Kitchen Mailbox: Make healthier versions of snacks for TV time

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My husband, Ray, likes to snack while he watches TV. I think he likes snacking more than watching TV. But I want him to snack on foods healthier than potato chips and dip.

The dips that follow are healthier versions of their high-fat, high-calorie counterparts.

Both recipes use healthier ingredients such as kale, reduced-fat cream cheese, part-skim ricotta cheese and low-fat sour cream. Here is the best part -- they are delicious. As my husband said after he sampled both dips: "Wow!"


Creamy Kale and Artichoke Dip with Garlic Toasts

PG tested

I couldn’t find 12-ounce bags of frozen artichokes, but found 9-ounce packages of Bird’s Eye Artichoke Hearts at Giant Eagle. I used the required amount for the recipe and froze the rest.

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

12-ounce bag frozen quartered artichokes hearts (about 31⁄4 cups), thawed

½ of a 16-ounce bag frozen chopped kale (about 3 cups) thawed

4 garlic cloves, minced

Juice of ½ lemon

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

½ of an 8-ounce package reduced-fat cream cheese, room temperature and cut into chunks

½ cup part-skim ricotta cheese

¾ cup finely grated pecorino Romano or parmesan cheese

Garlic Toast

Nonstick cooking spray (I used olive oil spray)

8-ounce baguette, cut on the diagonal into ½-inch slices

2 garlic cloves, halved lengthwise

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place a large skillet over medium-high heat and coat with the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the onion and artichoke hearts. Cook and stir until the vegetables begin to soften, about 6 to 8 minutes. Add the kale. Cook and stir until it loses its moisture, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in garlic, lemon juice, salt, and red pepper flakes; cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.

Stir together cream cheese, ricotta and ½ cup of the pecorino or parmesan. Add the vegetables and stir until combined. Scrape mixture into a casserole dish and top with remaining ¼ cup of grated cheese. Bake until dip is bubbly and the cheese is melted, about 15 minutes.

To make the garlic toasts, coat a baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Arrange the bread slices on the pan and spray the tops with cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown.

As soon as the toasts come out of the oven, quickly rub the cut side of the garlic over each piece once or twice. Serve the hot dip with the garlic toasts.

Serves 12 (makes 6 cups).

Per serving: 167 calories, 7 grams total fat (3 grams saturated).

-- “Recipe Rehab: 80 Delicious Recipes That Slash the Fat, Not the Flavor” from the test kitchens of the Everyday Health TV show with Joann Cianciulli and Maureen Namkoong (Harper Collins, 2013, $21.99)


Caramelized Onion Dip

PG tested

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 onion, chopped fine

½ teaspoon light brown sugar

Salt and pepper

1 cup (8 ounces) 1 percent low-fat cottage cheese

¼ cup boiling water

1 cup low-fat sour cream

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

1⁄8 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

2 scallions, sliced thin

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in an 8-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onion, sugar, and ¼ teaspoon salt; cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring often, until onion is golden and caramelized, about 20 minutes. Let cool slightly.

Process cottage cheese and boiling water together in blender until smooth, about 30 seconds. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil, sour cream, vinegar, Worcestershire, ¼ teaspoon salt and 1⁄8 teaspoon pepper; process until combined, about 30 seconds.

Transfer processed cheese mixture to bowl; stir in caramelized onion and scallions. Cover; refrigerate until flavors have blended about 1 hour. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 12.

-- “Comfort Food Makeovers” by the editors of America’s Test Kitchen (2013, $26.99)

Arlene Burnett:

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