Healthy Dinner Party Menu:
– Raw vegetables with garlic-white bean hummus
– Mixed green salad with fresh herbs, fennel, orange and citrus vinaigrette
– Braised Chicken and Vegetables
– Fresh Berries with Balsamic Glaze and Maple-Almond Yogurt
Tips for healthy dinner parties
The food you serve is, of course, the highlight of your healthy dinner party. Here are some tips for making your healthy dinner party meals feel extra-special.
Healthy Dinner Party Menu for Six
Appetizer: Raw vegetables with garlic-white bean hummus
This hummus is made with cannellini beans which are mild in flavour and very tender, so the texture is super-smooth. I like to pump up the flavour with a lot of lemon and garlic.
- 2 cans (15-ounce, 425g) cannellini or small white beans
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, lightly smashed with the side of a knife
- juice of one lemon
- ½ cup (12g) fresh basil leaves
- ¾ teaspoon salt, or to taste
- freshly ground pepper
- Fresh vegetables for dipping: sliced cucumber, carrot, bell peppers; cherry tomatoes; celery stalks; lightly steamed asparagus spears, broccoli florets
Drain liquid from beans, rinse under cold water, and drain thoroughly. Put beans, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, basil, salt and pepper into blender or food processor, and blend until thoroughly smooth. Serve with vegetable dippers.
Notes: For a really attractive presentation, I like to serve the hummus in a bowl made from a small, hollowed out head of purple cabbage (or you could use a bell pepper). Put the cabbage bowl in the centre of your serving plate, and then surround it with your vegetable dippers.
Mixed green salad with fresh herbs, fennel, orange and citrus vinaigrette
Everyday salads are usually just some mixed greens with dressing, but adding a few unusual ingredients – fresh dill, shaved fennel and orange slices – makes this salad dinner-party worthy.
For the salad dressing:
- 1/3 cup (80ml) extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon sugar, honey, or agave syrup
- 1 teaspoon grainy mustard
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
For the salad:
- 12 cups (350g) mixed baby lettuces and greens (try to find mixes with an array of colours and textures – lettuces, kale, spinach, and radicchio). Wash, rinse, and chill several hours ahead, so the leaves will be as crisp possible.
- 2 fennel bulbs, tops removed, bulbs sliced paper-thin across the grain
- 2 fresh oranges, peeled, cut in half and thinly sliced
- 1 Tablespoon fresh dill leaves
Place all dressing ingredients in the bottom of a salad bowl large enough to hold the salad ingredients and mix well with a spoon or whisk. Add lettuces, shaved fennel, orange slices and dill. Toss thoroughly and serve immediately.
Braised Chicken and Vegetables
Chicken in a white wine sauce tastes “fancy” – but it’s easy to make. I prefer white wine for this dish, although you can use red if you like. I like to load it up with lots of vegetables so that it’s a true one-dish meal. If you have them, this is really nice when served in wide, shallow bowls.
- 6 chicken breast halves, bone-in, skin removed
- ½ cup flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 12 carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise, and cut into 2” (5cm) lengths
- 1 yellow onion, peeled, cut in half and thinly sliced
- 4 stalks celery, cut into 2” (5cm) lengths
- 2 leeks, white part only, cut into 1” (2.5cm) lengths
- 12 large white or brown mushrooms, cut into quarters
- 1 shallot, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 2 cups (500ml) chicken stock
- 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
- ¼ cup (15g) chopped Italian parsley
Pat chicken pieces dry with a paper towel. Chop each breast half into two pieces. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, salt, pepper and paprika.
In a large heavy casserole, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Dredge the chicken pieces on all sides in the flour mixture, then brown in small batches one each side (if you crowd the chicken pieces, they won’t brown). Remove the chicken pieces from the casserole and set aside.
Add the carrots, onions, celery, leeks, mushrooms and shallot to the casserole and stir for 5-7 minutes to allow the vegetables to soften. Add the chicken stock and white wine. Bring liquid to a boil, cook and stir to loosen any browned bits on the bottom of the casserole. Add tarragon, and then arrange the chicken pieces on top of the vegetables. Lower the heat to medium-low, cover the casserole, and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until chicken is cooked through. Garnish with fresh parsley.
Fresh Berries with Balsamic Glaze and Maple-Almond Yogurt
This dessert is simple, but it makes a statement. Trust me on the balsamic vinegar – its flavour isn’t as sharp as other vinegars, and when cooked into syrup with a little sugar, it brings out the sweetness of the fruit. If fresh berries aren’t available, you can simply thaw out some frozen ones. This is good made with peaches, too.
- 1 cup (240ml) balsamic vinegar
- 4 Tablespoons brown sugar
- 6 cups fresh mixed berries
- 2 cups (450g) non-fat, plain Greek-style yogurt
- ¼ cup (60ml) maple syrup
- ½ teaspoon almond extract
- thinly sliced zest from one lemon
In a small saucepan, combine balsamic vinegar and brown sugar. Place over medium heat, bring to a simmer, then lower heat to low and let simmer for 20 minutes or so, stirring a few times, until vinegar mixture is reduced by about half. The mixture should be syrupy. Pour balsamic glaze into a small bowl, and set aside at room temperature to cool. Can be made ahead of time.
Gently stir together the yogurt, maple syrup and almond extract. Can be made up to a few hours ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator. When ready to serve, divide the fruit among 6 serving dishes. Drizzle the balsamic glaze over the berries, and then top with the maple-yogurt. Sprinkle with lemon zest and serve.
Susan Bowerman is Director of Nutrition Training at Herbalife. Susan is a Registered Dietitian and a Board-Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics.