Monday, November 30, 2015

Meatless Monday - Have you Eaten?

For my "meatless Monday" I'm going to feature a meat free lunch and dinner recipe.  The lunch uses some pre-made products and cooks in minutes, perfect to make up before work to stick in a little cooler to reheat for lunch or to have on a short break at home on "off" or "telework" days.

Dinner uses things you likely have around the house.  Not only is it quick to make it's SUPER cheap - like a QUARTER per serving when you buy your beans and pasta in bulk.

Breakfast was a smoothie made with a a green  apple, some green grapes, spring water, a big handful of spinach and some protein powder. It was really refreshing. I also packed some cut up raw veggies and an apple for an afternoon snack.
Lunch was Gardein mandarin orange crispy chicken.  I got these for 4 bags  for $10 at the store on sale which works out to just a little over a buck per recommended serving. These are my all time favorite vegetarian products for having the taste and texture of  cooked meat without a lot of ingredients I can't pronounce (and they have a great bean burger). Seriously, look at the ingredient list of some other well known brands of "veggie meats - it's a science experiment! This offering has gluten but for those of you sensitive or intolerant, Gardein has several products which are gluten free and very tasty.

Main Ingredients: water, soy protein, wheat gluten, expeller pressed canola oil, wheat, amaranth, millet, quinoa, yeast, vegetable gum, potato starch, sea salt, natural flavors from plant sources, onion powder, vinegar, garlic powder, pea protein, carrot fiber, beetroot fiber, paprika, turmeric and natural smoke flavoring.  The sauce is sweetened with mandarin and tangerine juice concentrate and chopped orange peel. This blows the Ailuropoda melanoleuca Express fast food orange chicken out of the water, considering how healthy it is.
It cooks up in a pan in a little olive oil in just six minutes (or you can baked in the oven for 15-18 min.)  The sauce is in a little packet you just heat up in a coffee cup full of hot water.  I served with some quinoa I made in the microwave.  The package says "serves 3" but my husband and I, when eating together, split the bag when it's the orange chicken because we just love it.

With the quinoa (and a small side salad) lunch was in at less than 400 calories with 21 grams of complete protein.
Dinner was lentil pasta sauce.  I used a jar of pasta sauce I got on sale for .99 cents to which I added extra basil and some caramelized onion (optional for those of you who don't eat onion), a shake or two of crushed red pepper, a drop of honey and two cups of cooked lentils.  (rinse and simmer 20 minutes, and you have lentils!).

I tossed it with some cooked spaghetti with just a tiny sprinkle of cheese and a side of cooked carrots. The leftover sauce also freezes well for a quick meal another day.

The days protein was around 50 grams with the protein powder in the smoothie, enough for a woman of my weight on a day I wasn't  very physically active.  Note:  If you want to know how much protein you need, for other than a very active person -  convert your weight to kilograms and multiply that by .8 to get the grams.

It was also high in fiber and low in saturated fat, a win win that won't have you missing the meat.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Migas!

An easy breakfast that has both healthy fats, veggies, and lots of protein without a ton of carbs is one skillet away.

Using 2 or 3 leftover small tortillas (traditionally this dish uses corn ones, but I used some gluten free flour tortillas), eggs and other things you have on hand, this can be on the table in 5 minutes, and makes a very filling breakfast or brunch for less than 400 calories per serving (serves two).  You can add a lot more veggies, I just used what was on hand after a lot of cooking the last couple of days.
Migas

Cut leftover tortillas into small triangles or strips.  Place 2 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil in pan and heat on medium.  In a bowl whisk four eggs, a splash of non fat milk and some leftover onion (or saute up some fresh onions and/or veggies of your choice).

Heat the tortillas in the oil, just until they start to brown but aren't too crisp.  Pour in eggs and scramble until moist,  but cooked through.  Sprinkle with 1/4 cup cheddar and serve with hot sauce on the side.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Light Desserts - Holiday Cooking With Jameson


Looking for a cake that has great holiday flavor but isn't coated with a ton of heavy icing.  Try this one.  Here - I'll even walk you through making one.

Irish Whiskey Bundt Cake

Directions:

Check the Jameson's to make sure the quality is good. Pour a sample and sip delicately.

