It’s that time of the year: You’re hosting friends and family for holiday events, and you’re constantly on the go, but you want to prepare a nice, light meal and get it on the table fast. Well, we’ve got you covered. We’ve tapped hot caterer Little Gem NYC to share their favorite healthy holiday recipes to create a perfect lunch or dinner at home.
“Many of our clients have been asking for their holiday menus to incorporate something that’s not only delicious and festive, but also health conscious,” says Jordana Blitz, founder of Little Gem. Everyone wants to celebrate and treat themselves this time of the year, and there are actually many creative ways to offer snacks and sweets that are also diet friendly. “Our chef, Tolya Ashe, loves to cook whatever is local and in season from the greenmarket, and he is inspired to take that passion and translate it into these healthy holiday bites,” says Blitz.
Whether you’re hosting an intimate buffet lunch or a buzzy holiday cocktail party, here is a failsafe tip to keeping your cool while getting tasty food on the table: “Timing can be hard, even for a seasoned cook,” says Blitz. “Take temperature into consideration when planning your menu, and choose room temperature options to maintain your sanity.”
Charred Eggplant Dip
- 1 large organic eggplant, cut lengthwise into quarters
- ¼ cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 1 clove garlic finely grated
- 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon tahini
- ¾ teaspoon ground cumin
- Toasted sesame seeds
Preheat oven to 475°. Place eggplant on a baking sheet and toss with ¼ cup oil; season with salt and pepper. Roast until lightly charred and very tender, 20–25 minutes; let cool slightly. Chop eggplant (skin and all) until almost a paste.Mix eggplant in a medium bowl with garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, tahini, and cumin; season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with oil and top with sesame seeds, and serve with your favorite gluten free crostini (we love Le Pain Quotidien’s gluten-free bread).
Quinoa Chocolate Bark
- 8 ounces good quality dark chocolate, melted
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional
- ¼ cup popped or toasted quinoa
- ½ cup shelled pistachios, chopped
- ¼ – ½ teaspoon sea salt
Line an 8-inch pan with parchment paper. Mix melted chocolate with cayenne pepper and stir well. Pour chocolate into a prepared pan and smooth with a dry spatula. Top with popped or toasted quinoa, pistachios and sea salt. Chill for 30 minutes, or until set. Remove from pan and break into pieces.
To pop quinoa: Heat coconut oil in a popcorn popper or heavy-duty saucepan. Add quinoa and pop for about three to five minutes until the seeds become golden brown. (If you’re using a saucepan, you will want to cover it and shake frequently to prevent burning.) Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.
“This bark has lots of great antioxidants, and the quinoa and pistachio give it a terrific crunch so it has all of the bite of a junky snack without the junk,” says Blitz.
Curried Chicken Salad
- 2 chicken breasts
- 3 large dates
- 1⁄2 cucumber
- 1⁄2 apple
- 10 mint leaves
- 1⁄4 cup almonds
- 1⁄2 avocado
- 1⁄2 lemon
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for cooking chicken
- 1⁄2 teaspoon curry powder
- Cayenne pepper, to taste
- Sea salt and pepper
Rinse the chicken and dry well. Season both sides with salt and pepper. Heat a pan over medium heat with just enough olive oil to lightly coat. When oil is shimmering, add chicken breasts. Cook until no pink remains, turning halfway through (8 to 12 minutes). Set chicken aside to cool. Cut cooled chicken into cubes. Small-dice the dates. Medium-dice the apples and cucumbers. Roughly chop the mint leaves and almonds. Halve the avocado and lemon. In a blender or food processor, combine avocado, olive oil, curry powder, a dash of cayenne, and salt and pepper to taste. Blend until fully combined, optionally adding more olive oil to reach desired consistency. Place all ingredients in a large bowl and toss until fully combined.
“This chicken salad swaps mayo for avocado, and is perfect in lettuce cups or endive spears, which we use for a simple, gluten free offering,” says Blitz.