Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Healthy Snack Wednesdays: White Bean Dip and Mac & Cheese+

Happy New Year! 'Tis the season for resolutions, diet overhauls, and lofty fitness goals.  After indulging over the holiday season, it's time to get back to healthy, nutritious, and of course delicious eating.  For my new healthy lifestyle plan I'm participating in a biggest loser style competition at work.  Our first weigh-in was this week and we'll keep tabs on our total percentage of body weight lost until February 28.  The biggest loser can take home a pretty good payout (and second place isn't bad either). The idea is to motivate each other to eat healthier and be more active during the work day.  We're planning lunchtime walks, afternoon stair climbs, and maybe even some pilates and a visit from a nutritionist.

Starting with this post, I'll be featuring healthy snack recipes every Wednesday.  Renee (Eat.Live.Blog) and I volunteered to help in the healthy recipes department.  One of the challenges of sitting at your desk all day is coming up with snacks for the 3:00 p.m. sugar low. We'll both be posting every Wednesday with a new idea.

A challenge for snack time is to have something nutritious, filling, and satisfying. It can't just be a few crackers or a piece of chocolate, you need something that will keep you going.  My first recipe is an old standby that is perfect for snack time, cocktail parties, game nights, or really anything.  White bean dip lends itself to endless variations.  You can change the herbs & spices, add different citrus juice, and make your own creation.  And you can dip veggies, crackers, pretzels, baked potato chips or spread it on a piece of toast.

In honor of the first healthy snack Wednesday, I also wanted to give you a quick and easy dinner recipe.  My husband loves Annie's shells & white cheddar.  By itself, a bowl isn't bad for you but there's not much to it.  To add some nutritional kick I mixed in winter squash puree and a handful of chopped spinach. The squash makes turns it the traditional orange mac n' cheese color and the spinach looks like confetti!  Now you probably couldn't trick any kids into eating this but it was pretty tasty.

One of my favorite things to do is to cook a few things on Sunday to have on hand for the week. This week I roasted a red kuri squash (winter squash) while we were hanging out and watching football. I pureed the squash and put it into the fridge for the week. By itself it is a perfect side dish, but it can also be mixed into sauce for pasta (like I did tonight) or even pancake batter for breakfast.

What do you bring to work for snack time? Do you have a favorite healthy dinner trick? I'd love to hear them!!

White Bean Dip
Enough for a few days of snacks
Serving size 1/4 cup

Dip Base
2 cans beans (cannellini beans, chickpeas/garbanzo beans, or great northern beans), drained, rinsed, and patted dry
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix-ins and options - I usually pick one in each category
Herbs: Fresh parsley, basil, cilantro, chives, dill
Spices: Hot sauce, red pepper flakes, seasoned salt
Flavorings: Roasted garlic, chopped garlic, ginger, flavored mustard (dijon, horseradish, etc.), horseradish, wasabi
Citrus: Lemon juice, lime juice

Some of my favorite combinations:
  • 2 cloves roasted garlic, 1-2 tablespoons fresh basil,and  lemon juice
  • 1-2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, a sprinkle each of chili powder and cumin, and lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon fresh dill, 1-2 cloves of garlic

The easiest way to make this dip is in a food processor.

Add beans and any herbs and spices to the food processor
Pulse a few times to mix together
Add juice from 1/4 of a lemon and olive oil
Pulse until smooth and well-mixed
Taste and add extra citrus or oil if desired
Season with salt and pepper
Serve with crackers, pretzels, or chopped vegetables
Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a few days

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook/Mixing time: 5 minutes
Food processor, measuring cups, bowl, spoon

Not Your Usual Annie's Shells & Cheddar
Box serving size is equal to 2.5 servings. Pair with a salad for three total servings

1 purple box of Annie's Shells and white cheddar macaroni and cheese
1/2 cup squash puree (you could also use canned pumpkin or squash)
1/2 cup low-fat milk
Handful of chopped spinach leaves

Prepare pasta according to the box directions
In a small bowl whisk together the powdered cheese and milk
Add in squash puree and whisk until somewhat smooth
When pasta is done cooking, drain and return to the hot pot
Add spinach and toss
Add cheese sauce and mix well

Prep time: 5 minutes (while pasta cooks)
Cook time: 8-10 minutes
Pasta pot, colander, slotted spoon, cutting board & knife, whisk, bowl, serving bowls

As an added bonus to our healthy snack series kickoff, today Renee and I got a visit from Jacqueline and the Pretzel Crisp Car (@pretzelcrisps). She had seen Renee's tweet about healthy snacks and offered to drop by with some crisps for us to sample. Jacqueline even threw in a few tubs of Tribe Origins hummus. Did you know Tribe is a local company? They are just south in Taunton!  Pretzel Crisps are low fat and come in a variety of flavors from buffalo to cinnamon toast. The buffalo had a good kick, but wasn't too spicy. I don't love blue cheese, but they did have a fun recipe on the bag for a buffalo crisp topped with crumbled blue cheese and a celery slice. Sounds much healthier than a basket of wings.  We haven't tried all of the flavors yet, but are looking forward to sampling them during our 3:00 p.m. snack breaks.

Full disclosure: We were not asked to write about the snacks and we were not compensated in any way other than each receiving a goody bag full of pretzel crisps to share with our coworkers. Any opinions about the crisps belong to me.

Happy snacking!


  1. The best part of "Healthy Snack Wednesday" is that we get to test each others' recipes! Lara's bean dip is delicious! This Wednesday I am walking you through a Bean Bruschetta Salad!

  2. Yum pretzel crisps! I'm a big snacked and some of my favorites include homemade trailmix (walnuts, dried cranberries & dark chocolate chips), apple with almond butter, or any fruit and some cheese (string cheese, mozzarella or babybell). This bean dip looks yummy and I'll gladly snack on it too!

  3. I love Pretzel Crisps. I am keeping an eye out for that car! You guys look so happy!

  4. I'm excited for your snack series! I need new snack ideas for the work day, I also always have a snack at 3 pm!

  5. My boyfriend loves Annie's. I'm totally going to make it with squash next time. It looks delicious.

  6. I love that your entire office is working together to stay fit! I just recently made a white bean truffle dip (courtesy of Meghan's blog) and it was AWESOME!

  7. This dip is awesome! I will definitely be using your recipe - great job!

  8. This dip looks great - I bet it would taste great in a wrap sandwich with veggies too! yum.

    One of my favorite afternoon snacks is a piece of sharp cheddar and an apple. I like the sweet-savory combo.

  9. Great snack ideas Bianca & Alicia. Love the idea for the dip in veggie wrap. Thanks for the encouragement everyone!

  10. This dip is awesome! I will definitely be using your recipe - great job!


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