Spinach and Artichoke Dip

I think I am pretty good at reading my wife. I know when she is hungry, upset, happy, anxious, and I think I have a pretty good idea of what she really loves to eat. She gets me to, but in so many different ways. I know that I am the cook in the house, but I think I am so much more than that. Sure yesterday I rocked out homemade crepes for my wife, a Thai curry fish recipe, as well as a Thai beef salad that I knew would be a bend to her knees on first taste, but I also think that I provide some other good things such as a great sense of humor, a good hug, and an emotion and discipline to guide my kids through their early times in life (and hopefully much longer than that). My wife has introduced me to things, or maybe reintroduced me to things, that I would have probably never had ever wanted again, and this recipe is one of those. It’s the classic spinach and artichoke dip.

This is one of those dips that she fell in love with back in the late 1980’s, or early 1990’s at the chain TGIF. It’s that iconic image when opening their menu back then. The spinach and artichoke dip. Heck, we even recall going out to eat there when I returned home (I wasn’t going to say no) and sure enough that was ordered as an appetizer.

Spinach and Artichoke Dip Recipe
Spinach and Artichoke Dip Recipe

As I have been home or a couple of weeks, I have been purging things in my refrigerator and cupboard (and doing a pretty good job at it), and this was a perfect creation to use up a can of artichokes, cheese, breadcrumbs, mayo, sour cream, and a bag of spinach my kid was so gung ho to use up for lunch. Do you think he touched the spinach? No.

Let’s get started.

Ingredients:

  • 14 oz can artichoke hearts, quartered, drained, chopped
  • 3 cups spinach leaves, cooked, strained, cooled, and chopped
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or grated with microplane
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup fine bread crumbs
  • crackers, bread, vegetables, or other dipping items that you desire

This recipe is way too easy. The hardest part is probably waiting. Waiting for the spinach to cook and cool, or the dip to be  cooked and ready. Seriously.

Start by adding the spinach to a pot. Add in the water and bring this to a medium heat. Basically cook down the spinach until softened, only a few minutes, then strain, press out all of the water, and let it cool.

During this time, get a mixing bowl. If you want to use your electric mixer feel free. Add in the chopped artichokes, half of the cheese, mayo, sour cream, garlic, and salt. Give this a good spin or mix. Yes, we are still waiting on that spinach to cool.

As we wait, preheat your oven to 400 degrees and get your casserole dish out. OK, now that the spinach is cooled, and chopped, toss this into the mixing bowl, and give another good mix.

Spinach and Artichoke Dip Recipe
Spinach and Artichoke Dip Recipe

Scoop the mixture into the casserole dish, add the remaining cheese to lightly cover the top, then sprinkle on the breadcrumbs.

Place in the preheated oven and cook for about 25 minutes or until that top is nice and golden and bubbly.

Get ready. You know that molten hot dip you know you shouldn’t dig into but can’t resist? Yeah, this is one of those.

This dip is a crowd pleaser. It’s best served right out of the oven, scorching hot, or warmed. As much as my wife loves it, I will admit that I like it to in moderation. With that said, it’s a dip that is hard to walk away from. You might say things like ‘That’s it for me’, ‘I’m out’, ‘Get that away from me’, but one thing is for sure, I will find you coming back for another swipe of a veg, cracker, or chip. Yep, it’s that good. I hope you enjoy!

Spinach and Artichoke Dip
Author: 
Recipe type: Appetizers
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
 
Ingredients
  • 14 oz can artichoke hearts, quartered, drained, chopped
  • 3 cups spinach leaves, cooked, strained, cooled, and chopped
  • ½ cup water
  • 8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or grated with microplane
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ cup fine bread crumbs
  • crackers, bread, vegetables, or other dipping items that you desire
Instructions
  1. Start by adding the spinach to a pot. Add in the water and bring this to a medium heat. Basically cook down the spinach until softened, only a few minutes, then strain, press out all of the water, and let it cool.
  2. During this time, get a mixing bowl. If you want to use your electric mixer feel free. Add in the chopped artichokes, half of the cheese, mayo, sour cream, garlic, and salt. Give this a good spin or mix. Yes, we are still waiting on that spinach to cool.
  3. As we wait, preheat your oven to 400 degrees and get your casserole dish out. OK, now that the spinach is cooled, and chopped, toss this into the mixing bowl, and give another good mix.
  4. Scoop the mixture into the casserole dish, add the remaining cheese to lightly cover the top, then sprinkle on the breadcrumbs.
  5. Place in the preheated oven and cook for about 25 minutes or until that top is nice and golden and bubbly.
  6. Get ready. You know that molten hot dip you know you shouldn’t dig into but can’t resist? Yeah, this is one of those.

