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  • Writer's pictureStand-Up Comedy Historian

Sandra’s Fourth Ring of Hell: Everyday TV Dinners


Before I begin describing the fourth ring of hell in Sandra’s cookbook for kids, I wanted to clear up a misconception from my previous post.

In the third ring of Hell, I erroneously stated that Sandra’s picture that accompanies the “Ranch Slaw” recipe featured a “nice fat advertisement” for Sun-Maid raisins.

While this remains true, I have recently discovered that this picture is not the most in-your-face depiction of Sun-Maid raisins in this cookbook.

The picture that faces the Healthy is Happenin’ section of the cookbook is actually the most BLATANT advertisement for “kewl” raisins.

I apologize for any confusion this may have caused, but, either way, Sandra Lee remains a whore for corporate America. Now onto chapter 4!

The fourth ring of hell in Cool Kids’ Cooking (which from here on will be referred to as KKK to match Sandra’s love of alliteration and previous interior-design invention, the Kurtain Kraft) features what she calls “everyday” TV dinners. Apparently, Aunt Sandy or her editor never bothered to look up the term “everyday” to check its definition because I doubt she means “common, ordinary” TV dinners are the subject of this chapter. Rather, she seems to mean these are TV dinner recipes for every day of the week. Put down the cocktail and buy a dictionary, Sandra!

Sandy’s introduction to this particularly hellish chapter includes the following incoherent description of the life of a young child: “When you’re 5, cartoons are your life. That and the trampoline.” Now, I don’t know about you, but I have never had a trampoline in my life. I do not have one now, and I certainly did not have one at the age of five. I guess Sandy is marketing her books to wealthy parents who can’t be bothered with caring about their children’s health and proper nutrition. Who else would relate to her mindless descriptions of youth?

Anyway, Sandra claims that this chapter of KKK will be about “traditional kid food with a twist.” One example of such food is “lasagna in cool gel pen shades of green and orange.” This is an exceptionally lame description of her lasagna with spinach and carrots that I suppose appeals to kids obsessed with gel pens. Do kids even care about gel pen colors? It just sounds bizarre to me.

As a child of the nineties, I WAS obsessed with neon colors (I even called my black marker that came in the neon marker set “hot black” because it didn’t have a cool name like “electric blue” and “hot pink”…yes, I was very lame as a child), but I doubt children care about gel pens. This whole description appears to be yet another example of Sandy attempting to connect with the younger generation, but having no idea what kids actually like.

Additionally, she continues to use “hip lingo” like “fuel that hype” and “leave the drama” as if any of these phrases make sense at all to young children. Finally, Sandra scares the bejesus out of me by coming OUT of the TV in the picture that faces her introduction. All I can think of when seeing this is the Ring girl crawling out of the TV (either one is terrifying).

The girl from The Ring:

Sandy coming out with two plates full of horror:

The resemblance is uncanny, yes?

Getting past the terrible introduction and horrifying picture, “Everyday TV Dinners” features ten recipes: “Meat Loaf Muffins,” “Porcupine Meatballs” (What an appetizing name!), “Hawaiian-Style Burgers” (Can you guess what makes them “Hawaiian”? That’s right…canned pineapple!), “Chili Spaghetti,” “Sweet & Sour Popcorn Shrimp,” “Chip Chicken,” “Taco Rice Bowl,” “Cheesy Chicken Enchiladas,” “Baked Chicken Pasta,” and the previously mentioned “Green and Orange Lasagna.”

By looking at these items, one cannot help but ponder how the majority of them are appropriate for TV viewing. The recipes for spaghetti, lasagna, and enchiladas would likely lead to disastrous results if one were to eat them on a TV tray as Sandra suggests. She might as well add a recipe for Sloppy Joes (Sloppy Sandys? Ugh…too vulgar) because every other item will be smeared into the couch or carpet by the time these “everyday TV dinners” have been eaten by the youngsters.

Let’s start delving into these recipes by taking a look at one of the messiest possible: Chili Spaghetti. Now, as a child, I do remember eating spaghetti in front of the TV while watching the Christmas Eve on Sesame Street special (“Feliz Navidad!”), but it still does not seem like the best idea for children to be consuming such food near expensive electronics and carpets.

Here is a lovely photograph of this recipe complete with “heart-shape toasted garlic bread [sic],” which the recipe says you can make “if desired.”

Wow…aside from the poor wording (“heart-shaped” makes more sense as an adjective for the garlic bread), how much do you want to bet that this picture is from a Valentine’s Day recipe on Sandy’s website or in another one of her cookbooks as a way to make your dinner “special” for the romantic holiday? I am almost positive this was the case, especially because of the way the recipe has a tacked-on note at the end to apparently justify the photograph of spaghetti with heart-shaped garlic bread. It’s all too ridiculous, and thus, perfect for KKK.

As for the recipe itself, this is another standard stoner concept: Dude, let’s mix a can of chili with some pasta! Sandra informs the reader that he or she must use specific brand names for best results, yet again, including “precrumbled cheddar and Colby cheese, Kraft” (as though you can’t crumble cheese yourself) and “1 can turkey chili with no beans, Hormel” (because Sandy cannot be bothered with making her own chili and neither should you).

After pimping out her fave brands, Sandra moves on to a basic recipe for spaghetti casserole with the addition of canned chili and precrumbled cheese. Wouldn’t “precrumbled” cheese be regular whole cheese since it has not been crumbled yet? Oh well…if I try to make sense out of Sandra’s vocabulary, I will be sitting here for years while she becomes the First Lady (side note: Is Andrew Cuomo seriously going to become the next governor of NY with Sandra by his side? As a possible New Yorker in the future, please kill me now!). [Ed. note: Oh, you sweet summer child...]