Take a large bowl from the cupboard. You will need that, two cups, and a set of measuring spoons. Check the Jameson again. Your shot glass is now in the dishwasher, so use that large glass.

In a bol sift flour, being careful not to knock over the glass of Jameson. You'd best move it, so take a sip and set it aside.

Turn on the electric mixer.n. . Beat cup of butter with the sugar in a large fluffy bowl.

Get the eggs out. Have another sip of that Jameson.

Turn off the mixerer thingy. Break 2 leggs and add to the bowl and chuck in the cup of dried fruit there.. It's not in ther recipe, but what the heck. .

Mix on the turner, watching the the fried druit doesn't get stuck in the beaterers.

Oh #(&*. It DID get stuck. Oh look there's a knife, I can just pry it . . .

OW OW OW. Son of a *&^%#

Get bandage. Best splash some Jameson on the wound to sanertize it, and here let's have another sip. Pour a cup in the battery, stirring will, taking a taste to make sure the tonsisticity is still good

Next, measure two cups of baking . . .washing. . . . gun? Some kind of powder thing.

Another sip.

Now shift the liquids and strain your nuts. Add am xtra spoon of sugar if you lick it sweeter and one Table. . . . I can't read that, looks like. . .well. is that cinnaman, no, maybe CLOVES, or clothes?? OK, I set my clothes aside, now I'm cold, best have another sip to warm myself. It's medicinal you know.


Grease the oven. Turn the bundt pan 360 degrees.

Damn, now I'm dizzy. I think I forget to beat off the turner. Do that, and bake for 40 minuets.

This cookin thing is easy, need my own show on the TV ZZzzzzzzzzz

 cake photo and recipe http://www.gourmet.com/

Friday, November 27, 2015

The Day After - Healthy Leftovers

After Thanksgiving there are the usual leftovers.  I was on call and had to work the next day quite early,  so I kept Thanksgiving dinner very simple - with some meat cooked that will be used for more little sandwiches for a future gathering with friends.

But there were other leftovers in the fridge including some crock pot baked chicken.  We shredded it and added a LOT of chopped celery to it to fill me up without a lot of calories and used Veganese instead of mayo which has 2/3 the saturated fat of mayo, using JUST enough to hold everything together.

The sandwich was made out of a dinner roll so it was more of a "slider", but with a lot of carrots was a nice little filling lunch, even if the husband ate more than one.

But you can make things out of leftovers without breaking the calorie bank.

Mashed potatoes:  Put a thin layer on a mixture of lentils or meat in tomato sauce with lots of veggies, top with Paprika and bake for a shepherds pie.

Stuffing:  Put a bit of stuffing in a muffin tin, forming it up the sides of the mold,  break an egg into it, top with herbs and bake until the egg is done for little stuffing cups.

Sweet Potatoes:  Sweet potatoes diced  fine make a great vegetarian chili with black beans and flavored with cumin and lime juice. If you want a little more protein, add some vegetable protein, barley or some of your turkey ground with a meat grinder.

Turkey Tostadas :  Use a whole grain or gluten free tortilla and top with turkey, romaine, avocado, green salsa and a just a few shreds of low fat cheese

Turkey wrap.  Grind up or slice some turkey and toss with Greek seasoning.  Serve in a whole grain tortilla or pita with cucumber and  plain yogurt.

Leftover veggies:  Dice and make a single serving frittata, topped with salsa and a small dab of yogurt or non fat sour cream


And the fruitcake?:


Thursday, November 26, 2015

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Other than that Mrs. Lincoln?

A Question for my readers who are also science geeks like me - If they're "Newtons" how come they are measured in ounces?

This weekend was not good in "eatinghealthyland".  My husband went out of town for several days to visit family.  Since I use all my leave time caring for my 95 year old Dad out on the West Coast, I couldn't join him as I can't afford to take a day off without pay with expenses for Dad that run into the thousands per month (he will NOT live with us or any of the grandkids who have offered, wanting to die in the house he outlived two wives and two children in -  but that requires nursing care).

My in-laws understand, but it made for a lonely weekend.  After a big blow out meal for the husband of macaroni and cheese with bacon and pie before he left - I was left alone with leftovers, red wine and sandwich stuff, and Fig Newtons.

