Category Archives: Appetizers

“Cool” Healthy Foods – Watermelon

This past weekend was a disaster. My daughter and her children came from California to visit me in Arizona. The frig was out when they arrived. A repairman FINALLY came and fixed that problem and one day later, my air conditioner went out – big problem in Arizona in August when the temperatures are 110+. It was miserable! My family had to stay with other family members – all very frustrating and disappointing.

The good news is there was a silver lining. I realized that recipes for “cool” healthy foods that can be served when it is really hot would be a fun thing to share with all of you.

Eating healthy should be the goal regardless of the weather.

As summer draws to a close, outside temperatures are still high, and you are overwhelmed with everything that must be done to get the kids back in school, the temptation to eat out or order in can be overwhelming. BUT . . . there are healthy options that require no cooking at all.

The next few posts will offer some nice suggestions to help you through the end of summer heat.

Watermelon – Nature’s Healthy, Sweet Treat

Summer is the time to enjoy some of nature’s most delicious foods – and watermelon is on the top of the list. When I was a kid growing up in Arizona, eating watermelon was part of summer fun – and I  love it just as much today as I did then. It is so sweet, juicy and refreshing.

Just the thought of a cold, juicy slice makes my mouth water, especially on a hot summer day. It is not only delicious, this colorful fruit brightens up any plate or table; and is very good for you.

The water content fills you up and acts as a natural cleanser for your body. I know the seeds can be a little annoying, but to me, it is worth the work of picking them out (or spitting them out…politely of course) for all the benefits you get from watermelon . . . and today, there are seedless watermelons.

The possibilities are endless when it comes to incorporating watermelon into your meals or using it as a healthy snack.

Let’s look at a few of my favorites

  1. Watermelon triangle snacks – a long time easy favorite. As soon as you get the watermelon home, slice some of it up into triangular pieces that are easy for little hands. Place the triangles into covered storage containers and keep them in the fridge for easy access. When healthy snacks are visible and accessible, family members will eat them up.  On the other hand, snacks that are out of sight or take a lot of work are generally ignored. Be sure to de-seed if you have smaller children who will be eating the snack.

    Image by Yvonne Brettnich
    Image by Yvonne Brettnich

  1. Watermelon makes a beautiful side dish on any table. Try this . . . lay the watermelon on its side and using zig-zag cuts, cut one-quarter of the melon off the top. This makes a decorative oblong or round “bowl” for serving. Then, cut one-quarter of the melon off the bottom to make a stable base. Set the “bowl” on a serving plate.

With a melon-baller, scoop out the fruit from all three pieces of the watermelon, removing the seeds as you go. Place the melon balls in a bowl as you scoop. When finished, scrape out any residual melon until the “bowl” is fairly clean and smooth. Return the melon balls to the watermelon bowl.

It is fun to add other melon balls from cantaloupe and honey dew for extra color and flavor. Cover with Saran wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.

The top part of the watermelon can be used as a lid if transporting.

If you are feeling creative, you can cut shapes out of the watermelon like fish and cars. A great site to learn how to make shapes out of watermelon is the National Watermelon Promotion Board. (http://www.watermelon.org/Carvings)

  1. Watermelon is a wonderful breakfast food. Serve it cut up – alone or layered with banana slices, apples, oranges or other fruits of choice. Top with plain Greek yogurt, a drizzle of honey, and granola for a tasty and healthy morning starter.
  1. Watermelon checkers are a fun appetizer. Cut an equal number of 1” squares of watermelon and your favorite cheese and build a checkerboard, alternating watermelon and cheese. Then, cut small circles of the watermelon and cheese to use as checkers. This is a fun creative appetizer to serve at a summer outing or family barbecue. The little ones will have fun helping you build the checkerboard.
  1. Watermelon “ice cream” cones – a fun and healthy summertime treat. Start with small cake cones; fill the bottom of each cone with a tablespoon of Philadelphia pineapple cream cheese (original cream cheese also works). Add a spoonful of dried Craisins over the cream cheese. Using an ice cream scoop, place a scoop of cold seedless watermelon over the Craisins, and top with sprinkles. You will have a healthy, delicious and adorable treat kids ask for again and again. Great for birthday parties, 4th of July or any hot summer night.
  1. Frosted watermelon – another fun treat for both kids and adults. With your favorite cookie cutters create cookie-like shapes from the watermelon. Frost with plain Greek yogurt sweetened with honey and sprinkled with granola. You can also use classic watermelon wedges instead of cookie shapes if you like things easy (as I do).

