Parties, Potlucks & Food That Travels Well

December is rife with holiday parties and I love to entertain. Mostly I throw parties at my home or in elegant hotels like the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills. Occasionally I attend potluck parties at other people’s homes. Bringing food to a party can be tricky. It has to be prepared ahead of time, survive being packed and transported, and look elegant once it’s plated at the party site. Also, it needs to taste great at room temperature, unless you have a crock pot and can keep it warm (see story on our crock pot giveaway below). These are not small considerations, but I do have some recipes that will make your potluck contribution a success.

I have served a gorgeous Garlic Crab Royale to dignitaries and royalty. The health benefits of garlic are well known, adding anti-inflammatory and disease-preventing properties to this beautiful dish. I steam whole crabs in a stockpot for about 20 minutes. While the crabs are steaming, I make a delicious sauce using mirin (seasoned rice wine), sugar, soy sauce, lime juice, garlic, and scallions. Then I stir-fry the crabs in the sauce. At this point, you can wrap up the crabs in foil for transport and put an extra serving of sauce in a small container for dressing them at the party. I like to bring along a silver platter to show off the crabs and a set of silver tongs to serve them. You can find my Garlic Crab Royale recipe in my cookbook FoodTrients: Age-defying Recipes for a Sustainable Life.

My Mustard-Crusted Tri-Tip is another party favorite, and mustard’s anti-inflammatory properties bring health benefits as well. I spread a large tri-tip (about 2 to 3 pounds) with Dijon mustard and let it marinate overnight in the refrigerator. The next day, I take out the meat and sprinkle it with garlic salt and sweet mesquite seasoning. Then I roast it in a 200-degree oven for 2 hours. When it’s nice and rare inside, I turn the oven to broil and brown the top for 10 minutes. Since this roast needs to rest for 30 minutes before slicing and serving, now is the time to wrap it up and transport it to the party. I bring along a good-looking cutting board and a long knife for slicing on site. You can up the anti-aging benefits of this recipe by using grass-fed beef.

My immunity-boosting Carrot Quiche is loaded with shredded carrots, mushrooms, and onions. It takes under an hour to bake and travels very well in a ceramic pie pan. It can be served slightly warm, at room temperature, or chilled and it will taste fantastic. I sprinkle the top of it with chopped chives so that it’s a colorful addition to any potluck buffet. It works well as either a side dish or a main course. It can easily be converted to a vegetarian entrée by leaving out the bacon. You’ll find this recipe in my cookbook as well.

If you want to bring a smaller dish to a party, try my Detox Dip with Cashews & Cilantro. It’s made with raw cashews, avocado, lime juice, ginger, cilantro, and a pinch of cayenne. Cilantro is one of the few herbs so full of chlorophyll that it pulls harmful chemicals out of the body. (Watercress is another. Both of these plants need to be eaten raw for their full detoxifying effect.) I put all of the ingredients in a food processor and blend until the mixture is smooth (see recipe below). If the cashews are unsalted, I’ll add salt until the flavors are brought out. I put this bright dip in a glass bowl and bring along healthy snack crackers and chips to go with it. Cut-up vegetables work well, too.

For a simple and healthy party snack that’s a bit unusual, seed whole pomegranates. The best and cleanest way to do this is to submerge the pomegranate in cold water while pulling the peel and pith off. That way the seeds won’t stain your clothes or the kitchen counter if and when they pop. I discard any arils that aren’t bright red and clear. The cloudy seeds are past their prime. In a crystal dish, bright garnet pomegranate seeds not only are stunning to look at, they provide tons of antioxidants and very few calories. Many people have never had fresh pomegranate seeds, so they’re a holiday party delight.

In my next blog entry, I’ll talk about holiday desserts.

Detox Dip with Cashews & Cilantro

1 Cup raw cashews (whole or pieces)
½ Ripe avocado
2 Tablespoons lime juice
1 Teaspoon salt (or to taste)
½ -inch Slice of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
¼ Teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 Tablespoons chopped cilantro
⅓ Cup of water (more if thinner dip is desired)

Place cashews, cilantro, avocado, lime juice, salt, ginger, cayenne and water in food processor and puree until smooth. Add more water if needed.
The mixture can be used as a dip with crackers or raw vegetables or as a sauce for steamed vegetables. If thinned more with water, it also can be used as a salad dressing.

About Grace O

Grace O has been cooking and baking professionally and recreationally all of her adult life. As a child in Southeast Asia, she learned the culinary arts by her mother’s side in her family’s cooking school. She became so well versed in hospitality and the culinary arts, she eventually took over the cooking school and opened three restaurants. She is widely credited with popularizing shrimp on sugar-cane skewers and being one of the first culinarians to make tapas a global trend. She has cooked for ruling families and royalty. Grace O’s move to America precipitated a career in healthcare, inspired by her father, who was a physician. Twenty years and much hard work later, she operates skilled nursing facilities in California. Grace O strives to create flavorful food using the finest ingredients that ultimately lead to good health. Her recipes, although low in saturated fat, salt, and sugar, are high in flavor. Grace employs spices from all over the world to enliven her dishes, creating food that is different and delicious. She believes that food can be just as effective at fighting aging as the most expensive skin creams. And since she’s over 50 herself, she’s living proof of that.
What Do FoodTrients Do?
Ai Anti- inflammatories

Reduce inflammatory process in cells, tissues, and blood vessels, helping to slow aging and reduce risk of long-term disease.

Ao Anti- oxidant

Prevents and repairs oxidative damage to cells caused by free radicals.

IB Immunity Boosters

Support the body’s resistance to infection and strengthen immune vigilance and response.

MB Mind

Improves mood, memory, and focus.

F Disease Prevention

Reduces risk factors for common degenerative and age-related diseases.