Have we all gone mad?

Healthy choice general tso chicken steamerBefore every revolution there is a tipping point, a fine line in the sand that heralds the inevitability of a cultural paradigm shift. Fanatics are rebranded as leaders, and past leaders as fools. Today that line was crossed, not tiptoed over, but jumped across with both feet landing solid on the other side, no turning back.

‘General Tso’s Spicy Chicken Healthy Choice Gourmet Steamer’ – The name of today’s lunch provided more of a mouthful than the paltry 300 calorie, sodium loaded, mockery of sustenance contained inside. Now, I’m a woman habituated to a culinary culture that has us all walking around with salt-licks hanging around our necks. And I’ve been desensitized to the inhumanity of chemistry lab ingredient lists. I can overlook the fact that out of the 73 words appearing in this “Healthy Choice” ingredient list, 35 of those words – including all available forms of parentheses ([{}]) – are dedicated exclusively to “cooked seasoned chicken chunks.” Whatever.

As we become further removed from the growing and processing of food, we are also being increasingly separated by physical barriers. More layers to tear through and discard in the form of packaging. This is more than poetic metaphor – this is f*&^ing ridiculous!! The packaging on ‘General Tso’s Spicy Chicken Healthy Choice Gourmet Steamer’ has crossed over into the kind of cultural exaggeration on par with Marie Antoinette’s sky high wigs and WWE wrestling. Has the whole world gone mad! One use, 300 calories – cardboard box, thick plastic bowl, inner plastic steamer tray, plastic sealed top… is nobody else seeing the insanity here???

general tsoThe average human would have to eat a whopping 7 of these ‘Gourmet Steamers’ to meet their daily calorie requirements. Which, beyond cost and nearly doubling our daily sodium needs, would create a mountain of trash big enough to completely bury poor General Tso and stop him from ever objecting to this appalling (on so many levels) bastardization of his namesake.

Our wastefulness has officially crossed over into the obscene. We jack ourselves up on caffeine with single serving cups/lids/stirrers/sugars/creamers. And bottled water!! Buy a f*&%ing filter people!! Convenience, once a glamour, has become an insatiable. We guzzle energy with a gluttony that would make Caligula blush for shame. I live in Calgary, Canada’s pick-up truck capital, and am constantly dodging out of the path of these behemoths. They harness the power of hundreds of horses and thousands of pounds of metal/rubber/glass, but the only load I ever see them hauling is a few inches of penis and a couple of fleshy nuggets riding shotgun below. There certainly can’t be any brains on board!

I am no fanatic, but maybe I’m fool enough to believe that we can all be heralds to this cause. The madness has to stop. I pledge to forward this post to ConAgra Foods, the makers of ‘General Tso’s Spicy Chicken Healthy Choice Gourmet Steamer’, one week from today (Aug. 7th) along with the total number of Likes and Comments received on this blog post (and the same post on Blank Canvas Living’s Facebook page or Twitter). Let’s join hands and jump over that line together, and into the bright new paradigm beyond!

UPDATE (Aug. 7th): As promised, I’ve forwarded this post on to ConAgra Foods and will keep you posted as to their response. Thank you for all your likes and comments!

UPDATE (Aug. 15th): I’ve posted ConAgra’s response in the comment section below. In rebuttal: If the only available solution to a problem is one that has destructive consequences, in this case to the environment, I think we really need to ask ourselves if we have defined a problem worth solving. In this case the ‘problem’ was choosing a material for a one-use microwave safe steamer tray. Do we, as a society, really ‘need’ a one-use microwave safe steamer tray? And if we, as a society, decide that the answer is “yes,” then maybe the root problem lies within the very nature of that society. Which I believe, is the definition of a problem worth solving!

Save major time and money with this grocery list template and bonus online flyer trick

Time saving grocery list templateOverwhelmed by choice, the modern hunter/gatherer can easily fall prey to the psychological manipulation of 21st century grocery stores. Arm yourself! In a retail environment specifically designed to seduce you into following its lead, this grocery list template will let you get in and out without succumbing to temptation or be paralyzed in the produce aisle. I’ve been there, bag of carrots in hand, caught in a moment of near existential angst – “where do I go from here!?”

Click Here To Download Grocery List Template

Stress, existential or otherwise, causes us to think with our limbic/emotional reactive brain. Use this structured list to guide your rational brain gently through the aisles. The vegetable section is given the largest space on the template to give a direct visual cue to load up on soil born succulence and minimize less healthy items. Yes, there are some cravings that demand satisfaction, but you can’t seriously tell me you woke up dreaming about that jumbo bag of novelty gummies on the endcap of aisle #3.

