Dips and spreads aren’t just for parties. They make packing lunches easier and snacking healthier. If you toss them on the table while dinner is in the works, they’re also a great way to reduce pre-meal whining. Yours and the kids’.
Here are four versatile recipes: two sweet, two savory. Go ahead, tweak the amounts or add new ingredients as inspiration hits. For most recipes you’ll need a blender to achieve the requisite smoothness. I swear by my Vita-Mix (actually, it keeps me from swearing). When using a different blender you may need more liquid in the following recipes.
Tickled Pink Dip
You’ve probably never encountered this recipe before. It’s a bright concoction that doesn’t taste much like beets but adds lively color to your table. No one said you have to fess up about the ingredients.
1 small fresh beet peeled, chopped, and cooked until tender, about a quarter cup total (if using canned beets, make sure your product contains no vinegar)
1 20 oz. can crushed pineapple in juice, drained (reserve liquid) or 2 1/4 cups fresh chopped pineapple
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons honey, more to taste
Process all ingredients in blender until smooth. If more sweetness is desired, add additional honey.
Serve with fresh pineapple wedges, apple slices, or other firm fruit as well as bagels, toast or muffins.
Apricot Dip or Spread
Leave this recipe chunky or blend it to a creamy smoothness. Make it with other dried fruits, like cherries or mangos. You’ll find plenty of ways to enjoy it.
1 cup chopped dried apricots
¾ cup orange juice or apple juice
8 ounces cream cheese or mascarpone cheese
Combine apricots and juice in small saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes or more. If microwaving is preferred, combine same ingredients in large microwave-safe glass dish, cook at high heat for three minutes. Cool, then drain and reserve liquid.
Beat the cheese until smooth. This is easier if you warm it briefly first in the microwave or in a dish over hot water. Incorporate apricots, adding cooking liquid to desired thinness (up to 3 tablespoons). For a sweeter taste, add a few spoonfuls of honey. For a smoother dip, process in a blender.
Serve as a dip for apple halves, pear slices, and other firm fresh fruit. Try as a spread for small bagels, toast, pancakes, and muffins. You can also use it in sweet wraps: Just spread on whole grain tortillas or pitas, add sliced strawberries or other diced fruit, then roll the wraps and slice into rounds.
This uniquely flavorful Mid-Eastern dip always includes walnuts and red pepper. Many recipes call for breadcrumbs, onion, and pomegranate molasses. This version is quick and tasty.
1 cup (half pound) shelled walnuts
1 8 oz. jar roasted red peppers, drained (or one small red bell pepper, roasted)
2 cloves garlic, minced (raw or sautéed)
½ to 1 teaspoon ground cumin (I like to roast whole seeds, but ground is fine)
½ to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon salt
2 or more tablespoons cold-pressed olive oil
½ tablespoon lemon juice
either 1 teaspoon honey, or 1 teaspoon black cherry concentrate, or 1 teaspoon pomegranate molasses
Dump all ingredients in blender container and pulse until mixture is smooth. More olive oil or a dash of water may be needed to blend well.
Serve as a dip with pitas, flatbread, or crackers. Use it as a dipping sauce for raw or grilled veggies, kebabs, or hot sandwiches. Thin it to serve over tomatoes and avocados as a protein-rich salad dressing.
The variations on hummus are unlimited. Try one or more of extras such as curry powder, chopped spinach, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, fresh parsley, or green onions. Replace the garbanzo beans with black beans, lima beans, adzuki beans, or fava beans. Replace the tahini with almond butter, cashew butter, or peanut butter. How about a hummus tasting event?
2 cups cooked, drained garbanzo beans
2 to 3 cloves raw garlic, chopped
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2-3 tablespoons cold-pressed olive oil
2 to 3 tablespoons tahini (sesame seed paste)
salt and pepper to taste
Process garbanzo beans, garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil in blender until smooth. A few tablespoons of water or additional oil may be needed. Add tahini and blend until it is incorporated. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Hummus is often served in a low dipping bowl. It’s often topped with oil, a dash of paprika, some fresh parsley and lemon slices on the slide. Scoop hummus with pitas, flatbread, or crackers. Scoop it with celery sticks, grape tomatoes, and carrots. Roll it up in wraps with meats, cheeses, or veggies. Serve it with a chopped salad of cucumbers, tomatoes, green peppers, red onion, and mint leaves. You pretty much can’t go wrong with hummus.