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Planning to throw a soiree yourself or bringing a dish to a party this holiday? Here are some veggie dish suggestions and some appetizers that may seem outside of most traditional holiday function fare.
Why something new or different this holiday? Why not?
Are you trying to lose weight or keep from gaining back the weight that you lost? Everyone says to increase your veggie intake if you want to keep the weight off. But this can get boring after having your fill of broccoli, spinach, celery, and carrots. If you’re looking to expand your veggie repertoire while not expanding your waist, then try these not-so-typical veggie dishes or appetizers on for size.
Asparagus is considered a delicacy by some, but yet it’s readily available both in the fresh and frozen produce sections of your local grocery store. This tasty veggie cooks up quickly with minimal prep work.
Just pop off the woody ends, rinse well to remove any sandy soil, and simmer on the stovetop in a shallow pan of water for a few minutes until the spears soften to fork-tender. Submerge in cold or icy water to stop the cooking. Dress with fresh herbs and vinaigrette. Delicious and packed with nutrition, makes a perfect accompaniment to roasted meats.
You may have tried this bitter, stringy vegetable served with sausage and pasta at an Italian restaurant. But it’s just as easy to prepare broccoli rabe at home.
Start by rinsing and scrubbing any soil from the leaves and stalks. Set a pot of water to boiling and plunge the broccoli rabe in to simmer for about 10 minutes or until wilted. Remove from the cooking water. Set in a colander and pour ice water over it to stop the cooking. Cook sausages in a skillet until done, then drain the excess fat. Add a bit of olive oil and chopped garlic, along with the blanched broccoli rabe. Serve with rice or whole-grain pasta.
Cabbage is one of the most economical vegetables you can purchase, and it goes well with almost any meat. Like its cruciferous cousins, broccoli and Brussels sprouts, cabbage has cancer-fighting properties, making it ideal for your holiday meal preparation. Ideas include cooking with onions, vinegar, honey, and spices to serve with Polish or Italian sausage, or simmering in a red sauce with ground lean meat such as turkey; garlic, onions, raisins, and caraway, to make “unstuffed cabbage” served with whole-grain rice.
Kale gets holiday points for being festive looking with its dark, blue-green curly leaves.
To prepare, wash and remove leaves from ribs, and discard ribs which are too tough to eat. Sautee on the stovetop with a tiny bit of anchovy paste, and some chopped onion, olive oil, and garlic. Add in a small can of tomato. Simmer until the kale leaves are wilted, about 15 or 20 minutes. Makes a nice accompaniment to roasted, herbed pork. You can also cook kale and red kidney beans together with white potatoes in a festive and hearty soup.
Swiss chard cooks up quickly and imparts an earthy, bold taste that is not bitter. If you enjoy making and serving homemade quiche for the holidays, then do a variation on the traditional spinach pie made with egg and cheese. Add chopped Swiss chard to your whole-grain pie shell filled with 4 beaten eggs, a sprinkle of onion, one cup or so of milk, and grated mild cheese such as Swiss or Monterey Jack. Bake at 350 until the egg is solid and an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
There’s a favorite Brussels sprouts recipe that’s trending of late. If you haven’t tried it, you won’t be disappointed. Start by frying bacon to crispy and saving a bit of the drippings. Crumble up the bacon. Place Brussels sprouts into a Pyrex baking dish. Pour olive oil over top and sprinkle on minced garlic. Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes. Remove and toss in bacon crumbles. Add a splash of Balsamic vinegar and season lightly with salt and pepper.
More people should know about the savory deliciousness that is turnips. They make a perfect low-carb substitute for white potatoes and also mash-up nicely when simmered to soft and then mixed with cream, butter, salt, and pepper and a bit of garlic or onion for flavor. Whip up some tangy and tasty turnips to serve with slices of roast beef or pork.
