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Go-To Appetizer: Spinach-Artichoke Dip that won’t make you hate your jeans.


(Ed. note: Photo to come. And yes, there really is a recipe. Eventually.)

My November 2010 House Beautiful includes a section called “101 Party Do’s and Don’ts.”

Not unlike your average 3-year-old, I have a natural aversion to being told ‘don’t’ but some of the tips make sense. For instance #17: ‘Don’t be late’ and #52: ‘Don’t take yourself too seriously.’

Some of the rules are just plain ludicrous, like #49: ‘No colored candles!’ (apparently such an obscene violation it requires exclamatory punctuation) and #55: ‘Never use paper napkins.’  Seriously?

But this one gave me cause for pause — tip #9: “Don’t try a new recipe at a party.” Since most nights it’s a struggle just to get an old standby dinner on the table, when am I ever going to try a new recipe if not for a party?

Then again, my success rate for unveiling new recipes at dinner parties is well under 50 percent. These odds make me somewhat more inclined to follow tip #9.

With that in mind, I’m now on a mission to develop a few foolproof dinner party menus that allow me to focus on our guests rather than a flaccid soufflé. If I were ever the type to attempt a soufflé. Which I’m not.

To start? A go-to appetizer for nearly any dinner party. One that appeals to both vegetarians and carnivores alike, tastes rich without being a diet-buster, and is portable enough to take to other friends’ dinner parties.

True, that’s asking a lot. But I found one that delivers.

This recipe is based on Cooking Light magazine’s “All-Time Best Appetizer.” I found the original a bit too thick for dipping, too mozzarella-y and not quite spinach-y or flavorful enough for my tastes. So here’s my version:

Edited Spinach-Artichoke Dip (adapted from Cooking Light)

1/2 cup fat-free sour cream
8-ounces reduced fat cream cheese, softened
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
4 Tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, divided
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1-2 shakes Tabasco sauce
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 (10-oz) pkg. frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained, squeezed dry and chopped even smaller
½ c. milk (I used 1%; I’m sure skim would work fine, too.)

For dipping: Baked tortilla chips (the blue corn variety work great) and assorted fresh vegetables – red bell pepper strips, carrot and celery sticks, cucumber rounds, etc.

Preheat oven to 350. Combine sour cream and cream cheese in a large bowl and blend until smooth. Stir in remaining ingredients and mix until well-blended. Spoon mixture into baking dish suitable for serving; wipe edges (much easier to do before baking). Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown on top. Serve with tortilla chips and vegetables.

Note: This recipe is pretty adaptable. If I have time, I’ll add a couple tablespoons of finely chopped onion for extra flavor. But please, please promise me you won’t add mayonnaise. That’s just nasty.

What it means for the jeans: The original version of this calls for an additional cup of mozzarella and more cream cheese. It lists the nutritional info for ¼ c. of dip and six chips as having 148 calories and 5 g. of fat. So this version would be even less, natch.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. 10/22 3:43 PM

    I read this House Beautiful article last week, and I was hosting a brunch the next morning trying out two new recipes. I made the same comment to my guests, who has the time and extra calorie allowance to make all of this food TWICE?!?!

    • Jennifer permalink*
      10/22 3:50 PM

      Agreed! Also thought the contradictory ones were funny — ‘don’t only serve white liquors’ next to ‘only serve white liquors’ and ‘move from room to room’ vs. ‘don’t switch rooms.’ Exhausting…

      • 10/22 5:18 PM

        I’ve been looking for that darn magazine for the last hour because several of the items really sparked me. Definitely disagreed with lots of them.

        I think it’s OK to try a recipe for the first time as long as it comes from a trusted source, entertaining is always a bit of a risk! John disagrees but we make different types of foods (he is the griller, I am the baker).

    • Jennifer permalink*
      10/22 5:29 PM

      So really it’s just two: DO invite people you like — and who will like you in spite of what you serve, the table setting, etc. and DON’T invite anyone else.

      Or simpler still, to quote my friend Todd: “My party do’s and don’t are,… do attend many…..don’t host any.”

      • 10/26 2:10 PM

        I found the magazine! my thoughts….

        Worst tips:
        #5 Have a stiff drink before anyone arrives.
        #7 Iron your tablecloth and linens. (this takes HOURS! rinse everything, throw it in the dryer then put it directly on the table- effortless and wrinkle free)
        #88 Invite your friends’ dogs.

        Most obvious tip:
        #101 Don’t leave without saying goodbye to the host (we’re not 5, people!)

        Most questionable tips:
        #37 Light the backyard so there isn’t a big hole outside your windows
        #61 Crowd the table so people get to know each other better

        Best tip:
        #33 Start with an empty dishwasher

  2. Jennifer permalink*
    10/26 2:46 PM

    These are great, Anne! Good tip on the linens, too — I keep a spray bottle on hand for just that purpose.
    I also loved the “What would Auntie Mame do?” suggestion for if a guest accidentally breaks something of value: Simply say, “Thank you. I’ve been looking for a reason to replace that old thing.”

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