recipes

Yes, your hands will pretty much be covered in meat and cheese. (Photo courtesy Foodgeekery.com)

Yes, your hands will pretty much be covered in meat and cheese. (Photo courtesy Foodgeekery.com)

It’s an old cliché: “give the people what they want.”

Our friends at KFC seem to firmly believe in that, although they don’t seem to be certain exactly what it is that “the people” want. It wasn’t long ago that they rolled out grilled chicken to much fanfare (and anger, and near-riots). And in a couple of recent tests (which involved me going to KFC for grilled chicken), it seemed to be so successful that restaurants in the Seattle area were running out of the grilled option at dinner time.

But in America’s heartland, it’s apparently a different story: the chicken chain just unveiled the “Double Down” sandwich as a trial in the Nebraska and Rhode Island markets. Ingredients include:

  • Two strips of bacon
  • A slice of Swiss cheese
  • A slice of pepperjack cheese
  • “Special sauce,” which if we know our special sauces contains a large percentage of Mayonnaise
  • Instead of bread, two fried chicken breast “fillets.”

Remember that old Jack-In-The-Box ad where the focus group says that their only problem with a meat-and-cheese sandwich is that it has a bun? KFC has listened to that focus group.

And even the Canadians are laughing at us (although they shouldn’t: I give you poutine). When a KFC spokesperson has to step in and calm people down by offering a corporate estimate of “only” 590 calories and 31g of fat (that means the calories are half fat), there’s a problem.

This is why it’s incredibly hard to stick to a diet in America. You can’t turn on a TV for five minutes without a pitch for fast food, usually involving an oversized American portion of meat, accompanied by photos of something that looks nothing like what they’ll actually serve you. It’s a quick fix for hunger that is harmful to you in every other way. The recipes are not created out of some sort of food artistry — they’re designed to make you come in and buy. If it takes more fat and salt to do that, they’ll be happy to put more fat and salt in there.

What Can You Do?

  • Keep your house full of fresh, good food.
  • Eat 5-6 meals a day, so you are never really hungry.
  • Make yourself understand the calorie, fat and sodium content of a fast-food meal.
  • When you get a craving for something you see on TV, eat something similar at home. In this case, grill or bake some chicken breasts with herbs or spices.

That last one is really important. You should have a recipe you like for something close to what you most often crave. My weakness is burgers, so I periodically grill some with 96% fat free ground sirloin mixed with onions and spices. There are a huge number of healthy chicken recipes out there – if you can keep from from frying it, a chicken breast is one of the staples of a nutritious diet.

The key is to have tasty, healthy choices close at hand and by getting the regular exercise that will make you crave nutritious food.

Then when you get what you want, it’ll also be what you need.

Update 4/11/10: KFC rolls out the Double Down sandwich chain-wide today. They don’t hate money, do they?

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You need vegetables. They give you nutrients and disease-fighting compounds that just don’t exist in beef and cheese, from Vitamin C (so you won’t get scurvy) to lycopene (which may reduce the risk of prostate cancer). And what better way of getting a wide variety of nutrients than combining them in a salad? Summer is a perfect time for cool food, and most salads come practically right out of the refrigerator onto your plate.

May also be consumed beside a photo of a dog. (Flickr photo by FredoAlvarez)

May also be consumed beside a photo of a dog. (Flickr photo by FredoAlvarez)

Also, if you’re like me you’ve got a bunch of summer “pot luck” events lined up: barbecue parties, work-related gatherings, tailgating – and let’s face it, most guys bring something pre-packaged, dead boring, or both (“I call dibs on bringing chips!”). If you show up with a tasty, homemade salad you’ll at least have something nutritious to eat, and might even impress the ladies (the bar for a man with cooking skills is pretty low, and that’s in your favor).

But let’s face it, salad done too often can be boring. So you’d better have a wide variety of salad ideas at your disposal – and they sure as hell had better be simple, son. Well, I’ve got good news in the form of a New York Times list of 101 easy-to-make salads. A few of the tasty and simple options on the list:

  • Broiled mushroom caps and red onions tossed with basil and olive oil.
  • Seared tuna with olives, capers, tomatoes, parsley and olive oil.
  • An easy “Sichuan slaw” including bean sprouts, fresh chiles and a soy sauce-based dressing.
  • A “turkey sandwich salad”: shredded lettuce or cabbage, turkey, Swiss cheese, rye croutons and Russian dressing.
  • Greens tossed with walnuts, blue cheese and raspberries with vinaigrette (how simple is that?).

There are also several dressing recipes you can splash on your own creations. But before I leave you, here’s my own standby:

Simplest Possible Vinaigrette

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar (any brand, but don’t go too cheap)
  • Pinches of salt, pepper and (if desired) basil

Put ingredients into a shaker cup or other shakable, pourable container, then shake. Done.

101 Simple Salads for the Season [New York Times]

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