10 Healthy Appetizers for a Guilt-Free Super Bowl

Recently a package of coupons from my local grocery store arrived in the mail. In capital letters, the cover of the little mailer urged the reader to “GEAR UP FOR THE BIG GAME!”

“Huh,” I thought. “I wonder what big game they’re talking about.”

Can you tell I’m not a football fan?

Never have been. I couldn’t tell you who is playing whom at the Big Game February 4th, or which team won any Super Bowl…ever. Generally, our family treats Super Bowl Sunday as a bonus day to do any activity or visit any destination that would normally be busy. We once went on a 30-minute bike ride and saw a total of three cars on the road. I’m telling you, it’s like the Apocalypse, without the zombies and 20-foot-tall radioactive rabbits.

Every few years, though, we get invited to a Super Bowl party, so we decide we could pretend we’re regular Americans for an afternoon. Getting together with friends is unfailingly fun, and there’s always plenty of food. (As you probably can tell if you’re aware of the name of this blog, that’s *kind of* a big deal to me.)

But, man, for an event that glorifies athleticism, the average Super Bowl party is notorious for offering food that makes the health-conscious cringe. The usual fried finger foods and extra creamy dips make for a grease-fest that can derail positive eating habits that may have just begun in January.

What if we could up the health ante by showing up to the party with an appetizer that’s both delicious and actually good for us? This recipe roundup provides ten lighter appetizers to choose from, ensuring that at least one healthy option is part of the buffet on game day.

Go Team Whatever!

1. Mediterranean 7-Layer Dip

Let’s start right here on the blog with Mediterranean 7-Layer Dip: the healthy, flavorful answer to traditional layered dips. Serve with pita chips or veggies!

2. Baked Cheddar Broccoli Tots

Via Dinner, Then Dessert

When a picture of a broccoli dish actually makes your mouth water, it’s got to be good. Try these baked veggie-packed tots as an alternative to fried tater tots.

3. Skinny Mexican Pizza

Via Snixy Kitchen

Refried beans, veggies, and an avocado cream round out this skinny version of Mexican pizza. YUM!

4. Thai Peanut Salad Wonton Cups

Via The Busy Baker

What’s gorgeously colorful, full of Asian flavor, and even happens to be vegan? Thai Peanut Salad Wonton Cups! Psst…these might just be my top choice for the Super Bowl party we’re attending.

5. Dysfunctional Family Recipe Salsa

Another one from A Love Letter to Food! Isn’t the Super Bowl a special enough occasion to make your own salsa? Once you try this homemade kind, jarred salsa won’t hold a candle.

6. Fruit Salsa with Cinnamon Crisps

Via Spend With Pennies

And speaking of salsa, how about a sweet version? Fruit salsas provide a unique way to sneak in some extra nutrition on game day.

7. Tortellini Skewers with Olives, Tomatoes, and Cheese

Via Diethood

Mediterranean flavors for the win once again! These skewers of tortellini, tomatoes, olives, and mozzarella get drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar to finish.

8. Skinny Creamy Taquitos

Via Center Cut Cook

When you live in the Southwest, there is no way your Super Bowl party cannot feature Mexican food. Keep Mexican in the mix (just a little healthier) with these lightened up chicken taquitos.

9. Baked Buffalo Cauliflower “Wings”

Via Gimme Delicious

No, cauliflower does not actually have wings. But you might not be too worried about it when you sink your teeth into these bites of buffalo deliciousness.

10. Creamy Carrot Dip with Crudites

Via Robust Recipes

Hummus, you’re so 2009. This creamy carrot dip is the new spread on the block. Serve with crudités for double the veggie goodness.

So…which one looks best to you? Or what other healthy apps are on your list for game day? Tell me in the comments!

Cranberry Salsa

How often do you eat cranberries in their fresh, raw form? It seems to go without saying that sweetened dried cranberries have pretty well monopolized the Cranberry Market in recent years, edging out their plump, juicy originators by a long shot.  I’d wager few of us ever go around eating raw cranberries as our go-to fruit of choice. As a matter of fact, when my six-year-old daughter saw them in our fruit crisper the other day and asked to try one, I told her to do so at her own risk. Raw cranberries are so stinking tart, they’re almost inedible on their own.

Not surprisingly, it took about two seconds before she made a horrible face and spit it into the trash.

That’s why this Cranberry Salsa–which I had the fresh cranberries in the fridge for–is so special. It features raw cranberries combined with apple, jalapeño, red onion, and a couple of other fresh ingredients for an unexpected, interesting appetizer that’s sure to be a hit at holiday parties. (It was at mine last night! The bowl I served this in was practically licked clean.)

