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BYOD: Bring Your Own Dish!

These healthy recipes prove that you don't have to give up special, traditional treats.

Holiday treats may have seriously derailed your clients’ healthy eating intentions. In an effort to get things back on track, here are some mouth-watering recipes sure to please the palate. Offering optimum flavor, presentation and nutritional value, these dishes are so delicious you will probably adopt them as go-to treats.

Note that nutrition percentages are not included. Our intention is to educate and empower you and your clients to make nutrient-dense food choices instead of assessing calories first. All recipes, except the first appetizer, are vegan and gluten-free (the first recipe provides a gluten-free option).

All recipes are the property of Teri Gentes. To reprint them, please request permission at www.terigentes.com.


Appealing Appetizers

Mindless snacking at cocktail parties can be a common pitfall for many. What better way to prevent overeating of the wrong foods than by BYOD (bringing your own dish). Following are some fabulous-tasting recipes that won’t leave you feeling deprived!

Bite-Size Bruschetta Baskets (vegan, gluten-free)

Quick and easy to prepare, this flavorful combo is yummy over pasta, tempeh, fish, grilled veggies . . . or whatever you can imagine.

Note: This appetizer stores well in the refrigerator for 4–5 days, so prepare ahead if your schedule is busy, or double the recipe for use later in the week.

1 long, thin artisan loaf or baguette, cut into 1½-inch-thick rounds,    soft centers scooped out or pressed to create a small hollow
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons (tbs) freshly grated Parmesan cheese cayenne    pepper, freshly ground, to taste
½ cup organic sun-dried tomatoes (packed in oil), snipped into thin    slices
3 tbs balsamic vinegar
¼ cup spicy tomato sauce or sun-dried tomato pesto
1 ripe avocado, diced
¼ cup red onion, finely chopped
2 teaspoons (tsp) fresh garlic, minced
1 vine-ripened tomato, seeded, drained and chopped fine
2 tbs Kalamata olives and/or capers (optional)
freshly ground pepper, sea salt
¼ cup basil pesto sauce
fresh basil for garnish

VGF Option:

Instead of bread, use 30 endive leaves or try mushrooms or cucumbers (centers hollowed
out). Omit Parmesan cheese.

Brush bread “baskets” lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and cayenne. Toast lightly in hot oven or under broiler for a few minutes. Set aside to cool. In glass serving bowl, mix together all remaining items except basil. Adjust seasonings to taste. Spoon topping into bread baskets, endive leaves, cucumbers or mushroom caps. Garnish with basil. Serves four to six.

Black-Bean Salsa Dip (vegan, gluten-free)

To avoid high-calorie creamy dips and cheese trays full of saturated fats, try this delicious, high-fiber, antioxidant-dense dip. Easy to prepare, it will keep for 3 days in the fridge. This is a perfect make-in-advance dip.

1–2 tsp minced garlic
1 (15-ounce, oz) can organic black beans, drained and rinsed well
½ cup fresh salsa
2 tbs fresh lime juice
½ cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
1½ tsp ground cumin
chili pepper, fresh or dried, to taste
sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
fresh cilantro for garnish

Measure all ingredients into food processor, except sea salt and pepper. Process until smooth. Season to taste and transfer to serving bowl.

Garnish with fresh cilantro and serve with veggie crudités, organic tortilla chips or Mary’s Gone Crackers. Makes about 2 cups.

Taste-Tempting Side Dishes

The holidays can bring a number of luscious dinner parties. The dilemma is that most foods offered on these occasions are loaded with all the wrong things—saturated fat, low-quality calories and sodium. Consider creating these delicious sides designed to nourish your body and not your hips.

Bejeweled Avocado Salad–Stuffed Red Peppers (vegan, gluten-free)

½ cup red or white onion, chopped medium-fine
2 ripe avocados, diced into ½-inch cubes
2 large fresh tomatoes, chopped, juices strained
1 cup cilantro leaves, chopped, plus
   additional leaves to garnish
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
½–1 inch finely chopped jalapeño pepper, to taste
¼ cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed
½ tsp sea salt, plus generous grind of fresh pepper, or to taste
1 tsp ground cumin, to taste
2 cups mixed salad greens
2 large red peppers, halved down center, seeds removed (trim bottom to sit level, if needed)

Toss onion, avocado, tomatoes and cilantro together in glass or stainless-steel bowl. Whisk garlic, jalapeño, lemon juice and seasonings together. Pour over avocado salad and gently mix. Adjust seasoning to taste.

Serve over handful of mixed salad greens or stuff into bell peppers. Garnish with cilantro leaves. Makes four generous servings.

Curried Quinoa Salad (vegan, gluten-free)

This “main-meal salad” is protein- and nutrient-rich as well as abundant in healthy essential fatty acids and disease-fighting antioxidants. Quinoa is a gluten-free grain rich in all nine essential amino acids, B vitamins, phytonutrients and fiber. Add this vegan dish to your dinner, or stuff salad into veggies, nori leaves or Ezekiel wraps and proportion it as an appetizer or a snack. Makes about eight servings.


