Contrary to a review history which leans towards a diet based exclusively around breakfast cereal and fast food, I do not hold anything against the vegetable food group. I count Larry the Cucumber among my favorite recording artists, have been known to munch on frozen peas as if they were beer nuts, and might, according to my grandmother, even transform into a vegetable one day thanks to hours spent watching college sports on TV.
So no, I’m not a veggie-phobe by any means, and I certainly wouldn’t spurn the chance to nosh on a salad that could increase my lifespan.
But here’s the thing: vegetables are complicated. Buying them, cooking them, and even knowing which part to eat are all tricky. Also, if I want to add a totally chic “lean protein” to the salad, I have to wield a knife and totally risk salmonella with my careless Millennial kitchen hygiene habits (not to mention risk chopping off a finger).
Of course, I could go the convenience route, but that can be expensive. Last I checked, Panera had a rockin’-looking Asian chicken salad. But $7.09 plus tax is pricey. I mean seriously. That’s like seven and a half small Wendy’s Frosty desserts forgone. If you really want me to eat my vegetables, then get me something cheap, not complicated, and something which won’t go bad should I, you know, put off the whole veggie eating thing in favor of those Frosty desserts for a few days.
Lean Cuisine meals might not be aesthetically pleasing, but they aren’t complicated. Taking something out of the freezer and heating it up in the microwave oven is, based on numerous test runs, pretty simple. A head of lettuce? Well, aside from exercising restraint and resisting the cereal aisle at the grocery store, that actually seems relatively painless as well.
Also, ‘Asian style’ food isn’t complicated. I’ve never been one to even try to understand what separates Korean, Chinese, and Japanese cuisines, but throw some carrots and broccoli in there, dress it up with something gingery and soy-based, and my white person American taste buds are totally basking in the idea of ethnic food.
Lean Cuisine’s new Salad Additions look to engage my yearning for de-complicating veggies by combining the miracle of refrigeration with some good old fashioned step-by-step heating instructions, all the while keeping me well away from knifes.
After keeping the ethos of Asian-style and picking up a head of green leaf lettuce and some spinach at for a combined $2.73 at my local Lotte plaza, I made sure to follow the directions by placing my sesame-ginger vinaigrette in room temperature water to thaw. It didn’t. At least it didn’t within the three and a half minute microwave window the box told me to nuke the vegetables and chicken for, and it still didn’t thaw completely after I stood around and inhaled the smell of bland lettuce for five minutes after that.
This was a most disheartening wait given that the vinaigrette passed from a consistency bordering on root beer float popsicle to that of diarrhea, all the while waiting to be drenched on a hodgepodge of cut up colors that provided little truth in advertising to the juicy pieces of pineapple and grilled chicken breast that the package photo displayed.
Finally reaching a vinaigrette consistency that might fool you for an actual vinaigrette, I decided to make my salad pretty. Despite an art background which includes numerous preschool awards for staying within the lines, I was unable to make my salad appear exactly as it was on the box. The salad tastes like what you’d expect from a mediocre fast food attempt to make a similar salad.
The chicken doesn’t really taste like chicken, but with ten ingredients to make “cooked white meat chicken,” that might be expected. The chicken strips ranged from gummy to dry and were mostly salty with a bit of that gelatinous gunk you sometimes encounter with canned chicken.
The broccoli and edamame would best be described as terribly bland. However, I can accurately report the orange and yellow carrots tasted like absolutely nothing. Compared to absolutely nothing, bland might as well be chocolate cake. I believe, but cannot confirm, I received one or two small slices of pineapple, which tasted canned and were cloying, like the dressing. However, I do appreciate that dressing as well as the crunchy noodles. Together they contributed salt, sweetness, crunch, and a bit of fat, albeit in a very McDonald’s salad kind of way.
Lean Cuisine’s new Asian Chicken Salad Addition is not very complicated, not very Asian, and not very good. But because it’s also not very expensive and not very horrible, it leaves me feeling significantly less guilty about my purchase than an overpriced and not very good salad from say…McDonald’s. It also leaves me less likely to purchase something that will significantly decrease my lifespan, and leaves me with a buttload of leftover lettuce. And you know what they say when life gives you a bunch of lettuce?
Yeah, I don’t really know either. I just hope it doesn’t involve buying more Lean Cuisine Salad Additions.
(Nutrition Facts – 260 calories, 80 calories from fat, 8 gram of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 25 milligrams of cholesterol, 510 milligrams of sodium, 400 milligrams of potassium, 30 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 16 grams of sugar, and 17 grams of protein.)
Item: Lean Cuisine Asian-Style Chicken Salad Additions
Purchased Price: $2.00
Size: 7.2 ounces
Purchased at: Weis Markets
Rating: 3 out of 10
Pros: No fuss vegetables. Tasty vinaigrette. Noodle strips. Cheaper than most ‘Asian-style’ fast food salads. Fitting in with the middle aged women at the office lunch table. Forces me to buy lettuce. Turning into a vegetable via too much college sports watching.
Cons: Gives vegetables a bad name. Insipid two-carrot mix. Not very many vegetables. “Grilled” chicken that doesn’t taste much like chicken, and contains nine ingredients which aren’t actually chicken. Vinaigrette looks like frozen Dr Pepper.