When people gather for the summer's first barbecue party on Memorial Day, too often potato chips and dip are a typical starter to the meal. But this old stand-by is high in sodium and fat, especially dangerous trans fats, even if baked chips and low-fat dips are served. And this addictive combo packs in more calories than we realize.
I prefer to stuff an assortment of raw vegetables with a flavorful but healthful dip. This need not involve labor-intense tasks like stuffing cherry tomatoes or tiny potatoes.
Defining "stuffed veggies" more liberally allows you to use wedges of red, yellow and orange bell pepper cut into roughly triangular shapes. I "stuff" these peppers with a topping of spinach blended with yogurt and feta, which stays put and provides more low-calorie nutrition than most fat-free dips.
Stuffed celery offers another healthful opportunity and is a snap to assemble. Peanut butter filling sprinkled with a topping of finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes is surprisingly good. Or try canned salmon mixed with a dab of mayo and a touch of lemon juice. It is amazing how good this is with celery, and how pretty it looks garnished with a dash of paprika.
The more adventurous will love stuffed jalapenos. For this, cut 1/2-inch slices crosswise from the lower end of larger peppers, making cups that taper slightly. They won't even need seeding. Fill with the same salmon mixture and paprika as stuffed celery. Do not be surprised if these trigger a contest to see who can handle the most heat. Considering the good stuff in these "poppers," whoever wins this contest could do worse.
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Stuffed Red Pepper and Celery Sticks
Makes 20 servings as an appetizer.
- Canola oil spray
- 1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and cut in twelve 1-inch squares
- 4 cups washed spinach, packed (with some water clinging to leaves)
- 2 Tbsp. (1 ounce) crumbled feta cheese
- 2 Tbsp. fat-free plain yogurt
- 1/2 tsp. minced garlic
- 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 Tbsp. finely chopped walnuts, for garnish
- 2 celery ribs, cut in 2 1/2-inch lengths
- 1 can (7 oz.) pink salmon, drained
- 1/2 tsp. reduced-fat mayonnaise
- 2 tsp. lemon juice
- Paprika, for garnish
- Coat a medium skillet with cooking spray. Set pan over medium-high heat. Add spinach. Cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until leaves are wilted and bright green. Spread spinach on plate to cool.
- Squeeze moisture from spinach. Chop it finely and place in a bowl. With a fork, mix in feta, yogurt, garlic and oregano. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Press 2 teaspoons of the mixture onto each pepper square. Garnish with chopped nuts.
- Place salmon in a small bowl, remove skin and bones. With a fork, break up the salmon. Add mayonnaise and lemon juice. Mix until well combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (If the mixture seems a little dry, add slightly more mayonnaise.) Use 1 tablespoon of the filling for each piece of celery. Garnish with a dash of paprika.
- These vegetables keep, covered, in the refrigerator for 8 hours.
Nutritional Information Per Serving:
1 g. total fat (less than 1 g. saturated fat),
1 g. carbohydrate,
less than 1 g. protein,
less than 1 g. dietary fiber,
81 mg. sodium.
Diabetic Exchanges: 1/4 Fat