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Dips & Spreads

Mediterranean Baked Feta

This appetizer has been on my list to try for quite some time (almost 2 years!). I don’t know why I always passed over it – perhaps because my husband wouldn’t touch most of what is in this dish. After making this a couple of week ago, I’m kicking myself for waiting so long. I whipped this together one Sunday in about 20 minutes (including baking time) for an afternoon of knitting and crocheting with my Mommy friends. I loved the brightness of this dish – fresh tomatoes and herbs (I loaded it up!), salty feta…. And the smell was amazing! Longest 20 minute car ride ever.

Mediterranean Baked Feta

Adapted from The Sprouted Kitchen Cookbook via Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients:

  • 1 pint (or more) cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 c. diced red onion, small diced
  • 1/3 c. diced olives, small dice
  • 1 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbs. freshly chopped parsley, divided
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 10 oz. feta
  • fresh pita or pita chips, for serving

Preheat oven to 350.

In a medium bowl, toss tomatoes, onion, olives, olive oil, 1 Tbs. parsley, and freshly ground pepper until combined.

Place feta in the center of an oven-safe dish. Top with tomato mixture.

Baked 15 minutes, until feta is warmed throughout and slightly softened. Remove from oven and sprinkle with remaining 1 Tbs. parsley.

Serve hot or at room temperature with sliced pita or pita chips. (May reheat  to soften cheese, as desired).

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Coconut Cream Dip

I know a lot of people aren’t fans of coconut, but I absolutely love it. The minute I saw this recipe, I started looking for an excuse to make it.

Let me tell you, I was not disappointed. This coconut cream fruit dip was a fabulous. The dip came together in about 5 minutes and was made completely in advance of our party. I’m still eating it, 3 days later, and it tastes as good as it did on day one. I upped the coconut flavor and added a bit of texture and garnish with some toasted coconut but you could leave it out if you prefer a smoother dip. Serve with your favorite fresh fruit (I used grapes, strawberries, mango and watermelon) for a healthy snack, light appetizer, or when the weather gets warmer, addition to a BBQ.

Note: Cream of coconut can be found in your regular grocery store, near the drinks and mixers.

Coconut Cream Fruit Dip

Adapted from My Baking Heart

Ingredients:

  • 1-8oz. package Neufchatel cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 12 oz. cream of coconut
  • 6 oz. Cool Whip, thawed
  • 1 c. shredded coconut, lightly toasted

Whip cream cheese using a handheld mixer or stand mixer until smooth. Scrape down sides of bowl and add cream of coconut, mixing until completely combined. Fold in cool whip and almost all of the toasted coconut (reserve a couple tablespoons). Store in the fridge, and garnish with remaining toasted coconut right before serving.

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Lately, I’ve had a difficult time deciding what to make in the kitchen. I’ve been tired and my hands have been bothering me, so whatever I make has to be quick and easy. I haven’t been super inspired by anything – I’ll settle on a recipe and then a bit later, change my mind…

It was the same thing a couple of weeks ago for Superbowl. I hemmed and hawed but ultimate decided on this Mediterranean Layer Dip, which I’ve had bookmarked for a while. I was not disappointed – the dip was fantastic! It had lots of flavor and was easy to customize to personal taste. I can’t wait to make it again.

Mediterranean Layer Dip

Mediterranean Layer Dip

Adapted from The Tasty Kitchen Blog via Annie’s Eats

Makes a 12-inch plate of dip

Remaining Ingredients:

  • 1½-2 containers store-bought hummus (or homemade if you prefer)
  • 1/4 a red onion, diced
  • ½ a cucumber, seeded and diced
  • 3-4 oz. crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 recipe cilantro pesto (below)
  • 1 recipe oven-dried tomatoes (below)
  • Additional optional toppings: chopped banana peppers, olives, or more toasted pine nuts

Ingredients for the Cilantro Pesto:

  • 1 bunch (1½ c.) fresh cilantro
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/3 c. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 Tbs. pecans or walnuts
  • 2 Tbs. pine nuts

Ingredients for the Oven-Dried Tomatoes (also from Annie’s Eats)Mediterranean Layer Dip

  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • pinch of sugar
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • pinch of black pepper
  • extra-virgin olive oil

Make the Oven-Dried Tomatoes: Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and preheat oven to 225F. Place tomatoes on baking sheet, cut side up. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sugar, salt, and pepper. Bake until tomatoes are mostly shriveled up, about 3 hours. Store in the fridge until ready to be used.

