Colorful Cooking column: Steam whole artichokes or used canned to make a dip | VailDaily.com

Colorful Cooking column: Steam whole artichokes or used canned to make a dip

Tracy Miller's creamy artichoke and spinach dip.
Chelsea Roberson | Special to the Weekly |

Modernizing your holiday meals is simple. Take a classic dish that everyone requests and mix it up with a few new tricks. My job allows me to learn from master chefs around the valley. It’s become trendy to highlight more vegetables and gluten-free options and a variety of small plates. This can also mean more work when menu planning, so think of how you can cross-utilize your ingredients. Look for a variety of flavors and textures on your menu: sweet, spicy, salty, bitter, hot, cold, crunchy, creamy and soft.

BENEFITS OF ARTICHOKE

The bitter compounds found in artichokes are healthy because they create bile, which helps reduce your overall cholesterol levels. Artichokes are packed with B vitamins and vitamin K, which helps keep bones strong. Minerals are abundant in artichokes, too. Copper is required in the production of red blood cells and iron is required for red blood cell formation. Artichokes have both.

Step out of the jar with your artichokes and enjoy this globe in its low-calorie beauty. Steaming an artichoke is fun eating. To shop for a fresh artichoke, squeeze the base of the artichoke where the heart is to make sure it is firm and heavy in weight. When steaming it, cut off the stem so it sits flat then lean it sideways and trim the top inch of the leaves, getting rid of most of the prickly edges. Submerge the artichoke, heart side down, in a pot of water and boil for 45 minutes or until tender. Remove the globe from the pot, flip it over, heart up, over the sink and squeeze any excess water from it. Serve on a plate, heart side up with drawn butter. Pull the pedals off one by one, eating the small bit of meat on the base of the leaf. When arriving at the heart, be sure to get rid of all the “choke” in the center and enjoy the hearty heart.

There are so many types of small plates to serve this holiday; here is one to try.

Creamy artichoke and spinach dip

1 cup mayonnaise

1 cup sour cream

1 cup Parmesan cheese

1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic

1/2 teaspoon dried parsley

1/4 teaspoon cracked pepper

1/4 teaspoon celery salt

Sprinkle of kosher salt

1 can (13-15 ounces) artichoke hearts, drained and chopped

1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well drained

1 can (8 ounces) sliced water chestnuts, drained and chopped

1/4 cup red pepper, diced small

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix mayonnaise, sour cream, Parmesan and spices in a large bowl. Add artichoke hearts, spinach and water chestnuts; mix well.

Fold evenly into a 9-inch pan, using a spatula. Bake for 30 minutes, until bubbly. Sprinkle raw red pepper on top and serve with crackers, bread and celery.

Tracy Miller is TV8’s in-house chef, a culinary instructor and a private event chef. Contact her at Tracy@colorfulcooking.com or log onto http://www.ColorfulCooking.com for more healthy recipes.