Fall is by far one of my favorite times of the year. The temperature is growing cooler and the leaves are changing to the most beautiful shades of orange and red. For me, fall means pumpkins, butternut squash, hearty stews and deliciously tender braised meats. What’s not to love? This time of year also means entertaining, parties, and of course Halloween. All the heavy, hearty foods that we eat around this time add up and put on the pounds. Halloween is the worst culprit, binging on all sorts of unhealthy foods that leave our body screaming for help! This year when you throw your Halloween party, lighten it up with fresh flavors and spice; use creative techniques and flavors that ignite the senses without all the extra fat and empty calories … create an impressive menu for a killer party!
Snacking is one of the biggest culprits of seasonal weight gain. When throwing your Halloween party, keep your guests’ appetite at bay by providing them with healthy options.
Exchange your greasy chips and fatty dips with a heart healthy garbanzo bean dip and pita chips.
When throwing your party, it’s up to you whether you want to buy your hummus or make it yourself. If you choose make it yourself, you can flavor it any way you want and control the amount of fat and salt within it. To make it yourself, follow this simple recipe for a delicious and smooth dip.
Sun Dried Tomato Hummus
1 (16 ounce) can chickpea, drained and rinsed
2 T tahini
¼ cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
½ lemon, juiced
1 T salt
½ t black pepper
1 (5 ounce) jar of sun dried tomatoes
1. Combine all ingredients except olive oil in a food processor. Pulse ingredients until roughly chopped.
2. Next, keep pulsing and stream oil in until smooth and there are no big chunks of garlic or sun dried tomatoes.
3. Serve your hummus with pita, or toast them in the oven for a few minutes and serve it with pita chips!
Another snack that you can put out to thrill your guests are some spiced nuts! Again, you can either buy them or make them yourself. If you decide to make them, since they are so easy to do, you’ll appreciate the final product.
1 (8 ounce) bag walnuts
1 (8 ounce) bag peanuts
1 (8 ounce) bag cashews
2 T cayenne pepper
2 T cumin
2 T chili powder
4 T brown sugar
¼ cup salt
1 T black pepper
1 T oil
1. Toast all nuts on a sheet pan in the oven at 350° for about 5 minutes, until fragrant and light brown.
2. Combine spices and brown sugar together in a large bowl. Once the nuts are nicely toasted, combine oil and hot nuts in the large bowl with the spice rub. Toss until nicely coated.
3. Transfer the nuts back to the sheet pan and bake them 3-5 minutes until the spices adhere and the sugar melts. When the nuts are finished, take them out, let them cool, and enjoy!
Note: These nuts are irresistible and spicy! They will awaken your guests’ taste buds and keep the party going. Nuts are full of protein, antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids, which will fight off heart disease, cancer, and help you build muscle!
Snacking aside, at some point your guests are going to need a meal and something to drink. Traditional “punch” that is served at parties is made up of several kinds of juices and sodas that contain high fructose corn syrup, artificial coloring, and lots of sugar. So let’s replace the sugary drink with a fruity, fizzy, and light alternative that will refresh and not weigh you down!
1 bottle Champagne/sparkling wine
1 liter pomegranate juice
4 mint leaves
1 orange, zest and juice
1. Combine the orange zest and juices in a large container with the mint leaves and add the pomegranate juice.
2. Right before serving, add your sparkling wine or champagne.
Note: Pomegranates are filled with antioxidants and are one of the foods that you should be consuming on a regular basis. With this drink you can change it up any way you like. You could use a not-from-concentrate juice that you prefer, or you could try a distilled spirit like vodka or gin. The combinations are endless! If you decide to go with a lighter drink, you’ll be able to drink more and not worry about feeling bloated!
Now for the meal! I believe when hosting a casual party where you are going to have a large number of guests to entertain, that you shouldn’t have to serve plated meals. The answer to this is called Family Style. Large plates or pots, filled with a good amount of food, where your guests can serve themselves. This allows them to choose what they want to eat and how much of it!
To start off the meal, use a fresh, palate-cleansing salad. A bright and delicious salad will awaken the taste buds and have your guests salivating for the main course!
Fennel, Orange, and Arugula Salad with Grapefruit Vinaigrette
1 Fennel Bulb, cored and sliced paper thin
4 Oranges, Zested, Segmented
2 Bags cleaned Arugula
½ Cup Dried Cranberries
½ Cup Toasted Sunflower/Pumpkin Seeds
4 Ruby Red Grapefruits
2 T Whole Grain Mustard
1 T Salt
½ t Black Pepper
¼ Cup Olive Oil
1. To start, place your sunflower seeds on a sheet pan and put them in a 350° oven for 4-5 minutes or until lightly browned. While that is going, you can start slicing your fennel.
2. Take your fennel bulb and trim the top green stems off … you won’t need them. Next cut the rough bottom of the fennel bulb off. Take your knife and cut the bulb in half lengthwise. When you cut it open you will see that there is a core on the inside, almost in the shape of a triangle. Carefully take your knife and remove it, it’s much too tough to eat. Now that your fennel bulb is ready, take your knife and slice it paper thin, or as thin as you can. Put aside and start with your oranges.
3. Using a micro plane or zester, zest all your oranges, making sure not to get any of the bitter pith underneath. When finished, take your zest and put half in a bowl for the dressing and half in a large bowl for the salad. Next you want to segment your oranges. Take your knife and cut the top and bottom off of the orange. Then use your knife to carefully cut down the sides, leaving you with all the segments of the orange attached without any skin. Now take your knife and a make a cut on each side of the segment releasing it. Take all your segments and put them in the bowl with the orange zest and fennel.
