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10-Second Recipes: Don't Rest 'Til You Borrow a Few Ideas from Restaurant Menus
(10 seconds each to read and are almost that quick to prepare)

By Lisa Messinger
Food and Cooking at Creators Syndicate

Menus can be much more than the inspiration for just that one restaurant meal you might be pondering. Taking a peek online ahead of time or just perusing before ordering can be a lightning fast way to snatch a few meal ideas. Most menus give dish descriptions, including ingredient combinations. Let that be your invitation to try ones that catch your fancy at home. I recently looked up a famed New York City Italian restaurant we'd be visiting. The walnut salad caught my eye: a simple combination of the nuts, raisins, romaine, freshly shaved Parmesan cheese in a mustard vinaigrette. Without ever having tasted the real thing, I enjoyed just that within minutes with dinner at home that night, economically and quickly preparing the dressing by just whisking a few dashes of spicy mustard into a bottled light balsamic vinaigrette I had tossed with the rest of the ingredients, all of which I had on hand. Try some of the other split second menu mainstays that follow. 

Food preparation can be easy, nutritious, inexpensive, fun and fast, as the following simple sensations prove. The dishes are delicious evidence that everyone - including you and your kidlet helpers - has time for tasty home cooking and, more importantly, the healthy family time in the kitchen that goes along with it! Another benefit: You effortlessly become a better cook, since 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" at the table.


One Great Guacamole
Like a favorite family restaurant chain, to homemade or store-bought guacamole, add freshly chopped cilantro, salsa, grilled corn and chopped jalapenos. (Be careful not to touch your eyes during or after handling peppers.) Stuff your great "guac" into chunks of celery.

Leftovers are Layered into this Soup
A fast food outlet makes good use of its leftover rotisserie chicken by tossing it into a spicy tomato broth and adding "croutons" made from bite-sized toasted pita pieces. Sprinkle with shredded Monterey Jack cheese before serving.


Exciting Enchiladas
In the popular tourist town of Sedona, AZ, spicy Southwestern food is king. Like a top spot there, create enchiladas with blue corn tortillas, a mixture of meats and authentic Mexican cheeses available at most major supermarkets.

Shrimp Dish with Giant Flavor
Like an acclaimed dinner house, saute medium shrimp with garlic, tomatoes and mushrooms and add it with parmesan and Romano cheese to a creamy sauce over penne pasta. Then top each serving with a few large breaded shrimp you've baked rather than fried.


A Cheesecake that Does Anything but Loaf
Like a major banquet hotel describes on its roster, "spread" bread pudding on top of store-bought or homemade cheesecake and splash with a drizzle of orange juice.

Love that Lemon
Emulate this gourmet chain's refreshing dessert by topping crust-less lemon pie filling with shortbread crumbs and chunks of lemon pulp you've lightly broiled.

QUICK TIP OF THE WEEK: For the health conscious among us, the well-balanced breakfasts we eat at home (perhaps including nuts, whole grains, high-quality, low-fat proteins and fresh fruit) often become only distant memories when we meet up with others to eat breakfast out. Although it's gotten more prevalent, at many restaurants, there is still not a whole grain in sight, or to order fresh fruit would be a hefty added on expense. In such cases, you might consider a quick "booster" breakfast so you maintain balance. Think about leaving a few extra minutes early and, as you park your car or are otherwise approaching the restaurant, mindfully munch a few nuts, a handful of low-fat, whole-grain granola or other dry cereal, and a few fresh berries from home. Then, when you are in the restaurant concentrate most on having a low-fat protein from the menu, or even consider importing some of that yourself as well, such as stirring a scoop of vanilla or chocolate whey protein powder you've brought from home in a plastic sandwich bag into the restaurant's whole-grain - but usually protein-lacking - oatmeal.

Lisa Messinger 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 

Tags: 10 Second Recipes, Budget, Health, Recipes, Stay-at-Home Mom
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