Low-Fat Spinach Artichoke Dip

I’m a big fan of spinach artichoke dip, but let’s face it, it’s not the healthiest appetizer/snack choice. Most of the spinach artichoke dips you get at restaurants are made with heavy cream and full-fat cream cheese. I’ve come up with a low-fat, guilt-free version that you can make and enjoy at home!

I use this little guy for baking mine. It takes a bit longer to get the dip cooked/heated, but what I like about it is that it keeps the dip consistently warm. If you don’t have a mini Crock-Pot, no worries! You can still bake this dip in a small baking dish in your oven! Serve this dip with your favorite crackers, pita chips, or fresh veggies!

Low-Fat Spinach Artichoke Dip

Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

– 2 8-ounce packages reduced-fat (or fat free!) cream cheese, softened.

– 2/3 cup skim milk

– 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

– 1/4 tsp. garlic powder

– 1 16-ounce bag of frozen spinach, thawed and drained well

– 1 can artichoke hearts, rinsed and drained well

– 1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack or mozzarella cheese

– 1/4 tsp. salt

Directions:

1. If using the oven, preheat to 350 degrees. In a food processor, blend cream cheese, Parmesan cheese, garlic powder, and salt until smooth and creamy. Add spinach and blend until thoroughly mixed. Add artichokes and coarsely chop until desired consistency is reached. Add to stoneware or shallow baking dish.

2. If using the mini Crock-Pot, cook for 1 1/2 hours. Sprinkle Monterey Jack or mozzarella cheese on top during the last 10 minutes. If you are going to bake the dip in your oven, sprinkle with cheese and bake for approximately 15 minutes (the edges of your dip may turn a light golden brown).

Coq Au Vin Fondue

Let the fondue feast continue! First of all, I have to apologize for the picture for this recipe (it was hard to take a picture in our poorly lit living room)! I posted my recipe for our first course, Cheddar Swiss Fondue the other day. This Coq Au Vin fondue was our second course. In French, Coq Au Vin means “Rooster in wine.” Well, no roosters were harmed in the making of this recipe, but I call it Coq Au Vin fondue because it is my take on The Melting Pot’s version.

This recipe works well with a variety of meats. We typically do chicken and steak, but shrimp and salmon also work really well! If you have been to The Melting Pot before, you might be thinking about all of those great dipping sauces they give you. My philosophy on this is if you want to do this at home and save some time and money, don’t try to make a bunch of sauces from scratch. Some sauces are worth making every once in a while, but a lot of the time, we just use bottled teriyaki sauce and BBQ sauce. If we do fish, I like to do a lemon, white wine, and butter sauce. If you are feeling adventurous though, give some of their sauces a try! My faves are the curry and their green goddess dip!

Coq Au Vin Fondue

Serves 4

Ingredients:

– 3 14.5 ounce cans vegetable broth

– 1 cup red wine (burgundy, or I sometimes use cabernet sauvignon)

– 2 garlic cloves, minced

– Optional: green onion, mushrooms

– Meat: If serving 4 people, I recommend you have at least 2 pounds of meat. Cut chicken, steak or salmon into bite-size pieces. Small red potatoes and vegetables also work well with this fondue.

Directions:

1. If you plan to do all three fondue courses, I recommend doing as much prep work beforehand as possible for each course so all you have to do in between is clean your pot out. For Coq Au Vin fondue, you can prep by cutting your meat into bite-size pieces and try to trim away any fat. I then sprinkle with salt and pepper, cover, and put the meat back into the fridge until I am ready for it.

2. Heat fondue pot to high heat, add wine, broth, and garlic and simmer for approximately 3-4 minutes. You can tell that the broth is ready when you dip in a piece of meat and it immediately starts cooking. Chicken typically takes about 4 minutes to cook. Steak typically takes 2-3 minutes depending on how well-done you like to eat your steak.

Notes:
– Be careful when serving raw meat. No raw meat should be placed on the same plate that you plan to eat the meat off of when it is cooked. I serve the raw meat on a large plate with its own fork and knife (if needed) and then give each guest a separate plate with another fork and knife. Make sure your meat is fully-cooked before eating it.

– As your broth continues to simmer while you cook your meat, the broth will start to evaporate. Our fondue pot is rather large so I need to add 3 cans of broth in order to prevent the broth from getting too low. If you are using a small pot, you can start with 2 cans of broth and a 1/2 cup of wine.

Cheddar Swiss Fondue

One of the first, “fancier” dates that my husband and I went on when we first started dating was to The Melting Pot. If you have never been to The Melting Pot, I suggest you go there. Like right now. Go. What are you waiting for?!

