Spinach and Artichoke Dip

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.

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Spinach and Artichoke Dip


Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes

Ingredients

  • 8 oz Lowfat Cream Cheese at room temperature
  • 1 Tsp Mayonnaise
  • 1/8 cup Feta Cheese crumbled
  • 4 oz fresh baby spinach rinsed and patted dry
  • 1 stalk Green Onion
  • 2 cloves Garlic peeled
  • 1/2 jar Marinated Artichoke Hearts (Jar was 7.5 oz)

Instructions

  1. Finely chop the garlic, spinach and green onion.

  2. 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.

  3. While the garlic/onion/spinach mixture is cooking, combine the mayo, cream cheese and feta in a large, heat safe bowl.

  4. Roughly chop the marinated artichoke hearts and add to the mayo/cream cheese mixture.

  5. When the garlic/onion/spinach mixture is done, remove from heat add to  the mayo/cream cheese mixture.

  6. Stir thoroughly to combine. 

Recipe Notes

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.

Super quick guacamole

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.

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Super Quick Guacamole

Also called "Cheater's Guac" at SuzerSpace

Prep Time 1 minute
Total Time 1 minute
Servings 2 people

Ingredients

  • 1 Medium to Large Avocado Ripe
  • 3 teaspoons Chunky Style Tomato Salsa
  • 1 splash Lime Juice

Instructions

  1. Remove the pit from the avocado, and scoop flesh from the peel. 

  2. In a bowl, add the salsa to the avocado. Use a fork to smash.

  3. When close to the desired consistency, add the splash of lime juice and stir to combine

Recipe Notes

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.

Teeny Tiny Tip: Snack Smarter

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.

Salad Nachos

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 🙂

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Salad Nachos

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 2

Ingredients

  • Tortilla Chips
  • 1/4 cup Shredded Cheese
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup Black Beans rinsed and drained
  • Salsa
  • Arugula
  • Southwestern Style Ranch Salad Dressing

Instructions

  1. Line a small baking pan with foil
  2. Place a single layer of chips on the foil, keeping them close together so very little foil shows through.
  3. Add a light layer of black beans, and top that with salsa.
  4. Sprinkle with shredded cheese evenly so everything gets a little.
  5. Place this dish in a cold oven, and turn oven to Bake, 350 degrees. *See first note below
  6. Bake until oven hits preheated temperature, switch to broil. *See second note below.
  7. Remove from oven when cheese and chips are browned and crispy.
  8. Top generously with arugula, sparingly with Southwestern style ranch dressing.

Recipe Notes

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

 

Couch Mix

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.

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Coonhound Caviar

A dump and mix recipe using black beans and diced tomatoes with green chiles

A good bit of my kitchen repertoire is based on dump and run recipes. You know the technique – a couple of cans of easy to acquire ingredients, combined with a few fresh ones, some time in the fridge or on the stove, and voila!

This one is extremely loosely based on a dish a co-worker brought to a potluck. Known as Texas Caviar or Cowboy Caviar, there are literally hundreds of recipes out there.  It’s usually presented as a side salad or a dip for Fritos or those bowl shaped Tostitos.

The problem with all of them is they are loaded with a lot of fat, salt and high carb items. A few years ago, we radically changed our food plan because we were dealing with the carb counting challenge that a Type 2 Diabetes diagnosis brings. (BIG DISCLAIMER: I am not a doctor or a nutritionist. Consult one or both for best management of a major health condition).

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Roasted Chickpeas

A quick, spicy dish

Roasted chickpeas (or garbanzo beans) are another one of those recipes that is more of technique than an actual list of steps and measurements.

And it’s been posted in some form or another all over the food blogs.

But I’m going to put it here at SuzerSpace, too, because it’s a staple in our house.

It ticks all the boxes – super simple to make, inexpensive, tasty and good for you.

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Super easy hummus

An easy dip from a few basic ingredients

Hummus is a bit of a head scratcher.

It’s been around forever, but suddenly a few years ago became the new “IT” food.

At the grocery store, a small container starts at $3.99 and goes up considerably if it has other high fashion ingredients (use the words artisan and roasted and you can add at least another dollar).

Food bloggers and their commenters have gone crazy as well, posting recipes with multiple steps and heated arguments about whether a Vitamix is better than a food processor. Don’t even get me started on the remove-the-skins vs. leave-the-skins debates. (Honestly, I fell for it, and used to skin them, but at least for me, the difference isn’t worth the work).

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Healthier Onion Dip Mix

I don’t have much of a sweet tooth. But put me near the dip and chips, and watch out. I like it so much that we had to institute “Dip Mix Season” which runs from Thanksgiving Day to New Year’s Day. There are two additional periods of legal dip mix use- Super Bowl Weekend and Daytona 500 weekend. Consuming dip outside of those calendar dates is frowned upon.

This past year, I stumbled upon an idea to make dip mix healthier. Not healthy. Just a little less bad. The easy swap was using cottage cheese for sour cream.

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