Sunday, December 25, 2011

Low-fat Appetizers

Celery and Multicolor Bell Peppers on Cutting Board
Christmas-Colored Veggies for Dipping

Menu by Robin, Recipes by Weight Watchers and Cooking by Moonlight

“Simple, low-fat appetizers,” Bruce’s cousin Elizabeth responded when I asked if there was anything particular we could bring for Christmas. “If not possible, just let me know,” she continued, but I love a culinary challenge that requires creative thinking. I also love the idea of beginning a lavish meal with light fare, casually served in the living room as holiday revelers arrive. This menu can also be employed on the week after Christmas when kids are on vacation, as a healthy alternative to the sweets we’ve either made or received as gifts. Next year I’m going to also try this idea for holiday parties and potlucks.

Table with Assorted Veggies, Dips, Persimmons, Nuts, and Pretzels
Low Fat Appetizers with Pecans, Almonds, and Peppermint Hard Candies
My first thought was a cut-veggie and fruit plate with three dips, and my second thought was to make preparation as simple as possible, so that Bruce and I can enjoy time together both in and out of the kitchen. Getting some help with preparation cuts down on time needed, and provides an opportunity to spend time with special relatives or friends before the party begins. Children can be good help resources, especially if helping sounds like a privilege rather than an obligation (nieces and nephews are likely candidates, and can inspire your own kids to help).

Half-Eaten Plate of Persimmons with Snowman
Persimmons After some Noshing
You can choose any fruits or veggies that you like or have on hand for this. Bruce’s colleague Dan gave me some Fuyu persimmons from his tree, and their bright orange color and sweetness made them the perfect companion to the veggies. I was going to make a sweet dip for them, but discovered they are perfectly sweet on their own, and just needed a light dusting of apple pie spice (cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice—you can make your own if needed).

Hand Sprinkling Persimmons with Apple Pie Spice
Use Tea Strainer to Sprinkle Spice on
To save time in the kitchen, we bought a tray of pre-cut veggies, and added just sliced celery, quartered mini-bell peppers (orange, yellow, and red), and whole cherry tomatoes. I normally don’t use pre-trimmed carrots, because they’re tasteless compared with in-house-sliced carrots, but since they came with the cut-up veggie assortment, I compromised in the interest of time. Another time-saver is pre-bottled ranch dressing. Drew's doesn’t advertise as low fat, yet it has half the fat of most ranches, all natural ingredients, and complex flavoring. Choose any kind of thick-ish dressing that you like.

I added mini pretzels and/or sliced pita bread to the menu, to provide a traditional carb-dipper option. Both are very low fat, unlike most chips and crackers. In the end, I chose pretzels in place of pita, so I wouldn’t have to shop for fresh pita (sometimes hard to find) or cut it up.  We happened to have some natural pretzels on hand.

The Menu:

To save time and effort:

  • Plan specific dips/fruits/veggies and shop all at once
  • Write a plan for when you will prepare each component
  • Enlist the aid of kitchen helpers
  • Buy pre-washed and cut veggies
  • Or cut and bag veggies the day before
  • Choose veggies that don’t need much prep: cherry tomatoes, pea pods, celery, mini bells
  • Purchase one or more dip pre-made (read labels for fat content, preservatives, trans-fats, flavoring, etc.)
  • Use dip recipes that you’ve made before, or try only one new one
  • Make one or more dips the day before

Merry Christmas to All! May your holidays be full of joy, peace, and love. 


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