Beat Holiday Stress with Platters of Goodness
“I think it is more important to have fun and spend time with my guests at parties.” The Barefoot Contessa
The festive party season has officially begun. Lovely parties decked out in garlands of cedar and holly berries, beckon to us. Twinkling lights, laughter and rich holiday foods grace warm homes filled with party goers.
We might even be so inspired by the season as to deck our own halls and have a party. Whatever the case, going to or having a party, there is a definite art to it so you won’t get stressed out of your mistletoed mind.
One of the key components of a stress free holiday party is easy, healthy food. I know “easy” and “healthy” used in the same sentence with “holiday party” seems like an oxymoron, but it is possible. I assure you.
There are two festive dishes that you can serve at any party that will be received with big rosy smiles; the vegetable platter and the fruit and cheese platter. We’re not talking just any ole platter like you get from Safeway. We are talking an updated, healthy and sexy looking tray of merry foods!
These trays are easy to put together and filled with goodness that we all need this time of year. (Even if you are throwing your own party, focus on foods you can make before hand, so that you can spend more time with your guests.) These platters elevate to art work, with little planning and prep. Oh, and they don’t require any cooking. Easy, healthy and delicious; check.
First off, when planning the platter of your choice, think textures and colors. Start by choosing an interesting serving vessel. Large wooden cutting board or a bamboo tea tray are my favorite go to containers.
Let’s start with the lovely fruit and cheese platters. Pick out an array of different cheeses; a hard one, a soft creamy one, a mild one and a pungent one. Choosing local made cheeses adds even more interest to the tray or try making a cheese log for a kick. Let your cheeses come to room temperature for a few hours before serving.
Next, think fruit; colorful, different shapes, and the simpler the better. Choose fruits that are in season and are easy to pick up and eat. Grapes, apples and pear slices, figs and tangerines slices are good choices for this time of year. (To keep your pear and apple slices from turning brown, squeeze the juice of an orange over them and toss till well coated.)
Add some dried fruit, like cherries and apricots, then some nuts, roasted cashews and almonds are good picks. Choose some sliced breads or crackers for the platter as well. (“Bread and Ocean” in Manzanita has the most wonderful baguettes for this. I also love nut crackers, like “Blue Diamond Nut Thins” because they are healthy and have great crunch.)
The vegetable platters, or in French, “crudités platter,” are equally enjoyable to create. Once again, think colors and textures. Carrots of different colors, sliced in half lengthways, radicchio and Belgian endive cut into little scoops, cherry tomatoes, snow peas, lightly steamed green beans and asparagus, then julienned bell peppers and celery make great choices.
Make a dip for the vegetables that is sleek and different. Something like a “Green Goddess”, baba ganouj, or zesty orange hummus dip. (Recipe follows)
Now for the fun part, assembling your masterpiece. Allow your creative spirit to flow here. Pick some herbs, like sprigs of rosemary and sage, to arrange around the platter to add interest. Pomegranate seeds sprinkled around the herbs make a lovely holiday theme.
You can use leaves from the garden to place under the cheese, fruit and veggies. Make sure they are non-poisonous and pesticide free first! Our native salal is a great one to use; completely edible and evergreen. (Holly is slightly poisonous, so don’t use it.) Most of all enjoy the process and the different flavors you are presenting. I wish you a healthy and relatively stress free holiday season!
Zesty Orange Hummus
Adapted from Cooking Light. You can get all the spices, including the smoked paprika from Mother Nature’s. Great served with veggies or pita wedges.
½ onion roughly chopped
2-6 cloves of garlic
¼ cup of orange juice
2 tablespoons of rice vinegar
2 teaspoons of low sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons of tahini (sesame paste)
1 tablespoon of dried parsley
¼ teaspoon of ground ginger
¼ teaspoon of ground coriander
¼ teaspoon of turmeric
½ teaspoon of cumin
½ teaspoon of smoked paprika
Or regular paprika
1 15 ounce can of rinsed and drained garbanzo beans
Get down the old processor or a blender on steroids. Add the onion and the garlic to the food processor then whirl till diced up. As the processor is running, add the rest of the ingredients, one at a time till well blended. Serve sprinkled with smoked paprika, a drizzle of a really good olive oil and love.