Super-Skinny - Super Easy - Super Scrumptious – Holiday Snack Swaps
By Cheryl Forberg, RD
The holidays are upon us and the annual Weightloss Worries are about to set in. We all love to indulge over the holidays, but most of us know that many of the celebrations we’ll be attending will have very few “healthier” choices – puff pastry appetizers, cheesy canapes, lots of chocolate and cookies – the calories (and pounds) can add up quickly. I always take a leaner choice to the parties I attend, so I can be sure there’ll be at least one thing I can eat to lighten the load for the night.
My favorite choice for such occasions is a scrumptious spread of dips - creamy, chunky, spicy, and tangy - the stuff everyone loves. Hot or cold, spooned or dipped - the possibilities are endless. As a cook, it's a slam-dunk because there's nothing easier to prepare for impromptu get-togethers. But my favorite part is that they can be made well ahead of time so I can enjoy my parties with my guests. No, you won't find me stirring up a zippy sour cream-based French onion dip or melting handfuls of gooey cheddar over crispy fried chips - not in my kitchen. I am still a nutritionist, after all. There's no doubt that high fat ingredients add flavor and texture to just about anything. But as a chef, I've learned how to make recipes sing without a boatload of fat grams.
Instead of loading on goop, let nature do all the work. Instead of focusing on a rich sour cream or cheese base for a dip, I use vegetables or beans as my primary ingredient. A rich, unctuous puree of Eggplant or Garbanzo Beans is a scrumptious place to start. A spoonful of healthy fat such as olive oil or tahini is all that's needed to add layers of texture and flavor to just the right mélange of spices and seasonings.
The other thing I love about dipping is that it's a great way to kick up your daily vegetable intake. A colorful array of crisp dippers can include crunchy sticks of Bell Pepper, Fennel, Jicama or Celery and Baby Carrots. Asparagus Spears work well too but should be blanched first to soften them slightly.
This year, you can still enjoy tasty snacks while celebrating with friends and loved ones - without breaking the bank on your calorie budget.
Baba Ghanouj (Roast Eggplant Puree)
The flavor is regal and the texture of this creamy appetizer is truly imperial. (No surprise there: my inspiration for the recipe came from a chef for the Saudi royal family). This addictive Middle Eastern eggplant dip is traditionally served with warm pita bread and an assortment of salads. It's a great make-ahead hors d'oeuvres. It keeps refrigerated for several days.
Yield: 4 cups (plenty for 16 individual ¼ cup servings)
2 large Eggplant (about 1½ pounds each)
⅓ cup Fresh Lemon Juice
½ cup Tahini
1 tablespoon Minced Garlic
2 teaspoons White Wine Vinegar
1 cup Fat-Free Greek-Style Yogurt
¼ cup finely chopped Italian Parsley, without stems
2 teaspoons Smoked Salt (optional)
Wash and dry the eggplant. Cut off stem end. Pierce skin with a fork to prevent eggplant from bursting during roasting.
For stovetop roasting or grilling: Place eggplant directly on grill rack or over gas burner at medium heat. Grill for about 18 minutes, turning frequently to cook evenly. Remove from heat when eggplant has become very soft. Set roasted eggplant aside to cool.
For oven roasting: Position rack in middle of oven and preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly coat a 15 x 10-inch baking sheet with olive oil spray. Place eggplant on prepared baking sheet and bake for about 40 minutes, turning eggplant three or four times to roast evenly. Remove from oven when eggplant becomes soft.
When cool enough to handle, peel and discard eggplant skin. Remove most of the seeds and cut eggplant into chunks.
Combine remaining ingredients except parsley and eggplant in a blender jar or the bowl of a food processor. Puree until smooth. If mixture is too thick, add hot water by tablespoons to achieve the right consistency. Add eggplant chunks and blend until smooth. Adjust seasoning with salt if necessary. Garnish with finely chopped parsley and serve with whole grain pita chips.
Nutrition Facts (per ¼ cup serving): Calories 70; Total Fat g 4; Sat Fat g 0; Cholesterol mg 0; Sodium mg 300; Total Carb g 7; Dietary Fiber g 3; Sugar g 2; Protein g 3
Fabulously Faux French Onion Dip
It takes a little time to simmer the onions, but the result is so worth waiting for. This tastes just like the real thing with a fraction of the calories and fat. Serve with jicama chips instead of potato chips and you have a double swap recipe.
Yield: 3 cups (Twelve ¼ cup servings)
2¼ pounds Yellow Onions, peeled
1 tablespoon Olive Oil
1 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Onion Powder
4 ounces Low Fat Cream Cheese, room temperature
½ cup Plain NonFat Greek-Style Yogurt
Cut the onions in half vertically, and then slice them horizontally into ⅛ inch thick half-rounds. Heat olive oil a large sauté pan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions and salt. Stir well and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes. Continue to simmer stirring regularly for about 20 to 30 minutes, scraping up any browned bits with a wooden spoon. The onions will be light to medium golden (not dark) brown and caramelized. Cool onions completely.
Place onions in bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times until onions are slightly chopped. Remove half of the onions and transfer them to a mixing bowl.
Return the remaining onions to the food processor. Add the onion powder and process until completely pureed. Add the cream cheese and yogurt, and process until just smooth. Add to the chopped onion mixture. Stir well. Taste for seasonings.
Chill completely. Transfer to serving bowl. Garnish with Italian parsley leaves. Serve with your favorite baked chips.
Nutrition Facts (per ¼ cup serving of dip with ½ cup jicama slices): Calories 80; Total Fat g 3; Sat Fat g 1; Cholesterol mg 5; Sodium mg 230; Total Carb g 10; Dietary Fiber g 2; Sugar g 4; Protein g 4