(10 seconds each to read and are almost that quick to prepare)
By Lisa Messinger
Food and Cooking at Creators Syndicate
Take-out, delivery and drive-thru foods are often economical timesavers. However, unfortunately, there is something that may be even faster: how quickly some of those nutritiously questionable foods may start playing havoc with your health. It’s wiser to experiment with ingredients and spices for split-second copies you can make at home. Often, just a few tweaks are all it takes to create a dish reminiscent of the original, like gourmet pizzas prepared with chicken breast, cilantro and a sweet spicy sauce or burgers stuffed with low-fat pepper jack cheese and olives that get part of their bounce from pinto beans and Mexican spices.
Cooking can be easy, nutritious, inexpensive, fun and fast, as the following savvy substitutions prove. The dishes are delicious evidence that everyone - including you and your kidlet helpers - has time for tasty home cooking and, more importantly, the healthy family time in the kitchen 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 choose to use can't help but draw "wows" at the table.
Friendly, Rather than Fried, Chicken
Dredge chicken pieces in a mixture of egg and low-fat buttermilk and then in whole-wheat bread crumbs seasoned with curry powder and ground ginger. Bake at 425 F for about 20 minutes, until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 F.
Pizza with Pizzazz
Turn on broiler. Top whole-wheat English muffins with low-sugar ketchup mixed with sugar-free apricot jam. Top with shredded, drained canned chicken breast, shredded fresh spinach, fresh cilantro, ground cumin and cardamom and white cheddar cheese and broil until cheese is melted and bubbling.
Burgers that Beat the Rest
To lean ground beef or lean ground chicken breast or lean ground turkey breast, add drained, ground pinto beans and jarred Mexican or Italian seasoning blend, to taste (these tend to have no salt, compared to packets, which tend to have a lot of it). Create a well in the middle of each burger and stuff with small pieces of low-fat pepper jack cheese and finely diced black olives before cooking to an internal temperature of 160 F.
Chinese with Ease
Get prepackaged wonton wrappers in supermarket refrigerator case and fill with the cabbage mix in a packaged coleslaw mix. Sprinkle with cooked diced baby shrimp, freshly ground black pepper and peach chutney before sealing according to package instructions. Brush skins all over lightly with olive oil and bake at 425 F for about 10-15 minutes, or until lightly browned.
Tostada that's the Total Package
Brush whole-wheat tortilla on one side with olive oil and place that side down in a skillet and heat until it gets a bit crispy and puffy. Carefully remove with a utensil and place on a paper towel to absorb oil. Top with chunks of tofu you've sauteed (in olive oil that's been seasoned with cumin, cilantro, garlic and onion powders), shredded soy cheese, cooked pinto beans, cooked brown rice, salsa and chopped black olives. Top with guacamole and vegan sour cream.
QUICK TIP OF THE WEEK: Years ago, it was difficult to find high-fiber whole-grain breads, crackers, bars and other products in supermarkets. Fortunately, that's no longer the case. However, if you're looking for a quick way to add just a dollop of whole grain even to snacks, think about having a bottle of wheat germ or canister of whole-wheat bread crumbs on hand. Take a single-serving chunk of cheese and make individual "cheese balls" dipping each side in the fine whole grains. Wash celery and don't pat it completely dry. Sprinkle the fine whole grains on the celery and it should stick from the slight dampness, and then fill with low-fat cream cheese or peanut butter. Sprinkle the fine grains atop a cup of tomato or other nutritious soup and follow with a grating of Parmesan cheese and a dash of freshly ground black pepper.
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.