February 25, 201310-Second Recipes: Turn Your Winter Kitchen into an Economical Tropical Vacation Spot
(10 seconds each to read and are almost that quick to prepare)
By Lisa Messinger
Food and Cooking at Creators Syndicate
This winter, receiving emails or postcards from faraway tropical paradises while you plow through snow or zip up your jacket tight might invoke envy. Instead, let it inspire quick, easy dinner menus that may have you believing trade winds are gently blowing through your dining room.
Lots of people take winter vacations to warm spots. Many others are still at the home front and nonstop busy with chores and obligations. You can bring the tropics to your dinner table, though, and feel some of the same calm and peacefulness as those staring out at a multi-hued sunset after a day on the beach. Use some of the tips that follow.
Fun fare and projects like these also prove food and beverage preparation can be easy, nutritious, economical - 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 kidlet helpers - choose to use can't help but draw "wows" from everyone.
--- There are many ingredients available year-round that immediately lighten up and brighten up meals and bring to mind the tropics, like lemon, lime, pineapple, cantaloupe and honeydew melons, and the imported papayas and mangoes that populate many supermarket produce sections. Frozen fresh fruit, too, is excellent, like peaches and a variety of berries. Many brands of canned tropical fruit mixes are sold in fruit juice only, without any added sugar. Some come in passion fruit juice, a great choice to conjure up the tropics.
--- Fresh or frozen fish is also outstanding for a winter tropical menu. Try varieties you may have only sampled before while visiting paradise, like mahi mahi from Hawaii or fish that's popular in the Caribbean, like red snapper and swordfish. A just-published large study from the activist group Oceana finds much of the nation's fish mislabeled, but the good news is that, unlike some types of restaurants, supermarkets had by far the best track record of being accurate.
--- Spices are a final important step to make a mini meal virtual vacation complete. For the most part, these are easy-to-find spices we use every day, just put in new combinations for flavor sensations. The Caribbean's Grenada, for instance, grows more spices per square mile than any place else on Earth, including cinnamon, clove, ginger, vanilla, turmeric, allspice and bay leaf. To get a taste of warm Grenada in a traditional cool-weather drink, add a cinnamon stick and 2 to 3 fresh bay leaves to homemade hot chocolate like they do on the West Indies Island.
--- Pull out those bamboo placemats or dusty tiki lamps. How about the fun plastic, colorful dishware that many of us reserve for summer patio meals? Mix and match with boldly colored napkins and tablecloths.
--- Make a quick centerpiece bowl from fruits and spices or by carving out a halved pineapple and filling it with tropical flowers.
--- Eat your light meal as early as possible, potentially watching the sunset through your dining room or kitchen window.
--- Shed layers of heavy clothing and throw on something that's lighter, brighter and more comfortable, along with that puka shell necklace or coral bracelet you picked up on your last trip.
--- Let native music spice the cool winter air. Besides CDs you might have, the World Wide Web has plenty of free music streaming directly from stations in paradise. Check out, for instance, the world and international sections free under Media Guide in the Internet Radio portion of Windows Media Player, or do a search on Google, and you'll not only be munching on delicious delights, but also swaying to beats live from the Greek Isles, Hawaii or Tahiti.
QUICK TIP OF THE WEEK: To avoid splatter and cleaning, sometimes it's tempting - or just seems like common sense - to cover surfaces with aluminum foil. However, even many foil manufacturers warn, to avoid heat damage to your oven, don't cover its floor or an entire rack with foil.
Posted by Staff at 12:05 AM
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.