(10 seconds each to read and are almost that quick to prepare)
By Lisa Messinger
Food and Cooking at Creators Syndicate
Valentine's Day is most often celebrated as a romantic holiday for two. That's fun, but what can be even more pleasurable and unexpected is to bring your whole family into the act. When you designate your entire troop as your one true love, you provide even more love and support than usual. If time is often short due to hectic regular schedules, Valentine's Day can become a family "date night" to ensure an appreciated bit of togetherness. Look up websites like FamilyFinds.com, designed around fun family events that are featured at 50 to 90 percent discounts, for new things to do. Go attend a cooking class together, make each other homemade cards, slip those little boxes of heart candies or a heart-shaped cookie into your kids' lunch bags each day the week before the holiday. And, for the big night, each take a role in preparing special meals like the ones below.
Cooking can be easy, nutritious, inexpensive, fun - and fast - as these menus of split-second family-friendly sensations prove. They take just 10 seconds each to read and are almost that quick to prepare. The meals are delicious proof that everyone has time for tasty home cooking and, more importantly, the healthy family time around the kitchen table 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 - or your kidlet helpers - choose to use can't help but draw "wows" at the family love fest!
Symphonic Strawberry Patch Salad
Top mixed greens with sliced strawberries that have been lightly dipped in pink decorator sugar crystals, freshly ground pink peppercorns (can be bought at supermarkets, but which are actually dried berries from the rose plant), store-bought raspberry vinaigrette and sprinklings of trail mix and red M&M-type candies or Red Hot candies.
Love Potion No. 9 Soup
Add to store-bought or takeout-ordered hot onion soup, chunks of sourdough bread you've cut out with heart-shaped cookie cutters and sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan cheese before placing under the broiler to have cheese melt.
Date with Alfredo Pink Ribbon Pasta
Cook angel hair or other straight thin pasta according to package instructions. To store-bought Alfredo sauce, add three drops red food coloring and stir until turns pink, adding a few more drops if necessary. Just before serving, mix in diced cherry tomatoes and diced dried cranberries.
Scoop out pulp of beefsteak tomatoes, leaving at least one-half inch boarder and stuff with pureed onions and broccoli that have been mixed with store-bought pesto and topped with candied pecans before broiling.
Rose Petal Roast
Before cooking, season roast with salt substitute and freshly ground pink peppercorns. Roast along with chopped red onions and chunks of small red potatoes. When done (USDA recommends an internal temperature taken with meat thermometer of 160 F), just before serving, sprinkle with edible rose petals that you've purchased at the supermarket.
Mom Loves Me, She Loves Me Not Burger Beauties
To ground beef, for large juicy burgers add strawberry jam, shredded unpeeled Fuji apples and edible flower leaves you've purchased at the supermarket, grill or broil and serve on toasted whole-wheat hamburger buns that you've dabbed with strawberry jam, ketchup and sprinkled with freshly ground black pepper.
Cutie-Pie "Pink Champagne" Cupcakes
Prepare cupcakes (using white cake mix) according to package directions, also adding a cup of "pink champagne" to the mix (ginger ale with three drops of red food coloring). Also include three drops of red food coloring in store-bought frosting and garnish with pink decorator sugar crystals and edible pink or white pearls.
DIY Extreme Makeover Charming Chocolates
Have each member of the family hand "paint" pieces of dark chocolate in a pound box that you've bought. This can be with food coloring or colored frosting. Also include inspirational hand-written "love notes" of encouragement and support to each other in the box and read them aloud like fortunes.
QUICK TIP OF THE WEEK: If you have leftover peppermint candy canes from the holiday season, don't waste them by throwing them out. Unwrap them and place them in a double freezer plastic bag. Moving back and forth atop the closed bag, crush them with a rolling pin until they are in a powder or very small pieces. Keep them frozen and over the next several months, sprinkle them like a seasoning atop oatmeal, cereal, frozen waffles, steamed vegetables, lamb dishes before cooking and bowls of ice cream for dessert.
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.