By Ying Compestine
Nobody wants to spend the holidays stuck in the kitchen, yet year after year, tradition keeps many of us strapped to the stove for the season. And with all the big meals and fat-laden foods that the holidays bring, it's not surprising to begin to feel as heavy as one of your kitchen appliances. It's time to entertain without all the fat and the fuss. These vegetarian appetizers are light, flavorful and fun—and the perfect solution for an easy celebration with friends and family. The following nonintimidating recipes are creative in presentation and will fool your guests into thinking you've been a slave to the stove, when instead you've made it simple.
Pan-fried Tofu with Mango-Ginger Salsa
1. In a medium-size bowl, mix together the salsa ingredients. Cover and refrigerate.
2. Cut tofu into 8 thin, rectangular pieces.
3. Heat 1-1/2 tablespoons canola oil in a nonstick cooking pan over medium-high heat and swirl to coat pan. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
4. Line bottom of pan with tofu pieces. Pan-fry until golden brown. Add remaining 1-1/2 tablespoons canola oil, turn, and pan-fry other side, about 3 minutes each side.
5. Place pre-baked tofu on a serving plate. Top with Mango-Ginger Salsa and garnish with minced green onion.
Nutrition Facts Per Serving: Calories: 202; Fat: 12g; % Fat Calories: 54%; Cholesterol: 0mg;
Avocado Bruschetta with Roasted Pepper Sauce
1. Place all sauce ingredients in a blender or food processor, and process until smooth. Cover and refrigerate.
2. In medium-size bowl, toss avocado, and tomato chunks with lemon juice and olive oil. Season with salt.
3. Using a knife, spread about 1 tablespoon of sauce on each slice of toasted bread. Arrange the avocado garnish on top. Serve immediately.
Nutrition Facts Per Serving: Calories: 113; Fat: 4g; % Fat Calories: 29%; Cholesterol: 0mg;
12 (8-inch) round, dried rice-paper wrappers
1. To make the filling, cover the bean thread noodles with hot water and soak until softened, about l5 minutes; drain. Cut into 3-inch lengths. Place with rest of filling ingredients in a bowl. Stir lightly to mix.
2. Soak a sheet of rice paper in warm water until soft, about 1 minute. Carefully transfer the rice paper to a dry cutting board.
3. Arrange 1 basil or mint leaf horizontally along the bottom third of the rice paper, with top side of leaf facing rice paper so that the leaf is seen through its translucent skin. Cover them with 2 to 3 tablespoons of filling. Fold both sides over the ends of the line of filling. Tightly roll up the rice paper to form a cylinder, as you would to form an egg roll or a blintz. Assemble the remaining spring rolls the same way. Cut each spring roll in half on the diagonal. Serve with Thai Sauce.
Nutrition Facts Per Serving: Calories: 95; Fat: 3g; % Fat Calories: 26%; Cholesterol: 0mg;
1 tablespoon canola oil
1. Heat a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add canola oil. Add the chile and garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add honey, juice, vinegar, soy sauce and lemon juice. Bring to a boil.
2. Let the sauce cool. Cover and store in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator.
Nutrition Facts Per Serving: Calories: 22; Fat: 1g; % Fat Calories: 44; Cholesterol: 0mg;
Broiled Shiitake Mushroom Stacks
1. For fresh mushrooms, wash and discard stems. For dried mushrooms, soak mushrooms in warm water until softened, about 15 minutes, then drain. Discard stems.
2. Combine all marinade ingredients in a bowl. Mix well. Spoon on top of mushroom caps. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes or longer.
3. Preheat broiler. Place mushroom caps, stem sides up, in a greased baking pan. Spray lightly with cooking spray. Broil with tops 4 inches from heat until light brown, about 5-6 minutes.
4. To serve, stack cucumbers on a serving plate, topping each with a mushroom and tomato slice; use leftover tomatoes and cucumbers to decorate the plate in an alternating pattern.
Nutrition Facts Per Serving: Calories: 53; Fat: 4g; % Fat Calories: 61; Cholesterol: 0mg;
Ying Chang Compestine is the author of Secrets of Fat-Free Chinese Cooking (Avery 1997), The Runaway Rice Cake (Simon & Schuster 2001), and The Story Of Chopsticks (Holiday House 2001).