Another weekend and another birthday party at the Monro house. This frugal phase I have been forced into has brought many blessings.
We have instituted a family game night at our house and have been watching tons of movies because we don't have satellite right now. We decided that the satellite bill was an expense we could afford to toss for the moment. I have found that movies and games are so much more interesting and fun.
The kids might fight me on this, but I think we don't need satellite television anymore. With the new warm weather and the need to get out of the house, but not much money to go anywhere, we have been taking long walks to the park with our kids and friends. I love these walks and have taken some amazing pictures of the scenery.
Artichoke and spinach dip with fresh vegetables.
Preparing the artichoke to become the bowl.
Wendy is cooking the spinach in this photo.
I am still impressed with the landscape around southern Minnesota. It is beautiful in every season. Also, instead of taking people out to dinner to celebrate their birthdays, we have been celebrating right here at home. I can't think of anything more fun than throwing a dinner party.
This weekend we celebrated Kathy Grothem's and Lanna Raatz' birthdays. I decided to make an appetizer to get things started. Inspired by spring, I decided to go with artichokes as my main ingredient. Artichokes are a perennial thistle originating in the Mediterranean.
My family loves to eat them steamed and then dip the leaves in butter and garlic. The "meat" at the bottom of the leaves and the hearts are so good in melted garlic butter.
Artichoke and Spinach Dip
Time: one hour
1 large artichoke
4 Tbsp butter
1 bunch of fresh spinach
1 clove garlic, sliced
1 8 oz. container of Philadelphia reduced fat garden vegetable cream cheese
1 14oz. can artichoke hearts
1 14 oz. jar roasted red peppers
1/2 C. reduced fat sour cream
1/2 C. parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
3 large carrots, peeled and chopped into 3 inch sticks
5 celery stalks, chopped into 3 inch sticks
6 broccoli florets, cut into bit sized pieces
Cut off the stem of the artichoke so it sits flat. Then, cut off the top of the artichoke to make the top flat too. This will look better as a bowl.
Fill a pot with 1 inch of water and place a metal steamer in the pot. Place the artichoke in the steamer and turn the heat on medium high.
Cover with a lid and allow to steam for 40 minutes.
The artichoke is ready when a leaf pulls out easily.
Cut the stems off of the spinach and wash the leaves very well. Spinach leaves tend to be gritty. In a skillet, melt the butter and saut the sliced garlic for five minutes. Add the spinach and allow to wilt in the butter for five minutes.
In a food processor, combine the garden vegetable cream cheese, artichoke hearts, and spinach. Pulse for four or five times. Then, add sour cream, parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Pulse four or five times more.
Chop up your vegetables and arrange on a platter, leaving a space in the middle for the artichoke bowl. Now, your artichoke should be finished.
Let it cool for a couple of minutes so you can work with it without burning your hands. Start pulling out the inside leaves, leaving the outer leaves to form a bowl. Once you get down to the "hair" of the artichoke gently remove with a spoon (see my video).
You will be left with the outer leaves and the bottom heart of the artichoke. Spoon in the dip and place in the middle of your vegetables.
You will have left over dip to refill as needed.
However, for this recipe I, once again, integrated Philadelphia cream cheese so I can add it to my videos for that contest. Claud said I am getting obsessed with the competition. I don't think so, but I am going through a lot of cream cheese. I bet Philadelphia is having a huge month for sales. I have been buying the reduced fat so I don't balloon up. I haven't forgotten about my quest to be in the best shape ever before the fourth of July or my obsession (I'll admit to this one) with cheese. Please visit my blog to watch me making this dish at www.simplyfoodify.com.
The appetizer I made for Lanna and Kathy's special evening is artichoke and spinach dip served in an artichoke bowl and surrounded by cut vegetables to dip into the creamy mixture. Most artichoke and spinach dip recipes I have seen use chips or bread as the dipping "tools", but I tried to make this version low fat. I used carrots, celery and broccoli to serve with it. Also, I created this version to be served chilled which allows the ease of preparing it in advance.
Using the artichoke as a bowl is a really easy way to make the platter look beautiful. If you make the artichoke bowl, the whole thing takes an hour to make (you can put it in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve it).
If you choose not to make the artichoke bowl, it takes about 10 minutes to prepare and will taste just as great.
You could also substitute the fresh spinach with frozen; although, fresh is best and only adds about ten minutes to the process. I used the reduced fat garden vegetable Philadelphia cream cheese. I had already tested the recipe out on my cooking class and they seemed to like it.
Hopefully, you will too. It really is tasty and an affordable way to make a delicious and beautiful appetizer for your family and friends. You can have your guests nibble on this while you grill your meal. After all, it is grilling season again.