The Foodie Report
Ruminations on food, cooking in and eating out in our area.

It's entirely possible to be a vegetarian in Porkopolis. Pop culture reporter Lauren Bishop blogs about products, recipes and restaurants she's tried for others who eat meat-free. E-mail her at lbishop@enquirer.com.

Nicci King is an unabashed foodie and the Lifestyle/Food editor in The Enquirer's features department. She loves to discover new food faves, and she's on a daily quest to answer one burning question: What's for dinner? E-mail her at nking@enquirer.com.

Enquirer Weekend editor Julie Gaw tends to order the same dish every time she eats at a restaurant, but periodically ventures out to discover something new and fabulous. After living in China, Hong Kong, the Philippines and Thailand for more than 8 years, she craves tasty Asian food. E-mail her at jgaw@enquirer.com.

Food/dining writer Polly Campbell loves every quirk and secret of Cincinnati's food personality, and is on a constant lookout for something good to eat. Keep an eye out for her restaurant picks, or see how she's progressing toward becoming famous for her apple pie. E-mail her at pcampbell@enquirer.com.

Communities reporter Rachel Richardson is on a mission to prove vegetarians eat more than lettuce. She shares both her graduate work on American food culture and food-related news.. E-mail her at rrichardson@enquirer.com.

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Monday, March 24, 2008

Thanksgiving for one, please...

*If you have something against frozen dinners, stop reading now.

I'm still on a quest to reduce how much I spend at the grocery store and to drop some pounds without cutting any foods out of my diet. I'm now down 25 lbs since late last fall. And I've managed to save money in the process. I find that it's easier (and cheaper) for me to bring my lunch to work. Plus I don't have to worry about getting to the counter at La Tea Room Cafe (their site was down when I posted) around the corner, with the intent to order a cup of the minestrone but instead order their fabulous chicken salad on a croissant. It's delicious, but just not worth the calories most of the time. So I bring leftovers or a Lean Cuisine with some extra vegetables from home.

What Lean Cuisine says: "A sophisticated blend of roasted turkey medallions glazed with a rich brown sauce accented with dried cranberries. Served over a savory bread dressing and accompanied by creamy, whipped sweet potatoes."

What I say: Um, yeah... not sure about the whole "sophisticated" thing, but not bad for a frozen meal. The turkey was a bit chewy, just as most meat that comes out of the microwave is. But it was in a pretty tasty gravy with about 10 small cubes of stuffing. (Hey, it's only 250 calories. what do you expect?) The cranberries added balance to the saltiness (as there was plenty of that!). The star of the compartmentalized plastic tray (sounds incredibly appetizing, I know) were the mashed sweet potatoes. All in all, it was like the lunch you might enjoy two days after Thanksgiving Day: tasty, but not nearly as good as it was on Thursday.

Would I buy it again/recommend it to someone who eats frozen dinners? Yep... Would I rather have leftovers from a dinner I cooked? Of course.

*This blog is not the food snob/nazi/purist blog. It's the Foodie Report. The people who post and comment here have one thing in common: We are all a tad bit obsessed with food. Beyond that, you can eat as little or as much flesh/red dye #40/tempeh/Soyrizo, etc... as you please and you can still be in the Foodie Report family. Just know that even if you don't patronize chains, you will likely see entries about them here. Even if you, like me, are an omnivore, you will likely see entries about vegetarian fare. We're an eclectic bunch as are most of the people who visit this blog on a daily basis are. (We love you for that...)

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at 4:00 PM Anonymous TJ Jackson said...

Thank you Nicci for the asterisked piece at the end. My compliments.

at 7:23 PM Blogger Kelly said...

Hey, that sounds pretty good for 5 WW points!

I don't usually eat Lean Cuisines (they don't seem to keep me full nearly as long as food I've cooked myself), but every now and then I pick some up if they're on sale. I'll definitely give that one a try! It reminds me of an Uncle Ben's rice bowl I used to love (turkey, cranberry, wild rice) that I haven't been able to find in ages. I assume it's been discontinued. (Actually, looking at the Uncle Ben's website, maybe all the rice bowls have been discontinued.)

