Friday, September 9, 2011

Almost-Famous Spinach-Artichoke Dip

Recipe modified by You Want Me to Cook? – March 6, 2011
For a commentary-free and printer-friendly version of it, please click here.

Recipe originally published from Food Network Magazine – December 2010

Show of hands… Who loves hot spinach dip and secretly hopes that the table wants to order it when trying to decide on an appetizer even though there are much healthier things on the menu? 

I see, most of you in the audience.  Good! 

Who has secretly thought of stabbing your friend and/or significant other/spouse in the hand with your fork as they reach for the last scoop of that creamy, spinach-y goodness?

Ah, it’s nice to meet all of you.  I knew I wasn’t alone.

Now, who has scraped every bit of dip from the bowl with their spoon trying to get just one more bite?

Okay, not as many, but I see I’m still in good company.

Finally, who, after scraping the bowl with their spoon, has picked up the bowl and started to lift it to their mouth to lick clean being stopped only by your mortified husband who fears your lack of table manners will alienate the friends you have left after the last incident?

Oh, that’s just me, huh.

All kidding aside, there’s something hypnotic about these hot spinach dips that makes you eat until you’re so full that you can’t even look at your entrée.  Of course, there’s a pretty hefty price to this dip.  It tends to swim in calories, fat and sodium.  That didn’t stop me from running to the kitchen to put the ingredients on my shopping list for this little delight I found in Food Network’s magazine.

© You Want Me to Cook?
Almost-Famous Spinach-Artichoke Dip
My dip isn’t as pretty as their dip because I couldn’t find white cheddar cheese.  Well actually, I didn’t look in the right place.  Maybe… I don’t know.  Anyway, it is still pretty darn close to the picture in the magazine.  And before you ask, yes, those are sushi serving dishes.  It was the perfect serving size!

© Food Network Magazine

Food Network’s dip looks fantastic!  It looks so creamy and their spinach is perfect.  Not that my dip isn’t creamy, but it just looks too pretty to eat.  I mean, I still would, but you know what I mean.

for more details about what my ratings mean, go to Gretchen’s Rating System

MessSIGH – Let me count the number of things that created a mess while making this recipe: (1) cleaning the spinach, (2) mincing the onion (I didn’t realize I could make that big of a mess with an onion, actually), (3) green spinach water, and (4) melted cheese everywhere.  At least I didn’t have to squeeze out frozen artichokes, but there’s more on that later.

Start-to-Finish Time: A LITTLE UNDER AN HOUR – it is actually double the time that Food Network has, but still not too bad.

Prep Work: SLIGHT BLOOD LOSS – there is some light chopping and grating, but be careful – mincing onion and turn into LOSS OF FINGER POSSIBLE  or at least some grated skin/blood loss.

Ease of Recipe: THE BASICS – the recipe is easy, but you have to be attentive.  By now, if you’ve been following my blog and trying the recipes, you’ve had experience with a roux.  This is just a variation of a dish based on that and you KNOW how persnickety a roux can be.

OverallSORRY HONEY, NO LEFTOVERS – the cheesy melt-y goodness was one of those things that I took a large bite of every time I walked into the kitchen.  It got ugly when I noticed there was dip/chips missing and my husband had creamy spinach on his chin.

Recipe Information:
I am not a doctor or dietician.  I make my nutritional assessments with the aid of Spark Recipes - yes, I changed AGAIN!  Don’t judge me!  I run the original recipe and my altered recipe through their calorie counter and then compute the differences I find.  My numbers are to be used as a guideline.  Anyone who is under dietary medical supervision should follow the advice of their medical professional if their opinion differs from mine.  PLEASE!

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Servings: 4-6

Nutritional Information – none

I’d feel comfortable serving this to 6 people as an appetizer with a antipasto platter or some other hors d-oeuvre.  Alone, I think it may be pushing it.  However, a single appetizer for 4 people would be perfect.

It took me double the time to make this recipe.  Some of it was during the prep phase, probably for two reasons: (1) cleaning all that spinach was a pain and (2) I tried mincing the onion, got frustrated and switched to chopping.  My cook time was double, but I think my timing is more accurate.  That was a lot of water to get to boil before being able to start cooking the dish.  I guess Food Network kitchens have a magical water boiling device that makes them not have to wait.  Here’s how my timing worked out:
  • Prep Work:  25 minutes
  • Cooking Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
There was no nutritional information listed for the recipe… and you KNOW how much that irritates me.  So I ran the original recipe through the Spark database (using 4 servings with 1 ounce of tortilla chips and 1 tablespoon of salsa) and here’s what it came up with:
  • Calories 435
  • Total Fat 25.5g (Saturated Fat 15g)
  • Cholesterol 65mg
  • Sodium 1135mg
  • Potassium 1075mg
  • Total Carbohydrate 24g
  • Fiber 7g
  • Sugar 5g
  • Protein 30g
No wonder they didn’t publish this!   Just take a look at the calories and fat, sodium and sugar numbers!  I used some low fat ingredients and changed a couple of things.  I re-ran the numbers with my changes, keeping the same number of servings, tortilla chips and salsa.  Here’s the numbers:
  • Calories 326
  • Total Fat 17g (Saturated Fat 8g)
  • Cholesterol 35mg
  • Sodium 1058mg
  • Potassium 856mg
  • Total Carbohydrate 25g
  • Fiber 4g
  • Sugar 6g
  • Protein 22g
On the plus side, the the recipe is still a great supplier of:
  • Vitamin A 282% (important for eye function and repair/growth of vital tissues)
  • Vitamin C 90% (an antioxidant that cannot be created by the body)
  • Calcium 70% (important for bone health)
  • Folate 71% (essential for cell growth and reproduction)
  • Manganese 67% (needed for healthy skin, bone and cartilage formation)
By using reduced-fat ingredients, I ended up with half of the fat and 25% fewer calories.  The sodium and sugar levels are still pretty high though, so view this recipe as a treat, or make sure you serve it with something else (preferably light) so you can have a taste, but not indulge on the entire bowl.

