Hot Tangy Spinach Artichoke Dip

the ultimate spinach artichoke dip

Everyone once in a while a party comes around and I get to make something decadent that you wouldn’t eat at home everyday.  I always try to bring something substantial as you never can be certain of gluten free snackies, although my friends are pretty good about it. One of my goto apps is this hot tangy spinach artichoke dip.  I am on the quest for the best recipe ever and think I may have created it this time. This one is tangy with plenty of mustard. I think it helps offset the richness. If you are not a fan of dijon (yellow mustard cannot be substituted) or any mustard, just leave it out. I like the mustard seeds for a little puff of surprise, but again, those could be optional. If you leave it out, just call it spinach artichoke dip, leave the tangy out. In a minute you will read out loud and say roasted garlic? Who has 2 tablespoons of roasted garlic sitting around? Well, I do. I roast a bunch in the oven every once in a while, make it into a paste and then plop it on some saran wrap and roll it up like a tube, twist the ends shut and stick it in a zip bag and into the freezer. When I need roasted garlic, I slice off an inch or two and stick it back in the freezer. If that is not your option, they have some in a jar in the stores or just chop some fresh garlic and very lightly saute it to take the edge off.

Don’t be scared of the list of ingredients (well the half and half), this is an appetizer and you are not eating the whole dish by yourself, right?

1.5 cups of half and half (don’t use milk)
8 oz of grated Monterey Jack cheese
8 oz of cream cheese – I use light usually

1/4 cup of parmesan cheese
2 tbs of roasted garlic
4 tbs dijon mustard or white wine mustard
1.5 tsp mustard seed
10 oz chopped frozen spinach, thawed and pressed dry
2 14 oz cans of artichoke hearts, roughly chopped
as much fresh ground pepper as you like (i like a lot)
taste to see if you need salt

In a 2 quart pot, simmer the cream and once it is at a simmer, add everything but the spinach and artichokes. Stir stir stir. Once melted and well blended, stir in your veggies and when every thing is nice and hot, it is ready to serve. How easy is that? You can bake this dish too if you like that baked flavor, if you do, add a bit more heavy cream and top it off with more Monterey Jack and back at 375 until bubbly and light brown. I serve it with strong tortilla chips. Weak ones are well, weak and won’t stand up to this dip.

the ultimate spinach artichoke dip


i’m out

Labbneh, or little spicy herby cheese disks

Ok, the photo is not the greatest, I know.  You try taking an emergency photo of white balls of cheese in greenish olive oil and see how it turns out.


Next time, I will remove a disk, put it on a plate with a cracker, you will see the difference.  You have to just trust me on this one and use the pic as a platform for improvement.  These little disks are delicious.  I can’t take full credit for them, but I take re-creation and improvement credit.  Last summer I was in Santa Fe NM for 48 hours.  I was headed back from Flagstaff AZ to Michigan and jumped off Amtrak for two days to visit my cousins.  Knowing we had limited time and wanted to maximize sight seeing and visiting, they went shopping for some groceries before my arrival.  As we picnicked overlooking a large lake, Abiquiu and Georgia O’Keefe’s playground Ghost Ranch,  we dined on mixed nuts, this cheese, Mary’s Gone Crackers and apples.  We ate every scrap of this cheese and the olive oil it was marinating in.  It was made locally and for sale in their Santa Fe Whole Foods.  I have yet to find any in Michigan.

So, I recreated it based on their list of ingredients.  It is so easy and so tasty.  I took some up to a “cottage on the beach weekend” with friends and they devoured it and wanted the recipe.  Almost 7 months later I am getting around to typing it up.

I might just be what is known as a recipe writing slacker, maybe.  Writing them up means I actually have to measure or give guidance some how when I used none and didn’t measure.  There is no point in keeping it all in my head though, is there? What if you wanted to make it and bring it over to my house for dinner?  You couldn’t could you?  Well, now you can.  As far as the name of these little tidbits, well, my understanding is that labbneh is really a yogurt cheese and this creation involves zero yogurt, so please comment with alternative names in the comments section – really, I mean it.

You will notice that I use all dried herbs and spices, this is because if you are not eating it all right away (and it gets better after a few days), it will hold better with dried ingredients than fresh and no one wants botulism from raw garlic and olive oil hanging out do they?  Of course you can use all fresh ingredients too, just don’t let this cheese dish hang around as long.


4 oz of Feta at room temp French or Greek feta, up to you.
4 oz of Neufchatel cheese (lowfat cream cheese) at room temp
dried thyme
dried oregano (Turkish or Greek if you have it)
dried marjoram
ground rosemary (easier disbursement of flavor) or whole dried rosemary
dried garlic powder
dried shallots (Penzeys is an excellent source for dried)
dried basil (less of this herb, more of the others)
crushed red pepper
freshly cracked pepper
sea salt
good quality extra virgin olive oil

Cream the two cheeses together, add a bit of shallots, garlic, pepper and thyme to the cheese.
Form the cheese into little flattened disks.  Mine were about 1.5 to 2 inches in diameter.  Place in a container that has a lid. Sprinkle the cheese disks with all of the herbs and spices listed above, including more shallots, garlic, pepper and thyme. Pour olive oil over the whole thing until the disks are submerged, the more you pack in, the closer they are, the less oil you will need. Let the cheese marinate for as long as you can, but at least a couple of minutes hours.  Then refrigerate, but let it the disks and olive oil come up to room temperature before serving. Goes great with a hearty crispy cracker and also with a cracker that will adsorb a bit of the oil.  I recommend a combo of Mary’s Gone Crackers and Glutino crackers for you gluten freers.  Take this to your next potluck!  Put the disks on a plate and pour the spiced olive oil over them and put a couple of little cheese spreaders around for cracker spreading.


i’m out

Solstice! and Menu of the week Dec 21: Cranberries!