P.S. My favorite Lean Cuisine is Lemongrass Chicken.

at 8:19 PM Blogger Rachel said...

Sometimes I get the Lean Cuisine spinach and mushroom pizza with white sauce and then top it off with some Morningstar sausage crunbles. It's really good when I am craving pizza but don't want to get the fattening and high-cal alternative.

I work from home a lot which makes it easy to eat in, but when I go into the office I usually bring my lunch, too. There's not many quick options for a veggie who's into healthy eating downtown. Plus, it saves lots of money, money which I'd rather spend shopping during my lunch break than on restaurant food :) My husband brings his lunch to work, too, and we've really seen the cost savings between the both of us. Plus now that he doesn't eat fast food every day, he's much healthier for it.

at 9:21 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...


Your asterisk at the end seems to reflect the recent criticism of this blog on Newsache. Please know that many of us disagree and find this blog delightful. So keep posting away -- Foodie Report has an interesting mix of topics and I enjoy reading it every week.

at 11:02 PM Anonymous your friend said...

Beyond the asteriked kvetching, though it's not possible I make up the group you're wagging your finger at, the thing is there is a difference between food and eating something, such as the thing(s) you are describing in the box that you ate! Take a look at the ingredients, for example. List them out and you can see that a very small minority is anything recognizable as food! Seriously. Just something to think about.

at 7:04 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nicci - Healthy Choice has good "Thanksgiving" meals too (their largest meals - about 350 calories) - I stock up on them at Meijer when they are half off (makes them about $1.35 each). They make a great quick alternative to eating out when I don't have any leftovers and can't bear the thought another PB&J sandwich.

at 8:10 AM Blogger Chris Luebbe said...

Nicci: Congrats on the weight loss! My wife and I have both lost over 60 pounds simply by reducing our calorie intake. I've been doing it by eating smarter (read: eating less) when I eat out, but my wife's been doing it by sticking to frozen dinners for lunch. There's something to be said for knowing exactly how many calories you're taking in.

I wrote a blog post about how I lost my first 45 pounds here.

Keep up the good work!

at 8:50 AM Blogger Cin Twin1 said...

I used to eat the frozen Lean Cuisine/Weight Watchers meals when I was trying to lose weight, and found that a bowl of soup was more filling.

Trader Joe's has some awesome varieties like sweet potato, carrot and ginger, roasted tomatoe, butternut squash and apple, etc. Have we blogged about Trader Joe's? I could make a list of my favorite items there!

at 9:27 AM Blogger Nicci King said...

at 9:21 PM Anonymous said...

Your asterisk at the end seems to reflect the recent criticism of this blog on Newsache. Please know that many of us disagree and find this blog delightful. So keep posting away -- Foodie Report has an interesting mix of topics and I enjoy reading it every week.

No, I just wanted to remind everyone that if you want to stop in here and hang out, there's room for you, no matter what your dining/cooking preferences are. As far as criticism of this blog goes, here's my philosophy: The blogosphere is huge. Guess what I do when I come across a blog that doesn't resonate with me? I don't go back. It's just that simple... And everyone else is entitled to do the same.

As for what is "food" and what is not, I've come to grips with the fact that unless I grow/raise it, I can't be 100% certain of anything. Besides, I drink tap water. I breathe air. In Cincinnati. At this point, the carrageenan in my Lean Cuisine is relatively low on my list of worries.

at 9:43 AM Blogger Nicci King said...

Kelly: I know! 5 points and it's actually rather filling.

Rachel: That pizza is really good. I brought it to work one day and people were coming over like, "Mmm, what is that?" And I'm SO with you on the retail therapy for lunch... It's exercise, if you want to get technical, and calorie-free.

Congrats on your weight loss, Chris!