Let's just say I should not have got on the scale this morning as I'd gained two pounds back.

He's home and tonight it was crockpot chicken drizzled with a Bragg Organic Vinaigrette (the BEST) with herbs and steamed veggies. But I still feel like. . . but you know, the Fig Newtons with a small glass of red wine before a bubble bath almost made it worth it.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Snack Bites

Sometimes you want that little something  - your one weakness.

Mine?  Brownies.  I don't dare make a tray of them or they would be all gone.

But how about Brownies for one.  With the recipe on the box of No Pudge fat free brownie mix you can do just that.

All you need is some low fat vanilla yogurt, one Tablespoon for two Tablespoons of brownie mix.  Mix and microwave for one minute.

That's it!  You'll have a moist, densely, chocolaty bites of goodness for about a hundred calories and for a lot less $$ then some single serving sized dessert snack cakes or muffin tops.

You can also bake them in the office for  denser texture and taste by making the whole box, but the little cup of goodness was just what I needed.

I found the product at my local small grocers so it should not be hard to find.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Fe Fi Pho - Shopping at the International Grocery Store

There it was, the largest International Store in Indianapolis and I was visiting a gal friend.  We'd talked about doing an expedition here on one of the weekend "Girls Day Out" (as my gal friend T. said -- "They have Lebanese TV dinners!"), so it seemed like a possibly fun outing.

Saraga International Market. It's in an old K Mart, to give you an idea how BIG it was.  I don't have pictures as it's not in the best part of town, and I didn't want to be strolling through the parking lot with $4000 worth of camera dangling off of me. It's not an area I'd be afraid to go in the daytime but I didn't want to be obvious about expensive toy.  The cars in the lot in the early morning were all new, late models, while the local foodies and some snappily dressed retirees from all over town, came in to get the best values while the rest of the world was still sleeping in or heading off to work.  There are also two other locations in the area, but this one was the original off of 38th and Lafayette.

But it was a pretty neat store, with food from ALL over the world, and very good prices.  There was every kind of frozen and fresh fish in the world, some of which were the stuff of my particular nightmares (seriously, people eat that?) and all kinds of exotic" meat produce". Duck, Goose, lamb, international hooves of mystery and eels for my hovercraft!
I went mostly just see what they had. And I was seriously  happy to find that they had black rice, a wonderfully filling and nutty treat higher in antioxidants than blueberries for 1/3 of the price of online (plus, it's hard to find). I also got several sizes of rice noodles, big packages, $1.69 a piece.  (OK and the Maltesers and some Cadbury from the UK fell into the basket)

There was a lot of things I had  never heard of, and I still am chuckling at the jar of Shito - which apparently is some sort of spicy sauce from Guana. (juvenile - yes, but I still laughed). And I don't want to know what Golden King "Grass Jelly Drink, Banana Flavor" tastes like (as I doubt it's banana.)  But there were a lot of things I just had to get!
Do you purchase in bulk? There was more bulk beans and rice, of all KINDS and countries of origin, than I've ever seen. Fresh and dried spices as well and seriously cheaper than Costco and such places.

European food was somewhat limited, outside of teas and candy, though I did get a nice collection of English style biscuits which I like with my tea  and they had some packaged German breads and condiments. But If you want exotic fruits, they have them.  If you want the rarest variety of oriental noodles, they have a whole aisle of them (including some with some seriously creepy Japanese mascots).  Want to make authentic Vietnamese or Thai Food?  Everything you need is here. Have a hankering for Russian tea or some French coffee? There's ingredients to cook Middle Eastern, Indiana, Asian, Jamaican, Mexican, or South American or African, all under one roof and the cost for those items was 50-75% less than the "international" section at most supermarkets.

In Europe, I laugh at some "high end gourmet" sections of their stores where the food from the US is displayed--Kellogg's Corn Flakes, Old El Paso taco seasoning, Newman's Own Salad Dressing and B & M Baked Beans. Finland thinks we live on Pop Tarts, Jello, and Reeses Puffs cereal, and in just about every language, Fluff, apparently, is America's Favorite food. Fluff? Conversely, I can imagine someone from some exotic corner of the world, wandering the aisle here and saying "seriously, they think we eat nothing but cephalopod-flavored potato chips?"

