cooking, Just bitchin'

The Summer of Bacon

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It’s official. Bacon is epidemic in the U.S.

Just like obesity.

It is not inconceivable that the two are related.

I can blame my friend who drew my attention to the world of evening TV commercials for my new-found amazement and bacon-fueled outrage. If it weren’t for him, I would have remained blissfully ignorant, bouncing out of my chair for every commercial break to putter about with minor chores like dishwashing or reading mail.

But now I stare, saucer-eyed, at the endless parade of sizzling, fat-striped temptations.

Ahhhh, bacon…how do we eat thee? Let me count the ways:

First, one I’ve already mentioned in a former posting. The forerunner of the lick-a-pig deluge: Little Caesar’s deep dish bacon-wrapped crust pizza.

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Now, as body-conscious, swimsuit weather progresses, the advertising industry has kicked into overdrive, churning out competition in the category of The Most Grease-Bang For Your Buck. So, bow before the obesity-altar and welcome:

Wendy’s Baconator Fries. Like deep-fried potatoes aren’t bad enough, this little culinary artery-clogger boasts the traditional bad-boy French fries smothered with melted cheese and lots and lots of bacon.

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But wait! There’s more!

The Baconator fries are intended as accompaniment, a companion side-dish to…wait for it…the Baconator and/or the Son of Baconator!

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Now, it’s my understanding that the original Baconator was a double-pattied burger layered with cheese, topped with bacon. Son of Baconator goes Daddy-burger one better (or worse, depending on your desire to live healthier and longer). Sonny-boy has added additional bacon between layers that were previously bacon-less. Why? Because they’re there. Or, as the commercial touting the Carl Jr.’s and Hardee’s burger layered with a hotdog and potato chips reasons: ‘Because…AMERICA!’

Somewhere there are think tanks and brain-storming sessions devoted to the riddle of ‘where else can we inject fat in this dish?’

I despair for our national health.

The only thing I can say on the positive side is: faced with a choice between any one of these grease-monsters or a doughnut containing Ariana Grande’s spit…I’d have to choose the grease.

The world of fast food has become a very scary place.

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The Deep-Fried Disgrace

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I was going to write something else.

Something about the lazy rhythm of a heat wave and the unexpected adventures it can bring. But then…this!

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It’s a deep-fried Big Mac drizzled with extra ‘secret’ sauce, which I think is another name for Russian salad dressing, and I decided the only response that made sense, other than retching and dry heaves, is another Lean Cuisine Salad Addition Wannabe: Cranberry and Chicken.

So, business first. This is for you kind folks at Nestlé:

Nestlé does not sponsor, authorize or endorse my blog or these recipes.

It’s not like they hate me, but if they saw me on the street, they’d pretend to be very interested in a window display until I’d passed.

Onward…

With each of these forays into Salad Addition Land, I learn something. That’s not as remarkable as it might sound, because what I know about cooking wouldn’t fill a thimble. But Cranberry and Chicken proved a bit problematic for one reason: the sesame stick croutons.

I searched through store after market after outlet. When sesame sticks couldn’t be found among the crackers, or the croutons, or the snacks, I found a substitute I thought would be perfect.

Billed as a new topping for salads (which gave me great hope), it contained dried cherries, grains, and granola. Since one of the ingredients Lean Cuisine used to tout for Cranberry and Chicken on the packaging was ‘a blend of grains,’ I thought it was a no-brainer. Perfect!

But sadly…no.

It became quickly obvious that this salad required a savory, salty embellishment. The dried cherry thing tasted more like a breakfast cereal. In fact, I ate it the next morning with milk.

The quest continued.

And then…Eureka! Wandering disconsolately, I discovered the buy-in-bulk section of a large market. Hidden among the jelly beans and raw almonds were…sesame sticks!! I bagged my quarry and trotted home, triumphant.

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So, Lean Cuisine Salad Addition Cranberry and Chicken.