 

Mexican Potato Tacos (Tacos de Papa)

I know that recently Cinco de Mayo excites the gringos, but I could go for what everyone gets excited about that day, everyday. See, I may be like you and could seriously eat tacos, Tex Mex, or anything in between those (enchiladas, burritos, taquitos) on a regular basis. I’m not going to be shy about it. But in celebration of Cinco de Mayo, I decided to whip up some really easy, and excellent tacos. Tacos I knew my wife and kids have never had, and ones I have been wanting to make for years. Welcome tacos de papa, or Mexican Potato Tacos.

Mexican Potato Tacos Recipe
Mexican Potato Tacos Recipe

These tacos could probably compete with one of my all time favorites, tacos al pastor, and as you can see how much I love Mexican as well as Tex Mex food, well these come straight to top ten, and that’s no joke.

These are just way too easy to make and the result, however basic they may be, are so super satisfying that they have you thinking about leftovers for breakfast, or a gentle reheat in the oven for next day’s lunch.

Let’s get started.

  • 3 whole russet potatoes, cleaned, skins peeled and removed
  • 1 tsp salt, more to taste
  • 2 cloves of garlic, lightly smashed
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • 1 tsp cracked black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 tbsp ground cumin, to taste
  • 1 package sturdy corn tortillas
  • 1 cup of canola oil
  • crumbled queso fresco, optional
  • 2 whole serrano or jalapeno chili pepper, thinly sliced, optional
  • salsa verde, optional
  • optional sides (Mexican rice, refried beans, guacamole)

The focus here is really on the tacos. The fixings are up to you. I loaded my plate up Tex Mex style with all of the fixings because, hey that’s how I like to roll on my Mexican platter. The only thing it was missing was a great chile toreado!

Start by quartering your cleaned potatoes. You can go smaller if you want. I had some time on my hand so quartered worked fine by me. Add these to a pot of cold water, along with the garlic, one roughly chopped serrano chile, and add the teaspoon of salt. Bring to a simmer and cook until fork tender, about 40 minutes.

Once the potatoes are tender, drain, return them back to the pot on medium heat an and cook to remove any excess water.

Once the water is evaporated, you have a couple of options. My first option is to always use a potato ricer for my potatoes. If you don’t have one, use your favorite masher, heck even a couple of forks. You want the potatoes smooth, but if you like some texture, then heck by all means get some texture into those suckers. If you want to remove the garlic and chilies, then go for it. Me? I mash them into the potatoes. Once mashed, add some salt, cumin, pepper, butter, and milk. Give a good stir, taste, and adjust any salt or cumin if needed. Set aside to cool.

How to make Mexican Potato Tacos
How to make Mexican Potato Tacos

When you are ready to get these things going, heat a large skillet on medium-high heat. Add in the canola oil, and let it come to temperature for a couple of minutes.

Lightly heat up your corn tortillas in the microwave, or in a separate pan. The goal is to make them flexible for folding. Corn tortillas out of the bag are no bueno.

Once the oil is heated, and you have some workable corn tortillas, take a nice spoonful of the potato mixture and slather it into the tortilla. Fold the tortilla over, using the potato as the glue to pinch around the edges, and gently lay into the skillet. Repeat with a couple of more tacos. I think I fit about 3 tacos per cook.

Cook the tacos for a few minutes, then gently flip over to crisp the other side. Question? Can I spray these with cooking spray and place into a 375 degree oven, turning once and going that route? Yes, but I think the texture is slightly different. If you want to go that route, go for it. You can probably fit more on a baking sheet!

