Easy Creamy Spinach Dip

Summer means BBQs, pool parties, and picnics – and this is one of my go-to recipes for something fast and easy to make but also a crowd pleaser. This creamy spinach dip is great if you don’t want to show up empty- handed but want to bring more than chips and a jar of salsa.
20356543796_e5cb85f384_oThe first time I had this was 10 years (!) ago when my one of my roommates made it, I thought it was magical…she said it’s Knorr. I’ve been making it for BBQs every since. It uses simple ingredients that you can find in most major supermarkets, even the water chestnuts (Hint: they usually hide in the “Asian” or “Ethnic” food aisle.) 

20194822858_d971bd28e3_oThe best part is your shopping list is at the store, pick up a packet of Knorr vegetable recipe mix (there’s other brands of veggie mix out there but I just have not tried it.) and get started. 

  • 1 package of 10 oz. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 1 16oz container of sour cream (use Lite if you’d like)
  • 1 cup mayonnaise (again use a lite or “olive oil” version if you want)
  • 1 packet of Knorr vegetable mix
  • 1 80z can of water chestnuts, drained and chopped (optional)
  • 3 green onions (optional)

20194816858_fa0a4fc41e_oOkay, it’s not very pretty or appealing when you are making it and in such large quantities, if you are freaked out by how much mayo goes into this like I was, breathe….it’s worth it in the end! Super easy steps: prep all your ingredients, dump it all in a large mixing bowl and mix well. Cover with saran wrap and place in the refrigerator to chill. Very important to give it the full 2 hours (or more) to chill and to really let the vegetable mix “meld” with the other ingredients.

A few tips:

  • make sure the spinach is “chopped” – you don’t want stringy leaves of spinach hanging from people’s mouths. Awkward.
  • use clean hands to squeeze out the water from the thawed spinach- it’s the best way to get all the water out and I’d usually squeeze in small fistfuls and at least twice
  • unless you or someone really loathes water chestnuts- I highly recommend adding them in. They really add texture to the dip and a great crisp crunch that balances out the creaminess.
  • This goes great with any sort of veggies (cucumbers, carrot sticks, bell pepper slices, celery) or crackers but my absolute favorite pairing is French baguette slices! I usually pick up two fresh baguettes from the store bakery section and ask them to slice them up for me.
  • Serve in a hollowed out bread bowl for extra fancy presentation! 20382795205_81dee26520_o

Hope you all are having a wonderful summer (with good people and good food)!

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Basic Zucchini Pancake

My mom calls this an “Italian Pancake” – I have no idea what makes it Italian (Google ‘Italian pancake’ and this does not come up)! But with this super easy, über-basic recipe you can definitely give it whatever cultural spin you want. This savory pancake is similar to vegetable fritters (less crispy and oily) or Korean zucchini pancakes called Hobak Buchim. When my mom made this years ago, I was blown away and asked her for the recipe. As a true home cook, she never used precise measurements but attempted to give me some guidance:

You’ll need:

  • 1 zucchini
  • 2 eggs
  • chopped deli ham (optionally of course)
  • 1 cup of all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup of water (or broth for extra flavor!)
  • a large shallow pan
  • large spoon or small soup ladle
  • spatula
  • 2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil

Makes about 2-3 pancakes about 6″ in diameter

Start off by washing, peeling and grating the zucchini with a medium cheese grater- you don’t want it to be too fine or else it starts getting mushy.

Combine the flour, eggs, broth or water in a large bowl then add your vegetable or meat ingredients last. Make sure it is well mixed and the zucchini is coated with the batter.

2014-03-31 18.50.18Heat the pan to medium and add the oil, wait until the pan is nice and warm-hot and drop about 3/4 cup of the mixture into the pan and cook like you would a breakfast pancake.

2014-03-31 18.32.26When you start seen bits of golden brown (after about 5-6 minutes) you can flip the pancake over and cook for about another 5-6 minutes.

2014-03-31 18.36.19These pancakes are delicious and best served piping hot. You can eat it by itself or get creative and eat it like a crepe! Below I made zucchini pancakes and added ham afterwards for a quick lunch!

2014-03-31 18.54.58You can go crazy with the recipe and substitute or add other vegetables or experiment with different types of squash. I would, however, avoid vegetables that have a high water content, cheese, or extra sauces so the pancake does not get soggy. Some ideas for additions:

  • bell peppers
  • jalapeños (for a KICK!)
  • mushrooms
  • fresh herbs
  • thinly sliced onions
  • sun-dried tomato slices
  • artichoke
  • julienned carrots
  • spinach
  • hashbrowns (!!)

Note: if you do decide to add much more ingredients then you may need to adjust the batter to make sure its well proportioned.

2014-03-31 18.51.06Thanks ma!

 

Browned Butternut Squash Warm Quinoa Salad

Welcome to 2015! While we are all embracing our resolutions to eat healthier, it doesn’t mean we have to sacrifice taste and a full belly. Let’s kick off the new year with this recipe that I adapted from Chow’s Browned Butternut Squash Couscous recipeCHOW is one of my favorite foodie/recipe websites!

