Crudités: A healthy party alternative

Dairy-Free, Entertaining, Fab Food Photos, Learn to Cook!, Recipes, Road Trip/Picnic Food, Technique, Vegetarian, video, Wheat-Free No Comments »

By New Year’s, we often had our share of indulgences in fatty cheeses, the empty calories of most crackers and those awful, fried hors d’oeuvres we feel compelled to eat when they’re the only food available and we are imbibing. In support of our resolutions for the coming year, why not create a crudités? Each time I serve or bring one to a party, guests give a sigh of relief, I suppose because there’s something delicious and wholesome they won’t have to work off at the gym.

Now if you are thinking about those prepackaged crudités platters with baby carrots and stalks of celery with dry ends and broccoli that’s never touched, think again. Making your own is easy, naturally beautiful and inexpensive, too. The one pictured at the bottom of the post, cost only $8. (A quarter lb. of a fancy cheese can cost that much.)

Most of the work of creating a beautiful arrangement can be done the day before in about 15 minutes. Here are some tips to a great crudités!

1. Buy your fresh veggies at the farmer’s market if possible. Wash and refrigerate them until the day of the event.

2. Choose vegetables with a wide assortment of colors.

3. Use an extra sharp knife to cut vegetables into easy-to-handle shapes. Long shapes are more elegant. Get away from the kibbles and bits look. Put all cut veggies, especially celery and carrots, into baggies with a little water and a few drops of olive oil until it’s time to serve the platter.

4. Never use baby carrots. They’re essentially tasteless. Scrub full sized carrots with a toothbrush and cut into long spears. Don’t peel them or you’ll loose the most nutritious part. Orange carrots are fine, but look for the yellow, red and purple ones for their beautiful presentation.

4. Steam and chill vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, and zucchini.

5. Utilizing the crudité raw regulars such as celery, carrots, cherry tomatoes, is great.


6. Feel free to add some fresh berries. No apples slices, because they’ll discolor.

7. Skip the eggplant, potatoes and anything in the onion family for this one. Going for chlorophyl is best, not onion breath. Come on! It’s a party!

8. Do that cool 50′s housewife thing and carve radishes into rose blossoms. Just cut petals toward the center of the radish with a paring knife and soak in ice water so they open up.

9. Make a homemade thick dressing, so party guests won’t drip it everywhere. Vinaigrette won’t do. Consider using plain yogurt instead of mayo or sour cream and present it in a lovely glass instead of an ordinary bowl. My Russian dressing is super quick and easy, (See my video on 3 Salad Dressings for recipe . ) so there’s no excuse to use an awful & artificial bottled dressing. And please, don’t fuss over “double-dipping.” It’s not gonna kill anybody!

10. Keep it wrapped in plastic, so it stays moist until the moment of presentation. If it’s traveling, put a clean, moist dishtowel or paper towels under the plastic wrap. Serve well chilled and on a gorgeous platter.

I promise you, if you skip the step of par-cooking broccoli, cauliflower and zucchini, it will remain right where it started. Otherwise, if you look to your party platter among other party snacks well into the event, the crudités will be gobbled up and only your beautiful dish will be showing. Take notice around the room. It’s the skinny people who will be munching the most!

Wishing you good health and good times in the New Year!

Popcorn Cauliflower

Calorie Counter, Dairy-Free, Entertaining, Good Info, Recipes, Road Trip/Picnic Food, Superfoods, Vegetarian, Wheat-Free No Comments »

Hmm, you say you don’t like cauliflower or your family won’t eat it? Well, I trick my party guests and even kids into eating my Popcorn Cauliflower every time!

The cauliflower of yesteryear was over-cooked, which much like broccoli, releases a stinky sulphur odor. Batter dip and roast instead of boiling, and I’m betting you’ll love it, too. I make it for parties because it can be done ahead and reheated easily and frankly, I just get a little thrill out of people freaking when they realize they just ate cauliflower and loved it. I will say the chili-mayo dipping sauce is strictly for kids though. Its also very inexpensive, compared to other party foods like cheese and boxed crackers, which areladen with fat. (I’ll save my calories for a marguerite, if you don’t mind!)