Cauliflower is fast becoming the low-carb lover’s rice and starch sub-in ingredient. Did you know that you can even make a low-carb pizza crust out of cauliflower? It is both delicious and nutritious, and believe it or not holds together nicely even when topped with a pile of melted cheese. Look for “riced cauliflower” when searching for nutritious low-carb options to serve as holiday sides this December.
Diet-Friendly Holiday Appetizers
When you think of holiday appetizers, what comes to mind?
Probably things like puff pastry hors d’ouevres, pigs in blankets, the 3-layer cream cheese dip made with Hormel canned chili, and other typical appetizer favorites. If you’re trying to keep to your weight loss goals this holiday season, then you might feel like you’re at a loss for serving healthy foods that get the thumbs up for being healthy and nutritious without a lot of sugar, fat, and calories.
Consider these party favorites to take along to your next holiday party, or serve to your own guests this Christmas.
A tasty appetizer, baba ganoush is a delicious and nutrient-rich dip made with eggplant.
To start, slice a fresh eggplant longways and place in an olive oil rubbed pan in a hot oven for about 20 minutes. The skin on the eggplant will char and the inside will become soft. Let cool, and scoop out the inside of the eggplant, including seeds.
Add to a food processor along with fresh minced garlic, fresh cilantro, a sprinkle of cumin, 2 Tablespoons of tahini (sesame paste), and salt and pepper to taste. Process to form a spread, then serve with whole-grain crackers or veggie slices.
Tangy and delicious, the traditional caponata also makes use of eggplant as its main ingredient. Finely chop eggplant, celery, red peppers, olives, onions, and garlic. Add to a large skillet along with a few spoonfuls of olive oil. Cook on medium, stirring frequently. When all ingredients are fully cooked to soft, add in a splash of red wine or Balsamic vinegar and a sprinkle of capers. Season with salt and pepper. Mix in fresh, finely chopped parsley and serve with whole-grain crackers.
Hummus and Veggie Platter
Hummus has become more of a party food since Mediterranean fare has grown in popularity here in the US and other parts of the world. Nutritious, hearty, and satisfying, this chickpea and sesame based food goes well with just about any dipper such as fresh slices of carrot, celery, cucumber, and peppers, or whole-grain crackers and chips. An easy and satisfying take-along, and you can choose from any number of exciting flavors available in the appetizer section of your local supermarket.
Fresh Salsa and Whole-grain Chips
Sure, it’s easy enough to grab a can of salsa from the chips section or international foods aisle of your local supermarket, and you probably will as salsa is a healthy and versatile item to keep stocked in your pantry. But there is just something extra special about homemade salsa.
The best recipe contains fresh diced tomato and onion, finely chopped cilantro, lime juice, and salt and pepper. You can also add in other exciting ingredients such as corn, black beans, or diced jalapenos. Set out your salsa as an accompaniment to whole grain chips or crackers. It’s always a guilt-free party appetizer favorite.
Fresh Veggies and Dip
Need a healthy holiday appetizer to grab in a hurry? Head on down to the grocery store and stock up on pre-cut veggies such as carrots, peppers, celery, tomatoes, cucumbers, and radishes. Arrange on a serving plate with a small bowl of yogurt dip in the center. You can whip up a quick and tasty dip simply by combining Greek yogurt and a spoon or two of mayo with onion powder, dill, yellow curry powder, salt, and pepper.
White Bean Dip with Fresh Parsley
While not a veggie appetizer, bean dips make a super healthy and tasty appetizer to have on hand at your next holiday get-together. This one whips up quickly in the blender with no need to cook anything. Just pop open 2 cans of cannellini or Northern white beans and add to the blender along with 2 Tablespoons of olive oil, 1/2 cup fresh parsley, 1 clove of crushed garlic, and the juice of one lemon. Blend to a pasty consistency and then season with salt and pepper. Serve with whole-grain pita, blue corn nachos or bagel chips. You can also use veggies for dipping.
Now you have some veggie options and appetizer choices to help protect yours and your guests’ weight loss goals while still having a fun holiday function.
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