I’ve said this about probably every other season this year, but I’m REALLY telling you now, this minute, that December is my ABSOLUTE favorite time of the year! Fo’ reals.
December begins - in my experience anyway - the season of people being nice to each other…again, for the most part. I’m not talking about Black Friday Madness or frenzied holiday shopping; I’m talking about there being something within each of us that just makes us nicer people to each other at this time of the year. Holiday Niceness, if you will.
So now, Holiday Niceness is offically here and you know what ELSE that means? The season of Lotso-Holiday-Parties! Maybe that's why everyone's nice to each other??? With so many events and potlucks to attend, those holiday calories can really begin to creep right in. Creep, creep, creep...oh hello extra pound...or four.
You can’t control everything that's going to be on those beautifully decorated festive tables of wonderment, but you CAN control the dishes that YOU choose to bring to your events. Try making healthier versions of your favorite appetizers or dishes.
Here’s a much healthier version of a potluck favorite: spinach and artichoke dip. By making it a little healthier, you can cut out almost half of the fat and about 40% of the calories! And the best part is that you, and your fellow party-goers, will not even miss those extra calories!
· 6 cups fresh baby spinach leaves, chopped (one pre-packaged bag from the produce section has about 6 cups)
· 8oz 1/3 less fat cream cheese, softened
· ¼ cup low fat mayo
· 2 T light sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
· 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
· ¼ cup skim milk
· 3 cloves garlic, minced
· 1 T fresh basil, chopped (or 1 tsp dried)
· 1 tsp dried thyme
· ¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
· Fresh ground pepper to taste
· 5T shredded Parmesan cheese
· ½ cup reduced fat feta cheese
· 2-6.5 oz jars of marinated artichoke hearts, chopped (if you can’t find marinated, feel free to use 1-14oz can of regular)
Note: I have made this a few times now, and I found that mixing everything on the stovetop before putting it into your baking dish just makes this work better. I have also tried to cook the spinach beforehand and I actually like chopping it up fresh and not cooking it a whole lot better. With that in mind, the pics below are from the most recent time I’ve made it where I DID cook the spinach…so what I’m saying is: enjoy the pic of the nice squishy spinach, but then just trust me on this one – don’t cook it before – just chop it all up nice and fresh.
Here's the squishy spinach (still good, but not AS good!):
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray your baking dish or pie pan with non-stick spray.
2. In a large sauté pan over med/low heat, add the cream cheese, mayo, sour cream, lemon juice and skim milk. Stir everything together until it’s all nice and mixed and smooth.
3. Now, mix in the garlic, basil, thyme, and crushed red pepper until it’s all incorporated. I also like to add a few turns of my pepper mill for some extra spice.
4. Add the cheeses, artichoke hearts, and finally the chopped spinach. Stir until everything is mixed together.
5. Remove from heat and transfer to the baking dish.
6. Bake for 25 minutes until bubbly.
7. Remove from the oven and serve! I love this dip with bagel crisps or sourdough bread; it’s also delicious with veggies like celery and carrots.
If you are short on time, this can be made ahead (even the day before) and reheated when you arrive at your destination.
Happy Be-Nice-to-Your-Neighbor-December, Y'all!
Serves 10 – approximately ¼ cup/serving
Calories 133 / Carbs 7g / Fat 9g / Protein 5g / Fiber 1 g / Sodium 403mg