Episode 9: Mexican Bruschetta

Brandy from Los Angeles wrote asking for a healthy party dish idea. It is hard to believe but, yes..the holiday season is quickly approaching which means parties, pot lucks, and family gatherings galore. I love the holidays like everyone else but, I know it is also the time of year we all dread just like Brandy, because of the massive quantities of tempting foods to ingest and resulting weight gain.  We all want to enjoy the time with family and friends but, it is nice to know we won’t derail our health or have to buy a whole new wardrobe because nothing fits.

Have no fear…Making it through the holidays unscathed doesn’t require the will power of a saint but, rather the always prepared motto of the Scouts. Over the years I have compiled a litany of delicious and health conscious appetizers and dishes JUST FOR THIS OCCASION. One of my favorite and most requested by my family is Mexican Bruschetta.

Mexican Bruschetta fulfills all my requirements for a healthy appetizer. 1)The taste is out of this world 2) it is super fast, easy, and inexpensive to make 3) it is just as good for my mouth as it is for my body 4) it can be made for pretty much ANY occasion all year around and 5) no one ever suspects that it is good for them.

The roots of my Mexican Bruschetta are found in the traditional Italian Antipasto dishes that are made with fresh ingredients like garlic, tomatoes, red bell pepper, cured meats, basil, grilled vegetables, etc.  These Antipastos are whipped up fast in the kitchen before dinner and served on the mounds of delicious toasted bread.

In my version I continue to use the crunchy bread, juicy Roma tomatoes, garlic, and onions of the original. But, then I add Cotija  or Queso Blanco cheese (when I can find them) or nonfat mozzarella cheese mixed with low fat spicy habanero jack or pepper jack cheese (when I can’t). Then I also add zesty cilantro, jalapeno (optional), and crushed red peppers for that firecracker kick.

This is the epitome of chop and drop appetizer. You rough cut the juicy tomatoes. Throw all the other vegetables into a food processor or blender, until they become a nice rough paste.  Mix it all together with cheese and bake in the oven until it is golden and crispy.

The taste is like a fire cracker in your mouth. It’s bursting with rich roasted flavor and herbs. But, this isn’t rocket science. We mix some of our favorite ingredients together and roast them over succulent bread and viola a tasty treat to please the masses. What is so great for me is this dish is 95% veggies with only ½ cup low fat cheese which means less fat but, still the cheesy taste I love.

Simple, delicious, and nutritious without a lot of time or fuss…that’s my idea of one great appetizer.  I hope you all enjoy.

Bon Appetit

PS. I’d love to hear from you. Please email me if you have comments, questions, or want to send along photos when you make the recipe…please do so and I will add them to the end of each blog! Have fun cooking!

MEXICAN BRUSCHETTA

6-8 Roma Tomatoes
1 Medium White or Red Onion
1 Shallot
6-10 cloves of garlic
1 Medium bunch of Cilantro
1 Jalapeno (optional)
1/8 cup Cojita Cheese (low fat)
1/8 cup of Queso Blanco (low fat)
Garlic Powder (to taste)
Red Pepper Flakes (to taste)
1 teaspoon sea salt ( sprinkle on top after baking)

1. Rough cut the tomatoes. Place in a large mixing bowl.

2. Add Onion, Shallot, Garlic, Cilantro, and jalapeno into food processor. Blend until a smooth but, rough puree.

3. Mix the tomatoes with the puree. Add Garlic Powder and Red pepper flakes to taste.

4. Add Cheese

5. Mix well.

6. Slice bread and place in the oven for 5-8 minutes on 400 degree oven until lightly toasted.

7. Take out the newly toasted bread and cover with 1-2 tablespoons of tomato mixture. Place back in the over for 10 minutes or until browned and cheese has melted.

8. Sprinkle a tiny amount of sea salt over top and ENJOY!

* you can precook the garlic and onions to take away their bite.

* Do yourself a favor don’t add a lot of cheese. The richness and freshness of this dish is about the balance of veggies to cheese.