Changes denoted by red text
© You Want Me to Cook?
Almost-Famous Spinach-Artichoke Dip
Ingredients - produce
Kosher salt
(2) 10-ounce bags spinach, stems removed
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups skim milk
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 1/4 cups shredded parmesan cheese
1/4 cup light sour cream, plus more for serving
1/2 cup shredded reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese
© You Want Me to Cook?
Almost-Famous Spinach-Artichoke Dip
Ingredients - dairy
1 jar (7.5 ounces) artichoke hearts, drained
Tortilla chips (approximately 1 ounce), for serving
Salsa (approximately 1 tablespoon), for serving (optional)

Ingredient Notes:
Onion – I got annoyed with mincing pretty quickly.  I tried using my garlic press to no avail.  Then I tried to grate it which ended up a watery mess.  I ended up finely chopping it which seemed to work pretty well.

Garlic – I have a jar (a very LARGE jar) of pre-minced garlic in my refrigerator, so I just used that to save some time.

© You Want Me to Cook?
Almost-Famous Spinach-Artichoke Dip
Ingredients - pantry
Skim Milk – the recipe originally called for regular 2% milk.  I only keep skim milk on hand so I used that.  Just remember that even using 1% milk drops the calories by 20% and cuts the fat and cholesterol in half.  Skim has zero fat and a relatively insignificant amount of cholesterol while shaving off a third of the calories.  It didn’t affect the sauce’s consistency at all (although it took a little longer than specified to thicken up), it was a good alternative to full-fat milk.

Lemon Juice – I’m not sure why I used a whole quarter of a lemon because that is a heckuva lot more than ½ teaspoon.  The dip wasn’t overpowered by it though, so I’m not changing a thing.

Parmesan Cheese – the original used grated cheese, but I had shredded on hand, so that’s what I used.  According to Dr. Gourmet shredded cheese melts slower than grated and works better for casseroles, but it melted just fine for my dip.

Sour Cream
The original recipe used regular sour cream, but I used a no-fat sour cream instead to help cut calories and fat.  Since there is still plenty of fat to go around in this recipe, it tasted just fine.
You can use no-fat Greek yogurt as a substitute for sour cream.  If anyone gives this a try, let me know!

Artichoke Hearts – the recipe called for frozen artichoke hearts that you needed to be “thawed, squeezed dry and roughly chopped.”  I found it much easier to just buy a 7.5-ounce jar of marinated and chopped artichoke hearts and call it a day.  Also, I couldn’t find them frozen.

Equipment Needed:
© You Want Me to Cook?
Almost-Famous Spinach-Artichoke Dip
Cutting board
Sharp knife
Large pot
Wooden spoon
Large saucepan
Large spoon

Equipment Notes:
Large Pot – I used my small spaghetti pot because that was A LOT of spinach to cook.

(1)  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Meanwhile prep the ingredients.

(2)  Once the water has come to a boil, stir in the spinach and cook until bright green, about 30 seconds. Drain and rinse under cold water; squeeze out the excess moisture, then finely chop.

(3)  Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.

(4)  Add the onion, garlic and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook until the onion is soft, about 2 minutes.

Before moving on to the next step, have all of your ingredients ready.  You are creating a roux and they can burn easily if left even 10 seconds too long.

(5)  Add the flour and cook, stirring, until lightly toasted, about 1 minute.

The flour was a pretty light brown, so once you see it starting to turn, get ready to move on to step #6.

(6)  Whisk in the milk and cook, whisking constantly, until thickened, about 9 minutes. Remove from the heat.

It took me about 7 minutes to get it to boil, but once it started to boil, it only took about 2 minutes to thicken up.

(7)  Stir in the lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, parmesan and sour cream.

At this point, the sauce smelled heavenly.  If I could have eaten it right then, I would have.

(8)  Return the pot to medium heat. Add the spinach, cheddar and artichokes and stir until the cheese melts and the dip is heated through.

(9)  Serve warm with tortilla chips, salsa and sour cream.

It honestly was as rich and creamy as a full-fat version of the dip.  My husband’s only complaint was that once it began to cool, it was really hard to scoop out of the dish.  So when I make it again , I may keep it in a small slow cooker at a low temperature to keep it warm.

Or buy really sturdy tortilla chips, either way, it’s a win-win for me!

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