2014-11-27 16.35.41You’ll need:

  • 1 butternut squash (about 1.5 lbs)
  • 2 teaspoon of cumin
  • Kosher salt
  • black pepper
  • 2 1/4 cups of vegetable broth or water
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 3 medium scallions

1/2 cup sliced or chopped toasted almondsphoto

Cook the quinoa and broth (or water) according to package instructions or with a rice cooker. Keep warm.

It might be a little tough but peel the skin of the squash with a vegetable peeler. Trim the top and bottom off and cut it open in half, then scrape out the seeds with a metal spoon (this was so much easier said than done). Cut into 1/4 cubes and set aside about 3 cups in a large bowl. Coat the squash in the cumin, salt, and pepper and toss.

2014-11-27 15.29.10Heat coconut or vegetable oil in a shallow pan at medium heat and cook the squash for about 30 minutes until the cubes are golden brown and tender.

2014-11-27 15.31.44In a heatproof bowl mix the warm quinoa, butternut squash, toasted almonds, and scallions together.

2014-11-27 16.28.48This recipe makes a great side dish or small meal that uses one of my favorite Fall/Winter vegetables: butternut squash. It’s full of textures from the crunchy toasted almonds, the “pop” of the quinoa, and the rich softness of the butternut.

2014-11-27 16.36.02The cumin spice in the recipe gives it a great savory flavor and has awesome healthy benefits (*fist pump*) it’s a powerful antioxidant that does all sorts of great things for your body such as boost immunity, lower blood pressure, fight colds- with the chilly winter we need all the help we can get right?

Stir Fried Cabbage with Creamy Peanut Sauce

Here’s a holiday health break between all the holiday baked goods, peppermint mochas, and parties we’ve been indulging in. This awesome recipe from Fiterazzi Magazine will keep you eating your veggies all year long.

Whoever thought the bland boring (and inexpensive) cabbage could be transformed into such a delectable side dish! Break out the wok or sauté pan!

You’ll need:

  • 1/2 head cabbage, thinly sliced
  • 3 large carrots, julienned
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce (I like the low-sodium version)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons of oil
  • 1 tablespoon of rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon of peanut butter (try crunchy or smooth!)
  • (optional) sesame seeds
  • (optional) lime juice or hot sauce

2014-07-21 18.48.48Instead of julienning the carrots, I actually took a vegetable peeler and “peeled” the carrots to get noodle-like thin strips.

Start off by making the sauce: mix the soy sauce, rice vinegar, peanut better and red pepper flakes together in a small bowl. Put aside.

Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium or high heat. Then add the minced garlic and stir. Add in the cabbage and carrots and toss until cooked thoroughly and just slightly wilted.

Pour in the sauce and turn off the heat- mix well until the vegetables are coated with sauce.

Sprinkle with sesame seeds and garish with lime juice or hot sauce, if desired.
2014-07-21 18.53.41-1Add in a meat or tofu and you got a main dish, serve with brown rice or noodles. I pretty much just stood there and ate the whole dish!

A Sweet Thanksgiving

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Last night’s pre-Thanksgiving home made meal: Chicken with Mushroom and White Wine Sauce (Epicurious), Broccolini, Garlicky Red Mash Potatoes (Allrecipes). There was Pumpkin Creme Brulee (William-Sanoma) that followed.

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Yes the two of us ate all four of them….no shame.

A Sweet Thanksgiving

So thankful for my followers and readers! Hope you all have a warm, wonderful Turkey Day full of yummy food and good people.

I made some Delicious Pumpkin Bread last night for tonight’s festivities.

Pan Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Bacon

Brussel sprouts have a bad rap for being one of those vegetables hated by every 6 year-old out there, along with broccoli and spinach. I dared myself to try something different and I actually fell in love with this dish!

This is a great, easy recipe with only 3 main ingredients! I adapted this from FN: Pan Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Bacon.

  • 4 strips thick-cut bacon
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts, halved
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

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Take 4 strips of thick bacon and cook them at a medium-high heat until crispy. I used turkey bacon as a healthy alternative, but I realize that it created less bacon fat to cook the brussel sprouts with later. Minor set back…that’s what butter is for!

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Transfer the bacon strips to a paper-towel. While the bacon was crisping up, I washed and chopped the hard stems off the brussel sprouts and split them into halves. Then, using the same pan, I melted butter. I tossed in the brussel sprouts and onions cooked it in high heat until the brussel sprouts were browned and a little burnt (about 8-10 mins). Brussels sprouts are like mini-cabbages with layers and layers of leaves, so even when they are split, give them enough time to cook thoroughly.

Tip: Apparently if you overcook them, they turn gray and soft. They will also develop a bitter, strong flavor and smell that is unappealing. 

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I love the bright green color! I cut up the turkey bacon into little bits and sprinkled it back in the pan. Mix evenly and there you have it- a simply, yet sophisticated side dish/entree.

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Give brussel sprouts a chance!