Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Spinach and Artichoke Dip

I love the artichoke. Related to the thistle or not, it is one tasty veggie. For most of the year, I rely on the convenience of canned artichoke hearts. Using canned artichokes is quick and easy, and allows me to choose recipes highlighting the ingredient without a moment of hesitation. But artichoke season is coming up ... and I'm getting ready.

To get into the mood for artichokes, I decided to make this dip for a little Oscar soiree we hosted last Sunday. Neither M. nor I are THAT into the Oscars, but it seemed like a good excuse for a little party. I've made this dip many times before. It works well as is, but higher fat cream cheeses can be substituted without affecting the result. I usually add the whole box of frozen spinach, figuring that if a little spinach is good then more is definitely better. Enjoy!

Spinach-and-Artichoke Dip
From Cooking Light Magazine, September 2000

2 cups (8 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided
1/2 cup fat-free sour cream
1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmesan cheese, divided
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 (8-ounce) block 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
1 (8-ounce) block fat-free cream cheese, softened
1/2 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained, and squeezed dry
1 (13.5-ounce) package baked tortilla chips (about 16 cups)

Preheat oven to 350°.

Combine 1 1/2 cups mozzarella, sour cream, 2 tablespoons Parmesan, and next 6 ingredients (2 tablespoons Parmesan through spinach) in a large bowl, and stir until well-blended. Spoon mixture into a 1 1/2-quart baking dish. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup mozzarella and 2 tablespoons Parmesan. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown. Serve with tortilla chips

Yield: 5 1/2 cups (serving size: 1/4 cup dip and about 6 chips)

CALORIES 148 (30% from fat); FAT 5g (sat 2.9g,mono 1.5g,poly 0.5g); PROTEIN 7.7g; CHOLESTEROL 17mg; CALCIUM 164mg; SODIUM 318mg; FIBER 1.5g; IRON 0.6mg; CARBOHYDRATE 18.3g

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Gnocchi with Zucchini Ribbons and Parsley Brown Butter

Perusing the aisles at my local market, I saw a packet of gnocchi and picked it up. It was a spontaneous, spur of the moment kind of thought, but I decided to go with it for dinner tonight. I originally thought of a baked gnocchi kind of dish, but then that didn't seem too appealing. I searched for ideas online, and came across this dish which I've actually made in the past. It's healthy, fairly quick (although I definitely spent more than twenty minutes prepping) and tastes much richer then it actually is.

I made a few subs. I don't like to do that the first time I try a recipe, but once I'm more familiar I feel more confident swapping ingredients. I didn't have zucchini so I subbed carrots, and I added a few cloves of garlic when I sauteed my red onion (didn't have shallots either). I was pleased with the resulting dish, the buttery taste shone through and the sweet vegetables harmonized with the gnocchi nicely.

Again, this image is courtesy of Eating Well as my camera continues to be trapped at school during my vacation.

Gnocchi with Zucchini Ribbons and Parsley Brown Butter
Eating Well

Thinly sliced ribbons of zucchini and nutty brown butter make for a gourmet supper. Make it a meal: Round out the plate with steamed broccoli rabe sprinkled with parmesan.

Makes 4 servings, 1 1/2 cups each

ACTIVE TIME: 20 minutes

TOTAL TIME: 20 minutes


1 pound fresh or frozen gnocchi
2 tablespoons butter
2 medium shallots, chopped
1 pound zucchini (about 3 small), very thinly sliced lengthwise (see Tip)
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

1. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Cook gnocchi according to package instructions until they float, 3 to 5 minutes. Drain.
2. Meanwhile, melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook until the butter is
beginning to brown, about 2 minutes. Add
shallots and zucchini and cook, stirring often, until softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add cherry tomatoes, salt, nutmeg and pepper and continue cooking, stirring often, until the tomatoes are just starting to break down, 1 to 2 minutes.
Stir in Parmesan and parsley. Add gnocchi and toss to coat. Serve immediately.

NUTRITION INFORMATION: Per serving: 327 calories; 10 g fat (6 g sat, 0 g mono); 25 mg cholesterol; 48 g carbohydrate; 12 g protein; 5 g fiber; 710 mg sodium; 540 mg potassium. Nutrition bonus: Vitamin C (70% daily value), Vitamin A (35% dv), Calcium (25% dv). Exchanges: 2 1/2 starch, 2 vegetable. 1 medium-fat meat, 1 fat; 3 Carbohydrate Servings

TIP: To make "ribbon-thin" zucchini, slice lengthwise with a vegetable peeler or on a mandoline slicer.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Spelt Salad with White Beans and Artichokes, Cooking Light Jan/Feb 2007

I bought the ingredients for this dish last week. It didn't make it on to the menu for a variety of reasons, but made a stunning debut last night instead. It was quick, delicious and really satisfying. I still think it odd that such a salad was featured in the January/February issue of Cooking Light instead during the summer months, but that doesn't change the fact that I really loved this recipe.

