Healthier Spinach Artichoke Dip

Every weekend the Mister and I make a dip to enjoy while we watch movies, catch up on our favorite shows, or play games. I usually make your typical cream cheese salsa dip, but I've found myself wanting to try other dips. I'm one of those people that can't have the same thing too often, otherwise I get bored with it. So, I decided to look around online to see what interesting dips there were out there. Now, I know what you're thinking, "Kristin, spinach artichoke dip isn't anything new." While you would be correct, the dip is sort of new for me. You see, way back when, like eleven and a half years ago, I was a new bride trying to figure out how to cook. I had seen a recipe for spinach artichoke dip, probably on the Food Network channel and decided to make it. BIG mistake. HUGE! I remember that the dip consisted of a lot of mayonnaise, not something I usually ate because I was a Miracle Whip kinda girl. Come to think of it, considering the jar of mayo I put in the dip... it was probably a Paula Dean recipe. Anyway, while I was slightly grossed out by the mayo ratio in the dip, I had high hopes that I was going to impress my husband with the most fabulous, luxurious appetizer I've ever made. Fast forward an hour or two and The Mister came home from work to find all the window open, the oven turned off with the dip still inside, and me locked into our bedroom, nauseated from the smell. Needless to say, the dip went right into the trash and I spent the night curled up in the fetal position chomping on Tums. Ever since then, I've steered clear of anything resembling this dish... until now.

Now one thing that sets this one apart from that disastrous dip many moons ago is that this one doesn't have any mayo. None. Zero. Zilch. In fact, the creamy white base is yogurt and cream cheese... two things that I love. Two things that when they are heated up, do not make me nauseous. Now, as you see in the pictures, this recipe make a LOT of dip. It's insanely delicious and you will have no problem eating it all. However, if you made a New Years resolution that doesn't jive with eating a whole thing of dip, maybe invite some friends over. I served my dip with sliced bread but you could make this even healthier by slicing one of those huge carrots you see at the grocery into thick strips, and also eating it with celery.

  • 8 oz reduced fat cream cheese
  • 16 oz (2 cups) plain, non-fat yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp margarine (or butter)
  • 1 1/2 cups parmesan cheese*
  • 14 oz artichoke hearts (not the marinated ones) , drained and coarsely chopped
  • 1 japapeno, diced (remove the insides and seeds of jalapeno if you don't like spice)
  • 10 oz frozen spinach (thawed and drained)
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced

  1. In a medium pot over medium heat, melt together cream cheese, yogurt, margarine and parmesan cheese, uncovered, stirring frequently until melted and an even consistency. It should start to bubble lightly.
  2. Stir in coarsely chopped artichoke hearts, jalapeños, and drained spinach. Finally, stir garlic cloves. Let it bubble for a few minutes and it's done.

*if you are a vegetarian, look for a vegetarian parmesan cheese. 

Cannoli Cheese Ball

:GASP: I know. I know. This is the first cannoli related recipe on my site. While I like cannoli, I don't necessarily want to make them. It's just a lot of work and I'd honestly just rather buy one from a bakery. However, when I came across this super easy cannoli cheese ball I knew I had to give it a shot.

When I say super easy, I mean it. You pretty much just mix everything together, create a ball using plastic wrap, let it chill in the refrigerator while you clean up your mess, and then roll the ball in chocolate chips. That's it! Easy peasy, and it's so good. It's obviously on the sweet side but would be oh so perfect for a party. ;)

recipe adapted from Taste & Tell

  • 8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
  • ½ cup ricotta cheese
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1¾ cups mini chocolate chips, divided
  • Vanilla Wafers or graham crackers, for serving
  1. In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the ricotta, powdered sugar and cinnamon and beat until combined. Stir in 1 cup of the chocolate chips.
  2. Dump the mixture out onto a piece of plastic wrap. Gather the plastic wrap around the top, squishing the mixture into a ball shape. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  3. Place the remaining ¾ cup of chocolate chips on a plate or in a shallow dish. Open the plastic wrap and turn the cheeseball filling onto the chocolate chips. Use your hands to roll the ball to coat in the chocolate chips.
  4. Serve with vanilla wafers and graham crackers.