My favorite part of the whole fondue experience is the cheese fondue. Who doesn’t love bread and cheesy delicious goodness? I love bread and cheese just as much as I love peanut butter and chocolate. Yeah, I said it. And as much as I love going to The Melting Pot, it can be a little expensive and time consuming. My husband bought me an electric fondue pot a few years ago and we just love it! In fact, we prefer to just make fondue at home now instead of going to The Melting Pot. If you are careful with the types of ingredients you buy, you can save money and it is really nice to just sit at home, watch a movie while we eat, and take our time through each fondue course! Stay tuned for my Coq Au Vin Fondue recipe for cooking the meat as well as my chocolate fondue recipe!

Cheddar Swiss Fondue

Serves 4

Ingredients:

– 2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese

– 2 cups grated Swiss cheese

– 1 tsp. ground mustard

– 2 cloves garlic, minced

– 1/2 to 3/4 cup light-bodied beer (I recommend Corona)*

– 1/2 tsp. salt

– 1/2 tsp. black pepper

– 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

– 1 large french baguette, diced into bite-size pieces

– Optional: diced granny smith apple, raw broccoli and cauliflower

Directions:

1. If you plan to do all three fondue courses, I recommend doing as much prep work beforehand as possible for each course so all you have to do in between is clean your pot out. For cheese fondue, you can prep by grating all of your cheese and combining it in a bowl. Then in a small condiment bowl, I add the garlic, mustard powder, salt, and pepper. You can then store these ingredients back in the refrigerator until you are ready to use them!

2. Heat fondue pot to high heat, add beer, garlic, mustard powder, salt and pepper and simmer for approximately 2-3 minutes. Add in cheeses and continue stirring cheese until it is completely melted. Once melted, add in Worcestershire sauce. Lower the heat on the fondue pot and enjoy!

Notes:
– Be careful with the amount of beer that you add to the cheese. You don’t want to pour too much in, otherwise your cheese will be too liquidy. I recommend starting with maybe just half a cup and if you feel your cheese is too thick, add the remaining 1/4 cup.

– I do NOT recommend using low-fat or fat-free cheese for fondue. It will not melt properly and your fondue will be clumpy. To make up for all the calories, I suggest you just work it off the next morning at the gym. :)

– If you don’t have a fondue pot and are thinking about getting one, I recommend buying an electric, non-stick pot. I have this one, and I love it. It’s nice not to have to worry about buying fuel. And because it’s non-stick, it’s super easy to clean out in between each course!

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

When it comes to chocolate chip cookies, everybody seems to have different opinions about what their favorite chocolate chip cookie tastes like. Some people like theirs to be thin and crunchy while some prefer their cookies to be soft and chewy. Personally, I’m in the soft and chewy camp. There is nothing better than a fresh, warm, homemade chocolate chip cookie right out of the oven with a big glass of milk. These cookies are so easy to make. I often will make a big batch and freeze some of them in freezer bags for later.

What makes these cookies a little different from most chocolate chip cookie recipes is that I use oat flour instead of white all-purpose flour. I started using oat flour last fall when we thought my youngest brother might have a sensitivity to wheat. We later found out he can eat wheat, but I loved the way these cookies tasted using the oat flour so much, that I continue to make these using oat flour. The oat flour adds a slight oatmeal cookie taste to these (which I think is super yummy!) without actually being an oatmeal cookie. You can usually find oat flour in the organic and health food section of your grocery store or in other health food stores. It is a little more expensive than regular flour, but it’s worth the price to me. Oat flour is also healthier than white flour as it has been shown to help lower cholesterol and helps regulate blood sugar levels after eating. The trick with oat flour is that it is technically a gluten-free flour (though, this is a controversial topic) so it doesn’t bind together like regular flour does. I have found that if I use the same amount that I would use if I was using white flour, then my cookies come out crumbly. So, when using oat flour, I recommend adding a little more than you usually would add.

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes approximately 2 dozen cookies

Ingredients:

– 3 cups oat flour (or 2 1/4 cup white flour)

– 1 tsp. baking soda

– 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg

– 1 cup packed brown sugar

– 1/2 cup white sugar

– 2 tsp. vanilla extract

– 2 sticks of butter at room temperature

– 2 eggs at room temperature

– 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions:

1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray. Combine oat flour, baking soda, and nutmeg in a bowl. Set aside.