Reading as many cooking and health magazines as I do, I know that grains like spelt are wonderfully healthy and a marvelous addition to one's diet. But, that doesn't change the fact that when I hold the bag in my hand, I have NO idea what to do with it! Following this recipe made for a structured yet easy first experience. I will definitely make this again, both for the ease of preparation and the versatility of the recipe. I could see adding a variety of ingredients (including but not limited to cubed tofu, chickpeas, hearts of palm, bell pepper, carrots, cucumbers etc) and will treat it as a jumping off point for future experimentation.

My changes this time around - I added a chopped clove of garlic, and sauteed the onion and garlic briefly with a little non-stick cooking spray. I personally don't care for raw onion. I used cannellini beans, and I added one tablespoon of lemon flavored olive oil (one tablespoon regular olive oil and one tablespoon lemon flavored olive oil). I also added half a cup of crumbled feta cheese. And I didn't measure the herbs, but grabbed a big handful and chopped from there.
Spelt Salad with White Beans and Artichokes
From Cooking Light

Spelt (also called farro) is a high-protein grain with a mellow nutty flavor, and it provides an alternative to bulgur for those who have wheat allergies. (Bulgur is a good substitute if you do not have spelt for this dish.) It's nice chilled or at room temperature. Include a cluster of red grapes and crusty Italian bread in your bag.

1 1/4 cups uncooked spelt (farro), rinsed and drained
2 1/2 cups water
1/3 cup chopped fresh mint
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup minced red onion
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 (15-ounce) can navy beans, rinsed and drained
1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped

Combine spelt and 2 1/2 cups water in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes or until tender and liquid is absorbed.

Combine cooked spelt, mint, and the remaining ingredients in a large bowl, stirring well. Cover and store in the refrigerator.

Yield: 5 servings (serving size: 1 cup)

CALORIES 204(29% from fat); FAT 6.5g (sat 0.8g,mono 4g,poly 0.9g); PROTEIN 7.4g; CHOLESTEROL 0.0mg; CALCIUM 40mg; SODIUM 437mg; FIBER 4.9g; IRON 3.2mg; CARBOHYDRATE 30.7g

Monday, February 19, 2007

February Break is a wonderful thing!

The best thing about being a teacher at one of most New York City schools is the week off that comes in the end of February. Rationally, I know that the holiday break wasn't all that long ago. But oh my, was I ever waiting for this vacation with bated breath!

Unfortunately, I left my camera sitting on my desk at school. While I hope to be spending a lot of time in the kitchen this week, my posts will be pictureless. I'm hoping I'll be able to get into the school to get it, but I just don't know if that will be possible. Oh well.

This past weekend M. and I went to Philadelphia. We wanted to get away for just a little bit, and Philadelphia is an easy trip for those of us car-less New Yorkers. We actually took a Greyhound bus, which was quite an experience. All I'll say about that is that it made for some quality people watching.

Highlights of our stay included the Morris House Hotel we stayed in. We also really enjoyed the restaurant we visited for lunch on Saturday called the Tenth Street Pour House, and dinner Saturday night at 20 Manning. Poking around the Reading Terminal Market was also a lot of fun, if a touch crowded around lunchtime on a Saturday.

We're happy to be back, and I'm happy to have some time to get into my kitchen and get cooking. Stay tuned ....

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


It is a little bit chilly up here in the Northeast. I'm not complaining; the sixty degree days we experienced in early January were a bit ridiculous for my wintry tastes. But, there's no doubting that winter with icy winds and breathtakingly biting cold has found us now.

And I made a delightful discovery that will make all the wintry days still to come a little bit more bearable. I found Green and Black's Maya Gold Hot Chocolate. Now, I must confess, I'm really a milk chocolate girl. I prefer it. I'm learning to appreciate dark chocolate, but give me a choice and I'm going for the milk. Maya Gold though is fast becoming an exception. There's something about the hint of orange and the spices that make it seem much sweeter than typical dark chocolate. My other Maya Gold experiences have been in bar form; however, once I saw this little canister lurking at my natural foods store, I knew it had to be mine. Within ten minutes of walking in the door, the scene you see above had unfolded on my kitchen counter.