CinTwin: I guess it depends on what meals/soups you compare. And you're right. Trader Joe's has fabulous frozen options. And it would still be more economical than going out to buy something on my lunch break. I just haven't made the trek to TJ's in a while...

at 10:24 AM Anonymous Greg said...

I've been hooked on the Lean Cuisine Panni sandwiches. There are several variations and they are 6 points.

at 10:33 AM Blogger Nicci King said...

Oh, yeah, those are decent. I like the chicken, spinach and mushroom panini. But I always forget to look at the other side of the bread to see if those "grill marks" are painted on before I cook them... The bread can get a little weird/chewy, but they're tasty.

I have yet to try their flatbread sandwiches though...

at 12:01 PM Blogger Rachel said...

Chris - I'm glad you're making smarter food choices, but I hope your wife remembers that "diet food" doesn't always equal healthy food! While being conscious of calories is great, I think a better way to promote improved health is to learn intuitive eating. Listening to your body, feeding it the foods it needs and wants, and responding to cues of satiety is often the most sustainable way to better health. It's helped me maintain a weight loss of more than 100 pounds for five years rather effortlessly without dieting, obsessing over calories, and/or killing myself at the gym.

Nicci - I should probably rephrase: We see the cost savings in terms of what we spend on food. I usually make up for whatever I save on food (and more) depending on what's on sale at TJ Maxx and Macy's.

at 12:29 PM Anonymous lauren said...

I have tried the flatbread sandwich Lean Cuisine (I think there is only one variety at the moment, at least, in my neighborhood bigg's) and I think it is pretty tasty. Healthy Choice makes a good panini sandwich, and the bread usually gets nice and crisp instead of weird and chewy. I particularly like the basil/mozarella/tomato choice. Healthy Choice also has good self-steaming bowls that combine rice and vegetables with chicken, beef or shrimp. I try to eat them without the sauces they come with to save on calories - plus, all that sauce is sometimes overwhelming.

at 2:46 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

You MUST try Lean Cuisine's Butternut Squash Ravioli - sooo good.

at 3:06 PM Blogger Nicci King said...

Oh, I know all about the butternut squash, baby... :)


at 3:31 PM Blogger vudutu said...

Great post Nicci, and congrats, you make some good points. I am with your friend though and you should be concerned with what you are consuming. I question if this belongs in a blog called Foodie. These are sodium laden food products half of whose contents you can't pronounce, spell or want to read, much less eat. They are not locally produced and are pretty much what a typical foodie would be repulsed by. This brings us to the question "what is a foodie" Does this really fall under the foodie moniker or perhaps this blog is named wrong or throwing too wide a net? If you google "what is a foodie" you find a definition that I don't think edges into Lean Cuisine territory. It's not really a foodies blog, what is it exactly?

at 3:49 PM Blogger Nicci King said...

I've posed that question on this blog. A few times. As it goes, perception is reality. This old blog entry on SlashFood just about sums up my take on the matter:


Foodie is not code for locavore. And it doesn't mean you only eat organic quinces (which I dreamed of the other night - it was so random...). And (as we've discussed on this blog) for some, it doesn't even mean that you like/know how to cook. So, yep, it is a foodie blog. Maybe you can think of it like a family. The foodie family. Sounds like you and I are different when it comes to food philosophy, but we're still related, whether we care to admit it or not. We can just think of each other as "that cousin."

at 4:23 PM Blogger vudutu said...

Granted this is a commercial venture and you can call it what you want but it's not really a foodies blog. To me this is a local blog about food in our area, I don't really expect to find much true serious foodie stuff here. If I want that I'll go elsewhere like cincinnatilocavore.blogspot.com , thekitchn.com , (yep that's how it is spelled) gourmet.com, seriouseats.com or saveur.com.

at 7:12 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

(Anybody else see similarities between the anon post at 11:02 and the "vudutu" posts? Note the awful sentence struture, misspellings, and just plain esl feel to the comments.)

at 11:16 PM Anonymous your friend said...

@7:12 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

(Anybody else see similarities between the anon post at 11:02 and the "vudutu" posts? Note the awful sentence struture, misspellings, and just plain esl feel to the comments.)