Sweet Potato Caribbean Curry

Usually when I make curry, it's an Indian curry. However, when I came across this recipe I had to know what a Caribbean curry was. I liked that all the ingredient were items that I either had on hand, or would find a use for down the road. I hate it when a recipe calls for some fancy ingredient that you only use one. Like the saffron that's been sitting in my cabinet for 4 years now. >.<

One thing I loved about this curry is that you serve it over polenta. I usually serve my curry over rice and had thought to do so with this but changed my mind and decided to make polenta instead. I'm so glad I did because the polenta definitely adds an extra layer to this curry that you wouldn't have gotten with rice. Plus, depending on your tastes, you can doctor the polenta up with curry spices, hot sauce, or mix in some herbs to give it more flavor. Definitely make your own polenta versus buying that pre-made stuff in the grocery store. It's really easy to make and like I said, you can modify it and add spices and seasonings to bring a whole new level to this curry dish.

recipe adapted from Connoisseurus Veg

  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp. freshly grated ginger
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 (14 oz) can light coconut milk
  • 1 medium sweet potato (about 1 pound), diced
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp. gound turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp. allspice
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • cayenne pepper to taste
  • 1 (14 oz.) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • salt to taste
  • creamy polenta or cooked rice (recipe below)
  • lime wedges (garnish)
  • fresh cilantro (garnish)
  • chopped scallions (garnish)

  1. Coat the bottom of a medium saucepan with oil and place over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened and translucent. Add garlic and ginger. Cook 1 minute more, until very fragrant.
  2. Add coconut milk, sweet potato, cumin, coriander, turmeric, thyme, allspice, pepper, cinnamon, jalapeno, and cayenne. Stir a few times, raise heat and bring to a simmer. Lower heat and allow to cook until sweet potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Stir in chickpeas and peas. Allow to cook just until heated throughout, 1-2 minutes more. Season with salt to taste.
  3. Divide rice or polenta onto plates and top with curry. Sprinkle with cilantro and scallions, then season with a squeeze of lime juice, to taste.

Polenta recipe
  • 4 cups water 
  • 1 teaspoon salt 
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal (not cornbread mix) 
  • 1-3 tablespoons butter/margarine

  1. Bring the water to a boil. Bring the water to a brisk boil over medium-high heat. Add the salt.
  2. Pour the polenta into the boiling water. While whisking gently, pour the polenta into the boiling water in a steady stream.
  3. Continue whisking until polenta is thickened. Turn down the heat to low and continue whisking until the polenta has thickened enough that it doesn't settle back on the bottom of the pan when you stop stirring.
  4. Cook the polenta 30-40 minutes. Cover the polenta and continue cooking. Stir vigorously every 10 minutes or so, making sure to scrape the sides, bottom, and corners of the pan. Cook 30 minutes for softer porridge-like polenta or 40 minutes for thicker polenta.
  5. Stir in butter. Stir the cheese and butter into the polenta, if using. Serve immediately.

Butternut Squash Arborio with Mushrooms

So it dropped down into the 70's for a week here, and I quickly pulled out my fall recipes to take advantage of the cool weather before it heated back up again. One of the recipes that I've been dying to try is this one. I love that it's an all-in-one skillet meal and that it features butternut squash. It's been a long time since I made arborio or risotto. I just never think of it as a full meal and now that I don't eat meat anymore I find it hard to find something to pair it with that would go with it. However, with the squash and the butternut squash, I thought this made a delicious dinner. It had a lot of flavor and different textures that I didn't feel like I was eating just a bowl of flavored rice. However, if you want to have something with this dish, chicken or salmon would be perfect. I actually warmed up some of the leftovers and broiled a piece of salmon to go with it and it was delicious.

