a balanced plate with room for dessert


Lightened-Up Spinach Artichoke Dip

I love chips and dip. Taco dip, guacamole, salsa, French onion, hummus… I’m the weirdo hovering by your dip bowl at the party. Hovering? More like hoovering. I really want to host a chips and dip dinner party. I don’t know if anyone would come, but I could probably eat the entire spread myself. Just sayin’.

Lightened Up Spinach Artichoke Dip |

Spinach artichoke dip is one of my favorites to dip in, but all that cheese – oh goodness. I did my best to lighten it up while still keeping that to-die-for richness. I opt for fresh spinach, but feel free to sub in a package of frozen chopped spinach; just make sure to thaw and drain it before stirring it in.

Lightened Up Spinach Artichoke Dip |

Lightened-Up Spinach Artichoke Dip

8 ounce bag baby spinach, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained chopped
8 ounce package reduced-fat or fat-free cream cheese
1 cup plain fat free Greek yogurt
2 tablespoon light mayonnaise
8 ounces part-skim mozzarella, shredded
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
tortilla chips

  1. In a medium pot, combine, spinach, garlic and artichoke hearts. Cook over medium heat until spinach is just wilted. Stir in cream cheese, yogurt, mozzarella, Parmesan, and red pepper flakes. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until cheese is melted and ingredients are blended.
  2. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown.
  3. Slow cooker instructions: place ingredients into a slow cooker and heat on low for 3-4 hours or high for 2 hours. Stir well before serving.


Fresh Pineapple Salsa

I’ve been loving the spring weather this week. All the snow is gone and the temps have been warm enough for me to run in a tee. Mike and I are hoping to take advantage of this weather by going on a nice, long hike and with the pups this weekend and then grilling out after. Fingers crossed that the forecast is wrong and that it doesn’t rain!

This pineapple salsa is sweet with the perfect amount of heat. It’s super versatile, too. I ate it with chicken, with pretzel thins, and even just straight-up with a spoon.

Fresh Pineapple Salsa |

Fresh Pineapple Salsa

1/2 pineapple peeled, cored and cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 3 cups)
1/2 cup diced red onion
1 1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
1 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
salt and pepper, to taste

  1. In a large nonreactive bowl, stir together pineapple, onion, bell pepper, jalapeno, lime juice and cilantro. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

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SNAP Challenge: Day 5

Today’s Feeding America prompt: “We know that low-income Americans have to make choices between groceries, prescriptions, gas for the car, utilities, and other household necessities. After living on a limited food budget this week, how has your perspective changed about the decisions families facing hunger must make?“

Simply put? I can’t imagine it. Even thought I have limited our food budget, our scenario in no way even compares to what millions of families deal with on a daily basis. We were hungry, but we didn’t go hungry. I had the comfort of knowing that I could fail out of the challenge and get something to eat if we did run out of food. These families don’t have that option.

While Mike and I try to stick to a budget, we realize that sometimes things happen. We might need more gas one week. I might get sick and need to see a doctor or pick up some meds (Mike never gets sick…). Or my car brakes might decide to die. Or my car wipers might decide to stop working…. Yeah, my car is a trouble maker. But, we deal with these unexpected expenses. I honestly don’t know what I would do if I had to choose between gas to get to work or a meal for my family. Would I walk? Try to catch a ride from a coworker? What if someone got really sick? Do we go to the doctor? Do we pay for their medication? Having to choose between life essentials doesn’t seem right.

All these “what ifs” make it clear to me that programs like SNAP are essential for low-income families. It’s a good reminder to be thankful for what I have in life.

This Challenge is bringing about a lot of emotions. Mike and I talk a lot about food insecurity and poverty on the way to work. It’s a really intense way to start the day. Things are getting a little easier for me now. We only have 2 more days left of the Challenge and I can tell that we will have enough food. It’s still hard not having the luxury of eating whatever we want, whenever we want, but I’m starting to adjust.

