Tradition and Thanksgiving go hand in hand, but times are changing and people are interested in eating healthier in order to fight disease, live longer and look better in their holiday outfits. Mixing the old with new is a wonderful way to make your guests feel welcome this holiday and serve everyone's dietary needs.
The appetizer course is an easy place to overindulge and those tiny, bite-size morsels are traditionally packed with saturated fat and calories. To avoid that overall stuffed feeling, experiment with some healthy, light appetizers that are full of flavor, vitamins and minerals. Edamame walnut spread is heart healthy and speedy to prepare. Edamames are soybeans and have two times the protein of other legumes. They are high in iron, folic acid and B vitamins. They contain saponins, which reduce overall cholesterol levels. The American Diabetes Association, the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society all recommend people eat legumes to prevent disease. Three cups a week is the recommended serving size. This spread is combined with heart and brain-healthy walnuts to create a creamy dip or spread, which is also delicious on sandwiches.
Spreading a creamy aioli over crab cakes is a traditional appetizer, but to lighten it up I add lime, cilantro and scallions to crab meat, then top it with pureed spicy, creamy avocado to create a light, low-salt appetizer. The loose crab salad needs a vessel and pre-cooked phyllo cups are simple, crunchy, low in fat and calories and appealing on a traditional Thanksgiving platter.
The super simple stuffed mushrooms pictured are the easiest appetizer I have made, and talk about tradition: most people feel comfort when they see a warm mushroom as a appetizer. These vegetarian 'shrooms have three ingredients. Visit www.colorfulcooking.com for the recipe and cook times.
Lime crab salad
2 packages phyllo cups (found in the freezer section, 24 cups total)
1.5 pound crab meat
1/3 cup plus 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice, divided
4 green onions, diced
2-3 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
2 Serrano peppers
1 Tablespoon mayonnaise
1 jalapeno (optional)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Heat the broiler to high. Slice the Serrano pepper in half, remove the seeds and stems. Broil for 8 minutes until charred. Pull off charred skin. Reserve.
Using your hands, squeeze all excess water out of crab, pick through it for shells and place in a bowl. Dice the green onion, using the sweet white and light green parts. You'll need about 1/4 to1/3 cup. Pull the cilantro leaves from the stem and mince leaves only. Discard stems.
Mix the crab with fresh 1/3 cup lime juice, diced green onion, cilantro and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Lightly stir to combine. Place 2 teaspoons crab salad into each phyllo cup. Cut avocado in half and remove seed.
In a small food processor, add Serrano pepper, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 2 teaspoons lime juice, mayonnaise and avocado. Blend until smooth. Scoop 1 teaspoon avocado mixture onto crab salad and top with a slice of jalapeno (if using).
Serve. Make 24 cups.
The salad can be premade and stored in the refrigerator for up to 12 hours. The avocado spread should be made right before serving or it will slightly discolor. The phyllo dough will stay crispy stuffed with the salad for 5 hours.
Edamame walnut spread
2 cups edamame beans, cooked
1/3 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup walnut oil
1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/4 cup shallot
1/2 teaspoon garlic (optional)
Using a blender or food processor, blend all ingredients until smooth and use as a spread on sandwiches or with crackers and crudites.
Tracy Miller adds fruits and veggies to all her meals. Log onto ColorfulCooking.com for more recipes or to contact her. She teaches culinary classes at Colorado Mountain College in Edwards, hosts private cooking parties and shares recipes on TV8's Good Morning Vail.