Go Green: Big Flavor, Small Bites

Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with these fabulous low-fat treats, and your diet will be loaded with the luck of the Irish! Instead of fattening corned beef and green beer, try these green-themed goodies which will add a festive touch to any party. Low in calories but bursting with flavor, these impressive tiny tartlets are easy to assemble, with a delicious blend of spinach, artichokes and cheese. Trade green beer for Vodka Spearmint Punch, and your guests will think they have found a pot of gold!

Mini Spinach Tarts

Love the Spinach Artichoke Dip found in many restaurants? These mini tarts duplicate that fabulous flavor, and using light mayo keeps calories down. Quick to assemble, they start with pre-made wonton wrappers as shells, creating an impressive appetizer, and are delicious warm or at room temperature, making them perfect for your St. Patty’s party!

Ingredients:

36 wonton wrappers

1/3 cup light mayonnaise

1 teaspoon garlic salt

1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed & dried

1 can (14 ounces) artichoke hearts, drained & chopped

1⅓ cup shredded reduced-fat Mexican Cheese Blend

4 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufchatel)

1/3 cup red pepper, diced

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray mini-muffin pans with cooking spray. Gently press one wonton wrapper into each cavity. Bake 5 minutes. While wontons bake, stir together mayo and garlic salt in large bowl. Stir in spinach and artichokes. Gently fold in shredded cheese. Remove shells from oven; place small round ball of cream cheese (size of a dime in diameter) in bottom of each wonton shell. Top cream cheese with small amount of spinach mixture into each shell. Bake about 10 minutes, until filling is warm and edges of shell are light brown. Cool in pan for 2 minutes. (Note: if wonton wrappers are packaged in excessive flour, a quick spritz of olive oil after baking will help shine). Serve warm or at room temperature.

Yield: 36 servings. Calories: 64; Fat 2.6g; Cost Per Serving: $.43.

Artichoke Pepper Hummus

A delicious dip for veggies or pita chips, this hummus combines artichokes and healthy chickpeas for a zesty flavor. Keep it green and festive by serving in a bread bowl with bite-sized celery and cucumber coins.

Ingredients:

½ cup olive oil, plus 3 tablespoons

2 cups artichokes (drained)

1 can (4 ounces) green chile peppers, drained

3 cloves garlic, chopped

2 jalapeños, diced

1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas, drained & rinsed

2 teaspoons lime juice

Salt & pepper (to taste)

Instructions:

Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in large skillet over medium heat; add artichokes, chiles, garlic, salt and pepper. Cook until vegetables are lightly brown, about 5 minutes. Place artichoke mixture in food processor; add chickpeas, juice and remaining olive oil. Purée until almost smooth. Season to taste with more jalapeños and salt. Cover and refrigerate until well-chilled, at least an hour.

Yield: 4 cups. Calories (per tablespoon): 15; Fat 0.2g ; Protein: 1.2g.  Cost Per Serving: $.39.

Vodka Spearmint Punch

Forget the traditional “green beer,” and try this modern combination of mint tea, agave and vodka. A refreshing pot of gold!

Ingredients:

2¾ cups boiling water

8 mint-flavored teabags

½ cup vodka

¼ cup agave nectar

¼ cup lime juice

4 drops green food coloring (optional)

Lime slices & fresh mint sprigs (for garnish)

Instructions:

Pour boiling water over teabags; steep for 6 minutes. Remove teabags; pour tea into pitcher filled with ice. Stir in vodka, agave and lime juice. Add green food color (if desired, for more green color). Pour into six martini glasses to serve. Garnish glasses with mint sprigs and limes.

Yield: 6 servings. Calories: 88; Sugar 8g. Cost Per Serving: $1.19.

Suzette Zara is a cookbook author, nutritionist, creator of Satan’s Salsa (SatansSalsa.com) and a frequent speaker on low-fat healthy cooking. 
Suzette@SuzetteZara.com