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Need Ideas for a REALLY healthy, but hopefully elegant dinner party

So of course I'm dieting.

But I am having a dinner for my inlaws tomorrow night and I would like to make something scrumptious but still really healthy.

Here is what I have so far:
Mâche salad with a light citrus vinaigrette, pomegranate seeds and orange (normally I would also add a wedge of chèvre, but not this time)

Soup (I need some help here)...I want something light, preferably a blended veggie soup....maybe green in colour? Any ideas? Does spinach work well in a blended soup?

Main Course (again, help needed)....past low-fat staples have been chicken and pear in a balsamic reduction, and I'm contemplating that....I'd like to make either chicken or salmon (or even shrimp).

Dessert - is there some sort of really light fruit tart I could make? Maybe something with a creamy custard and sliced fruit on top? Other ideas?

As far as skill in the kitchen, I'd say I'm definitely decent, but my audience in this case will not really be appreciative of anything other than continental style cuisine (i.e., they won't go for moroccan, indian, etc.).

Thank you for the help!

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  1. Here's a healthy, delicious and impressive salmon recipe. People love to receive a "parcel" on their plate to open up and enjoy.

    Citrus-Salmon Parcels
    4 salmon fillets (6 ounces each)
    1 tablespoon butter or margarine, melted
    1 1/2 tablespoons orange-juice concentrate
    2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/8 teaspoon black pepper
    1 small onion, thinly sliced
    2 carrots, thinly sliced
    4 ounces snow peas, strings removed and cut in half crosswise at an angle

    1. Preheat the oven to 400F. Place one salmon fillet on each of four 12x16-inch sheets of aluminum foil.

    2. In a small bowl, whisk together the butter, orange-juice concentrate, lemon juice, salt and pepper; spoon over the fillets. Arrange the onion, carrots and snow peas on top of the fillets.

    3. Fold foil over each portion of fish so the edges meet. Starting at one end, fold and crimp to seal the edges, making a parcel.

    4. Place the parcels on a baking sheet; bake 10 minutes. Open carefully to release the steam. With a spatula, transfer the salmon and vegetables to plates. Drizzle with the sauce.

    Per serving: 284 Cals; 9g Fat; 2g Fiber

    Serves 4

    1. For dessert, why not crepes filled with fruit?

      1. Here's a "cream" of broccoli soup that uses fat-free evaporated milk. I would substitiute fat-free half-and-half, though.

        Cream of Broccoli Soup
        1 medium onion(s), chopped
        1 medium garlic clove(s), minced
        2 pound broccoli, tough ends removed, stems and florets chopped
        4 cup chicken broth, or vegetable broth
        1 cup fat-free evaporated milk
        1/4 tsp hot pepper sauce
        1/8 tsp table salt, or to taste
        1/8 tsp black pepper, or to taste

        1. Put onion and garlic in a 2-quart saucepan with 1/4 cup water and simmer until onion is soft, about 10 minutes; spoon into large pot.
        2. Add broccoli and broth to onion mixture and bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, turn down heat and simmer until broccoli is soft but still green, about 8 minutes. Do not cover pot while broccoli is cooking or it will turn gray.
        3. Remove soup from heat and puree in batches in a blender until smooth. (Note: Be careful not to overfill blender; the hot liquid can splatter.) Or use an immersion blender right in the pot. Add evaporated milk and hot pepper sauce, and season with salt and pepper. Yields about 1 3/4 cups per serving.

        4 servings

        1. Cooking fish En Papillote is one of the few super-healthy preparations of food that I actually enjoy. Here are a few recipes:


          1. Here's a recipe for individual apple tarts...

            Apple Tarts
            3/4 cup all-purpose flour
            1/4 tsp sugar
            1/4 tsp table salt
            3 tbsp reduced-calorie margarine
            2 tbsp sugar
            1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
            3 small apple(s), peeled and thinly sliced
            Fat-free vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt

            1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix flour with 1/4 teaspoon sugar and salt.
            2. Cut margarine into flour mixture with a fork until flour is the consistency of cornmeal. Mix with 2 or 3 tablespoons cold water until dough forms a ball (a little drier is better than a little sticky). You can make the dough up to 24 hours ahead of times if you wrap it securely in plastic wrap and refrigerate it until you need it.
            3. Divide dough into four pieces. Roll each into a ball and then flatten into a disc about 5 inches (13 cm) across. Place the discs on a baking sheet a few inches apart.
            4. Combine remaining sugar with cinnamon.
            5. Arrange apple slices on top of dough discs, overlapping and fanning them (so they make a flower shape). Sprinkle generous amounts of sugar-cinnamon mixture over them.
            6. Bake until crust is browned, approximately 35 to 40 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with fat-free vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt

            4 tarts

            1. For dessert you could do meringue nests with a mixture fresh berries - frozen ones work well for this.

              Also, consider roasting veggies along with your main course - lots of options, there.

              1. This is a delicious, light soup which has become a staple in our house. It's an escarole soup with turkey meatballs. Very tasty. Have also made it with spinach if that's all that I had on hand, but I love the crunchiness of escarole.

                Have you tried looking in Cooking Light for desserts? I think they have great things in there that are always fresh and seasonal. If not, I would suggest poached pears. I'm on a pear kick at the moment.

                1. Last week after the holidays my husband and I had my parents over for dinner, and I had the same aims in mind. Light, healthy, and at least somewhat elegant. Oh, and easy! Here's what I did:

                  Salad of baby arugula, blood orange segments, red onion, toasted pecans, red wine vinaigrette. (For my husband I threw a little chevre on top too at his request).

                  Simple grilled salmon, slow-roasted plum tomatoes (just a little olive oil, salt and pepper), and mushroom cous cous.

