(10 seconds each to read and are almost that quick to prepare)
By Lisa Messinger
Food and Cooking at Creators Syndicate
Peppy paragraphs may be all it takes to make you peppy too, by saving time and energy in the kitchen. Even if English wasn't your best subject in school, shaping your meal ideas into a perfect paragraph is a good culinary strategy.
Think of what you'd like to prepare, how you'd like it to turn out, and commit it to a piece of paper or the notepad feature on your computer or mobile device (as even smartphones now make the perfect recipe box for treats like this). This is so quick and easy you could even do it in between returning phone calls and emails at work or shuttle stops during your kids' after-school activities.
It's convenient because you just need to think in generalities, rather than specific amounts of ingredients. It becomes even more convenient when you mix and match homemade touches with store-bought products.
For me, it's often been helpful just before an important event when I haven't had time to plan, such as when I came up with this Chocolate-Pumpkin Layer Cake for a potluck later the same evening:
“Bake 2 layers of sugar-free chocolate cake, according to packaged mix instructions. Scoop out filling of a store-bought, sugar-free pumpkin pie or prepare homemade pumpkin pie filling and spread it thickly and generously atop one of the cake layers and place other layer atop it. Frost with store-bought, sugar-free vanilla frosting into which you have blended ground cinnamon, ground cloves and ground ginger. Drizzle cake with pure maple syrup.”
No one knew the cake was such a quick fix and almost everyone asked for the “recipe.”
Other times, a helping hand toward inspiration is welcome. Here are some of my favorite sources:
-- How to Cook Without a Book: Recipes and Techniques Every Cook Should Know by Heart by Pam Anderson. The former executive editor of Cook's Illustrated magazine bubbles over in her helpful cheat sheet.
-- Cooking Without Recipes: Unleash Your Creativity and Prepare Meals Your Friends and Family Will Love by Cheryl Sindell. This 1997 paperback gem is worth seeking out from sellers on Amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, eBay and other sources. Besides tips, plenty of the talented author’s meals appear as easily reproducible blurbs.
-- Cooking Light Complete Cookbook: A Fresh New Way to Cook, Mary Kay Culpepper, editor-in-chief. Save the thousands of recipes in this book for when you've got time. Instead, flip to the hundreds of meals conveyed in just a paragraph or less.
-- Your newspaper food section or its accompanying website. These are often filled with quick ideas as well as full recipes. For example, an article in the Los Angeles Times featured 40 gourmet, yet easy, adult brown-bag lunch ideas: “Make simple spring rolls by rolling up in rice paper romaine lettuce, julienned carrot and daikon, grilled tofu (or cooked shrimp if you have the option to refrigerate your lunch) and some fresh mint and basil. Pack a container of peanut sauce for dipping.”
-- Public relations websites for products, such as www.meals.com from Nestle Kitchens, are often full not only of recipes, but also feature quick paragraphs you can virtually commit to memory, such as this one for Butterscotch Haystacks:
“Line trays with wax paper. Microwave 1 (11-ounce) package of butterscotch morsels or sugar-free chocolate morsels in large, uncovered, microwave-safe bowl on medium-high (70 percent) power for 1 minute; stir. The morsels may retain some of their original shape. If necessary, microwave at additional 10- to 15-second intervals, carefully stirring just until morsels are melted. Stir in 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter until well blended. Add 1 (8.5-ounce can) of chow mein noodles and miniature marshmallows (as always, marshmallows are sugar-free and moderate in calories); toss until all ingredients are coated. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto prepared trays. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Yields about 70 candies.”
Tasty food like all of the aforementioned proves cooking can be easy, nutritious, economical, entertaining – and fast. They take just 10 seconds each to read and are almost that quick to prepare. The creative combinations are delicious proof that everyone has time for tasty home cooking and, more importantly, the healthy family togetherness that goes along with it! Another benefit: You – and your kidlet helpers – effortlessly become better cooks, since these are just guidelines and there are no right or wrong amounts. These are virtually-can't-go-wrong combinations, so whatever you choose to use can't help but draw wows.
QUICK TIP OF THE WEEK: Some studies have shown that tricks and reminders may be as effective weight-loss tools as anything else for adults. People who slipped on a ring of theirs that was loose and thought, “I want to keep this loose,” were shown to eat less while wearing it, as well as those who wore pants they owned that were slightly loose and concentrated a few times an hour on similar thoughts.
is a first-place winner in food and nutrition writing from the Association of Food Journalists and the National Council Against Health Fraud and author of seven food books, including the best-selling The Tofu Book: The New American Cuisine with 150 Recipes
(Avery/Penguin Putnam) and Turn Your Supermarket into a Health Food Store: The Brand-Name Guide to Shopping for a Better Diet
(Pharos/Scripps Howard). She writes two nationally syndicated food and nutrition columns for Creators Syndicate and had been a longtime newspaper food and health section managing editor, as well as managing editor of Gayot/Gault Millau dining review company. Lisa traveled the globe writing about top chefs for Pulitzer Prize-winning Copley News Service and has written about health and nutrition for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate, Reader's Digest, Woman's World and Prevention Magazine Health Books. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com.