2. In a separate bowl, cream butter and sugars together. Add eggs and vanilla extract. Slowly add in flour until all of it is well-combined. Fold in chocolate chips. Refrigerate dough for approximately 10 minutes (of put in the freezer for about 5 mins.).

3. Drop spoonfuls of chilled batter onto the baking sheet (I like to use an ice cream scoop to do this!). Make sure each cookie is about 2 inches apart. Bake for approximately 10-12 minutes until a light golden brown. Cool on cooling rack.

Pulled Pork Sandwiches


Have you ever had one of those weeks where everything you cook is just…blah? Yeah, that’s me this week. I made more homemade pizza on Sunday and I wasn’t happy with the way the dough came out. I made teriyaki salmon last night and wasn’t happy with that dish either. Well, tonight’s dinner got me out of the dinner rut. Can I just say how much I love the crock-pot? It is perfect for busy moms, dads, and of course, grad students on the go! My friend, Raquel, gave me one as a wedding gift last year and I can’t believe I have gone so long without having one! So far, the only recipes I’ve really used it for are pot roasts and tomato sauce. I’ve been wanting to attempt pulled pork sandwiches, so I hit up my beloved AllRecipes.com and went through many of the pulled pork recipes that were there. I ended up making up my own recipe by taking bits of multiple recipes based on what ingredients I had in my pantry. This pork was tender and moist! It was so good that my husband had 3 sandwiches. Serve these sandwiches with some roasted or mashed potatoes and a big salad and you’ve got yourself a mighty fine dinner!

Pulled Pork Sandwiches

Adapated from AllRecipes

Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

– 1 5-6 lb. boneless pork butt or pork shoulder

– 1 yellow onion, sliced thin

– 2 tbs. packed brown sugar

– 2 tsp. paprika

– 1 tsp. salt

– 1 tsp. black pepper

– 1 cup apple cider vinegar

– 1 tbs. Worcestershire sauce

– 1/2 tsp. cumin

– 1 tsp. ground mustard

– 1 tsp. red pepper flakes

Directions:

1.Turn crock-pot on low heat. Slice onion into thin slices and place at the bottom of the crock-pot. Rinse pork and pat dry. Combine salt and pepper, paprika, and brown sugar. Rub mixture all over the pork and place into the crock-pot.

2. Combine cider, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, and red pepper flakes. Drizzle mixture over the pork. Cook on low heat for approximately 10-12 hours.

2. Remove pork from crock-pot onto a large cutting board (scoop out onions if you want to eat them). Drain liquid or pour into a sauce pan if you plan to make a gravy. Using a fork, shred pork and serve on toasted buns with homemade gravy or your favorite BBQ sauce!

Notes:
– I made my own gravy using all of the liquid from the crock-pot. To make your own gravy, pour the liquid into a sauce pan. Using a mesh skimmer, skim off fat from the top layer. Add 2 Tbs. of flour and heat mixture, stirring constantly until four is well-combined and cooked. Then add 1 cup milk, and 1 cup of water or additional milk. Keep stirring and bring gravy to a boil. Serve immediately.

Strawberry Mango Pops


It’s been ridiculously hot and dry here in Florida. We’ve barely gotten any rain and there is a pretty serious drought right now which makes it even more unbearable to live here! These strawberry mango pops are the perfect snack for escaping the heat! My husband has been on a popsicle kick lately and I’ve always wanted to try making our own, healthy popsicles using real fruit.  I used Splenda to sweeten these so they could be sugar-free, but you can always use regular sugar if you wanted to.

These popsicles came out perfectly! I can’t wait to create more using different fruits and flavors! Stay tuned for more popsicle recipes this summer! :)

Strawberry Mango Pops

Makes 6 large popsicles

Ingredients:

– 1 heaping cup diced mango, fresh or frozen

– 1 heaping cup whole strawberries, fresh or frozen

– 1 cup skim milk

– 1/2 cup water* (you may not need as much water if you use fresh fruit)

– 1 tbs. Splenda or regular sugar

– Juice 1 lime

Directions:

1. Combine all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Pour into popsicle molds and freeze for at least 6 hours.

Notes:
– I used frozen fruit for this recipe, so I needed more liquid to get the mixture smooth enough. I added water to do this, but you may find that if you use fresh fruit, just the milk will suffice. If you want to use fresh fruit, I recommend just using milk, check to see if the mixture is smooth enough and then only add the water if you need it.

– Don’t own popsicle molds? No fear! You can also make these using small Dixie cups and popsicle sticks. You can find both of these items at your grocery store!

– This recipe made 6 large popsicles using these popiscle molds that I purchased on Amazon.