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Quick and Cheesy Spinach Artichoke Dip is one spread that goes well with chips, crackers and veggies.
Courtesy photo
Quick and Cheesy Spinach Artichoke Dip is one spread that goes well with chips, crackers and veggies.

It's MUNCH time
Score big with recipes to
get you ready for some football

By Patrice Stewart · 340-2446

The Super Bowl calls for a super menu to serve Sunday evening.

The question is what to serve to grab the attention of the taste buds that will be in front of the television at your house.

Start with basics such as chili or a sandwich — the type that will last through four quarters and all the accompanying commercials.

You may want to add wings, plus several choices of dips and spreads.

While the Super Bowl happens only once a year, that's no excuse to throw away the healthy diet you started on New Year's Day, said Mary Martin Nordness, Southeast Dairy Association dietitian.

She suggests passing 290-calorie Sirloin Pita Salad Sandwiches, made with steak and served in whole-wheat pita rounds with healthy veggies and a fat-free dressing seasoned with herbs.

If you decide that something fried won't hurt — it's only once a year, after all — you may want to try "Frickels," a fried pickle recipe created by Rick Browne, host of the public television series Barbecue America and author of "The Big Book of Barbecue Sides" and other cookbooks.

He likes to use crunchy Vlasic dill chips or hamburger oval style pickles, coated in a mixture or corn meal and flour. Browne says honey mustard or mustard-based barbecue sauce make ideal dipping sauces, whether you serve these with barbecue or sandwiches.

If Buffalo chicken wings are your favorite for bowl-watching, the makers of Frank's Redhot Sauce give two ways to get that flavor: turn frozen breaded chicken tenders into Buffalo-style, or make Cheesy Buffalo Chicken Dip, which tastes like Buffalo chicken wings but without giving you red fingers.

Every Super Bowl menu, and many other party buffets, needs a couple of dips and spreads to go with chips, crackers and fresh veggies.

Sports Illustrated estimates that 3.1 billion potato chips will be consumed during the game.

Game-watchers are better at keeping up with downs and extra points than they are with how many snack items they are consuming. Help them with some low-fat choices, whole-grain crackers, baked chips, bagel chips, pretzels and new ideas such as plantain chips from Grab Em Snacks.

Looking for some new dips? You can score big with a Crab and Artichoke Ranch Spread developed in the Hidden Valley Ranch test kitchens, or Quick and Cheesy Spinach Artichoke Dip and Creamy California Guacamole from the California Milk Advisory Board.

Here are some recipes to try:

Sirloin Pita Salad Sandwich

For the sandwich:

1/2 pound sirloin or ribeye steak, trimmed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
4 4-inch whole wheat pita bread rounds, cut in half
21/2 cups mixed salad greens
2/3 cup crumbled Blue cheese
1/2 small red onion, sliced and separated into rings
8 cherry tomatoes, halved

For the dressing:

2 8-ounce containers fat-free plain yogurt
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced parsley
1 tablespoon minced chives
1 teaspoon dried oregano

Spoon yogurt into a medium bowl and stir in garlic, parsley, chives and oregano until well blended; set aside.

Rub both sides of steak with salt and pepper. Heat a medium, non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook steak about 6 minutes on each side (for medium) or until desired. Allow steak to rest 5 minutes before cutting into thin slices.

Warm pita halves in toaster. Into each pita half, spoon 1/4 of the yogurt dressing, mixed salad greens, Blue cheese, onion, steak and tomato. Spoon additional yogurt dressing over top. Makes 4 servings.

Quick and Cheesy Spinach Artichoke Dip

1 cup sour cream
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 14-ounce can artichokes in water, drained
1 10-ounce box frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, crushed
11/2 cups grated Cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese mix, divided
Salt and cayenne pepper to taste

In food processor or blender, combine sour cream and cream cheese and process until smooth, about 1 minute. Add artichokes, spinach and garlic. Process or chop until well combined, scraping sides of the work bowl or blender jar as needed.

In a large mixing bowl, combine artichoke mixture, lemon juice, half the grated cheese, and salt and cayenne pepper to taste. Transfer mixture to a 1-quart microwave-proof baking dish and spread smoothly.

Cover with a paper towel and microwave on high for 3 to 4 minutes, or until bubbly around the edges. Remove bowl (it will be hot) and sprinkle remaining cheese over the top. Microwave on high for 1 minute, until cheese is melted.

