Spinach Artichoke Dip

If you’ve been looking for the perfect spinach artichoke dip, look no further. This one is rich and creamy with the just right flavor ratios.  It’s the roasted garlic that really puts it over the top. Share with friends at your next gathering or just make a small batch to enjoy for dinner. If you have a crowd, just know that it will go quickly! ~Robin

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Ingredients:

1 head of fresh garlic

7 oz. frozen* or fresh** spinach (usually comes in a 10 oz. package but I just divide after I thaw it)

1 14 oz. can of artichokes (in brine, not oil; my brand of choice is Reese) drained and chopped (I like bigger chunks but do what suits you)

1 10 oz. container of alfredo sauce (I like Classico Roasted Garlic Alfredo)

1 c. shredded mozzarella, plus a bit for topping

1/3 c. grated parmesan, plus a bit for topping

1 8 oz. package of cream cheese, softened

Tortilla chips, pita chips, or mini-toasts for serving

Instructions:

*For frozen spinach, once thawed, wrap the spinach in a dark colored tea towel (to prevent staining) and squeeze the excess water out into the sink.  If using fresh, cook and drain liquid.

**For fresh spinach, julienne first and set aside before you roast the garlic so the edges aren’t overly moist. You do not want your dip to have a green hue.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Place garlic on a double layer of foil, drizzle with a little olive oil, and close tightly.  Bake about 20 minutes or until soft; remove from heat and open foil, being careful not to burn yourself on the hot oil or garlic.  Once it is cool enough to touch, peel garlic skin away and squeeze the garlic cloves directly into a medium sized bowl; then mash garlic with a fork. Soften cream cheese in the microwave, then combine with garlic using a fork. Add spinach, artichoke hearts, alfredo sauce, and cheeses; then mix well.

Place in an 8” x 8” baking dish, then lightly sprinkle a bit more mozzarella and parmesan on top and bake for 30 minutes or until bubbly.  Broil for up to five minutes after baking if the top hasn’t yet caramelized.  Watch carefully during broiling to avoid burning.

Serve immediately with your favorite chip or mini-toast.

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Spicy Italian Chicken & Artichoke Pasta

All four of us love spicy food, and if you do too, you’ll know how annoying it is that most things marked “spicy” in restaurants are really fairly bland.  After many frustrating Italian restaurant visits (thank goodness for Tiramisu), Robin and Barry decided to come up with their own perfect pasta. Barry tinkered in the kitchen, ending up with a hybrid of some favorite Italian dishes.  This creamy, savory pasta is serious comfort food.  And the best part is, we can set some aside for the kids — or guests with low-spice-tolerant palates — and (cayenne!!!) pepper our portions to our hearts’ content.  

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Ingredients:

4-6 chicken tenders, depending on size, diced

1/4 cup canned sliced mushrooms, drained (we use Giorgio)

1/2 cup dry, julienned sun dried tomatoes (thoroughly rinsed if packed in oil)*

1 15-oz. can artichoke hearts, drained, then quartered  

1 tsp. Italian seasoning

2 cloves minced fresh garlic (could use jarred garlic, but we prefer fresh)

3 T. butter

For Sauce:

1 15-oz. jar roasted garlic Alfredo sauce (We use Classico)

1 ½  cups finely shredded parmesan cheese

⅓ cup milk

¼ to ¾ tsp. of cayenne pepper, aka “red pepper” (depending on heat preference)

8 oz. farfalle (bowtie pasta) — half the box of Barilla that we usually use

3-4 sliced green onions

Instructions: 

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*The Bella Sun Luci sun-dried tomatoes pictured here are strongly recommended…far superior to those packed in oil both in terms of mess and flavor as far as we’re concerned, but if you’ve found a favorite that’s in oil, that’ll do too!  We normally do fresh garlic, but this is the jarred brand we use if the pantry is lacking the fresh variety.  If you’ve never bought fresh garlic, it keeps much longer than you’d think.

Prepare farfalle per box instructions.

In a small pot, put all sauce ingredients on low heat, stir occasionally while preparing chicken portion (be sure not to let it stick).  

In a large skillet heat butter and garlic on low. Add chicken and Italian seasoning. Increase heat to medium. When chicken begins to brown, add mushrooms, artichokes, and sun-dried tomatoes, heat on medium high for two to three minutes. Add sauce. Simmer for 2-3 minutes stirring occasionally.

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At this point, it’s hard not to just eat this as is, but it’s worth the wait to put it all together.

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Serve over farfalle; top with green onions.  We like to add a little more ground cayenne pepper too, both for a touch of color and, of course, some spice.