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Healthy Holiday Appetizers

By Jamie Miller, Village Health Clubs and Spas Dietician

Christmas cookies, prime rib, eggnog… traditional holiday party foods can be quite heavy and not so great for our health. But with some creativity, you can still enjoy tasty dishes that will also help avoid putting on any unwanted pounds by the time New Years comes along. Whether you’re hosting a holiday bash or in need of something special to bring to a festive gathering, Village dietitian Jamie Miller has five healthy holiday appetizers to cook up this season.

Caprese Salad Wreath

  • 2 10 ounce cartons grape tomatoes, wash and dried
  • 1 10 ounce container small mozzarella balls
  • 15-18 fresh basil leaves
  • 1 ½ cup balsamic reduction (recipe to follow or store bought)
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
  • 1 ½ tablespoon olive oil, divided

For the caprese salad:

Drain mozzarella balls and place in a small bowl. Sprinkle with Italian seasoning, 1 tbsp olive oil, and toss to coat. Add balsamic reduction to a small bowl, and place it in the center of a platter. Arrange grape tomatoes around the bowl forming a wreath shape. Nestle the seasoned mozzarella balls and basil leaves in between and on top of the tomatoes. Place skewers under the tomatoes. Drizzle with remaining olive oil and add salt and pepper if desired. Chill until ready to enjoy.


For the balsamic reduction:

Heat the balsamic in a nonstick saucepan on medium heat to a light boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat and continue to cook until reduced by ½ of the original quantity. The balsamic should be thick but pourable. If you reduce too much, whisk in more balsamic to thin. Cool before serving. Serve in a dipping dish as shown in the picture or drizzle over the wreath.

Roasted Shrimp with Romesco Sauce

Romesco Sauce

  • 1 small garlic clove
  • 1 (12-ounce) jar roasted red peppers, drained
  • 2 tablespoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 can drained fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
  • ¼ cup flat leaf parsley



  • 2 pounds (12 to 15 count) shrimp
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp smoke paprika
  • Lemon wedges for serving
  • Optional: chopped parsley for serving

Romesco Sauce

Pulse everything together in a blender until it’s mostly smooth, but still slightly chunky with the texture of the almonds. Taste and adjust salt. Refrigerate until ready to serve.


Roasted Shrimp

Preheat an oven to 400 degrees. Peel and devein the shrimp, leaving the tails on. Place shrimp on a sheet pan. Drizzle with the olive oil, salt, pepper, and paprika and use tongs or hands to toss until the shrimp are evenly coated with the oil and spices. Spread shrimp in one layer. Roast for 8 to 10 minutes, just until pink and firm and cooked through. Arrange on a serving platter and sprinkle with chopped parsley. Serve with the romesco sauce and lemon wedges.

Caramelized Shallot Yogurt

  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 large shallots, finely chopped (about 2 cups)
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cups low-fat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon sliced chives, plus more for serving
  • Sliced vegetables and whole grain crackers (for serving)

Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium. Add shallots and season generously with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally and reducing heat if needed, until shallots are golden brown and tender, 15–18 minutes. Let cool slightly. Mix shallots and vinegar into yogurt in a medium bowl; season with salt and pepper. Stir 1 Tbsp. chives into yogurt; divide among bowls and top with more chives. Serve with sliced vegetables and whole grain crackers. Note: Yogurt (without chives) can be made 3 days ahead; cover and chill.

Spinach Artichoke Dip

  • 1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
  • 2(10 oz) packages frozen, chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 1 cup low fat cottage cheese
  • 1/2 cup plain low fat Greek yogurt 
  • 1(14-ounce) can artichoke hearts
  • 1/4 tsp salt & pepper (or to taste)
  • 2 tsp garlic powder

Lightly coat a skillet with cooking spray. Cook onion over medium heat til transparent (about 5 minutes). Add spinach. Cook until thoroughly heated (about 1-2 minutes). Remove from heat and add remaining ingredients, then stir to combine. Transfer to a 1 1/2-quart microwave-safe bowl (or baking dish) and bake or microwave until warmed through right before serving. Serve with sliced veggies, whole grain crackers, or baked chips.

Savory Spiced Nuts

  • 2 1/2 cups mixed raw nuts (such as pecans, cashews,  walnuts, peanuts, etc)
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tbsp honey or maple syrup (or monk fruit for sugar free option)
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp  cayenne pepper

Preheat an oven to 300°F. Place nuts in a bowl. In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, warm the olive oil. Add rosemary and stir until aromatic, about 1 minute. Pour seasoned oil over the nuts. Add sugar, cumin, salt, black pepper and cayenne and stir to coat the nuts evenly. Transfer the nuts to a baking pan. Bake, stirring occasionally, until the nuts are toasted, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a plate and let cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days. Makes about 2 1/2 cups.

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