This time of year, there is no shortage of people giving you advice on how to put out the perfect Thanksgiving spread for guests. From all those chefs on The Food Network to those nutty overachievers on Pinterest, it seems everyone has a recipe for the most fabulous Thanksgiving dinner.
So you rummage through your crisper drawer to find carrots that don’t look old, throw them a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos and call it good. The best laid plans.
So this year, I’m sharing a few of my favorite recipes to make before the main event. These are appetizers to nibble on while the turkey is in the oven. Best of all, they’re simple to make (and can even be made hours or even days ahead), are health conscious and not filling. No one wants to consume a bunch of calories before dinner and be too stuffed for the stuffing.
The first recipe is a Spinach Dip shared with me by the American Heart Association and the North Dakota Soybean Council. We’ve all had spinach dip before, but using lower fat mayo, light sour cream and tofu helps the calorie count. It’s about 65 calories per ¼ cup serving, compared with about 220 calories for normal spinach dip.
The second recipe, Pea Pesto Crostini, is one I got from Olympic figure skater and Moorhead native Mark Ladwig a few months ago on an episode we did of “Cooking with the Stars.” He got it from Giada De Laurentiis. I loved it when we first made it together and decided it was worth serving at the holidays. It’s about 100 calories for two small slices of bread with topping. I decided to amp it up slightly by adding an extra garlic clove and just a bit more salt. On a couple of the slices, I added a tiny bit of prosciutto since I had some in the fridge. It brings the calorie count up a bit, but it made for a nice display.
The next two recipes are from Cooking Light, and are just two recipes in about a dozen on the site that looked pretty yummy. What’s weird about Caramelized Onion, Gruyere and Bacon Spread is that it doesn’t taste light at all. It’s rich and gooey and you’d think a gazillion calories, it’s only about 100 calories for a 3 tablespoon serving.
And finally, for the sweet nibbler, Pumpkin Dip is full of fall flavors like pumpkin, cinnamon, brown sugar and maple syrup. Serve it with apples or Nilla Wafers. It’s about 100 calories for 2 tablespoons on 2 apple slices and 120 calories for two Nilla Wafers with the dip.
Even though all of these recipes are health conscious, the key is moderation — a word we don’t like to hear on Thanksgiving. Think of these as tiny bites before the big event. There’s still no guarantee you won’t have to unbutton your pants later.
1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach
1 1.4-ounce package dry vegetable soup mix
1 12-ounce package firm silken tofu
1 8-ounce can water chestnuts, chopped coarsely
2/3 cup green onions, chopped
1 cup reduced-fat or light sour cream
½ cup low-fat mayonnaise
Thaw the package of spinach and squeeze dry. Stir all ingredients together in a large bowl until blended. Cover; chill 2 hours. Stir before serving.
Source: North Dakota Soybean Council
Pea Pesto Crostini
1 10-ounce package frozen peas, defrosted
1 garlic clove (I chose to add one more)
½ cup grated Parmesan
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus extra for seasoning
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for seasoning
1/3 cup olive oil
8 ½-inch thick slices whole-grain baguette or ciabatta bread, preferably day-old
1/3 cup olive oil
8 cherry tomatoes, halved or 1 small tomato, diced
For the pea pesto: Pulse together the peas, garlic, Parmesan, 1 teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon of pepper in a food processor. With the machine running, slowly add the olive oil until well combined, about 1 to 2 minutes. Season with additional salt and pepper, if needed. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.
For the crostini: Preheat a stovetop griddle or grill pan on medium-high heat. Brush both sides of the sliced bread with olive oil and grill until golden, about 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer the bread to a clean surface and spread 1 to 2 tablespoons of the prepared pesto on each slice.
Top with tomato halves and/or prosciutto.
Source: Giada De Laurentiis
Caramelized Onion, Gruyère and Bacon Spread
3½ cups chopped onion
2 ounces Gruyère cheese, shredded and divided
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives, divided
1/3 cup canola mayonnaise
1/3 cup fat-free sour cream
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
3 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan lightly with cooking spray. Add onion to pan; sauté 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to low; cook 20 minutes or until golden brown, stirring occasionally. Cool slightly.
Set aside 2 tablespoons cheese. Combine remaining cheese, caramelized onion, 1 tablespoon chives and the remaining ingredients in a medium bowl.
Transfer the mixture to a 1-quart glass or ceramic baking dish coated lightly with cooking spray. Sprinkle with reserved 2 tablespoons cheese. Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes or until browned and bubbly. Sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon chives.
Source: Cooking Light
¾ cup 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
½ cup packed brown sugar
½ cup canned pumpkin
2 teaspoons maple syrup
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
24 apple slices
Place first 3 ingredients in a medium bowl, and beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended. Add syrup and cinnamon, and beat until smooth. Cover and chill 30 minutes. Serve with apple.
Source: Cooking Light