Light Bites to Bring to Any Holiday Gathering

spanakopita bites
Photo: Mitch Mandel
Recipes for crowd-pleasing appetizers and cute treats for dessert that are perfectly portable, shareable, and great for any holiday party.

We all know that during this festive season, you're going to end up attending a lot of parties and gatherings, and even hosting one or two yourself. An always important element of either hosting or being a guest is preparing an appetizer or dessert. In the spirit of the season, celebrity chef and weight-loss coach Devin Alexander shares some recipes for little appetizer and dessert bites that are not only scrumptious, but low in calories! That way, you can take a bit of the guilt out of holiday snacking. These light bites are sure to be a hit at whatever holiday gatherings you may attend this winter.

Asian Crab Salad

While this crab salad appetizer may appear to be rich and decadent, it's way lower in calories than most crab salads. Bring it to any holiday gathering - even your fanciest one! To take it on the go, pack the crab salad in a resealable plastic container and store it in a cooler bag or the refrigerator. Carry the crackers in a resealable plastic bag. Keep the crab salad and the crackers separate until the last minute so the crackers don't become soggy. Scoop the crab with the crackers and enjoy.

crab salad

What You'll Need

Makes 6 (4-cracker) servings

  • 2 whole medium scallions, trimmed and finely chopped (about 1/3 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons all-natural light sandwich spread
  • 1 teaspoon hot sesame oil
  • 1/4 red bell pepper, finely chopped (about 1/3 cup)
  • 8 ounces lump crabmeat, drained if necessary
  • 24 brown rice crackers, preferably tamari-seasoned


Directions

Step 1: In a small mixing bowl, stir the scallions, sandwich spread, oil, and pepper until well combined. Gently stir in the crabmeat just until combined.

Step 2: Mound 1 tablespoon of the crab on each cracker. Serve immediately.


Bacon-Wrapped Figs

Bacon, goat cheese, and figs are such an elegant mix of flavors. You can use either crumbled or log goat cheese, but if you use crumbled be careful when packing the teaspoon so you don't end up using too little cheese.

bacon wrapped figs

What You'll Need

Makes 1 serving

  • Olive oil spray (propellant-free)
  • 4 medium (about 1 1/4 ounces total) dried figs
  • 1 slice (about 1 ounce) 94% fat-free or leaner, nitrate-free turkey bacon
  • 1 teaspoon goat cheese, packed


Directions

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line a small baking sheet with foil. Lightly mist the foil with spray.

Step 2: Fill a nonstick medium saucepan, with a tight-fitting lid, half full with water. Place it over high heat and bring the water to a boil. Add the figs, remove the pan from the heat, and cover. Let the figs stand for 5 minutes, then drain. Allow them to cool slightly before handling.

Step 3: Meanwhile, slice the bacon in half crosswise. Slice each piece in half lengthwise, leaving 4 equal strips.

Step 4: Place the figs on a cutting board. Using a sharp knife, cut a 1" opening lengthwise down the middle of each fig. Stuff each fig with 1/4 teaspoon of the cheese, then wrap a strip of bacon around the widest part of each fig. Secure the bacon with a toothpick, then place the wrapped figs on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until they are warmed through. Serve immediately.

Spanakopita Bites

Yum! These spinach, feta and fillo bites are a classic light bite. Though slightly high in sodium, they're still much lighter than traditional spanakopita.

spanakopita bites

What You'll Need

Makes 20 bites

  • 2 whole green onions, trimmed and cut into thirds
  • 2 medium garlic cloves
  • 1-1/2 cups loosely packed flat leaf parsley leaves
  • 12 ounce bag frozen chopped spinach, defrosted
  • 2 ounces (about 1/2 cup) crumbled light feta cheese
  • 1 egg white
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch ground nutmeg
  • 20 all-natural, whole wheat, mini fillo shells*


Directions

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place the fillo shells side by side on a small baking sheet.

Step 2: Add the onions, garlic, and parsley to a food processor fitted with a chopping blade. Process until they are very finely chopped, stopping to scrape down the bowl, if needed. Transfer the mixture to a medium mixing bowl and set aside.

Step 3: Place the spinach in a fine strainer and squeeze as much moisture from it as possible. Then transfer the spinach to a clean, lint-free dish towel and squeeze it until all of the water is removed (if moisture remains the filling will not be rich). Add it to the onion mixture along with the feta, egg white, salt and nutmeg. Mix the filling until well combined. Divide the mixture among the shells, forming it into tight balls, then placing them so they are neatly mounded over and lightly packed in the shells. Bake them about 8-10 minutes or until the shells are a light golden brown and the filling is hot through. Serve immediately.

