Healthy Holiday Appetizers

How about serving appetizers you can feel good about this holiday season? No Cheese. No meat. No dairy. Try one or more of these FIVE plant-based goodies!

1. Vegetable Sushi


(Serves 6 to 8)




One-third cup rice vinegar
Two teaspoons sugar
One teaspoon salt
One and one-half cup uncooked sushi rice
One and one-half cup water
Four sheets toasted sushi nori

One-half cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into thin, three-inch sticks
One or two carrots, peeled and cut the same general size as the cucumbers
One avocado, cut into long, thin slices

For serving:
Tamari (to taste)
Wasabi paste (to taste)

Special tools:
Bamboo rolling mats


1. Rinse the rice in a colander and drain.

2. Cook the rice in the water according to package directions. Transfer cooked, hot rice to a large, wooden bowl and mix in the rice vinegar, the sugar and the salt. Mix and fan the rice with a towel until it is cool enough to handle. Cover the bowl with a wet kitchen towel.

3. Wrap the bamboo mat with plastic wrap. Lay sushi nori down onto the bamboo mat (slats running crosswise), shiny side down, rough side up. Line the edge of the nori up with the closest edge of the bamboo mat. Lightly moisten fingers with water, and evenly press one-quarter of the rice onto the nori, leaving one inch uncovered at the far edge. Line up the fillings about one inch from the closest near edge.

4. Beginning with the near edge of the mat, tightly roll up the nori, rice and fillings into a cylinder. Firmly tug on the rounded mat over the roll as you pull on the far edge of the mat to tighten the roll. Open the mat to reveal the finished roll.

5. Cut each sushi roll crosswise into eight pieces with a sharp knife.

6. Serve with tamari and wasabi.

To learn how to roll sushi, watch this video.
Recipe is based on this one from the Food Network.


Cook’s Tip:

I like to prepare my sushi early in the day, and cut it into pieces just before serving. Before cutting each roll into pieces, you may wrap the uncut cylinder in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator up to 8 hours.

2. Baked Falafel With Tahini Sauce


(Serves 8 to 10)


One and three-quarter cups dried chickpeas
Two garlic cloves, chopped
One small onion, quartered
One tablespoon cumin
Scant teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
One cup chopped fresh parsley
One and one-half teaspoons salt, divided
One-half teaspoon black pepper
One-half teaspoon baking soda
One tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Four tablespoons olive oil
One-half cup tahini


1. Put the chickpeas in a large bowl and cover with water by 3 or 4 inches—the beans will triple in volume as they soak. Soak for 12 to 24 hours, checking once or twice to see if you need to add more water to keep the beans submerged.

2. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Drain the chickpeas and transfer them to a food processor with the garlic, onion, cumin, cayenne, parsley, one teaspoon of the salt, pepper, baking soda, and lemon juice. Pulse until everything is minced but not pureed, stopping the machine and scraping down the sides if necessary.

3. Grease a large rimmed baking sheet with 2 tablespoons of the oil. For dinner-sized portions, roll the bean mixture into 20 balls, about one and one-half inches each, then flatten them into thick patties. For appetizer-sized portions, roll the mixture into about 40 balls, flattening each into small patties. Put the falafel on the prepared pan and brush the tops with the remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Bake until golden all over, 10 to 15 minutes on each side.

4. Meanwhile, whisk the tahini and remaining salt with ½ cup water in a small bowl until smooth. (I also like to use my Nutri-Bullet for mixing this sauce.) Taste and adjust the seasoning and serve the falafel drizzled with the sauce.

This is based on Mark Bittman’s recipe.


Cook’s Tip:

Rolling these into the appetizer-sized portions requires some patience. They will want to fall apart as you flatten them into patties. Press them into reasonable shape. After the first 10 or 15 minutes of baking and before flipping all of them, flip one to test how it holds together. If it falls apart, leave them on the same side and cook for another five minutes. This extra cooking time should allow you to flip the patties without crumbling for the second half of cooking.

3. Garlic Nut Mix


(Makes 5 cups)


Three tablespoons soy sauce
Three tablespoons maple syrup
Three-quarter teaspoon garlic powder
Large pinch cayenne pepper
Two cups shelled dry-roasted unsalted nuts (maybe peanuts,
cashews and almonds)
Three cups small salt-free pretzels


1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

2. Combine the first four ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir well to combine.

3. Stir in the nuts and pretzels and toss quickly to coat them evenly. Spread on a non-stick baking sheet and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the coating is fairly dry.

Let cool, then break apart any nuts that have clumped together. Store in jars until needed.

This recipe is inspired by VegKitchen.


Cook’s Tip:

After twenty minutes, be careful the mixture does not brown too much. If the mixture is not dry enough to your liking after twenty minutes, set the timer for five minutes more. They should be just perfect after that. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 30 minutes. The moisture will dry completely after the cooling period.

4. Cruditè and Dill Dip


(Serves 6)


For Dip:
One cup vegan cream cheese
One cup vegan sour cream
A few tablespoons almond milk for thinning (if desired)
One and one-third teaspoon dried dill
One teaspoon garlic powder
One tablespoon dried parsley
One teaspoon seasoned salt
One-half cup sliced raw scallions
Four to five dashes vegan worcestershire sauce


Mix everything (almond milk optional) and refrigerate overnight (if you have time). Serve with Carrots, celery and any other raw, crunchy vegetables you like.


Cook’s Tip:

I saw this serving suggestion on the Today Show. Place two or three tablespoons of the dip into a fluted glass and put the raw veggies down into the dip. Serve one glass to each guest for easy dipping!


5. Walnut Fig Bars


(Serves 24)


One cup softened Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Spread
One cup granulated sugar
Two cups all-purpose flour
One cup finely chopped walnuts
One-half cup fig jam (raspberry jam is also good)


1. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

2. Add the flour, and mix thoroughly. Stir in walnuts.

3. Spread one-third of the batter in a greased nine-inch square pan.

4. Spread fig jam on top of that first layer of batter almost to the edge of the pan.

5. Completely cover jam with remaining batter.

6. Bake at 325 degrees for 50 minutes.

7. Cool and cut into squares.


Cook’s Tip:

Covering the jam layer with the rest of the batter (step five) is a little tricky. Work in sections. Take a little batter from the bowl, flatten it with your fingers some before placing it onto the jam layer. Keep working it in sections like that until the whole layer is complete. Press any seams together using wet fingertips.


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