(10 seconds each to read and are almost that quick to prepare)
By Lisa Messinger
Food and Cooking at Creators Syndicate
Backyard entertaining season is often called chips 'n' dips season. But there's an easy and economical way to shorten that even more: chips.
Warm-weather entertaining can be as simple as chips minus the (often fat- and calorie-laden) dips when you spice up whole-grain tortilla chips with a few of the seasonings that the no-longer-needed dips would have sported.
Marcela Valladolid, host of the Food Network's Mexican Made Easy, who is both a Baja, Mexico and Ritz Escoffier Parisian Cooking School-trained chef, spilled the beans on a technique that will draw rave reviews though it only takes minutes.
She takes a bag of store-bought tortilla chips, sprays them with nonstick cooking spray, and then sprinkles them with her favorite spices, like fresh rosemary and ground chipotle pepper. Next, she bakes them at 250 F until the spices no longer fall off.
It's almost as easy to start the chips from scratch by using either corn or flour tortillas. You brush each side of the tortilla with a "good-fat" vegetable oil, like canola or olive. Then, cut into strips and drizzle with your favorite spices before baking at 350 F, just until crisp, about five minutes.
Cheese can also be used as a seasoning, when a small amount is sprinkled on the oil-sprayed chips and warmed rather than layered thickly and fully melted for nachos. La Serenata de Garibaldi - consistently ranked one of the best and most authentic Mexican restaurants in Los Angeles by places like The New York Times, Zagat and the Food Network - serves their chips that way. Pick up a few Mexican cheeses from a Hispanic market, finely grate, mix together into your own blend, and warm slightly on the chips before serving. This is also a great way to expose your kidlets' palates to new and interesting flavors.
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 little helpers - choose to use can't help but draw "wows" from family members and guests.
Here are some additional homemade spice blends that you can use:
- Garlic powder, onion powder (garlic and onion powders, which don't have salt, are better health choices for your family than garlic salt or onion salt) and pistachios you've turned to a dust in a grinder, food processor or blender.
- Cajun seasoning, lemon-pepper and mesquite-flavored barbecue blends.
- Ground cumin, chili powder and unsweetened cocoa powder.
- Cinnamon, brown sugar and peanuts you've turned to a dust in a grinder, food processor or blender.
- Cocoa powder, stevia (or another natural sugar-free sweetener) and banana chips you've turned to a dust in a grinder, food processor or blender.
QUICK TIP OF THE WEEK: You might want to take a cue from your kidlets when it comes to how to consume your store-bought juice. Even the new healthful vegetable and fruit juice blends contain concentrated calories, carbohydrates and sugars from the produce. Large servings are best to be avoided. However, lots of brands of the vegetable-fruit juices come in juice boxes with cartoons on them to appeal to kids. Those sizes (often complete with their own mini straws) are perfect for adults watching their weight as well. Most are about 6.75 ounces with 70 calories and 15 grams of carbohydrates and sugars (fructose). Another bonus, the palate-pleasing nutritious mixtures often come in fun flavors, like "fruit punch."
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.