Bennett in the New York Times [12] and Jaya Saxena in Eater noted that the context of pandemic scarcity made the "semi-homemade" concept feel newly relevant. Of Lee, Saxena wrote, "her show, Semi-Homemade Cooking, might be the perfect way to cook through quarantine." [43]

Kwanzaa cake Edit

Much of the criticism of Lee has coalesced around a recipe for "Kwanzaa Cake" that she demonstrated on a 2003 episode of Semi-Homemade Cooking with Sandra Lee. The recipe consisted of angel food cake topped with icing, cinnamon, apple pie filling, pumpkin seeds and corn nuts (which she referred to as acorns), all of which were store-bought, with seven Kwanzaa candles then inserted into the cake. [44]

Food writer Anthony Bourdain, who was harshly critical of Lee in general, described the video clip of this segment of the show as "eye searing" and "a war crime". [45] [46] [47] The cake was called "scary" by the Houston Chronicle, [48] and "the most ghastly-sounding dish in Lee's culinary repertoire" by Tulsa World. [49] wrote that the video "takes pride of place in the pantheon of hilarious culinary disaster videos". [50]

Cookbook author Denise Vivaldo, who claims to have ghostwritten recipes for many celebrity chefs, wrote a humorous post in The Huffington Post in December 2010 stating that she was responsible for the recipe (though she said that the candles were Lee's idea), and apologizing for it. She also wrote that Lee "has incredibly bad food taste". [51] A week later, the post was removed after Lee's lawyer threatened legal action. [5] Lee has said this recipe is the only one of hers whose criticism she has taken to heart, and that the recipe was due to the Food Network dictating the show's content at the time. [5]

From 2001 to 2005, she was married to KB Home CEO and philanthropist Bruce Karatz [52] for whom she converted to Judaism. [53] [17] In the fall of 2005, Lee entered into a relationship with Andrew Cuomo, who became Governor of New York in 2011. The two shared homes in Chappaqua and Poughkeepsie. [15] [11] On September 25, 2019, the couple announced that they had ended their relationship. [54]

Cancer Edit

Lee announced on May 12, 2015, that she had been diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer. By then she had undergone a lumpectomy, and was scheduled to have a double mastectomy later in the week. Governor Cuomo was to take some personal time to be with her during and after the surgery. [55] On October 12, 2015, she was rushed to a hospital because of fluid buildup, believed to be a complication of her recovery, and was monitored closely in the next few days. Cuomo had been attending a Billy Joel concert at Nassau Coliseum, but left and went to the hospital. [56] Lee has been cancer free since mid-2016. [57]

Peace, Joy, and Mistletoe Mojitos at Sandra Lee's Holiday Party

As carolers across the country are singing "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year," it is also the busiest time of year for some. Whether it's the challenge of planning, or the cost of entertaining that keeps people from playing host, Sandra Lee, bestselling author and Food Network star will show viewers exactly how to create a heart-warming, memory-making holiday party with ease during her primetime TV special, "Sandra Lee's Semi-Homemade Holiday."

Premiering on Monday, December 15, 2008 at 8pm, the star of the Emmy-nominated Food Network show, "Semi-Homemade Cooking" will share her favorite holiday recipes and entertaining tips that will bring warmth to a home. The "Popular Princess of Presentation" will reveal quick tips and recipes to help anyone enjoy the season while mixing and mingling under the mistletoe instead of being held captive in the kitchen. Using her trademark Semi-Homemade 70/30 concept, preparing meals with 70% store bought product and 30% fresh ingredients, Sandra will make it possible for anyone to create a holiday menu in minutes that looks and tastes like it was created completely from scratch.

The party starts with a clever self-serve cocktail bar that will get everyone in the holiday spirit. In the spotlight are three signature cocktails: a Mistletoe Mojito, Sugarplum Fairy Cocktail, and Polar Espresso. Sandra recruits her friends for some help in the kitchen as they cook together. First up is Sandra's Sausage Stuffed Mushroomsthen 2-in-1 Semi-Homemade money saving and time-saving tactic -- a heart-warming Potato Leek Soup which, with just a few easy steps, turns into Potato Leek Fondue. Everyone will enjoy the main course, a perfect Cranberry Glazed Turkey, along with Brown Butter Almond Brussels Sprouts and individual Sweet Potato Souffles. Sandra's sister Kimber pitches in for dessert with her clever Cappuccino "Cup" Cakes and easy Wreath Cupcakes.