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Make the Cilantro Pesto: In a food processor, combine cilantro, garlic, pecans, pine nuts, and 2 Tbs. of the olive oil. Pulse until a thick paste is formed. Scrape down sides of the bowl. With the food processor running, pour in remaining olive oil in a steady stream. Scrape down sides of processor again, if needed, and process a bit more. Store in an airtight container or covered in plastic wrap, with a little extra olive oil drizzled on top, if not using immediately.
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Assemble the Dip: Just before serving, spread hummus on a 12-inch plate. Spread cilantro pesto evenly on top of hummus. Sprinkle red onion, cucumber, oven-dried tomatoes, and feta over hummus and cilantro pesto. Feel free to add more or less of an ingredient to taste, or add in additional topping such as banana peppers, olives, or pine nuts.
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Serve with pita chips or pieces as desired.
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I don’t like football, so the Super Bowl is not very exciting for me. I’ll go to the party, book in hand, and will read if I can’t convince someone to sit on the sidelines and chat. However, I can’t complain too much, it gave me the perfect excuse to make crab dip again.

I found this recipe late last year and immediately loved it. It is thick with a pound of lump crab meat and freshly grated pepper jack cheese, which gave it just a little bit of a kick. If you don’t like the extra spicy, I’m sure a mozzarella or other melty cheese would work just fine.

Crab Dip with a Kick

Adapted from Paula Deen’s Hot Crab Dip Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. jumbo lump crab meat
  • 1 c. shredded pepper jack cheese
  • 3/4 c. mayonnaise
  • 1/4 c. plus 2 Tbs. grated Parmesan, divided
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 3 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 Tbs. fresh lemon or lime juice
  • 1 tsp. hot pepper sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. dry mustard
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325F.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients.
  3. Pour into an oven-safe bowl, sprinkle with remaining 2 Tbs. Parmesan, and cook for 40 minutes, until hot throughout and slightly browned on top.

Serve hot with fresh bread, crackers, or tortilla chips

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 20 minutes

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I love spinach and artichoke dip, but I have never make it very often. I had a hard time finding a recipe that lived up to what I would get at a restaurant. With a little bit trial and error, I’ve made Alton Brown‘s into something that my family and I both love. It’s now something I’m making probably much too often – I made it three times within a month, and will probably continue to make it regularly since I can make it ahead and freeze until needed. The original Alton Brown recipe calls for a cup of spinach and a cup and a half of artichokes. Those seemed weird measurements since both are sold in 10 ounce boxes. I never measured the spinach, but in my version below, you’ll end up with a little over 2 cups of artichokes. I also increased the amount of Parmesan and red pepper flakes suggested, since the original version was a little bland. As I make this, I stir together all the ingredients and then microwave a small spoonful of the mixture, so that I can make any adjustments needed. Then I bake. (Sorry Alton, baking everything for 20 minutes is way easier than boiling the veggies and microwaving the cream cheese.) How easy is that?

Spinach and Artichoke Dip

Ingredients:

  • 1-10 oz. box frozen spinach, thawed and drained until all water is removed*
  • 1-10 oz. box frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and chopped
  • 6 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature or slightly softened
  • 1/4 c. sour cream
  • 1/4 c. mayonnaise
  • 2/3 c. grated Parmesan
  • 1/2-1 tsp. red pepper flakes (I like a full teaspoon, but if you’re sensitive to spicy food, start at a 1/2 tsp. and taste before adding more)
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder

*Tip: I’ve found that the easiest way of removing all the water from frozen spinach is to line a colander or strainer with cheesecloth. Run cold water over spinach until completely thawed. Allow spinach to drain in the colander and cheesecloth for a few minutes after completely defrosted. Then, bring ends of cheesecloth together, and twist to seal in spinach. Squeeze or twist out any water remaining in spinach. The cheesecloth will keep you from losing spinach as you’re squeezing out the water.

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
  3. I like to taste before baking – microwave a small spoonful in a bowl until hot. Taste and add more Parmesan, red pepper flakes, or anything else, to taste.
  4. Transfer mixture to an oven-safe dish and bake for 20 minutes, until hot throughout. If desired, transfer to a mini crock pot to keep warm. Serve hot.

Serve with crackers or fresh bread. Or, serve in mini phyllo cups, for a super special presentation.

Make Ahead & Freeze:  The mixture can be frozen once combined. Transfer to a freezer-safe dish, wrap so that it’s air-tight, and freeze until you need it. Can be baked straight from freezer or defrosted. Frozen dip will probably take 30-45 minutes to warm through, but check periodically.

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This would have been a great recipe to post a couple of weeks ago for Superbowl, but I’m a bit slow in blog updates (couple of tough weeks at work and getting over my annual winter cold). I have seen recipes for Buffalo Chicken Dip, aka Crack Dip, on a lot of different blogs, but hadn’t made it until a few weeks ago. This dip tastes exactly like buffalo chicken wings – a bit spicy with the cool taste of blue cheese mixed in – but without the hassle of eating wings (so messy and annoying to pick the meat off the little bones).

