Mild Guacamole and a Southwest Babe Bowl

img_1757Cook’s notes: Sometimes guacamole with a lot of garlic and jalapeno is tough to digest. Lime juice is more authentic, but we only had lemon juice, and it still turned out well. This perfectly mild version is delicious and easy.

Serves 8

  • 4 ripe Hass avocados, halved and pitted
  • 4 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1.5 teaspoons dried cilantro
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt

Scoop the avocados and place in a medium bowl. Sprinkle the lemon juice over the avocado halves. Toss to coat with lemon juice. Sprinkle the dried cilantro and salt over the avocados. Using a fork, mash until a smooth consistency is achieved. Taste the guacamole “(over and over)” and adjust seasoning if necessary. Store leftovers in a covered container in the refrigerator. Stir before serving.

The next day, you can use the guacamole as part of an “Ultimate Babe Bowl” (balanced macro bowl) from Megan Kober, who is a registered dietician. “The whole purpose of a Babe Bowl is being able to pack loads of vegetables, fiber-packed starchy vegetables or grains, healthy fats and lots of protein into one meal,” Kober says.

Southwest Babe Bowl

Place the ingredients in a bowl, mix, and eat.

  • Protein | 4 oz. rotisserie chicken, skin and bones removed and meat cut into chunks
  • Healthy Fats | 1/4 cup mild guacamole
  • Vegetables | 2 cups baby spinach
  • Starchy Carbohydrates | 1/2 cup black beans (rinsed and drained) and 1/2 cup corn kernels
  • Bonus Bites | 1 to 2 Tablespoons homemade salad dressing, such as Small Batch Italian Dressing

Adapted from Chipotle — The Not-So-Secret Guac Recipe and The Nutrition Addiction


7-layer Greek Dip

IMG_0867Cook’s notes: Loaded with veggies and wonderful for parties. Serve with raw vegetables and pita chips for dipping.

Layer the following in an 8×8-inch dish:

  • 2 cups hummus
  • 1 cup fat-free plain Greek yogurt, mixed with 1 teaspoon dried shallots and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • Diced cucumber, about 1 cup (we spiralized 1 English cucumber and cut the spirals into bite-size pieces)
  • Cherry tomatoes, halved (1 cup)
  • 1/4 cup crumbled Feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup sliced Kalamata olives
  • Sprinkling of dried herbs



Chili-Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

Cook’s notes: These are wonderful in salads (instead of croutons) or as a snack.

2 cups raw green pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
2 teaspoons lemon juice (or lime juice)
2.5 teaspoons Mild Chili Spice Mix
1/2 teaspoon salt

Heat oven to 350°F. In a large bowl, drizzle lemon juice over the pumpkin seeds. Stir to coat. In a small bowl, blend the Chili Spice Mix and the salt together. Sprinkle the spice mix over the pumpkin seeds; stir until seeds are evenly coated. Pour seeds onto a rimmed baking sheet. Bake 10 minutes until lightly toasted, shaking the pan after 5 minutes.

Adapted from Everyday Food, October 2004. Like them sweeter? Martha Stewart has a recipe for pumpkin seeds with honey and cinnamon.

Small Batch Russian Dressing Dip

Russian dressing dip is excellent with baby carrots

Russian dressing dip is excellent with baby carrots

Cook’s notes: This healthier version of a popular salad dressing doesn’t have any added mayo or sugar. I had a leftover turkey Reuben with some baby carrots, and thought having Russian dressing would be a great dip for the carrots. This recipe is less sweet than commercial dressings.

Makes about 1/2 cup. No added mayo!

1/4 cup red pepper and basil hummus
1/4 cup plain, fat-free Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1.5 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons pickle relish
Ketchup to taste (one squirt, up to 1 Tablespoon)

Combine all ingredients in a small container. Stir together until well-mixed.

Menu Idea Roundup: Thanksgiving Appetizer Party

Cook’s notes: Two excellent discussions at Chow and at centered around having a Thanksgiving party with just finger foods and appetizers. As one reader noted, “a Thanksgiving cocktail party instead of the traditional gut-stuffing menu” sounds like a really fun idea. Notice that no one suggests a green salad! This party is one in which you have all appetizers for the menu.

For a regular Thanksgiving dinner, the suggestions for appetizers were consistent: a raw vegetable (crudite) platter with a light dip, shrimp cocktail, stuffed mushrooms, and spiced nuts.