The food is lined up mostly by country or area of origin, so you might find rice in 6 different aisles, which can be confusing, but it was fun to look and they even had a little bakery up front where you could get some freshly made flan to go. That's almost as good as my Mom's recipe for Rosettes.  (Insert Homer Simpson voice here saying  Flannnnnnn....).
The only detractor, is you have to sort of hunt for things, and the floor looked like it needed a good cleaning.  However the ladies rest room was spotlessly and recently clean, which is a good sign  It's probably hard to keep the rest of it up, with all the pallets and boxes constantly on the move as they buy in bulk. While we wandered we saw a lot of such activity, as the employees worked hard to keep everything well stocked.

In line at the check stand, was a very nice young couple from Nigeria, buying a huge bag of Nigerian Rice, a BUNCH of red peppers and tomatoes, shanks of meat of some sort, dried beans and some beautiful looking melon. As "foodies" tend to do  - we were chatting about what we were going to make with our purchases.  The wife was going to prepare a tomato stew with the peppers, and then combine and cook that with the rice and beans with a bit of thyme, curry, bay leaf and a bullion cube and serve it with the meat  braised with spices and melon for dessert. I thought that sounded wonderful.

Foodies   - we know no cultural lines 

Home with the goodies, it was time to see what sounded good for lunch.

Drunken Noodles -
Yea Doggies - this was good.
Make your own - it's not hard and the rice noodles are light and delicate, not thick and starchy.

1/2 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon Asian fish sauce (Red Boat is the best, avoid "Squid" brand fish sauce, which tastes as enticing as the name even if you could buy a case of it here for next to nothing).
1 1/2 teaspoons roasted red chili paste (or a dash of Sriracha)
3/4 teaspoon soy sauce sweetened with 1/4 teaspoon molasses
1/2 teaspoon honey
a pinch of crushed red pepper (optional)

1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced into slivers
3/4 cup assorted veggies (mine had thinly sliced carrots, some green beans and a few water chestnuts,  nuked until softened so they didn't take too long in the pan)
1/2 large jalapeño, seeded (depending on how spicy you like it) and  finely sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 eggs whisked
1/3 pound thinly sliced meat or tofu.
1/2 of an onion thinly sliced
4 cups thick sliced rice noodles, soaked in warm water for about 10 minutes to soften.
1 cup fresh Thai basil, loosely chopped

In a bowl, mix stock, oyster sauce, fish sauce, chili paste, soy sauce and honey, set aside.

In a wok or tall, high sided skillet, heat a couple tablespoons of oil over medium high heat.  Add the red pepper, jalapeño, and garlic and stir fry until fragrant, about 2 minute, then push it up along the edge where it's cooler. Add the egg mixture and scramble, breaking it up into small bits, pushing it up to the edge while it's still a little "wet".   In pan, cook meat and onion until the onion is softened and meat is partially cooked (1-2 minutes) adding a dash of red pepper if you like it nice and spicy.  Add the noodles and veggies and stir-fry until  it and the meat is cooked through (4-5 minutes) adding a couple tablespoons of water if the noodles are crisping up too much, Add the sauce and stir until incorporated, folding in the basil and stirring until wilted.  Served with salad with honey mustard salad dressing (OK, not oriental, but Finland thinks we like it) and an egg roll with some sweet and sour sauce from a jar.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Shades of Grey Poupon - French Cookpot Cooking Lesson

My husband bought me one of those French enamel cook pots.  It's like a Dutch oven, but the instructions are in French!  I had hinted that I wanted one after seeing the roast perfection our friend Mr. B. did one night in his enameled cooking pot and next thing you know - there's one on the counter.

Here is my first attempt at chicken in it.  It turned out really tasty, but the aroma, oh my, the aroma that filled the house.  Definitely worth a try if only to sit and watch both man and beast sniff the air.   It's not a "crispy skin" chicken, but it is so very, very moist, perfect for slicing up for salads and sandwiches later. You can remove the bacon before serving if you wish, it's purpose is to add a smoky flavor to the skin and keep it moist.

