How to Throw a Heart-Healthy Cocktail Party

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On Thursday, June 14th, I’m delighted to be hosting the Westport Library’s Cookbook Club. The topic will be how to lower cholesterol with diet and exercise and I’ll be demonstrating a heart-healthy side dish/appetizer from my book, The Low Cholesterol Cookbook and Action Plan: 4 Weeks to Cut Cholesterol and Improve Heart Health .

As my husband and I are then hosting a book-launch party immediately following the event, I needed to plan a heart-healthy cocktail party. Clearly, two hors d’oeuvres mainstays—a cheese board and charcuterie platter—are off limits as both are very high in saturated fat.

It took a little time to plan, but in the end it wasn’t difficult to come up with equally delicious but far more heart-healthy menu of cocktail party hors d’oeuvres.  Here’s a starting point — consider these for your next party!

  • Crudité Platter featuring raw, sliced red and yellow peppers, cherry tomatoes, carrots, and celery, along with blanched string beans and broccoli. To hold dip, a red and/or yellow pepper with top and seeds removed, or a hollowed baby red cabbage.
  • Crudité dip option 1: Hummus (I buy organic hummus because I have not successfully made it to date—mine are always too garlicky or off somehow.) That said, it’s supposed to be easy to make and online recipes abound.
  • Crudité dip option 2: Roasted Eggplant Dip. I have two go-to recipes: Roasted Eggplant Spread, courtesy of nutritionist Dana White, and Roasted Eggplant, Garlic & Sun-dried Tomato Dip. This dip is easy (no chopping) and I like it even though I despise sun-dried tomatoes!
  • Almonds or other Heart-Healthy Nuts. These can be served either plain if you don’t have a lot of time, or are delicious roasted with spices.
  • Blistered Shishito Peppers. I am currently obsessed with Blistered Shishitos Peppers. Not only are they are easy to make, but they’re a great heart-healthy hors d’oeuvre choice as they deliver fiber and are made with just a scant bit of olive oil. Each batch takes about 15 minutes to blister, but it’s easy work and you can make them ahead of time and serve at room temperature or warm up in your saute pan. If you do make ahead, don’t add the salt until you are ready to serve.
  • Chips & Dip. For chips, choose multigrain, low-salt tortilla chips and/or pita chips and/or crackers.
  • Chip Dip – Option 1: Guacamole. Avocados are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and can help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol making guacamole a great heart-healthy hors d’oeuvre option.  Plus, ‘guac’ is crazy easy to prepare; I use this Cooking Light No-Frills Guacamole recipe and add in some chopped tomato. Check out other guacamole options in Cooking Light’s, 7 Healthy Guacamole Recipes article. Full disclosure: For this party, I’m purchasing Wholly Guacamole Classic Guacamole, Mild (12 oz. trays, 3 ct.) because I won’t have time to prepare it before the event… But do try making guacamole: the only tricky bit here on the East Coast is finding ripe avocados.
  • Chip Dip – Option 2: Green Sauce.  Make a double batch of Dana White’s delectable Green Sauce and unless your guests devour it all (which they might) you’ll be set for some tasty weeknight dinners. Use a little less water than the recipe calls for to make it dip-thick.
  • Cauliflower and Broccoli Tots. These are easy to make and a great side-dish or appetizer. The base recipe is on page 152 of my cookbook but I adapted to make it easier to make (instead of soaking the bread I use whole wheat bread crumbs) and added some spice options. Choose the flavor profile you like best: Tots with Italian-Style Spices, and Tots with Indian-Style Spices, or choose your favorite spices.
  • Shrimp or Poached Salmon. It used to be that shrimp was considered off-limits for those with high cholesterol because it is high in dietary cholesterol. However, dietary cholesterol is no longer considered problematic, so shrimp (and eggs) are heart-healthy protein choices. Shrimp is low in saturated fat, has no trans-fat and has been shown to increase HDL (good) cholesterol, making shrimp cocktail an excellent heart-healthy choice for a cocktail party.
  • Fruit and/or Pizzelle Waffle Cookies for Dessert. Cut up fruit is an obvious choice, but it’s not my thing so I’m also serving these vanilla flavored waffle cookies. They were inexpensive at Costco but Amazon carries Reko Pizzelle Italian Waffle Cookie Vanilla – 20oz (Kosher). With minimal saturated fat and no trans fat—which is usually an issue with baked goods—these are a great ‘cookie’ option.

If you live in Connecticut, please join me on Thursday June 14th for the Westport Library’s Cookbook Club event at 7pm at Wakeman Town Farm. If you’re not local, you can join in spirit by preparing any of these cocktail party dishes that I’ll be cooking up for the event!

For a heart-healthy cocktail party, ditch the typical cheese and meat platters, and give some (or all!) of these healthier hors d’oeuvres options a whirl.


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