Feb 082011

I attempted to care about the Super Bowl this year.  I swear, I really really tried.  A few weeks ago, the Bears (my home team) and the Jets (my new temporary home team) each had a 50-50 shot of making it in, so I’d almost certainly have at least one team to root for.  But alas, they both lost so I was back to not caring.  Therefore, I focused on what the Super Bowl is really good for–food.

I wanted to take a traditional party app, like creamy-cheesey-delicious spinach-artichoke dip, and make a healthy version that doesn’t sacrifice the taste.  Seems impossible, but was actually kind of was.  I based this recipe on Cooking Lights version, which was awarded their “All Time Best Appetizer” Prize, so it had to be good.
I know people always say this (and it’s usually a lie) but I realllllly could not tell that this was a healthier version.  It was still warm and creamy and cheesey, but the amped up veggie quanity and lower fat dairy products made it not nearly as indulgent. 

Nutritional Highlights:  This dip doubles the quantity of vegetables and replaces all the dairy/cheese products with low fat or fat free versions.  Plus, it’s completely mayo free (always a plus).   My version has garlic, hot sauce, and red pepper flakes to bump up the flavor without adding fat/calories.  Also, always remember it’s not just about the dip…the dippers matter too.  Instead of bread and chips, I brought broccoli, carrots, cherry tomatoes, and baked tortilla/pita chips for dipping.  Maybe if you fill up on veggies and healthy dip, you’ll take it easy on the pizza, wings, and chili?  But maybe not…
Spinach-Artichoke Dip
adapted from Cooking Light

2 cups (8 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided
1/2 cup fat-free sour cream
1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmesan cheese, divided
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 (8-ounce) block 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
1 (8-ounce) block fat-free cream cheese, softened
1/2 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained, and squeezed dry
1 (13.5-ounce) package baked tortilla chips (about 16 cups)

Preheat oven to 350°.
Combine 1 1/2 cups mozzarella, sour cream, 2 tablespoons Parmesan, and next 6 ingredients (through spinach) in a large bowl; stir until well blended. Spoon mixture into a 1 1/2-quart baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella and remaining 2 tablespoons Parmesan. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown. Serve with tortilla chips.
Now for my adjustments: That’s the Cooking Light recipe without adjustments (which I wanted to give you cuz it’s tried and true), but here’s what I did. I used 2 cans of artichokes and a whole 16 oz package of chopped spinach to up the vegetable content. I used less cream cheese…1.5 blocks instead of two, and a little extra mozzarella and parm because I like it. The real key to my version was an extra clove of garlic, a good pour of hot sauce (depending on preference) and sprinkle of red pepper flakes on top of a little heat. Another little trick was that once it was just about done cooking, I switched to broil so the cheese on top would get really bubbly and brown if it isn’t already.

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