An easy version of a classic restaurant appetizer
Do you subscribe to the New York Times Cooking newsletter? You might consider it (not an affiliate link). It’s free, and I really like how the editor works current affairs into the weekly pattern of recipes.
I especially liked a recent edition where the subject of Spinach Artichoke dip was reviewed – I had no idea that some foodies consider it a controversial subject.
I am not a foodie. I like tasty, easy to make food that’s easy on the budget and fits my health plan.
The recipe from the New York Times site didn’t actually fit those requirements, but I skimmed it for a basic jumping off point and then slimmed it down literally and figuratively.
Spinach and Artichoke Dip
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Lowfat Cream Cheese
at room temperature
fresh baby spinach
rinsed and patted dry
Marinated Artichoke Hearts
(Jar was 7.5 oz)
Finely chop the garlic, spinach and green onion.
In a small saute pan, heat olive oil and once it begins to shimmer, add garlic, spinach and green onion. Saute until spinach is fully cooked and very wilty.
While the garlic/onion/spinach mixture is cooking, combine the mayo, cream cheese and feta in a large, heat safe bowl.
Roughly chop the marinated artichoke hearts and add to the mayo/cream cheese mixture.
When the garlic/onion/spinach mixture is done, remove from heat add to the mayo/cream cheese mixture.
Stir thoroughly to combine.
The heat of the cooked vegetables will melt the cream cheese/mayo mixture. At this point, the dip can be enjoyed warm.
Leftovers should be refrigerated.
The dip will solidify, and can either be enjoyed as a chilled spread, or reheated in the microwave if you wish for a hot dip.
Three ingredients, no chopping!
Guacamole is magic.
Simple ingredients, quick prep, and super versatile. Depending on where you put it, it’s a dip, a spread or main ingredient.
That doesn’t mean the recipe can’t be abused – I saw a celebrity chef on PBS once take 18 minutes to create “classic guacamole” and it involved five different roasted vegetables and sweet peas.
More importantly, though, the recipe can be super simplified.
I have a basic recipe (which requires six ingredients and takes 5 minutes) and this one, which requires three items and takes less than 60 seconds.
Super Quick Guacamole
Also called "Cheater's Guac" at SuzerSpace
Prep Time 1 minute
Total Time 1 minute
Medium to Large Avocado
Chunky Style Tomato Salsa
Remove the pit from the avocado, and scoop flesh from the peel.
In a bowl, add the salsa to the avocado. Use a fork to smash.
When close to the desired consistency, add the splash of lime juice and stir to combine
Top guacamole tip: Only make what you can consume in one sitting. Sure, there are a million tricks for keeping it from turning brown, but it is really best served fresh.
A quick trick that doesn’t require a 500-word essay
An obvious choice for eating healthier is to is to change out high calorie, low nutrition snacks for their better versions.
I really like crunchy snacks, but chips or crackers can go wrong really quickly. They are a lot of empty calories. There are alternatives at the store, but many are a little pricey and portion control is still tricky for me.
Enter the easy swap – healthy cereal. A little label reading goes a long way here. High fiber, vitamin enriched cereal like wheat squares or fiber twigs are two that we like. Crunchy, a little sweet but not too sugary, and very filling. I can easily eat an entire box of Cheese-Its. There’s no way I can eat an entire box of Wheat Chex.
To make it even easier to stick to the plan, I put the cereal that’s for snacking into containers on the counter, right where the crackers used to live.
Adding healthy ingredients takes a snack to a meal
Lunch on Sundays at SuzerSpace is just about always nachos. Good on rainy days, good on sunny days. They pair well with sports, or crafts, or even chores.
You can’t really go wrong with melty cheese and chips, and anything else you add is bonus.
Because I top these with arugula and southwestern salad dressing, I call them “Salad Nachos” and then I feel less guilty about them. Although as long as you keep the fatty items off, and be tight on portion control, nachos don’t necessarily have to be on the bad list anyway.
A quick word about my feature photo – this isn’t a food blog, so I’m showing them exactly how we eat them. I lift them off the baking sheet by the foil, and then wrap that foil around the serving plate.
Classy? Not really. Easy cleanup? You betcha 🙂
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
1/4 - 1/2
rinsed and drained
Southwestern Style Ranch Salad Dressing
Line a small baking pan with foil
Place a single layer of chips on the foil, keeping them close together so very little foil shows through.
Add a light layer of black beans, and top that with salsa.
Sprinkle with shredded cheese evenly so everything gets a little.
Place this dish in a cold oven, and turn oven to Bake, 350 degrees. *See first note below
Bake until oven hits preheated temperature, switch to broil. *See second note below.
Remove from oven when cheese and chips are browned and crispy.
Top generously with arugula, sparingly with Southwestern style ranch dressing.
- I call this cooking method "Two-Stage" cooking, which is I'm using the pre-heating of the oven to warm all the ingredients and then switching over to broil to blast them at the last second. I find if I just broil the nachos, the tops are good, but the beans are cold.
- When the nachos are in the first stage of cooking, you've got freedom to do something else, since the oven will beep (or in our case play a song) when it's at 350 degrees. However, when you switch to broil, DO NOT LEAVE the oven, not even for a second. These go from "almost there" to carbon in as long as it takes you to look up that just one more thing on the computer.
Our version of the snack mix known as “Chex Mix”
I’ve previously admitted to my weakness for onion chip dip. The quick review – I love that stuff so much I have to put it on lock down and only eat it from Thanksgiving through New Year’s (with two exceptions – Super Bowl and Daytona 500 weekends).
I have a similar control issue with the snack mix that is universally called Chex Mix, whether or not it actually uses the brand name cereals.
Last year, we took a look at what we were actually eating in that mix, and changed up the recipe. I can’t realistically call it healthier, but I’d be willing to call it “betterfied.” And because it now packs more nutrition and way more fiber than most snacks, I’ve removed it from the quarantine calendar system.
Continue reading “Couch Mix”