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I'm pleased to introduce guest blogger, Virginia Luchini! Virginia is an undergraduate student at Illinois State University studying Food, Nutrition and Dietetics.

While we would all love a relaxing, peaceful holiday season that's rarely ever the case. There are too many things to do, presents to purchase, people to see, and food to prepare. And when you're the one hosting the party, stress can multiply to exponential levels. Wouldn't it be nice if the house cleaned itself, the decorations put themselves up on their own, and the food was already prepared? Here are some quick, easy, festive and nutritious appetizer recipes that won't take up your time so you can focus on other things: relaxing and having a good time with your guests!


Healthy Holiday Spinach and Artichoke Bites

Need something green on your table? This healthy twist to the classic spinach and artichoke dip is tasty but not too filling.

Prep Time: 20 min

Cook Time: 10 min

1 teaspoon olive oil

2 cups raw spinach, chopped

¼ teaspoon salt-free lemon pepper seasoning

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

8 oz. canned artichoke hearts, drained

8 thin slices brie cheese

Preheat broiler. In medium skillet heat olive oil over medium heat. Add spinach and cook until dark green and wilted, 2-3 minutes. Stir in lemon pepper and garlic powder; Remove from heat. Place artichoke hearts on broiler pan. Top each heart with 1 teaspoon spinach and 1 slice of brie cheese. Broil spinach and artichoke bites in oven until cheese melts, about 1–2 minutes. Serve warm as is or on top of whole wheat crackers.

Yield: about 8 bites

Nutritional analysis per serving: 45 calories, 2 grams fat, 230 milligrams sodium, 4 grams carbohydrate, 1 gram fiber, 3 grams protein

Caprese Salad Kabobs

This light, delicious, and colorful appetizer will brighten up your holiday spread and impress your guests.

Prep time: 15 minutes

24 grape tomatoes

12 cherry-size fresh mozzarella cheese balls

24 fresh basil leaves

2 Tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

12 wooden skewers

On each wooden skewer, thread a tomato, basil leaf, cheese ball, basil leaf and finish with another tomato. Place skewers on a serving plate. In a small bowl, whisk the olive oil and the vinegar; drizzle over kabobs just before serving.

Yield: 12 kabobs

Nutritional analysis per serving: 45 calories, 4 grams fat, 12 milligrams sodium, 2 grams carbohydrate, 1 gram protein

These easy appetizers will satisfy your guests without making them too full. Though the holidays are often filled with rich, heavy foods it doesn't have to be that way! The recipes above are good examples of light finger foods that are just as delicious and better for you than other more traditional appetizers. So enjoy yourself this holiday season by making easy dishes like those shown above that are healthy, festive, quick, and nutritious!