(10 seconds each to read and are almost that quick to prepare)
By Lisa Messinger
Food and Cooking at Creators Syndicate
Chances are, you will get kissed in the kitchen if you give your Valentine a copy of The New Food Lover's Companion: More Than 6,700 A-to-Z Entries Describe Foods, Cooking Techniques, Herbs, Spices, Desserts, Wines, and the Ingredients for Pleasurable Dining. This isn't just a book about food - it's the book. The Los Angeles Times called it "the foodies' bible" when describing the 2007 death of its author Sharon Tyler Herbst.
The definitions grew by leaps and bounds as over about 20 years four editions (the last one published in 2007) emerged of the comprehensive paperback guide (which now also includes a deluxe 2009 hardcover edition prepared by coauthor/husband Ron Herbst with slightly different organization).
The tome is a quick cook's dream. Entries are alphabetical, concise, and definitive. Sometimes it's fun to just flip through and learn in a split second about recipes, flavors, and techniques you never may have heard of before.
For instance, this Valentine's Day I'll be making kissel, a popular and easy potato starch-based Russian home-style fresh fruit gelatin-like custard, that turns out appropriately red for Valentine's Day when prepared with the traditional strawberries or cranberries. Although lots of recipes come up for it in an online search, I became aware of it from The New Food Lover's Companion's listing. I was just as intrigued to learn that a kiss is "a small, mound-shape, baked meringue, which often contains chopped nuts, cherries or coconut...[and is] light and chewy."
Sharon Tyler Herbst's secondary definition for kiss may hit closer to home: "The term also applies to small one-bite candies, usually commercially produced." However, the perfect time to translate the kiss concept in your home kitchen is Valentine's Day. What follows are easy economical ideas, the first based on baci, the Italian word for kiss, which chefs often apply to bite-size pastries.
Fun fare like this also proves cooking can be easy, nutritious, economical, fun - 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 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."
Coliseum-Sized Flavor in Tiny Italian Kisses
Spray mini muffin pans with nonstick cooking spray, press in thawed puff pastry dough and bake at temperature according to package instructions just until golden brown. When out of oven and cool, spray the pastries lightly with nonstick cooking spray and sprinkle with ground cinnamon, a natural no-calorie sweetener like stevia, ground nutmeg, and red sprinkles.
Meringue Kisses to Make You Merry
Split your favorite meringue recipe into quarters, and before baking, gently fold one of these into each part: dark chocolate-covered raisins; finely chopped candied pecans; broken up pieces of dark chocolate-covered coconut candy; dried cherries or cranberries.
Spread store-bought cereal bars with whipped cream cheese you have mixed with a no-calorie sweetener like stevia, top with red and chocolate sprinkles and cut into bite-sized pieces.
Blow a Kiss to Your Beverages
Fill either mini ice cube trays or regular ones with a mixture of pomegranate (or Concord grape) juice, cranberry juice, sugar-free lemon-lime soda and fresh lime juice, and flavor your drinks - like iced tea or sparkling water - with them.
QUICK TIP OF THE WEEK: Upside-down foods are fairly common, like pineapple upside-down cake and tarte tatin, the French upside-down apple tart also popular in the United States. But what about giving "inside-out" food a try? Recently, inside-out s'mores brownies won a cooking contest in Better Homes and Gardens magazine. The graham crackers and marshmallows are baked inside the brownies. Some other ideas for inside-out innovations include: chicken potpie with crust "dumplings" inside instead of an outer crust; open-faced peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (or perhaps switched out with interesting choices, like almond butter and apple pie filling); and cake with the frosting baked inside (a la how pudding is often used in cakes to moisten and add flavor).
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.