Tag Archives: “healthy party food”

Crab Stacks with Ginger Lime Dressing

If the end of January is approaching then I know I can expect a variety of things:  emails from sites I subscribe to sharing the perfect Super Bowl snacks, bloggers swapping their tried and true party dish faves, and people talking about whether they’re planning on a game day get together or not.  None of it has been discussed in our house yet, because we’ve been busy, busy, busy with life enjoying a long weekend making like tourists in West Hollywood, soaking up the last bits of our youngest’s company before he returns to San Francisco for the spring semester, celebrating family birthdays and anniversaries, and in the past couple of days, nursing one of our cats back to health after a run in with a neighbor’s kitty.  Goodness!  And it’s not over yet.  Any time now, my husband will ask about what’s on our  Super Bowl agenda.  It always seems to be a last minute sort of thing most years, and that’s just fine with me because it doesn’t take too much thought to decide which snacks football fans will expect to have at their fingertips whether they’re for our small family, or a larger group.

I doubt there has ever been a time we haven’t had fresh salsa or pico de gallo with guacamole and tortilla chips.  A pot of chili with all the fixin’s and a salad for halftime eats are also the norm even though the chili recipe varies from one year to the next.  But I’m also known for sneaking in something that may raise eyebrows, causing certain guests to cast one another a nervous glance before pointing and asking, “What is that?” then politely suppressing the urge to continue with, “Do I have to eat it?”  as they reel their fingers back in.  Actually, they now ask, “How do I eat it?” because it seems my food often has rules that accompany it — or must seem like it does.   Is it supposed to be dipped, or layered?  Which of the ingredients on the plate create the best bite?  Is it finger food, or do I need a plate and fork?  To their credit, they seem much more enthusiastic than they did years ago, so I know my risks to encourage people to try something new haven’t failed, and that makes me happy.

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Fresh Roasted Pepper and Olive Bruschetta

There are some flavor combinations I never tire of regardless of what time of the year it is.  The classic flavors of basil and tomato with a sprinkle of minced red onion, squirt of lemon, and drizzle of fruity extra virgin olive oil will always entice me. Equally delicious are chopped fresh tomatos, green onions, cilantro, and jalapenos with lime juice — a combination so perfect, I can easily skip the tortilla chips and head right for a spoon to enjoy the salty-tart-spicy flavor that would never be the same without cilantro.  I think I love cilantro even more than basil.

But another combination has come close to pushing both of the others aside as being tops in my mind — or my mouth:  roasted peppers, capers, and briny olives. Ironically, the flavors in this combination would work quite well with many of the others I’ve mentioned, but I enjoy them in a mix like this one — assertively delicious with the unexpected addition of anchovies.

Anchovies?  Those little fish in the can with the curly lid that when I’m ordering a pizza to go topped with “the works” I always politely decline?  The little salty things whose absence would leave a Caesar’s salad an unappetizing plate of flavorless lettuce, and pasta puttanesca without anything to be sassy about beyond a sprinkle of dried red pepper flakes.

Do any of us ever really say we like anchovies?  Probably not, but the key to learning to stop avoiding them is to see them as an ingredient to be mixed with others instead of sitting on top of a pizza.  If the anchovies were mixed into the tomato sauce instead, it would intensify the flavor leaving us to wonder what made it so good.

Think about it.  How many other ingredients which enhance one another when mixed together are basically unpleasant when eaten alone?  Capers.  I’ve tasted them just to see, and they’re quite bitter.  Or in most recipes which call for capers, the directions will advise rinsing them first.  For years, I did just that, and to make sure I understood why, I tasted the brine.  Not pleasant.  But when it’s mixed into many other ingredients, it’s quite fabulous.  Soy sauce, fish sauce, vinegar — all are less than pleasant when tasted alone.

