From the sound of the title, I probably sound like a sports fan. I’m not. I know nothing about football, baseball, or basketball. I am incredibly annoying when sports are on TV because I either a) fidget b) ask questions. So when a friend of mine decided to host a game day party, I offered to prepare the food (much more entertaining). The idea of making game day food healthy is a side project that I am interested in (which unfortunately is on hold, but learn more here and here). It was a good deal on both ends- my friend had the equivalent of a caterer and I got to use the guests as guinea pigs. As many of you already know, sometimes healthyfying a recipe works and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes you need a little butter or cream to make something work and its a matter of figuring out how little will still bring a yummy result. So here we have Game Day Appetizers.

#1 Butternut Squash Dip

I loosely followed the recipe found at Framed. I kept the quantity of butternut squash, onions, and garlic the same and I sprayed with olive oil spray. Once I was working in the food processor, I did not add any additional olive oil and I substituted 3 tbsp of sour cream for about 1/2 cup of non-fat greek yogurt. I used a tiny bit of cayenne, some cinnamon, nutmeg, black pepper, and was pretty generous with the salt. The key is to keep tasting as you puree so you don’t go to heavy on the salt.

The dip was a success. Most people love squash and this dip was a unique way to eat squash. I would recommend making this for any party.

#2 Cheeseburger-in-one-bite Skewers

Well, they are adorable. I’ll give them that much credit. And, they have potential. But this is an example of when cutting out too much fat goes wrong. I used about 2lbs of 0% fat ground turkey and mixed that with about 1/3 cup of bbq sauce and an array of meat/poultry spices because I knew from past experience the flavor had to come from somewhere and it wasn’t going to be the turkey itself. After kneading the meat, I broke it into quarter sized meatballs and to grill them used cooking spray. Pretty disastrous. There just wasn’t enough fat for the meat not to glue itself to the pan. I cooked them about 80% of the way and then stuck in the oven on broil. After about 2 minutes on each side, I topped each meatball with a small slice of cheese (again using 0% fat cheddar). After the meat and cheese cooled, I stuck on a toothpick with red onion, half a cheery tomato, and a pickle. I personally think these would have been significantly better with 93% turkey, but despite my disappointment, all 45 skewers were eaten. Moral of the story – make these, they are cute, use some fat.

#3 Mushroom and Thyme Phyllo Wraps

I love working with Phyllo dough and a variety of mushrooms seasoned with 1 thyme and rosemary is delicious, so the two came together. To make this chop up a variety of mushrooms, spray with olive oil, and on medium heat, cook mushrooms (about 5 cups) with salt (to taste), thyme (1 tsp), and rosemary (1/2 tsp) until everything is soft and fragrant. Drain the mushrooms using a strainer to avoid getting the phyllo dough soaked through. Take 4 phyllo sheets per roll and spray lightly with olive oil between each sheet. Take about 1/4 of mixture and lay at the bottom of the sheet. Roll up the mixture and cut into 4 to 5 pieces per roll. Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes, or until phyllo starts to golden.

Delicious! If you are ok with adding a little more calories sprinkle mixture with Parmesan cheese before baking. You could make this dish with anything wrapped inside: artichoke and spinach, chicken and sundried tomatoes, etc.

#4 Mexican Phyllo Tarts

Did I mention I liked working with Phyllo? Another super easy recipe. 1 can of black beans and 1 can of corn (low sodium and strained with water). Mix with 1/2 can of medium salsa, 3 tbsp chopped cilantro, and 1/2 red onion finely chopped. Drain for extra liquid to avoid soaking through phyllo cups. Take mixture and fill phyllo cups (they are so easy to work with, the day you are going to use them you take them out of the freezer, and 3 hours later they are ready to use). Just like the rolls above, you could fill these with anything. I chose the mexican filling to replace the typically unhealthy nachos you find on game day.

#5 BBQ Chicken Pizza

This healthy version of BBQ pizza is so good that you get the taste you want out of pizza with none of the unhealthy fat. One person commented that if there was a way to get this pizza in a NYC pizzeria, he would be getting it everyday. Recipe can be found at my on-hold-project.

Please share any ideas you have for healthy appetizers. I’m already looking for something new!