4. Now that everything is ready, it’s time to make your vinaigrette. Slice your grapefruits in half and juice them into a bowl. Add your orange zest, mustard, salt, and pepper. Whisk it together, and then start adding your olive oil, streaming it in and whisking at the same time to make an emulsion. The mustard will help to bind it together. Your salad is done. You can place the fennel, orange, and cranberries on the lettuce in a bowl in the fridge. When you’re ready to serve, toss it with the vinaigrette and top with the toasted sunflower seeds. You really can get all these ingredients ready the night before and assemble when you’re about to eat.
Note: This salad is extremely simple and very impressive! Your guests will be in awe at the combinations you’ve put together. The fennel when sliced raw has a fresh anise flavor and a voracious crunch to it. Paired with the citrus from the orange and the peppery arugula, it’s sure to make for one lovely bite.
This salad is also very light and acidic; to balance, you need a dish that’s a little heartier. Around this time of year we want something comforting to eat, which usually relates to weight gain. I’ve found that you can make comfort food in healthy ways, by using leaner meats and tons of vegetables, and in this case, beans.
White Bean Chicken Chili
2 T Olive Oil
4 Pounds Ground Chicken
2 Yellow Onions, small dice
2 Green Bell Peppers, small dice
1 Yellow Bell Pepper, small dice
1 Red Bell Pepper, small dice
1 Jalapeño, minced
8 cloves Garlic, smashed
4 T Tomato Paste
1 Large can Whole Tomatoes
2 Cups Chicken Stock
2 Cans Cannellini Beans
1 T Cumin
1 T Cayenne
1 T Chili Powder
Pico di gallo
1. To start this hearty chili, dice all your veggies and sweat them in a large pot with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and when they are translucent, remove and set aside.
2. Turn the heat to high and add your ground chicken. Leave the chicken in the pot for a minute or two to let it brown a little before stirring around and breaking it up. Use a wooden spoon to break up the meat and cook it uniformly.
3. Next add your tomato paste and stir it in to combine and let it brown a little. Add your spices and vegetables that were set aside. Stir to combine and then add your canned tomatoes and chicken stock. Bring to a boil and then turn down to a simmer for an hour and a half. Finish with garnishes.
4. Serve your chili right out of the pot you cooked it or in a large dish. Put all your garnishes in separate dishes. Have your guests ladle it into bowls and garnish it themselves. This will provide interaction and whimsy to your meal.
Note: This chili is full of flavor and is comforting. Don’t worry about this dish being heavy, it’s a warming and healthy dish that will delight you with flavor and not increase your waist size.
Time for candy! Halloween is by far the time of year when we consume the most candy. Although it is not healthy, you have to be able to celebrate and have you what you love! The key is to eat what you love in moderation.
One type of candy that actually has some health benefits is dark chocolate. Yes chocolate can be good for you! I used to work for Godiva and I have a great passion for chocolate.
A simple candy that you can make to impress your friends is a chocolate bark. Using a dark chocolate you can actually make a dessert that is good for you! Dark chocolate is full of antioxidants and can help relieve stress and balance your hormones. Antioxidants, as we know, fight off nasty free radicals, which enter our bodies on a daily basis. By eating foods that contain antioxidants, we help to fight off disease causing pollutants in the body. Add a few foods high in antioxidants into your regular diet and you will be doing your body good!
Dark Chocolate Bark with toasted pistachios and dried cherries
1 pound dark chocolate
1 cup pistachios, toasted and chopped roughly
1 cup dried cherries, chopped roughly
Note: Buy good dark chocolate when making this recipe. If the chocolate comes in a block, chop it up. If it is in chip form, leave it the way it is.
1. Place ¾ of the chocolate in a metal bowl and place it on a saucepot filled a fourth of the way with water. Bring the water to a boil and turn it off.
2. Stir the chocolate so it doesn’t burn and it melts evenly. When the chocolate is melted completely, take it off the heat and stir in the remaining non-melted chocolate. This is called tempering, and will give the chocolate a nice shine and make sure it sets correctly. The chocolate should be about 84 degrees to set perfectly and be shiny.
3. Spread the chocolate out onto a clean, greased sheet pan or one lined with parchment paper. While the chocolate is still warm, sprinkle the dried cherries and chopped, toasted pistachios evenly over the chocolate. Let the chocolate cool for at least an hour to harden completely.
4. When the chocolate is done you can break it into various size pieces and serve it to your guests.
Note: You’ll want to make a ton of this bark because it will be gobbled up in no time; it’s delicious!
Making candies seem to be really challenging but they are in fact really easy and rewarding. This recipe is simple and comes out perfect every time! You can swap out ingredients to make it your own, like using toasted pumpkin seeds and golden raisins. The possibilities are endless!
Now that you have some ideas on what to do for your Halloween bash, go out there and throw a crazy party! Your friends will be talking about it for years, and for all the right reasons! When you learn how to entertain healthily, you’ll find that you will want to entertain more frequently because you won’t be worried about eating “guilty” foods and your friends will sure appreciate the delicious food.
Stick to a few simple rules and you’re in the clear:
– Remove your junk food from the equation and replace it with simple, high protein snacks!
– Add antioxidants into your life and fight those nasty free radicals!
– Don’t deprive yourself of the food you love; eat with moderation!
Now that you have a simple game plan, make this Halloween your own personal start to a healthy living!
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