Fast Food at Home

Do meals in a flash seem beyond your capability (and comprehension) on a weeknight? Never fear: These colorful, tasty, and healthful suppers will bring your family smiles, take minimum time to prepare and clean-up, and include a few tricks-of-the-getting-your-kids-to-eat-new-things-trade. Plus, some of these child-friendly dinners employ a few simple tasks that will delight budding cooks and inspire them to help.

Hearty Soup, Healthy Sandwich
This is a simple, pleasing combo. Pair this soup -- enriched with a can of packed pumpkin -- with a sandwich. A turkey sandwich on whole-grain bread, with romaine leaves and dollops of mustard and low-fat mayonnaise, tastes great with this soup. You can assemble the sandwiches while the soup simmers.

Tomato-Pumpkin Soup
1 29 oz. can crushed tomatoes
2 14 oz. cans black beans, drained
1 14 oz. can packed pumpkin
1/2 cup chicken stock (low-sodium and fat-free, if possible)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground oregano
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Place all ingredients in a large heavy saucepan. Stir together until well combined.

Heat over medium heat for 30 minutes, until warmed through.

If desired, serve with chopped avocado and light sour cream.

Squ-easy Fun Pizza
Next time the family's in the mood for pizza, don't head for the phone. Instead, try this alternative, and have everyone join in on the fun of assembling it. Pizza presents a perfect opportunity to introduce your kids to new tastes, such as chicken sausage or other ingredients you may want to try. They're likely to be sidetracked by the pizza's unique sauce -- and proud to eat their own creation.

1 pizza crust (pre-baked crust; packaged dough-starter; or one 14 oz. can of refrigerated pizza crust will all work)
3/4 cup barbecue sauce, squeezed from a BBQ sauce bottle (or squeezed to taste)
3 fully-cooked, pre-packaged, roasted onion and pepper chicken sausage, cut into chunks or slices
4 oz. crimini mushrooms, sliced into thirds, or 3.8 oz can sliced mushrooms, drained
3.8-oz can sliced black olives, drained
1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

Using a paper towel, spread the olive oil on your pizza tray

If your pizza crust needs advanced prep or rolling out, check out its directions to prepare it, and pre-heat the oven accordingly.

Squeeze the barbecue sauce on the crust, then liberally place the sausage, mushrooms, and olives all over it.

Sprinkle the cheese all over.

Bake according to the directions for the particular crust you're using.

Breakfast for Supper
Breakfast is quick, nutritious, and kids revel in the perceived zaniness of mixing up the meal schedule. For starters, scrambled eggs are a snap; you don't have to make it a fancy omelet or frittata unless that's your specialty. If anyone in the house is watching cholesterol, use just egg whites. Since the eggs are for dinner, consider unusual, healthful fillings you might not attempt in the morning, such as:

Peas, spinach, broccoli, or other green vegetables
Chopped tomatoes and onions
Avocadoes
Lean turkey, cut into strips
Sliced olives
Pasta

Compliment the eggs with these special blue corncakes. Try this simple batter and serve fruit — such as blueberries, strawberries or bananas — on the side.

Blue Corncakes
1 1/4 cups blue corn flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Stir all the dry ingredients together in a medium bowl. Mix together the eggs, buttermilk, and oil in a separate bowl, then add to the dry ingredients. Stir until the batter is just combined (it will be a bit lumpy).

Prepare a greased skillet and set on medium-high heat. Add the batter by 1/4 cup-fulls to the heated pan.

Once the topside bubbles and the edges turn crispy, flip the pancakes to cook the other side.

About the Author:
Joe LoCicero is the founder, with his wife Lori, of Practical Whimsy (TM), a company devoted to family style with products, tips for entertaining, and recipes at practicalwhimsy.com. His books include The Complete Idiot's Guide to Clear Thinking and Cake Decorating for Dummies.

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