Unfortunately, I think I’m also getting sick. All I wanted to do after work is eat a bowl of mango sorbet and go to bed. But I couldn’t. I couldn’t even skip making dinner because if I didn’t cook dinner that would mean I wouldn’t have lunch the next day. Blargh.

What we ate today:

  • Breakfast: savory oatmeal with an egg (me) and peanut butter toast with sliced banana (Mike)
  • Snack: peanut butter toast with 1/4 banana (me) and a cookie (Mike)
  • Lunch: pepper chicken with rice (me) and chili with rice (Mike)
  • Snack: peanut butter toast with 1/4 banana (me) and turkey sandwich with mustard (Mike)
  • Dinner: chicken fajitas with guacamole, tortillas, and sauteed zucchini (Mike also had cheese and sour cream)
  • Snack: raisins

easy chicken fajitas |

Easy Chicken Fajitas

for the chicken:
1 lime, juiced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
salt and pepper, to taste
2 boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 teaspoon canola oil

for the vegetables:
3 onions, halved and sliced into 1/4-inch pieces
2 bell peppers, sliced into 1/4-inch strips
salt and pepper, to taste

to serve:
flour tortillas
sharp cheddar cheese, grated
light sour cream
guacamole (see below for recipe)

  1. In a shallow bowl, combine lime juice, garlic, chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper*. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. Add chicken and turn to coat. Cover and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, turning every 10 minutes.
  2. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, Brown chicken and cook until cooked through and meat is no longer pink in the middle. Remove from heat and keep warm.
  3. Using the same skillet, add vegetables and saute until tender-crisp, about 10 minutes. Slice chicken into 1/4-inch pieces and toss with vegetables. Serve immediately with tortillas and garnishes, if desired.

*I made a double batch of this marinade and mixed half of it in with my garden zucchini! I seeded the squash, quartered it, and then sauteed it with the marinade over medium heat for about 15 minutes until tender. Delish 🙂

easy chicken fajitas |

This guac made not being able to have cheese and sour cream on my fajita a little more bearable. I ate a ton of it. Splurging on an extra avocado during the shopping trip was totally worth it!


2 medium avocados
1 lime, juiced
2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/4 onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper, to taste

  1. In a medium bowl, mash avocados with a fork. Mix in lime juice, tomatoes, onion, garlic, salt and pepper. Stir until well combined.
  2. Serve immediately.


Spinach Dip

As many of you know, we have been getting a TON of cucumbers. As much as I love cucumbers dipped in Sriracha hummus, there’s only so much I can eat before I start getting tired of it! Thank goodness for Heather over at In Her Chucks who introduced me to her spinach dip recipe!

I was a little skeptical at first because of the ingredients in it; I don’t think I’ve ever purchased a powdered soup or dressing before. I decided I would give it a try because I was just that sick of hummus. Turns out, it was a great decision!  Mike and I ate it for dinner on Sunday night with some cucumbers and it was the perfect light dinner after a day of beer-drinkin’ and burger-eatin’.

Spinach Dip
slightly adapted from In Her Chucks

1 10 oz box of frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained, and squeezed very dry
2 1/2 tablespoons of Knorr Leek Recipe Mix
2 1/2 cups plain nonfat Greek yogurt
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sliced green onion
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 tsp dried dill
  1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth.
  2. Serve immediately with cut up vegetables or refrigerate until serving.


Sriracha Hummus

I fell in love for the first time when I had hummus. I fell in love a second time when I had jalapeno hummus. I fell in love for a third time last night.

Two of my favorite foods came together and created something beautiful: Sriracha + Hummus = Sriracha Hummus. Oh. My. Goodness. I don’t think I can ever eat plain hummus again. I might still have jalapeno hummus once in a while, but Sriracha hummus will be a permanent refrigerator item from now on. I got the idea from TasteSpotting, one of my favorite ways to waste time.

You might think I’m exaggerating my love for Sriracha (aka Rooster Sauce), but I assure that I am not. I dump that stuff on almost everything I eat. I had a friend post this lovely cartoon on my Facebook wall and I think it sums my life up pretty well:

Do you share my love for Sriracha? Do you love to feel the burn? Are you adventurous? Do you want to live a fulfilling and/or exciting life? If you answered “yes” to any of the above, then this hummus is for you.

