Nutrition Corner: Mindful appetizers with everyday ingredients

Mary R. Ehret Nutrition Corner

Need to bring an appetizer to a holiday get together? Getting ready to ring in the New Year? Want to do it right? If you’re like our family, it’s important to be mindful about both the cost and the nutritional value of the appetizers.

Let’s first look at what an appetizer should be. Often people feel it needs to be the entire meal; they fill up on them and the hunger pains disappear. The word appetizer means a small dish of food or drink taken before a meal to stimulate one’s appetite. It is often eaten by hand.

Hors-d’oeuvre is another name for an appetizer or starter to the meal. Other cultures use these words as well: Italian – antipasto;,Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine – meze and Spain- Tapas.

Recipes for appetizers right for your pocket book, taste and health can be tough to find.

Often recipes ask for one or more ingredients we need to buy and use only once. This can be costly and wasteful. Let’s look at building appetizers from ingredients we have on hand and are tasty.

Take a look at foods you typically have on hand. Bread, garlic, onions, herbs, canned tomatoes and beans may be a few. Some kitchen pantries might be a bit more extensive. It’s a good choice if the recipe calls for an ingredient you typically use. For instance, this recipe involves grilling a French baguette, but you can use any bread you have on hand.

This second recipe calls for vegetables we typically have on hand, as well. If you don’t have these on hand, be creative. Try different vegetables, herbs and spices such as green beans, lettuce, radishes, corn; dill, oregano, basil, mint, curry or chili powder.

Making appetizers that are healthy and don’t cost a fortunate is possible. Look for recipes that call for ingredients you commonly have. Enjoy!

White Bean Bruschetta

1 whole-wheat French baguette, cut into 12 thin slices along the bias

1/4 cup olive oil, divided

1 cup white onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 cup canned navy beans, rinsed and drained

2 tomatoes, cored and cubed

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Slice the baguette on the diagonal into thin slices (about 12 slices for a baguette).

In a large sauté pan, heat 2 T of the olive oil over medium heat.

Place the bread slices in the pan and cook on medium high heat until sizzling and golden. Before flipping the bread, add an additional tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and cook the second side until golden.

For the topping, cook the onions and the remaining tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat until the onions are soft, about 7 minutes.

Add the garlic, basil and oregano and cook another minute or two, until fragrant.

Add beans and continue cooking for another five minutes on low heat. Add the tomatoes and turn off the heat, allowing tomatoes to warm without cooking.

Drizzle the balsamic vinegar into the pan and gently stir.

Scoop heaping spoonfuls of the tomato-bean mixture onto the grilled bread and enjoy.

Crunchy Vegetable Wraps

4 tablespoons cream cheese, low-fat (whipped)

2 flour tortillas

1/2 teaspoon ranch seasoning mix

1/4 cup broccoli (washed and chopped)

1/4 cup carrot (peeled and grated)

1/4 cup zucchini (washed and cut into small strips)

1/4 cup summer squash (yellow, washed and cut into small strips)

1/2 tomato (diced)

1/8 cup green bell pepper (seeded and diced)

2 tablespoons chives (chopped fine)

In a small bowl, stir ranch seasoning into cream cheese; chill. Wash and chop vegetables. Steam broccoli in microwave for 1 minute with 1 tablespoon of water. Spread cream cheese onto flour tortilla, staying one inch from edge. Sprinkle vegetables over cream cheese. Roll tortilla tightly. Chill for 1-2 hours before serving (the wrap will hold its shape better). With a sharp knife, slice into circles and serve.

Mary R. Ehret Nutrition Corner R. Ehret Nutrition Corner

Mary Ehret is the Penn State Extension Nutrition Links Supervisor in Luzerne, Lackawanna, Monroe, Carbon, Sullivan and Bradford counties. Reach her at 570-825-1701 or at

Mary Ehret is the Penn State Extension Nutrition Links Supervisor in Luzerne, Lackawanna, Monroe, Carbon, Sullivan and Bradford counties. Reach her at 570-825-1701 or at

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