This dish was easy to make and easy to clean up (which I love). If you wanted to shave some time off of making this dish you can always used pre-peeled and chopped squash from your grocery store. However, you will be saving a lot more money if you just buy a whole squash and do it yourself. Sure, it takes a little more time and effort but you can do it all ahead of time, and store it in the refrigerator until you're ready to make dinner. I wouldn't use the frozen squash though. I tried recreating this dish with the frozen squash I had on hand and the butternut squash pretty much disintegrated into the rice.

recipe adapted from Savory Tooth

  • 1 cup risotto rice or arborio rice
  • 1 pound butternut squash, peeled and diced into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 10 ounces mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 cups vegetable stock
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  •  Parmesan* or Asiago cheese, finely grated, for garnish (optional)

  1. Heat olive oil in a large 5-quart nonstick sauté pan over medium heat. Add butternut squash, salt, and pepper. Cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Use a pan sufficiently large so that the butternut squash chunks sit in a single layer on the pan.
  2. Add mushrooms and garlic to the pan, sautéing for a few minutes.
  3. Add rice and vegetable stock. Mix everything together. Bring to a boil and then decrease to a simmer. Cover the pan with a lid and simmer on medium-low heat for 30 minutes. Uncover the pan and check that the rice is tender and done. Simmer with the pan uncovered for a few minutes to evaporate any excess liquid.
  4. Add butter to the pan and stir as it melts. Serve immediately and optionally garnish with finely grated cheese.

* Parmesan cheese is made with animal rennet. However, there are some brands that do not use animal rennet in their cheese. If this is a concern for you, be sure to check the ingredients of the cheese to ensure that animal rennet is not listed.

Curried Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash

One of my favorite things about fall is all the squash recipes I can make. I'm a big fan of butternut squash and pumpkin, but I love acorn squash. It's perfect because you don't really have to do anything to it. You cut it in half, rub some oil on it, and bake it in the oven until it's soft. I've had it baked with brown sugar and butter for a sweet treat, and I've had it a couple different savory ways like this. I think the whole bowl aspect is my favorite because it's just so darn awesome looking. This is by far my favorite acorn squash bowl because it mixes two of my favorite things, curried quinoa and the squash. It also reminds me of the spiced quinoa that I make just about once a month in the cooler months. So, I suppose, this is kind of a more spruced up version of that.

While this isn't a quick meal, it is super easy to make. The most time consuming part is waiting for the squash to roast. Now, I've read recipes that say you can microwave your squash to cook it, I have never done that. Not only do I find that the cooking of things in the microwave are inconsistent and some areas get cooked more than others, but things tend to get a bit gummy and chewy after they've been nuked. So, I prefer the traditional method of roasting them in the oven. It's not so bad though because while the squash is roasting, you can work on the quinoa, clean up the kitchen, and kick your feet up for a bit before you have to start assembling them. I suppose you could always roast the squash ahead of time and then on the day of, make the quinoa and assemble the dish. That would cut down your time by 40 minutes. Although, I would pop the squash in the oven for the time the quinoa is cooking, otherwise the squash will be cold, and trust me, you want the squash to be hot for this dish. ;)

Recipe adapted from Well Floured

  • 2 acorn squash, medium size, cut in half, seeds and pulp removed
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil divided
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup chopped apple
  • 1 cup of quinoa, I used rainbow
  • 1 Tbsp curry powder
  • 1 1/2 cup vegetable stock, water or chicken stock could also be used
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese or feta 

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 425°f
  2. Rub the inside of the squash with 1 Tbsp olive oil, season with salt and pepper
  3. Roast cut side up for 1 hour
  4. While the squash is roasting, heat the remaining olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat
  5. Add the onion and apple, and cook until they begin to soften, about 2 minutes
  6. Stir in quinoa, and cook until toasted, about 5 minutes
  7. Stir in the curry and the stock
  8. Cover,bring to a boil, and reduce the heat
  9.  Simmer until the liquid has been absorbed,about 15 minutes
  10. Remove from the heat and let site for 5 minutes
  11. Fluff with a fork, and divide the quinoa among the 4 squash halves
  12. Top with the cheese, if desired
  13. Serve immediately