Note that several other blogs call for cheddar, mozzarella, or other cheese. Frank’s calls for blue cheese inside the dip and mozzarella on top. Do whatever you prefer or have on hand.

Buffalo Chicken Dip (aka Crack Dip)

Heavily adapted from Frank’s Hot Sauce

Yields 4 Cups

Ingredients:

  • 1-8 oz. pkg cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 c. blue cheese salad dressing
  • 1/2 c. hot sauce
  • 1/4 c. minced celery
  • 3/4 c. crumbled blue cheese
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded (or, leftover chicken from roast chicken)

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a medium mixing bowl, stir cream cheese until smooth. Mix in salad dressing, hot sauce, celery, 1/2 c. of blue cheese, and chicken. Transfer to a baking dish and sprinkle top with the remaining blue cheese.

Bake 20 minutes, until mixture is warm throughout.

Serve hot – either in the baking dish or transfer to a crock pot. Serve with tortilla chips and/or celery sticks.

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I found this idea in Fine Cooking (#102, p. 20), in the page on new ways to use seasonal ingredients compliments of editor Lisa Waddle. I was a little doubtful at first and honestly, when I had my first bite, I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about it. The consensus at the part was that although it was sweeter than expected, it was a great spread.

Note: Fine Cooking didn’t list portions, so feel free to use more or less of the below, according to your taste.

Date-Pecan Spread

Inspired by a Lisa Waddle suggestion in Fine Cooking #102

Yields about 1 1/2 cups spread

Ingredients:

  • 1 – 1 1/2 c. chopped dried dates
  • 1/2 – 3/4 c. toasted pecans
  • zest of 1 orange
  • dry sherry

Combine first three ingredients in a food processor. Pulse for 30 seconds or so, until the mixture begins to come together.

Gradually add sherry to food processor, pulsing until mixture is combined to desired consistency. Mine was still a bit chunky, but you can also pulse until a smooth paste has been formed.

Serve: with fresh bread as an appetizer. Crackers would also work, but we weren’t impressed with the spread on crostini. This is a great appetizer on its own, or as a compliment to a cheese board (I enjoyed it with brie).

Fine Cooking also suggested adding the spread to a grilled cheese sandwich or turkey panini.

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Here’s a quick appetizer you can have on hand for unexpected guests. I have frozen this both when directed as well as the completely finished pesto (with the Parmesan), and it is good both ways. I serve this in a bowl, and let everyone help themselves, but you can also pre-spread the pesto onto toast or bread.

I’m hoping for leftovers, as I’d love to try this mixed in pasta with a little olive oil and red pepper flakes, or stuffed in a chicken breast. If you beat me to it, be sure to let me know how you liked it!

Artichoke Parmesan Pesto

Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

Ingredients (Before Freezing):

  • 1-8 oz. pack of frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
  • 1 c. fresh parsley
  • 1/2 c. chopped toasted walnuts
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 c. olive oil

More Ingredients (After Freezing):

  • 2/3 grated Parmesan
  • bread or cracker of your choice…. for grilling, toasting, or serving plain

Pre-Freezer Directions:

In a food processor, chop the artichokes, parsley, walnuts, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper, scraping the sides as necessary. With the food processor in, add the olive oil.

If freezing, transfer to an airtight container (or pre-portion into an ice cube tray and wrap tightly with plastic wrap). Freeze for up to 1 month.

Post-Freezer Directions:

Thaw pesto.

Mix in Parmesan cheese (2 tsp. per ice cube if you’re freezing it that way).

Serve as part of a platter of dips, breads, and crackers (including homemade pita toasts), and allowed everyone to help themselves. If you prefer, toast some bread, spread the pesto, and serve.

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A friend of ours introduced me to this recipe, and I’ve been dying to make it ever since. Usually I’m not a fan of onion dip, but this one is more sweet than, well… oniony. I couldn’t stop eating it.

This is definitely a recipe to make ahead. The longer it sits, the longer the flavors infuse into the sour cream and mayo.  Serve with veggies, crackers, or chips.

Homemade Onion Dip

Adapted from Alton Brown

Yields: About 2 1/2 cups

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 1/2 c. diced onions
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 c. sour cream
  • 3/4 c. mayonnaise
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp. ground pepper (preferably white)
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt

Heat oil in a medium pan.

Add onions and salt, cooking until onions are caramelized, about 20 minutes. Onions will be a deep brown.

Set aside to cool.

Mix the remaining ingredients.

Add cooled onions and refrigerate. Just before serving, stir and transfer to a serving bowl.

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Books n’ Cooks is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program. Some links on Books n’ Cooks may be affiliate links – links books and kitchen supplies that I love and would recommend. If you click on the link and purchase, I make a very small percentage (at no additional cost to you!) which goes towards maintenance of this blog. Thanks for your support!

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