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Week nights are busy. By the time I finish work, commute, go to the gym, run errands, and just deal with life, I don’t have time for an elaborate dinner. What I do have time for is something quick, easy, inexpensive, healthy, and tasty. And, lets be honest weekends tend to be splurg-y so weekdays are a good time to be healthy so it all balances out. Here’s my weeknight dinners from last week complete with shopping list, ingredients, and directions. Not that you even need the directions, its that easy…

Italian Sausage, Spinach, Mushrooms, and Whole Wheat Pasta

sausage and pasta

This is a simple one dish recipe that takes about 20 minutes. Its got tons of flavor and is perfect for a colder, rainy day b/c of its heartiness. Here’s the short ingredient list:

  • TJ’s chicken and roasted red pepper sausage, peel off casing and break into chunks (used 3 for 2 people)
  • 2 cups mushrooms (presliced to save time)
  • bag of spinach (prewashed to save time)
  • 1/2 cup of tomato sauce
  • garlic and italian spices
  • 1 cup uncooked whole wheat pasta.

Boil water and add pasta. Use a little olive oil and garlic to get things fragrant, add mushrooms and when they are almost done add in chicken sausage, spinach, and spices of your choice. When everything is done mix in tomato sauce to add liquid. I will definitely make this again.

Chicken, Mixed Veggies and Brown Rice

chicken and veggies

This took 20 minutes from start to finish and I had help from my good friend, Trader Joe’s. All 4 ingredients were picked up at TJs and throw into a one pan wonder:

  • grilled chicken
  • frozen mixed veggie bag
  • sesame soy ginger vinaigrette
  • brown rice

Chop the chicken into chunks, grill it until almost done, throw in veggies, when everything is almost done, add about 1/2 cup of marinate. Pop already prepared rice into microwave for 60 seconds. DONE. I enjoyed the marinade, the dish had flavor and was filling, but I’m not sure I would make this very often – its just not very exciting 😦

Shrimp tacos and Lettuce Cups

shrimp and veggies

Mexican food is the best solution to a quick dinner. So easy.

  • whole wheat wraps
  • shrimp
  • salsa
  • tomatoes
  • avocado
  • red onion
  • lettuce leaves

Chop up all veggies (or buy prechopped), mix in with salsa. Grill shrimp using a spice that has a kick. I used cooking spray and then sprinkled taco seasoning. Broil wraps, throw it all in and your are good to go. To save on calories, I usually eat one real deal taco and then switch to wrapping the veggies and protein in a lettuce wrap. I would also make this again.

Next week for Easy Weeknight Dinners:

  • Orange Glazed Salmon with Red Bliss Potatoes and Spinach
  • Stuffed Acorn Squash

Acorn Squash is undoubtedly one of my favorite foods. Here we are about to hit November, and I hadn’t had so much as a bite of acorn squash. I resolved to change that and picked an acorn squash at the store.

non stuffed acorn squash

I think of acorn squash as a special treat, which is great because the nutritional benefits of winter squash are astounding:

  • Winter squash is a relative of the melon and the cucumber
  • Long storage life of up to six months
  • Excellent source of Vitamin A
  • Very good source of Vitamin C
  • Good source of folate, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B1, copper, vitamin B6
  • High in beta-carotene which promotes healthy blood flow thus protects against heart disease
  • Rich in beta-cryptoxanthin which may significantly lower risk of developing lung cancer
  • Contains potassium which may lower blood pressure
  • Fiber found in winter squash is also able to prevent cancer-causing chemicals from attacking colon cells

The only downer about winter squash is cutting them in half to roast in the oven. I had a bad knife accident last year with butternut squash and now have a terrible fear. However, I have a new technique:

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 400
  2. Pierce acorn squash about 15-2o times and place on baking pan in oven for 20 minutes
  3. Remove from oven and easily cut through the middle of the squash (long ways, from the stems). Scoop out the middle flesh.
  4. Spray with canola oil and sprinkle with a little cinnamon and brown sugar.
  5. Place back in oven for about 15-20 minutes, or until middle is soft and its easy to pierce through with fork.

You could serve the squash just like this with a protein or cut up into cubes or stuff it with a filling. I had the mushroom and black bean filling left over from my Vegetarian Quesadillas so in it went.

stuffed acorn squash

This was a great meal. Filling, warm, and incredibly nutritious. There will definitely be more appearances of winter squash in my kitchen over the next few months.