Guiltless Spinach and Artichoke Dip
I've worked with food all of my adult life and about half of my childhood (in case you missed the Sweet Corn Season post, check it out).
My first "real" job was working for my best friend's mom in her local diner; it was really fun when my friend worked the same shifts as me - although we probably spent more time laughing than we did flipping burgers.
In college, I worked for Panda Express and got up at 5:30 every morning to roll sushi before I went to class. I had a different colored Panda Express shirt for every day of the week, and I always smelled like orange chicken when I went to my Anatomy & Physiology class.
During the summer, when I went home between semesters, I worked at Applebee's Neighborhood Grill & Bar in Hutchinson, KS. I grew up in a town too small to have a McDonald's, so driving 30 miles to work as a server at an actual restaurant was kind of a big deal for 18-year-old me.
I loved it.
My grandparents lived in Hutchinson, so I stayed at their house on nights that I closed, rather than drive home and risk the deer at 1:00 a.m. And what's better than spending the night with Grandma and Grandpa?
I met some really great friends, there, too. Brandi and Zach were different than anybody I'd met before; they are quality people with whom I still keep in touch (although not as often or as well as I'd like). When the three of us closed together in the summer, sometimes we'd leave at the same time as the sprinklers came on and so would run through them like ridiculous big kids.
Applebee's is where my love affair with Spin Dip (a.k.a. Spinach and Artichoke Dip) began. Countless nights I ended up eating dinner at the restaurant after the main rush subsided and before most of the other servers went home. Because of my budgetary restrictions and the fact that while on your shift your meal was 50% off, many times I shared an order of Spin Dip with Brandi.
Spinach and Artichoke Dip is ooey-gooey goodness. It is salty, savory, and creamy. And, as it turns out, it's kind of terrible for you.
That's right: despite two of the most awesome vegetables being highlighted in the title, this dip is traditionally significantly less than healthy. Thus, because I love both Spin Dip and eating healthy, I did what I usually do (see: semi-healthy pizza post) and made a few adjustments to make this dish a little less bad for you.
Let me share a few of my secrets:
Transformation Tip #1: More Veggies!
Always more veggies. Whatever recipe I'm making, I double the vegetables and usually add other kinds to the dish (if the flavors make sense to do so).
Veggies are amazing. The have tons of nutrition, but practically no calories. The more you include, the fuller you feel, the healthier you are, and the smaller your waist. That's a win-win-win, if you were counting.
Transformation Tip #2: Greek Yogurt!
Greek yogurt is also amazing. During processing, more of the liquid is strained that regular yogurt, so it's thicker and more creamy - thus making it an excellent substitute for mayonnaise or sour cream in a variety of different dishes.
I use Greek yogurt for everything from making ranch dip for veggies to topping my enchiladas to using as a base for gluten-free cream-of-something soup. It pretty much rocks.
Transformation Tip #3: Less fat!
Note: I didn't say no fat, I said less fat. Fat is delicious and has its place in nutrition, but too much of a good thing = more calories than you really need.
Here are a couple changes I make to lessen the fat without affecting the flavor:
Low-fat milk in soups + flour or cornstarch to thicken
Non-fat plain Greek yogurt instead of sour cream or mayo (see tip #2)
Lower fat (but not no-fat) options - 1/3 fat cream cheese or part-skim mozzarella
But now, for what you've been waiting for - let me show you how I applied these tricks to make this super-yummy dip (and yes, it's been tested and approved by multiple girls' nights and parties).
Soften eight ounces of 1/3-less-fat cream cheese to room temperature, then mix in a large bowl with one cup non-fat, plain Greek yogurt, a half-cup Parmesan cheese, one-fourth cup mozzarella cheese, two minced garlic cloves, and one-half teaspoon basil.
Wash and drain two cups fresh spinach and a 14-ounce can of artichoke hearts. Coarsely chop and add to cheese mixture. Stir together, then transfer to greased 8 x 8 -inch casserole dish and top with another one-fourth cup mozzarella cheese.
Bake, covered, for 20 minutes at 400 degrees, then uncover and bake 10-15 minutes more until cheese is bubbly and starting to brown. Serve hot with veggies, whole-grain pita, or tortilla chips.
Guiltless Spinach and Artichoke Dip
8 oz. 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
1 c. fat-free plain Greek yogurt
1/2 c. Parmesan cheese
1/2 c. mozzarella cheese, divided
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. basil
2 c. fresh spinach
1 can (14 oz.) artichoke hearts
Soften cream cheese to room temperature, then mix in a large bowl with yogurt, Parmesan cheese, 1/4 c. mozzarella cheese, garlic, and basil.
Wash and drain spinach and artichoke hearts, then coarsely chop and add to cheese mixture.
Stir together, then transfer to greased 8 x 8 -inch casserole dish.
Bake, covered, for 20 minutes at 400 degrees, then uncover and bake 10-15 minutes more until cheese is bubbly and starting to brown.
Serve hot with veggies, whole-grain pita, or tortilla chips.
Serves 20 - Serving Size: 1/4 cup - Nutrients per serving: 86 calories -- 6g total fat -- 3g saturated fat -- 17mg cholesterol -- 298mg sodium -- 2g total carbohydrates -- 1g sugar -- 1g fiber -- 6g protein