These ideas not only brighten any table, they also offer the added benefits of serving a delicious and healthy food. Watermelon is nature’s healthy, sweet treat. Serve it often.

Photo Credit: IMG_2639 via photopin (license)

Healthy Appetizers for 2015

Healthy Appetizers for 2015 Social Gatherings

Hope your holidays were filled with love and happiness and now you are excited about New Year possibilities and a fresh opportunity to live healthier lives. I know I am.

January is always a challenging month for me. Even though life has started to settle down into a more normal routine, and I look forward to what the future will hold, I also feel a little tinge of sadness that the festivities have come and gone for another year.

But . . . last night I had an epiphany! Life should always be a celebration. We don’t have to wait for a special time of the year to enjoy get-togethers with friends and family. We can create our own festive occasions as often as we like.  Why not quarterly?  Or monthly?

Be creative and find reasons (not that you really need one) to celebrate or to host a gathering.

For example:

  • January – Super Bowl Party; Winter Fun; Snow Day
  • February – Valentine’s Day; Mardi Gras
  • March – St. Patrick’s  Day; First Day of Spring
  • April – April Fool’s Day; Easter; Tax Day Blowout
  • May – May Day; Cinco de Mayo; Mother’s Day; Memorial Day
  • June – International Picnic Day; Father’s Day; Summer Solstice
  • July – 4th of July
  • August  – Lazy Summer Daze
  • September –  Labor Day; First Day of Fall
  • October – Halloween
  • November – Thanksgiving
  • December  – Hanukkah,  Winter Solstice, Christmas

And . . . there are always birthdays . . . a perfect reason to celebrate!

However, you may want to click here for a list of Bizarre and Unique Holidays if you want to find some wacky reasons to have a few friends over.   But…. Do you really don’t need a reason to have fun?

My health challenge to you for this year!

Constantly be on the lookout for healthy recipes that will tantalize and satisfy your friends and family and still fit nicely into healthy lifestyles and not ruin anyone’s New Year’s resolutions to lose weight. Everyone can come to your gatherings, enjoy themselves, and eat well all at the same time.

The goal is to build a wonderful, healthy “social gatheringmenu” that we can all share with others.

Each month, I will publish a set of recipes that will help you with healthy entertaining. When you find other scrumptious, healthy recipes, please send them to me, so I can try them out and share with all my readers.

The recipes I have chosen for today are Mexican-style foods (one of my favorites). Even though Mexican food can be filled with lots of fat and calories, these two recipes are healthy, tasty, and easy to prepare.  They can both be found in Mexican Favorites – 21 Traditional Recipes , Volume V of my Mama’s Legacy Cookbook Series.

My inspiration for creating these posts comes from a wonderful new site, Aloha.com. Their mission is to explore the facets of true health through what they call “The 5 Pillars”’ nourishment, movement, relaxation, connection, and right thinking. For more healthy recipes, go to their Healthy Recipe Website.

Ceviche

Ceviche Halibut

Since I have spent the last few months talking about the importance of eating close to nature, this felt like the perfect recipe to share with you this week. I think you will enjoy this deliciously healthy, traditional Mexican favorite. This light and refreshing dish can be served as an appetizer for any social gathering or side dish for lunch or brunch.

I first discovered and fell in love with ceviche when I was working in Houston, TX. I finally realized I could make it myself. If you use very fresh fish, I promise it will be amazing.

Ingredients

  • 1½ pounds fresh sea bass, halibut, or flounder deboned and cut into ½” pieces.
  • (Any fish or shellfish will work. Scallops and shrimp are especially good)
  • 7 whole fresh limes (enough juice to cover fish)
  • 3 medium tomatoes, seeds removed and diced
  • 1 small red onion, sliced very thin and cut in small pieces
  • 1 whole avocado, ripe, but firm, cut into ½” cubes
  • 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup fresh oregano, finely chopped, (or substitute 2 teaspoons dried)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
  • Lime wedges and avocado slices for garnish

Directions

  1. Dice the fish (approximately ½” cubes. (If using shrimp be sure to use cleaned, de-veined, steamed or parboiled.)
  2. Spread out fish (except shrimp) in a non-metallic bowl. Squeeze juice of 6 limes and pour over the mixed seafood to cover it completely – use more limes if necessary.
  3. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. (This step cooks the fish, do not marinate shrimp, they tend to get tough).

