Cooking with My Mentees, part 1

I can’t believe it has taken me so long to post this!  I need to make a New Year’s resolution to be a more timely blogger…

As part of the work I do, I serve as a mentor for students in the Service Scholar program.  Early in the fall semester (in September, I think?), I got together with three of my mentees to cook and share a meal together.  I’ve had several students ask me if I would teach them to cook a particular dish and this was my first foray into cooking instruction.  The only request was tofu (my kind of request!) so I made a menu that was fun and diverse, if a bit ambitious.  Before the girls came over, I set out the ingredients in different stations:

White bean dip served with sliced red peppers

Tofu two ways: BBQ and honey glazed

Spicy Baked Macaroni (I made few changes to the Giada DeLaurentis recipe.)

The first thing we did was get cute aprons on all the cooks.  Then we got to work, picking eggplant, sautéing garlic, blending up bean dip, seasoning tofu, cooking veggies for the macaroni, grating cheese, and generally having a great time while we prepped the meal.

Marisa and Abby picking eggplant from Artie's garden
Amy sautéing garlic in the tiny skillet with the tiny spatula
Marisa seasoning the BBQ tofu


Abby adding the sauteed veggies to the pasta for the macaroni
Tasting the white bean dip with the tiny spoons

The finished product was excellent:

Don’t think that I forgot dessert!  This post already had so many pictures, I thought I would break it into two parts.  Check back tomorrow for part two and see what delicious confection we made for dessert  (a tasty, fruity treat that looks like it took forever to make, but it was a snap!).

Healthier Spinach Dip

In the spirit of the New Year and healthy resolutions all around, I wanted to start the year out with a healthier take on one of my favorite snacks.  I love spinach dip, but it is typically prepared with mayonnaise which is full of fat (plus I’m not really a fan of mayonnaise).  When I was in college, I lightened up spinach dip with a secret ingredient or two and some extra veggies.  This dish was often requested by my friends.

Healthier Spinach Dip

10 ounce package of frozen, chopped spinach

1 cup 2% small curd cottage cheese (secret ingredient #1)

8 ounces Greek yogurt (secret ingredient #2)

8 ounces sour cream

package of spinach dip mix

red bell pepper, diced

2 celery stalks, diced

pita chips, carrot sticks, broccoli florets, and pepper strips, for serving

bread round, for serving (optional)

Defrost spinach according to package directions.  Allow spinach to cool and squeeze dry.  Place defrosted, drained spinach in a medium bowl.  Add the cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, sour cream, and spinach dip mix.  Use a fork to combine.  Add the diced veggies and mix to combine.  Chill in the refrigerator for a few hours before serving.  Serve in a large glass bowl or a hollowed out bread round with pita chips and carrot sticks, broccoli florets, and pepper strips.

This is a quick and easy recipe that has all the creaminess of mayonnaise-based spinach dip but without all the fat.  The cottage cheese is full of protein and the dip gets a great tanginess from the combination of Greek yogurt and sour cream.  The extra veggies give the dip a healthy crunch and a dose of vitamins.  I confess that the spinach dip mix packet is a total shortcut and I could probably cut down on the salt and improve the flavor of this recipe by adding my own combination of spices, but this is still a quick and tasty party favorite.

Happy New Year!

Shannon’s Bean Dip

Because our house is mostly back together (pictures coming soon!) and because today is college football and I’m craving bean dip I think it’s time to post this recipe.  It’s the perfect recipe for the blog comeback – simple, delicious, and a real crowd pleaser.

The first time I had this dish, I was a freshman in college and Shannon baked a bean dip and brought it to the ladies of 2 East Landis Hall as a finals week treat.  I quickly asked for the recipe and I’ve make it countless times since then.  The students at my office rave about the bean dip and when I show up with one at potluck events I am met with “Yes!  Jillian brought the delicious dip!”  So I’ll pass along the recipe because it is delish and perfect for tailgates, holiday parties, and (if I’m being totally honest) dinner.  Enjoy!

Shannon’s Bean Dip

can of refried beans

can of black beans, drained and rinsed

jar of salsa

6 – 8 ounces sour cream

6 – 8 ounces cheese

tortilla chips (for serving)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  In a bowl, gently fold black beans into refried beans, making sure not to smush the black beans.  Spread the bean mixture on the bottom of an 8×8 or 9×9 glass baking dish.

Spread the sour cream on top of the bean mixture.

Spoon the salsa on top of the sour cream, keeping the two in distinct layers.

Top the salsa with the cheese.

Bake uncovered for 20 – 30 minutes until hot and bubbly.  Serve warm with tortilla chips.

Sometimes, if I’m going to a gathering with a lot of people, I’ll double this and bake it in a 9×13 pan.  If you like cilantro, chop a handful of cilantro and sprinkle on top of the bean dip as soon as the dip comes out of the oven.  You could also top with diced avocado.  Or, if you are me, you can top it with both!

The photos above are courtesy of Shannon.  I don’t have a picture of the dip after it has finished cooking (probably because in all the times I’ve made it, it goes directly from oven to table to mouth without pause!) but I guarantee that if you prepare this for any gathering, your dish will look like this in no time: