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.

Guiltless Spinach and Artichoke Dip from Peas and Hoppiness - www.peasandhoppiness.com

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.

Guiltless Spinach and Artichoke Dip from Peas and Hoppiness - www.peasandhoppiness.com

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.

Zach, Brandi, and I spending a rather cold day at the lake on a day off together.

Zach, Brandi, and I spending a rather cold day at the lake on a day off together.

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.

Guiltless Spinach and Artichoke Dip from Peas and Hoppiness - www.peasandhoppiness.com

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.

Guiltless Spinach and Artichoke Dip from Peas and Hoppiness - www.peasandhoppiness.com

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.

Guiltless Spinach and Artichoke Dip from Peas and Hoppiness - www.peasandhoppiness.com
Guiltless Spinach and Artichoke Dip from Peas and Hoppiness - www.peasandhoppiness.com

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.

Guiltless Spinach and Artichoke Dip from Peas and Hoppiness - www.peasandhoppiness.com

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.

Enjoy!

Guiltless Spinach and Artichoke Dip from Peas and Hoppiness - www.peasandhoppiness.com

Guiltless Spinach and Artichoke Dip

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  1. Soften cream cheese to room temperature, then mix in a large bowl with yogurt, Parmesan cheese, 1/4 c. mozzarella cheese, garlic, and basil.

  2. Wash and drain spinach and artichoke hearts, then coarsely chop and add to cheese mixture.

  3. Stir together, then transfer to greased 8 x 8 -inch casserole dish.

  4. Bake, covered, for 20 minutes at 400 degrees, then uncover and bake 10-15 minutes more until cheese is bubbly and starting to brown.

  5. 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

Guiltless Spinach and Artichoke Dip

Ingredients

  • 8 oz. 1/3-less-fat cream cheese

  • 1 c. fat-free plain Greek yogurt

  • 1/2 c. shredded Parmesan cheese

  • 1/2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese, divided

  • 2 cloves garlic (1/2 tsp. minced)

  • 1/2 tsp. basil (or 2 Tbsp. fresh chopped basil)

  • 2 c. fresh spinach

  • 1 (14.5 oz.) can artichoke hearts, drained

 Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Soften cream cheese to room temperature (if very cold, heat in glass bowl 30-60 seconds in microwave).

  2. To a large glass mixing bowl add softened cream cheese, yogurt, Parmesan cheese, and 1/4 c. mozzarella cheese. Stir to mix well.

  3. Mince garlic and chop fresh basil. Add to cheese mixture and stir to combine.

  4. Coarsely chop spinach and artichoke hearts into roughly 1/2-inch pieces, then stir into cheese mixture.

  5. Prepare 8x8 baking dish by spraying with cooking spray. Transfer dip to baking dish and spread evenly using back of a spoon or spatula. Sprinkle remaining 1/4 c. mozzarella cheese evenly over dish.

  6. Cover dish loosely with foil and bake 20 minutes at 400 degrees. Uncover dish and bake another 10-15 minutes until cheese is bubbly and starting to brown.

  7. Serve hot with veggies, whole-grain pita, or tortilla chips.

Prep time: 12-15 min // Cook time: 30-35 min // Total time: 45-50 min- Serves 16 - Serving Size: 1/4 c. - Nutrients per serving: 70 calories -- 4g total fat -- 2g saturated fat -- 0g trans fat -- 13mg cholesterol -- 181mg sodium -- 4g total carbohydrates -- 1g fiber -- 2g sugar -- 5g protein -- www.peasandhoppiness.com

Pro tip:  this is a great dip to bring to a party or serve to a large group!

Cooking Techniques Used

  • Mince garlic: smash garlic clove by placing the flat edge of a chef’s knife on top of the clove and pressing firmly with the palm of the hand; remove papery skin. Lengthwise slice clove into very thin slices; stack slices on top of each other and cut into very thin matchsticks. Turn a quarter-turn and mince finely.

  • Coarsely chop spinach: stack spinach leaves into a pile and using chef’s knife cut roughly into uneven bite-sized pieces.

  • Coarsely chop artichokes: drain can of artichoke hearts. Stack artichokes into a pile and using chef’s knife cut roughly into uneven bite-sized pieces.

Cooking Equipment

  • Cutting board

  • Chef’s knife

  • 8x8 baking dish

 

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