Just bitchin'

Summer-Savvy

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Each season has a signature.

But it’s not reliable. The handwriting changes with the times.

Summer used to be bikinis, suntan oil, and long days at the beach. But over the years summer has taken on a whole new look.

The bikini…gone. We are advised that the exposure of so much skin to the brutal rays of the sun can have catastrophic consequences. So we cover up and take vitamin D to replace what we are told we should no longer absorb from nature.

The suntan oil…gone…replaced with sunblock designed to filter out all those aforementioned angry, vengeful rays. But the drawback with this savior of a cream is that it can migrate from wherever you have applied it on your face, assaulting your eyes with a burning, stinging vengeance. The solution to this particular problem is to use a concoction whose primary active ingredient is titanium dioxide.

You know…the stuff that provides whiteness and opacity to a huge array of products. The stuff that makes white paint WHITE. It is highly reflective. But don’t be concerned: the sunblock that contains titanium dioxide vows it will not alter your skin’s natural hue. Really. It won’t.

So, being a child of the times I followed all these summer precepts with the trusting soul of a lamb safe in the proximity of its sheepy-flock who are all taking the same steps. Or so I thought.

The result: I sally forth from my home feeling responsibly summer-ized; well-covered in fabric and formula.

It isn’t until the day is nearly over that I pass a mirror.

I do not resemble a savvy denizen of the summer. Leering back at me is the reflection of a white-faced creature in something long-sleeved and ankle-length.

Summer has a whole new look, and now…so do I.

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I look like a damn Kabuki ghost.

 

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Just bitchin'

#GroupHealth and the Maze of Misinformation

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Oh, dear.

It’s time for another useless rant; the type that soothes the ranter’s soul, but unfortunately wields no power to affect the outcome of the situation spawning the rant in the first place.

But, what the hell. Ranting has its place in the scheme of things.

Subject of rant: The acquisition of the Washington based HMO Group Health by California’s “not for profit” healthcare monster Kaiser Permanente.

I could go on and on, but most readers would tune out. So, let’s use two tidbits of information that are easily digested and can lead to individual outrage and a host of offshoot rants. I can only hope.

The acquisition is being pushed by Group Health (called ‘Group Death’ by some in homage to the general climate of managed health organizations and their penchant for treating spreadsheets rather than patients). The picture painted is one of a phalanx of healthcare workers facing down the ills that plague humanity, noble noses turned into the wind of the future as they not only take positively mythic bounds in providing excellent care, but also create an astonishing number of new jobs for the beleaguered Washington economy.

Gosh, wouldn’t that be nice…

Unfortunately, this is how Kaiser Permanente is described in the industry (and this is a direct quote…not my words):

“Kaiser has had disputes with its employee’s unions, faced civil and criminal charges for patient dumping, faced action by regulators over the quality of care it provided, especially to patients with mental health issues, and has faced criticism from activists and action from regulators over the size of its cash reserves.”

Hmmm…gives one pause.

But, not to worry! Group Health members were assured of being able to vote on this mega-acquisition. The power is in their hands!

Gosh, wouldn’t that be a first…

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Because this is the clandestine fly in the ointment of the voting charade (again, not my words, but a direct quote from the Puget Sound Business Journal):

“A special meeting to consider the vote is set for Saturday, but under the co-op’s bylaws, members must have been registered to be a voting member at least 60 days beforehand.….The timing caused some criticism, however, because Group Health officials announced the deal three days too late for most Group Health members to register to vote.”

Aw, snap!

Ain’t that a shame?

No, it’s not. That’s the plan.

Game…and rant…over.

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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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A Tasty Fake: Lean Cuisine’s Salad Additions Asian Style

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As promised, my quest to recreate the now defunct Lean Cuisine Salad Additions continues…

After my last blog, Getting Mad; Getting Busy appeared, the folks at Lean Cuisine got in touch. They were very nice. I am told I may continue to push my versions of their salads as long as I make it crystal clear that they in no way support or have any connection with me, my blog, or my recipes. In fact, they suggested I post this ‘prominently’:

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

Done.

Now, let’s move on to my second favorite Lean Cuisine Salad Addition…Asian Style.

I’m tweaking the ingredients a little to make it easier for non-cooks like me who shop in normal, everyday, un-gourmet markets. This is an adventure for me, because I start each quest by searching for the same things Lean Cuisine used to list as featured ingredients on their Salad Addition packaging.

For instance, Asian Style touts both yellow and orange carrots. After a long and arduous hunt, I did find a store that sold small bags in the produce section labeled ‘Rainbow Carrots.’ There were indeed yellow ones tucked in amongst the orange, an unusual reddish version, and a rather bleak-looking grayish-blue. And they were quite pricey.

No thanks.

So my Asian Style facsimile will use only the trusted and beloved orange carrot you can find anywhere.

The same went for the crispy noodles that Lean Cuisine uses in lieu of croutons. Sure, there are crispy noodles in the Asian aisle. You know, the aisle that also has Mexican, Italian, Indian and Kosher, with a sprinkling of exotica from other nationalities, like the British treacle. (Still not sure what treacle is, but my mind conjures visuals that are best left unexplored.) Anyway, the noodles I saw were too thick and heavy. So I chose something from the salad dressing aisle where croutons and toppings reside. Crispy wonton strips.