I use dosa flour in mine, because I’m off wheat entirely and it’s made from lentils, which are ultra-high in protein. This recipe is easy-peasy. You might even get the kids in on this one. It’s easier than pancakes and much better for them.

Popcorn Cauliflower is great for parties!


Popcorn Cauliflower

½ T butter
1 large head cauliflower
2 eggs
1/2 T butter
1 head cauliflower
2 eggs
¼ cup flour
2 T dulse or flaked kelp
½ T sesame oil
1 t Dijon mustard
¼ t sea salt
¼ t black pepper
¼ t chili powder
¼ cup water (as needed)

Chili May Dipping Sauce:

½ cup canola mayonnaise
¼ finely chopped marinated green olives
2 T lemon juice
1 T horseradish
½ t chili powder

Preheat the oven to 375º.

Mix all the ingredients for the dipping sauce in a small bowl and place in the refrigerator to chill.

Using your fingers, snap off individual cauliflower florets or cut them off with the tip of a sharp knife from the core. Slice any of the florets in half that are 2” round or larger.

Place a buttered, glass, baking dish or cookie sheet in the oven to heat that will fit all the cauliflower in a single layer and allow for space in between the florets.

Beat the two eggs together with a fork, in a large, deep bowl. Add the remainder of the ingredients with only as much water needed to form a thick batter that will not quite pour.

Toss the cauliflower florets into the mixture and coat evenly. Then spread the battered cauliflower out on the hot baking dish, leaving space between each floret. Bake for 20 minutes or until the bottoms are crusty.

Using a thin metal spatula to preserve the coating, turn the cauliflower and bake for another 15-20 minutes or until crisp and lightly browned all over. Serve hot with the chilled chili mayo.

 

 

 

 

Cucumber Coconut Manna Hors’d Oeuvres

Dairy-Free, Entertaining, Learn to Cook!, Product Info & Reviews, Recipes, Superfoods, Vegetarian, Wheat-Free No Comments »

 

Cucumber Coconut Manna Canapés

Organic, Persian or Kirby cucumbers
1 cup plain yogurt
1 cup  coconut manna
1 t dulse (optional)
½ t coarse salt
½ t pepper
¼ cup hemp seeds
1/2 oz red coconut oil

Choose cucumbers at the market according to best freshness and price.

Wash and cut chilled cucumbers on an extreme bias into thick, ½” oval shapes. Do not peel.

Heat coconut manna until liquefied. In a deep bowl, mix salt, pepper and dulse into yogurt to evenly blend. Pour in coconut manna and mix quickly and vigorously until it stiffens into a stiff cream, which takes only moments.

Pile 1/2 teaspoon of the mixture on to each cucumber slice. Sprinkle with hemp seeds and garnish with coarse salt and 1-2 drops red coconut oil. Serve immediately.

Nothing makes me happier than showing people superfoods are delicious and Nutiva certainly makes them. This recipe features 3 of their sensational products: coconut manna, hemp seeds, and their new responsibly harvested red palm oil! Party goers at Nutiva’s party during the Natural Product Expo gobbled up over 700 of these delicious, nutritious finger foods! Yum!

 

 

Crispy Asparagus with Lime Mayo

Calorie Counter, Entertaining, Fab Food Photos, Vegetarian, Wheat-Free No Comments »

Crispy Asparagus are coated in ground pumpkin seeds and spices!

