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Celebrate! A Holiday Party Menu

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celebrate-party-menu

Throw a sophisticated party with a menu of easy, healthy, and delicious appetizers.

Having people over for a party can fill your house with laughter and lighten your spirit — except when you work yourself up into such a frenzy about the preparations that you can’t even enjoy it.

Not to worry, says Heidi Andermack, co-owner of Chowgirls Killer Catering in Minneapolis. With a few simple planning tips, getting ready for a social gathering can be both efficient and fun.

First, says Andermack, consider the size of the crowd you’re feeding. For smaller groups, she says, you might want to dedicate more time “to fussier finger foods that need a lot of hand crafting.” For larger crowds, she suggests serving simpler appetizers, such as dips and spreads, that are easy to turn out on a larger scale.

Next, think about what your guests eat. A good rule of thumb, Andermack says, is to make about half the dishes vegetarian. And when it comes to cheese, be sure to offer a variety of goat- and cow-milk cheeses. “Some people might be lactose intolerant and you wouldn’t know it,” she says, adding that, in general, “variety is key.”

To make the day of your party relatively stress-free, Andermack advises prepping food ahead of time. Vegetables for crudités, for example, can be cut the day before and stored in water so they stay crisp. Dips and spreads will keep in the refrigerator for a few days. “Ideally, your food will be 75 percent done on the day of the party,” says Andermack. When serving, aim to make the food look bountiful. “Use a small serving dish that’s overflowing with food instead of a giant platter with only 10 skewers on it,” she explains.

Most of all, don’t be afraid of healthy party food. Just because something is healthy doesn’t mean it tastes bad. “The trick,” says Andermack, “is making food so delicious that no one knows it’s healthy.”

To help get your party started, we’ve put together a variety of healthy and delicious appetizer recipes.

Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus

For a sweeter taste, try wrapping prosciutto around melon or even pear slices.

prosciutto-wrapped-asparagus

 

Makes 12 pieces

  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 12 asparagus spears, tough end trimmed off
  • 4 slices prosciutto, each cut into 3 long strips
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Simmer the vinegar in a small saucepan until reduced by half, then chill. Blanch the asparagus for one minute, then drain and quickly transfer to a bowl of ice water. Wrap one slice of prosciutto around each dried asparagus stalk, and chill until ready to serve. Serve with a drizzle of the vinegar reduction, and salt and pepper to taste.

Fruit and Cheese Kabobs

Get creative and experiment with different combinations of fruit and cheese. Alternate your favorite fruits and cheese on wooden skewers.

fruit-and-cheese-kabobs

Kale Chips

These veggie chips are super trendy for a reason: They are addictive and endlessly versatile.

kale-chips

 

Makes 8 to 10 cups

  • 1 bunch kale, washed and dried
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • ½ cup seeded, chopped tomato
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • ½ cup chopped parsley
  • ¼ cup minced chives
  • ½ cup nutritional yeast
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Remove the kale stems, then cut the leaves into 2-inch squares. Blend together the onion, tomato, and garlic, mix with the remaining ingredients, and toss with the kale. Place a cooling rack on top of a cookie sheet, and arrange the kale pieces in one layer on top. Bake for eight minutes, turn each kale piece over, and bake for another eight minutes until crispy. Store in an airtight container.

Zucchini-Ricotta Pinwheels

Not a zucchini fan? Try skinny Japanese eggplant instead.

zucchini-ricotta-pinwheels

 

Makes 12 pinwheels

  • 3 zucchini, sliced lengthwise into 4 thin slices
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup ricotta
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

Heat a grill pan or broiler. Brush zucchini with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Broil the zucchini on each side until tender. Mix the ricotta together with the parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper. Spread 1 tablespoon of the mixture on each zucchini slice, roll up, and secure with a toothpick. Chill until ready to serve.

