Healthy Veggie Loaded Artichoke Dip

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Need I say more?

Dips are something I cannot eat in moderation. Salsa’s and Hummus are ok. They can be had without restraint. Possibly some seven layer dips. But what about the warm cheesy dips? They are inviting and very scrumptious.

In restaurants, I manage to finish the dip as I eat it as is.

So much cheese can’t really be good for anyone in a single serving. But sometimes heart (or rather taste buds) don’t listen to your brain and then next think we know is that the dip bowl is empty! Now satisfaction kicks in. Later regret kicks in.

I needed something that was amazing to taste with no regrets.

That’s where a healthified artichoke Spinach dip came into picture.

Its full of veggies and using less cheese compared to traditional recipes. Thick Yogurt is what gives it extra creaminess and protein without the excess fat.

We topped it with finely diced bell pepper and ate them with veggies ( as well as multi grain toast fingers) for a filling afternoon snack.

It makes about 3 cups of dip and can be made ahead, frozen and then thawed before serving. We have a stash in our freeze for days when the baby arrives and we are hungry for “something fun/interesting”. It tastes yummy even as is out of the fridge.

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Healthy Veggie Loaded Artichoke Dip Recipe

Makes ~ 3 cups of dip

  • 1 can Artichoke hearts drained and coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup frozen chopped spinach, thawed and water removed
  • 1 cup milk , divided
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan
  • 1/2 Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 goat cheese
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup finely diced bell pepper and red onion ( for Garnish)

1.  In a skillet, add artichoke hearts, spinach, 1/2 cup milk, garlic, cumin seeds and paprika. Mix well and let cook for a few minutes on medium-low heat.

2. Stir in the parmesan cheese and let cook for another 2-3 minutes till the cheese melts and is incorporated in the mixture.  Lower the heat if necessary. Once cooked, let cool for a couple of minutes.

3. In the meantime, in a bowl, whip greek yogurt with goat cheese. Set aside.

4. Once the artichoke-spinach mixture is cooled, blend it till desired consistency. I like the dip to be smooth with some chunks of artichoke. Skip this step if you like the dip to be chunky.

5. Add the yogurt – goat cheese mixture to the artichoke mixture. Add salt. Mix well.

6. Top with bell pepper and red onions.

Serve immediately or freeze for later use.

Cucumber Guacamole Sandwiches

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Don’t you feel hungry when you are at home all day?

It happens to me all the time. I want to nibble on something here and there. A bit of this and that. We have stocked up on a lot of fruits and veggies just so that Varun and I can snack healthy. Varun enjoys his fruits but not vegetables. I am trying to introduce veggies back in his diet.

Carrots with hummus, celery sticks with peanut butter, cucumber sandwiches is what I have planed for this week. Serving carrots in avocado boats filled with hummus or cheese and baby tomatoes as flower seems to make it more appealing for him. So far he has had carrots, cucumber and cheese but hasn’t touch the hummus or celery. Baby steps.

To make this more adult friendly and filling, I made cucumber sandwiches. A fresh take on using guacamole and cucumbers and making them into finger food. They are perfect with good fat, veggies and a satisfying crunch. Made ahead, they are perfect as appetizers or h’ordeuvres for a party.

Fresh home guacamole is always best ( no preservatives) but store-bought one can work in a pinch. Especially during these busy holiday weekends when we are trying to do multiple things – shop for gifts, deck the halls, setup the tree, bake, attend gatherings etc.

I had them with my cuppa yesterday and they kept me full till dinner.

Any variety of cucumber works though I think English would be lovely. Zucchini rounds work as an alternative.You can top the guacamole with nuts or smoked salmon or even tofu to make it more filling and for that added boost of protein and vitamins. I suppose goat cheese, finely diced sun-dried tomato and anchovies would make a festive party filling.

Give them a try today. You probably already have everything you need in your fridge already!

Cucumber Guacamole Sandwiches Recipe

  • 1/2 Cucumber or Zucchini sliced into rounds
  • 2 – 3 tablespoon pesto (optional)
  • 1 Ripe Avocado
  • 1/4 – 1/2 habernaro chilli pepper
  • 1/4 red onion thinly sliced
  • 1  – 2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • Handful of fresh cilantro leaves finely chopped
  • Salt to taste

1. Slice the cucumber or zucchini and arrange on a platter. Smear wee bit of pesto on half of the round. You don’t want the pesto to overpower the taste but a bit enhances the flavors. Set aside.

2. Cut and de seed the avocado. Mash its pulp in a bowl. Add rest of the ingredients. Mix well. Taste and adjust salt and lemon juice per taste.

3. Add a dollop of guacamole on the pesto smeared rounds. Cover with remaining rounds.

Serve immediately.

Happy snacking.

Roasted Corn Patties

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When it rains, what do you like to snack on?

Fritters, pakoras, vada-pav, roasted corn on the cob, dal-vada, salted and boiled peanuts, hot and sour soup, momo’s or even a hot buttered toast! If you are in Mumbai, you will find bhutta-walas ( vendors selling roasted corn on the cob) making brisk business. Fervently fanning the coals so that the corn gets evenly roasted. A slick brushing of lemon and chili powder with some salt and you are ready to dig in.

In Lonavla and other monsoon destinations in Maharastra you will find vada pav and tea sellers making a bee-line for the waterfalls. Folks get wet and love to eat something piping hot. In Mahabhaleshwar, one such monsoon season we had corn and potato patties. We were cold and the vendor’s stove provided warmth. We huddled together and waited patiently while he made the patties. And they were surprisingly good.

Roasted corn patties

The flavors of ginger, garlic and coconut with tender corn; cased in a crispy potato covering. Perfectly fried, they were filling on that wet rainy day.