Mexican Potato Tacos (Tacos de Papa) Recipe
Mexican Potato Tacos (Tacos de Papa) Recipe

Once the tacos are cooked, remove and place on a paper lined sheet to let any excess oil drain. Now you have choices. You can carefully open these up and stuff them with things such as cheese, salsa, beans, or whatever you like, or you can roll like I did.

Add the Mexican potato tacos to a serving plate, lining them up nicely, and ladle on some warm salsa verde, shower with cheese, and lay around your fixings. I like mine spicy so I showered mine with more chilies.

Sure, I made the kids a batch of chili lime slow cooked chicken tacos as well (only thinking what I could use for leftovers the following days), but these Mexican potato tacos were it! I laid them on the table, not discussing much about them only that they were potato tacos (you should have seen their looks), and those were the only tacos I had on my plate.

I think that curiosity drove my wife, daughter, and one of my boys interest, and as soon as they took a bite they were totally sold!

Guess who had leftovers the following morning? Well, me of course (take one, lightly crisp it up in the oven while you make an over easy egg and place that on top (thank me later)), as well as my wife who I think took down another two for lunch.

Easy. Super delicious. Something that should be on every Mexican menu but I have yet to see nor order. Just saying. If you are looking for an awesome taco idea, give this one a shot. Hope you enjoy!

Enfrijoladas

Enfrijoladas. What the heck are enfrijoladas? I know this is something you probably never see on a menu, but these are essentially enchiladas, that have the corn tortillas dipped in a black bean puree, stuffed, rolled, and baked and are they ever so good. This is comfort food at its finest, and is not only easy to put together but super delicious. I’m always on a mission to get my wife and kids to not only try something new, but to also affirm that they really do like an ingredient whether they refuse to or not, and in this case, black beans. The picture is not the prettiest, but the flavor makes up for it. I stuffed mine with cheese and chicken, but you can roll them anyway you so desire.

Enfrijoladas Recipe
Enfrijoladas Recipe

Let’s get started.

Ingredients:

  • 15 oz can of black beans, rinsed
  • 1 cup of chicken stock
  • 2 chipotle peppers in adobo (use 1-2 more if you like it spicy)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • generous pinch of salt
  • 2 chicken breasts, poached, and shredded
  • 1 whole onion, diced
  • 1 whole jalapeno, seeds removed, diced
  • 3 cups of monterray jack cheese
  • 12 corn tortillas, warmed and covered
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • Mexican crema, optional
  • Cilantro, choppped, optional
  • 1 lime, quartered, optional

Start by making your black  bean puree. This is the real deal for this particular enfrijoladas recipe. To a blender, or food processor, add the beans, chicken stock, chipotle peppers, garlic, and salt. Blend until you have a smooth mixture that is not too thick, and not too thin. You want it to be almost like a thicker soup like a pea soup.

Add some of the black bean mixture to the bottom of a casserole dish, much like you would if you were making a lasagna. Pour the remaining puree into a bowl and dunk a corn tortilla into the black beans. Lay the tortilla in the casserole dish, add some chicken, onion, jalapeno, and cheese, and roll, keep the seal side down. Repeat, and compact those tortillas to fit as many as you can. I have to feed five, so I always think 2-3 per person.

Ingredients for Mexican Enfrijoladas
Ingredients for Mexican Enfrijoladas

Top with any remaining sauce (there should be plenty left over), and top with any remaining cheese.

Bake in a 375 degree oven for about 10 minutes.

Scoop out, the best you can, the enfrijoladas, shower with some lime juice, crema, avocado cubes, and some fresh cilantro and dig in. It looks like a black bean puree mystery but once you dig in you will find out what all of this mystery is about. It’s good, real good, and for those in my family that said they did not like black beans, well, they were shoveling this into their mouths. Hope you enjoy!