1 whole roasting chicken
7-8 strips of bacon
1/3 cup olive oil (80 mL)
2/3 cup  vermouth  (160 mL)
4 stalks fresh rosemary
1 large lemon
2 sweet onions
generous sprinkle of summer savory (I used Penzey's)
4 cloves garlic, peeled and mashed slightly.

Directions
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. (177 C).

Stuff the cavity of the emptied, cleaned and dried chicken with one onion, outermost layer peeled away, the rest cut into quarters, half a lemon, squeezed (save the juice) and cut in half again, the garlic cloves and 3 sprigs of rosemary.

Take the other onion, peel and cut into medium sized rings, spreading out on the bottom of the enamel pan.

Truss your chicken.  This helps the bird cook evenly and hold it's shape as it cooks and as you carve it (even if two lemon slices stuck to the top of the French Oven.).  Basic directions are below but if you need additional help there's numerous videos of it on the net (though it's  "trussing" not "bondage" or you may get some web sites you don't want).

1) Pass about 3 feet of cooking string underneath the tail. Bring the ends of the string up around each leg and cross the ends over the top.
2) Bring the string under the drumsticks and pull both ends to pull the legs together. Draw the ends of the string along either side of the chicken and over the wing joints.
3) Turn the chicken onto its breast, cross the string over the neck skin, and tighten to pull the wings to the body
4) Tie the strings securely so your chicken doesn't fly the coop.
5) Turn the chicken onto its back again, it is now ready for. . . . bacon!

Sprinkle the chicken with summer savory and place breast side up in the pan on top of the bed of uncooked onion rings.

Place the bacon across the top of the chicken until most of the surface is covered.  Mix the lemon juice from the 1/2 lemon that went into the chicken with the vermouth and pour over chicken.  Drizzle with 1/3 cup olive oil. Slice remaining 1/2 lemon (do not squeeze first) and place on top. Sprinkle dismantled remaining rosemary sprig on top of that.
Cover and bake for one hour. Remove lid, check internal temperature near the bone and continue cooking as needed until the chicken is 165 degrees F (another 30-40 minutes in my old gas oven) at the thickest part of the bird.  Cover loosely with foil and let set 5-10 minutes, remove foil and serve, warm or cold.

Now for your salad dressing.  Grey Poupon Dijon Vinaigrette
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (5 mL)
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar (22 mL)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (60 mL)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • pinch of tarragon (to taste)
Whisk together the mustard and vinegar, then SLOWLY stream in the oil in a thin stream, whisking to make an emulsion.  Salt and pepper to taste, adding tarragon if you wish (optional). Serve a portion of the meat on top of fresh chopped romaine with dressing accompanied by French bread, a glass of wine and a little Cartier Baiser Vole' Eau de Parfum behind each ear.



Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Healthier Sweet and Sour Chicken

As those of you who have read my books know, I spent 20 years working as a pilot before getting a dual Ph.D. in a Criminal justice/Science field and going to work doing investigations that:

Are nothing like TV.
Do NOT let me dress like a stripper.
Solve ANYTHING in an hour (not even, "what are we going to order for lunch?")
Let the "good guys" win every single time.
Provide expensive jets to get us to the "scene", and
Allow me to buy $1000 designer suits.

I love what I do now, but I  had a great time as a pilot.  Pilots navigate along "airways", which are sort of like highways in the sky between fixed points of ground based navigation aids or satellite points.  There are points along these airways, and on the approach to airports when you are flying by instruments that all have names.  All the names have five letters. Some can be quite clever. The one below is an actual approach into Portsmouth.  I've flown it..


But one of my favorite airway intersections, allegedly near a big chicken processing facility, was named CLUCK.

I eat meat once or twice a week, but try and keep it ethically raised and lean, using non factory farm chicken and fresh caught salmon or trout when I'm out at my Dads and keeping fattier cuts down to a treat once a month.  But I want to make more than just baked or braised sometimes.

I love sweet and sour chicken but the thick, deep fried coating is not good for a healthy eating plan. This version, cooked with a simple mix of pepper and pineapple and lightly coated with cornstarch and pan sauteed - is clean and light and oh so yummy. You can double the sauce for guests if you like but I kept the calories down by just using enough for taste.

