Life and health coach and The Fold's Wellness editor Lisa Levine is sharing a healthy and easy-to-replicate happy hour spread using in season vegetables, fresh homemade dips, and delicious crackers that are simple to make, but full on nutrients. Read on for her suggestions on how to create a healthy and hearty appetizer platter, a recipe for homemade seedy crackers, and, as she encourages, how to get comfortable in the kitchen.
One of the things I love about being a Wellness Coach is helping people discover the joy and importance of nourishing themselves. In my training at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, I learned how food can change everything, because what we put into our bodies is the foundation of our overall health. It’s what gives us the energy and vibrancy to nourish the other parts of our lives—the parts that feed us emotionally and spiritually. Empowering my clients to get comfortable in the kitchen and learn to appreciate and incorporate a whole foods based diet is one of my joys and something I’m grateful to be able to do whenever called upon.
Recently I had that opportunity at Unfold, a day-long retreat in Seattle. Sponsored by The Fold and Healers Wanted, they teamed up to create a wonderfully nourishing day of woo and wellness. When I was asked to provide some healthy “happy hour” snacks for the end of the day I wanted to choose food that would be light, bright, and delicious (as well as simple to make because when it comes to food, keeping things uncomplicated is how I roll).
No matter what your level of comfort or confidence in the kitchen, having a few delicious, reliable recipes and ideas in your repertoire is always helpful. With that in mind, here are a few of the snacks I prepared for the Unfold healthy happy hour:
I’m all about making vegetables the star of the show, so I start by looking at what’s in season and focus on using a wide range of colors, shapes and textures. Not only are colorful vegetables beautiful, they are full of fiber, phytonutrients and antioxidants which is what makes them so dang good for you. Purple, yellow, and orange carrots, pale green endive, hot pink watermelon radishes, and tiny red and gold cherry tomatoes are all solid choices for dipping and munching. They keep things “high vibe” and require only some washing and minimal chopping. Adding a bit of seasonal fruit and some olives and nuts provides sweetness and helping of healthy fats.
I chose a couple of my favorite go-to dips: my sweet potato hummus and pesto white bean. I love the fact that you essentially throw all the ingredients into a blender or food processor, blitz them up and end up with something yummy. Honestly, the most challenging part of the whole process is the clean up. I also made a beet hummus using an adapted version of this recipe from Nom Nom Paleo. Instead of using the garbanzo beans typical to most hummus recipes, she uses cashews. To roast the beets you simply trim the ends, wrap them in foil and roast them at 400 degrees for an hour. The skins slip right off when they are cooled. You can use the pre-roasted, packaged beets from Trader Joes, but I prefer the deep, roasted flavor from an hour in the oven, plus the hummus doesn’t end up that same brilliant pink color.
If you’re allergic to tree nuts or want a more traditional version that includes chickpeas, here’s another option. Yes, you can certainly purchase ready-made dips at the store. There are a ton of great options that are full of whole ingredients, but there’s something about the homemade that feels like love to me. I wanted to treat these women to that extra layer of goodness.
Finally, I “supercharged” the dips by adding in adaptogens. Adaptogens are plants like herbs, roots, tubers, and fungi that can help reduce stress and anxiety, lower inflammation, boost immunity, increase libido and support the aging process (among other things). For this trio of dips I added some Reishi Mushroom Powder to sweet potato hummus, Pine Pollen to the pesto white bean dip, and He Shu Uu to the beet hummus.
Now, on to the crackers, I chose two gluten-free options to accommodate all diets, and while there are a gazillion delicious choices on the shelves, it’s much easier than you think to make your own at home—even if you don’t identify as an A+ baker. Essentially you just mix up the dough, spread it onto some rimmed baking pans and pop them into the oven. No fancy equipment necessary! This recipe for Rosemary Almond Flour crackers has only five ingredients. You roll them out on the baking sheet and then, if you are like me, cut them into very un-exact squares. As long as the end result is tasty, I’m in the habit of telling my inner perfectionist to take a hike when I’m in the kitchen.
The other cracker recipe is one that I adapted from the cookbook The Boreal Gourmet, which was written by Miche Genest, a friend of a friend who lives in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. I’ve been making these for the last few years and they are always a crowd pleaser—and it only requires mixing and spreading, so don’t let the long list of seeds and ingredients scare you.
Homemade Seedy Crackers
- 1 cup masa corn flour (Bob’s Red Mill is an easy-to-find brand)
- 1/2 cup toasted sunflower seeds. (I like to toast these in a dry skillet on medium low heat, but you can buy them already toasted.)
- 1/2 cup sesame seeds
- 1/4 cup poppy seeds
- 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
- 1/4 cup flax seeds
- 1/4 cup avocado or olive oil
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 1 tsp anise seeds
- 1 cup boiling water
- 1 tsp Kosher salt
- Preheat the oven to 300 F and line a 9″ x 13″ cookie sheet with parchment paper.
- Stir dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
- Combine oil and boiling water and then add the mixture to the dry ingredients. Mix thoroughly (the dough may be a bit runny at first, but it thickens up pretty fast).
- Using a spatula, spread the batter as thinly and evenly as you can onto the parchment-lined baking sheet.
- Cover the dough in the pan with another piece of parchment paper that’s been lightly sprayed or brushed with oil. Use a rolling pin over the parchment paper to flatten and smooth the dough as much as possible inside the pan. Remove the top piece of parchment paper and sprinkle the flatbread evenly with the Kosher salt.
- Place on the middle rack of the preheated oven and bake for 1 hour.
- Turn the oven off, prop the door open a bit and leave the crackers in the oven for 20 minutes while it cools down.
- Remove from oven and cool on a baking tray. When it’s at room temperature, break the crackers into large-ish pieces, about 2” x 3” or whatever you like. They will keep for several days if you store them in an airtight container.
Together these items create a hearty appetizer platter, great for any dinner party, holiday, or simply at home for snacking. Wonderful for kids and grownups alike, all will love the bright flavors, deep colors, and wholesome ingredients.