Spicy Sriracha Hummus

2-15 ounce cans chickpeas, drained
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup tahini*
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup Sriracha
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 – 1/2 cup water

  1. Combine all ingredients except for water in a food processor. Process until smooth, adding water until desired consistency is reached.
  2. Serve with fresh cut vegetables, pita bread, pita chips, on a sandwich, or eat with a spoon.

*Tahini, or sesame paste, is made from raw or toasted sesame seeds. Personally, I find the toasted sesame seed flavor to be a lot better than the raw and prefer to use that.

And P.S. – Happy National Running Day!!

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Buffalo Chicken Dip

I had this dip for the first time over the summer and I just had to recreate it for the Super Bowl! I found a few recipes online and made some adjustments. I made it with ranch dressing this time, but I think that I will try it with blue cheese next time for something different.

Buffalo Chicken Dip

2 8 oz packages of Neufchâtel cheese (1/3 less fat cream cheese), softened
1 cup ranch or blue cheese dressing
1 cup Frank’s Hot Buffalo Wing Sauce
1 1/2 cups cooked chicken breast, shredded
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1 bunch celery, washed and cut into 4-inch sticks
1 package crackers of your choice

  1. Place cream cheese, dressing, and Red Hot in a medium size pan and heat over medium heat until melted, stirring occasionally.
  2. Mix in chicken and 1/2 cup cheddar cheese. Heat until chicken is warm. Transfer to a slow cooker and sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup cheese on top. Cook on low until cheese is melted.
  3. Keep warm and serve with celery and crackers.


Taco Dip

Me + taco dip = disaster. I need to be really careful when I make a batch of this. If I’m by myself, I will inhale the whole tray. Since I have no self control, I only make this for small gatherings. I most recently made it to watch the NFC and AFC playoffs. I’ve tweaked my recipe over the years and I’ve come up with what I think is a pretty awesome recipe. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Taco Dip
serves 10

1 16 ounce can refried beans (I use the spiciest stuff I can find)
1 8 ounce package American Neufchâtel cheese or regular cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup low fat sour cream
1 packet spicy taco seasoning
1 1/2 cups medium salsa
1 package taco blend cheese
1 bunch of green onions, thinly sliced
3 romaine lettuce leaves, shredded

  1. Mix cream cheese and taco seasoning until well blended. Mix in sour cream until incorporated.
  2. Spread refried beans into bottom of a 9×13 pan. Top with an even layer of the cream cheese and sour cream mixture.
  3. Spread salsa on top of the mixture and top with an even layer of cheese. Sprinkle green onions and lettuce on top.
  4. Serve with tortilla chips  and enjoy! (And remember to share!!)



Avocados were on sale at the grocery store and I just couldn’t pass up the chance to make some guacamole. We devoured the entire thing in about 3 days using Manny’s Tortilla Strips (the absolute best) as the mode of transportation to get from the bowl to our mouths. Soooooo good! Maybe next time I’ll actually get around to making some Mexican food to go with it.


Best Guacamole

4 avocados, peeled, pitted, and mashed
1 lime, juiced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup diced onion
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 Roma tomatoes, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4  pinch ground cayenne pepper

  1. In a medium bowl, mash together avocadoes, lime juice and salt. Mix in onion, cilantro, tomatoes, garlic and cayenne. Serve immediately or refrigerate until serving.

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Cilantro Dip

I had a bunch of cilantro left over after making the quinoa last night, so I made this dip. It’s really refreshing and super tasty. That’s saying a lot since I’m not the biggest fan of cilantro!I served this with tortilla chips, but you can try it with whatever you see fit.

Cilantro dip

Cilantro Dip

1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 package neufchatel cheese (1/3 fat cream cheese) or regular cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons sour cream
1/2 teaspoon cumin
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon celery salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
juice of 1/2 a lime
1 7 oz can of salsa verde

  1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth.