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February 9, 2012

Fantastic Finger Foods for any Festivity

By: Morgan Davis, RD, LDN, Community Dietitian

Many of the football fans in the DC area have once again sworn off the game after another season watching our Washington boys fall short of the playoffs.  However, in the spirit of fun and competition, most of us found our way to the couch last Sunday evening and tuned into “the big game.”  The theme of the third cooking class in our Winter Cooking Matters series was foods that may be found at any super bowl party or other get-together with friends and family.  The challenge here was to increase the nutritional value of some of these common ‘finger foods.’ 

Chances are, if you make a meal from scratch as opposed to buying ‘pre-made,’ your version is not only going to be healthier, but much tastier.  This was our motivation for making pizza dough from scratch!  The class learned that yeast, much like people, eat sugar, and that the gases produced by the yeast is what causes dough to rise.  Tikanah had fun punching down our whole wheat pizza dough and Taloria helped divide the dough into 12 portions so that everyone in class could form their own mini calzone- each participant had their choice of sautéed onions, peppers, mushrooms and spinach to go inside with freshly-made, cheesy filling.  Just like that, we have healthy, veggie-packed calzones made with low-fat cheese and fresh-made, whole wheat dough- doesn’t that beat the pizza ordered from take-out?

Another classic food found at a football party is fried chicken.  Instead of greasy, heavy food, our goal was to create light and crispy chicken.  Beverly helped add some cayenne pepper sauce to our batter to make these finger-licking buffalo chicken tenders.  It should come as no surprise that there is no fryer in the kitchen at Food & Friends, so we baked our chicken strips in the oven.  To compliment our crispy tenders, the class expertly cut sweet onions into evenly-sliced rings.  We soaked the onions in buttermilk, and then tossed them in bread crumbs before baking to form a deliciously crisp final product. 

With the smell of cayenne pepper from the chicken tickling our noses, Laura demonstrated how to make a homemade ranch sauce that is packed with flavor and low in fat.  The cool and zesty taste of the ranch was the perfect compliment to our slightly-spicy buffalo tenders! 

So we had our crispy onion rings, tangy tenders, and hot and cheesy calzones all turning a nice-golden brown in the ovens.  Something for the plate was still missing though- color!  Marcia and Dianne helped slice some fresh veggies into the perfect size for dipping while Laura showed the class how easy homemade hummus can be.   This creamy creation made from chickpeas and tahini (sesame seed paste), paired with the crisp veggies, made the perfect replacement for chips and dip.  Now everyone in class is set to host a football-watching party in their own homes next season- maybe 2012 will finally be the year for our Washington Redskins!

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