Before rice crackers with tuna tartare and platters of canapes, there were pigs in blankets. A classic finger food that not only saved snack time, but in many ways, acted as the gateway to more mature appetizers, teaching early eaters just how playful and filing small bites of food can be. A very important lesson, indeed.
But for those avoiding meat, wheat products, sodium, or anything reminiscent of a 1970s cocktail party, pigs-in-a-blanket serve as a memory from the past rather than a go-to treat. Which is why it’s time to update them with healthy and, dare I say it, more flavorful, swaps and give vegetables a chance to warm up in some edible bedwear. So, as of today, sweet potatoes are the new pig, and zucchini is the new blanket.
How to Make Sweet Potato "Pigs"
To replace the traditional mini hot dog, simply peel and cut sweet potatoes into mini hot dog shapes, about 2-inches long and 1-inch wide. Then steam until fork tender but still firm. For an alternative to sweet potatoes, steamed baby carrots will work, too.
If your diet permits eating premade crescent dough, roll up the sweet potato in the dough as you would mini hot dogs, place on a parchment-covered baking sheet, and bake in a 350°F oven until the dough is golden, 10 to 12 minutes.
How to Make Zucchini "Blankets"
For those who do not eat wheat or crescent dough, simply use a vegetable peeler to make wide slices of zucchini. Then wrap pre-cooked mini hot dogs (of the meat or sweet potato variety) in the zucchini ribbon and secure with a toothpick.
You can also use carrot ribbons instead, but quickly steam them before wrapping to make them more pliable. And if you don’t want to use hot dogs, cut other kinds of cooked sausages (chorizo, apple chicken, fish) into bite-sized pieces for even more flavor.
Place the pigs-in-a-blanket on a parchment-covered baking sheet, coat with a little cooking spray, and bake in a 350°F oven until warmed, 8 to 10 minutes.
Whichever pig and blanket combo you choose, don’t forget to add spices for extra flavor (or even a sprinkle of parmesan). And make this treat for more than Throwback Thursdays.
Old Ingredients, New Tricks
As someone who constantly makes over dishes for dietary and health needs, I'm used to using total creative license when it comes to food. And the good news is we already live in a culinary world where zucchinis can be noodles, beets can be chips, and cucumbers can act like baguettes. So let me be your guide as we dust off some standard items from the produce aisle and give them a chance to show off a little. It’s an exercise in recipe liberation (not limitations) that will not only lighten up those eating habits but also give new life to old favorites.
So whether you’re trying to ditch the gluten, sugar, or just a pant size, let’s forget about pledging to take on a new diet. And let’s pledge instead to break some rules and teach a handful of old ingredients some new tricks.