Nutritional Tidbits

Onions: Chromium, Vitamin C, Dietary Fiber, Manganese, Molybdenum, Vitamin B6, folate, Potassium, Phosphorus, quercitin and Copper. This multifaceted food is found in so many recipes for it’s distinct flavor but is often overlooked for its many healthy properties. Onions are very rich in chromium, a trace mineral that helps cells respond to insulin and lowering blood sugar. Chromium levels are depleted by the consumption refined sugars and white flour products as well as the lack of exercise. One cup of raw onion contains over 20% of the Daily Value for this important trace mineral. B6, Chromium and sulfur in onions also helps to lower high blood pressure and high Cholesterol. Onions like garlic has been shown to support gastrointestinal health, and contain anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties.

Garlic: Manganese, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, Selenium, Calcium, Phosphorus, Vitamin B1,Copper, and Protein. Garlic has many great properties, but is known for its Anti-Inflammatory, Antibacterial and Antiviral Activity, Cardiovascular health, and potential reduction in certain forms of cancer.

Tomato: Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Molybdenum, Potassium, Manganese, Dietary Fiber, Chromium, Vitamin B1, B3, B2, B5, and B6, folate, Copper, Magnesium, Iron, Phosphorus, Vitamin E, Tryptophan, Lycopene and protein. In contrast to many other food phytonutrients, whose effects have only been studied in animals, lycopene from tomatoes has been repeatedly studied in humans and found to be protective against a growing list of cancers. These cancers now include colorectal, prostate, breast, endometrial, lung, and pancreatic cancers. Organic ketchup delivers three times as much of the cancer-fighting carotenoid, lycopene, as non-organic brands. Tomatoes and broccoli-two vegetables separately recognized for their cancer-fighting capabilities-are even more successful against prostate cancer when working as a team in the daily diet, shows a study published in Cancer Research. Niacin has been used for years as a safe way to lower high cholesterol levels. Diets rich in potassium have been shown to lower high blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease.

Low- Fat Cheese: Tryptophan, Calcium, Protein, Phosphorus, Iodine, Selenium. There are over 1,000 different varieties of cheeses that offer a wide spectrum of flavors, textures and aromas. Low-fat varieties can add flavor and nutrition to our menus through out the year.

As a general rule, favor low-fat dairy products rather than products made from whole milk, although we understand that there are individuals for whom whole milk dairy products maybe appropriate. In those cases you can mix in both lower fat ingredients and whole fat ingredients. Remember small changes can make big differences.

Cilantro/Coriander: Dietary fiber, Manganese, Iron, Magnesium. In traditional medicine cilantro/coriander has been used for its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties and is being studied for its ability to stabilize/control blood sugar and lower/balance cholesterol. Cilantro has long be used in varying cuisines for its taste but, also for it’s ability to fight salmonella. Researchers in Mexico and US are currently doing more thorough studies on what properties in cilantro can do that.

HAVE A COMMENT? SEND ME A MESSAGE!

Molly-Kai Chandler ~ Omg… I love it so. Why don’t you live in the same house as me anymore? Why?!?!?!?

Mary Martha ~ love, Love, LOVE the recipe!

Marcella Pabros- Clark: Love this!!! You are, as always, an inspiration. Do you have any suggestions for wheat-free breads to use for this recipe? Haven’t found a bread that is a good substitute. Rice bread doesn’t do it for me. :)

Angie Brown: Hi Marcella & other wheat sensitive folks,
Kamut bread is great! Pacific bakery makes a Kamut loaf that does not have wheat or yeast in it. Rudolf’s makes a great wheat/yeast- free rye bread. Both pricey but worth it. If you have celiac though, you may want to just make ur own bread from scratch.
All breads or alternative flours to make bread from scratch should be found at your local Nature food store or online if you buy in bulk.
-ab

Me: You can also find lots of great alternative flours from Bob’s Red Mill. Tonight I made a super fast Teff flour flat bread…no wheat!

John Pabros-Clark: Thanks for sharing the yummy info Angie and Bianca.