Being a nutritionist, I’m a bit self-conscious about the food I serve when I entertain. Maybe no one is thinking about it but me, but I feel like my title obligates me to make at least some fairly healthy options for my guests. Plus, the nutritionist in me likes to offer allergy-friendly options for friends and family in the “something-free” club. This salsa fit the bill for both, since it’s vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free–basically everything-free, since it’s made entirely with fresh fruits, sugar, and salt. Heck, it’s even RAW, if you’re into that, too.

Oh, and it’s easy. And make-ahead. And a balanced blend of sweetness and spice. And seasonal.

Can you tell I’m sold? Give this one a try for any upcoming Christmas parties and tell me how it goes!

 


Print Recipe
Cranberry Salsa
This Cranberry Salsa is a festive, healthy, allergy-friendly holiday appetizer.
Instructions
  1. In the bowl of a food processor, process the sugar until very fine (to create superfine sugar). Pour into a serving bowl and set aside.
  2. Place cranberries, apple, red onion, and jalapeño in the food processor and process until the mixture reaches a finely chopped pico de gallo-type consistency. Add to the bowl with the sugar and stir to combine.
  3. Add orange zest and juice, lime juice, and salt and stir to combine. Cover and chill 2-24 hours. Stir in cilantro just before serving.
Recipe Notes

Adapted from Home is Where the Boat Is, who adapted it from Southern Living.

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Pumpkin Hummus + Fall Tortilla Chips

I realize Halloween is over, but can you handle one more pumpkin recipe? I know I can, but then again, I could eat pumpkin pie every day whole year round. For others less out of their gourd for gourds, now that it’s November, pumpkin fatigue may have set in. Understandable. But I hope you’ll make an exception for this Pumpkin Hummus recipe, because not only is it easy, unique, and tasty, it’s also super fun to make with DIY fall-shard tortilla chips.

Aren’t they cute?

When it comes to making hummus, the main thing that usually stands in my way is that I suffer from what I think of as Tahini Block. As in, I really, really don’t want to spend eleven bucks on a jar of ground sesame seeds  when all I’ll use is a couple of tablespoons at the most. Therefore, I generally refrain from homemade hummus unless I can use a tahini-free recipe. This one fits that description! Though tahini adds a signature flavor, as a general rule hummus is extremely adaptable. As long as it starts with beans and ends up with a nice consistency, I say you’re safe to call it authentic even if no tahini is involved.

Now let’s talk tortilla. DIY fall shaped tortilla chips, to be exact. Of course you could buy tortilla chips at the store–I mean, who really needs to make their own chips?–but once you’ve cut your own shapes with delightful fall-themed cookie cutters, there’s no going back. Pumpkin and leaf-shaped dippers add a whole extra layer of seasonal character alongside this pumpkin hummus.

So for your next play date, Thanksgiving potluck, or Tahini Avoiders Anonymous meeting, give this fun combination a try!


Print Recipe
Pumpkin Hummus + Fall Tortilla Chips
A savory, tahini-free pumpkin hummus paired with fun DIY tortilla chips!
Course Appetizer
Prep Time 10 minutes
Servings
Course Appetizer
Prep Time 10 minutes
Servings
Instructions
To make the hummus:
  1. Place garlic clove in the bowl of a food processor and run on low briefly to mince. Add all remaining ingredients and process until smooth. Serve garnished with pepitas, if desired.
To make the chips:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  2. Using fall-themed cookie cutters, cut shapes out of tortillas. (You can either discard the remaining tortilla scraps or include them for other, funky-shaped chips.) Spray both sides of cutouts lightly with olive oil cooking spray, then sprinkle to taste with herbs and spices. (Or for sweet chips, try sprinkling with cinnamon and sugar.)
  3. Place on prepared baking sheet and bake 7 minutes, then flip chips and bake another 7 minutes. Serve with pumpkin hummus.
Recipe Notes

A Love Letter to Food Original Recipe

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White Bean Hummus

White Bean Hummus

We need to talk about beans. If I’ve never mentioned it before, allow me to say right now, standing tall with my hand over my heart, that I believe beans may be the perfect food. I say this not only because it will earn me points with other nutrition professionals (though they are pretty unanimously also in love with beans, as far as I’ve seen), but because beans are…

– High in fiber

– Low in fat

– Plant-based protein

– High in iron

– Super versatile

And, if you ask me, they taste pretty darn good, too. So I generally try to include them in my diet on a frequent basis. Casseroles, soups, tacos, salads, and even certain pasta dishes are great food items to drop some beans into. And I do mean that literally, not euphemistically.

White Bean Hummus

Lately I’ve been on a homemade hummus kick, but since I balk at buying any actual tahini (have you ever bought tahini? You have to buy like gallon at a time and it’s hella expensive!) I’ve been experimenting with recipes that don’t call for it, like this garlicky version with plenty of my dear wonderfood, beans! With two full cans of cannellini or Great Northern beans, this recipe makes a big batch, perfect for sneaking off into a closet with the bowl clutched to your bosom so no one else can eat it. I mean, for parties. PARTIES is what I meant to say.

