THE BLOG
12/23/2013 04:00 pm ET Updated Feb 22, 2014

5 Gluten-free Healthy Winter Appetizers

Winter is here and holiday party season will soon be in full swing. Dinner soirees may not be known as health nut havens, but this doesn't have to be the case! With winter comes a host of healthy choices we haven't seen since last year, and is the perfect time to indulge in flavors of the season from butternut squash to pomegranate. This holiday season, satisfy your taste buds and impress your evening guests with these delicious and totally healthy starters. These appetizers are fun & simple to make, contain only clean ingredients, and are way more delicious than eggnog! Even better, these hors d'oeuvres are all gluten-free and include vegan & vegetarian choices. Let the holiday season begin!

1. Baby Carrot & Zucchini Quiche in Radicchio Leaves (Vegetarian, Vegan & Gluten-Free) -- Prep: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare two 12-hole mini muffin pans with baking spray. Whisk 4 eggs with almond milk. Stir in 2 grated carrots, 1 grated large zucchini, 1 tsp. of lemon zest, 3 tbsp. of snipped chives and 3 tbsp. of vegan cheese. Spoon mixture into pans and bake for 15 minutes, until golden. Let cool. To serve, place each mini quiche in a small radicchio leaf.

2. Butternut Squash Soup Shooters (Vegan & GF) -- Chop 1 onion, 4 cloves of garlic and 1 tbsp. of peeled ginger. Add chopped items to 1 tbsp. of olive oil and cook on low heat for 15 minutes, keeping pan covered and stirring occasionally. Combine 1 peeled & seeded butternut squash, 5 cups vegetable broth and a pinch of sugar. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes until squash is tender. Combine both mixtures and blend in food processor until smooth. Serve on a tray as shooters for a fun appetizer. Works with other soups, too!

3. Endive with Beet, Clementine and Pomegranate (Vegetarian & GF) -- Use a sharp knife to slice 4 peeled clementines & dice 2 medium beets. Remove pomegranate seeds from 1 pomegranate. Mix fruit together and assemble in endive leaves. Whisk together 5 tsp. of olive oil, 2 tsp. of red wine vinegar, 1/4 tsp. each of salt and fresh ground pepper. Drizzle dressing over endive and fruit and top with a sprinkling of fresh dill and feta cheese.

4. Spinach Stuffed Mushroom Caps (Vegetarian & GF) --
Prep: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Remove stems from two 8-0z packages of button or baby bella mushrooms. Chop 1 small yellow onion. Thaw one 1-pound package of frozen spinach and squeeze out extra water. Heat 1 tbsp. of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushroom stems, onions, and a dash of salt & pepper, then cook 8-10 minutes until softened, stirring occasionally. Transfer to a large bowl along with spinach and toss well. Arrange mushroom caps in a single layer on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Add dairy-free shredded cheese, sea salt and pepper to spinach mixture then divide filling evenly between mushrooms, mounding it in the center of each cap. Drizzle mushrooms with 1 tbsp. oil and bake until softened and juicy, about 20 minutes.

5. Apple & Cheese Platter (Vegetarian & GF) -- Choose your favorite cheeses from the local farmers market to pair with crispy, delicious apple slices. Mouthwatering combinations include Honeycrisp apples with sharp cheddar, Golden Delicious with Cheshire, and Empire apples with smoked gouda. Try using a cheese plane to keep slices thin!