Sunday, January 8, 2017

Spinach artichoke dip … a warm treat for football playoff season or really any time of the year, especially during the winter

Over the past few years, in particular, I've been observing that right on the heels of the New Year's diet resolutions come the pitches and promotions for football playoff and Super Bowl treats. Personally, I tend to be one who goes for "moderation in all things." I've never been one to adopt a "paleo" diet or to eliminate sugar or grains from my diet. Just the same, I'm also not one to advocate for munching down on deep dish pizzas or bowls of guacamole. 
With my University of Utah Utes not in this year's playoff picture, I really don't have a favorite team, although I am more partial to Clemson for this year. My favorite post-season college football game is still the 2009 Sugar Bowl.

For those of you who are looking for a warm treat for tomorrow's College Football Championship game or just a treat that is always welcome, especially during the cooler months of the year, here is my spinach artichoke dip recipe. I've had a friend from the South describe it as, "Slap ya Mama good," and I hope you will enjoy it as well.

A quick word about artichokes - they are actually part of the thistle family and are native to the Mediterranean region of the world. They were actually part of the diets of the ancient Greeks and Romans. The artichoke was introduced into England in the 1530s and ultimately made its way to the United States during the 1800s, courtesy of French and Spanish immigrants.
By Jamain - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20737898
Spinach Artichoke Dip

16 ounce bag of frozen spinach, cooked and drained
One can (13.75 ounce) artichoke hearts 
24 ounces of cream cheese (use the real stuff, no reduced fat substitutes or the dip won't set up)
6 ounce bag shredded parmesan cheese

For this recipe, I use a 2-quart Pyrex casserole dish. 
Steps.
1. Cook and drain the spinach.I empty the bag of spinach into the casserole dish and heat it in the microwave until cooked. I don't add water - there is enough liquid within the spinach as part of the freezing process. I typically use a slotted spoon to squeeze out as much liquid as I can.
2. Drain the artichoke hearts and stir them into the spinach. If you purchased a can of whole hearts, you will need to quarter them. Also, be careful not to use marinated artichoke hearts. 
3. Add the cream cheese and parmesan cheese. I usually buy a 16 ounce tub and an 8 ounce brick of cream cheese. The main thing is to use the original cream cheese and not a whipped or reduced fat product.

 4. Stir everything together. Your mixture won't be entirely smooth at this point in the process, but don't worry. Just do your best to stir everything together for now.
5. Bake at 350ºF for 30-40 minutes. Stir the mixture at about 15 minutes into the heating process to make sure all of the ingredients are mixing together well.
6.  Serve with sliced baguette bread, crackers, pita chips, vegetables or any combination of these that you like.