Spinach Artichoke Red Pepper Dip…

Let’s face it. Once the football season is over there is definitely a sports vacuum. Major league baseball is just starting to tune up at spring training, college basketball still has over a month before the NCAA tournament, the next major in tennis is not until May, and everything else just seems to be a bunch of noise. And during this time I think back to some of the major highlights of recent sporting events. In my mind, nothing can surpass what the Chicago Cubs did last year but this past Super Bowl was no slouch of a game either. Then I started thinking about my Super Bowl party this past year and what I served and I thought, wow, I never posted this recipe!

This recipe was so much fun. I wanted what I served to be easy and fun and allow me to spend time with my guests and not in the kitchen. I decided to serve this dip along with a hot crab dip for appetizers. Dinner consisted of slow cooker bbq pulled chicken sandwiches with cole slaw  and sliced tomatoes. The meal was a hit and this appetizer was the star of the show!

So let’s talk spinach artichoke red pepper dip…

Lesson Learned 1 – If you want to impress your guests, make this appetizer: This recipe couldn’t be any easier and boy does it impress. You basically combine the ingredients in stages in the food processor, put it in the carved-out bread bowl, bake it and the oven does all the rest. I was amazed at how great it looks and above and beyond that, it is absolutely delicious. It is a fabulous appetizer to serve at any party!

Lesson Learned 2 – Take your time when carving out the bread bowl: I used an artisan sour dough bread that I bought at the grocery store. You start out by cutting the opening on top of the bread. Make it large enough so you can stuff the bread but not too large that you cut off a lot of the bread. Then take a paring knife and begin cutting out the inside and under the sides. Take your time so that you don’t cut to close to the crust on any side. You want at least about 1 inch of bread at the bottom. You can do a little less than that on the sides. And make sure you save what you cut out. You can cut that into cubes and serve it as one of the sides with the warm dip. Yum!

Carved Out Bread Bowl

Carved Out Bread Bowl

Lesson Learned 3 – Combine your ingredients in stages in the food processor: Your food processor will be your best friend for this recipe. But don’t mix everything all at the same time. Some ingredients you will want mixed until smooth, other ingredients you will want chunky. Follow the process in the recipe and you will get the correct consistency for this dip.

The correct consistency for the dip

The correct consistency for the dip

Lesson Learned 3 – Garnish is your best kept secret: Are you always looking for ways to make your dish look more professional? Well look no further. Let garnish be your best friend. This appetizer baked in a bread bowl is pretty impressive on its own but what set the presentation over the top was cutting up some flat leaf parsley and garnishing the bread bowl and the accompaniments with the parsley once they were on the platter. You could also dice up some jalapeños and sprinkle them on top of the dip. Since I actually included them in the dip I chose not to use them as a garnish this time. But diced jalapeños are also an option. Garnish tends to make the colors in your food pop and in general makes every dish look more professional. So don’t forget the garnish.

Lesson Learned 4 – Did you ever hear of a Daikon? When looking at things I could serve with this dip, one recipe that I saw suggested daikon. I had never heard of daikon before. I googled it and found out that is part of the radish family. I’d never seen it at the store and so I thought if any store would have it, Whole Foods would. Well I was right. Whole Foods had it. Daikon sort of looks somewhat like a white carrot but they are not parsnips. Anyhow, they are a great side for this dip. Just cut them in rounds like you would a radish. And after I found them at Whole Foods I also found them at my local supermarket, so just look for them and try them.

Make this appetizer for your next party. I guarantee you it will be a hit! Enjoy.

Spinach Artichoke Red Pepper Dip...

  • Servings: 20-30
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

INGREDIENTS:

Spinach Artichoke Red Pepper Dip1 large round sourdough bread

4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup sour cream

1 small jalapeño, seeded and chopped

1 clove garlic, chopped

1 10 ounce box of frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry in a towel

1 cup marinated artichokes, rinsed and drained

1/4 cup + 2 Tb. chopped Italian parsley

1/2 cup roasted red pepper, chopped and divided

1 1/2 cups pepper jack cheese, divided

Salt and pepper to taste

Garlic infused olive oil for brushing the bread

Crackers, baby carrots, red radishes, daikon, celery and bread cubes, for serving

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut a thin slice from the top of the bread. With a paring knife cut out the exposed inside to about 1 inch from the bottom and at least 1/2 inch from the sides. Cut the extracted bread into cubes and use for serving later.

Combine the cream cheese, mayo, sour cream, chopped jalapeños and garlic in the food processor and process until smooth. Add the spinach and artichokes and pulse until chunky. Add the parsley, all but 1 Tbs. of the red pepper, 1 1/4 cup cheese and salt and pepper and pulse until just combined.

