Dips, Redeemed

I love dips. Honestly, I think I could eat exclusively dips and dippers all day, every day. There is just something about taking one thing (often crunchy) and dipping it into something soft and tasty and then popping it in your mouth. I don’t know if it’s the tactile interaction with the food or my similar love for crunchy things, but i just love dips.

Now, there are many, many healthy dips out there. For a start: hummus, white bean dip, black bean dip, baba ganouj, salsa, pica di gallo, guacamole. That is just the tip of the iceberg. However, they are also many, many dips that should basically be off limits to us trying to live a healthy lifestyle. Many of these dips are the ones I grew up eating and that I absolutely love. Like french onion dip for chips. Ow! Or spinach dip filled with monosodium glutamate from soup mix, chili cheese dip made with processed cheese, or fluffy fruit dip made from refined sugar, HFCS, and artificial flavor.

Today, we are going to do something I don’t do all that often, and that is redeem a food we otherwise shouldn’t be touching with a ten-foot pole. I try, on this blog, to get you (and me) to make new taste profiles, to re-train our tastebuds to foods that are superior in every way. But sometimes you just want an ice cream sandwich or a bag of Doritos… or whatever it is that calls to you from your emotional-gustatory past. We can go ahead and change things that were, as long as we make them just as good; nay, even better, and make sure that we consume them with our new good sense. Such is the case with three of my favorite dips.

These are all great for entertaining.

SPINACH DIP

Still pretty loaded with cholesterol and fat from the mayonnaise (and some the sour cream), I don’t have a problem with eating this dip because it is also full of spinach (a super food) and can be served with healthy accompaniments, like whole grain crackers or pretzels (try woven wheat, like Triscuits) or, even better, veggies (like mini tomatoes, red bell peppers, broccoli and cauliflower). My real issue, over the years, has come from trying to make this dip taste authentic without the packet of veggie soup mix (which contains MSG, an ingredient I do not let in my home or diet). I have figured out a spice mixture, instead, that works for me.

  1. Dump 1 pound premium, chopped, frozen spinach in a strainer in the sink and defrost. Squeeze spinach to remove as much water as humanly possible. I actually think you could go a little overboard with the spinach, quantity-wise.
  2. In a bowl, mix together 1 scant cup olive oil mayonnaise (or homemade), 1 cup natural sour cream, 4 low-salt veggie bouillon cubes (containing no MSG or artificial anything), and 1 heaping teaspoon natural (ditto) all purpose seasoning (with things like garlic and red bell pepper, etc.; like Bragg’s or 365), until completely incorporated.
  3. Stir in a couple sliced scallions and a small, drained can of julienned or diced water chestnuts. Taste for seasoning, salt, and pepper.

2013-08-10 16.41.26CHILI CHEESE DIP

Besides being used as a dip for football parties, this is also great for use with natural hot dogs, soft pretzels, baked potatoes, or potato bakes (as opposed to “fries”). Of course, you can also cut off before adding the chili and use it for nachos (loaded with veggies and re-fried beans) or with lightly cooked broccoli, cauliflower, or cabbage.

My issue with this dip has always been the processed cheese sauce, not the chili. For one, you can find a good, low-sodium, all-natural (even vegetarian) chili, just fine. For two, you can use your own leftovers just as easily.

  1. In a sauce pan over low heat, combine 1 cup extra sharp cheddar cheese, 12 oz can evaporated milk, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 teaspoon cider vinegar, 1 teaspoon unbleached all purpose flour, 1 teaspoon ground mustard, 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, 1/4 teaspoon molasses, and a pinch of salt. Stir constantly until cheese has melted and sauce is uniform.
  2. Add 1 can of premium, all-natural chili of choice and stir until warm through. Remove from heat and serve warm with whole grain tortilla chips, crackers, pretzels, or bread.

FLUFFY FRUIT DIP

The problem with this dip not just the sugar, but the type of sugar that is in it (high fructose corn syrup, mostly, and refined) and the artificial flavor. It is sugary; it’s made with marshmallow fluff. But when you home-make your fluff, you can control the types of sugars you use and also skid right about artificial anything. I use if for special occasions, like birthday parties.I left the corn syrup in this recipe, because it makes it easier to make. I don’t have a huge problem with the occasional use of natural corn syrup in baking, but I very rarely use it, and it hardly even enters our home through prepared products. You can make it completely without, but I don’t recommend that for an amateur cook. To substitute, use another 1 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water for the syrup, or use brown rice syrup.

  1. In a clean, cool bowl on your stand mixer, whisk over medium 2 large egg whites and 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar until forming soft peaks. Set aside.
  2. In the meantime, in a heavy sauce pan, bring 3/4 cup sugar, 1/2 cup natural corn syrup, 1/4 cup water, and 1/8 teaspoon salt to a boil. Bring temperature to 240F on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat and proceed immediately to the following step.
  3. Turn the mixer back on to low, and slowly drizzle in 2 teaspoons of the sugar mixture. Then patiently drizzle in the rest of the mixture. Turn the speed to medium-high and whip about 7 minutes, until it is stiff and glossy.
  4. Add 1-2 teaspoon vanilla extract (the real kind) and whip 2 more minutes.
  5. Store all but 2 cups of the mixture, to which you will beat in 1 softened bar of natural cream cheese. Serve with strawberries and pineapple, as well as other fruit of choice.
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