Chips 'n' dips are the backbone of backyard entertaining. If you chip away at the chip 'n' dip legend, though, what you might find are options that, instead of being mere indulgences, could be healthier snacks boasting gourmet flavors.
Nothing could be easier for warm weather entertaining than mixing up a quick dip and placing it on a patio table alongside a bowl of packaged chips. If you haven't deviated from the traditional route born in the 1950s, the drill would be packaged dip mix, stirred into full-fat sour cream accompanied by a bag of potato chips. This option is high in calories and fat and almost void of fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals.
Thanks to current trends in nutrition, though, supermarket and health food market chip aisles are beginning to burst with innovative options that are packed with protein, fiber and antioxidants as well as ultra-flavorful seasonings and herbs.
Bean chips are beginning their ascent. One brand, for instance, is not fried and made with a combination of green and yellow split peas and black beans and seasoned with jalapeno peppers, green bell peppers, onions and parsley. A 1-ounce serving has 4 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber
Vegetable root chips (often also marketed under national and generic brands as "exotic vegetable chips") combine selections like taro, yuca (cassava), batata, candy-striped beet, parsnip and sweet potato. These usually have 3 grams of fiber per serving and the ingredients are not just random, but often listed as a "seasonal mix of root vegetables."
Tortilla chips are already whole grain and some brands have upped the flavor and nutritional profile by introducing sweet potatoes into the recipes. Others have gone multigrain with the addition of quinoa, millet, amaranth, chia and flax.
Distinctive flavor is a hallmark of all of the types of aforementioned chips (even with differences within one bag, such as the exotic root vegetable mixes), so much so that dips aren't even needed. When dips are served, today's health conscious ways mean that full-fat becomes the afterthought in terms of dips. Newer choices for dip bases, such as nonfat sour cream and nonfat plain Greek yogurt, which also provides significant protein, are rich and creamy even without the fat.
Following are a few suggestions. All ingredients are to taste.
ALL IN FOR ONIONS
Until they caramelize, carefully saute a mixture of chopped scallions and chives and peeled and chopped yellow, white and red onions. After they cool, add onions to a base of nonfat sour cream or nonfat plain Greek yogurt along with freshly ground black pepper. Gently stir. Refrigerate for at least two hours before serving with multigrain tortilla chips and fresh vegetables for dipping.
A COLORFUL BLACK 'N' WHITE DIP
Drain and puree canned white cannellini beans. To a base of nonfat sour cream or nonfat plain Greek yogurt, add beans, minced red bell pepper and curry powder. Stir well. Refrigerate for at least two hours before serving with black bean chips and fresh vegetables for dipping.
ROOTING FOR THIS DIP
Peel and mince carrots and red onion and mince unpeeled radishes. Cover in extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Add freshly ground black pepper, gently stir, cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Stir and then drain. Add vegetables to a base of nonfat sour cream or nonfat plain Greek yogurt. Stir well. Refrigerate for at least two hours before serving with root vegetable chips and fresh vegetables for dipping.
AFTER-WORK GOURMET COOKBOOK SHELF
If you go on the "Whole Foods Diet," described in the book of the same name, you'll need to forego some of the items at Whole Foods Markets. The stores have fresh meat sections, as well as packaged cold cuts and frozen items including meat. However, the plan in the book, written by the market chain's co-founder and CEO John Mackey and the doctors behind the popular "Forks Over Knives" documentary and books is a 28-day whole foods plant-based diet. The authors also say success is as simple as the research for the last 40 years indicates: the type of diet they promote, combined with moderate exercise, such as walking, stress management techniques, like yoga and meditation, and surrounding yourself with community and love. This kind of encompassing program, they argue, not only leads to safe and sustained weight loss, but a greater chance of improved health and longevity. Importantly, the path they pave includes many tasty recipes, but lots of inspirational success stories as well — including Mackey's.
Lisa Messinger is a first-place winner in food writing from the Association of Food Journalists and the author of seven food books, including "Mrs. Cubbison's Best Stuffing Cookbook" and "The Sourdough Bread Bowl Cookbook." To find out more about Lisa Messinger and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.