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Living in the fast (checkout) lane 

Here's a term you may not have encountered before -- "convenience cuisine," meals prepared superfast by using prepared, store-bought ingredients to whip up gourmet offerings sans annoying prep time.

"Almost From Scratch" by Andrew Schloss (Simon & Schuster, $25) is the guidebook to turning new supermarket staples, such as sheets of nori seaweed, jars of artichoke hearts and canned lentils, into gourmet dishes, from "lemon poppyseed chicken" to "fried flounder in chickpea batter."

The "Incredible Vegetables" section is particularly appealing, with recipes for ginger-roasted brussel sprouts and eggplant mousse. How about cranberry biscotti made with cornbread mix? African peanut soup from a jar of salsa and canned chicken broth? The most time-consuming part of cooking is the chopping and now that can all be avoided -- just grab it off the shelf.

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