You will need:

2 oz. broiled chicken breast meat

20 grams dried cranberries

½ oz. sliced red onion

1 oz. carrots, sliced or julienned

1 oz. broccoli florets

2 tablespoons of a raspberry vinaigrette salad dressing (I use Annie’s Naturals Lite Raspberry Vinaigrette)

8 sesame sticks

Lettuce to taste

Put the cranberries, onion, carrots and broccoli into that microwave-safe bowl that’s getting a lot of use in these recipes. Cover. Nuke on high for 2 minutes 30 seconds for an 1100 watt oven. Adjust time up or down depending on your microwave’s wattage. While the toppings are cooking, prepare your lettuce. Toss with the cooked chicken breast and the nuked ingredients. Drizzle with the dressing and add the sesame sticks on top.

It’s a sweeter salad than the others in the Lean Cuisine line, but the salty sesame sticks and the piquant onion save it from being cloyingly so. As with the others, you can set up a little kitchen factory and dump the chicken, cranberries, carrots, broccoli, and onion into freezer baggies. Then, when the mood strikes, empty the baggie into that bowl that’s becoming your single most-used dish, cover and microwave 2 minutes, 30 seconds. Add lettuce, dressing and sesame sticks.

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This comes in at around 280 calories before adding the lettuce…same as the one the Nestlé people used to sell. Which reminds me, once again:

Nestlé does not sponsor, authorize or endorse my blog or these recipes.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

As for the deep-fried burger with extra sauce which will likely populate my nightmares now…you couldn’t pay me enough to chow down on something like that…

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The Bloating of America

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It’s a shameful, globally-known fact that America is increasingly obese.

Like most of us, I’m inundated with reasons and warnings spewed by the media via newscasts, public service announcements, and the odd government-sponsored commercial. The finger is pointed at all manner of modern conveniences that render tasks less physically demanding, or seduce us into hours of effortless, sluggish relaxation.

Leaf blowers, cell phones, video games, computers…all are given their share of blame.

The problem didn’t take up much of my concern until a friend told me he was trying to lose 30 pounds. The guy is over six feet tall. He carries weight well, but I applauded his goal and told him if he needed a pep talk or a walking partner or a good salad recipe, I’d be happy to help.

What did he ask for? Someone to talk to in the evenings so he wouldn’t watch TV.

I misunderstood. “You mean something to do besides sitting around? Some activity? We could go do something instead?”

“No, Cat. Someone to keep me from turning the damn thing on. It’s nothing but food all night long. All the stuff that’s death for dieters.”

I wasn’t sure I believed him.

I’m a terrible person to watch TV with. I irritate the hell out of everyone because I have a hard time staying still for a full hour. I’m up and down all the time. And I’m definitely bouncing around doing a hundred other things during commercial breaks.

So I switched it up. I let myself abandon the show and made sure I was there for the ads.

Holy cow.

My friend wasn’t kidding.

Wall to wall visual and audio enticements to eat.

And the food! The worst garbage you could stuff into yourself! I watched pizza parlors vie for who could present the most fattening, decadent, caloric version of the dish. The winner of Worst Thing You Could Eat was a deep dish, over-cheesed creation the perimeter of which was wrapped in bacon. Bacon measured in feet. And they were proud of this. It was a selling point.

Then came the burgers. Double, triple, quadruple patties of fatty meat laden with cheese and mayonnaise.

Then came the restaurant chains getting a jump on the breakfast business. Layers of waffles and pancakes mounded with butter and thick, cloying syrup. Plates piled high with eggs and towers of sausage and bacon.

Then were the buffets that set out their offerings like slop in troughs…touting ‘all you can eat’ as though the more you shovel in, the better.

And the people pictured enjoying these orgies of food are all slim, trim, toned specimens who I doubt ever set foot in the advertisers’ establishments in real life.

It went on and on.

All these images and lures shot into the viewing public’s brains where they will ferment until the compulsion to satisfy the urge placed by advertisers must be obeyed. The burger must be eaten. The pizza must be ordered.

If obesity is such a serious problem that the first lady is devoting a considerable amount of her time to fighting it, why doesn’t someone make the connection to the advertisers who seem to be in competition over who can supply the worst and the most of what your body doesn’t need?

It isn’t the inactivity of watching TV that’s the enemy. It’s the advertisers who’ve researched just when and how to hit their viewers where it’ll reap the most return.

It’s hitting below the belt. And unfortunately, for a lot of people, that belt is getting bigger and bigger and bigger…

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