An hour or two before serving:

  1. Chop and diced the tomatoes, onions, avocado and herbs.
  2. Drain the marinated seafood in a colander to remove excess lime juice and pat dry with paper towels and place in a mixing bowl.
  3. Add shrimp, vegetables and seasonings to the marinated seafood.
  4. Squeeze juice of one lime and sprinkle over the mixture and toss well.
  5. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Garnish with lime and avocado slices. Servings: Varies – depends on whether it is an appetizer or main dish.  Cooking Time (in lime juice): 8 hours

Recipe Tips

  • You can alter the recipe to suit your own taste. Make it as spicy or as mild as you wish.
  •  Do not marinate shrimp, it will get tough. Steam or parboil the shrimp and add them to the mix a few hours before serving.

 

Guacamole

Guacamole

Guacamole originated in Mexico. The name is derived from two Aztec Nahuatl words – ahuacatl (avocado) and molli (sauce).

Avocados are almost as good as blueberries in promoting brain health, and their value is often overlooked. They are rich with nutrients that improve memory, increase the ability to concentrate, and improve blood flow which results in lower blood pressure and decreases the risk of stroke.

Even though avocados are a fatty fruit that is high in calories, the fat is monounsaturated, the healthy fat, and a serving of one-quarter to one-half an avocado each day provides benefits to the heart and brain that are well worth the calories. Eat them fresh, and eat them often! Viva la guacamole!

Ingredients

  • 5 avocados
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 green onions, finely chopped
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped
  • 1 package (or freshly made) tortilla chips
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 tomato  (Roma tomatoes with seeds removed), finely chopped
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped

Directions

  1. Cut avocados in half and remove the seed.
  2. Scoop out avocado from the peel into a mixing bowl.
  3. Using a fork, mash the avocado.
  4. Add the chopped onion, cilantro, lime or lemon, salt and pepper and mash some more.
  5. Dice the tomatoes very finely. Keep the tomatoes separate until ready to serve.
  6. Cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface of the guacamole to prevent oxidation from the air reaching it.
  7. Refrigerate until ready.
  8. Just before serving, add the chopped tomato to the guacamole and mix.

Serve with chips or fresh veggies strips.

Recipe Tips

  • Chili peppers vary individually in their hotness. So, start with a half of one chili pepper and add to the guacamole to your desired degree of hotness.
  • Be careful handling the peppers; wash your hands thoroughly after handling and do not touch your eyes or the area near your eyes with your hands for several hours.
  • These ingredients must be mixed to taste because of the variability in the fresh ingredients. Start with the amounts suggested and adjust to your taste.

[print-me]

Photo credit: stu_spivack via photopin cc

Ceviche – Recipe of the Week

Ceviche
Image by lunamarina

Since we have been talking about eating close to nature, this seemed like the perfect recipe to share with you this week. Use all fresh ingredients and enjoy this deliciously healthy, traditional Mexican dish.  It comes from my cookbook, Mexican Favorites – 21 Traditional Recipes This light and refreshing dish can be served as an appetizer or side dish for lunch or brunch. I first discovered ceviche when I was working in Houston, TX, and loved it. I finally realized I could make it myself. If you use very fresh fish, I promise it will be amazing.

Ingredients

  • 1½ pounds fresh sea bass or flounder deboned and cut into ½” pieces.
  • (Any fish or shellfish will work. Scallops and shrimp are especially good)
  • 7 whole fresh limes (enough Juice to cover fish)
  • 3 medium tomatoes, seeds removed and diced
  • 1 small red onion, sliced very thin and cut in small pieces
  • 1 whole avocado, ripe, but firm, cut into ½” cubes
  • 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup fresh oregano, finely chopped, (or substitute 2 teaspoons dried)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
  • Lime wedges and avocado slices for garnish

Directions

  1. Dice the fish (approximately ½” cubes. (If using shrimp be sure to use cleaned, de-veined and steamed or parboiled shrimp).
  2. Spread out fish (except shrimp) in a non-metallic bowl. Squeeze juice of 6 limes and pour over the mixed seafood to cover it completely – use more limes if necessary.
  3. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. (This step cooks the fish, do not marinate shrimp, they tend to get tough).