Sandra Lee's Tablescape is a beautiful setting for her guests to gather around and share the meal. This holiday spread will inspire viewers with delicious, inventive ideas. Plus Sandra will share some affordable and attainable tips to envelop a home with the warmth and spirit of the season. "Semi-Homemade Holiday with Sandra Lee" on the Food Network will repeat on Saturday, December 20th at 8am Sunday, December 21st at 2pm and Monday, December 22nd at 4pm.

About Sandra Lee and Semi-Homemade

Sandra Lee has a passion for simple solutions that create dramatic results in all areas of home life. She is an internationally-acclaimed home and food expert and host of the Emmy-nominated Food Network series, Semi-Homemade Cooking with Sandra Lee. With 17 books to her credit, she is a New York Times best-selling author. With her trademark 70/30 philosophy, combining 70% ready-made products with 30% fresh ingredients, Sandra Lee's Semi-Homemade advocates for the over-extended person and allows anyone to take 100% of the credit for something that presents as if it were made completely from scratch.

Sandra Lee's Winning Super Bowl Recipes

Host the perfect Super Bowl party with these delicious recipes from , host of Food Network's "" and author of the "Semi-Homemade" cookbooks:

• Benchwarmer Artichoke Ranch Dip

1 packet (1.0 oz) Hidden Valley® Original Ranch® Salad Dressing & Seasoning Mix

1 tablespoon lemon juice, or more if desired

2 cans (15 oz) artichoke quarters in water, drained and chopped

1/2 cup chopped roasted red bell peppers

1 1/2 cups shredded Swiss cheese

1 1/2 cups french fried onions, divided

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray 1-quart baking dish with olive oil cooking spray set aside. In medium mixing bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, sour cream, Hidden Valley® Original Ranch® Salad Dressing & Seasoning Mix and lemon juice until smooth. Stir in artichokes, roasted red bell peppers, Swiss cheese and 1/2 cup french fried onions. Transfer to prepared baking dish and top with remaining French fried onions. Bake in preheated oven 40 to 45 minutes, until set and top is golden brown. Serve with tortilla chips.

• Golden Margarita Glaze-Chicken Wings

Brush on a little fiesta flavor every time you grill with this luscious, zesty margarita glaze. Great on fish and shellfish, chicken, pork or vegetables. (This will be used on Chicken Wings)

Excerpt: 'Made From Scratch'

Celebrity chef Sandra Lee went from food stamps to Food Network star.

Oct. 31, 2007 — -- Celebrity chef Sandra Lee went from being raised on food stamps to starring in her own TV show, Semi-Homemade Cooking, on the Food Network. Her powerful new memoir chronicles that journey.

Lee's book, "Made From Scratch," will be in stores in November.Read an excerpt below.

I was two years old when my mother, Vicky, dropped my younger sister Cindy and me off at Grandma Lorraine's house in Santa Monica, California, one beautiful sunny afternoon in 1968, promising to return shortly. We didn't see her again for several years.

Grandma Lorraine was the mother of my birth father, Wayne. Vicky and Wayne were typical high school sweethearts. They filed for divorce about two years after they said, "I do," somewhere around Cindy's first birthday. I started calling Grandma Lorraine "Mommy," and Vicky became a distant memory.

Grandma Lorraine loved being in the kitchen. Some of my fondest memories are of baking with her. Grandma's vanilla cake with butter cream frosting was my favorite. She also knew how to stretch a dollar better than anyone, mostly because she had to. She taught me to save money at an early age, opening my very own savings account when I was four. I could barely spell my own name, but filling in the dollar amount on the deposit slips was easy for me. These were important lessons that would come in very handy a few years later.

Grandma Lorraine reminded us what a gift life is and how important it was to embrace the joy in each and every day. She'd talk about all of the possibilities that tomorrow could bring.

