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A healthier and creative twist on holiday entertaining

Posted December 18, 2013 in Advice Column, Downtown

We find ourselves in the middle of holiday season and the peak of holiday parties. A big trend this year for holiday entertaining is to serve a do-it-yourself food bar. These parties are a great option at holiday time because you can make the bar as simple or elaborate as you wish. Customize the menu to provide healthy options for partygoers and then guests are able to choose their own plates to their preferences, making this an ideal option for anyone with food allergies or dietary concerns.

Most DIY food bars can be kid-friendly if your invite list includes people of all ages. They also can be served at any time of day. Host a holiday brunch to free up the rest of your day for shopping, wrapping and other items on your holiday to-do list. A few brunch bar ideas can include a pancake or waffle bar, breakfast burrito bar, yogurt parfait bar or oatmeal bar, with all your favorite toppings.

Go beyond the usual mealtime ideas and serve an upscale mashed potato bar. Use elegant serving dishes and utensils to make this fun. Try serving the potatoes in martini glasses and let guests top them how they wish with meats, cheeses, vegetables and sauces.

Beverage bars can also be included along with any of your parties. For kids and those who are still kids at heart, serve a hot cocoa bar with fun mix-ins. For your adult-only parties, provide a bubbly bar with a variety of fruit juices and sparkling wines. Dessert bars and appetizers are perfect for parties where a full meal is not required. Crostini, or toasted bread with toppings, is a popular appetizer offering and can be a delicious and healthy option, with the right ingredients. By incorporating lean meats or fish, cheese and roasted vegetables, party guests can have a complete, custom-built meal. Try this spread for one of your toppings at a crostini bar at your holiday party.

The information is not intended as medical advice. Please consult a medical professional for individual advice.

Whipped Blue Cheese Spread
Makes approximately 1-½ cups spread
Adapted from Chobani.com
2/3 cup Chobani non-fat plain Greek yogurt
2/3 cup crumbled Maytag blue cheese
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Pinch of black pepper
3 tablespoons 1% milk
3 tablespoons dried cranberries, chopped
3 dried apricots, thinly sliced

Prepare blue cheese spread by blending yogurt, blue cheese, olive oil and black pepper in a food processor until combined. With processor running, drizzle in milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, until desired consistency is reached; it should be thick, but fluffy and spreadable.

Gently stir in dried cranberries and apricots. Transfer to a serving bowl. Serve with crostini toasts and assorted toppings.

Information provided by Anne Cundiff, RD, LD, Fleur Drive Hy-Vee, 4605 Fleur Drive, Des Moines, 515-285-7266, acundiff@hy-vee.com.

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