Friday, December 21, 2012

Hot Roasted Artichoke Dip with Spinach and Asiago Cheese with Herbed Pita Chips

Dear Jess,

Oh man. Christmas is fast approaching, and the 'party food' lists are being completed.

Last night my cousin Mark came for a visit. He is visiting from Alberta until Christmas. Last time he visited I completely ran out of time, and couldn't get together anything worth serving. The chips were stale, the coffee was week, I had to ask someone to pick up veggie dip for the few veggies I had in my fridge... It wasn't tasty. It wasn't pretty. Basically, it was something from my nightmares. I decided to do a 're-do'.

This time I had a beautiful, large veggie tray with dip, some chocolate dipped pretzels, and this artichoke dip with pita crisps that I seasoned and made crispy in the oven. We demolished everything! It was so delicious! And just for the record, I had fresh ground non-weak coffee, tea, eggnog, beer, wine and juice to serve for beverages. I think I redeemed myself.

I have decided to pay closer attention to my 'kitchen inventory' these days. It is forcing me to take into account what I already have, and try to find recipes that include said items. This Artichoke Dip is a result of this searching. I had a can of artichokes left over from some other recipe I tried quite a while ago. Needless to say, I'm glad I did! As mentioned before, we demolished this dip! And this is saying something, because this recipe makes a fair amount of it!

Hot Roasted Artichoke Dip with Spinach & Asiago Cheese 
from The Looneyspoons Collections by Janet and Greta Podleski, Hearty-Choke Dip, Page 4
1 can (14oz/398mL) artichoke hearts (not marinated)
1/2 large yellow sweet onion, coarsely chopped
3 large cloves garlic, peeled and cut into thirds
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 can (19oz/540mL) no-salt-added white kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup light (5%) sour cream (I used Fat Free)
1 tub (8oz/250mL) light garden vegetable cream cheese (such as Philadelphia brand)
1/2 tsp grated lemon zest
4 or 5 dashes hot pepper sauce
1/2 pkg (10 oz/300g) frozen spinach, thawed, squeezed dry and chopped (I used the whole 10 oz package. I love spinach!)
1 cup packed shredded Asiago cheese, divided (You can use Parmesan or Romano cheese instead. I used a combination of the three.)

1. Preheat oven to 425F

2. Drain artichokes and pat dry using paper towels. Cut artichokes in half. Place artichokes in a small casserole dish or baking pan. Add chopped onions and garlic. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Mix well. Roast uncovered for 30 minutes, stirring once, halfway through roasting time.

3. While vegetables are roasting, place kidney beans, sour cream, cream cheese, lemon zest and hot pepper sauce in the bowl of a food processor*. Whirl until smooth.

4. Remove artichoke mixture from oven. Reduce oven temperature to 375F. Let vegetables cool for 5 minutes, then add to ingredients in food processor. Pulse on and off until mixture is well blended but still slightly lumpy. Transfer artichoke mixture to a bowl and stir in spinach, a pinch of black pepper and all but 2 tbsp Asiago cheese. Spoon mixture back into casserole dish. Top with remaining 2 tbsp asiago cheese.

5. Bake uncovered on middle oven rack for 30 minutes, until mixture bubbles around the edges and top turns a light golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes before serving. It's hot! Serve with whole-grain pita chips or crackers.

*I don't have a food processor, so I just used my blender.

Pita Chips
adapted from
4-5 whole wheat pita breads
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried parsley

1. Preheat oven to 400F.

2. Cut all pita bread into whatever sizes/shapes you want your chips to be. Place them on a lined cookie sheet.

3. In a small bowl combine the remaining ingredients and mix well. Brush each pita piece with oil mixture.

4. Bake for 5-7 minutes, or until lightly golden and crispy. Watch carefully, as they brown easily!

I prepared the dip the day before (minus baking it.) Because of this, it was colder from being in the fridge over night, so I baked it for an extra 10 or 15 minutes. It still turned out amazing!

The chips were really yummy. The herbed seasoning was not very strong. They had a nice and subtle taste to them, and made the house smell delicious.

I hope you're not too busy, and you are finding time to relax during your holidays. I miss you and am really excited to see you again (hopefully soon!)


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Creamy Parsnip Celery and Apple Soup

Dear Jess,

My days lately have been fairly uneventful. But I am thankful for the time to meditate. I still love how things happen that you can't explain. I love that we don't know what is to come next. I love that all surprises are unexpected. This soup is a good example. Caitlin came last minute for a visit, which meant she was able to accompany me on my hair appointment last week. There, we were looking through some magazines while waiting for my hair to colour, and I found this soup. I took a picture of the recipe with my phone, and remembered it only yesterday. This was perfect timing, as I was planning on doing groceries.

I made this soup yesterday but was unsure as I was not feeling well and my senses were a little off. I believe when Jason came home I said 'I made a weird soup, baby... I'm not sure about it.' We went on a date and I didn't think about the soup until I went to make my lunch today. I decided to give it a chance.

Today, (to my utmost pleasure!) my lunch included:

Creamy Parsnip Celery and Apple Soup
from a magazine in Van Gogh Design Hair and Spa
(I think it was Everyday Living, December 2012)

2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 leek (white and light green parts), washed and sliced
1/4 tsp ground ginger
Pinch salt
1 lb parsnips, peeled and sliced
3 ribs celery, sliced
1 granny Smith apple, peeled, seeded and chopped
3 cups sodium-reduced chicken broth
3 cups water
1/4 cup whipping cream (35%)
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp cider vinegar

1. In a large pot, melt butter over medium heat, cook leek, ginger and salt, stirring occasionally until softened, about 8 minutes.

2. Stir in parsnips, celery and apple; cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes. Add broth and water; bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until parsnips are tender, about 20 minutes. Let cook for 10 minutes.

3. In batches in blender, puree soup until smooth; return to pot. Sitr in cream, mustard and vinegar; reheat to serve.

I must have been distracted while making my list, as I forgot to add celery to my list. Never fear, I had some carrots which I added instead. I'm sure celery would be delicious, but the carrots were tasty as well.

I am so excited to see you in a couple days! I hope your preparations are going well.

So much love,