Friday, January 10, 2014

Healthy Snacking

It's a new year, and since most of us have new year's resolutions that involve eating healthier, our snacking could use some improvement, too.

I have found that both veggies and beans make great bases for all kinds of "dippables" like multi-grain crackers and chips, but more importantly vegetables like baby carrots, celery and cukes, that long for something to be dipped into.

Here are a couple of dips I really like. The first is a vegetable dip made with butternut squash. Since it's still "wintry" out (well, everywhere but So.Cal.) this one's ideal for this time of year. I am also always interested in using beans in tasty ways and the second recipe is really delish. Both are good ways to get more veggies and beans into your diet.

Butternut Squash Dip with Creme Fraiche

1 butternut squash (1.5-2 lbs), cut in half lengthwise and seeded
1 very small yellow onion, cut in half lengthwise, stem and root ends trimmed
2 large cloves garlic, skins left on
2 Tbsp. pure olive oil
2 Tbsp. creme fraiche
1 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
freshly ground white pepper

Preheat oven to 350F. Brush flesh of squash, the onion, and the garlic generously with the olive oil and arrange the squash and onion cut side down on a rimmed baking sheet. Tuck a garlic clove in each cavity of the squash. Roast until very tender when pierced with a fork, about 50 minutes. Set aside until cool enough to handle, about 20 minutes.

Use a spoon to scrape out the flesh of the squash and put it in the workbowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Discard the skins. Squeeze the garlic pulp from the cloves and add to the workbowl along with the onion. Puree until smooth. Add the creme fraiche, salt, nutmeg, cayenne, and a few grinds of the pepper. Process to combine and then taste and adjust the seasonings. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve immediately.

Great with parmesan breadsticks, crostini, pita chips and baby carrots.

Warm Bean Dip

4 large cloves garlic, minced
2 cans (15 oz. each) white beans, such as navy, cannellini, drained and rinsed, warmed in a saucepan
5 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2-3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
chopped fresh thyme or basil leaves

Saute the garlic briefly in a little olive oil. Add the beans to the sauteed garlic to warm them up. Put the olive oil and beans in the workbowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade, then add the remaining olive oil, 2 Tbsp. of the lemon juice, the salt, and a few grinds of pepper and herbs. Process until pureed and smooth, tasting and adding more lemon juice, salt and pepper if desired. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve immediately. Best warm. Garnish with an herb sprig.

Great with anything, especially grilled or raw veggies, pita chips, and bagel chips.

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