10-12 thick asparagus spears
¼ cup raw pumpkin seeds
½ t ground coriander
½ t dulse or kelp flakes
¼ t ground fennel
¼ t kosher salt
¼ t black pepper

Sauce:
1 ½ T mayonnaise or Greek yogurt
1 ½ T fresh lime juice
zest of ½ lime
2 sprigs fresh thyme

Garnish Recommendations:
1 radish
2 springs parsley, basil, sage or cilantro

 

Rinse, trim the bottom ½” and remove the skin from the lower third of each asparagus spear with a vegetable peeler.

Evenly coat a baking sheet with 1 tablespoon of oil and place in an oven set to 350º.

Grind the pumpkin seeds into a fine powder in a coffee grinder. (Add coriander and fennel here, if spices are whole seeds.) Pour ground pumpkin seeds and the remaining spices into a rectangular baking dish at least as long as an asparagus spear and tap it to one of the longer sides. Roll each spear in the pumpkin seed and spice mixture and reserve at the empty side of the dish.

When all the spears are evenly coated, place them on the hot baking sheet and roast for 15 minutes before turning over each spear. Continue to bake for 10-15 more minutes or until the asparagus is tender and the coating is golden brown.

Zest ½ a lime in to a cup and stir in lime juice and mayo until smooth. Arrange the asparagus in a serving plate and pour a thin stream of the limo-mayo sauce over it. Sprinkle the white sauce decoratively with fresh thyme leaves and garnishes before serving.

Tip: For once, fat is better than thin!
Thin asparagus spears aren’t more tender than the big fat ones. It’s the insoluble fiber in asparagus’ skin that’s the tough part and overcooking it just makes it stringy and bitter,not more tender. Preferred are asparagus with a larger circumference. Then the ratio of tender soluble fiber beneath the skin is higher for a more chewable, flavorful experience. So go for the big ones!

 

Summer Travel and Healthy Portable Foods

Calorie Counter, Fab Food Photos, Technique, Vegetarian No Comments »

Christina and her family, who I’ve met through Start.ac, are embarking on a low budget, two month road trip called Blank Canvas Tour. She asked me to suggest some good options to eat on a budget. Finding healthy food on the road is a real challenge, but with a little prep and some guidelines, you can zoom past all those unhealthy, high-calorie, processed food burger ‘n fries fast food joints. So take heed, my friends and remember, it’s bikini season!

Hi Christina,
Right off I would say easy on the sandwiches, because white flour is almost like eating white sugar. It’s high glycemic index causes spikes in blood sugar and that could mean cranky passengers. I know you read labels, but remember, even bread labeled “whole wheat” or “rye” has primarily white flour. It’s lack of fiber and the immobility of driving long distances in a vehicle would slow elimination. That’s a nice was of saying people are apt to get constipated.

Instead I would advise a big bag of crudité. Stop at any market and stock up on unwaxed cucumbers, radishes, red bell peppers, celery, carrots, cherry tomatoes. You can put them in a big bag and pass them around. 

Fruits are great for travel, too. Their naturally occurring packaging makes them easy to handle. Fruits provide hydration because they are water dense. They seem like a treat because they are sweet, yet they are full of fiber, vitamins and nutrients. 

Most supermarket fruit is extremely under ripe, so think several days ahead. Whatever you leave in a brown paper bag in the car will naturally ripen. Putting a few apples in the bag is a great idea, because they expel a gas that helps other fruits and veggies ripen. Apples are also appetite suppressants, especially good when you have a long trip and don’t want to to stop a lot for meals or you feel you are ingesting more calories than you can burn on days when you need to mostly be in the car.
You wil save lots of money if you pack a cutting board and one big sharp knife to do the cutting up yourself. Pre-cut over-packaged fruits and veggies are tremendously more expensive. A jar of peanut butter from one of those machines that freshly grinds the peanuts is a good companion to the fruit, because it adds flavor and protein.Try not to eat regular processed peanut butter. Often a tremendous amount of sugar is added, plus hydrogenated fat, because manufacturers don’t want the peanut oil to separate. Get the natural one from the machine where you can and stir it when you need to. It’s good to get the kids accustomed to things that aren’t loaded with sugar. 

Additionally, I like raw nuts and sunflower and pumpkin seeds for travel. They pack a lot of energy. If nuts are “roasted”, there is a lot of bad, added fat and the naturally occurring fat changes in structure to be very unhealthy. Salted is ok because its plain table salt, not a sodium chemical compound, but do be sure the nuts and seeds are raw. 

Google ahead and find out where on your path the local farmer’s markets meet. Most urban areas have a market set up nearly every day. Its a good place to meet locals and shop for vine or tree ripened fruit that is organic and local. If you also bring a cooler, you can spring for a bag of ice a day (99cents) and keep the ripe stuff fresh, and things like milk and cheese fresh, too. 

You might also find some tuna with flip top lids to eat right out of the can. Every thrift store has old silverware. I recommend getting a cheap set for each passenger, that will be used again and again. If you spring once for Voss water, which is available in glass bottles that fit nicely in car cup holders, you can refill that same bottle again and again over the whole trip, which will be quite a savings. I’ve recently taken to putting a sprig of mint, basil or thyme in my water bottle. Just that little bit of flavor has me hydrating more. Maybe a lemon or a few cherries would do on the road.  Then you won’t be temped to drink sodas along the way and overall, the glass is a much better option than plastic. It doesn’t matter how hot it gets, you won’t be infusing petroleum into the water you drink. Particularly soft plastic bottles in summer are not recommended in hot cars. Just be sure to wash out the bottle every few days with soap water and fill it up for free everyplace you can.
Lastly, bring a big blanket and opt for setting out your own spread in a local park for a picnic. After long hours on the road, its good to get some fresh air and stretch out, instead of sitting in a restaurant.
I hope all of that helps you keep slim, perky and in a good emotional state. Happy travels!
If you want to donate to Christina and her family’s trip, please go to the Start.ac crowd funding site. The Enlightened Cook will have a project there very soon, too!

Aloo Gobi

Dairy-Free, Ethnic Dish, Fab Food Photos, Learn to Cook!, Vegetarian, Wheat-Free No Comments »

Aloo Gobi & Wooden Ganesha

 

1 medium onion
3 T. sesame or safflower oil
2 T. curry powder
¼ t. cumin
¼ t. chili powder (optional)
2 cloves garlic
2 ½ t. salt
3 large thin-skinned white potatoes
1 large head cauliflower
1 cup vegetable stock
3 T. fresh cilantro
2 T. lemon juice

 

 

 

Peel and coarse-chop the onion. Heat the oil a large saucepan and sauté the dry spices in it, constantly stirring with a wooden spoon for 30 seconds on medium heat. Stir the chopped onions into the spiced oil. Press 2 cloves of garlic with the broad side of a knife to remove their skins and add to the pot with the onions. Stir thoroughly and cook for 3 minutes.

If you have bought thin-skinned white potatoes, keep the skins on. If they have thick, brown skins like an Idaho potato or red skins, peel the potatoes. Then cut the potatoes into 1” cubes, add them to the pot with half the salt, mixing thoroughly into the onion and spice mixture.

Discard the leaves from the cauliflower head and break off whole florets. Cut any florets in half that are larger than 1” around. Add the cauliflower to the pot 5-10 minutes after the potatoes with 1 cup of vegetable stock. Cover with a lid and continue to cook for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Chop the cilantro and add to the pot with the lemon juice when the cauliflower can be pierced easily with a knife. Stir again, now being careful not to break the softened cauliflower. Cook 5 minutes longer.

Serve with papadums (Indian wafers) and prepared coriander chutney.

Chop the cilantro and add to the pot with the lemon juice, when the cauliflower can be pierced with a knife. Stir again, being careful not to break the softened cauliflower. Cook 5 minutes longer.

 

Serve with papadums (Indian wafers) and prepared coriander chutney.

 

Photo and text by Marlon Braccia © 2008