No matter how busy and stressful the holiday season can be, I look forward to it for all the fun times I get to spend with family and friends. Someday, I hope that one of these shindigs includes my friend Ricki. She’s a hoot and a sweetheart, not to mention, I know she’d show up something absolutely delicious – yet nutritious and guilt-free in its own right. You can always count on Ricki for over-the-top, naturally-sweetened, vegan treats like Cookie Dough Topped Brownies, Chocolate Pate, and Strawberries ‘n Cream Layer Cake (with white chocolate coated cookie crumbs, pastry cream and silky strawberry puree), but she’s no stranger to elegant savory treats either, like the ones she brought today!

For more of Ricki’s vegan, gluten-free and refine sugar-free recipes, visit Diet, Dessert and Dogs, “Like” her page on Facebook, and follow @rickiheller on Twitter.

I’m thrilled to be here today as a guest at Cara’s cocktail party!

Even though my specialized anti-candida diet means that I long ago had to give up standard cocktails, I can still clearly remember the very first cocktail party to which I was invited, when I was still a university student. Two guys, friends of a friend, threw a massive soirée. From the moment I entered their immaculate house, scented candles in each room, original artwork on the walls and tasteful Mission furniture throughout, I was in awe of my hosts. These men were incredibly suave and debonair, great dressers (with buff bodies, to boot). They seemed to have a preternatural flair for decorating, an unbounded love of Cher and Barbra Streisand, and finesse in the kitchen that I’d never before encountered among any of my female friends.

The party remained a highlight for the rest of my years at university, partly because that night, I also sampled my very first martini (gin, vermouth, three olives). I was smitten! More than the martini, though, was the mind-boggling array of bite-sized nibbles that were carefully placed around the room and offered throughout the evening. For instance, at one point Host One approached with a silver tray strewn with Triscuits, cream cheese, smoked oysters and just a tiny sliver of fresh lemon (we were meant to pop those into our mouths in one go). Later, browsing the buffet table, I sampled cheeses from around the world, olives of every type and color, pâtés aplenty, and gorgeous, voluptuous grapes and cherries that looked as if they’d been manually inflated to within a minim of bursting. Later on, Host Two made his rounds, offering tiny spirals of cheese, roasted pepper and sundried tomato; coconut shrimp impaled on individual toothpicks; falafel balls with tahini; and at least two dozen other miniature appetizers that I can no longer remember.

That party was the inspiration for many of my own gatherings later on. Most often, I threw dinner parties, serving one or two appetizers as an introduction to a larger meal (and spectacular dessert). These days, my diet is quite different from what it was back then, but I’m no less enamored of bite-sized hors d’oeuvres.

I created these Coconut-Crusted Tofu Bites to be eaten in one mouthful, like sushi. The fusion of coconut, Thai spices and pineapple creates a little sparkle in the mouth, with all the elements asserting themselves simultaneously like a little firework of flavors. I loved these nibbles, and also how they reminded me of that first thrilling cocktail party way back. These would be perfect to serve to family or friends—old, or new.

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Coconut Crusted Tofu & Pineapple Bites with Creamy Green Curry Sauce

Yield: 18-24 appetizers

Crispy baked coconut crusted tofu and pineapple drizzled with creamy green curry sauce. A gluten free & vegan one-bite appetizer.

Ingredients:

For the sauce:
1/4 cup (60 ml) full fat canned coconut milk
1/4-1/2 tsp (1-2.5 ml) green curry paste (I like Thai Kitchen)
4 tsp (20 ml) pineapple juice
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) finely grated lime zest
10 drops plain liquid stevia
1 tsp (5 ml) arrowroot powder

For the tofu:

2 tsp (10 ml) Dijon mustard
1/4 cup (60 ml) full fat canned coconut milk
2 Tbsp (30 ml) freshly squeezed lime juice
10-15 drops plain stevia liquid, to your taste
Pinch fine sea salt
1 block (about 1 lb/500 g) firm or extra firm tofu, pressed of excess liquid
1 cup ( g) finely shredded unsweetened coconut
18-24 small chunks of fresh pineapple
Cilantro leaves, to garnish (optional)

Directions:

Make the sauce: In a small saucepan, whisk together all ingredients except arrowroot until smooth. Cook over medium-low heat until the mixture begins to bubble. Remove about 2 Tbsp (30 ml) of the liquid to a small bowl and mix with the arrowroot until smooth, then pour back into the pot and continue to cook and stir until the sauce thickens. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature. (May be made up to a day ahead and refrigerated until ready to use).

Make the tofu:
Preheat oven to 375F (190C). Line two cookie sheets with parchment or spray with non-stick spray.

In a shallow bowl, whisk together the mustard, coconut milk, lime juice, stevia and salt. Set aside.
Cut the block of tofu into cubes about 1 inch (2.5 cm) big. Coat the cubes in the coconut-mustard mixture (you can do this individually, or place about half the cubes in the bowl and gently mix with a rubber spatula until they are all coated; repeat with second half of the tofu).

Place the shredded coconut on a plate and gently roll each tofu cube in it to coat on all sides. Place the cubes on the cookie sheets and bake until they are well browned on top, 25-30 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature. (May be baked up to a day ahead and stored, covered, in the refrigerator until ready to serve).

To serve, place one cube of tofu and one chunk of pineapple on a soup spoon or other small serving plate, or serve on individual skewers (or pierce with toothpicks). Spoon a small amount of the sauce over all and garnish with a cilantro leaf if desired. Serve.