Use It Up: Spinach Dip

Time: 40-50 minutes, 10 minutes active

Americans waste one pound of food per person per day. While much of it is lost in production, some of it is also lost in our refrigerators, especially fruits and vegetables.

We fight to keep our waste down through COTR night and recipes that are flexible enough to allow me to easily sub in ingredients that are near their expiration point. One of these is spinach dip. Apparently, I regularly think I’m going to start a green smoothie habit or something, because I seem to perpetually have a bale of spinach in my refrigerator that I’m not eating. On COTR night, I pull it out and pick out any yellow or wilting pieces, then stuff the rest into a freezer bag for a future recipe.

Spinach dip is my typical choice. This is a never-the-same-way twice food because you’ll be using whatever you have in the refrigerator. It requires spinach and at least one bar of cream cheese, but everything else depends on what ingredients you want to use up. For that reason, it’s also a good use of cheese about to expire (though cheese never stays around long enough at our house to near this point), especially if you have a little bit of cheese left from some other recipe or a slightly dried out end piece.

 

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Above, leftover spinach dip makes a great spread on sandwiches. This recipe used 1 lb of spinach, 2 bars of cream cheese, a large container of plain Greek yogurt, shredded cheddar, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, and Worchester sauce, baked in a 9×13 pan.

Required:

  • As much spinach as you have (You probably can’t stuff much more than 1 1/2 lb into a spinach dip, but let me know if you do and it works!)
  • Bar of cream cheese, softened if you’ve thought of it

Choose one or more additional ingredient to soften the dip:

  • additional bar of cream cheese
  • mayonnaise
  • mascarpone
  • sour cream
  • plain Greek yogurt

Choose one or more additional cheese:

  • Anything already shredded
  • parmesan
  • Muenster
  • gruyere
  • Swiss
  • feta
  • blue
  • goat cheese

Choose one or more squirt of something:

  • lemon juice
  • Sriracha
  • Mexican-style hot sauce
  • Dijon mustard
  • Worceste
  • r sauce
  • chipotle puree

Optional: An add-in or two

  • diced, sautéed onions
  • pressed, sliced, or crushed garlic
  • Sliced baby button or white mushrooms
  • lemon zest
  • artichoke hearts, drained
  • sun dried tomatoes
  • small can of jalapenos, drained
  • small can of green chilis, drained
  • roasted poblano peppers
  • chopped, parboiled, kale, squeeze-dried (not rainbow, which turns brown when cooked)
  • chopped green or black olives
  • sliced almonds**

Optional topping:

  • Parmesan
  • shredded Gruyere
  • panko bread crumbs, mixed with melted butter and cheese
  • additional shredded cheese
  • sliced almonds**

Steps (They look long, but they’re easy. You’ll spend most of your time searching through the refrigerator and watching the mixer.):

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. DO NOT prepare a pan yet.
  2.  Place a bar of cream cheese in stand mixer and mix while you gather your other ingredients. As long as one of them is spinach, you’ll be fine.
  3. When cream cheese has softened, add spinach.* Spinach is your limiting factor, so how much of the remaining ingredients you add is dependent upon how much spinach you’re using. Continue mixing.
  4. Choose your remaining ingredients. One or two of them should be sharp, biting, tanging, or bitter (sour cream, Greek yogurt, blue cheese, Swiss cheese, feta, Dijon mustard) OR smoky (chipotle, poblanos) OR spicy (Sriracha, hot sauce, jalapenos). They key is not to get to make something that has elements that cross these lines. Some solid combos: Greek yogurt, feta, and drained, chopped Kalamata olives. Sour cream, swiss cheese, and Dijon mustard. Mascarpone, goat cheese, lemon juice, and lemon zest.
  5.  If you are adding an add-in, like artichoke hearts or green olives, make the decision about how much of them to add now. If adding kale, artichoke hearts, or another liquid-y ingredient, add now.
  6.  Assuming you didn’t parboil the spinach,* it will give off water when you cook it. To account for that, mix in a softening ingredient until the dip reaches a consistently slightly stiffer than dip. This might be an entire second bar of cream cheese or a cup or more of mayonnaise, sour cream, or plain yogurt.
  7. Add your additional cheese. Mixing them up is fine, provided doing so makes sense. Pepperjack and cotija?  Yes. Swiss and blue? No.
  8.  Add a squirt of one or more a seasoning ingredient as aligns with your flavor profile.
  9.  Add your add-in, if using.
  10.  Mix, mix, mix. Be aggressive.
  11.  If in a hurry, transfer to a pot and heat through on stovetop.
  12.  Spread into a casserole dish, pie plate, or baking dish.
  13.  If topping, add topping now.
  14.  Bake until warmed through, 20 minutes (for a pie plate or 8×8 baking dish) to 40 minutes (for a larger casserole dish or 9×13 baking dish), checking to make sure that topping is not browning too fast; if it is, cover. If you already heated this on a stovetop, simple broil for 1-2 minutes to brown top.
  15. Serve! If you didn’t add Panko bread crumbs and were sure to use gluten-free Worcester sauce, you have a gluten-free, low-carb dip. Don’t ruin it for guests now by putting it in a bread bowl or serving it with only crackers or bread.

*Should you parboil the spinach? I don’t.

**Nuts are an uncommon addition to spinach dip, so be sure that you add a label warning guests that this contains almonds.

 

 

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