Kitchen Focus

When it's time to get together for the big game -- on the couch or at the tailgate party -- there's always a place for dips. Whether it's a hot cheesy dip for nachos or a creamy seafood dip for pieces of bread, it seems that our favorite dips always seem to incorporate descriptions like "rich", "creamy" or "gooey" ... and while that may make our mouths water, it's not very good news for our waistlines!

So, rather than put a damper on the festivities, it's time to see how we can take advantage of healthy ingredients to make some dips that are good for you too. Some are healthy by design and others have gotten a healthy re-design. And, of course, a "skinny dipping" menu wouldn't be complete without some thoughts on what to use for dipping. Think you're limited to raw veggies? Think again! But we're getting ahead of ourselves. Let's begin with ...

The Dips

Layered Taco Dip

This pretty dip replaces fatty refried beans with a delightful combination of black beans and goat cheese. Giving up all the fat in traditional refried beans means you can enjoy the flavor that the goat cheese brings to the dip without any guilt! Cover the avocado layer thoroughly with the other layers so it doesn't discolor.
  • 1 (16 oz.) can black beans -- rinsed and drained
  • 2 oz. goat cheese
  • 1 tsp. taco seasoning
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 T. lime juice
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 c. bottled salsa -- choose your favorite variety
  • 1 c. fat free sour cream
  • 2 T. bias sliced green onions
  • 2 T. sliced black olives

Place the black beans in a food processor and process until smooth. Add the goat cheese and taco seasoning and process again until smooth. Using a plastic spatula, spread the mixture evenly on the bottom of an 8-inch square serving dish (or another dish with similar volume).

Rinse the food processor container. Peel and slice the avocado into one inch pieces and place that, the lime juice and salt in the food processor. Process the mixture until smooth and spread over the black bean mixture.

Pour the salsa of your choice evenly over the avocado mixture. Spread the sour cream over the salsa and sprinkle the top with the green onions and black olives. Serve with tortilla chips.

  • Yields: 8 servings
  • Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Creamy Seafood Dip

Using low and no fat products in combination with a high fiber ingredient like beans makes this dip tasty with a great texture.
  • 1/2 c. white beans -- rinsed and drained
  • 1 c. plain fat free yogurt
  • 1/4 c. low fat cream cheese
  • 2 garlic cloves -- minced
  • 1/3 c. catsup
  • 2 T. prepared horseradish
  • 1/2 c. salad shrimp
  • 1/2 c. chopped crabmeat
  • 2 T. sliced green onions

Combine the beans, yogurt, cream cheese, garlic, catsup and horseradish in a food processor and process until smooth. Transfer to a serving bowl and fold in the shrimp, crabmeat and green onions. Serve with cut vegetables and small bread rounds.

  • Yields: about 3 cups
  • Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Hot Spinach Dip

This dip is a low fat rendition of a popular dish offered as an appetizer at many restaurants. Instead of two or more cups of mild cheese, a mere four ounces of a strongly flavored cheese like parmesan are used. In addition, vegetables like spinach, onions and tomatoes bring flavor, texture and moisture to the party without any fat.
  • 4 oz. grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 (8 oz.) pkgs. low fat cream cheese
  • 1 (10 oz.) pkg. frozen chopped spinach -- thawed and thoroughly drained
  • 2 garlic cloves -- minced
  • 3/4 c. finely chopped red onions
  • 1/4 c. evaporated skim milk
  • 2 tomatoes -- finely chopped
  • 2 tsp. seasoned salt -- choose your favorite variety (I like Penzey's Fox Point blend)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a mixing bowl, beat the parmesan cheese and cream cheese until smooth. Add the spinach, garlic, onion, evaporated skim milk, tomatoes and salt. Mix well to combine.

Pour into a dish that's been sprayed with cooking spray and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the mixture is hot and bubbly. Serve with pita wedges, small bread rounds or a similar dipper.

  • Yields: about 3 cups
  • Preparation Time: 30 minutes

Of course, a great way to enjoy low or no fat dips is to look to those that are that way by design. Look for a wide variety of salsas and chutneys to keep on hand for easy entertaining or those late night munchies. These fruit and vegetable-based dips are great accompaniments to meals or with all kinds of dippers. Speaking of that, we should take a moment to consider ...

The Dippers

Rather than go on about which dippers are best for you or what to avoid, I'm simply going to provide you with a short list of some of my favorite dippers and the calories, fat and fiber that you can get from a 100g serving. I compiled this list using the USDA's National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference. While I'm just sharing a couple of pieces of information with you, I highly suggest playing around with it a bit. You can learn a lot about the food you eat, including things like:

  • the breakdown of protein, fat and carbohydrates in your food,
  • how much of 10 different minerals are present in your food,
  • how much of 16 different vitamins are present in your food,
  • a very complex breakdown of the types of fat in your food,
  • ... and much more.
Dipper Type (100g serving) Calories Total Fat (g) Fiber (g)
baby carrots 35 0.13 1.8
sweet red pepper 26 0.30 2.0
celery sticks 14 0.17 1.6
cucumber w/ peel 15 0.11 0.5
broccoli 34 0.37 2.6
cauliflower 25 0.10 2.5
hard whole wheat pretzels 362 2.60 7.7
baked tortilla chips 415 5.70 5.3
whole wheat pita wedges 266 2.60 7.4
oat bran bagel pieces 255 1.20 3.6
whole wheat bread rounds 246 4.20 6.9

With all of this information and a few great recipes on hand, I wish you the best of luck with your fall tailgate and game-day TV parties. And remember that no matter who you are cheering for, you're doing something good for you as well!

If there's a topic that you'd like to see covered in this column, let me know. You can always post comments in the discussion board using the forms provided in the articles or email me directly at .

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