Labor Day is nearly here. For some, this means the last beach picnic or outdoor meal of the year. For many of us, it means coming up by next Monday with one more interesting salad or other vegetable dishes to serve outdoors in a casual way. In many cases, you want to please at least a couple of generations, from peers you may want to impress, to youngsters you want to persuade to eat a wider variety of vegetables.

Outdoors or inside, large or small, Labor Day gatherings often include crudites to munch on. Often, paper plates and plastic tableware are the service of choice. When they are and a green salad is served with dinner, I find eating the greens and vegetables, slippery with dressing, becomes a hit-and-miss proposition of awkward stabbing, plate tipping and clothes staining.

To give crudites a new look, or avoid the mess of salad bits falling overboard, use bamboo skewers and spear them through chunky vegetables. The result is entertaining for adults and kids alike, especially if you spear the bottom of these raw kebabs into a big, sturdy loaf of bread that serves as a centerpiece. That way, the skewered vegetables stand up, shooting out like colorful, edible fireworks.

For children, use grape tomatoes, variously colored bell peppers cut in squares, zucchini and carrots. For the very young, pull the vegetables off the skewers before they begin to eat them.

With adults, you may also include broccoli, cauliflower, whole mushrooms, marinated artichoke hearts, or fat asparagus that have been grilled or steamed. (Lightly steaming the cauliflower and broccoli will make them more palatable.) For convenience, use no more than three vegetables per skewer.

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Fiesta Salad on a Stick

Yield: Makes 12 servings.

Ingredients

  • 1 medium peeled carrot, cut into 12 pieces
  • 1/2 medium red bell pepper, seeded, cut into 12 squares
  • 1/2 medium yellow bell pepper, seeded, cut into12 squares
  • 1 small zucchini, cut into 12 pieces
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, seeded, cut into 12 squares
  • 1/2 fat cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into 12 pieces
  • 12 grape tomatoes
  • Fat-free ranch, creamy mustard, or Caesar salad dressing
  • 1 round loaf crusty rustic bread (optional)

Directions

  1. To assemble salad sticks, alternate light- and dark-colored vegetables and push them through skewers far enough down so top pieces are firmly speared. (If using bread, leave at least an inch at the sharp end which will be inserted into the loaf.) Place enough dressing for 12 servings into one large bowl or into 12 separate serving bowls to use as a dip for the vegetables.
  2. If using the bread, place it on a large serving platter. Insert the sharp end of each skewer into the bread at an angle, to mimic sparklers.

Nutritional Information Per Serving:
11 calories,
0 g. total fat (0 g. saturated fat),
2 g. carbohydrate,
less than 1 g. protein,
1 g. dietary fiber,
5 mg. sodium


AICR