Can you enjoy Christmas drinks and nibbles without overindulging? Absolutely. These delicious drinks are either alcohol free or give alcohol as an option, and the nibbles are delicious, satisfying and healthy. So go ahead, host that drinks party and eat, drink and be merry without the hangover!
The following recipes are all soft drinks, but to cater for everyone you can add alcohol to most of them. These are much healthier, more natural alternatives to the sugary, artificial flavours of many alcopops or soft drinks on the market.
Using the safe sugar substitute xylitol makes this refreshing drink sugar-free. You can add a shot of vodka if you like.
juice of 2 lemons
2 tbsp xylitol or caster sugar
800ml naturally sparkling mineral water
Stir all the ingredients together until the xylitol dissolves. Pour into tall glasses and serve with ice and a slice of lemon.
Raspberries are combined with naturally sweet bananas to produce this refreshing drink.
Xylitol or caster sugar to taste
Blend all the ingredients until smooth, then taste and sweeten if necessary. Serve fresh or chilled with ice.
Bloody / Virgin Mary
This classic cocktail can be enjoyed equally by drinkers and drivers alike if you serve two versions, but be careful not to confuse them!
4 x shots of vodka (omit for a Virgin Mary)
600ml tomato juice
juice of half a lemon
a good slug of Tabasco or hot pepper sauce
a good slug of Worcestershire sauce
celery salt or sea salt, to taste,
freshly ground black pepper
2 sticks of celery, cut in half
Place ice in four short glasses and add a shot of vodka to each one (if using). Pour in the tomato juice, lemon juice, Tabasco and Worcestershire sauce and stir. Add salt and pepper, and adjust the seasoning to taste, then add a stick of celery to each glass before serving.
For a more authentic Caribbean drink, add rum.
600ml (1pt) coconut milk
12 ice cubes
Blend all the ingredients together, pour into short glasses and drink immediately.
CANAPES AND NIBBLES
The following ideas would all make good buffet or drinks party canapés, and are all quick and easy to prepare, as well as having plenty of eye appeal. It goes without saying that they are much healthier than the usual brigade of beige canapé offerings, such as sausage rolls, vol au vents, mini quiches and cocktail sausages.
Smoked Salmon Sandwiches
Spread pumpernickel-style rye bread or thinly sliced wholemeal bread with cream cheese. Add thinly sliced cucumber and top with smoked salmon slices. Squeeze with lemon juice and sprinkle with black pepper, then cut into bite-sized squares.
Baked Pitta Squares
Spread one side of wholemeal pitta breads with a tomato-based pasta sauce, sun-dried tomato paste or tomato purée. Top with any of the following pizza toppings: cherry tomatoes, sliced mushrooms, sliced courgette, diced peppers, pitted black olives, cooked chicken goujons, cooked prawns, canned tuna fish flakes, strips of lean ham, sliced mozzarella, grated Cheddar or Parmesan shavings. Cook for 10 minutes in a hot oven or until the pitta is crispy and the vegetables have softened or the cheese melted, as appropriate. You can also add a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, torn fresh basil leaves or dried oregano and a sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper, before cutting into bite-sized squares.
Filled Little Gem Lettuce
Break off the leaves from a little gem lettuce and place a spoonful of hummus, guacamole or Greek salad inside. Sprinkle with a few freshly chopped chives or, for the Greek salad, some dried oregano.
Feta, Cucumber and Olive Sticks
Cut fairly thick slices of cucumber and top with a cube of feta cheese and a pitted olive or a sun-blush tomato.
Lightly toast pumpkin and/or sunflower seeds in a large, dry frying pan for 2–3 minutes until they just start to turn crisp and pop. Season with a little tamari, soy sauce or sea salt. This is a tasty alternative to crisps without the high fat and starch content.
Spiced Cashew Nuts
These are a spicy alternative to the ubiquitous peanuts and crisps, and are high in protein.
Preheat the oven to 170C/gas mark 3. Scatter 200g of raw, unsalted cashew nuts on a baking tray and drizzle a tablespoon of mild or medium (not extra virgin) olive oil over them. Sprinkle with a teaspoon each of mild curry powder, smoked paprika and a pinch of salt, then roast for 15 minutes, shaking the tray to turn them over halfway through. Leave to cool then taste, adding a little more salt if necessary.
Recipes taken from Delicious, Healthy, Sugar-Free by Patrick Holford and Fiona McDonald Joyce.