IN THESE HARD times, anything to make a buck. How about entering the fifth annual Favorite Veal Recipe Contest? First prize: $2,500. Or, the Sizzlin' Lamb Barbecue Contest? Also a $2,500 payoff. For rules and information, send a stamped, self-addressed, business-size envelope to:

Veal Rules, Favorite Veal Recipe Contest, Box 530, Barrington, Ill. 60011. Entries must be postmarked by April 26.

Sizzlin' Lamb Barbecue Contest, National Live Stock and Meat Board, 444 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611. Entry deadline is March 1.

"Sizzlin' Lamb," indeed. That could be a winner in a Name-That-Contest contest.

POSTHUMOUS JAMES BEARD has become even bigger than in life -- and it's a good thing. Otherwise, where would you stick all the decals? Like a race car, Beard is now covered with advertisements.

The James Beard Foundation has taken over and consolidated the bestowing of three prestigious food awards, to be presented in May in New York. This is a fine thing, but the titles of the following awards are more likely to conjure up an image of the Goodyear Blimp than of gourmet cuisine:

For 13 of the year's best U.S. restaurateurs, chefs and wine professionals, the James Beard/Seagram Restaurant Awards.

For six individuals who have made a significant and lasting impact on the culinary industry, the former COOK'S Who's Who in Cooking in America awards, now the James Beard/Perrier-Jouet Who's Who of Food and Beverage in America awards.

For the year's best food and wine books, formerly the R.T. French Tastemaker Awards, now the James Beard Food and Beverage Book Awards (sponsor to be announced).

Oh well, kudos are kudos, we would guess. After all, it's all just endemic of our times, like the incongruously named Mobil Sugar Bowl football game.

A parting thought: How about the Trump Tastemaker Awards?

NOID, MEET PIZZABOT; someday the two of you may be working hand in hand -- so to speak.

Pizzabot is a voice-activated robot that can prepare a pizza -- dough, sauce and multiple toppings -- for the oven in less than four minutes. Developed by researchers at the Center for Human Service Robotics at the Carnegie Mellon Research Institute, Pizzabot is part of an effort to design machines to help the disabled and elderly secure meaningful jobs but also give them the opportunity to become small business entrepreneurs.

Pizzabot can do almost all the work -- except for taking the pizza out of the oven and delivering it, of course. That's for Domino's Noid, perhaps.

AMERICANS WILL BE EATING more casual, healthy fare this year and avoiding fried or fancy or foods, according to magazine editor Kathy Eakin.

"Many Americans are taking a more realistic approach to their eating habits," says Eakin. "They want healthy foods that taste great and are easy to prepare," without a lot of heavy oils and fats.

Foods that are out in '91: pa~te's, Danish pastries, Buffalo chicken wings, fried zucchini, mozzarella appetizers, "gourmet" ice cream, quiches, french fries.

And in this year, according to Eakin: cold-water fish (including salmon, trout and swordfish), soups and stews, slaws, dried fruit, pizza, oatmeal, chutneys and relishes, rice (puffed, crisp and bran), peppers (red, yellow and orange), Salisbury steak.

Oh yes, Eakin is the editor of Cooking Light magazine. Hmmm.

MORE STIR-FRY, PLEASE. Preliminary studies by University of Wisconsin scientists have shown that soy sauce may inhibit cancer.

Intrigued by reports from Japan that soy sauce may cause stomach cancer, the university's Food Research Institute put hundreds of mice on a soy sauce diet. The result was a surprise -- it was just the opposite of the Japanese study. The more soy sauce the mice ate, the fewer cancerous tumors they developed -- even though they also were being given a diet of cancer-inducing chemicals.

Unfortunately, notes Michael Pariza, the institute's director, mice ate far more soy sauce than even the most ardent Oriental food aficionado. The soy sauce started to take effect when it comprised 10 percent of a mouse's diet and the mouse fared even better when soy sauce was 30 percent of the diet.

Given all the sodium in soy sauce, we only wonder about the blood pressure in all those mice.

DINNER TONIGHT

TORTILLA ESPANOLA (Spanish Omelet) (4 servings)

In Spain, a tortilla isn't the cornmeal flat bread we think of, but a sort of omelet loaded with onions and potatoes. This is a popular item at tapas bars, and an easy dinner to make after a night of celebrating.

4 tablespoons olive oil

2 large onions (1 1/2 pounds), peeled and cut into thin slices

2 pounds potatoes, peeled and cut into thin slices

6 eggs

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Heat the oil in a large nonstick frying pan. Saute' the onions over medium heat for 6 to 8 minutes or until soft but not brown. Drain the onions in a colander, reserving 2 tablespoons of the oil.

Cook the potatoes in boiling water for 4 to 5 minutes and drain in the colander. Beat the eggs in a large bowl and stir in the onions, potatoes, and salt and pepper to taste.

Heat the reserved oil over high heat in a heavy nonstick pan or well-seasoned cast-iron skillet. Add the tortilla mixture and cook for 2 minutes or until the bottom is lightly browned. Place the pan in a preheated 400-degree oven and cook for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the egg mixture is set. Invert the tortilla onto a round platter. Cut into wedge-shaped slices and serve with a salad.

Per serving: 494 calories, 15 gm protein, 59 gm carbohydrates, 23 gm fat, 5 gm saturated fat, 411 mg cholesterol, 118 mg sodium. -- Steven Raichlen