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Here’s to your health appetizers

Holidays usually mean you can expect lots of great food. And the usual laments such as “Oh, I really shouldn’t eat this” or “Wow, I gained weight just looking at that!”

That’s understandable, as many of us (myself included) have at least one sort of health issue. So I decided to browse around for some appetizer recipes that don’t come with a ticket to Guilt City.

Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to partake from the appetizer platters rather than look longingly but then pass them by? Granted, there is no shortage of recipes that are so good they make you want to do a double back flip but they are horrible health-wise.

By the way, I was never one to even consider doing a single back flip let alone a double one, but just mentioned it for emphasis. My great athletic feat I perform every day is putting on my shoes and socks!

Okay, here I go exaggerating again. I’d better get to those recipes before I get any sillier. Oh, and feel free to increase the recipes for as many dinner guests as necessary.

Maple cayenne pecans From the American Institute for Cancer Research.

1 teaspoon coconut oil (or other oil such as olive or walnut) 1 cup raw pecan halves 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon Himalayan sea salt (or regular salt) 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1. Preheat oven to 325. Grease a baking sheet (with sides) lightly with oil. In a medium bowl, combine all other ingredients. 2. Spread pecans evenly in baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. 3. Remove from oven and transfer the pecans to a platter or serving plate. Allow to cool at least 30 minutes before eating. Makes 4 servings.

Papaya salsa with jicama chips Also from the research institute.

2 cups small-diced papaya 2/3 cup plum tomato, seeded and chopped 1/2 cup peeled and diced cucumber (seeded, if preferred) 1/4 cup finely chopped red onion 1 serrano or jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin 1/2 teaspoon sea salt Freshly ground black pepper, to taste 1 medium jicama 1/3 cup chopped cilantro

1. In mixing bowl, combine papaya, tomatoes, cucumber, onion and serrano or jalapeno pepper, tossing gently with fork. In small bowl, whisk lime juice and cumin with sea salt and desired amount (3 or 4 grinds?) of black pepper until salt dissolves. Pour over salsa mixture and toss to combine. Set aside for up to 20 minutes. 2. Meanwhile, peel the skin from jicama with a paring knife and cut away fibrous layer beneath it. Cut a thin slice off bottom and stand jicama on work surface. Using large knife, cut jicama vertically into 1/8- to 1/4-inch slices. Stack oval slices, including uneven ones, and halve vertically. Cut slices longer than 4 inches into thirds. Sliced jicama can be stored in bowl of water in refrigerator for up to 8 hours if not serving immediately. Drain and pat dry before using. 3. Just before serving, mix cilantro into salsa. Spoon salsa into serving bowl in center of serving plate. Arrange sliced jicama around it to use as dippers. Makes 4 servings.

Caprese salad skewers Cherry or grape tomatoes Fresh mini mozzarella balls Fresh basil leaves Extra-virgin olive oil 1 cup balsamic vinegar Salt and pepper, to taste

1. To assemble, thread large toothpicks with one whole tomato, one mozzarella ball and one rolled-up basil leaf. Drizzle olive oil over all and season to taste with salt and pepper. 2. To make balsamic glaze, place the vinegar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, lower heat to simmer and continue cooking for about 10 to 15 minutes or until the vinegar reduces to a syrupy consistency. The syrup should coat the back of a spoon if dipped. It will thicken some more as it cools. 3. Drizzle the balsamic syrup over the caprese salad skewers and serve.

Veggie pinwheels You could also use any type of veggie tortilla, such as spinach or red pepper.

1 package (8-oz.) reduced fat cream cheese 2 tablespoons Vidalia onion salad dressing 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh broccoli 1/4 cup grated carrot 1/4 cup finely chopped red onion 1/2 teaspoon dill weed, or to taste (fresh or dry) 4 whole wheat tortillas (8 inches each)

1. In a small bowl, beat cream cheese and Vidalia onion salad dressing until well blended. Stir in the broccoli, carrot, onion and dill weed. Spread over tortillas. Roll up tightly; wrap in plastic wrap. 2. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Unwrap and cut each into eight slices Makes 32 pinwheels.

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