Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Girls Just Want to Have Fun... And Wine... And Snacks... And Wine.
Dear Tricia, Can you recommend savvy healthy snack options to compliment wine night with the girls?
Why of COURSE I can! Not only am I a pro at combining entertaining and food, but I'm also a pro at drinking wine. Sure, I know a lot about it, but I'm just better at drinking it.
So we've got a few things to pay attention to here: savvy, healthy, and for my and every other young professional's sake: convenient. This helps me narrow it down, because I prefer to just set out an entire wheel of brie with a knife. (And that's just when I'm drinking wine without any guests coming over.) For healthy, you can't really go wrong with a homemade bruschetta. Fresh tomatoes, fresh basil, olive oil, balsamic vinegar... it's healthy, its colorful, and its refreshing because right now its like 150 degrees outside and no one wants hot artichoke dip.
So, for a very simple version of homemade bruschetta, (pronounced "broos-ket-a", not "brush-etta"), here's what you'll need:
4 ripe Roma tomatoes (Smell them to check if they're ripe. Do they smell like a tomato? Are they soft, but not mushy?)
1/8 cup fresh basil, chopped (You can find it in the produce department of the grocery store in little plastic containers.)
1 teaspoon of garlic powder
3/4 teaspoon of salt
2 Tablespoons of olive oil
1 Tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
1. Chop the Roma tomatoes into pieces. How small? Well, small enough to make them easy to scoop up with a piece of bread or pita bread, and small enough so that its not messy when you eat it. That's how you have to think when you're cooking: how can I make this easy to eat? (And that goes for you, Mr. Sushi chef who always makes spicy salmon rolls the size of coaster.)
2. Rinse and dry the basil. Pull the leaves off the stems (just throw them away or discreetly leave them in your nosy neighbor's mailbox), and chop the basil in to pieces as small as you can get them. Don't worry about them getting stuck in your teeth when you eat the bruschetta. Everyone's going to be eating it, so you'll all have green flecks in your teeth together. Consider it a bonding experience.
3. Mix the chopped tomatoes, chopped basil, garlic powder, salt, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. Then let it sit in the fridge for about 30 minutes until you taste it. When you let bruschetta (or salsa too) sit before you eat it, the flavors blend together like the members of The New Kids on the Block. Sure, you can put them out on stage and they'll sound OK, but when you give them some time to rehearse (especially after a 15 year hiatus), they're going to sound completely awesome. And don't laugh at that: I'm serious. I know that everyone of you had a little crush on Jordan Knight.
4. After the bruschetta sits, take it out and taste it. Does it need more salt or garlic? Go ahead and add it. A recipe is just a guide: its what you do to make it your own that makes you a rock star in the kitchen. Serve your bruschetta with slices of baguette (get fancy and toast them in the oven for a few minutes), or pita chips, or anything that tickles your fancy. Have fun with it.
If you don't have time to put anything together, like if I come over unannounced because I need a drinking buddy or need to talk about my boyfriend, there are some really helpful things to have on hand to make a quick antipasto platter. Things like canned artichoke hearts, mixed olives, and hummus can make a really beautiful plate to serve for snacks and they're very healthy. A great way to serve artichoke hearts, cold and right out of the can, is just to drain the water out, cut them in quarters, and toss them in a little Italian dressing. You can get fancy and serve sliced prosciutto or with them, add some mixed olives in a cute dish, and then throw some fresh cut red bell peppers on the plate too to serve with some hummus. All these are things you can buy in the store: you just have to open the containers and put them on a platter. And no matter how lazy you are (I'm talking to myself here), its really simple and takes less than 5 minutes. Some of the more upscale grocery stores even have antipasto bars with all kinds of goodies that you can package up yourself and just pay by weight.
Let me break down the nutritional information on these two snacks:
Bruschetta: Even though there's some salt in it, the recipe is predominantly tomatoes, so you're getting lycopene, polyphenols (antioxidants that counteract things like your skin drying out from having too much wine on girl's night), Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K (helps prevent bruising if you happen to run into doorways on occasion like I do), fiber, and each tomato is roughly only 25 calories. Fresh basil also has plenty of Vitamin K in it to help keep away those naughty little random bruises.
Antipasto platter: Again, this plate definitely has some salt in it, but the olives are super high good fats that take care of your skin, hair, nails, and even help your metabolism. Hummus has lots of Vitamin A, protein and complex carbohydrates (so you'll feel full), fiber, and the fat content is almost entirely unsaturated.
If you're not already the most popular girl at wine night, this will definitely push you to that level. And if you're not comfortable being the most popular girl at wine night, just take a cue from... we'll call her "Sue"... and bring a lame bag of pretzels every time. Yeah, you know who you are...