By: Therese Leyton
Tips And Dips Always In Season
If you’re like me, living in a cool climate in the early spring, dinners at this time of year are filled with comfort foods. It’s about family, friends, and discussions over food and drinks that warm us up. Before the turn of Daylight Saving Time, when the days were short, there was more time to get warm and cozy, too…and to eat!
I’m always searching for comfort foods that are healthy and tasty. For snacks, there are many selections of dips, cheeses, crackers, sparkling sodas and chips available. But playing it smart is the right thing to do.
Enter the Artichoke!
contain any cholesterol. Loaded with soluble and insoluble fiber and many vitamins and nutrients, they are an excellent source of nutrition. One large cooked artichoke or artichoke hearts (4 or 5) have 4.5 g of fiber according to an Mt. Sinai study. Not bad, all those health benefits.
Artichokes are eaten regularly and are popular in Italy, Spain, and France. Here in the United States, artichokes principally are grown in Castroville, Calif., known as the Artichoke Capital of the World!
For more than 50 years, this small town in California has produced artichokes. Castroville lies in the heart of California’s Central Coast farm country, about 100 miles from San Francisco, and fewer than three
miles from the Pacific Ocean in Monterey County. It is the perfect climate for growing artichokes.
In 1947, a young woman named Norma Jean was crowned Castroville’s first Artichoke Queen. She later was known as the famous actress, Marilyn Monroe.
I wish it were easier to buy fresh artichokes locally, but certain grocery stores such as Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s do stock them. I enjoy eating them baked in a dip. I would like to share a great recipe from Rachel Ray that I included in my book. It combines artichokes and spinach—a great combination.
In a large nonstick skillet, bring 1 cup of water to a boil. Add the spinach, 1 bag at a time. Stir until wilted; drain. Rinse with cold water and pat dry, then coarsely chop the spinach. Rinse the skillet.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In the skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook until soft. Stir in garlic, ¾ tsp. salt and ½ tsp. pepper. Stir in cream cheese until smooth. Add spinach, artichokes, mayonnaise, and two-thirds of the Gruyere. Transfer to a Corning Ware appetizer dish for baking.
Finely chop 4 of the toasted pita triangles into small pieces. In a small bowl, combine the chopped pita chips and remaining Gruyere and sprinkle over the spinach-artichoke mixture; bake until golden-brown and bubbling. Serve warm with the remaining toasted pita triangles.
SPINACH ARTICHOKE DIP
- Nutrition Values per 2 cups: Potassium: 335mg. Folate: 116mg. Fiber: 12g.
- Prep time: 35 minutes. Bake Time: 20 minutes. Yield: 8.5 servings
- 4 (5oz.) bags baby spinach
- 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 3 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese
- 1 (9 oz.) box frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and chopped into small pieces
- ¼ cup reduced fat mayonnaise
- 3 oz. Gruyere cheese, shredded
- 3 whole wheat pitas, cut into eighths and toasted