An hour or two before serving:

  1. Chop and diced the tomatoes, onions, avocado and herbs.
  2. Drain the marinated seafood in a colander to remove excess lime juice and pat dry with paper towels and place in a mixing bowl.
  3. Add shrimp, vegetables and seasonings to the marinated seafood.
  4. Squeeze juice of one lime and sprinkle over the mixture and toss well.
  5. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  6. When ready to serve, arrange in individual serving bowls.

Garnish with lime and avocado slices. Servings: Varies – depends on whether it is an appetizer or main dish.  Cooking Time (in lime juice): 8 hours

Recipe Tips

  • You can alter the recipe to suit your own taste. Make it as spicy or as mild as you wish.
  •  Do not marinate shrimp, it will get tough. Steam or parboil the shrimp and add them to the mix a few hours before serving.

[print_link]

Spanakopita – Spinach Phyllo Pie – Recipe of the Day

[typography font=”Myriad Pro” size=”24″ size_format=”px” color=”#a31515″] Wonderful Appetizer or a Delicious Meal[/typography]

Spinich Phyllo Pie

Spinach Phyllo Pie is a flavorful spinach and feta Greek dish that is a wonderful appetizer, but can also be served as a main dish. It is perfect when served with Tzatziki Dip, a creamy, tangy cucumber dip flavored with garlic that complements this dish as well as many grilled meats and vegetables.

INGREDIENTS

  • Olive oil
  • ½ bunch fresh spinach
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • 1 egg, lightly whipped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh dill (or 1 teaspoon dried dill)
  • ½ cup crumbled feta
  • 5-10 sheets phyllo dough

DIRECTIONS

  • Preheat the oven to 350º F.
  • Brush a baking sheet with olive oil and set aside.
  • Wash the spinach thoroughly and remove stems – then, squeeze the leaves to remove any remaining water – squeeze them until they appear wilted.
  • Chop the spinach and the green onions.
  • Place both ingredients in a large mixing bowl with the egg, dill, and feta.

spinach-pie ingredients - premixed

  • Mix until well combined.
  • Lay 1 or 2 phyllo sheets flat on a very clean counter.
  • Rub a little olive oil on each sheet and place 1/5 of your filling near the bottom of the sheet.

spinach-pie filling

  • Fold in the sides of the sheet(s) and roll them up.
  • Place the rolled, stuffed phyllo onto the baking sheet with the seam facing down.
  • Brush the top with a little olive oil.
  • Repeat the process four more times.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.
  • Serve with Tzatziki Dip (see recipe below).

Tzatziki Dip

In addition to the perfect sauce the recipe above, this dip can also be served with grilled meats, vegetables or  pita bread for dipping.

Tzatziki Dip
by Robyn Mackenzie

 INGREDIENTS

  • 3 tablespoons high-quality olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded and finely diced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh dill, finely chopped 

DIRECTIONS

  1. Mix together the olive oil, vinegar, garlic, salt, and pepper – whisk to combine well.
  2. Blend the yogurt with the sour cream with a wire whisk.
  3. Add the olive oil mixture and blend thoroughly.
  4. Add the cucumber and chopped fresh dill.
  5. Chill for at least two hours before serving.



[print_link]

Seven Layer Dip – Recipe of the Day

Seven layer dip
Image by imelda

[typography font=”Myriad Pro” size=”24″ size_format=”px” color=”#b82323″]Seven Layer Dip – Perfect for a Party[/typography]

Seven Layer Dip is easy, delicious, relatively healthy, and timeless. It is always popular when served as an appetizer with cold beer.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cans refried beans (make your own if you have the time and inclination)
  • 3 medium avocados, seeds removed and chopped or smashed
  • 1½ cups sour cream
  • 1 packet taco seasoning mix*
  • 3 bunches chopped green onions, green parts only
  • 3 medium diced tomatoes, seeds and juicy pulp removed
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar or Mexican cheese blend
  • 1 can (8 oz)  black olives, drained and sliced or chopped (optional – I don’t use them)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Mix the sour cream and the taco seasoning mix together.
  2. Assemble the dip in a nice semi-shallow serving bowl.
  3. Starting with the refried beans layer the ingredients in distinct layers, and continue down the list.
  4. Serve with your favorite tortilla chips.

*NOTE:  Instead of using pre-packaged taco seasoning mix, you can also make your own version using the Homemade Taco Seasoning recipe that was posted yesterday on this blog.  

NOTE: Can also be made in larger batches and stored in an air tight container for up to 6 months.



[typography font=”Myriad Pro” size=”18″ size_format=”px” color=”#a10f27″][print_link][/typography]