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Veggies For Flavor and Nutrition

When having a few guests over for a holiday get-together, or any other event, nothing could be simpler to serve than a unique and tasty vegetable dip.

By dipping vegetables, also called crudités, you get the firm crunch of raw or mostly raw vegetables. A dip like this spinach artichoke dip has it’s own deep, rich and warm flavor coupled with the sweet and distinct flavor of the veggies. The added bonus is all the available nutrients that vegetables contain for our bodies.

In this particular dip not only do we dip vegetables, but the dip itself contains spinach, onions, and artichoke hearts to add to the nutritional value. Vegetables such as carrot sticks, celery sticks, bell pepper strips and olives can be used raw. You may want to parboil, blanch, the broccoli, cauliflower and asparagus tips. Chop them into their bite-size pieces and plunge them into lightly salted, fully boiling water. Keep them in the water no more than 60 seconds, drain, and immediately submerge in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. When cooled drain again and place on a paper towel to absorb excess moisture. This will provide your guests with vegetables that still have a crunch but are not too tough to eat.

You can make this recipe one or two days in advance and store it in your refrigerator. Follow all the directions except for the 15 minutes of baking. When your event arrives and you're ready to serve pop it in the oven until thoroughly heated and lightly browned on top. This will probably be more than 15 minutes because you're starting with a cold dip.

Spinach Artichoke Dip

Yield 5 cups

1/2 stick unsalted butter

3 Tbl all-purpose flour

2 cups whole milk

4 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated

3/4 cup Monterey Jack cheese, grated

18 oz package cream cheese, room temp cut into chunks

3/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

2 Tbl vegetable oil

1 cup onion, minced

1 10 ounce bag fresh baby spinach stemmed and chopped

2 15 ounce cans artichoke hearts drained and chopped

3 cloves garlic, crushed

2 poundbag of raw vegetables for dipping

Corn chips for dipping

Melt butter in a saucepan add flour, stir and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Using a whisk add in the milk and bring the liquid to a boil, reducing to a simmer. Gently simmer milk mixture until it is thick and coats the back of a spoon, 5 to 6 minutes. Remove from the heat adding half of the Parmesan cheese and all of the Monterey Jack, salt, nutmeg and cayenne. Blend in thoroughly.

Heat the vegetable oil in a medium pan add the onion and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the spinach and stir with a spoon coating all the leaves and wilting the spinach. If water drains out of the spinach remove the water from the pan and discard. Add garlic and sauté for 2 to 3 more minutes, add artichoke hearts and toss. Remove from the heat. In a large mixing bowl add the two mixtures together, pour into a casserole dish topping with the remaining Parmesan cheese.

Bake dip in a preheated 400° oven until bubbly and the top is lightly brown, 15 minutes or so.

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