Chicken-Liver Pâté

The humble chicken liver is elevated to haute cuisine when cooked and blended with a little sherry and herbs. For the vegetarian version (far right), see the Web Extra below.

chicken-liver-pate

 

Makes about 3 cups

  • ¼ cup sherry or apple juice
  • 1 tbs. red-wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup chopped prunes
  • 4 tbs. butter, divided
  • 1 cup diced yellow onion
  • ¼ cup minced shallot
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • ¾ pound organic chicken livers
  • 2 hard-cooked eggs, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme

Combine the sherry, vinegar, and prunes, and soak for at least an hour. Heat 2 tablespoons butter in a heavy skillet and add the onion, shallots, salt, and pepper. Sauté until caramelized and remove from the pan. Melt the remaining butter, and sauté the chicken livers until just cooked through. Cool. Blend in a food processor with the onion-shallot mixture and prunes until smooth. Add the eggs and blend again until smooth. Adjust seasonings to taste. Spread the pâté into a large ramekin, and garnish with a sprinkle of fresh thyme. Cover and chill before serving.

Grilled Sweet-Potato Rounds With Chorizo

Substitute tempeh for the chorizo to make the perfect vegetarian bite.

grilled-sweet-potato-rounds-with-chorizo

 

Makes 12 rounds

  • 1 pound sweet potatoes, sliced crosswise into ½-inch-thick rounds
  • 1 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ can refried black beans
  • ¼ cup minced roasted red bell peppers
  • ¼ cup minced cured Spanish chorizo
  • Zest and juice of one lime
  • ½ cup grated queso fresco

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and heat a cast-iron grill pan. Brush the sliced sweet potatoes with olive oil and grill about one to two minutes on each side. Heat the refried beans with the bell peppers, chorizo, and lime zest and juice until warm. Top each grilled sweet-potato slice with about 1 tablespoon of the chorizo mixture and some of the grated cheese. Arrange on a baking sheet and heat in the oven until cheese is softened.
Serve warm.

Charcuterie Plate

Arrange your favorite sliced meats on a platter. Always popular and no cooking involved!

Pair a variety of sliced, nitrate-free meats — like prosciutto, salami, and Spanish chorizo — with pâté, cornichons, olives, pickled beets, or grilled vegetables. Serve with whole-grain rye bread or crackers and some nice mustard.

celebrate-party-menu

 

Dolmades With Collard Greens 

These Greek-inspired appetizers are wonderful served with a cucumber-yogurt dipping sauce.

dolmades-with-collard-greens

Makes 24 dolmades

  • 24 collard green leaves (about 2 to 3 bunches), tough stems removed
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice, quinoa, or millet
  • ¼ cup currants
  • ¼ cup toasted pine nuts
  • ½ cup feta cheese crumbles
  • Zest and juice of one lemon
  • ½ cup chopped Italian parsley
  • ¼ cup chopped mint
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Bring one quart of water to boil in a saucepan. Blanch the collard greens, two to three leaves at a time, for about one minute. Drain, shock in a bowl of ice water, and dry. Mix the rest of the ingredients together. Spoon 2 tablespoons of filling onto the center of each collard green and wrap up like a burrito. Secure the dolmades with a toothpick and chill until ready to serve.

Caponata-Stuffed Potato Boats

Baby red potatoes are great vehicles for prepared caponata, artichoke dip, or ratatouille from your grocery-store deli.

caponata-stuffed-potato-boats

 

Makes 24 potato boats

  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 12 baby red potatoes
  • 1½ cups caponata or other filling of your choice
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh chives

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. On the stovetop, heat 2 quarts water with the salt and simmer the potatoes until just tender. Drain and let cool. Cut the potatoes in half and scoop out the center with a melon baller. Fill the center with 1 tablespoon caponata. Place the potato boats on a sheet tray and warm in the oven. Sprinkle with chopped fresh chives before serving.