White Bean Hummus

Seriously, though, this white bean hummus is my new favorite snack/appetizer/side. Even though I’ve scoffed in the past about how hummus and pita chips is everyone’s go-to, last-minute, classier-than-chips potluck contribution, the deliciousness of this version kicks it up into “bring this any time” territory. Mild white beans mixed with punchy garlic, lemon juice, cumin, pepper, and parsley creates the perfect edible yin and yang.

And finally, because beans didn’t have their own theme song, here is Brak from the ’90s Cartoon Network show Space Ghost to sing you a very special tune about them:

 

 

Print Recipe
White Bean Hummus
Mild white beans mixed with punchy garlic, lemon juice, cumin, pepper, and parsley make for a uniquely delicious hummus!
Course Appetizer, snack
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Servings
Course Appetizer, snack
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Servings
Instructions
  1. In a small saucepan, cook garlic in olive oil over medium heat until garlic begins to brown. Remove from heat. With a slotted spoon, scoop garlic into the bowl of a food processor.
  2. To the food processor bowl, add drained beans, lemon juice, cumin, parsley, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Process until smooth.
  3. Carefully pour in reserved olive oil while the machine is running and process until well incorporated.
  4. Serve immediately or store refrigerated in an airtight container. Enjoy with pita chips or fresh veggies!
Recipe Notes

Adapted from Bush's Beans.

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Mediterranean 7-Layer Dip

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Awhile back, I read a Buzzfeed article called 24 Things You Know If You’re Always Hosting Dinner Parties. (Be warned, if you read it, there’s quite a bit of unnecessarily foul language in the article.) Some of the items on the list were so true that I wondered if the Buzzfeed author had been spying on my house recently as I prepared to host events. As is probably obvious from the fact that this blog has an Entertaining section, we throw a lot of parties at our house–not just dinner parties, any parties! White Elephant Christmas parties, Nacho Libre parties, Butterfly Tea Parties, Beatles Singalong Parties! With dreams for the future to host a Murder Mystery Dinner, Talent Show, and Grown-Up Prom, just to name a few. Anyway, as a frequent party hostess, I can tell you, like the Buzzfeed article, that certain truths are universal to hosting large number of people in your home. Like the fact that you always buy a ton of alcohol, thinking there’s no way people will drink it all, and they always do, or that you shouldn’t bother to vacuum your carpet before a party, only after.

BUT…the one truth that prevails above all else when you host any event that serves food–yes, the one tried and true guarantee is this:

Someone will ALWAYS bring hummus and pita chips.

When did this happen? I feel like the general American public was only introduced to hummus, like, ten years ago. How did this rookie food item rocket up the ranks of party appetizers to become El Capitan of potluck takealongs? My theory is this: it’s classier than a bag of chips but just as easy and only slightly more expensive. But psssst…I have a secret up my sleeve. If you really want to impress with your contribution to a party spread (and you just gotta have that hummus), there’s a better way than the Trader Joe’s grab-and-go standard. This richly flavored 7-layer Mediterranean dip starts with a hummus base, but builds on it with cucumber, tomatoes, red pepper, feta, artichokes, and Greek yogurt for a truly unique party dip. Layering with fresh ingredients adds vitamins, flavor, fiber, and crunch, along with bright colors that make for a visually interesting and much more substantial side than hummus alone. I served it at a recent house concert we hosted and it went over beautifully.

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So give it a whirl when your next “heyyyyy, we said we’d bring something to that party this weekend” moment hits. Your friends will thank you.

(The other option, of course, besides taking it as an impressive dish to a party, is to use it as a head-’em-off-at-the-pass menu item when hosting potlucks.

“Hey, we’re coming on Saturday! How about I bring pita chips and hummus?”

“Actually, I’ve already got that covered. How about something else?”)

P.S. No hard feelings if you’re reading this and you’ve ever brought hummus to one of our parties…I still love you. 😉

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Mediterranean 7-Layer Dip
(Adapted from Cookin’ Canuck)

Ingredients:

8-10 oz. container regular hummus
1/2 c. cucumber, diced
1/2 c. tomato, diced
1/2 c. roasted red pepper, diced
1/2 c. Greek yogurt
1/4 tsp. paprika
1/8 tsp. salt
2-3 canned artichoke hearts, chopped
1/3 c. crumbled feta cheese
2 Tbsp. flat-leaf parsley, minced

Directions:

  1. In the bottom of an 8 x 8 inch pan, spread hummus in a smooth layer. Sprinkle with cucumber and tomato.
  2. Drop yogurt by tablespoonfuls over the vegetables. Smooth with a spatula or the back of a spoon and sprinkle with paprika and salt.
  3. Top with artichoke hearts, feta, and parsley. Refrigerate or serve immediately. Goes great with pita chips, crackers, or raw vegetables!