Um, who cares? What's your point? We're talking about the crap from a box put into the body for the purposes of losing weight, and discussing the defensive the OP feels regarding the quality of this blog. Staying on point would probably be the best thing all around.

at 8:29 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please consider this feedback, not a criticism or anything. I look here for restaurant news, but I don't see how anything from Lean Cuisine has a place in a blog called "The Foodie Report." Maybe The Food Report, or Eating. It just seems like false advertising to have the word "foodie," which means someone with a keen interest in good, real food, in a report that talks about frozen, processed food-like substances. So yeah, we have the option of voting with our feet, and I generally don't open up a post that doesn't have restaurant news in it, but I thought some feedback might be helpful.

at 9:13 AM Blogger vudutu said...

LOL, well yea my writing skills do suck but no we are not one in the same. Your friend sounds like someone I would like to get to know. Nicci I still respectfully disagree this blog is not a foodie blog. Oddly enough I do agree with anon 8:29 whichever anon that might be. To quote some of your slashfood link.

"Just as a good student will have a thirst for knowledge, a foodie wants to learn about food."

"There are some basic traits of being a foodie, as there are basic traits that come with all labels."

"This doesn't mean that you can't eat flaming hot Cheetos every now and again, but it does mean that you don't fool yourself into thinking that it's a nutritionally balanced meal."

Key phrase here is "don't fool yourself into thinking that it's a nutritionally balanced meal". This to me is the change that the current food revolution or revelation has brought. People are starting to question, and with good reason, what they are being fed food and marketing wise. Years ago there was and ad that said "It's not nice to fool with mother nature"

I really understand the fact that this type of product is appealing to the single, time challenged couples and dieting segment. Been there, done that, still do sometimes, but I consume a lot less "food product" as I call it than I used to do. I really feel for singles who are trying to eat well, it is really hard and lonely as dining really is a social thing. It is is tough to shun the connivence food products and cook from scratch but to me it is a necessity not just a luxury. I feel blessed to have found someone who loves good food as much as I and is such a good cook.

Rachel said it well. "Listening to your body, feeding it the foods it needs and wants. As for me I became much more aware of what I was eating back in the late 70s when I had a health problem. Doctor after doctor did the same thing, they treated the symptom not the problem by prescribing drugs. It was only after a chance encounter with the book "Sugar Blues" that I got religion, I stopped eating sugar and with in a week my symptoms disappeared. Years later the side effect of these drugs caused me to have to undergo major surgery. Since then I have never stopped learning and spreading the gospel. This is why my mantra is stay close to your food and away from your doctor. If there any doctors out there don't beat me up, I really think the medical industry has gotten much better about the food and health link but I do believe much of the medical industry is still programmed by the pharmaceutical industry to treat the symptom. Heck if you read a PDR (Physicians Desk Reference) and the side effects you wouldn't take anything!

Is this a foodies blog, no, it is an attempt by the Inquisitor to leverage a current "hot" label. I used to just ignore the name and to me it was a local look at food and restaurant reviews, a way to connect locally. I really do enjoy a lot of the posts and comments and I am very glad you are here but perhaps this blog has somewhat of an identity crisis going on, the term Foodie as your title asserts a premise that I am not sure fits your content. NewaAche may be right, "too many cooks spoil the broth."

at 3:21 PM Anonymous Schottzie03 said...

Geez...what the hell has been going on around here?

I tried and love the butternut squash ravioli, but can't always find it.

Now...I'm off to make faces at people in fast food restaurants.

at 3:28 PM Anonymous JeanR said...

There are probably people on Star Trek blogs getting their drawers in a wad over improper use of the word "Trekkie" too.

The rest of us have lives, smile occasionally, and enjoy periodic sweet lovin'.

at 8:54 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

seriously, if your not interested don't read the that particular post, just because you are not interested does not mean you speak for everyone on this blog. let's face it we can't eat a twist, nada, honey, ect at every meal.

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