1. People often think you're weird.
2. You often have to explain the whys and wherefores of the ingredients in a dish.
3. Cooking, in general, takes a little longer than America's standard "3 minutes in the microwave."
4. Things take more imagination than what can be contained in a cardboard box.
5. And non-real food-eating families usually have kids who subsist on Chicken McNuggets and Kraft Mac-n-Cheese alone and will turn their noses up to whatever you serve.
That's just the way it is. And while I don't have a problem with explaining myself to people (hey, they may just learn something and take a tiny baby step toward eating healthier), it's not always practical when it comes to all the many and varied social gatherings to which we get invited. Besides, when the gatherings ARE many and varied (Helloooo??! Anyone notice the holidays are now upon us?), well...frankly, who has the time? I need something quick and easy and painless and preferably that doesn't freak others out. BUT I'm not willing to sacrifice my own foodie principles for a social shindig. (Let's remember my family and I will need to have something reasonably healthy to eat ourselves while there!)
What's a momma/grandmama/wife/lady/(guy?) to do?! Well, I've compiled a few suggestions from fellow foodies, plus some of my own. Hopefully these will help you relax a little when it comes to the stresses in life, at least where social eating is concerned...
Cheese and crackers. Slice up some raw cheese. Or just bring the whole block along with a slicer for self-service! And bring along your favorite crackers. Maybe you're awesome and make them homemade. Or make a cheese ball. Get creative and come up with your own interesting additions. People love the classic cream cheese block with pepper jelly on top. I make a pineapple cheese ball, which sounds sort of gross but is absolutely to-die-for! Stay tuned. Maybe I'll be generous and share it with ya. Maybe.
Chips and Dip. I make bean burritos at my house (for quick, easy dinners). They consist mostly of refried beans (sometimes homemade, sometimes not), shredded cheese, and sour cream. And if I'm feeling ultra-guilty about vitamins, etc. I might shred a carrot and sprinkle a little of that in, too. But I say all this to say that Julie once brought the very same combination to my house...only--just wait until you get the genius of this--she layered it in a dish and baked it until the cheese was bubbly and melted. THEN. She served it with tortilla chips!! Yes. She did. Now why didn't I think of that?! It was scrum-diddly-umptious, too. Takes maybe ten minutes. And that counts the grabbing of the bag of chips. Of course, you can always make hummus. That's a definite party-pleaser. It's especially good this time of year with roasted red peppers...IMO. Mmmmm! Another popular treat is artichoke dip (with or without spinach). Mix lots of mayonnaise, freshly-grated Parmesan cheese, salt to taste, and finely-chopped artichoke hearts together and bake until bubbling. Serve with crackers or chips. And there's always guacamole! (I never miss an opportunity to dip my chip into some good ol' green goodness.) Grab a couple of ripe avocados. Fork mash in a shallow dish and stir in some Real garlic salt and about a quarter cup of your favorite salsa (chunky or otherwise). That's the quick, last-minute way to do it. No need to chop anything and certainly no need for that scary packet of powdered chemicals they sell at the grocery store!
Popcorn. Quick, cheap, and goooooood. Cook yours on the stovetop in coconut oil. You can drizzle with melted butter and sprinkle with Real Salt and then listen as everybody oohs and ahhs over it. Or just go with the salt (if you're at all worried about tiny, buttery fingers being wiped all over someone else's upholstery). Was that a bit of a confession on my part?? Kick the popcorn up a notch and make it caramel popcorn. Especially a favorite this time of year. It's frugal, it's easy, and you probably have all these ingredients on hand at any given moment.
Eggs. If you like 'em, devil 'em. I'm not a fan, but my kids and many, many other fellow Southerners find deviled eggs quite comforting. I'll just take straight-up hard-boiled eggs and a salt shaker myself. Which wouldn't be an entirely awful thing to bring.
Fruit. You can almost never go wrong there. Kids and adults alike will eat fruit. You can peel, chop, cut, skewer, garnish, etc. to your heart's content. But I'd go for several bunches of grapes washed and in a pretty bowl. Voila! And it took you all of twenty seconds. If I have a little more time, I'll core and slice apples and serve them with a dish of natural peanut butter. Everybody loves that combo.!
Fresh baked bread. You can't go wrong with fresh bread! (Mmmmm...I love me some sourdough...) Serve your bread with lots of butter. HB posted her recipe here. And Lisa makes a mean sprouted-flour loaf (my kids couldn't eat enough!) with the most basic of ingredients. I even have documentation!!
Sneaky, aren't I?
Sandwiches. I do so hate making more than...I don't know...three to four sandwiches at a time, but if you have any little helpers (elves?) hanging around your house, you could make short order of the chore. Peanut butter and honey is classic and healthy. Or cream cheese with fresh dill mixed in and combined with sliced cucumbers. Or you could get extra fancy and serve toasted bagels with self-serve cream cheese, smoked wild-caught salmon, and capers. Yum! You could even make some black bean burgers and cut them into fourths for a unique sandwich presentation.
Pizza. Make it homemade. You can control the toppings. Use lots of raw cheese! I've noticed my raw cheese melts really well! Pizza doesn't take long to bake and still tastes relatively good after sitting out a bit, depending on your toppings, etc. It also makes a great finger food, sliced accordingly. And, duh, kids love it.
Veggie tray. Celery sticks, broccoli florets, sliced carrots, grape tomatoes, etc. Serve with homemade dressing for dipping. Of course, I don't know why you couldn't serve a tray of roasted Brussels sprouts (my favorite way to eat them), baked sweet potato fries (I take these all. the. time.), or Kale Krisps broken into finger-food-size pieces.
Salads. A great stand-by. Buy local greens, whip up some quick, homemade salad dressing, and toss in some fun toppings. Years ago I learned, in the cookbook How to Cook Without a Book, to choose only two or three additions: I like to include a protein (cheese, egg, meat, etc.), a fruit or veggie (tomato, onion, apple, etc.), and something crunchy (homemade croutons, nuts, sunflower seeds, etc.). Keep it simple. Or you could make a soaked quinoa salad, tabbouleh, or something similar. My family likes this couscous salad recipe, which is quite a bit milder than tabbouleh, but has a similar consistency.
Nuts and dried fruit. Bring some of your homemade granola (I use this recipe) or make a trail mix with crispy nuts, raisins, and other favorite nibbles. One time all I had time to do was dump some raisins and dried cranberries into a dish! Life went on, and by the way, the dish was completely empty when the event was over.
In case you'd like to get all fancy schmancy, be sure to check out this post, where you can find lots of great gluten-free appetizer recipes. Whatever you decide to bring, though, the most important advice I can give on this topic is to relax. You can still stick to your principles and participate in social events, even when you're bringing food to share. It doesn't have to be extravagant or involved. And when you get there, just remember the 80/20 rule: try to eat well 80% of the time; the other 20% of the time, give yourself a break and enjoy the food that others bring. It's okay.