For a meat free menu - it is also good with plain veggie "chicken" nuggets that are thawed and just slightly moistened so that the cornstarch sticks, then cook as directed on the package and add sauce.

Lighter Sweet and Sour Chicken

Cluck:

3 boneless free range chicken breasts, cut into one inch thick pieces.
1/2 cup plus 1 Tablespoon corn starch
A couple of tablespoons of oil
green pepper, cut into bite sized chunks
a can of pineapple chunks  in juice, not syrup (drain juice reserving 2 teaspoons)

Sauce:

1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup Braggs Apple Cider Vinegar
2 Tablespoons lower sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons pineapple juice
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger (or a couple of dashes of ground)
1/4 cup tomato sauce (you can substitute ketchup but that adds extra sugar)

Another Tablespoon of corn starch blended with 2 Tablespoons of cold water.

Put sauce ingredients in pan, mix and bring to a gentle boil over low to medium/low heat (NOT high, be patient).  In a little coffee cup -  mix the tablespoon of cornstarch and water, and slowly drizzle that in, whisking constantly, until sauce is thickened, then cover and keep on warm.

Put cornstarch in a baggie and shake the pieces of chicken, doing just a few at a time.  Heat oil in a fry pan and when the chicken is all ready, saute with the green pepper and pineapple, until the chicken is brown, lightly crisp and cooked through. Toss with sauce and serve with a half cup of rice per person.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Zoodles!

No - I don't want any of those cheesy chips you were eating.

Abby the Lab  had to go on a diet too, as the vet said she was about 5 pounds over normal weight. She'd been pretty skinny when I get her from rescue and she remembered going hungry so she was a bit of a food hound.  She can join me in cutting back.

One thing I've had to cut back on was the amount of carbs I eat.  I can't go without.  I tried the Paleo Diet for a few days.  No pancakes, no waffles?  And no processed meat or cheeses but simply low sodium healthy stuff like caveman ate.
 I don't think cavemen ate bacon waffles.

I only lasted a few days with nothing but meat, eggs, berries and veggies.   I got a call from my dear friend Lynne out in Maryland who is also trying to lose a few pounds.  This is how that call went.

Me:  I tried to do the no bread/no processed food Paleo thing - it didn't go so well.

Lynne.  - What happened?

Me:  I made it almost a week.

Lynne: And?

Me:  I just ate an entire box of vegetarian corn dogs. . . . .  With a beer chaser.

Lynne (laughing)  I love you.

But cutting back on cheese, sugar, processed food and supersized portions IS a healthy way to cut back, but it's easier if you start by just replacing a few meals as you gradually adjust to healthier eating habits. This was my lunch today.

I love the stainless steel Lunchbots Box (from my favorite shopping place - Amazon).   It's a tad bigger than most Bento Boxes and she  like having an assortment of stuff to nibble on especially on those days she doesn't  have time for a formal sit down "lunch".

For dinner - something totally new.

ZOODLES.  That's right, noodles made out of zucchini.  I bought the little julienne tool at Amazon and figured - worst case scenario we could eat the sauce.

Simply wash the zucchini's, cut off the ends and make a thin slice on the top and  bottom. so it stays in place on the cutting board and you have a level surface to julienne,  Then, simply  run the slicer over it to make long strands of zuchinni.
This was about 2 pretty good sized zucchinis, enough for two people.. This is what it looked light before cooking.  I did slightly peel the squash with the julienne tool so the noodles weren't too dark green.

Some onions were cooked up with garlic to add to some leftover pasta sauce.
Cover the zoodles and nuke for two minutes when the sauce is heating.  (If you're doing a big batch you might want to  cook a bit longer). 
Top with sauce (this sauce was loaded with tomatoes and carrots.  (Note:  Drain the zoodles after nuking - they had a bit more liquid than she expected after cooking so I had a bit of liquid on the plate.)  They were surprisingly good as a base for the sauce and had a bite and texture just like spaghetti.

