I love entertaining, but it can be tricky to keep everyone happy with your choice of food/appetizer, while also keeping the preparation fairly easy.
For me its key to have a healthy “Balance with Mariana” approved dish, while also pleasing everyone else, including the guys who need something a bit more substantial after a few gin tonics.
I’ve come up with the perfect entertaining appetizer recipe that’s fairly easy to make, yet seems super “gourmet” and of course, it’s DELICIOUS and HEALTHY. I use the same base ingredients to make 3 different appetizers – one to please vegans, one to please vegetarians, and a third version to please the omnivores (probably the majority, so make extra of these!). They’re super easy to make; the only part that takes long (the pulled pork) can be done the day before.
My recipe is mini sweet potato toasts or “bites” (I make the smaller round version for this) prepared 3 ways.
1. For the non-dairy vegan, I just add some vegan pesto (it’s SO easy to make, but if you’re in Nicaragua, you can also just buy from me!).
2. For the vegetarian, it’s nothing more than spreading some goat cheese and adding some sun-dried tomatoes.
3. And for the delicious “omnivore” version, it involves making “bbq” pulled pork, which is easier than it sounds, but regardless, I suggest making in the morning or the day before so you’re not cooking last minute. Even the sweet potato toasts can be done a few hours before or the day before, and you just slightly warm in the oven before serving.
The “BBQ” Pulled Pork recipe is healthy, delicious, and one of my husband’s favorite recipes (which says a lot). It’s sweetened with apple cider (or apple sauce), balsamic vinegar and dried prunes/apricots, but has a slight smoky BBQ taste from the smoked paprika (and ok I’ve added some chipotle sauce, too). The result is amazing! AND it’s both Paleo and Keto approved if that’s something that you’re currently following.
Your guests will be impressed, and the only bad news is you’re unlikely to have leftovers!
Benefits of Sweet Potato
Sweet potatoes are a rich source of fiber, and contain an array of vitamins and minerals including iron, calcium, selenium, and they're a good source of most of our B vitamins and vitamin C.
One of the key nutritional benefits of sweet potato is that they're high in beta-carotene, an antioxidant that converts to vitamin A, and helps fight free-radical damage in the body.
Primarily due to the high fiber content and antioxidant levels, sweet potatoes can help lower inflammation, lower cholesterol, and help prevent risk of disease.
Sweet potatoes are also low-glycemic, especially in comparison to other starchy vegetables and fruits. This means that this vegetable will gradually increases our blood sugar levels, allowing our blood sugar to stay stable (and not spike) and avoid a sugar crash. So they’re great for regulating blood sugar and balancing hormones.
Lastly, sweet potatoes are rich in magnesium which is essential for our body and immune system to function properly, helps to destress, and even helps us to have regular bowel movements.
What’s not to LOVE about sweet potatoes??
MINI SWEET POTATO TOASTS
Ingredients (serves 8-10)
4 medium/large sweet potato (cut into approximately 1 cm (or ¼ inch) thick rounds)
1 ½ tbsp coconut oil
Pinch of pink himalayan sea salt
Pinch of rosemary (fresh ideally, otherwise dried is fine)
Preheat oven to 375 F. Wash your sweet potato, dry, cut off ends and slice lengthwise into roughly ¼ inch thick slices.
Line 2-3 baking sheets with parchment paper or tin foil (note, will cook quicker with the tin foil) and spray with a bit of olive oil, coconut oil or avocado oil. Season with sea salt and rosemary.
Place sweet potato rounds on lined sheets forming a single layer, Drizzle with the coconut oil (or avocado or oil) and bake for 10 minutes. Flip and bake for another 10 minutes. If needed, continue baking until soft, up to 10 additional minutes. Note: If you want them “crispier” turn up heat to 425 F for the last 5-10 minutes, making sure they don’t burn.
Version 1 (for the vegans): Sweet Potato Bites with Vegan Pesto
Top off each sweet potato round with 1 full teaspoon of pesto, and serve! Pesto recipe below:
Basil Spinach Pesto (vegan)
Ingredients (Yields about 2 cups):
2 medium garlic cloves, peeled
1.5 cups packed fresh basil leaves
1 cup packed fresh baby spinach leaves
½ cup pine nuts
½ cup raw walnuts
2 tablespoons lemon juice (more if needed)
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
¾ tsp coarse sea salt + ½ tsp ground black pepper (and more as needed)
Add all ingredients except the oil and mix in blender until well blended.
Gradually pour the oil in while processing/blending. Blend until you get your desired texture.
Taste and adjust if needed (adding more lemon, sea salt, etc. as needed). Then chill until ready to use.
Version 2 (for the vegetarians): Sweet Potato Bites with Goat Cheese & Sun-dried Tomatoes
1 small jar of sun-dried tomatoes
1 small container of soft goat cheese (if needed, warm a bit to soften)
Baked mini sweet potato toasts
Roughly chop and mash the sun-dried tomatoes (Note: I suggest taking the tomatoes out with a fork so you don’t get too much of the olive oil; a bit is fine!) and season with a touch of sea salt. (Just take out what you think you’ll need, ex. 1/3 of the jar, then repeat with more as needed).
Spread 1 tsp of a soft goat cheese on each sweet potato toast. Note: make sure the cheese is room temperature, or slightly warm if needed, before spreading to not break the sweet potato.
Add 1-2 little pieces (or about 1 tsp) of the chopped sun dried tomatoes on top of the cheese on each “toast” and enjoy!
Version 3 (for the omnivore): Pulled Pork Sweet Potato Bites
BBQ Pulled Pork:
2-3 lbs. pork loin roast
1 large red onion, sliced/diced
4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
12-16 oz. jarred tomato sauce (aim for organic, no preservatives and no salt added)
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons apple cider (alternatively use apple sauce)
1-2 tablespoons Chipotle flavored hot sauce (optional)
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
½ - ¾ teaspoon coarse sea salt
5 dried prunes and/or apricots, chopped
optional (if needed): 1 teaspoon coconut sugar (can use regular brown sugar instead)
Baked mini round sweet potato toasts
Soft goat cheese (warm a bit if needed to soften)
Sliced chives/green onions
Preheat oven to 475 F (or place on HIGH). In a medium bowl add diced onions, garlic cloves, tomato sauce, apple cider, balsamic vinegar, chipotle hot sauce (optional), smoked paprika, sea salt, coconut sugar, and dried fruits. Mix together and taste, adjusting as needed.I
In a large baking dish/crock pot, place your pork loin and pour the “BBQ” mixture over the pork.
Roast for 4-5 hours or until soft (after 3-3.5 hours, I suggest checking up on the pork every 30 mins or so to make sure its not getting dry).
When ready, remove from oven, allow to cool slightly and shred using a fork (leaving pork in sauce). (Note, if you won’t be using all of the pork, just shred the amount you will be using and store the rest intact). Taste, and if desire, season with a bit more “chipotle” sauce.
SERVE sweet potato bites. Spread 1 tsp soft goat cheese over each sweet potato round, then add about 2 tsp pulled pork, and top off with a sprinkle of chopped green onions/chives.
Let me know if you give these recipes a shot, and how it goes!
Love and Healthy Sweet Potato Bites,