Spoon the mixture into the bread bowl. Top with the remaining cheese and red pepper. Place the bread on a baking sheet. Brush the bread with olive oil. Bake 25-30 minutes.

Serve with crackers, veggies and crudités. Garnish with chopped flat leaf parsley.

Pulse for a chunky consistency

Pulse for a chunky consistency

Correct consistency of the dip

The correct consistency of the dip

Fill the bread bowl

Spoon into the bread bowl. Brush the bread with olive oil.

Garnish with cheese and red pepper

Add more cheese and roasted red pepper on top

Spinach Artichoke Red Pepper Dip

Serving Suggestion

Sauteed Spinach With Almonds, Tomatoes and Onions…

Our neighbors across the street were going out of town. Before they left they gave my husband of bag of lettuce from their garden so it wouldn’t go to waste. A little while later my husband said he also found a bag of spinach on his workbench in the garage. He came into the house with it and said, “What are we going to do with all this. I think you should just throw the spinach out.”

Ingredients

Ingredients

The spinach look gorgeous and I just couldn’t rationalize throwing out home-grown spinach. I put the bag in the refrigerator and began to think about how I could use it. Then it dawned on me, I could sauté  it! I’d never sautéed spinach before, only having eaten it in salads, and so I thought this would be a great thing to blog about.

I found a recipe on the Food and Wine website for sautéed spinach with almonds and grapes. Although I did have red grapes on hand, I decided to use up the cherry tomatoes I had in the refrigerator instead. So here’s my rating of the original recipe, my lessons learned and my final version of the recipe.

Rating: A for flavor – C for how the recipe was written. The almonds definitely provided depth of flavor in this recipe but the directions were poor and I totally disagreed with the amount of oil the recipe recommended.

Lesson Learned 1 – AMOUNT OF OIL: Before I made the recipe I happened to mention to my husband what I was planning to do. He said he’d had a conversation with our neighbor about sautéing spinach and they discussed the fact of being very careful with the amount of oil you use as sautéed spinach can become too oily very quickly. The original recipe called for a quarter of a cup of olive oil. Now granted you are also sautéing the onions, almonds and garlic in the oil, but I still think a quarter of a cup is way too much. I started out by eyeballing it and put in just enough to put a very thin coat on the bottom of the pan. Then once the onions, almonds and garlic were sautéed it looked like I might need just a little more and so i added a couple of additional tablespoons. My advice is to be very careful with the amount of oil you use and err on the side of less versus more. You can always add more if you need it. All in all, I’d say I used about 4 tablespoons of oil total (a little more than 1/8 cup) and the spinach turned out beautifully.

Add Spinach By Handfulls

Add Spinach By Handfulls

Lesson Learned 2 – COOKING ORDER: sauté the onions and almonds first. They take much more time. It takes about 4-5 minutes on medium heat for the onions to become translucent and the almonds to brown. I used shaved almonds and chopped them into smaller pieces. Slivered almonds would work as well. After the onions and almonds are done add the garlic and cook only until it becomes fragrant. I’ve found that normally takes a little more than 30 seconds. Once the garlic has become fragrant then add the spinach. At the very end add the tomatoes as you simply want to warm them and don’t want them to break down.

Lesson Learned 3 – COOKING SPINACH: spinach cooks fast, even faster than I thought. I planned for the spinach to cook down in about 5 minutes and it happened in about 3 minutes. So be prepared for how quick it goes once you add the spinach. I used a whole 10 ounce bag of spinach and it was just enough for two people. It was a great way to use up all of that home-grown spinach.

Add Tomatoes At The Very End

Add Tomatoes At The Very End

Lesson Learned 4 – ALMONDS: My advice is don’t eliminate the almonds. They provided a great contrast to the spinach and added a wonderful nutty flavor to the dish. As I was eating it I kept saying to myself what is that fabulous hint of flavor and then recognized it was the almonds.

My husband not only loved the recipe but was pleased I figured out a way to use the spinach. I will definitely make this recipe again. Most of the work entails chopping the onions, almonds and garlic. The rest is pretty straightforward and takes about 7 minutes to cook.

