5 Grain-Free Appetizer & Party Foods

February 22, 2016

By Anna Varriano

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Every year, I host a ‘February Blah-Buster’ Party. I love everything about this party – the planning, the food prepping, the music I listen (and dance!) to while I’m food prepping, the wonderful company, the stories that are shared throughout the evening, the connections that people who have never met before end up discovering they have in common (it was decided that there are only 3 degrees of separation in Ottawa!), and the leftovers … in fact, I am snacking on some as I write this post…don’t they look good? :o)

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This year, for the very first time, a few guests told me they really appreciated the fact that all of my appetizers were grain-free/gluten-free/wheat-free as they have been trying their best to avoid these items for a number of health reasons. I’ve been putting on more-or-less the same spread for years, so it is interesting that (a) no one ever noticed the absence of grain/wheat/gluten before; and (b) no one ever felt like something was ‘missing’.

Here are the items that I served and some ‘tricks’ to their preparation:

Devilled Eggs

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This was the first plate of food to get eaten up! So easy to  make: hard boil the eggs, cut in half, plop the yolks into a bowl and mix with just enough mayo (organic is best) so that they are creamy. I added some curry powder, turmeric, and unrefined sea salt to the yolk mixture, then piped it back in. The hardest part was peeling these eggs because they were so fresh, but a tip I learned from Martha Stewart at some point along the way helped with that. Gotta love Martha!

Smoked Salmon Lettuce Wraps

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Everything was provided for guests to make their own wraps. The cream cheese was organic, and I had a frozen gel pack under the marble slab to keep it (and by association, the salmon and the cream cheese) cold all night. Lettuce leaves make a great alternative to pita, wraps, breads, and/or crackers that would typically be served here.

Bocconcini, Tomato, and Basil Skewers

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Grab a bunch of toothpicks and skewer each one with a cherry or grape tomato, some fresh basil, and a mini-bocconcini (I cut them in half). If you want to avoid dairy, replace the bocconcini with a pitted olive. Drizzle the skewers with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar (I used a fig infused balsamic) and sprinkle with a touch of unrefined sea salt.

Roasted Asparagus Wrapped in Prosciutto

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Snap off the ends of fresh asparagus, rinse the asparagus, put them in a big bowl and toss them with a bit of olive oil, unrefined sea salt, and fresh cracked pepper. Then spread them out on a parchment paper lined baking sheet, and roast in a 350F oven for 6-7 minutes (you still want them to have a bit of crunch). Remove from the oven, let cool completely, then wrap in prosciutto. I cut each slice of prosciutto cross-wise into three pieces, i.e. I used 1/3 of a slice to wrap each asparagus spear.

Something Sweet

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Fresh fruit and a Dark Chocolate, Almond & Sea Salt Bark was enough to satisfy the sweet tooths. Funny how there was some fruit left over at the end of the night, but not a morsel of Chocolate Bark!

I also had a veggie & dip platter, hummus, tabouleh, a cheese platter, and a couple of shrimp bowls. A few notable things here:

  • dip for veggies was made by adding Epicure’s 3 Onion Dip Mix to organic sour cream and yogurt. No MSG, GMO ingredients, or other weird fillers in this mix. If you’re looking for an Epicure rep, email me and I’ll connect you with one. Epicure offers great alternatives to many of the unhealthy spice mixes sold in the grocery store
  • here’s my recipe for hummus
  • to make wheat-free tabbouleh, substitute the bulgar with cooked quinoa, I should really post my recipe for this, but in the meantime, here’s one that sounds similar. I usually don’t add cucumber or mint to mine and go a bit heavier on the parsley
  • I put a bowl of cut up red, orange, and yellow bell peppers between the hummus and tabbouleh to use as ‘dippee thingies’ instead of the typical pita wedges
  • organic cheese … and I did have some gluten-free crackers out here; however, they were barely touched given the other options available
  • I usually avoid shell-fish, but there are some serious shrimp lovers among my guests. Too keep the shrimp fresh all night, I put them in a bowl and then pushed that bowl into a larger bowl filled with snow as pictured below. If you eat shrimp, check out this guide to help you make the best choice possible for your health and the environment.

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Hope you’ll try some of these and enjoy! Have an appetizer idea you’d like to share with me? Email it to me and I’ll share it on my Facebook page – or in a future blog – with your permission of course!

Bon Appetit!

 

 

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