Not long after my sixth birthday, Vicky came back into our lives. She arrived with her new husband, Richard. Vicky and Richard tried to explain that they were our mom and dad, but I wondered why these strangers wanted to take us away.Slowly I adjusted to my new life in Marina del Rey. It was a short distance from Grandma Lorraine, but Vicky and Richard stopped allowing us to see her. Soon after my sister Kimmy was born. She was the most beautiful baby, and the first child Vicky and Richard had together. It was the happiest time we shared, but then Richard was transferred to Washington State for his job as a computer programmer, and everything changed. Vicky's mood was becoming unpredictable and more volatile.

Three years later Richard left Vicky, and at age 11 I became mom, sister, caretaker and homemaker of our family. There were six of us in the house -- Richie and Johnny were born after we moved to Washington State -- but I was the one looking after everyone. Vicky spent her days lying on the couch, taking pills and screaming at us. When the welfare check arrived, I'd bike to the bank to deposit it. Then I paid our bills to ensure our gas and electricity weren't shut off. Next I'd use the food stamps to stock the kitchen as best I could. I was so glad Grandma had taught me how to cook and be frugal, because there was no other way for us to make it through.

There were many scary moments when life felt completely out of control. Like the time Johnny was three and wandered onto a two-lane highway. One of our neighbors found him on the side of the road. Or when Richie lifted the heat vent from the floor leaving a hole that he fell into. The vent's metal side was so sharp that it slit open the inside of his calf and he needed several stitches. I daydreamed of being a normal kid, but that wasn't the reality I lived in.

One morning before school, when I was fifteen, Vicky looked me in the eyes and said, "You are going to be so much more than I am when you grow up." It was the only compliment I can ever remember her giving me.

As usual I said nothing, but I couldn't help thinking that I was going to be so much more than she was in ways she couldn't possibly imagine. I wanted to be the opposite of Vicky -- kind, generous, supportive and nurturing, thoughtful and disciplined.

I stared at her in disgust until I could no longer contain myself and said, "You're right. I am going to be more than you."

The words stunned us both.

She flew into an uncontrollable rage and grabbed me. Her punches were landing fast and hard -- I could barely catch my breath. I lay there thinking this had to end or I would die. She beat me until she was done.

I called my boyfriend, Duane, and when he arrived at the house, he took one look at my battered face and said, "Go pack. You are not coming back."

I moved in with Duane's family until I could decide what to do next. I contacted Grandma Lorraine and she told me that Wayne and his girlfriend Patty were moving to Wisconsin and would love to have me live with them.

I left for Wisconsin on June 30, 1982, three days before my sixteenth birthday. After I settled in, I actually had free time on my hands, which I didn't know what to do with. I didn't have to work, didn't have kids to take care of and wasn't responsible for keeping the house in order. I hadn't experienced that type of peace or freedom since I'd lived with Grandma Lorraine.

One of my most vivid memories about Wisconsin was that there was always lots of food around the house. I indulged my every impulse. When you're not used to having food readily available, it becomes an obsession.

A "$100,000 Bar" became my favorite treat. It represented so much more than chocolate to me -- the dollar figure on the candy wrapper represented financial freedom. It meant wealth and having a rich and meaningful life.

The following year I enrolled at the University of Wisconsin, LaCrosse. Going to college was like starting over again. I discovered I had a knack for putting together business outlines and marketing plans and decided to pursue a business degree. Sophomore year I was living with five other girls, working two jobs, getting good grades and enjoying every moment of my life, but by December of junior year I had decided I wanted to move back to California to be near my Uncle Bill and Aunt Peggy, who was Vicky's sister. They had tried to adopt Cindy and me when Vicky first left us, and had always been kind and generous.

I moved into a house in Malibu where I rented a room. I decorated it using billowing pink shearing fabric and coat hangers that I bent and twisted to create hooks and loops that I wove fabric around. Everyone who saw my creation loved it, and Uncle Bill encouraged me to sell my window dressing. At the time, I didn't take him seriously.

I started working at an import-export company, and one afternoon my boss asked if I wanted to attend trade shows for him as a way to earn extra money and as a new outlet for his products, which were personal protection devices such as home security systems. Kimmy flew to California to help, and together we worked sixteen-hour days every day for three weeks. Our hard work and perseverance paid off and we made enough money to take space at three other fairs and pay off my student loans. Eventually I was exhibiting and selling product at various home shows and county fairs full time.

