When I was a teenager, holidays gave me high anxiety. I was on a diet, thank you very much, and how am I supposed to do that when it’s a holiday and no one is making food that’s diet friendly? Sure, there are websites like SparkPeople that are a goldmine of healthy recipes, but growing up my family leaned more towards a Paula Dean style of cooking than Daphne Oz.
1. Avocado boats
Avocado boats are really fun to make. You take an avocado, cut it in half and remove the pit. Since your grill is probably up anyway, take the halves and put them flesh down on the grill for 30 seconds to a minute, just for kicks. There are a lot of recipes out there for avocado boats, so let’s do something different here-make a boat bar. Then once your guests have their empty boats, they can fill the pit holes with whatever they like.
Set up your bar with:
small bowls, if your guests want to mix ingredients up before putting them in the avocado
Diced fruit, like mangoes, peaches or pineapple
Lime juice or limes
seasonings like cayenne pepper, lemon pepper, or even chopped red pepper
mayonnaise and mustard, for the creative and daring souls.
Tiny shrimp, tuna, or shredded chicken.
Bacon bits for the nondieters
More tips: Have fun with it. Experiment. Grill the fruit before chopping it up. Trust me on the cilantro-it’s magic.
The great thing about guacamole is that you don’t have to use your food processor, but you can if you don’t mind doing the dishes. If you choose to use a fork instead, just be sure to mash up the avocados before mixing the rest in, to make it easier. Through experimenting, my husband and I have found that this mix of ingredients works best:
2 avocados, peeled and chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 tomato, chopped
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 tbsp chopped cilantro
1 tsp white distilled vinegar
2 tbsp Pace Chunky Salsa (or your favorite chunky salsa in a jar)
Juice from 1/2 lime
Dash of salt and pepper
The salsa is just to make it easy. Feel free to use chopped tomatoes and your favorite pepper (seranos, jalapeños, or even habaneros if you’re daring). You can also use rice vinegar instead of regular, but it gives it a slightly different taste.
Other tips: If you’re big on presentation, add just a bit of extra virgin olive oil to keep it from browning, and up to a tablespoon of low fat sour cream to make it, well, creamy.
3. Barbecue sauce
Let’s face it. You can make vegetables taste better than anything, and someone will still inevitably say something about rabbit food and demand meat. Luckily, there’s a recipe that cuts the calories in a serving of barbecue sauce down to 11 calories per serving. Just take the following ingredients and mix them together to make eight servings.
1 can tomato sauce
3 Tbsp yellow mustard
2 Tbsp white vinegar
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons chopped parsley
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
Finally, don’t be afraid to say ‘no’ to something. Don’t beat yourself up if you happen to overindulge. After cooking, focus more on being with your family and honoring our troops than on how many calories you’re tasting. Holidays are not meant to be spent obsessing over something like food or weight. They’re meant for love.