August 19, 2003 at 04:00 AM EDT

30 Minute Meals With Rachael Ray

TV Show
Current Status
In Season
Food Network
We gave it an A-

With 30 Minute Meals With Rachael Ray, Ray is all-American spunky: ”In the time it takes you to watch this program,” she informs us at the top of ”30 Minute Meals,” ”I’ll have made a delicious and healthy meal from start to finish.” Ray looks like a can-do college sorority sister; one of her recent nostalgia-laced themes was ”My Favorite Teenage Hang-Out Foods,” by which she meant buffalo wings and ”double-stuffed” baked potatoes. And Rachael even takes the time to remind her boomer demographic that you can still chomp on buffalo wings if you don’t deep-fry ’em but use boneless, skinless chicken breasts instead.

Sometimes cutesy (she refers to extra virgin olive oil as ”e-v-o-o!” and uses two ”scoopies” of sour cream for potato skins that ”are gonna rock!”), Ray has the virtue of honest efficiency. She actually cooks in real time, and her simple suggestions like keeping a ”garbage bowl” on the kitchen counter — a place to dump parings, empty cans, and drained water rather than hauling them to the sink disposal or the garbage pail — make her the most useful of all the current TV chefs. Did you know you should squeeze lemons by holding the cut half upright so the seeds don’t fall into your recipe? Rachael Ray is definitely the girl you’d want bustling around the kitchen when the gang is coming over to watch the football (not soccer) game in half an hour.

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