(10 seconds each to read and are almost that quick to prepare)
By Lisa Messinger
Food and Cooking at Creators Syndicate
What's a dish that's economical and so adorable that every member of your family, from choosy children to selective seniors, probably will never want to pass it up? Sliders.
Those are, of course, the mini burgers that have been the rage at pubs and chic restaurants for the last few years for premium prices. At home, they are cost savers because you are choosing your own meat and using less of it than for traditional burgers.
An added bonus: Those watching their weight or with smaller appetites, like kids, find it easier to control portions with the cute creations that are just a few bites each.
They're not just for chic nights out anymore, made the way some glitzy restaurant chefs do, draped in caramelized onions, exotic cheeses and artisan rolls. Adjust all of that to your budget and tastes.
Like in cafes, feel free to make them (using about two or three ounces each of meat before cooking) not only from lean ground beef, but ground turkey, pork, veal, lamb, chicken, turkey or seafood or a mixture.
Vegetable or vegetarian (such as tofu or tempeh that you mix with vegetables, and spices) petite patties also work well, as do ground nuts as part of the blend. You could even take commercial vegetarian versions from the grocer freezer and carefully use cookie cutters on them after cooking to make each patty into multiple slider servings. You could do the same if you prefer purchasing preformed meat burgers at the market.
Also a benefit: The tiny treats are, of course, even quicker than bigger thinner patties to cook up at home. As with any ground meat, though cooking will be quick, per USDA guidelines, patties should still reach an internal temperature of at least 160 F.
Like everywhere from the new crop of gourmet "gastropubs" to casual neighborhood restaurant chains, you can serve them up as appetizers or the more recent move to full-meal, multi-burger, single-serving platters - perhaps with a mix-and-match of accompaniments.
Creative toppings are a signature of sliders. Food Network star chef Bobby Flay introduced interesting condiments on his competitive "Throwdown" series. To emulate the flavors without much work:
Get queso cheese from the ethnic section of supermarket (or another exotic cheese) and melt just before serving so that it is a creamy sauce.
Finely chop red onions and gently mix into pickle relish.
Chef Chris Santos, chef/owner of New York City hotspots The Stanton Social and Beauty gives his sliders an easy zip with Worcestershire sauce mixed into the ground meat. When they are cooked and ready to be served, he gives them a drizzle of barbecue sauce combined with ketchup and mustard.
For the diminutive buns? Small potato rolls are always good, as are multigrain dinner rolls.
Dishes like these prove innovative food preparation can be easy, nutritious, economical, entertaining - and fast. They take just 10 seconds each to read and are almost that quick to prepare. The combinations are delicious evidence that everyone has time for tasty home cooking and, more importantly, the healthy family togetherness that goes along with it!
Another benefit: You - and your kidlet helpers - effortlessly become better cooks, 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: Some people use their refrigerator door as a bulletin board for photos of family or friends or to post notices about upcoming events they will be attending. If you have young children or grandchildren, consider occasionally using yours as a fun teaching tool by posting things like photos and information about endangered species, exotic foods or historical figures.
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.