*BONUS* I saved $45 at the checkout the first time I used this trick! Most grocery store chains now post their weekly specials flyer online. Write these sale items into your grocery list template before you fill in the rest. With the sale items on the page in front of you, you can then build the remainder of your grocery list and Meal Map (details in an upcoming post) around these foods.

Follow these links to your find grocery store’s weekly specials:
Sobeys * Loeb * Safeway * Loblaws

Don’t see yours? Links to other Canadian grocery stores can be found at Smartflyercanada.com. And if you’re looking for links to American stores Click Here.

Sandwich to Salad Week Day 5: The happy ham and egg weekend brunch anticipation salad

The happy ham and egg salad

What is joy? One brief moment of sensory/emotional bliss? Extend the moment retroactively through time with this ‘happy ham and egg salad’. This flavour preview lets you enjoy the raw exquisite anticipation of what lies just out of reach – the weekend. But this salad is more than its emotional garnish. ham and egg salad ingredientsIt is no mediation, no compromise. There’s no lettuce filler or mere hint of ham. This is not a Subway sandwich lying to your face with false promise of satisfaction. This is today. This moment is all we have, all we are. Let’s make this lunch as pure an indulgence as we possibly can. As this 5 day meal plan revolution draws to a close, let’s celebrate with a firework explosion of flavour, colour, and texture. Exalt! For you (and your taste buds) have survived another week at work!

The happy ham and egg weekend brunch anticipation salad
2 boiled eggs
50+g sliced ham
1 yellow bell pepper
2 small tomatoes
2 large white mushrooms
1/2 cucumber

Chop all ingredients into bite-sized pieces. Drizzle with your happiest dressing – perhaps some ‘Punny Mustard Vinaigrette’?

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fast and easy summer salad recipes 3Day 1: The ham and cheese sandwich salad + Inspiration story
Day 2: The fresh off the ‘cobb’ salad that can’t be ‘beet’ + Punny mustard vinaigrette
Day 3: The ‘too healthy for its own good’ beany bread bonanza salad
Day 4: The solar powered spinach mushroom salad + *BONUS* The ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ salad
Day 5: The happy ham and egg weekend brunch anticipation salad

Sandwich to Salad Week Day 4: The solar powered spinach mushroom salad + *BONUS* The ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ salad

The solar powered spinach mushroom saladThere is no universal perfect salad. It’s one of the hard truths of our existence, that perfection is, ultimately, an individual experience. But what human can deny the exaltation felt when the first rays of sun burst through a cloudy sky? The shared emotional warmth of a sudden sunbeam is as universal as we’ll ever get (besides death and sex – but they’re a little harder to work into a salad). Spinach, even when garnished with an asteroid belt of mushrooms can leave even the most dedicated salad explorer pining for Subway – the horror! But add a yellow centre of sunny corn and sunflower seeds and behold… The 5 day sandwich to salad meal plan revolution bursts back to life. Alleluia anyone?

The solar powered spinach mushroom salad
1/2 can corn niblets
2 tbsp sunflower seeds
1 boiled egg
4 large white mushrooms
1/3 cup baby carrots
1 large handful spinach
1 small bunch flat leaf parsley

Chop all (larger) ingredients into bite-sized pieces. Top with corn and sunflower seeds. Drizzle with your favourite dressing or what could be your new fave ‘Punny Mustard Vinaigrette’.

The 'everything but the kitchen sink' salad*BONUS* There are moments in life where to push forward, we must throw everything we have into the mix, our skills and talents, our hopes and dreams, our seeds and beans. This salad is one such occasion. As in life, we put it all together and pray it all works out for the best. And when the leap of faith tastes as delicious as this salad, we are reminded, with sweet relief, that our complexities give flavour to our greatest experiences… and our greatest selves.

The ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ salad
1/3 can assorted beans
2 tbsp pumpkin seeds
25g sliced ham
2 large white mushrooms
2 small tomatoes
1 seranno pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
1 small handful spinach
(or lettuce – or heck, both!)
1 small bunch flat leaf parsley

Thinly slice seranno pepper. Chop all (larger) ingredients into bite-sized pieces. Top with beans, seeds, and your favourite dressing.

