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Lighten Up Your Holidays: Healthy Appetizer Ideas

Updated on October 30, 2012
Lighten up this New Years Eve!
Lighten up this New Years Eve! | Source

Did you succumb to tempting treats this Christmas? Well, how about trying some healthier alternatives for your New Years Eve gathering? Recipes made to be both delicious and light can help you avoid overindulging.

In each of these goodies, herbs and spices deliver full-flavored taste without extra fat or calories. Any of them work well as before-meal appetizers or party snacks.

Plus, they’re easy to make and are portable - so enjoy these healthy noshes at your own place or share them anywhere else you go.

Delicious polenta poppers are good-for-you fun!
Delicious polenta poppers are good-for-you fun! | Source

Polenta Poppers

This Italian-flavored snack starts with the traditional corn meal mush - the zing comes from garlic and herbs. Melted cheese on top is the final touch.

3 cups chicken stock or water (or combination of both)

1 cup cornmeal

1 tbsp unsalted butter

1/4 cup grated mozzarella cheese

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a medium pot, bring broth/water to a boil. Slowly pour in the polenta, using a whisk to stir it. Let the mixture come back to a boil, then turn the heat down. Simmer it, stirring often to prevent lumps and any sticking to the bottom of the pan. Cook about 10 minutes until very thick.

Remove from heat and melt the butter into the batter. Fold in the garlic paste (see below) until well blended.

Drop by teaspoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake for 25-30 minutes until lightly browned on top. Remove from the oven, and sprinkle some cheese on top of each.

Garlic Paste

1/2 cup garlic (approx. 8 cloves)

1/4 tsp black pepper

1/4 tsp oregano

1/4 tsp basil

2 tbsp olive oil

Put the garlic, pepper, oregano and basil in a food processor. Pulse until garlic is finely chopped. Then keep it running as you pour in olive oil until it thins into a paste (you may not need a full 2 tbsp to get it thin but not runny).

Liven up veggie sticks and wedges with some light aioli dipping sauce.
Liven up veggie sticks and wedges with some light aioli dipping sauce. | Source

Aioli with Roasted Vegetables


2 egg yolks

4 tsp lemon juice

3 garlic cloves, crushed

1 cup olive oil

black pepper

Put the egg yolks in the bowl of a food processor or in a blender, with 3 tsp of the lemon juice and the garlic. Blend for about 10 seconds. Keep it going while slowly pouring in the olive oil. Turn off the processor or blender and transfer the mixture to a bowl. Fold in the remaining lemon juice and add pepper to taste. Store in the fridge for up to 2 days before using.

Caution: Aioli contains raw eggs and must not be kept out of the refrigerator for more than a couple of hours at a time for food safety. Discard any unused aioli.

You can use pretty much any vegetable, raw or cooked. But for me, two worked especially well:

Roasted Potatoes and Tomatoes

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Cut up three or four medium potatoes (any variety you like) into wedges. Put them in one layer on a cookie sheet, drizzle them with olive oil and add a touch of sea salt. Set the oven timer for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, put some cherry or grape tomatoes on another cookie sheet, also drizzling olive oil over them. When the timer goes off, put the sheet of tomatoes in alongside the potatoes. Set the oven for another 20 minutes. The tomato will look a little wrinkly outside, but the taste is sweet and full.

Carrot salsa is a fun twist on a favorite snack!
Carrot salsa is a fun twist on a favorite snack! | Source

Carrot Salsa

This is a fun take on the familiar tomato-based version, bright with citrus and cilantro flavors.

3 medium carrots, shredded

1 small zucchini, diced

1 green pepper, chopped fine

1/2 cup corn (drain if using canned, thaw if using frozen)

1/2 tomato, finely chopped (seeds removed)

1/2 cup red onion, diced

3 garlic cloves, minced

Juice of 1 lime (about 1/2 cup)

1 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped

3 tbsp olive oil

Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and stir until they are well blended. Cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour (preferably several) so the flavors can meld together.

Serve with baked tortilla chips or wedges of pita bread.


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