Cheat Meal

Chef and television personality Giada De Laurentiis (left) with actress Camilla Belle  DAN STEINBERG/INVISION/AP PHOTO

Chef and television personality Giada De Laurentiis (left) with actress Camilla Belle

Back when I had cable, I used to like to watch Food Network while I ate. I didn’t really care what show it was (I just feel like eating food should go with watching food), but for whatever reason, I was always eating when Giada De Laurentiis’ Giada at Homewas on.

It was fine, for the most part. But one day, as Giada was prepping a series of dishes for a casual family picnic, she made a serious misstep.

The dish was Chocolate Raspberry Bars with White Chocolate and Almonds. Well, OK, sounds promising. Then boom, she drops the bomb: “First, just grab a box of your favorite brownie mix,” she beamed.

“You fraud!” my sister and I both yelled at the TV at the same time.

After that, I didn’t watch much Giada while I ate.

Nowadays, though, I kind of appreciate a little more what Giada was trying to do. Sure, it was fudging the rules a little, and sure, it wasn’t exactly “homemade,” but Giada damn well knew that most people watching her show weren’t going to go out and cook brownies from scratch, whether due to lack of ability or time. So she was offering a way to jazz up something simple in an easy way.

And as I thumb through the Internet in search of easy, healthy recipes, I wish more cooks would follow her example.

Too many recipes require crock pots or blenders (clunky appliances I don’t own), or require ingredients that I’d use a fraction of and then watch go bad in my fridge because I have no further use for them (like fresh herbs, sad to say. You can only put basil in so many dishes) or that simply are prohibitively expensive.

Eating healthy requires a certain investment, I know, but the principle of it is that most people can only afford to allot so much money toward buying food, and healthy food costs vastly more than the alternative. Fruits, for example, are disproportionately expensive. The other day I paid $9 for a bag of cherries (on sale). Sure, that doesn’t sound like a lot, but consider that I could’ve gotten, like, 10 cans of soup (or three cartons of ice cream) for the same price. Which goes further in feeding someone?

It’s the whole reason why Hawaii Foodbank asks for canned donations — to feed as many mouths as possible with the funds they have, even if canned foods aren’t the healthiest things out there. It’s a problem — a society-wide problem that has no obvious solution.

That escalated quickly, I know, but the bottom line is that healthy eating requires time and money that a lot of people don’t have. Maybe Giada’s cheating raspberry brownies are on to something after all.

Paige’s Pick of the Week

The Just Bento Cookbook: Everyday Lunches to Go

I’ll admit I spend more time looking for recipes on Pinterest or Google than I do thumbing through cookbooks, but sometimes the old ways are just … the best.

This handy cookbook offers actually easy bento component recipes without being unbearably cute and twee (and thankfully without all the extra work that comes with adorable, twee bentos).

There’s also a corresponding blog with additional recipes not in the cookbook at I got my copy off Amazon for about $14.