I was inspired to take reader suggestions from both discussions, sort them by category, add a few ideas, and add links to recipes and other related sites. Remember, you would not serve all of these dishes at one party! (nor have I tested all of these recipes!)

When planning your party menu, pick a few items from each category. Diane Phillips recommends a cocktail party menu similar to the following:

  • 1 to 2 signature cocktails
  • 1 dip with veggies
  • 1 cheese platter with breads and crackers
  • 5 to 7 “small bites”, including spiced nuts
  • 2 dessert offerings

Since this appetizer menu is in place of a meal, you’ll want some substantial offerings. Pick at least one turkey dish. It’s Thanksgiving, after all.


Be sure to have at least one non-alcoholic offering for the designated drivers. Sparkling cider is easy: just pop the cork.

  • Autumn Sangria with figs, plums, and dried apricots (Recipe from Better Homes & Gardens)
  • Cider or sparkling cider
  • Cosmopolitans or cranberry martinis. Presentation tip: For the martinis, skewer cranberries on swizzle sticks and freeze.
  • Maiden Madras: Blend 4 oz cranberry juice and 1/3 c orange juice
  • “The Signature Cocktail”: Fill a 12-oz glass with ice. Stir together and pour in: 2 oz simple syrup, 1.5 oz cranberry juice, and 1 oz vodka. Top drink with club soda.
    Source: USA Weekend, Nov. 10 – 12, 2006, p. 7

SPREADS AND DIPS (1 dip plus veggies)
Presentation tip: Scoop out some mini pumpkins and serve dip in them

  • Baked Brie cheese topped with cranberry sauce appetizer, such as Cranberry Sauce with Cherries, Marsala and Rosemary (link)
  • Baked sweet potato fries with dipping sauces
  • Cranberry Chutney served over a block of cream cheese
  • Blanched Green Beans (link) served with an onion dip (link): these are green beans served as crudites instead of green bean casserole
  • Mediterranean 7-layer dip: layer hummus, scallions, cucumber, grape tomatoes, Kalamata olives, feta cheese, roasted red pepper, and chopped fresh parsley. Serve with pita crisps or flatbread. (This is “easy and a hit even with unadventurous eaters,” says Chow reader “intuitive eggplant”)
  • Pear chutney and goat cheese bruschetta (link)
  • Raw vegetable platter with a bowl of blue cheese dip (link) and Terra Chips (Sweet Potato, naturally)

SMALL BITES – Pick 5 to 7

Include 1 cheese platter with assorted breads and crackers.

  • Black Pepper Almonds (link)
  • Chicken wings or small drumsticks
  • Mini butternut squash and cheese tarts (link)
  • Mini corn muffins
  • Mini turkey sandwiches: 1) buttermilk biscuits flavored with sage and spread with cranberry sauce and dressing or
    2) whole wheat rolls with sliced turkey, cream cheese and cranberry sauce
  • Olives wrapped in cheese dough (link)
  • Orzo salad-stuffed tomatoes (link)
  • Potato pancakes (link) or sweet potato latkes (link)
  • Pumpkin bread
  • Relish tray: black olives, mini sweet pickles, and carrot sticks.
  • Fancy additions to the relish tray: Harvard Beets (link) or stuffed olives: Get fancy with green olives stuffed with blue cheese, whole garlic cloves, or whole almonds.
  • Shrimp Cocktail (the absolutely best recipe is by Alton Brown)
  • Spiced nuts or pumpkins seeds (18 recipes and counting here)
  • Stuffing-stuffed mushrooms (link)
  • Stuffing baked in muffin cups (such as Rachael Ray’s version)
  • Turkey Crescents with Cranberry Sauce (link)
  • Turkey Cutlets
  • Turkey Cranberry Pinwheels (link)


Presentation tip: Serve the soup shots in espresso cups with tiny cheese straws.

  • “Shots” of butternut squash soup (link)
  • Also suggested: chowders, creamy garbanzo bean soup, cream of mushroom, or pumpkin


  • Apple wedges and seedless grapes (fresh fruit)
  • Bakerella’s mini pumpkin pie bites (link)
  • Mini apple pies made in muffin tins
  • Nantucket Cranberry Pie made in muffin cups with whipped cream (link)
  • Pear slices with caramel fondue (link)
  • Pumpkin and pecan tarts (link)
  • Pumpkin pie cupcakes (link)
  • Mini pumpkin cheesecakes (link)