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fast and easy summer salad recipes 3Day 1: The ham and cheese sandwich salad + Inspiration story
Day 2: The fresh off the ‘cobb’ salad that can’t be ‘beet’ + Punny mustard vinaigrette
Day 3: The ‘too healthy for its own good’ beany bread bonanza salad
Day 4: The solar powered spinach mushroom salad + *BONUS* The ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ salad
Day 5: The happy ham and egg weekend brunch anticipation salad

Sandwich to Salad Week Day 3: The ‘too healthy for its own good’ beany bread bonanza salad

bean and bread saladIndulging in this salad demands a certain smug hubris. Ha! You say as you look around at your coworkers with their sad little muffins and phallic shaped plastic bags marking them as slaves to Subway. You, like that perfectly groomed businessman on the elevator, can claim a well deserved self-righteousness, because halfway through this 5 day meal plan revolution you have found the secret, not to wealth, not to power, but to pleasure without consequence (provided your system can digest beans discreetly). For you have crawled out of the sensory deprivation chamber of so many celebrated celebrity diets of grilled chicken and steamed vegetables. You have created for yourself a flavourful multilayered orgasm of textural ecstasies. Yes Yes YES – so green, so nutrient packed, and so damn good.

The ‘too healthy for its own good’ beany bread bonanza salad
1 small whole wheat dinner roll
1/3 can assorted beans
2 tbsp pumpkin seeds
1 serrano pepper
3 large white mushrooms
1 medium tomato
1 handful spinach
1 small bunch flat leaf parsley

Tear roll into croutons. Thinly slice serrano pepper. Chop all other (large) ingredients into bite-size pieces. Top salad with beans, pumpkin seeds, and drizzle with day two’s ‘Punny Mustard Dressing’.

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fast and easy summer salad recipes 3Day 1: The ham and cheese sandwich salad + Inspiration story
Day 2: The fresh off the ‘cobb’ salad that can’t be ‘beet’ + Punny mustard vinaigrette
Day 3: The ‘too healthy for its own good’ beany bread bonanza salad
Day 4: The solar powered spinach mushroom salad + *BONUS* The ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ salad
Day 5: The happy ham and egg weekend brunch anticipation salad

Sandwich to Salad Week Day 1: The ham and cheese sandwich salad + Inspiration story

ham and cheese sandwich saladSick of Subway? Stop the hunter/gatherer lunch panic and start eating healthy on your own terms and tastes. This transitional salad will ease you into a 5 day meal plan revolution. All you need to get started is a half-decent knife and a cutting board. And Remember, you can always substitute any ingredient/quantity to maximize you palate’s pleasure…

Ham and cheese sandwich salad:
1 small whole wheat dinner roll
2 slices (unprocessed!) cheddar cheese
50g sliced ham
1/2 avocado
1 red bell pepper
1 serrano pepper
1 handful spinach (or lettuce)
1 small bunch flat leaf parsley

Tear the roll into croutons. Slice the serrano thinly. Chop all other ingredients into bite-sized pieces. Top with your favourite dressing, or hang tight for day two’s ‘Punny Mustard Vinaigrette’. Then read the inspiration story below…

modern neanderthal man and woman“If I ever have to eat another Subway sandwich I swear I’m going to bite somebody’s ears off!” Shouts the Mike Tyson throwback standing beside his wife in the doorway of my Blank Canvas Living Creative Counselling office. His Ferragamo loafers and her Gucci pumps belie the couple’s apparent regression, not to childhood, but back a good 50 000 years.

“I know Subway can get tedious,” I say, as diplomatically as possible, “and it’s got way more salt than you’d think. And I know every sandwich pretty much smells the same and tastes the same… but you’d have to eat a hell of a lot of ears to keep you full till supper.”

“Humph,” grunts the prehistoric wife. “There just aren’t a lot of other options downtown when you’re trying to eat healthy.”

I invite them to sit down, and leave their weapons by the door. “Ok, so your hunter/gatherer approach means you’re stalking a territory of what.. maybe a 300m radius? You’re letting the environment control your meal planning. Take charge! Go together to a smaller, but far more lucrative hunting ground – The Grocery Store! Once or twice a week, go forage to your hearts’ content. If you like the same sorts of things in bed – you’re married aren’t you! – you must enjoy similar flavours in a salad. And change it around – personalize your combos. Spice things up with some spontaneous veggie variety.”

“But then what?” Asks the Ferragamo-ed pre-neolithic man. “We never have any time in the mornings.”

“Who does? All you need is a fridge and a tap – any office kitchen will do. Buy a half-decent knife and a cheap cutting board, and keep one of the fridge drawers stockpiled with ingredients. Then take those same 10 minutes to chop up your salad. You can put together a different recipe every time, depending on what mood you’re in. I’ll email you a recipe every day this week to get you started. Now gather your furs, pick up your spears, and go back to work!”

