Game night party food is glorious in its decadence. Meaty, cheesy, crunchy and greasy, these snacks sure taste delicious, but they can also put you into a food coma very quickly. Luckily, there are easy menu modifications you can make to make things a little lighter, without sacrificing flavour.
Make Your Own Crispy Pizza
Pizza and sports are a winning combination, and I would never suggest you give it up. But if you do want to make it just a touch healthier without losing tasty toppings — or, heaven forbid, cheese — just grab your cast frying pan and a tortilla.
Not only is this pizza the epitome of super-crispy, bar style pizza, but swapping out traditional crust for a tortilla saves a whole bunch of heaviness. (It’s also super fast to make.) The above video shows you how it’s done, but all you need to do heat some oil in a pan until it starts to shimmer, then reduce the heat to low and wipe out the oil. Lay down a tortilla, and top with sauce, cheese, veggies and whatever else you wish. Pop the whole thing under the broiler for three minutes or so, and enjoy.
Grill or Steam Your Chicken Wings
To me, chicken wings are as big of a part of watching sport. Honestly, the wings usually bring me more joy. If you want a little wing action, but don’t feel like frying, there are two different routes you can take for succulent meat and crispy skin without all that excess oil.
- Steam Then Bake: Alton Brown knows his way around a chicken wing, and the longtime cooking guru likes to steam his wings before popping them in the oven. To follow in his footsteps, just steam your wings for 10 minutes, then bake them on a cooling rack resting above a baking sheet for 30 minutes at 220C, tossing them in your favourite sauce at the 20 minute mark.
- Stick ’em and Grill ’em: Grilling is great because not only does it not call for any cooking oil, but it gives your wings that nice charred flavour. To cook whole wings that are completely surrounded by the crispiest of skin, take a page out of Epicurious’ book and “unfold the wings, as it were, and stick a metal skewer through the base of the drumstick, through the flat, and onward — get the tip of the skewer at least past the joint connecting the flat and the wingtip, so that the wing will stay rigid on the grill”.
Either method works with pretty much any sauce, so I’ll let you choose your own adventure there. You should probably make a whole bunch though, you can never have too many sauce options.
Wrap Things in Prosciutto, Not Bacon
I would never suggest you forgo a pork-wrapped snack, but swapping out bacon for prosciutto cuts down on the grease while keeping things flavorful. Some of my favourite prosciutto wrapped items are:
- Pineapple: Grill pineapple spears or cubes until they have some good colour on them, then wrap ’em up in prosciutto and secure with a toothpick or two.
- Asparagus: You can either wrap grilled, chilled asparagus in cold prosciutto, or wrap raw asparagus in the salty slices and then broil until the prosciutto is crisp and the asparagus is tender. Both are good options.
- Melon: The classic pairing of prosciutto con melone may seem a little “very” for an event centred around sport, but none of your guess will complain. Salty ham is the perfect partner for sweet, delicate melon (I use rockmelon, but honeydew works too) and you can up the refreshment factor with a sprinkling of fresh mint leaves.
- Figs: Make like my main girl Ina Garten and wrap halved figs in prosciutto. Brush with good olive oil, and roast in a 220C oven until the figs are soft (about 10 minutes). No one would get mad if you sprinkled on some crumbled blue cheese.
- Cheese: OK, so this may not be the “healthiest” snack, but calcium is good for your bones, and little balls of fresh mozzarella wrapped in prosciutto are good for the soul, so I’m going to stand by this suggestion.
Yes, 80 per cent of the above combinations involve a plant part of some sort, but I swear I’m not trying to be too healthy here; prosciutto just tastes really good with fruits and vegetables.
Build the Veggie Tray to End All Veggie Trays
If I have one qualm with store-bought veggie trays, it’s that they are just plain visually unappealing. There’s something sterile and depressing about perfectly uniform baby carrots and anaemic celery sticks, all confined to their little plastic cells, and you can do so much better. To break out of your crudite rut, enlist these plant part superstars:
- Rainbow Carrots: Fun fact: Carrots were originally purple, and were allegedly genetically modified in tribute to the House of Orange and the struggle for Dutch independence. That may or may not be true, but purple carrots (and red carrots, and yellow carrots) are just more fun to look at and eat than their normcore relatives. You can buy rainbow carrots at any fancy-ish grocery store. Just cut them into thin, diagonal, chip-like slices, and fan them out around a tasty dip or hummus.
- Endive: I love an edible container, and this sturdy little leaf can hold a whole array of spreads, cheese or anything else you would eat with a chip. Just pull the leaves apart and scoop your filling of choice into the sturdy end of the leaf. You can take the filling in an almost endless number of directions, but my favourite combination is a scoop of chevre, topped with a sundried tomato — I love the ’80s — or maybe a pecan half.
- Sugar Snap Peas: Crunch is a very important factor in the building of a good veggie tray, and sugar snap peas have that on lock. They also happen to be sweet in a most pleasing manner which may be why they’re called “sugar snap peas”.
- Tiny Potatoes: A pile of roasted fingerlings, tossed with a little olive oil and flaky salt are not only tasty at room temperature, but they’re naturally super low in fat. (Potatoes don’t have the healthiest reputation, but the toppings are at fault here.) Set out toothpicks and watch them disappear.
- Don’t Forget the Dips: Hummus is the classic “healthy-ish” dip, but there are a ton of options outside of the world of garbanzos. If you want to keep things canned, almost any can of beans can be made into a dip using this easy formula. If you want something creamy, but don’t feel like diving into a vat of queso, this easy horseradish yogurt sauce should do the trick. (It’s amazing on everything, especially those tiny potatoes I mentioned.) Finally, if you want something that will appeal to omnivores and vegans alike, try this impossibly tasty spicy cashew spread. It looks a little weird, but it tastes amazing.
So while I’m not suggesting you replace every single snack with something a little healthier, I don’t think anyone would complain about a spread made up the above items. I know I wouldn’t, and I’m not exactly known as “clean eater”. (My boyfriend calls me “Trash Panda”. Lovingly, but still.)