1½ cups water
1½ cups uncooked quinoa, rinsed well and drained
1 (15 oz) can organic black beans, rinsed well and drained
1 large red onion, chopped
1½ cups fresh cilantro, snipped
1 large red pepper, diced
2 large tomatoes, diced
½ cup organic apricots, snipped into slivers


1 tsp each of garlic and fresh ginger, minced or shredded
1 cup organic orange juice, freshly squeezed
4 tsp curry paste (or substitute 1 tbs curry powder)
3 tbs red-wine vinegar
5 tbs quality olive oil or hemp oil
1–2 tsp liquid honey (preferably raw, local and unpasteurized)
1 tsp sea salt, or to taste
black pepper, freshly ground
8 large lettuce or radicchio leaves
cilantro leaves, sprouts and orange zest for garnish

Measure water into saucepan. Add quinoa and bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat, cover and simmer approximately 10 minutes, or until water is absorbed. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, prepare vinaigrette by mixing all ingredients together in small jar with lid. Shake well to combine. Taste, and adjust seasonings as needed.

Once quinoa is cool, assemble salad by tossing quinoa, beans, onion, red pepper, tomatoes, apricots and dressing in large bowl. Chill until serving time, at least 1 hour.

Arrange each serving of salad in large lettuce or radicchio leaf and garnish with cilantro, sprouts and orange zest. Serves eight.

Creamy Cauliflower Purée (vegan, gluten-free)

A terrific substitute for heavy, butter-laden potatoes, this light take on mashed spuds serves up fewer than half the calories but with all of the flavor. Make these your new holiday tradition and don’t tell—your guests may not even realize they aren’t eating potatoes.

1 large head cauliflower, cut into 1- to 2-inch florets (5–6 cups)
2–4 cloves garlic, peeled
2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth or water
1 tsp gray sea salt, plus more when puréeing
¼ cup olive oil
¼ tsp freshly ground pepper
1 heaping tbs fresh herbs, to garnish

In large sauce pot or steamer, place cauliflower, garlic, broth or water and sea salt. Cover and bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer 10–15 minutes or until tender. Stir occasionally to ensure even cooking. Drain, reserving cooking liquid.

Pureée in two batches in food processor until smooth, scraping down sides as needed. With motor running, add ¼ cup cooking liquid, half the olive oil, pepper and pinch of sea salt to each batch. Adjust seasoning to taste. Transfer to serving dish, top with herbs and serve hot. Can be made ahead and kept warm or reheated on low. Serves six.

Note: If you don’t have access to food processor, substitute handheld blender. Kick up purée flavor with 1–2 teaspoons or two of Keen’s dry mustard powder, curry powder or a little Parmesan cheese.

Oh-Wow! Holiday Sweets

Of all the holiday food challenges, nothing can kill willpower for most people like nutritionally void sweets. Following are some amazing treats that address the cookie and calorie conundrum. These goodies can also serve as a perfect host/hostess gift.

Nut–Butter Dates With Macadamia Nuts (vegan, gluten-free)

24 pitted fresh medjool dates or boxed soft dates (found in produce    section)
¼ cup raw cacao nibs
¼ cup raw almond or macadamia butter
cayenne pepper, to taste
macadamia nuts for garnish

Halve each date, fill each with sprinkling of cacao nibs and top with small spoonful of almond butter. Sprinkle with cayenne pepper as desired.

Arrange on serving platter garnished with macadamia nuts. Makes 48 date halves.

Sweet ’n’ Spicy Maple Nuggets (vegan, gluten-free)

These fantastic little gems are super-easy to make, and the spices will boost your immune system. Double the recipe, buy some decorative glass jars and ribbon, and fill them for delectable “made with love” gifts. Store nuggets in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.

4 cups raw nuts (combine almonds, pecans, walnuts, etc. . . . your    favorites)
½ cup unhulled sesame seeds
1/3–1/2 cup maple syrup or unprocessed natural honey
1/2–3/4 tsp sea salt
3/4–1 tsp each of ground cinnamon, ginger and cardamom powder
½–3/4 tsp cayenne or crushed chili pepper flakes, to taste

Preheat oven to 300–325 degrees Fahrenheit. Line large baking sheet with 1- to 2-inch-high sides with parchment paper.

Combine nuts, sesame seeds, maple syrup or honey, and seasonings in large bowl, stirring well. Spread out evenly onto baking sheet, place into oven and bake 15–20 minutes, stirring occasionally. When finished baking, stir nuts again and let cool. Makes 14–16 ¼-cup servings.

Note: Sesame seeds not used in the photo shown.

Organic Cocoa-Coconut Gem Truffles (vegan, gluten-free)

2/3 cup organic cocoa powder (or raw cacao powder)
1 cup almonds, ground
¼ cup organic coconut, small flakes
3/4 cup pitted fresh medjool dates or boxed soft dates (found in    produce section)
3 tbs extra-virgin organic coconut butter, gently warmed to melt
¼ tsp sea salt
soft hemp seeds, to roll balls in or to sprinkle on bars, if desired

Combine cocoa powder, ground almonds and coconut flakes in large food processor.

Add dates, coconut butter and sea salt; purée until mixture sticks together. If needed, add a little more melted coconut butter or dates to adjust texture to desired stickiness and level of sweetness.

Roll into 1-inch balls or 2-inch patties, or press into 8- x 8-inch square baking dish and cut into bars. Roll balls/patties in hemp seeds, or sprinkle seeds over bars. Chill for minimum of 1 hour.

Store in refrigerator or freezer for up to 2–3 weeks—if they last that long!

Tip: Soaking/sprouting the almonds for 8 hours removes some of the enzymes that inhibit nutrient absorption. Makes approximately 24 truffles (or if bars are preferred, fills one 8- x 8-inch baking dish).

PHOTOGRAPHY: Andrea Nguyen (unchanged image), Creative Commons


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