I'll still have my occasional small portion of pasta and bread, but when I've overdone on the carbs I know I can use my zoodle and have a healthy dinner.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Convenience Food Rip Off Report - And an Alternative

I don't have to tell my readers that the majority of convenience food is a rip off, one can cook from scratch for so much less.  However, I still have times I'm willing to try a product, for that rare day I've nothing in the freezer at the crash pad, and I've come back from days on the road.

I've had my not so pleasant surprises, like the Bob Evans frozen Omelet from the grocers which was LESS than a filling breakfast (even on a salad plate you needed an electron microscope to find it).
But I had always liked Kashi products.  Kashi started out with some good cereals and bars, then they were sold to another company ten or so years ago.  New cereals coming out had a fair amount of sugar so I usually do Cheerios or a generic version of Grape Nuts. But I did try their frozen individual black bean burrito meal and it was tasty, if expensive for the amount.  So when I saw this "steam meal" I had to try it, even if the price $4.79 was well, still high.  But look how big the bag is for one serving.
Four and a half minutes in the microwave and there would be my big heaping plate of grilled chicken breast, veggies and a bit of pasta. It's not advertising itself as a "diet" meal, simply a healthy one.

This is the picture on the package (and on their website, kashi dot com)

This is what I got (I separated out the ingredients so you could see). 

A cup of noodles in some "sauce",  1/4 cup of limp veggies (and I cooked at the minimum time on the package), and  about three and a half anorexic strips of chicken.  The noodles were whole grain but the "Parmesan sauce" tasted like salt, mixed with salt with a dash of salt.
click to enlarge photos, hypothetically speaking

The chicken was as tender as a parking meter and apparently whatever they painted the "grilled" marks on the cover picture with  must have washed off during the steaming process. They advertise it as "natural" but it tasted just like those"brined with rib meat" breasts that you can buy at Big Box Mart in 20 pound bags.  But their website says the "natural"  means "minimally processed" with "no artificial sweeteners or preservatives", which simply means they didn't take the chicken out for a couple of martinis and Cirque du Soleil, before turning it into chicken bits.

I've had much worse tasting pre-packaged meals but mixed together, the contents of the bag wouldn't cover 1/4 of a normal size plate.

Frankly folks, this was about twenty cents worth of food, for which I paid close to $5.

The day I made that I had spent the majority of the day in tabletop exercises that involved neither a table or exercise. I donated blood with the Blood Center on my meal break.  I washed and vacuumed the Bat Truck, which is roughly the size of Delaware.  I wanted something that would fill me up.

I could do better than that, and almost as fast.

Cowboy Pasta (light version) - serves four and freezes well

2 cups dry pasta
2 reduced fat Brats or Chicken sausages (If you want a vegetarian version, Whole Foods has a good vegan bratwurst)
1 cup Light Alfredo Sauce (Classico and Bertolli both have good ones).
1 can sliced black olives
2 cans MILD Rotel (tomatoes with green chilis) DRAIN before using.
1/4 tsp dried jalapeno (I used Spice Island brand)
1 to 3 shakes of dried red pepper (three makes it HOT, but not "reach for the water" hot).
2 cups lightly steamed veggies such as broccoli
smoked cheddar (garnish only).

 Mix Rotel, olives, and Alfredo sauce and spices, and heat on low. While that heats, cook pasta in boiling water until al dente (about 10-11 minutes for the thicker wagon wheel style pasta).

While pasta cooks cook Brats. I sauteed with some non stick cook spray and a teaspoon of olive oil until lightly brown then, poured half a can of light beer over the top and covered, reducing heat, letting them steam while the pasta cooks. Drain the pasta, and keep warm. Uncover the Brats and saute in the pan juice/beer mixture (you can use water if you don't wish to use alcohol) until nice and brown and about 170 degrees internal temperature (easy way to figure, slice, should not be pink in the middle). Should be just a minute or two on the saute part. Slice bratwurst and mix with pasta, sauce and a the steamed veggies. Sprinkle with a little bit of freshly shredded smoked cheddar.

A bowl weighs in at less than 500 calories and is a complete, and filling meal.  With a breakfast and lunch of around 300 you can enjoy this and still have a small glass or wine or a couple of pieces of fruit during the day as a snack and be around 1500 calories for the day.