(10 seconds each to read and are almost that quick to prepare)
By Lisa Messinger
Food and Cooking
at Creators Syndicate
Eat like a royal family on the at-home budget, not of the emperor, but his cooking staff. It's easy with these three-course weeknight menus (appetizers, entrees, and healthy desserts) that include everything from an all-in-one soup 'n' sandwich in a snap creatively prepared with fresh herb-added tomato soup and grilled cheese "croutons," or cost-conscious veggie burgers that "Mama Mia" would be proud of with their tasty additions of fresh Italian herbs, vegetables, low-fat cheese and antioxidant-filled tomato dipping sauce.
Some of the entrees, like those, are vegetarian. Most of the main dishes that aren't, like a coconut-chicken pizza, also feature produce, seamlessly blended with the meat, poultry, or seafood, to amp up the nutrition quotient. Even decadent desserts are created with your family's health in mind, although they probably will never realize that when they are feasting on custom-made treats, like graham cracker sugar-free vanilla ice cream sandwiches coated with store-bought apple pie filling and cinnamon.
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 dinner table.
Yes, We Can Tantalizing Cinnamon Cantaloupe
Cut one half of a small cantaloupe for each diner and remove seeds. With a spoon, blend together cottage cheese, honey, ground cinnamon and ground cloves and serve in center hole of cantaloupe.
Coconut-Chicken Pizza Pizzazz
Shred cooked chicken breast; place in basil-tomato store-bought spaghetti sauce to marinate in refrigerator. Spread additional tomato-basil spaghetti sauce over whole-wheat tortillas; top with finely diced bell pepper, red onion, pineapple and flaked unsweetened coconut and chicken pieces. Discard marinade. Sprinkle with torn pieces of Muenster cheese and freshly shredded Parmesan; place in preheated broiler for 1 minute, or until cheese melts, sauce bubbles, but rims of whole-wheat tortillas haven't burned.
Picture-Perfect Peanut Dark Chocolate Bars
With a spoon, mix creamy peanut butter with sugar-free caramel sauce and sugar-free pancake syrup. Spread on squares of dark chocolate and top with sliced almonds.
Shortcut Chili Cup Cuties
Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a mini muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray. Press two packaged wonton wrappers into each muffin tin with flaps overhanging a bit. Spray wonton wrappers with nonstick cooking spray; cook for 8 minutes, until golden and crispy. Let cool. Meanwhile, heat your favorite canned bean/meat chili. Fill mini wonton cups three-quarters full with heated chili and top with a dab of nonfat sour cream, salsa and freshly chopped cilantro.
All-in-One Soup 'n' Sandwich in a Snap
Bake sweet potatoes for 8 minutes covered in microwave oven, or until soft. Mash, including skin, in a bowl, adding margarine, dash of salt, brown sugar and freshly ground black pepper. Chop cooked turkey breast, pecans and dried apricots or dates and stir into sweet potato mixture. Place in microwave-safe dish, top evenly with grated carrots and drizzle with honey and freshly grated ginger. Microwave until hot.
Rock 'n' Roll Ricotta
Gently blend low-fat ricotta cheese with sugar-free chocolate pudding, freshly chopped mint and finely chopped white chocolate. Sprinkle lightly with pine nuts.
Three-Cheer Cheese Balls
Roll 1 tablespoon of port wine cheese into a ball and push 1 / 4 of a prune into the center of it. Roll in coarsely chopped pecans. Repeat for additional mini cheese balls.
Cajun Catfish in a Flash
In a food processor or blender, prepare a paste with tomato paste, minced onions, celery, garlic clove, butter, all-purpose flour, egg, salt, freshly ground pepper and a dash of cayenne. Pat onto top and bottom of skinless catfish fillets. Spray a cold skillet with nonstick cooking spray. Heat on medium-low and cook fish on both sides until flaky, about 15 to 20 minutes total. Serve over cooked brown rice and sliced tomatoes that have been sprinkled lightly with dash of cayenne and freshly ground black pepper.
Split-Second Apple Pie Sugar-Free Ice Cream Sandwiches
Lightly spread a thin layer of canned apple pie filling over graham crackers. Add a few small dollops of sugar-free vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt and a sprinkling of ground cinnamon before topping with another graham cracker.
To store-bought miso soup mix, after adding directed amount of liquid, while heating, stir in minced scallions, chopped garlic clove, diced firm tofu, and shredded fresh spinach. Top with crumbled store-bought pork rinds (which are a no-carbohydrate food and good replacement for crispy noodles in soups).
Fill-Up-Your-Tank Fast Fried Rice
In a wok or skillet, in a small amount of hot peanut or canola oil, carefully add bite-sized chunks of already cooked pork, minced scallions, finely chopped peanuts, golden raisins, freshly ground black pepper, light soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce. Stir-fry until thoroughly heated.
Good Fortune Peach Crumble
Crumble pieces of fortune cookies over peach or mango sorbet and top with chopped thawed frozen fresh peaches and shavings of fresh ginger.
Easy Eggplant Italiano Wilted Spinach Salad
Saute chopped eggplant in olive oil, garlic powder and freshly ground pepper until fully cooked. Serve over fresh spinach leaves for a wilted salad effect. Top with crumbled whole-grain herb crackers and a drizzling of red wine vinegar.
Mama Mia Veggie Burgers
Pat minced dried basil and oregano on top of store-bought veggie burgers. Cook according to package directions, carefully adding on top in last 2 minutes of cooking red onion rings, thin slices of green bell pepper and a slice of mozzarella cheese. Serve on toasted foccacia bread or toasted whole grain white bread and with fully heated store-bought marinara sauce on the side for dipping.
Espresso Ice Cream Express
Crumble store-bought biscotti over small scoops of pistachio or Neapolitan ice cream. Top with finely chopped pistachios and a drizzling of hot espresso, cappuccino or coffee that’s had sugar-free sweetener and skim milk added.
QUICK TIP OF THE WEEK:
The beauty of fine artisan breads doesn’t have to lie in you taking a lot of time to bake them yourself. Either at your favorite corner bakery or supermarket fresh bakery, pick up a variety of the latest flavor trends, like sun-dried tomato/basil, olive-parmesan, honey/pecan, Asiago cheese or onion/herb and freeze them. Keep up to six weeks. They will almost instantly perk up any meal, whether served sliced on the side or in creative ways, such as croutons, breadcrumbs or ingredients in recipes, like sweet or savory bread puddings.
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 Dr.Laura.com.