I happen to love holiday cocktail parties and pick-up food. But let's face it: The party season has its consequences. If this is hard to believe, just ask your guests after the magic day of Jan. 1 has passed. The usual consensus: Too much food, too much drink, too many late nights.
Then begin the days of contrition. Magazines will feature a flurry of diets; millions of Americans will conscientiously read the articles, clip them out and try to follow the prescribed regimens to lighten upcoming menus.
Well, I've designed these recipes for entertaining with an eye to Jan. 1 so that post-holiday woes will be reduced. They're not low-fat, but they're considerably lighter than what's normally served during the holidays.
You'll find these recipes easy to prepare in advance; if you're like me, you don't like last-minute anxiety attacks. The ingredients are available in any supermarket, so you don't have to trudge all over town searching for high-priced special ingredients.
But, most important, all of these dishes are relatively low in fat. And--are you ready for this?--your guests will never know the truth unless you tell them. The dishes taste that good.
So have a party. Why not? Do some noshing and enjoy yourself, not only because you enjoy celebrating the holiday with family and friends, but also because you will remember this particular New Year's Eve party with a smile.
Clegg is the author of "A Trim & Terrific Louisiana Kitchen." She appears regularly on the NBC "Weekend Today Show."
This nutritious dip has become one of my favorites. If you want to be decorative, spoon it into a hollowed out cabbage or hollowed out round loaf of bread. Use fat-free mayonnaise to cut more fat and calories.
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach
2/3 cup light mayonnaise
1 cup nonfat plain yogurt
1 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed
Juice of half a lemon
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup chopped green onion
Fresh cut vegetables or reduced-fat crackers
Thaw, squeeze and drain chopped spinach. Blend spinach with mayonnaise, yogurt, salt, dill, lemon juice, parsley and green onion in bowl. Cover and refrigerate. (Dip is best when made 1 day ahead.) Serve with fresh vegetables or with reduced-fat crackers.
Makes about 3 cups.
These tasty pick-ups are perfect for guests who are vegetarians. To keep things simple, serve the squares at room temperature.
1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup water
2 egg whites
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
Dash red pepper
1/2 cup shredded zucchini
3/4 cup shredded reduced-fat Monterey Jack cheese
1/4 cup shredded reduced-fat Cheddar cheese
Chop artichokes in food processor or by hand and set aside.
Cook onion and garlic in water until tender and set aside.
Beat egg and egg whites in small bowl until frothy. Stir in bread crumbs, pepper to taste, oregano, red pepper, zucchini and cheeses. Add artichokes and onion mixture, mixing until well combined.
Transfer to 9-inch square baking pan coated with nonstick cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees 30 minutes. Cut into squares and serve.
Makes 24 squares.
Marinades can be high in fat. With this one, the flavor is still there, but I have included other ingredients, such as lemon juice and red wine vinegar, to cut the calories. Serve the shrimp on frilled toothpicks in a glass bowl.
1/4 cup olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 bay leaf, crumbled
Dash cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons capers, drained
2 pounds cooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
Combine oil, garlic, mustard, salt, lemon juice, vinegar, bay leaf and cayenne in bowl. Mix well. Stir in parsley, onion and capers. Add shrimp, tossing until well coated. Cover and refrigerate 2 hours. Drain marinade. Remove bay leaf.
Makes 10 servings.
You can make this ahead of time, refrigerate until just before the party, then reheat. Serve in a chafing dish with fresh fruit and squares of angel food cake.
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 quart cold nonfat milk
3 tablespoons light margarine
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon butter flavoring
Angel food cake, cut into squares, or marshmallows or cubed or sliced fresh fruit
Mix sugar, cocoa powder, cornstarch and salt in saucepan. Add milk, stirring well. Bring to boil, stirring, over medium heat. Lower heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, 20 minutes. Add margarine, vanilla and butter flavoring. Use cubed angel food cake, marshmallows or cut fresh fruit for dipping.
Makes 5 cups.
No one would believe this creamy wine sauce was made with nonfat yogurt. The tarragon gives the chicken a superb flavor. Serve as an hors d'oeuvre with toothpicks (or over rice to make a tasty entree).