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Liven up your party with a healthy holiday buffet

By Sue Knorr



As the familiar holiday song goes, "It's the most wonderful time of the year!" And no, I'm not referring to the now iconic "back-to-school" TV commercial for a certain office supply store. I mean, let's face it, 'tis the season to celebrate by spending time with friends and family and partaking of all sorts of gastronomic delights. It's enough to make health-conscious people everywhere cringe at the thought. If it's your turn to host this year's annual holiday neighborhood open house or the family Christmas Eve buffet and you feel like you are faced with the dilemma of what to serve, take a deep breath and relax. Try these suggestions for an easy, no-fuss, healthy holiday buffet. Many of the foods can be purchased ready to serve with little or no prep time required. You won't find Aunt Betty's famous cheesecake here, but I have included a recipe for a simple and delicious baked custard to add that homemade touch to your dessert table. Best of all, these are all Zone-friendly choices that you can enjoy guilt-free. Remember, everything in moderation. One last caution, these are not the usual flour- and sugar-laden party foods, so be prepared for alert guests and lots of interesting, lively after-dinner conversation. Happy holidays from my house to yours!

Buffet Table
Choose several items from each category. Garnish your dishes with pomegranate seeds, cranberries and sprigs of rosemary for a festive, holiday look. Holly and poinsettias are toxic plants. It's best to keep them off the table, especially when children are around.

Meats, fish, eggs
Deli style turkey
Lean deli-style ham or prosciutto
Poached wild-caught salmon, served cold
Smoked salmon
Smoked trout
Sardines (packed in water)
Herring (avoid those with added fats and sweeteners)
Shrimp cocktail platter garnished with lemon wedges
Tuna salad: Canned water-packed tuna, drained and mixed with some olive oil and capers
Egg whites filed with hummus (discard yolks)

Vegetables and Salads
Crudites; colorful peppers, celery, broccoli, cauliflower and cherry tomatoes, served with a dip of plain yogurt with garlic powder, lemon juice, S & P and herbs mixed in.

Fennel salad: Toss 2 heads raw fennel thinly sliced, 1 chopped green apple and two chopped stalks celery with a dressing of lemon juice, olive oil, 1 minced clove garlic and S & P

Cherry tomatoes, halved and tossed with a little olive oil, torn basil and cracked pepper

Antipasto platter of roasted red and yellow peppers, a variety of olives, marinated mushrooms, pepperoncini, artichoke hearts, marinated asparagus spears, cherry peppers and bite-sized ovals of fresh mozzarella (avoid items packed in oil)

Caprese salad: Slices of fresh mozzarella and flavorful tomatoes layered overlapping on a platter and topped with torn basil and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil

Condiments

One bottle each of extra-virgin olive oil and white balsamic vinegar with spouts appropriate for drizzling
Peppercorns in a grinder
Crumbled reduced-fat feta
Hummus
Dijon mustard



Beverage Bar

Still water

Sparkling water, plain or a variety with fruit-flavored essences added (avoid sweetened water)

Water with thinly sliced lemon served in a drink dispenser
Red wine
White wine
Lemon and lime wedges
Ice bucket filled with spring-water ice cubes



Dessert Table

Fresh pears cut in thick wedges, served with reduced-fat fresh goat cheese
Assorted varieties of grapes paired with several-reduced fat cheeses
Oversized strawberries served with the green tops on

Raw or roasted almonds, marcona almonds, spiced or curried almonds, macadamia nuts and cashews (avoid those with added fats and sweeteners)

An assortment of herbal teas -- ginger, peppermint and chamomile are good choices, also the candy-cane green teas

Baked custard -- If desired, serve raspberries or sliced strawberries alongside as a topping.

Baked Custard
Makes 8, 1-block servings of balanced protein, carbohydrate and fat. Serve warm or cold.

Ingredients

2 whole eggs
4 egg whites
2 tablespoons agave syrup
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 cups 2% milk
A few dashes of ground nutmeg


Optional, you can substitute 4 egg whites for the two whole eggs, giving a total of 8 egg whites in the whole recipe.

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

2. In a large mixing bowl using a whisk vigorously beat together the eggs, agave syrup and vanilla.
3. Whisk the milk into the egg mixture.
4. Pour into a 2-quart casserole dish.
5. Sprinkle lightly with nutmeg.
6. Bake at 325 in a pan of hot water for 1 hour or until a knife inserted in the custard comes out clean.