(10 seconds each to read and are almost that quick to prepare)
By Lisa Messinger
Food and Cooking at Creators Syndicate
Although you may want to avoid "midnight snacks" since it gives you very little time to digest or burn off the goodies, nutritionists say you can efficiently divide up your usual amount of daily calories any way that is appealing to you. This would include an evening snack, as long as it's at least two to three hours before you go to bed.
The recent late-night talk show "wars" prove that just about anything can be fodder for creating split-second noshes or healthy desserts.
Scores of reviewers, including Allesandra Stanley of the New York Times, deemed their first bite of Jimmy Fallon, the new "Tonight Show" host, as "sweet."
"Mr. Fallon's debut was more sweet than sassy," wrote Stanley of the "Saturday Night Live" and "Late Night" alum, who thanked his visiting parents, predecessor Jay Leno and everyone else in earshot for his stab at the coveted spot.
If ultra-nice guy Fallon wasn't wielding a sharp chef's knife at political, celebrity and personal targets, critics mostly raved that Seth Meyers, fellow former "Saturday Night Live" cast member and new "Late Night" host, didn't shy away from such spicy inclinations.
"Snark," in fact, was a main ingredient on a list of "superlatives" one writer attributed to the saucy Meyers' recipe for success.
The pantry of fresh-picked late-night choices is stocked with these extremes and everything in between, from the fun and feisty Jimmy Kimmel, traditional and classic David Letterman, irreverent and inventive Craig Ferguson and sometimes downright gooey Arsenio Hall.
Let this be a lesson to all of us --- a cooking lesson. Evening snacking has been around since, if not the beginning of time, at least since the advent of when TV programs rather than test patterns started populating the late-night landscape. The smorgasbord of hilarious hosts --- and their tasty tics --- can be your inspiration for some notable nighttime nibbles:
--- Jimmy Fallon-Style Super Sweet Sundae Sauce: Mix diced fresh pineapple (or canned that is packed only in juice) with fruit spread-only-style jam and finely chopped honey-roasted peanuts. Warm slightly before drizzling over sugar-free vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt and topping with a few chocolate-covered raisins (preferably dark chocolate-covered raisins, since the darker the chocolate the more antioxidants it provides).
--- Seth Meyers-Style Spicy Southwestern Popcorn: Combine no more than dashes only of chili powder, black and cayenne peppers, crushed red pepper flakes, onion and garlic powders and dried cumin, coriander and oregano before sprinkling on warm popped popcorn (a good whole-grain source) that you've lightly spritzed with nonstick cooking spray so that the seasonings will stay put.
--- David Letterman-Style Classic Apple Pie: If you can't score a recipe from "Dave's Mom" (92-year-old Dorothy), who has served many a pie in her Indiana kitchen while the late-night veteran's cameras rolled, gussy up a sugar-free store-bought, or homemade one with the simple brown sugar and walnut crumb toppings that Midwest Living and other magazines note are a signature of the state.
--- Craig Ferguson-Style Irreverent Pigs in a Blanket: Lightly paint the top of wonton skins (available in the refrigerator section of most supermarkets) with bottled lite soy sauce and jarred sweet-'n'-sour sauce, add a few shavings of fresh ginger, one half tofu or vegetarian "hot dog" or same amount of low-fat, all-beef hot dog and wrap inside wonton pressing together seams.
Brush wonton pouches lightly with a well-beaten egg. Place on baking sheet that, when still cool, has been lightly spritzed with nonstick cooking spray and bake at 375 F for about 12 minutes, until slightly browned, crispy and hot dog reaches a USDA-recommended internal temperature of 140 F. Do not let wonton skins burn; carefully cover with aluminum foil, if necessary.
--- Jimmy Kimmel-Style Fun on a Bun: Cut croissants in half, lightly toast in oven, carefully spread with sugar-free hot fudge sauce and preferably natural peanut butter, add a dollop of whipped cream and drizzle with fruit spread-only-style jam.
--- Arsenio Hall-Style Gooey Grilled Cheese Bites: Spread whole-grain cinnamon-raisin bread with a light coating of butter or margarine, sprinkle on small amount of curry powder and top with one slice each extra-sharp Cheddar cheese and Pepper Jack or Monterey Jack cheese and carefully broil until bread is crispy, but not burned, and cheeses are bubbling and gooey. Cut into quarters and serve immediately.
Fun fare like this also proves innovative food preparation can be easy, nutritious, economical - and fast. They take just 10 seconds each to read and are almost that quick to prepare. The 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 mixtures, so whatever you choose to use can't help but draw "wows."
QUICK TIP OF THE WEEK: Most of us, even if we often avoid it, know where to get "traditional" fast food on the run (like from the drive-thrus that dot most street corners). Fueling ourselves with "super foods" when we're out and about can also be fairly simple. Of course, the most economic route is to have the foods stocked at home and bring them along in a plastic bag or, when necessary, a cooler. Sometimes time doesn't allow for that.
You can stop at virtually any supermarket or mini-mart, though, go directly to the fresh produce section and take a precut, single-serving of fruit or vegetables, often sold with low-fat dressing, and move quickly through the express line.
Many fast food chains now serve side salads prepared with mixed greens (much more nutrient packed than ones that feature just iceberg lettuce) and low-fat dressing. Get to know additional "super foods" included on other types of large grab-and-go chain menus. Most Starbucks, for instance, have single-serving packs of fresh blueberries for sale that originated as toppings for their plain oatmeal (which also can be a quick whole-grain snack) and lots of Mexican fast-food chains recently have begun offering freshly made guacamole, which of course is prepared from "super food"/good fat avocadoes as well as usually spices that are considered "super foods."
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.