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So. Ingredients assembled. Here we go…

 You’ll need:

2 oz. broiled chicken breast meat

61 grams (about 8 pieces) canned pineapple chunks

50 grams frozen, shelled endamame

1 oz. carrots, sliced or julienned

2 oz. broccoli florets

2 tablespoons of a ginger/sesame/soy salad dressing (I use Paul Newman’s Low Fat Sesame Ginger Dressing)

7 grams wonton strips (I use Fresh Gourmet Wonton Strips)

Lettuce to taste

Put the pineapple chunks, frozen endamame, carrots and broccoli into your trusty microwave-safe bowl. 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 ingredients. Drizzle with the dressing and add the wonton strips last.

Voilà! A really tasty Asian style salad that gives the extinct Lean Cuisine version a run for its money. This recipe clocks in at 263 calories as compared to Lean Cuisine’s 260 calories. Good enough.

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If you set up an assembly line type production, you can put the cooked chicken, pineapple, endamame, carrots and broccoli in freezer bags. For a convenient, healthy, delicious meal days or weeks later, empty the contents of the freezer bag into your microwaveable bowl. Cover. Cook for 2 minutes 40 seconds for an 1100 watt oven. Then add to the lettuce, dressing and wonton strips.

Enjoy!

And at this point I’d like to appease the Lean Cuisine folks by again boasting that:

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

But I wouldn’t put it past them to try this at home themselves… hehehehehe

Next up: the Lean Cuisine Salad Additions Cranberry and Chicken!

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Getting Mad; Getting Busy

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Nestlé does not sponsor, authorize or endorse my blog or these recipes. They told me so. And said I better make that very clear on each and every blog about them.

The kitchen is not where I belong.

So when I find something convenient and palatable that takes a minimum of prep time, I stick with it. I embrace it. I engulf it. It becomes my staple.

So it was with Lean Cuisine Salad Additions.

Until…they disappeared.

I searched the local market for a year. Gone. No more.

Finally, I contacted Lean Cuisine themselves and asked what had happened. They replied that the sales didn’t justify the shelf space. In other words, people would rather buy gummy entrees like macaroni and cheese, or ones that imitate their unhealthy cousins, like beef steeped in sour cream, than make a salad.

I’m not surprised. My outrage for the eating habits which the advertising and food industries encourage continues to grow.

But I loved Lean Cuisine’s Salad Additions. So I determined to enter the foreign territory of the kitchen and see if I could duplicate them. I contacted the Lean Cuisine folks again and asked them if they’d mind my blogging the simple, tasty recipes for those who miss Salad Additions. They replied that my request had been sent to the appropriate department. That’s where it ended.

I haven’t heard back and I can’t blame them. If the product wasn’t profitable, why would they waste time responding to inquiries about it? That’s not good business when the bottom line isn’t health, but profitability.

So I’m posting the first of my favorite recipes for anyone who wants to fill the gap Lean Cuisine left wide open.

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You’ll need a small, kitchen scale you can get at most grocery stores, and a microwaveable bowl you can cover (I use a microwaveable plate as a cover).

This is my replication of Lean Cuisine Salad Additions Greek Style.

 

You’ll need:

2 oz. broiled chicken breast meat

3 pitted black olives, sliced

33 grams (approximately 1/8 cup) of canned garbanzo beans, drained

1 oz. carrot, sliced or julienned

1 oz. broccoli florets

1 oz. sliced red bell pepper

2 tablespoons of a cucumber/dill salad dressing (I use Safeway brand Tzatziki Cucumber Dressing)

Lettuce to taste

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Place the olives, garbanzo beans, carrot, broccoli and bell pepper in the microwaveable bowl. Cover. Microwave on high for 2 minutes, 15 seconds for an 1100 watt microwave oven. Adjust the time up or down a few seconds for different wattage. While it’s cooking, put your lettuce in a bowl or on a plate. Slice the chicken meat. Toss the lettuce with the chicken and the microwaved veggies. Top with the cucumber dressing. The salad toppings and dressing weigh in at 240 calories.

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It’ll taste delicious. You won’t miss Lean Cuisine at all.

After doing this twice, I was comfortable enough to make several servings at once. Put the veggies and chicken in freezer bags; one serving per bag. Whenever you want a healthy salad, empty the chicken and veggies into that microwaveable bowl, cover, and heat for 2 minutes, 30 seconds. Add your lettuce and dressing and thumb you nose at the food industry.

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If you do go the freezer route, it’s best if the chicken isn’t overcooked when you broil or grill or bake it. If you do overcook it’ll just be a little tougher texture than otherwise when you microwave the frozen meat. It’ll still taste great, though, in my opinion.

So, from a non-cook who’s outraged that the salad was discontinued and an ad just popped up on TV for a burger layered with a hotdog and potato chips…and the reason given for this revolting concoction is “Because…AMERICA!” ….bon appetit!

 

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Unless Lean Cuisine makes me stop… Next up: The Asian Style Salad Addition (yum…that one has pineapple in it!)

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