Is there a chip dip in the world that isn’t wonderful? No matter what the flavor, at heart most are tubs of sour cream or melted cheese. Few foods are more satisfying.
Of course, most dips also are notoriously heavy with fat and calories. Indeed, that’s why we love them. Still, there are ways to lighten them up while retaining their luxurious texture.• Bulk up on vegetables. Artichokes, spinach, tomatoes (fresh or sun dried), peppers (chili or bell, roasted or fresh), celery and onions all contain nutrients and fiber Caramelizing the onions adds a nice depth of flavor.
• To get a rich, cheesy texture without a boatload of cheese, go low, as in low-fact. Neufchatel, a French cream cheese, has one-third less fat than the full-fat version, but more flavor than the no-fat version. Low-fat sour cream and low-fat mayonnaise are also good choices.
• Skip the cheese altogether and go with white beans for the dip’s base. You get the creaminess without most of the fat.
• Layer in the flavor. Parmigiano-Reggiano, for example, bristles with so much flavor and salt that just a little bit of it will do the trick.
• Spice it up. Red pepper flakes and Peppadews (pickled red peppers from South Africa) are good options. Frank’s RedHot sauce is practically a requirement for football parties. And there’s always Sriracha sauce.
Spicy artichoke spinach dip
Start to finish: 55 minutes
Makes about 4 cups
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 cups finely chopped yellow onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
One 13.75-ounce can artichoke hearts, drained
One 10-ounce box frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
4 ounces Neufchatel (low-fat cream cheese)
1/2 cup low-fat sour cream, 2 tablespoons low-fat mayonnaise
1 ounce freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (about 3/4 cup grated using a wand-style grater)
1/2 cup medium chopped mild Peppadew peppers (about 2 ounces), or medium chopped roasted red peppers
1/2 to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
Crackers or low-fat pita crisps, to serve
Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Coat an 8-inch square baking pan with cooking spray.
In a medium skillet over medium-low, heat the oil. Add the onion and sauté, covered, stirring occasionally, for 8 minutes. Uncover the pan and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the onions are golden brown, about another 5 minutes.
Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.
In a food processor, pulse the artichokes until they are medium chopped, then transfer them to the skillet.
In the food processor combine the spinach, cream cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise and half of the Parmigiano-Reggiano, then process until mixed. Add the mixture to the skillet, along with the peppers and pepper flakes. Stir well, then season with salt.
Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan, sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top and bake on the oven’s middle shelf for 15 to 20 minutes, or until it is bubbling at the edges.
Serve immediately with crackers or low-fat pita crisps.
Per 1/2 cup: 150 calories; 80 calories from fat (53 percent of total calories); 9 g fat (4 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 20 mg cholesterol; 13 g carbohydrate; 4 g fiber; 2 g sugar; 7 g protein; 540 mg sodium.
Buffalo chicken dip
Makes about 4 cups
This classic from Philadelphia Cream Cheese has been a favorite for many Super Bowls. It combines the flavors of Buffalo hot wings with traditional blue cheese dip (but you can use any part of the chicken – minus the bones).
One 8-ounce package cream cheese or Neufchatel, softened
2 cups cooked chicken, shredded
1/2 cup Frank’s RedHot Buffalo Wings Sauce or Frank’s RedHot Original Cayenne Pepper Sauce
1/2 cup blue cheese salad dressing
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
Assorted fresh vegetables and/or crackers for dipping
Mix cheese, chicken, hot sauce, salad dressing and blue cheese in a deep baking dish until smooth. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until hot and bubbly.
Swiss and bacon dip
Prep time: 5 minutes
Total time: 25 minutes
From “Rachael Ray 30-Minute Meals Get Togethers“ by Rachael Ray (Lake Isle Press, $18.95, pages). Tested by Susan M. Selasky for the Detroit Free Press.
Note: For a variation, stir in 2 rounded teaspoons of prepared horseradish with the cheese and bacon.
8 slices center-cut bacon, chopped
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup mayonnaise (low-fact, if desired)
2 rounded teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 1/2 cups shredded Swiss cheese
3 green onions, washed, ends removed, chopped
1/2 cup smoked almonds, coarsely chopped
Baby carrots for dipping
Selection of spiced flat breads, cocktail-size pumpernickel or rye breads, or sliced whole-grain baguettes for dipping
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
In a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, brown the bacon. Remove crisp bacon bits and drain on paper towels. In a large mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, Swiss cheese and green onions with the cooked bacon. Transfer to a shallow small casserole or baking dish and bake until golden and bubbly at the edges, about 15 to 18 minutes. Top with the chopped almonds. Place the dip on a platter and surround warm casserole with carrots and breads for dipping.
Per serving: 292 calories (83% from fat), 27 grams fat (10 grams sat. fat), 3 grams carbohydrates, 9 grams protein, 277 mg sodium, 48 mg cholesterol, 1 gram fiber.
White bean and roasted garlic dip
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
From “The Food You Crave” by Ellie Krieger (Taunton, $28). Tested by Susan M. Selasky for the Detroit Free Press.
You can store this dip covered in the refrigerator for 3 days.
2 whole garlic heads
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 cans (15.5 ounces each) cannellini beans or other white beans, drained and rinsed
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon white pepper
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley plus more for garnish
Baked pita chips or vegetables for serving
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Cut the top third of garlic heads off so tops of cloves are exposed. Place heads, unpeeled, in ovenproof dish and drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil. Cover with aluminum foil; bake about 30 minutes.
Uncover and bake until the garlic cloves are soft and golden brown, another 30 to 40 minutes. You can make the roasted garlic in advance and store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Remove the garlic from the oven and when cool enough to handle, squeeze the soft garlic from the cloves.
In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, combine the beans, roasted garlic, remaining 3 tablespoons oil and lemon juice and process until smooth. Add the salt and white pepper. Stir in the parsley.
To serve, transfer to a bowl, garnish with the parsley leaves and serve with pita chips or vegetables.
Per 1/4 cup serving: 145 calories (31% from fat), 5 grams fat (1 gram sat. fat), 20 grams carbohydrates, 7 grams protein, 94 mg sodium, 0 mg cholesterol, 4 grams fiber.
Makes 1 cup
Adapted from “Just Tacos: 100 Delicious Recipes for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner,” by Shelley Wiseman (Taunton Press, $19.95).
1/2 pound tomatillos (5 or 6 medium)
3 large peeled garlic cloves
1 to 2 tablespoons canned chipotles en adobo with their sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt
Heat oven to 500 degrees. Line a baking tray with foil. Husk and rinse tomatillos; put on baking tray. Add garlic cloves. Roast 10 minutes.
Remove garlic when it’s browned and slightly softened. Turn tomatillos; roast 10 to 15 minutes longer until browned and softened.
Put garlic and tomatillos in a blender. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons canned chipotles en adobo with their sauce and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Blend smooth. Cool. Store up to one week in refrigerator.
Two-onion and roasted red pepper dip
Prep time: 10 minutes
The celery in this dip adds a nice crunch. Serve the dip with crackers or baked pita chips. From Susan Selasky for the Detroit Free Press Test Kitchen.
1 envelope onion soup mix
4 green onions, washed, thinly sliced
16 ounces reduced-fat sour cream
2 jarred roasted red peppers, chopped
1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup minced celery
In a medium bowl mix together all the ingredients and chill before serving.
Per 2 tablespoons: 51 calories (71% from fat), 4 grams fat (2 grams sat. fat), 4 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram protein, 226 mg sodium, 12 mg cholesterol, 0 grams fiber.