Enfrijoladas Recipe
Author: 
Recipe type: Dinner
Cuisine: Mexian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
 
Ingredients
  • 15 oz can of black beans, rinsed
  • 1 cup of chicken stock
  • 2 chipotle peppers in adobo (use 1-2 more if you like it spicy)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • generous pinch of salt
  • 2 chicken breasts, poached, and shredded
  • 1 whole onion, diced
  • 1 whole jalapeno, seeds removed, diced
  • 3 cups of monterray jack cheese
  • 12 corn tortillas, warmed and covered
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • Mexican crema, optional
  • Cilantro, choppped, optional
  • 1 lime, quartered, optional
Instructions
  1. Start by making your black bean puree. This is the real deal for this particular enfrijoladas recipe. To a blender, or food processor, add the beans, chicken stock, chipotle peppers, garlic, and salt. Blend until you have a smooth mixture that is not too thick, and not too thin. You want it to be almost like a thicker soup like a pea soup.
  2. Add some of the black bean mixture to the bottom of a casserole dish, much like you would if you were making a lasagna. Pour the remaining puree into a bowl and dunk a corn tortilla into the black beans. Lay the tortilla in the casserole dish, add some chicken, onion, jalapeno, and cheese, and roll, keep the seal side down. Repeat, and compact those tortillas to fit as many as you can. I have to feed five, so I always think 2-3 per person.
  3. Top with any remaining sauce (there should be plenty left over), and top with any remaining cheese.
  4. Bake in a 375 degree oven for about 10 minutes.
  5. Scoop out, the best you can, the enfrijoladas, shower with some lime juice, crema, avocado cubes, and some fresh cilantro and dig in.

 

Gnocchi Alfredo

My wife is a big fan of gnocchi. Who isn’t for that matter? I remember when she had some dental surgery done she had to eat some soft food, or heck jello for that matter (which she wasn’t having any part of), so I decided to make her a homemade batch of ricotta gnocchi. She fell in love with it from that day, and so did I. Soft, pillow like dough made from potatoes and a bit of flour, I mean what is not to love and love to make for that matter. So on a recent trip to a store, we saw this package of gnocchi. I typically would never buy something like it, but my wife and I both looked at it and said ‘should we try it?’. This is where the gnocchi alfredo came into play.

Gnocchi Alfredo Recipe
Gnocchi Alfredo Recipe

Before I was going to make the homemade alfredo sauce, I was really torn to make a sage and brown butter sauce (one my kids totally love), but to me that is a bit seasonal and I had no sage growing as it is winter in Wisconsin. That’s when I knew my kids would love a creamy and cheesy alfredo sauce. They devoured this pasta.

Let’s get started.

Ingredients:

  • 1 batch of gnocchi (make your own, or try store bought)
  • 5 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 cup of milk
  • 3/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp salt, to taste
  • 1 tsp cracked black pepper, to taste

Now the gnocchi we tried was from Costco. It was from Maffei, and something we have never tried before. You can try any brand if you want and it is typically found nowadays in your frozen section, or refrigerated pasta section at your grocery store. Again, if you don’t want to go that route, make your own. It’s not difficult, and in all honesty the texture is better when done homemade.

Maffei Gnocchi
Maffei Gnocchi

Start by bringing a large pot of water to a boil. This will take a handful of minutes, so make your alfredo sauce as this is happening. Grab a good spoonful of course salt and add it to your water as well.

Let’s make the sauce.

To another sauce pan, bring it to medium heat and add in your butter. Let that begin to melt, then toss in your garlic. Let that cook a minute or so and once the butter is melted and slightly bubbling, stir in the flour. Mix well so that it forms a nice paste. Cook this for another minute or two but be careful not to overcook the flour. You want a light blonde, if that, for this sauce. Remember, it’s alfredo sauce.

Add in the cream, and milk, and continue to whisk until the flour breaks up, and begins to thicken. Once that sauce begins to thicken, add in the parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper, and continue to whisk. Lower the heat, and stir occasionally while you add your gnocchi to your boiling, salted water.

This particular gnocchi took about 1 1/2 minutes to cook. Once these babies were floating, I removed with a slotted kitchen spider, let the drain, and added them directly to the alfredo sauce. Once all added, stir them gently into the sauce, and serve family style.

My family devoured this stuff. Creamy, cheesy, garlicky. It was right up everyone’s alley. The store bought gnocchi? Uh, not a big fan but something that was quick to make during a busy work night. The sauce. Make the sauce. Enjoy.