(10 seconds each to read and are almost that quick to prepare)
By Lisa Messinger
Food and Cooking at Creators Syndicate
Christmas and other holidays often boil down to just a few ingredients that give them their trademark flavor, like peppermint and pumpkin. Therefore, when you are in a pinch for time or funds, it's fun to think of ways such signature add-ins can, in fact, make the meal. When last, for instance, did the water at your place settings ring in the festivities? Add a few drops of peppermint extract, along with a drizzle of fresh orange juice, and serve garnished with an orange slice for a memorable first sip to the meal. Double-bake your potatoes with the addition of pumpkin pie filling - or use the versatile canned good as the base of a filling for Cornish game hens - and you get the ingenuous idea even more.
Food preparation - even for holiday guests - can be easy, nutritious, inexpensive, fun and fast, as the following split-second 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, even when preparing holiday specialties, 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.
Drizzle the dried fruit atop a mixed greens balsamic vinaigrette-dressed salad that also includes diced unpeeled pears, pecans and minced roasted chestnuts.
More Sweetness - and Nutrition - in Dessert
Instead of chocolate chips, add dried cranberries to cookies, as well as along with nuts in brownies. Drizzle them atop the whipped cream that crowns pumpkin pie or the sugar-free vanilla ice cream that might top warm apple pie.
To the glass of water at each table setting, add a few drops of peppermint extract and a few drops of fresh-squeezed orange juice before garnishing with an orange slice.
Pepping Up this Condiment
Mix a few drops of peppermint extract into prepared canned cranberry sauce and top with crispy fresh mint that you've very lightly "fried" in olive oil blended with a few dashes of ground cinnamon.
Wild Rice Gets Wilder
Add chopped candied pecans to cooked wild rice and crumble some fruitcake into the mixture as well as adding an egg. Mold into balls, place in muffin tins that have been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray and bake at 350 F until as crispy as you would like.
One Nutty Eggnog Smoothie
Add candied pecans, ground cinnamon and maraschino cherries without stems to eggnog in a blender container and blend well with ice until smooth and creamy for a holiday smoothie appetizer cocktail or beverage that is a dessert accompaniment.
PUMPKIN PIE FILLING
Double-the-Fun Double-Baked Potatoes
Bake russet potatoes, remove filling and mash with pumpkin pie filling and maple syrup. Re-stuff into potato shells and heat until hot.
These Cornish Hens Aren't Corny
Combine pumpkin pie filling, golden raisins, diced red unpeeled apples and a few dashes of jarred poultry seasoning. Stuff lightly, being careful not to overfill, into cleaned Cornish hens before cooking.
QUICK TIP OF THE WEEK: It can get boring preparing the same healthful breakfast foods all the time. That's why leftovers can be a tasty alternative. Take nutritious meal elements from dinner and turn them into morning favorites, like brown rice to which you add a little soymilk, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, dried fruit and natural no-calorie sweetener to heat and morph into a delicious breakfast porridge, lean glazed ham and its vegetable sides that you mince and add as an omelet filling, or whole-grain dinner rolls that you cut in half, dip in egg wash, season with pumpkin pie spice and cook in a skillet as mini French toasts and serve with sugar-free syrup.
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 DrLaura.com.