Fast forward to today. It was raining almost all day. It was pouring all weekend. I had to make me some corn patties. And when they were made, they were crunchilicious. Hints of ginger, garlic and some heat from green chilies. They made our evening and made it easier to have cold salad that much easier.

A delicious start to a week! Go on, make your Monday’s more mouthwatering!!

Note:I didn’t add coconut as we didn’t have any on hand but if you do have it, add it. If using coconut, you mix the coconut in the corn filling and coarsely grind it. Don’t mix the mashed potatoes in the filling. Instead encase the corn filling in potato pockets and then fry them. They are the ultimate corn patties but take time so don’t necessarily work well on a rushed week night 🙁

Roasted Corn Patties Recipe

  • 3 small or 1 large potato, boiled and mashed
  • 1 ear of corn, roasted and kernels sliced off with a sharp knife
  • 1 green chili, finely diced
  • 1 inch ginger root freshly grated
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1/4 th cup fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 tablespoon oil

1. Mix all the ingredients ( other than the oil) well. Taste and adjust seasonings. Form into 2 inch round patties and set aside.

2. Heat oil in a skillet large enough to hold all the patties. Fry them till they are golden brown on each side, about 3 – 4 minutes per side.

Serve warm with tamarind or mint chutney.

Goat Cheese and Fresh Figs Bruschetta

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I think this is my lucky week. After yesterday’s pan-fried tofu success, I was inspired to make something else. I was digging into fridge to see what we have on hand and came across a packet of fresh figs. The fridge had swallowed them after I bought them a couple of weeks ago and I had forgotten all about them. I hate when that happens and usually “forgetting” results in throwing out the long forgotten vegetable/ fruit.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the figs were perfectly ripe and ready to eat. Sweet and aromatic. I ate a couple of them as is while pondering over what to make with them.

I had seen figs wrapped in bacon or prosciutto but since I didn’t have either on hand, I paired it with goat cheese ( another classic combination) and made it into a bruschetta.

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Within minutes, the bread was toasted, goat cheese spread, figs halved and topped with honey and pistachios for an added crunch. And within minutes it was devoured. Vipul hates figs. He ate the most. Devoured is the right word. They were that good! Really. I kid you not.

This is going to be my signature appetizer going forward. Simple ingredients and simple recipe. And extremely versatile. Don’t have goat cheese on hand? Use paneer, ricotta, quark or even strained greek yogurt. Don’t like figs or they are not in season? Grilled peaches, pineapples or even kumquats would fit the bill perfectly. You can skip the honey if you like. A drizzle of balsamic reduction or some fresh mint ribbons would be great too.

It can be made ahead and can be easily scaled up for a party or a potluck.
I am gonna make this again soon. This time with cherries ( if I can find them in Hyderabad).

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Goat Cheese and Figs Bruschetta Recipe

  • Quartered Sandwich Bread slices or diagonal baguette slices – 8 pieces
  • Goat cheese -1/3 – 1/2 cup at room temperature
  • Ripe figs – 4 halved
  • Honey – 2 tablespoons
  • Pistachios – 8 – 10 , shelled and coarsely chopped

1. Toast the bread in a toaster or in a skillet. If using sandwich bread, slice after toasting.

2. Spread goat cheese on the toast generously. Place the toasts on a serving platter.

3. Balance a fig half on top of the cheese on each toast piece.

4. Drizzle honey on all the figs. Sprinkle pistachios on figs.

Serve immediately.

The Daring Cooks May Challenge: En Croute Paneer Puffs

Paneer Puffs

You remember the puff pastry dough that I shared last week? I made it for Daring cooks May challenge.  Don’t Make Me Call My Flying Monkeys , our hostess for May challenge, encouraged us to wrap food in pastry dough and then bake it.

Inspirations were shared of Beef Wellington, stuffed Portobello mushroom wrapped in pastry dough and even sausage pigs in blanket. I stuck to simple favorite of  paneer puffs. Homemade paneer was perfect filling for the crispy crunchy outer covering. They were lightly spiced with onions, chilies and had a pesto base. They would taste wonderful with any other seasoning of choice.

Homemade paneer

I filled the pastry with as much paneer as they could hold which caused some tears as I folded the puff over. But I liked the higher paneer to wrapping ratio!

Puffs to be filled

Be warned the puffs are filling – they are prefect as a weekend snack. Make them smaller for bite sized appetizer. We skipped dinner that evening.

Puffs Filled

This is my approximate recipe as most ingredients were eye-balled and adjusted for taste. A dash of cumin powder, some chili powder, squeeze of lemon. Store bought puff pastry sheets and paneer or even tofu can be easily used in this recipe. Just take care to thaw it per directions on the package before use.

Paneer Puffs Recipe

  • Puff pastry sheets thawed
  • 1 1/2 cups paneer,  thawed and crumbled ( if store-bought)
  • 1/2 cup – red onion finely chopped
  • 1 green chili, finely diced
  • 2 – 3 garlic cloves, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons sun dried tomatoes, finely diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin  powder
  • Salt – to taste
  • A dash – black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon – lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup store bough pesto

1. Mix all the ingredients from red onions to lemon juice with paneer. Mix well. Taste and adjust seasonings per taste. Set aside in a bowl.

2.Pre-heat the oven to 425 F

3.Start with one pastry sheet and unfold it ( or roll out your homemade dough about 1/2 cm thick). Cut it into  squares depending on how big you want the snack to be.

4. Spread a bit of pesto on the dough. Fill with paneer mix. Fold over leaving some room for edges.

Seal  the edges with a fork so that the edges stick and don’t unfold during baking.

5. Bake for 12 -15 minutes, till golden  brown.

Serve warm with ketchup or mint chutney.