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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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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Grainless

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For the last couple of months I’ve been trying an experiment.

Spurred by unprecedented allergies spawned by plants and dust boorish enough to insist on occupying the same planet I do, I began searching for a solution.

I don’t like drugs. If a side effect is possible, it will find me. So, tossing antihistamines to the pollen-laden, dust-carrying wind, I sought something that would address the allergy issue from a more natural viewpoint.

And I thought I found it.

I was amazed at the proclamations that were made! The accomplishments touted! The rosy, healthful portrait painted! Imagine…no more allergies. In fact, uncounted physical and mental blessings would shower down upon me if only I would follow the plan.

So I vowed that for two months, I would embrace a grain-free diet.

We’re not talking just ‘gluten free,’ the buzz word that has spread it’s dry, wheatless fingers over our culture with unexpected tenacity. We’re talking no grains at all. The logic behind the diet was intriguing, if un-provable. I didn’t care about losing weight, so this clever plan hooked me with a dazzling array of other benefits.

I would give it a fair shot. I would jump in wholeheartedly.

I bought the book loaded with attractive grain-free recipes. I decided to try their version of ‘bread’ first. This necessitated a shopping trip.

Fine. I was going to do this right. One food processor, a hand mixer, a wooden spoon, various mixing bowls, and an array of hard-to-find-and-extremely-expensive ingredients later…I was ready to begin.

I made their version of ‘bread.’ I felt victorious when it looked like the picture. I figured I could get used to the odd taste…and I did. I was off and running. Allergy-freedom was a mere five days away. But I was warned that those five days could be grueling as my body labored its way through grain withdrawal.

I stuck it out. As long as withdrawal doesn’t involve vomiting and the shakes…I’m your girl. I found it encouraging when I did feel a little under the weather. It was like a promise kept. Surely the rest would come true, too.

Well, two months later I have to admit…the regimen dried up my sinuses. It also dried up my skin, my hair, my eyes, and whatever pads one’s joints to make movement fluid and painless.

“Maybe my body will adjust,” I croaked to myself early on as I awoke in the middle of the night for the seventh time, my throat parched, my skin itching, my eyes grating against their lids loud enough to be audible. “Maybe I just need more time.”

Yeah. Right. I stuck it out for two months.

I traded allergy angst for a full body malady.

I’m off the bloody program. My shopping list for tomorrow unashamedly includes bread, cereal, and a host of other items that will hopefully reboot and re-lube my entire system.

But I think the most telling indictment of this misadventure was when I brought the last loaf of ‘bread’ outside and left it for the host of wild creatures with whom I share my land. I set it out last night.

It’s still there.

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