Freshly roasted peppers, on the other hand, are perfect alone sprinkled lightly with salt, but they’re truly delicious in this mix. It’s perfect tossed with pasta for a salad when you don’t feel like cooking, or spooned over grilled meat or fish.  It’s helps make an omelet interesting and is especially excellent spread over a piece of crusty bread slathered with goat cheese.

It’s the best party food even if you’re the only one at the party, because then you don’t have to share.

Be brave.  Don’t forget the anchovies.

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Shrimp and Vegetable Spring Rolls

Banh Trang (Spring Roll Wrappers)
If you’re like I used to be, you try to get some exercise occasionally.  Actually, my efforts constituted more than trying for several years.  I rose before the sun at least four mornings a week on good weeks, stumbled into my car, and drove to my friend’s house hoping that my light knocking on her door wouldn’t wake the dogs.  I often felt that our trudging through the dark streets, sweating up one hill and huffing down the next had little effect.  Of course, my stamina had definitely improved, I no longer wheezed when trotting up the stairs, and most of my clothes fit better.  Unfortunately, the scale and I haven’t had an amiable relationship for years, so I rarely factored its results into my evaluation about whether my toiling was having any kind of noticeable effect.

How sad.

The last seven months of no exercise have taken their toll.  Although I’ve chosen to completely avoid my scale so can’t have the bad news confirmed, and my clothes haven’t quite taken on the appearance of a wet suit, I’ve begun to puff when I walk up stairs again.  My knees hurt, and my feet feel as if they’re carrying around a pack mule’s load.  So with little fanfare, and conscientiously avoiding any talk of a resolution, I’ve promised myself to take better care of my body.  I know how to do this and so I will.  It doesn’t mean giving anything up;  it means paying attention to what I eat, and how much.

It also means I have to get out of bed before the sun at least four mornings a week.  My good friend will join me two of those days, and I’m hoping I can get my husband to at least think about it on the other two. In the meantime, indulge me my veggies.

Have you ever made spring rolls with rice paper wraps?

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NON-Cowboy Caviar: Beat the Heat

When the weather is warmer or more humid than I like, or when I don’t want something packed with calories disguised as butter, or cream, or bacon, I crave food that has a bite, some salt, and involves work.

No, the work isn’t about the preparation — it’s about chewing.  Chewing, crunching, and savoring the most amazing combination of flavors, that is.

Oh, and little or no heat.  That would be heat from a stove or a grill, because I can’t imagine life without the heat that comes from a nice jalapeno.  And since Grace of A Southern Grace is having a little “Beat the Heat” shindig over at her place, I thought this just might be perfect.

The first time I made this salsa it was the early ’90s and I was desperate for food packed with nutrients, and absolutely no fat.  I’d had my youngest son a year earlier, thought I was looking just fine, and then saw a photo of myself at a wedding that rudely informed me otherwise. Where, oh where did that second chin come from?   So, I was hell bent for leather to lose weight and get fit.  No-fat diets were all the rage back then, and I went a bit crazy eating things like fresh strawberries dipped in Cool Whip, and smearing apple butter on my dry toast.  Eating lots and lots of pasta with fresh tomatoes and basil.  And, wonder of all wondrous things, learning how to stomach non-fat milk.  Unbelievable.  For exercise, I took a swimming test, then promptly learned how to row.  You know.  Those long skinny boats that lots of people sit in with the slidey seats?  They all stroke at the same time when that person at the end yells at them?  Yes, those.  I know.  I was 36 years old.  What in hell was I doing?  Well, the other women were my age and older, so that made it easy (such a liar…)  But they were buff, and I was, um…pudgy.

Where was I?

Salsa. About that time, I started making this salsa. Wait.  Salad.  So, maybe it’s a salsa salad.  I think that’s the closest name for it, although in years since, I have seen it called Cowboy Caviar, which some people think morphed from Texas Caviar.  Now, I learned what I know about cowboys from old movies, and I’m not, nor ever will be from Texas. And most importantly, I have lived in San Diego for most of my life, so there’s no way I’d call my chunky bowl of low carb, low fat flavor either of those names.

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