Happy Solstice!  Solstice occurred around 7 am this morning.  The days will be longer soon!  This week’s ingredient is cranberries.  I guarantee you I will consume at least one cranberry vodka cocktail this week, plus we will use cranberry sauce on Friday with a turkey dinner.  Angela’s Kitchen  is this week’s gluten free menu swap host, so click on over there and check out all the great menus floating around.

This weekend I made three different batches of brittle:  pine nut, pumpkin seed, almond brittle with red chile and fleur de Sel; coconut cardamom brittle  and macadamia nut, almond, coconut brittle, both of the last two also had cayenne and fleur de Sel.  That heat combined with crunch and salty sweet  is so delicious!  It is the best brittle I have ever eaten and the first time I have made it.  I made the coconut brittle for a friend who has a peanut allergy and she loved it.

Sunday: Snowpeas with pork stirfry – a hold over from last week’s menu 
Monday: Latkes/potato pancakes with Weiss wurst
Tuesday: Vietnamese Chicken Pho – I still have fresh Thai basil growing in the basement greenhouse/room.  Organic free range chicken raised by my brother for this pot of soup.
Heading North for the holidays at the farm:
Christmas eve – shrimp cocktails and roast beef
Christmas day tradition: cheese fondue with veggies and beef fondue with many dipping sauces with baked potatoes, cheesy parm bread and salad
Christmas day after Roasted Turkey (extended family gathering) with hot spiced wine
Saturday night:  Hanging and likely eating too, at the Bluebird in Leland – traditional reunion weekend gathering spot for all those who no longer live in Leland, but are home for the holidays.

I am bringing apps for both Christmas eve and Day:  mini meatballs with porcini mushroom, parm and thyme, spinach veggie dip with tortillas, shrimp, hopefully some blue cheese gougeres, and a cheese and salami platter with lots of GF crackers.  Oh and pate, if it works.  I have a liverfree pate in the oven right now.  I used chestnut puree instead of liver hoping it will give a similar spreadable texture.  Country pate with homemade fermented dill pickles and dijon.  I have the whole week off to play and cook until we head North.

Happy Solstice and Merry Christmas!

i’m out

Appetizer of the week (a forgotten post from summer): Pan fried oysters with corn tomato salsa and horseradish cream sauce

Oysters, such an odd thing.  People either love them or hate them.  Converts from hate to love can happen with a crossover recipe like this one.  Who doesn’t like something crispy, juicy, spicy and creamy?  Pan fried oysters with a horseradish cream sauce and corn tomato salsa fits the bill.

cornmeal crusted oysters on a bed of grilled corn tomato salsa with a dollup of horseradish cream sauce

My recipe is mostly based on this one from Emeril.  Except that I didn’t look at his recipe (may have helped) and I didn’t measure anything.  Every once in a while in a nearby store, fresh oysters appear. I am hoping they appear again soon!  It is much more fun to share these than eat them alone, so make sure you have an oyster lover in the house near by.

i’m out


Menu of the Week: Peppers!

Living with someone who works at a library allows us a multitude of cook books.  We have about 14 of them borrowed right now.  So, we are trying to just pull something from each of them to try.  It is a cook the book week of sorts. My sweetie pie has sudden inspiration after perusing through Martin Yan’s and Ming Tsai’s books.  So, we are pausing for some extra Asian this week – no problem by me!  He picked out over half of this weeks menus and several for next week too.  I love looking at the books for inspiration, as a guideline for recipes and to get new ideas.  He is a recipe follower.  My dishes sometimes don’t turn out, but his generally do.  As I type this he is working on this evening’s meal.  It is a nice change of pace.

green chile peppers

This week’s ingredient is peppers and is hosted by Cheryl of Gluten Free Goodness.  I think with all the Asian food we have planned this week that we will probably see peppers most days.  Make sure you click on over to Cheryl’s blog and check out all the recipes.  You can see what is ripe in her garden too.

Sunday:  Asian fusion

Salmon rubbed with a spiced, smoked tea rub (using Ming’s recipe for the rub), Thai salad with cucumbers, cilantro, mint and crisp shallots, lemon scallion rice, oh and we made a fried squid app with rice flour and sweet chile garlic dipping sauce.

Monday:Asian fusion but still grilling out for the holiday

Lunch: spicy crab cakes from Ming Tsai

Dinner: Hoisin and lime marinated country ribs, glazed leeks with vinegar sauce (both from Ming Tsai), pork and tofu pillows (app from Martin Yan) and I am insisting on potato salad even though it is not Asian.  A nice dill, onion, vinegar and oil dressing for the potatoes.  I was just called in to taste (devour) the pillows and they were amazing and light.  We dipped them in garlic chile sauce.  We did snatch a brief photo to tempt you.  But since they are now ready to grill and I am still typing, I am way behind on my potato salad and will post photos later.

Tuesday: Mexican (Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen)

Red chile braised chicken with potatoes and greens (both from the garden)

Wednesday:  Vietnamese

Bun Rieu or crab soup with tofu and rice noodles – lots of peppers in this one!  My sweetie insisted that he was in a tofu mood this week and we had to get two packages – he loves tofu, but not mushrooms and to me the textures are very similar – but at least he loves tofu.

Thursday: Cajun

Jambalaya with andouille sausage and loads of peppers over rice.

Friday: Indian

Lamb Korma and spiced potatoes from The Spice Trail.

green chile peppers

Happy Labor Day!

i’m out