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fast and easy summer salad recipes 3Day 1: The ham and cheese sandwich salad + Inspiration story
Day 2: The fresh off the ‘cobb’ salad that can’t be ‘beet’ + Punny mustard vinaigrette
Day 3: The ‘too healthy for its own good’ beany bread bonanza salad
Day 4: The solar powered spinach mushroom salad + *BONUS* The ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ salad
Day 5: The happy ham and egg weekend brunch anticipation salad

‘Shrunken head’ man-rescue breakfast oatmeal

healthy oatmeal breakfast recipesAs a follow-up to the ‘I want sex tonight’ steak sandwich, this testosterone boosting oatmeal breakfast recipe will give you the stamina and extended appetite satisfaction to take on whatever – and whoever! – the day throws your way. Freud’s head shrinking was on point about one thing… it always comes back to sex! (Nutrients that increase testosterone listed in brackets)

2 servings (approx 1 cup) oatmeal (avenacosides, arginine)
1 sliced banana (potassium, B vitamins, bromelain)
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds (leucine, magnesium, omega-6, zinc)
breakfast oatmeal ingredients1/4 cup raisins (magnesium, boron)
1/4 dried cranberries
1 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 cups water
milk (vitamin D, calcium)
honey (chrysin)

Prepare oatmeal according to package (stovetop method and large flake oats recommended, but microwave and quick oats are fine). Halfway through cooking time add cinnamon, sliced banana, pumpkin seeds, raisins, and cranberries. Continue cooking until oats are tender and dried fruit ‘shrunken heads’ are plump, juicy, and engorged. Top with honey and milk as desired. Gorge yourself. Then read the inspiration story below…shrunken head man
I lead the waiting oddity of a man down the hall to the office I used with my first Blank Canvas Living creative counselling client, the fire-breathing redhead, but he won’t follow me through its green glass door.

“No offense, Miss,” he says, with a strange mixture of natural shyness and forced (or trained) instant intimacy, “but I’m sick of little rooms and getting my head shrunk. I already start too many mornings with my psychoanalyst. I just want you to give me another recipe like that sandwich. My wife’s been making it for me twice a week for the last month, and I was thinking maybe we could add a Saturday bonus to the repertoire?”

“So you’re married to the redhead, eh?” My memory of her abusive attitude is still painfully fresh. “Happy to hear the sandwich is working.” I wink and invite him to sit with me on the tiled hallway floor. He looks confused, but sits down obligingly with his back to the door. I’m not surprised. He’d have to be used to taking orders by now, especially from women.

“She told me it’s her prescription,” he says, “but to be honest, it’s been so long since she did anything nice for me that she could serve me Kraft Dinner and I’d be just as pumped. I’ve been feeling like shit for so long and all my psychoanalyst ever wants to talk about is how I got messed up as a kid when my father took off. But I gotta tell you, that sandwich makes me feel so much better than all that talking ever does… better about everything.”

Maybe it’s the unreality of the scene, but I can’t resist plunging straight in: “Look, I’m going to go out on a limb here. This isn’t hard science or anything, and this might come off a bit harsh, but we really do tend to marry our parents. I know I did. If your mom was anything like your… um… ‘passionate’ wife, not many men could handle it. And to blame your dad for the fact you’ve gone and got yourself stuck in the exact same situation doesn’t make any sense. Now you’re some raisin headed depressive spending a fortune just to give all your power away to the past. You say you start your mornings getting your head shrunk? I bet you don’t even have breakfast and give yourself half a chance at a decent day.”

He doesn’t say anything. Nothing. The dead air is suffocating. Why the hell did I go on like that?? I hardly have any training and now I’m digging my fingers into some poor guy’s brain like I’m some sort of oracle of marital wisdom!!? All he wanted was a f&**king weekend sex recipe. Shit.

“You know,” he says… finally (I take a deep breath and brace for the worst), “I think you might be right.”

“About the breakfast thing?”

“About everything.”

This is too easy. He’s either faking insight just to humour me, or his malleability is inherent and would make psychoanalysis that much more dangerous to his particular brain.

“Do you have kids with your wife?” I ask. He nods. “Ok, this is what you’re going to do. You’re going to take three weeks off therapy and I’m going to give you a breakfast recipe to maximize your man-strength. And you’re going to spend that therapy time doing high intensity excercise. This is your official prescription. You’ve got to be at your best to take on that woman of yours – in life and in bed! You’re not going to be your dad and cop-out. You’re going to get your testosterone up, your brain healthy, and you’re going to show your family what it means to be a f*&king man!”

He nods. Hope, yes, I can see a glimmer of it deep in the wrinkled sockets of his sunken eyes. And as I watch, his shriveled head begins to swell.

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