At these home shows I loved walking around checking out the beautiful decorating products, and I began to rethink what Uncle Bill had said. What if other people liked my invention as much as he did? I devoted myself to my project and less than one year later Kurtain Kraft -- the name of my new company and product—was on its way to becoming a million-dollar enterprise. It was then followed by Euro Kraft, a do-it-yourself system for creating half-moon canopy beds at home, which previously could only be achieved through a professional home installation.

Starting a business is like climbing Mt. Everest. You either prepare and train for the journey or you fail. There were months of heavy cash flow and months of being completely strapped waiting for customers to pay. I always rolled my profits back into the company so it would continue to grow.

Still, by the end of 1995 Kurtain Kraft was struggling. Swallowing my pride wasn't hard compared to finding the courage to ask people I once had a nice and lucrative relationship with for a leg up when the chips were down. Business is always personal. Success is predicated on the quality of your relationships. Those relationships can break you or build you.

By age 27 I had to start over. I decided to create a total lifestyle company. I diversified the product line, creating everything from crafts to gardening products, floral preserving and flower arranging kits along with a new generation of Kurtain Kraft products. I wanted to design solution-based products that would make women heroes in their home.

I noticed that one group not being served in the marketplace was women who didn't have enough time to whip up tasty meals from scratch. My grandma's hard-learned lessons could serve many who were trying to figure out ways to save time and money while still making every meal special. I decided to refocus my energies by closing down the lifestyle company and writing my first cookbook, which would include easy-to-follow recipes using specific brand-name products combined with fresh ingredients. Every recipe had to taste as if it were made from scratch. In creating the recipes, I strolled the aisles of the local grocery store to educate myself on brand names and the ingredients of each. I made lists of pantry staples as well as the ones that are purchased for simple pleasure. I decided to name my cookbook and approach to cooking Semi-Homemade.

I was so passionate about the idea that I risked my savings and self-published my book. I primarily sold Semi-Homemade Cooking through television shopping channels and small booksellers. It was an instant hit. I then began writing Semi-Homemade Desserts, as a tribute to Grandma Lorraine, who had recently passed away.

During this time Project Angel Food, an organization that helps feed people who are homebound with severe illnesses, approached me. They were trying to put together a special children's initiative to provide meal service for local underprivileged kids. Their timing was perfect because I was looking for a charity to donate a lot of the proceeds to from the sale of Semi-Homemade Desserts. Since it was created in honor of Grandma, it was only fitting that the money generated from the success of my book go toward community services and helping children.

I had found a publisher for Semi-Homemade Cooking and was doing TV appearances when I received a call from the Food Network about having my own show. At first I was hesitant, but then they said I could develop any type of show I desired as long it was based around food, and I realized it was a dream come true. Semi-Homemade Cooking with Sandra Lee launched in October 2003 as one of the highest-rated new shows in Food Network history.

When I first started doing the show it took all day to get a single episode shot. Today, four years later, I can complete nearly three shows in a day. I taught myself to talk to the camera as if I were speaking to Kimmy or my best friend Colleen. It's more intimate and conversational, and allows me to just be myself. I knew I had so many things I could share, tricks I had learned and tips that could cut any task in half. Although much of my knowledge had been born of a horrible childhood situation, I found a way to use those skills to make life easier and fulfilling for my viewers, who are the real stars, the real heroes of the show.

The only way to move forward is to live an authentic life and be true to who you really are. I was dealt a hand that might have had a very different outcome if I ever allowed myself to feel like a victim. Resilience is key. Learning to stand strong in the face of challenge and adversity is my secret to survival. Picking up and moving forward is the only thing we can do. And making your life matter is the most important thing.

Andrew Cuomo's ex Sandra Lee lands spot in People's 'Most Beautiful'

It’s no coincidence that you’ve been seeing foodie Sandra Lee a lot lately on ABC.

We exclusively hear the “first girlfriend” of Gov. Andrew Cuomo is about to launch a new lifestyle TV show with the network.

Lee appeared on “Good Morning America” last week to promote her new line of margaritas, Cocktail Time, and will tape another segment for “GMA” Friday morning. She was also spotted chatting up ABC News correspondent Deborah Roberts at the Central Park Conservancy’s Hat Lunch this week.