                  I didn't feel like making dessert, so I picked up some anise biscotti from a local specialty store. Perfect with a little coffee.

                  Another recent dinner with the same objectives was:

                  Salad of bibb lettuce, hearts of palm, sliced tomato, diced red pepper, toasted pecans, balsamic vinaigrette

                  Grilled swordfish, pineapple salsa, vegetable basmati rice.

                  1. Hidden bran! Sprinkle it wherever it won't show/blends in.
                    Red wine!

                    Slice yellow delicious apples ( slice thin, arrange decoratively)
                    douse with a mix of good balsamic vinegar, brown sugar--mix well to dissolve sugar--black pepper to taste.
                    If you use berries, I think blueberries are best for antioxidants.

                    1. I do a very simple zucchini soup that looks gorgeous, tastes amazing and is super-healthy. Basically, dice one onion and mince one clove garlic; cook gently in about 2 tsp canola oil until softened (don't let the garlic burn). Add 5 medium-sized zucchini, sliced 1/2 inch thick, and sweat for 2 minutes, tossing to coat with oil. Add chicken or veggie stock just to cover veggies; salt and pepper to taste, and a tsp of dried tarragon or thyme. Bring to a boil and then simmer 20 min or until zucchini is tender. Puree with an immersion blender or in a food processor. Add about 1 cup of low-fat milk and stir to combine. Serve with a swirl of low-fat sour cream or yogurt.

                      You can use fresh herbs as well, in which case garnish with a sprig of whatever you used as well.

                      1. For dessert what about fruit salad with a little creme anglaise on the side to drizzle over it. Decadent, but restrained. If you want to add something else, make a lemon pound cake and serve with the fruit.

                        I love this epicurious recipe for creme anglaise:

                        1. The curried squash soup on epicurious is to die for -- especially if you substitute Thai curry paste for the indian curry, and it just has a little butter -- no cream or anything, because the squash makes it creamy.

                          For dessert, what about a pavlova? Meringue (light) whipped cream (not so light) and fruit -- maybe some sliced oranges or any other good fruit you can get?

                          1. Ooooooooooooo....thanks so much everyone! You guys are great!

                            I've never made a meringue/pavlova before (not very common here) - I might give it a try. It would be different, and I could use ultra-low-fat whipped topping to satisfy dietary needs (I know, I know, I should use nothing but the real thing).

                            The papillote idea is great too! I really want to do some sort of meal with a vertical presentation, because it makes for better blog pictures....I am off to do some more searching and thinking...

                            I really appreciate all the help and recipes! Thanks!

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: mrbunsrocks

                              The only caveat I'd have about the whipped topping is that the meringue is sweet and pavlova is usually made with unsweetened whipped cream (at least it is in my household). Honestly, I'd use less of it, or combine whipped cream with some low fat yogurt (maybe fage) whipped into it, but use the unsweetened. Or just use some Fage yogurt but sweeten the fruit with a syrup -- I often do strawberries with brown sugar and balsamic on my pavlova.

                            2. Unless you are absolutely sure of your guests, I would hesitate to make salmon. That seems to be one of those foods that is either in the "love it" or "hate it" camp. I would agree with the "en papillote" idea as healthy and not something you see everyday. Or fish (mahi mahi, perhaps), layered with vegetables, wrapped in a banana leaf and steamed. even better!

                              1. Yes, spinach makes GREAT pureed soup. I use the pre-washed organic baby spinach.

                                Melt some butter (you can use just a tiny bit) in your soup pot. Add spinach and let wilt, stirring from time to time to get it all wilted. Add a little chicken broth (not too much) and bring just barely to a boil. Pour into blender and puree, in batches if need be (don't fill the blender more than halfway or you'll get spinach puree all over the wall and counter -- believe me, I know). Put back in soup pot, add a little more chicken broth to get correct consistency, bring back to a simmer and add just a small amount of heavy cream. Add salt and pepper to taste and (this is crucial) some freshly grated nutmeg (you can buy them singly in the bulk spice section at Whole Foods). That's it, you're done. (Note: spinach soup does not take kindly to long heating -- the beautiful bright green color will get darker and darker and it will eventually look pretty muddy.)

                                Some idea of amounts per serving, although very approximate and you have to do it to taste: about 4 oz (1/4 lb) spinach, about 1 or 2 teaspoons butter, about 1/2 cup chicken broth initially and another 1/4 cup after pureeing, about 1 or 2 tablespoons heavy cream, a pinch of salt, a grind or two of pepper, and couple of gratings or grinds of fresh nutmeg.

                                1. how about a chilled cucumber soup with yogurt and dill

                                  and grilled shrimp with mango salsa, brown rice and black beans with tomato and lots of garlic

                                  for dessert..nothing fancy but a some fat free chocolate pudding and slices of bananas in a graham cracker crust topped with fat free cool whip is always a pleaser. you can even make individual ones so you are not tempted to help yourself to 2nds and 3rds

                                  good luck

                                  1. Thanks so much for all of the help, tips and advice. :)

                                    This was the menu I ended up making:

                                    Mâche salad with pomegranate, blood orange and boursin
                                    Green Pea Ravioli with Lemon Broth
                                    Shrimp Skillet (with Basil, Wine and Vegetables)
                                    Pavlova with blackberries

                                    FOr the Pavlova, I did end up using the whipped topping - none of my guests had ever had this dessert before (not popular in Canada) so they all enjoyed it. :)

                                    If you want to see pictures or recipes, I have posted them on my blog - http://definitelynotmartha.blogspot.com , but I just wanted to thank everyone!

                                    You guys are great!

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: mrbunsrocks

                                      pics are beautiful. looks like a deliciously healthy meal. brava!