Coconut Macaroons

Coconut lovers: This is the macaroon recipe for you. They're a bit less gooey and butter than the traditional ones, but that's actually good because it allows true coconut lovers to enjoy the coconut.

coconut macaroons

What You'll Need

Makes 10 cookies

  • Butter-flavored cooking spray
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 2 tablespoons coconut sugar
  • 2 tablespoons light agave nectar
  • 2/3 cup finely shredded, reduced-fat, unsweetened coconut


Directions

Step 1: Preheat oven to 300°F. Line a medium baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly mist it with spray.

Step 2: Whisk together the egg whites, coconut sugar and agave until the sugar is completely dissolved. Stir in the coconut until well combined. Spoon the batter in mounds (about 1 level tablespoon per macaroon) onto the prepared pan, so they do not touch, to make 10 macaroons. Bake them for 23-25 minutes, or until the macaroons are lightly golden brown. Remove the pan to a wire cooling rack and let them cool about 5 minutes. Transfer them to the cooling rack and allow to cool completely. Serve immediately or store them in a re-sealable plastic container for up to 5 days.

Pumped-Up Pumpkin Pie Bites

These delicious little bites are real crowd-pleasers. Plus, instead of having your guests cut their own wedges of pie (which can take up a bit of time), these are the perfect size for individual servings at a buffet table. That way everyone can get right to the good stuff!

pumpkin pie bites

What You'll Need

Makes 32 bites

  • Butter-flavored cooking spray
  • 3/4 cup whole grain, crunchy, high-fiber, low-sugar cereal
  • 2 tablespoons 100% pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 8 large egg whites
  • 1 can (15 ounces) solid pumpkin puree
  • 3/4 cup agave nectar
  • 2 tablespoons whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1-1/4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Whipped cream topping, optional


Directions

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly mist an 11" x 7" glass or ceramic baking dish with spray.

Step 2: Add the cereal to the bowl of a food processor fitted with a chopping blade. Process it for 15 to 20 seconds, or until the cereal is crushed. Transfer it to a small mixing bowl and add the maple syrup and cinnamon. Mix them until well combined. Spoon the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Gently press down on the cereal mixture, spreading it evenly across the bottom of the baking dish. Bake for 7 to 9 minutes, or until slightly browned. Set aside.

Step 3: Meanwhile, add the egg whites to a large mixing bowl. Using a sturdy whisk, lightly beat them until they bubble very slightly. Still using the whisk, stir in the pumpkin, agave, and flour until well combined. Stir in the vanilla, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, and salt and continue mixing until well combined. Pour the filling over the baked crust. Using a rubber spatula, spread it into an even layer.

Step 4: Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry (a few crumbs are okay). Transfer the dish to a wire cooking rack, allowing it to cool to room temperature. Carefully cut 32 pumpkin "bites" (3 cuts along the width of the pan, 7 cuts along the length, creating 4 x 8 bites). Just before serving, top each bite with 1 teaspoon whipped topping, if desired. Serve immediately or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Gingerbread Truffles

These truffles will give you all the decadence of ooey, gooey holiday cookies with none of the guilt! Roll and place in mini muffin liners for perfect little party snacks or keep all to yourself to indulge in when those sweet cravings creep up on you.

truffles

What You'll Need

Makes 12 truffles

  • 1 cup pitted dates
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
  • Two pinches ground cloves
  • Two pinches ground nutmeg
  • 2/3 cup + 2-1/2 tablespoons old fashioned oats, divided


Directions

Step 1: Place the dates in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a chopping blade. Process them until they are very finely chopped and stick together. Add the molasses, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg and process until well combined, stopping the processor to scrape down the sides of the bowl, intermittently, with a spatula if necessary. Add 2/3 cup oats and process until the oats are slightly chopped and the mixture sticks together (do not over-process the mixture at this point or it will become extremely sticky and very difficult to work with). With a spatula, transfer the mixture to a small mixing bowl.

Step 2: Place the remaining 2-1/2 tablespoons of oats on a large plate.

Step 3: Divide the truffle mixture into 12 equal amounts (about 1 tablespoon each). Shape each into a ball. Gently roll the truffles, one at a time, in the oats, making sure the outside is coated. Serve immediately or store in an airtight plastic container for up to 3 days.