We’re told the domestic doyenne — who also has magazines and cookbooks in her empire — is still in talks for the yet-to-be-named program.

Lee’s previously had shows on HGTV and the Food Network, including “Semi-Homemade Cooking.” ABC’s already home to “The Chew” with Mario Batali and Daphne Oz.

Have you checked at your library for a copy of the magazine?

Woman's World
December, 2005

10-minute Christmas Magic!
Sandra Lee's Semi-Homemade© Holiday Tricks

Before she was the Food Network's Semi-Homemade© star, Sandra Lee was just like the rest of us: She watched Christmas go by in a frazzled blur. Then one day she began experimenting, determined to find ways to have more good cheer without the stress. What did she discover? A whole new career, for starters - plus lots and lots of delightful holiday shortcuts!

"The key is letting go of the right stuff," she says. "We can't do it all, but we can make sure our loved ones have a great time and know how much they mean to us!"
Here, she shares her very best and sneakiest how-tos.

Instant winter wonderland ideas!

Glitz up napkins - Roll ‘em and tie with 12"-16" lengths of leftover garland.
Help a scrawny tree - ­"Fill bare spots with spare branches picked up from a tree lot," suggests Sandra. "Big bows can also be added after all the other decorations to perk up a tree fast!"

Whip up a glamorous centerpiece - Set a small vase of white or red grocery store roses in an ice bucket fill the space between vase and bucket with greenery or spare Christmas tree branches.

Breathtaking candlelit welcome - Set potted poinsettias along your front walk with a glass-encased votive candle beside each light just before evening guests arrive.

Festive place cards in a flash - With a gold pen, write each guest's name or initials on an inexpensive ornament, then center on his or her place setting.

A 30-second dazzler - "Fill a large glass bowl with water, set it on a mirror in the foyer, sprinkle with glitter and float candles on top."

Free greens! - "Fallen branches are yours for the asking at most nurseries and Christmas-tree stands," says Sandra.

Spice up your mantel - Press cloves into oranges to make letters, then spell out holiday greetings like "Noel" or "joy."

Toss candy coins - A handful of the foil-wrapped treats scattered on a tabletop or place setting adds no-fuss shimmer.

Turn up the music! - Whether you pop in a holiday CD or tune in to classic carols on the radio, you've got instant ambience, says Sandra.
Set a nostalgic mood - "Display Christmas storybooks. It'll take everyone on a journey to holidays past."

Display leftover ornaments - Perch single balls atop candlesticks fill pretty bowls with spare greenery and groups of gleaming balls.

"Your time is precious. My tips will help you spend it wisely."

Perfect last-minute gift ideas

Sandra's truffle secret - Keep boxed truffles to give as impromptu gifts. And if you don't pass ‘em all out, no worries. "They freeze beautifully," promises Sandra.

Easiest hostess gift - "Tie a pretty bow around a grocery-store poinsettia, and voilá!" says Sandra.

Incredible edibles - Fill glass jars with Jordan almonds, yogurt-covered pretzels or Pirouette cookies, then add a bow.

Make your best wishes glow - literally! - Handwrite Christmas sentiments and photocopy onto parchment paper cut into rectangles, wrap around a pair of beeswax candles and secure with a wisp of ribbon.

Personalize gift cards - Package ‘em with another small gift - for example a bookstore gift card with a paperback. "And include a heartfelt message," suggests Sandra.

Extra-special magazine subscriptions - "Slip a few recent issues of the magazine into a wire or wicker basket with a note telling the recipient why you think he or she will enjoy the subscription," suggests Sandra.

Recipes that make themselves!

Fast'n'fancy Scotch plaid cookies - Use store-bought tubes of red and green decorating icing fitted with small round tips to create crisscrossing lines on plain sugar cookies.

Quick candy-cane cocoa - For each serving, bring one cup milk to a low boil, then add 1 1/2 Tbs. semisweet chocolate chips and one crushed candy cane whisk until smooth. Garnish with whipped cream and a candy cane stirrer. For an adult treat, skip the candy cane and use a splash of crème de menthe.

