Healthy Holiday Appetizers

I hosted my first Thanksgiving this year and tried to select appetizers that were both healthy and delicious.  Since we are still in a holiday month, I thought it would be nice to share some healthy appetizer ideas to try at your own holiday party.

  1. Shrimp with cocktail sauce
  2. Vegetables with homemade cucumber dip
  3. Soup shots

While cheese and crackers are tasty, there’s such an overload of unhealthy options at parties and events during the holidays that I think it’s nice to serve your guests some healthier, homemade options that are easy to make and are total crowd pleasers.

  1. Shrimp with cocktail sauce is definitely a crowd pleaser. At my Thanksgiving I sautéed the defrosted shrimp for five minutes or so in a skillet with olive oil over medium heat until the shrimp turned pink. Meanwhile, mix the cocktail sauce in a little bowl. For cocktail sauce all you need is ketchup,Worcestershire sauce, horseradish and a squeeze of lemon. These condiments should all be gluten-free, but may depend on the brand you buy. Mix about 1/2 cup ketchup with 2 tablespoons horseradish, a squeeze of lemon and dash of Worcestershire. I honestly played around with my measurements and just got a bit creative until it tasted perfect. To serve place the small bowl of sauce in the middle of a large plate with the shrimp surrounding the bowl on the plate.
  2. Chopped veggies with dip is simple and easy for guests to munch on. Select your vegetables and chop them the day before your party to take one thing off your plate the day of the event. For my homemade cucumber dip, simply combine 1 cup of plain Greek yogurt with finely diced cucumber, chopped fresh dill, chopped green onions and some salt. Mix these ingredients together and serve with the vegetables. Such a healthy alternative to store-bought dip!Tzatziki-700x350_zqqnc9.jpg
  3. I love Pinterest. Lately I’ve been seeing soup served in shot glasses with cut up grilled cheeses as appetizers. I think this idea is super cute, and soup is a great thing to serve guests during these chilly months. Depending on the soup, soup can be pretty simple to make, and can also be made a day or two before your event. Try my roasted carrot soup recipe. It’s so yummy and can be served with cut up panini or grilled cheese.tomato-soup-grilled-cheese-I-howsweeteats.com-8

 

Homemade Pad Thai

Pad thai

Here are the makings of a homemade pad thai with my very own twist.  I like to load up on delicious green vegetables, so here I went heavy on the broccoli, bok choy, and green onions and added shrimp for protein.  What I especially love about pad thai are the peanuts. I normally order a side of peanut sauce for my pad thai, but for this recipe I actually added peanut butter.  I happened to have a fancy vanilla bourbon peanut butter, but I’m sure any smooth peanut butter will do the trick.

Ingredients:

-shrimp

-bok choy

-broccoli

-3 cloves garlic

-green onions

-chilis

-2 eggs, lightly scrambled

-fish or oyster sauce

-smooth peanut butter

-lemon or lime

-sesame oil or coconut oil

-pad thai noodles or preferred rice noodlesANE-52793-4

Steps:

1. Heat a pot full of water for noodles. Cook noodles.  When done drain, but set aside some water. Run cold water over the noodles.

2. Meanwhile, heat sesame oil and a little coconut oil in wok or large pan over medium high heat.  Sautee garlic, bok choy, broccoli, and shrimp.  Add salt and pepper.  Flip shrimp after about 3 minutes and cook until opaque. Bok choy should be wilted and broccoli cooked.  Transfer vegetables and shrimp to dish.

3. Add about a teaspoon more oil to the pan and add eggs.  Scramble eggs and add noodles to the pan.  Add fish sauce and peanut butter.  Add shrimp, vegetables, and chilis and turn off stove.  Mix everything, squeeze some fresh lemon or lime, and add more sauce and peanut butter to taste.

What to do with Beans (plus recipe!)

Beans are a fantastic, nutrient-dense, protein-packed plant food that offer tons of fiber, B vitamins,iron, antioxidants, and phytonutrients. They are low in calories and have been found to lower the risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.

I think a lot of people are intimidated by cooking beans, possibly because they don’t know how.  Up until recently, actually, I had been using canned beans.  It wasn’t until I started soaking (non-canned) beans properly, which was quite simple to do, that I noticed my body could easily digest beans, where as normally I feel like crap after eating beans.

Cooking Beans

-Be sure to wash and clean the beans first.

-Soak dried beans for 8-12 hours before cooking (hint: cut a bean in half; if the center is still opaque, keep soaking).

-After soaking, rinse, fill pot with fresh water (about 4-6 cups), bring to a boil, then skim off the foam.  To aid digestion, add kombu, bay leaf, cumin, anise, or fennel to the water.

-Cover and simmer for the suggested time.

-Remember: Only add salt at the end of cooking (about 10 minutes before the beans are done) or it will interfere with the cooking process.

Quick tips: For speedier prep, boil dried beans for 5 minutes, then soak for 2-4 hours. Or use canned beans instead (some people find them even easier to digest!).  Be sure to avoid canned beans with added salt or preservatives and rinse thoroughly once removed from the can.

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Kombu is a type of dried seaweed. Add a small piece while cooking your beans to improve digestibility.

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Cooking with Beans

Need ideas of how to use beans?  Try any of the following:

-Toss beans and diced veggies (such as celery, shallots, red peppers) with vinaigrette for a quick bean salad.

-Blend cooked beans with tomatoes, onions, and your favorite seasonings to create a yummy bean soup.

-Top a green salad with 1/3 cup of your favorite bean.

-Puree beans with a bit of olive oil, a garlic clove, salt, and your favorite seasonings. Voila! A fast dip or sandwich spread.

-Include 1/3 cup of beans with your other favorite toppings next time you make stuffed baked potatoes or sweet potatoes.

-Add 1/4 cup pureed beans to your favorite pancake, waffle, muffin, or cake recipe. You’ll be surprised at how moist and springy baked goods are when baked with beans.

Here’s what I made…

After soaking black beans overnight, I decided to use the beans for a Mexican shrimp bowl.  At least that’s what I’m calling it.  Feel free to pick and choose your favorite ingredients, but here’s what I used to cook for two people:

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-avocado (1/2)

-shrimp (about 12)

-4 garlic gloves, minced

-1/2 onion, diced

-fresh, dried chilies, minced (if you like your food spicy)

-salt, pepper

-2 tbsp olive oil, plus more if needed

-optional: rice or polenta cubes, red cabbage

unnamed-3To prepare this dish I soaked the black beans over night and then cooked them in 6 cups water with a strip of kombu for an hour.

-Heat large pan with olive oil.  When hot, add onions and garlic and cook for two minutes.  Lightly salt.

-Add shrimp, chilis, salt, and pepper.   If cooking pre-made polenta, toss in polenta cubes.  Cook for about five minutes or until shrimp are cooked.

-Layer red cabbage and beans on the bottom of a bowl.  Add the shrimp, onions, and polenta on top.  Slice up some avocado and serve!