Fat and broke: These are two utterly depressing conditions that perpetually haunt college students everywhere, and that also aptly describe myself at the moment. It all began innocuously enough, with the occasional stop into CTB on my way back home to Collegetown.
Then one of my roommates and I discovered that neither of us started class until 1:25 pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so breakfast at Stella’s became a regular occurrence. Add in the weekly feasts delivered from Domino’s (seriously, how can you deny the temptation of cheesy bread topped with cheese and stuffed with — wait for it — even more cheese), the inebriated late night visits to Jack’s Grill for overly greasy burgers, and the many days that I ordered in or dined out for every single meal because I had a paper or prelim, and it is not difficult to see why my father legitimately asked me if my card had been stolen. No Dad, the hundred dollars spent on food over the course of a single day was not the work of a crazy starving burglar…just me.
In addition to being expensive as hell, eating out is also significantly unhealthier than cooking at home. Restaurant fare often seems more delicious than anything made at home, but it is important to remember that the tastiness is usually a result of too much salt, butter and/or sugar added to the dish to make it more palatable to the customers. These hidden calories and high costs are why I am on a mission to find my favorite dishes in Ithaca and recreate them in my own humble Collegetown kitchen in a cheap and healthy way.
My favorite appetizer in the world, hands down, is spinach artichoke dip. Whatever restaurant I go to, if they have it, I get it. I’ve sampled this delicious dip at various eateries around Ithaca, and the one place that left a lasting impression on me was Stella’s. Their artichoke-spinach dip just tastes clean — it’s not overly salty or cheesy like its counterparts at most other places. The flavors are in no way complex, and this simplicity in taste and ingredients is exactly what makes Stella’s dip a breath of fresh air. Stella’s dip is not very creamy or cheesy, which is atypical for this dish, and is somewhere in between pesto and hummus in consistency. While there will definitely be times when I crave the gooey, rib-sticking version of spinach artichoke dip, Stella’s take on it is delicious, healthy and simple enough to recreate at home in no time at all.
Healthy Spinach Artichoke Dip (like Stella’s!)
1 (14 oz.) can chopped artichoke hearts, drained
1 (16 oz.) package frozen cut leaf spinach, thawed and drained
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
¼ cup non-fat Greek yogurt
¼ cup low-fat Parmesan cheese, shredded
Salt, pepper and lemon to taste
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Blend together the artichoke hearts and spinach in a food processor. Add in the garlic, Greek yogurt and Parmesan cheese, and keep processing until the mixture is blended together well. Season the mixture with salt and pepper according to your personal preference; do the same for the lemon, and squeeze as much juice as you’d like (making sure to not let any seeds fall in). Put the mixture into a small baking dish and bake for 15-20 minutes. Serve with tortilla chips, pitas, toasted bread or anything else!
This simple recipe is extremely versatile, and you can add in, take out and/or swap ingredients basically wherever you want to. The cheese that I got was a pre-shredded package from Wegmans that contained a blend of Parmesan and Romano. Mozzarella and feta cheese also work well in this recipe. You can also throw some cheese on top of the mixture before popping it in the stove, for a golden, cheesy layer on top!