Warm up wine lovers! - Heat an inexpensive Merlot on the stovetop with cinnamon sticks. The delicious brew chases away winter's chill and "makes the house smell wonderful," says Sandra.

Christmas morning "bread pudding" - Cookie-cutter raisin bread into holiday shapes, prepare as French toast, then serve drizzled with heated caramel sauce.

Bubbly berry punch - Mix two parts inexpensive chilled champagne with one part fruit juice, such as cranberry-raspberry. Garnish with frozen berries, if desired, and serve in a punch bowl.

Impress guests with a magical centerpiece dessert!
"To make this cake extra-magical, serve it as you tell the Nutcracker story," says Sandra.
Nutcracker Holiday Cake

Preheat oven to 350degrees F. Grease and flour 2 (9") round cake pans.
Stir together 2 pkgs. (14.5 oz. each) gingerbread cake and cookie mix, 2 cups water and 2 eggs until moistened.
Divide between pans. Bake 25-35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes. Remove from pans cool.
Fill and spread cake layers with 3 cans (16 oz. each) cream cheese frosting. Sprinkle with white decorating sugar. Decorate with tiny presents and nutcrackers.

Pretty paper bag idea - Slip a gift in a brown bag, fold top down and secure with a ribbon attached to a paper clip.
Just add ribbon - That's all many gifts need. "Raffia, rope cord, tassels, colored string, lace, rickrack, tinsel, - anything colorful or textured will do," notes Sandra.
Buy colored or patterned boxes - Pop the gift inside, add a bow, and you're done!
Easy scented tissue paper - Dab cottonballs with your favorite perfume, place in a sandwich bag, and seal overnight in a lidded plastic tub with storebought tissue. "It makes gifts twice as nice to open!"
Gift wrap in a pinch - "Old sheet music, pages from picture books, shelf paper, fabric remnants, old table linens or lace curtains all work," promises Sandra. "You can also use the sports section for an armchair quarterback, the food section for a budding gourmet, and the comics for kids."

Sandra Lee is a Gracie and multiple Emmy® Award-Winning advocate, activist, philanthropist and an internationally acclaimed home life expert. She is a best selling author of 27 books and the Editor in Chief of Sandra Lee Magazine and During her inspiring career, she created/hosted numerous highly-rated television programs broadcast on ABC, NBC, FOX, Food Network, HGTV, Discovery Family, and Cooking Channels with airings in 63 countries worldwide.

For decades, Sandra has worked on causes close to her heart and been recognized with the President’s Volunteer Service Award, the Eleanor Roosevelt Medal of Honor, the Albert Einstein Award of Excellence and the Ellis Island Medal of Honor. In 2000, Sandra was one of three founding Board Members of UNICEF®’s Los Angeles chapter and was given UNICEF’s Special Appointment of Nutrition Emissary in 2015. Sandra’s primary focus is on the issues of hunger, poverty and homelessness which are at crisis levels in the United States. For a decade, she served as the national spokesperson for the No Kid Hungry campaign and is a dedicated family member to God’s Love We Deliver/Project Angel Food and the Elton John’s AIDS Foundation.

In spring of 2015, Sandra was diagnosed with early stage cancer and publicly documented her story. While going through the decision making process to undergo aggressive treatment and the subsequent extensive complications, Sandra decided to allow unrestricted filming access. Her journey can be seen in the HBO documentary short RX: EARLY DETECTION A CANCER JOURNEY WITH SANDRA LEE. This decision was inspired by her obligation to educate others in taking an active role in their own health care, to provide caregivers with insight and tools for day to day patient care and medical advocacy, while also influencing lawmakers to pass legislation that provide no-cost insurance coverage and increased hours for screening accessibility

Sandra’s open, uncensored communications has been acknowledged with several prestigious honors including Capitol Hill’s Congressional Families Excellence in Cancer Awareness Award, City of Hope’s Spirit of Life Award, and The Creative Coalition’s Television Industry Advocacy Award.

Sandra’s primary focus is on the issues of hunger, poverty and homelessness which are at crisis levels in the United States. She is the national spokesperson for Share our Strength’s No Kid Hungry Campaign and the anchor of their largest annual fundraiser, The Great American Bake Sale – two groundbreaking programs focused on ending childhood hunger in America.

