Thursday, June 30, 2011

Pickle on a stick, anyone?

Entertaining is no easy feat when you¹re watching what you eat, and I¹ve failed miserably at doing it the healthy way at previous gatherings.

I¹ve wondered the past few months why cubes of cheese and bowls of chips are the go-to party items. With all the foods on the planet to choose from, that¹s the best we can do for our guests?

The ease of snacking is the main quality party food items must possess. You have to be able to move through the food line quickly, easily and efficiently, and you have to be able to eat said items in various uncomfortable states: leaning against a wall, sitting on the edge of a couch arm, and sitting cross-legged on a patch of carpet. This Fourth of July, on one of the funnest party days of the year, I¹m declaring that it is entirely possible to offer your guests finger foods that are delicious AND nutritious! Believe it.

Here are a few of my favorite ideas.

1. The Toothpick Tray. All foods on toothpicks are hits. Cut lean deli meats in slits, spread on gourmet mustard or fat-free Miracle Whip, roll them up, and stick them with toothpicks. Or how about olives on toothpicks? Or baby dills? Or little shrimps? Go crazy. But think healthy. No cheese!

2. The Veggie Tray. Yeah, I know, every party has a vegetable tray with dip. That¹s because it¹s super easy to pick up those little carrots and dunk them in blue cheese at parties. But get creative with it. Think outside the veggie box. Try adding more exotic vegetables, such as roasted spears of red and yellow peppers, pea pods, fresh mushrooms and asparagus. And ditch the fatty sauces. Put out fat-free Ranch and your guests won¹t know the difference.

3. To appease the sweeter side of your guests¹ palate, cut strawberries in half, put a dollop of fat-free Cool Whip on each half, and top with a single pecan. It¹s a finger food that¹s cute, sweet, has a bit of crunch and only contains about 10 calories.

4. If you¹re going to do chips and dip, make it whole grain chips and salsa. And I love the idea of portioning out one serving size of chips into individual bags so your guests can pick up a bag easily and not overdo it on calories.

For the salsa, instead of store-bought, which can be loaded with sodium, here is one of my favorite recipes for plum salsa. You can also make peach salsa by substituting peaches for the plums and lemon juice for the lime juice.

Plum Salsa
6 medium plums, pitted and diced
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
1/3 cup finely chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
1/2 jalapeño pepper, minced Juice of
1/2 lime Salt to taste Sugar (or Splenda) to taste
Basically, you just mix up all the ingredients except the salt and sugar. Add those a bit at a time to taste.

Remember, foods can be fun without the fat. Have a great Fourth of July!

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