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Food & Nutrition: Spicing up your holiday party with appetizers and hors d'oeuvres

No matter the culture, the holidays are all about family, celebrating and yes, of course, food. Hors d’oeuvres, finger foods and appetizers are wonderful any time of the year, but are becoming more a part of many holiday gatherings.

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I know that many people buy foods already prepared for all kinds of reasons, but there are many easy to prepare appetizer and finger food recipes that don’t require a lot of ingredients and they are tasty. To me, there are several bonuses to preparing your recipes. One bonus is the great relationships with family or friends in the kitchen. Another is the fact that with a little knowledge you can make most of these foods healthier by being aware of the amount of salt in the ingredients that you add, and to always review the amount of fat to consider if a small amount can be reduced.

Hors d’oeuvres or canapés are types of foods that started out being served with drinks. The canapé sits invitingly on its own little couch of crouton or pastry tidbit. The hors d’oeuvres is more of a free agent, ready to meet up with whatever bread, cracker or vegetable is presented. While hors d’oeuvre freely translated means “outside the main works” nowadays they often become the meal.

This is one of Mary’s favorites:

1 cup of plain low-fat yogurt

1 cup of a reduced fat salad dressing

1 package of dried vegetable soup mix

1 tablespoon of ground horseradish

Stir together and refrigerate.

You can use a pepper for the dip container, or with a little effort you can use a small cabbage head. To use the cabbage head, cut the bottom so it sits level. Next, cut out a bowl area in the center where the dip will be placed. Cut about ¼ to ⅓ off the top, then take a small paring knife and cut around the side about ⅓ of the way in and continue making small cuts and removing the cabbage until you have a nice bowl shape in the center. All of the cabbage you have removed may be used a variety of ways.

Food often looks more dramatic if some of it can be presented on several levels. Be realistic when developing the levels for the food, and make sure to think about your guests serving themselves. Keep your mind open to using a variety of dishes and sometimes using them not as intended, such as upside down. Keep in mind, too, what the hors d’oeuvre plate will look like as it begins to have items removed. It may make more sense to arrange small plates which are easily replaced or replenished than one big one which may be difficult to replenish.

Make sure to have some of the family favorites, whatever they might be. Two items that come to my memory that have no preparation are shrimp with some tasty cocktail sauce and pickled herring in vinegar or vinegar and sour cream. Another one I remember is celery with peanut butter — the best was pimento cheese in the celery.

Always to try to have healthier choices like fresh carrots, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, various pepper strips and fresh vegetables you enjoy. Mix them all together and serve with vegetable dip. Making the dip can make a big difference on flavor.


For more recipes and tips from Purdue Extension Educator Mary Ann Lienhart-Cross, subscribe to the Food & Nutrition email newsletter.

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