Contact a speaker booking agent to check availability on Sandra Lee and other top speakers and celebrities.

Sandra Lee Says Her Heart Is 'Too Broken to Be Open' Following Split from Andrew Cuomo

Sandra Lee is taking her time to heal her heartbreak.

The celebrity chef, who split from her boyfriend of 14 years, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, earlier this year, spoke to PEOPLE at the 15th Annual UNICEF Snowflake Ball in New York on Tuesday about how she’s faring since the separation.

“I had my couple of months being really, really sad,” she said during the charity event, 𠇊nd I have to say that my heart is a little too broken to be open yet.”

Lee, 53, and Cuomo, 61, officially announced their split in September in a joint statement. “Over the recent past, we have realized that our lives have gone in different directions and our romantic relationship has turned into a deep friendship,” they said.

“We will always be family and are fully supportive of each other and dedicated to the girls,” they added referring to Cuomo’s daughters, Michaela and twins Cara and Mariah, with ex Kerry Kennedy.

Sandra Lee's Homemade Faith

The star of the Food Network's "Semi-Homemade Cooking" and author of the memoir "Made from Scratch," [Meredith, 2007] tells Beliefnet about her childhood with a mentally ill mother and an abusive father and how she managed to overcome the odds to become a successful entrepreneur and TV personality. When her alcoholic mother's long absences left an adolescent Sandra in charge of her younger siblings, she figured out cooking techniques and shortcuts that would one day become the basis for "Semi-Homemade," which helps busy moms prepare quick and easy meals for their families.You've had such a remarkable journey, from being on food stamps to being a successful TV host. Do you think that God had a plan for your life?

Oh, absolutely. I think He absolutely has one. I think He has a plan for me in heaven, too. I had two dreams about my Grandma after she died. I was really mad at her for not coming to me sooner in my dreams--I had expected her to stay in contact that way. She said, "Oh, honey, it's so busy up here. You can't even imagine. There's so much going on. It's so fun." So, yeah, I think He has a plan for me here, and I think He has a plan for me up there.

You mentioned in your book that you think your grandmother is your guardian angel. She spent several years raising you while your mother coped with alcohol addiction, and you later discovered she gave your mother money in exchange for getting to have a relationship with you. What role do you think angels play in lives, and how do we know where our guardian angel is?

I think that there are people that we see and beings that we can't. I think that mentors, and people who do good deeds, and people who take care of their families and their communities, are guardian angels that happen to be alive. And I think that guardian angels are also spiritual, and they help us to put thoughts in our mind in a moment when we have decisions to make which are either going to be good for us or bad for us.

You, your sister Cindy, and your grandmother were able to take a trip to the Holy Land together when you and Cindy were teenagers. How did seeing those places affect your spirituality?

Much later than in the moment. When you're young like Cindy and I were, you just want to play and be with your friends. It was fun to be with Grandma. I was very present when things were important, like when I was baptized in the Jordan River and like when we were underneath the olive trees in Jerusalem, and I washed her feet and she washed mine.

She [her grandmother] had been to Israel many times, at least a half a dozen. She planted trees over there. In fact, that picture of her planting a tree in Israel was something I used on the pamphlet for her memorial service. She was all about community service. And it wasn't just here domestically, it was around the world.

How would you describe your personal beliefs?

I was raised Jehovah's Witness, but my family is Catholic. I have studied Judaism and actually converted for a time when I was married. It was very important to my husband. To me, if you believe in God, you believe in God, and you believe in a higher power.

We all have power to make a difference and make the world a better place. That is our job while we're here because one thing we do today is going to trickle down and affect someone else's life tomorrow and the next day and in 10 years. The decisions and our conduct today are what tomorrow is built on. And you're not just here for yourself. I don't think God put us on the earth to be selfish beings. I think He put us on the earth to be a community, or He wouldn't have given us one another.

I go to St. Patrick's [Cathedral, in New York City], and I light candles. When I was writing the book, there were weeks where I went every single day. I lit a candle apiece for my siblings, that this book would help them and not hurt them because I didn't want to remind them of things that, hopefully, they had forgotten, but that I was living through in writing the book. I wanted it to be easy on them.