Bacon-Wrapped Dates

You may also want to try these succulent little bites with dried figs instead of dates.

bacon-wrapped-dates

 

Makes 24 pieces

  • 24 dates, pitted
  • 4 oz. blue cheese crumbles
  • 12 thin slices nitrate-free bacon, cut in half crosswise

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil. Make a lengthwise slit in each date with a paring knife and open just enough to stuff in ½ teaspoon of blue cheese. Wrap each date with a bacon slice and secure with a toothpick. Bake in the oven until the bacon is crisp and browned, about 10 to 12 minutes. Drain the dates on a paper towel for a few minutes. Serve warm. 

Photography by Terry Brennan; Food Styling by Betsy Nelson

WEB EXTRA!

Roasted Nuts

Roasting nuts brings out their rich flavor. Here are a few spice variations to try.

roasted-nuts

Makes 1 cup

Sea Salt and Rosemary Roasted Almonds

  • 1 cup raw whole almonds
  • 1 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Toss the almonds with olive oil and place on a sheet tray. Roast for eight to 12 minutes until fragrant, then toss with salt and rosemary.

Curry-Roasted Cashews With Coconut

  • 1 tbs. coconut oil
  • 1 cup whole raw cashews
  • ¼ cup unsweetened coconut flakes
  • ¼ tsp. curry powder
  • ¼ tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Melt the coconut oil (which is solid at room temperature) on a sheet tray in the oven and then toss the cashews in the oil. Roast for eight to 10 minutes until fragrant. Mix in the coconut flakes, curry powder, and salt, and roast for another three to five minutes to lightly toast the coconut.

Cayenne Maple-Glazed Pecans

  • 1 cup raw pecan halves
  • 1 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbs. maple syrup
  • Dash cayenne pepper
  • ¼ tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Toss the pecans in the olive oil and roast on a sheet tray for six to eight minutes. Toss with the maple syrup, cayenne pepper, and salt, and roast for another five to seven minutes to glaze the nuts.

Wasabi-Roasted Almonds

  • 1 cup raw whole almonds
  • 1 tbs. coconut oil
  • ¼ to ½ tsp. wasabi powder
  • Dash sugar
  • ¼ tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Melt the coconut oil on a sheet tray in the oven and then toss the almonds in the oil. Roast for eight to 12 minutes until fragrant, and toss with the wasabi powder, sugar, and salt.

WEB EXTRA!

Mushroom Pâté

A nifty vegetarian pâté. If you have vegan guests, simply swap out the cream for unsweetened hempseed milk or coconut milk.

mushroom-pate

Makes about 2 cups

  • 2 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup minced yellow onion
  • 2 tbs. minced shallots
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 4 cups sliced fresh mushrooms (cremini, portabella, oyster, or shiitake)
  • ½ cup walnuts
  • ½ tsp. chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 tbs. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbs. sherry or apple cider
  • 4 tbs. heavy cream

Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat, and sauté the onion and shallots until light brown. Turn heat to low, add the salt and pepper, and stir occasionally until the onion and shallots are caramelized. Add the mushrooms and sauté until they have softened and there is not a lot of moisture left in the skillet. Remove ¼ cup of the sautéed mushroom mixture and reserve as a garnish. Add the walnuts, thyme, vinegar, sherry, and cream to the pan with the remaining mushrooms, and cook over low heat for about five minutes. Cool slightly, then blend in a food processor until smooth. Press the mushroom pâté into a dish for serving, and top with the reserved sautéed mushrooms. Chill before serving.

 

WEB EXTRA!

Marinated Olives

Mix and match to create your favorite flavor profiles. For Greek-inspired flavors, mix the olives and vinaigrette with feta cheese, red onion, fresh mint, and a little oregano.

marinated-olives

Makes 3½ cups

  • 2 cups assorted olives
  • ½ cup diced fresh mozzarella, feta, or ricotta salata
  • ½ cup diced pepperoni, salami, prosciutto, or Spanish chorizo
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh herbs
  • ¼ cup high-quality vinaigrette

Toss everything together and marinate in the refrigerator for at least one hour before serving.

All recipes were created by Betsy Nelson (a.k.a. “That Food Girl”), a Minneapolis-based food stylist and recipe developer.

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