Fun and Festive Finger Foods

These light bites will perk up your party table

By Elaine Magee, MPH, RD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Expert Column

We do a lot of standing around and visiting with friends, family, and co-workers this time of year, don't we? And what are we doing with our hands while we are visiting? We're enjoying all those lovely finger foods. So many goodies and only 10 fingers!

I love finger foods. You don't have to commit to an entree, a whole slice of pie, or an entire roll. You don't even need silverware -- grab a napkin and you're good to go. Finger foods invite us to enjoy a cute and petite portion of the appetizer du jour. Can't argue with that!

In honor of festive gatherings all over the country this season, here are a few lightened finger foods to perk up your party table. I've given these tried-and-true recipes a nutritional nip and a tuck, substituting reduced-fat ingredients where possible; reducing the butter, margarine or sugar ? you get the picture.

Wishing you all a happy holiday and a healthy New Year!

Lite (Liverless) Pate

The original recipe for this appetizer came from one of our Weight Loss Clinic members who posted on the Recipe Doctor message board. It sounded so good I just had to try it for myself. The light version worked wonderfully, so I want to share it with all of you.

2 cups shredded roasted, skinless, and boneless dark chicken meat (2 thighs and 2 drumsticks works well)
Pinch cayenne pepper
1/4 cup low trans-fat margarine with 8 grams fat per tablespoon (such as Take Control)
1/4 cup light cream cheese
1 teaspoon dry mustard
Dash celery salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (or more to taste)
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves (or more to taste)
1/2 cup chopped sweet onion
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons brandy (add a tablespoon more, if desired)
1/3 cup dried currants or other dried fruits (such as cranberries)

  • Add all ingredients to a large food processor bowl. Blend until mostly smooth.
  • Spoon into serving bowl and chill at least six hours. Serve with thinly sliced bread and/or wheat crackers (preferably reduced-fat and higher-fiber).

Yield: 8 servings

Per serving: 129 calories, 10 grams protein, 5.5 grams carbohydrate, 6.5 grams fat, 1.5 grams saturated fat, 33 milligrams cholesterol, 0.6 grams fiber, 57 milligram sodium (not including celery salt). Calories from fat: 50%.

Curried Chicken Finger Tea Sandwiches

2 roasted boneless and skinless chicken breasts, shredded (about 2 cups)
3 tablespoons light mayonnaise
1 to 2 tablespoons fat-free sour cream
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 to 2 teaspoons curry powder (depending on taste)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
8 slices whole-wheat or multigrain bread
1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and cut into slices
1/2 cup alfalfa sprouts

  • Put chicken, mayonnaise, sour cream, Dijon, and curry powder into large food processor bowl and pulse until nicely blended. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Spread chicken mixture on four slices of bread. Place avocado slices on top of chicken and top with sprouts. Cover with remaining bread slices. Trim crusts with serrated knife, and cut each sandwich into quarters on the diagonal.
  • Serve immediately or cover well and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Yield: 8 servings (2 sandwiches per serving)

Per serving: 198 calories, 15 grams protein, 19 grams carbohydrate, 7 grams fat, 1.6 grams saturated fat, 32 milligrams cholesterol, 3.3 grams fiber, 245 milligrams sodium. Calories from fat: 33%.

Easy Cheesy Ball

What's a holiday party without a cheese ball? If you only have a large food processor, double the recipe and make two cheese balls. If you want to add some zip, add a couple tablespoons of crumbled bleu cheese or a splash or two of Tabasco.

8-ounce package light cream cheese
2 tablespoon low trans-fat margarine with 8 grams fat per tablespoon
1 1/2 teaspoons instant cheddar cheese sauce mix (use the envelope from a macaroni and cheese mix, or cheddar cheese powder from the store's spice section)
1 cup shredded, reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh parsley (or 3/4 teaspoon dried)
2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onion
1/4 to 1/3 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

  • Put cream cheese, margarine, cheddar cheese powder, cheddar cheese, lemon juice, parsley, and green onion in small food processor bowl. Process until nicely blended. Put chopped nuts into a shallow bowl.
  • Shape cheese mixture into a ball or log using clean hands, then roll it in the chopped nuts. Wrap well with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve with lower-fat, higher-fiber crackers.

Yield: 12 servings (1 cheese ball)

Per serving: 92 calories, 5 grams protein, 2 grams carbohydrate, 7 grams fat, 3.3 grams saturated fat, 14 milligrams cholesterol, 0.2 grams fiber, 147 milligrams sodium. Calories from fat: 69%.

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