Sauteed Spinach With Almonds, Tomatoes and Onions…

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

INGREDIENTS

4 TBS Olive Oil (eyeball the olive oil making sure not to use too much, just lightly coat the pan)

1/4 cup almonds, chopped

1/4 finely chopped onion

1/4 cup cherry tomatoes diced

2 cloves of garlic minced

1 10 ounce package of spinach, large stems discarded

2 TBS dry white wine

Salt and Pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Chop onion, garlic, tomatoes, almonds and set aside. In a large skillet (preferably with high sides) heat 3 TBS of olive oil. Add the almonds and onions and cook over medium heat until onions become translucent and almonds become slightly golden. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant.

Add the spinach in handfuls and stir adding more spinach as the leaves begin to wilt. Add tomatoes when spinach is just about completely wilted and cook until warmed (less than a minute). Add the wine and toss altogether. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

IMG_7706

Sauteed Spinach With Almonds, Tomatoes and Onions

 

 

Dip-etty Do Dah…

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade – check. Football games – check. Thanksgiving dinner reservation – check. Santa Claus is coming to town – check. And so it begins (although one would argue that it began some time ago), the Christmas season is upon us. Time for the insanity of gift buying, decorating, baking, holiday parties and the annual fear of whether you will survive yet another holiday season. The pressure is on to have your house look like a picture posted on Pinterest, your home filled with home-baked goodies and your gifts wrapped with a professional flair. No wonder so many people say bah humbug at this time of year.

But it doesn’t have to be all that bad, especially if you get a little help from your friends. So let me introduce myself, I am your holiday friend. Now I can’t decorate your home or purchase and wrap your gifts, but I can give you some great great recipes that I have either tested or used over the years to help you with some food decisions for your parties and family gatherings.

Creamy Spinach and Red Pepper Dip Ingredients

Creamy Spinach and Red Pepper Dip Ingredients

I already started with a great holiday recipe for a crab dip in a previous post, but just in case you missed it just click here and it will take you to that blog with a link to the recipe. Today I was challenged to make something for a pot luck we are having at work (I work at Crate and Barrel and we will be at the store in full force this holiday weekend) and I wanted to make something that could be enjoyed by all, especially since we have quite a few vegetarians on staff. I have a great recipe for holiday meatballs, which I will share some time within the upcoming days, but I knew that would not fit the bill. So once again I journeyed to Pinterest and did a search for cold dips. There I found a great recipe for Creamy Spinach and Red Pepper Dip from the tastykitchen.com website. The ingredients fit the bill and the rest was history.

As always, with recipes I try from other sites, I do my self-claimed rating and lessons learned in the hopes that if I made any mistakes or learned any valuable lessons while making the recipe it will help you make it perfectly on your first try. This one was relatively simple so definitely something to keep in your hip pocket if you need to bring something to a party or want an appetizer for a holiday meal.

Recipe Rating: A – the ingredients are simple, fresh and the recipe is easy to make. The most work you have to do is chopping the green onions and the roasted red peppers.

Lesson Learned 1: This is something I already knew but if you don’t it could definitely save you time and aggravation. The recipe calls for a 10 oz. package of frozen spinach. I was surprised how long it took for the spinach to thaw. I put it in the refrigerator the day before and then put it out on the counter this morning and left it there until 1:00 p.m. After thoroughly draining it (which really requires you to put the spinach in a towel and squeeze until no water comes out at all) I noticed there was still some ice particles in the spinach. So I separated the leaves, put them between two paper towels and pressed down on them. A lot of water still came out. The lesson here is to make sure it is thoroughly defrosted and as totally dry as possible (it will take longer than you think). Otherwise you will have a runny dip.

Lesson Learned 2: The recipe does not call for it but I added a pinch of salt at the end. After tasting it, it seemed like it was lacking a little something and the salt brightened up the flavor. Once it sits for a while, the flavors will be even more dynamic.

Lesson Learned 3: I am a big fan of roasting my own red peppers, but the roasted red peppers in a jar are just as good and a great time saver. So no need to do the process on the stove, just buy a jar and chop them up.

Lesson Learned 4: The recipe says that the prep time is only 3 minutes. I’m not sure what speedy chef decided that but by the time you assemble all the ingredients, do the chopping and mix the dip, I would say it takes about 10-15 minutes of your time. The nice thing about this recipe is that it serves 30 so for a large crowd like I have at work this is a great and inexpensive recipe to make.

Lesson Learned 5: This is a easy, flavorful recipe and the green of the spinach and the red of the roasted red pepper also provides the traditional holiday colors for which we have become accustomed – a nice decorative touch to your table.

So, get ready to deck the halls with this recipe. It is easy, colorful, impressive and will actually give you time to focus your energies on other things during the upcoming holiday season. Enjoy!

Creamy Spinach and Red Pepper Dip

Creamy Spinach and Red Pepper Dip