Casual summer dining sometimes feels anything but, if it means you have to spend time toiling in a hot kitchen while guests and family hang out on the patio. To spare yourself the stress, consider these five appetizer recipes for you next picnic, potluck, or pool party.
1. Best from-the-Backyard: Tomato Salad
Don’t know what to do with all those heirloom tomatoes you’re starting to harvest? Showing off your growing skills with this quick, easy and uber-healthful salad (lycopene, a nutrient abundant in tomatoes, has been shown to protect against both heart disease and cancer).
1. Cut 1 pound of tomatoes into half-inch-thick slices.
2. Arrange on a plate and sprinkle with a pinch of salt.
3. Top with 2 ounces fresh goat cheese; 12 fresh basil leaves, cut into thin strips; 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil; 1½ teaspoons balsamic vinegar; and fresh, cracked pepper.
Note: There are 209 calories per serving.
2. Best Seafood: Wasabi Salmon Bites
Low in calories and saturated fat, yet high in protein and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, salmon plus wasabi equals healthy—with a bit of heat, for pizzazz.
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. In a medium bowl, mash together one can or pouch (6 to 7½ ounces) pink or red salmon, drained and chunked; 4 ounces light cream cheese, softened; 4 scallions, finely chopped; 2 teaspoons reduced-sodium soy sauce; 2 teaspoons rice vinegar; and 1½ teaspoons wasabi paste.
3. Use the mixture to fill one box (1.9 ounces) of mini phylllo shells.
4. Place on a baking sheet, and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the pastry is golden and the filling is hot.
5. Serve immediately.
Notes: Adjust the amount of wasabi to your liking. There are 165 calories per serving.
Recipe Courtesy of the Rodale Healthy Recipe Finder.
3. Best Classic, Defatted: Cornflake Chicken Drumsticks
Fried chicken drumsticks may be a picnic staple, but they’re a diet disaster. Try these, they’re lighter—but still finger-lickin’ good.
1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
2. Combine 1 quart milk and 4 eggs, mixing thoroughly.
3. In a bowl, combine 1 pint flour and 2 cups crushed cornflakes.
4. Dip each of 24 drumsticks in the milk/egg mixture then quickly roll it in the flour/cornflake mixture.
5. Place the drumsticks on a sheet pan, and bake for 25 minutes, or until they’re cooked through and golden brown.
Note: There are 591 calories per serving.
4. Best con Cerveza: Miniature Black Bean Burritos
For a protein- and fiber-packed crowd pleaser, try these black bean burrito bites.
1. In a large nonstick skillet, combine 2/3 cup onion, minced; 2 gloves garlic, minced; and 2 tablespoons chicken or vegetable broth.
2. Cook, stirring, over medium heat for 3 minutes. Add 2 cups black beans, cooked; 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/8 teaspoon ground coriander; and 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
3. Remove from the heat and mash the beans.
4. Next, place 4 flour tortillas (6 inches in diameter) on a paper towel.
5. Microwave on high power for 30 seconds, or until warm.
6. Spread each tortilla with the bean mixture.
7. Roll up then cut each roll into 4 pieces.
8. Top with dollops of salsa and fat-free sour cream. Sprinkle with chopped fresh cilantro.
Note: There are 124 calories per serving.
5. Best Grilled Veggie: Asparagus Swathed in (Optional) Prosciutto
This summer staple packs a lot of healthy bennies (it’s an excellent source of folate, for instance, which protects both the heart and the spinal health of unborn babies) into its slim frame. It’s quick to grill, and full of flavor without much fuss. If you want extra zing, wrap the stalks in prosciutto before serving.
1. Coat a ridged grill pan or barbecue grill with olive oil spray and heat to medium.
2. Place 24 large asparagus spears on a plate, drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil, and season to taste with salt and ground black pepper.
3. Roll in the oil to evenly coat. Grill the asparagus, turning once or twice, about 5 minutes, or until lightly charred and just tender.
4. Transfer to a plate and let cool.
5. Cut each of 12 large, paper-thin slices of prosciutto in half, and roll prosciutto around each asparagus spear.
Note: There are 116 calories per serving.