(10 seconds each to read and are almost that quick to prepare)
By Lisa Messinger
Food and Cooking
at Creators Syndicate
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.
The three-course weeknight menus (appetizers, entrees, and healthy desserts) include everything from Italian-inspired favorites to tropical treats that will keep your loved ones in love with your quick-cooking talents! Some of the entrees are vegetarian, and most of the main dishes that aren't also feature produce, seamlessly blended with the meat, poultry, or seafood, to amp up the nutrition quotient.
Mozzarella Marinara Magnifico
Heat store-bought or homemade marinara pasta sauce in loosely covered microwave-safe container for 2 minutes. Set aside. Crumble honey-flavored whole-grain flake cereal in another microwave-safe container; place slices of low-fat mozzarella cheese and halved cherry tomatoes on top of it; heat for 2 minutes, or until cheese is beginning to melt. Pour pasta sauce over top.
Pickpocket-Worthy Chicken Pockets
In microwave, cook Italian-seasoned low-fat turkey sausage patties according to package directions. In medium bowl, crumble turkey sausage with fork; combine with both finely diced fresh mushrooms and steamed broccoli. Cut pieces from store-bought cooked rotisserie chicken. Slice pockets into breasts and thighs. Fill with cooked turkey sausage-vegetable mixture. Heat all of chicken 30 seconds in microwave, just until warm. Flank serving tray with legs and wings.
Luscious Lemon-Punch Ices
Cut lemons in half and slice off one-quarter inch of bottoms or tops so that lemons will sit flat on a baking sheet. Scoop out pulp into a medium bowl; combine with both sugar-free punch drink powder and finely chopped maraschino cherries, to taste. Scoop back into lemon halves and place baking sheet, covered, in freezer until pulp is frozen.
Tropical Shrimp Salad Cup Treats
Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a 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. In a medium bowl, combine chopped cooked shrimp, diced canned mandarin oranges and a dash of its juice, diced fresh mango, a dash of low-fat mayonnaise, dash of honey and a dash of curry powder. Fill wonton cups three quarters full, remove from muffin pan and serve.
Coconut Cutie Burgers
In a medium bowl, combine lean ground turkey, unsweetened coconut flakes, a dash of coconut milk, a dash of almond extract and freshly ground black pepper. Grill or broil for a few minutes on each side, until an internal temperature of 160 F is reached. Serve atop toasted whole-wheat hamburger buns topped with a dab of store-bought peach chutney and a side of raw, sliced zucchini drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with bottled store-bought lemon-pepper seasoning.
Frozen Banana Boats
Peel bananas and slice in half lengthwise; scoop out three quarters of the pulp; sprinkle a dash of lemon juice over pulp and the banana "boats." In a medium bowl, mash pulp and combine with chocolate sprinkles, finely chopped dates, finely chopped peanuts and cinnamon. Spread pulp mixture into banana "boats," wrap in plastic wrap and freeze until hard.
Green Tea Super Soup
Brew a pot of decaffeinated green tea. Place in freezer for a few minutes to quickly cool off. Place in blender container with freshly steamed carrots and broccoli, store-bought lemon-pepper seasoning and store-bought Cajun seasoning mixture; blend well until smooth. Place in stockpot and heat over low-medium heat.
In-a-Snap Gingersnap Fish Sticks
Preheat oven to 450 F. Place gingersnaps in heavy-duty plastic bag; crush with rolling pin until become very fine crumbs. Add freshly shaved Parmesan cheese and freshly ground black pepper to bag; shake well. Cut center-cut skinned salmon fillets into long wide strips. Roll in all-purpose flour and pat dry, then dip in frothy egg whites and roll well in Parmesan-cookie crumb mixture. Place on baking sheet that's been well sprayed with nonstick cooking spray; drizzle fish sticks with a few drops of olive oil. Put in oven and bake for 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve with a dipping sauce made from nonfat sour cream blended with bottled chili sauce.
Dazzling Diet Root Beer Floats
Pour diet root beer into tall wide glasses, filling up halfway. Carefully add a scoop of sugar-free vanilla ice cream. Top with a small mixture of blueberries, finely diced pineapple and freshly grated ginger. Serve with straws and long spoons.
Mushroom Magic Trick
Prepare stuffing mix according to package directions, adding chopped dried apricots, dates, ground cinnamon and curry powder, to taste, prior to cooking. Wash large button mushrooms, remove stems; fill with cooked stuffing mixture. Place in large shallow nonstick-cooking sprayed baking pan with water to cover bottom of pan; bake uncovered in preheated 350 F oven for 20 minutes, until tops lightly brown.
Tweet-Worthy Turkey Salad Potpie
In a large bowl, mix chunks of cooked turkey breast, chopped walnuts, dried cherries, diced celery, diced carrots, diced unpeeled Macintosh apples, low-fat mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper. Bake store-bought pie shell according to package instructions. Fill with turkey mixture, top with grated Monterey Jack cheese and place in oven until thoroughly heated.
Pumpkin Patch Harvest Layer Cake
Bake 2 layers of chocolate cake, according to packaged mix instructions substituting sugar-free sweetener suitable for baking for sugar. Scoop out filling of a store-bought pumpkin pie or prepare homemade pumpkin pie filling and spread it generously atop one of the cake layers and place other layer atop it. Frost with store-bought vanilla frosting into which you have blended ground cinnamon, ground cloves and ground ginger. Drizzle cake with sugar-free maple syrup and sprinkle with a few pumpkin seeds.
Wizardly White Bean Wilted Salad with Wonderful Cheese Toasts
Slightly steam some packaged spinach salad leaves so they are a bit warm and wilted. Place in a large salad serving bowl. Top with canned white beans (cannellini or Great Northern) that have been drained, but not rinsed, pine nuts, finely chopped tomatoes, freshly ground black pepper and store-bought or homemade sweet balsamic dressing and gently toss. Top crostini (small, thin toasts) with spreadable goat cheese and serve atop salad.
Marvelous Marmalade Green Beans with Cranberry Tofu Sauce
Steam frozen green beans in microwave; carefully empty beans into a baking dish, drizzle with sugar-free orange marmalade and chopped pecans. Repeat all layers twice, cover with plastic wrap; heat in microwave on high until heated through. In a blender container, add soft tofu, fresh or thawed frozen cranberries, and sugar-free sweetener (tasting to determine it's sweet enough). Blend until creamy. Warm in microwave for a few seconds until just heated through. Spoon generously over green bean casserole.
Mesmerizing Maple Sugar-Free Hot Chocolate with Gingersnaps
In a saucepan, combine low-fat milk, brewed coffee or espresso, sugar-free maple-flavored syrup, sugar-free hot chocolate mix, broken pieces dark chocolate. Heat, stirring often, until chocolate has melted and hot chocolate is heated through. Top each serving with mini marshmallows and a lucky gingersnap that will deliciously absorb some of the flavorful beverage.
QUICK TIP OF THE WEEK:
When you and your family next visit a popular frozen yogurt parlor, consider buying a couple of large extra containers of plain yogurt. Keep them in your freezer along with bags of frozen blueberries and strawberries and a can of mixed nuts in your pantry. Any tasty high-fiber cereal you have on hand also works well. Then, anytime you get the craving, you can set up a healthy frozen yogurt dessert buffet complete with tempting toppings.
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.