I always light one for my grandma, just because she's my grandma and I'm grateful, and I want her to have fun in heaven. I light them for my aunt and uncle and people who have been helpful in my life. And of course, I ask that everybody will be able to take away from the book what was intended. The first half of the book is a very gritty story, and it's a hard-knock story. And that's just fine because the last half of the book says, "Okay, you know what? It doesn't matter where we come from, or what we're going through now, or what we're going to go through tomorrow, what matters is how we deal with it, the type of people we turn out to be, and who we are to ourselves, our friends and our family. And did we do what we were supposed to do while we were here, or did we waste our life?"

Did you learn anything from the process of writing your book? You revisited a lot of traumatic moments, like when your father threatened to cut you off from your younger half-siblings because you challenged his authority. Do you feel that your perspective on anything changed?

I think when you sit down and you really think about what you've done and where you come from, it’s always kind of an in-your-face moment. There were a lot of painful days while I was writing the book. After I laid my grandma to rest, which is about halfway through the book, I went to bed for two days. I absolutely lost it. I didn't want to finish the book.

The writer [her co-writer, Laura Morton], who's been around the block more than times I have, and certainly in this process, said, "You've got to get back on the saddle. You've got to get back on the saddle. The rest of it will be fine. Now is where you can really make a difference. Now is when you inspire people."

You have overcome so many obstacles, from a childhood in poverty to a painful divorce. What advice would you give to somebody who was coping with tragedy in their life or going through a difficult time?

I think bad times are in a moment. And I think that you have to be thoughtful about yourself and where you want to be and where you want to end up, and be thoughtful about the path that you’re taking to get to your end result. Are you doing it the right way? Are you doing it the best way you can? Are you being thoughtful not only with those around you, but with yourself? Are you being realistic? Are you in denial? And also, are you respecting yourself? Because other people, they always say you've got to love yourself first, and then you can love someone else. That also holds true for respect. You have to respect yourself. And others, just by your sheer example in how you treat yourself, will treat you the same way.

Do you have any favorite Bible verses or inspirational quotes?

And I'm very partial to "Footprints in the Sand." I think that that's a hugely helpful poem. Also, Matthew 28:20, "And surely I am with you always to the very end of the age."

My favorite prayer? "Please God help me, in Jesus' name, Amen. Sorry I'm asking again. P.S., sorry I'm asking again."

I'm not making a joke. But, it's hard for me to believe that God does not have a sense of humor. And I'm not being flip.

You've mentioned your grandmother quite a few times. I know she was really important to you. How do you honor the important people in your life and let them know that you care about them?

I think by actions of being there, calling, texting, e-mailing, sending cards and notes. Staying in touch is important, telling them that you're thinking about them, expressing your feelings and your emotions, little gestures of kindness. It's all about expressing to someone how appreciative you are of them.

When it comes to people who are deceased, I think that you honor them by taking their advice and heeding it, and their words of wisdom and living by them, and passing them along, and also not letting them be forgotten.

Whenever I'm with my niece, Danielle, I'm like "Do you remember Grandma Lorraine? We did this, we did that. Do you remember?"

I always remind her, so she never forgets.

Do you have any possessions that mean a lot to you, things of sentimental value that belonged to someone you care about or that you bought with someone?

I have Grandma's shoes that she wore every day. They're in my closet with my own. They kind of remind me of "Footprints in the Sand." Unless you've walked in someone's shoes, you can't really judge them, which is hard because it's very easy to judge people. It's very hard to remember when someone’s really crappy that maybe they're just going through a bad day and they’re not actually a bad person. And it's very difficult to be present.

If there was one thing that people could take away from your book, one lesson, what would you want that to be?

I want them to know for sure that no matter what you've gone through, where you come from, or who you come from, you can do or be anyone you want, as long as you work hard and you stay true to your dreams and yourself. This book was written to show by example. I'm not perfect in the book. I don't claim to be perfect in the book. My family certainly was not perfect. Being raised on food stamps and welfare… I was ashamed of that forever. I tried to hide it. My mother's mental illness [addiction and bipolar disorder], I tried to hide it.

None of that stuff matters. What matters is that what you went through actually makes a difference and helps someone else. That's all that matters. If you pull yourself out, pull as many people out as you can with you.

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