The next recipe I will be examining closely is “Chip Chicken.” Now, when you hear the words “Chip Chicken,” what is the first thing that comes to mind? Myself, I think of “chipped beef” but with chicken instead of beef. Gross, right?

Well, actually, Sandra’s recipe is as basic as they come: this is your standard child-friendly recipe for chicken tenders rolled in potato chips.

I remember making this exact same recipe as a child when my parents enforced a “the kids get to cook since they have nothing else to do” policy between June and August. During these summer months, I would have to prepare a meal for the whole family once a week, and one of my first cooking experiences was making potato-chip-crusted chicken strips. While this recipe is a bit messy, the results were pretty delicious; you get a crispy crunch without frying because of the potato chips.

I mention my childhood memories here because, as usual, Sandra will now muck them up with her version of “Chip Chicken.” The ingredients for this recipe are pretty simple by Aunt Sandy standards: chicken tenders, Italian salad dressing, ranch salad dressing, and two kinds of chips (plain and barbecue).

Of course, my version of this recipe probably did not include the brand names Sandra mentions (maybe the Lays potato chips at most), but I know for sure I did not have two types of salad dressing as ingredients. Why would anyone want so many conflicting flavors in one meal? I cannot imagine how disgusting the combination of barbecue chips and ranch dressing would be.

Also, once again, Sandra’s recipe offers little to no nutritional value unless you count fattening salad dressings as one of the major food groups. Since the fourth ring of Hell is about Prodigality, it seems important to note that this recipe calls for so many containers and plastic bags that it’s ridiculous.

Sandra’s recipes are notorious for their wastefulness, and in this particular instance, “Chip Chicken” indicates that one must use two DIFFERENT Ziploc bags to crush the chips, when in reality, one bag would certainly suffice as all of the crushed chips are then placed in separate bowls. What a waste!

The final recipe I will be dissecting for this ring of Hell in KKK is Sandra’s answer to the KFC Famous Bowl, the “Taco Rice Bowl.”

First, I would like to enlighten you all with a little background on Sandra’s relationship with KFC. Sandra Lee, as you might recall, was a celebrity (oh, please) endorser for KFC’s new Grilled Chicken meals.

How anyone can call that woman a “Chef” is beyond me, but these ads ran in conjunction with the highly successful KFC campaign for healthier food in early 2009. Anyway, I only mention this fact to help shed light on how Sandra would be aware of KFC and their food products. The Taco Rice Bowl featured in this chapter is remarkably similar to the KFC Famous Bowl, particularly the Rice Bowl, in its contents and presentation, e.g. throw a bunch of crap in a bowl. Here is a side-by-side comparison of the two “meals”:

The KFC Famous Bowl, AKA the Vomit Bowl—

Sandra’s “Taco Rice Bowl” (my husband says I looked just like the little girl when I was a kid...great!)—

As you can see, both of these “Bowls” include a bunch of stuff thrown into a container so that the consumer can gulp down all of the contents at once; why use a plate when you can dump everything into one bowl? Well, I guess it’s not as wasteful as her other meals, but that’s not saying much.

Since Sandra has ties with KFC, I am going to make the assumption that this “Taco Rice Bowl” is her homage to/rip-off of the Famous Bowls.

While this meal does seem like a good one for TV-viewing due to the ease of eating out of a bowl, this is by no means a healthy meal. The closest thing to vegetables in this meal is some lettuce (surely Iceberg, but surprisingly Sandra misses the opportunity to pimp her favorite lettuce brand name) and a couple scallion bits on top.

The recipe also includes “grilled chicken strips, Tyson,” “1 can diced tomatoes, Hunt’s,” “1 packet taco seasoning, McCormick,” “2 cups instant rice, Uncle Ben’s,” and, as with the Chili Spaghetti, “1 cup precrumbled cheddar cheese, Kraft.” As you can see, there is not much “taco” to this meal aside from the seasoning and fixings and, in reality, it seems like the final product would be more like seasoned rice with stuff on top than anything taco related.

One would assume there would be some type of ground beef or turkey or something to make this more taco-like, but no. Instead, Sandy includes cooked grilled chicken strips that aren’t even heated before adding them to the bowl. Also, there’s an option to add sour cream and chopped scallion to the top of your rice bowl, which I suppose makes it more “Mexicany.”

Whatever the case, this recipe sounds again like stoner food for children, and the combination of ingredients is truly disgusting. I cannot imagine that the cheese would have properly melted or that cold chicken strips would taste that great on top of taco-seasoned rice. Again, Sandra takes something popular (though I have no idea why the Famous Bowls are popular) and turns it into sodium-filled, fattening crap with little nutritional value.

Not that the Famous Bowls were EVER the paragon of healthy eating [Ed. note: I can't help thinking of Patton Oswalt's classic rant about them that Bo Burnham also included as one of his favorite comedy routines!], but the point still stands that Sandra is the picture of prodigality in her ingredients, her methods, and her choices when it comes to cooking for kids. As for avarice, Sandra’s greed in terms of money and fame is apparent on every single page of KKK.

Next time, we will consider the fifth ring of Hell, the oddly titled “Brainiac Breaks” (as if anyone ever considered Sandy smart).

As always, Dish Delish!

For all of Sandra's Rings of Hell, please click here.


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