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Skinny Dips and Snacking Swaps

By Cheryl Forberg

This summer, you can still enjoy tasty with your friends and family-- without breaking the bank on your calorie budget (but, there’s no self-denial here).
Image of Organic Bell Peppers
It’s summertime – BBQ time, picnic time -- barbecued chicken, potato salad, creamy dips -- the calories can add up quickly when we BBQ every week. This summer, you can still enjoy tasty with your friends and family-- without breaking the bank on your calorie budget (but, there’s no self-denial here).

Though grilling is a great way to kick up flavor while dialing down the oil and fat, I still love to create easy make-ahead snacks, including a scrumptious spread of dips -- creamy, chunky, spicy, tangy – the stuff everyone loves. Hot or cold, spooned or dipped -- the possibilities are endless and they’re also a great condiment (instead of caloric mayo) on a sandwich or burger bun.

As a busy cook, there's nothing easier to prepare for impromptu get-togethers than tasty creamy dips. But my favorite part is that they can be made well ahead of time so I can enjoy my parties with my guests.

No, you won't find me stirring up a zippy sour-cream based French Onion Dip or melting handfuls of gooey cheddar over crispy fried chips -- not in my kitchen. I am still a nutritionist, after all. There's no doubt that high fat ingredients add flavor and texture to just about anything. But as a chef, I've learned how to make recipes sing without a boatload of fat grams.

Instead of loading on goop, let nature do all the work. Instead of focusing on a rich sour cream or cheese base for a dip, I use vegetables or beans as my primary ingredient. A rich, unctuous puree of eggplant or garbanzo beans is a scrumptious place to start. A spoonful of healthy fat such as olive oil or tahini is all that’s needed to add layers of texture and flavor to just the right mélange of spices and seasonings.
Image of Fennel
The other thing I love about dipping is that it’s a great way to kick up your daily vegetable intake. A colorful array of crisp dippers can include crunchy sticks of bell pepper, fennel, jicama or celery and baby carrots. Asparagus spears work well too but should be blanched first to soften them slightly.

And then you have the “other” dippers known as chips. When I first started cooking, there were no products such as fat free chips on the market. I made my own by cutting corn tortillas or whole grain pita bread into eights by triangles. I gave them a mist of olive oil and baked them slowly until they were crisp and lightly browned.

This weekend, give this simple recipe a try. I’m sure you’ll be making it again and again!.

Hummus Stuffed Mini Peppers

½ package Melissa's Veggie Sweet Mini Peppers (or about 24 mini peppers)
1½ cups Hummus

Smoked Paprika
Chives or Cilantro
Image of Ingredients for Hummus Stuffed Mini Peppers
Rinse peppers and slice of top. Cut peppers in half lengthwise and remove any seeds. Arrange pepper half on a serving platter. Spoon or pipe about 1 tablespoon hummus into each pepper. Garnish with paprika and cilantro. Serve immediately or chill to serve within 24 hours.
Image of Ingredients for Hummus Stuffed Mini Peppers
Nutritional information (per 2 pepper serving):
Calories 90
Fat calories 45
Total fat 5g
Sat fat 0g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 140mg
Total carbohydrates 8g
Fiber 2g
Sugars 2g
Protein 2g
Vitamin A IUs 2%
Vitamin C 50%
Calcium 0%
Iron 2%

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus recipe

Ingredients for Hummus
3 cups Garbanzo Beans (11 ounce tub)
1 cup Fire Roasted Sweet Red Bell Peppers (7.5 ounces)
½ cup Organic Limes, juiced
1 tablespoon Lime Zest (grated lime peel)
½ cup Tahini
2 teaspoons Cumin, ground
1 tablespoon Organic Ginger, chopped
1 teaspoon Salt
2 tablespoons Organic Cilantro, chopped
Image of stuffing peppers
Cook garbanzo beans according to package instructions. Drain; cool. There will be about 3 cups of cooked garbanzo beans. Place all ingredients, for the hummus, except cilantro in the bowl of a food processor or jar of a blender. Process or blend until very smooth, about 4 minutes. Transfer to serving bowl. Garnish with cilantro.
Image of Hummus Stuffed Mini Peppers

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