Oven directions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Add final sprinkling of cheese to top of dip and bake, uncovered, for 20 to 25 minutes or until slightly browned and bubbly.

Serve with pita chips, bagel chips, baked tortilla chips, crisp potato skins or crunchy raw vegetables.

Creamy California Guacamole

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
2 cups (16 ounces) nonfat plain yogurt, drained
4 ripe medium avocados, peeled, seeded and mashed
1 cup salsa verde (green chile salsa)
2 to 3 teaspoons lemon or lime juice
1 teaspoon salt

In a food processor or a medium mixing bowl using an electric mixer, mix cream cheese and yogurt until smooth. Add mashed avocados, salsa and 2 teaspoons juice to cream-cheese mixture and combine well. Season to taste with salt and additional lemon or lime juice.

Makes 4 cups.

Buffalo Chicken Tenders

1 28-ounce package frozen breaded chicken tenders (about 16 pieces)
3/4 cup Frank’s Redhot Buffalo Wing Sauce

Bake chicken tenders according to package directions until hot. Toss tenders with sauce and serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.

Note: You may substitute 1/2 cup Frank’s Redhot Sauce mixed with 1/3 cup melted butter for the Buffalo Wing Sauce.

Cheesy Buffalo Chicken Dip

1 8-ounce package cream cheese
1/2 cup Blue cheese salad dressing
1/2 cup Frank’s Redhot Buffalo Wing Sauce or Cayenne Pepper Sauce
1/2 cup crumbled Blue cheese or shredded mozzarella cheese
2 cups shredded cooked chicken

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place cream cheese into 9-inch deep-dish pie plate. Microwave 1 minute to soften. Whisk in salad dressing, wing sauce and cheese until smooth. Stir in chicken.

Bake 20 minutes or until mixture is heated through. Stir well. Makes 3 cups. Garnish as desired. Serve with carrots, celery sticks, bell peppers and other veggies for a healthier dish. Crackers may be offered on the side.

(Fried Pickles)

1 large bottle of Vlasic Hamburger Dill Chips or Vlasic Hamburger Ovals
1 cup unbleached flour
1 cup yellow corn meal
1 tablespoon favorite barbecue rub
3 tablespoons yellow prepared mustard
1 cup beer

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Pre-heat 4-6 inches of oil in a deep casserole dish, or Dutch oven, to 325 F.

In a wide, flat bowl, combine the flour and cornmeal and season with your favorite barbecue rub. In another wide, flat bowl, make a slurry of the mustard and beer.

Dip the pickle slices, several at a time, in the mustard-beer mixture and then in the flour and cornmeal mixture. When coated, place the pickles on a dish until all of them have been dipped and covered.

With a slotted spoon or a frying basket, slip the pickles into the casserole dish, or Dutch oven, 5 or 6 at a time, until the outside batter is browned on both sides, about 30-45 seconds; turn with a slotted spoon. Pickles will float to top when done.

Remove browned pickles to a plate covered with a paper towel, and drain briefly.

Serve warm as an appetizer with a bowl of room-temperature honey mustard or mustard-based barbecue sauce for dipping the pickles. Serves 4-6.

Crab and Artichoke Ranch Spread

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1 packet (1 ounce) Hidden Valley Original Ranch Dips Mix
1 16-ounce container sour cream
1 14-ounce can artichoke hearts, rinsed, drained and chopped
3/4 cup cooked crabmeat, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons chopped red or green bell pepper
Combine dips mix and sour cream in large bowl. Stir in artichoke hearts, crabmeat and bell peppers. Chill 30 minutes.

Serve with sliced French bread, crackers or fresh vegetables for dipping.

Tips to plan a 'Super' party

Kevin Roberts, author of the cookbook "Munchies," gives tips for preparing food for the big game:

  • Plan your menu and keep it simple. This will ensure that you can enjoy the game and not spend the entire day in the kitchen cooking.

  • Food should be ready about two hours before the game starts so people can load up before sitting down. This will avoid the continual "wave" of people getting up in front of the TV.

  • Think ahead to save some calories. Some people will consume as many as 3,000 calories during the game, so serving vegetables with low-fat and low-sodium dips, chips and cheeses will help reduce the caloric intake. Put dips and chips into serving bowls so your guests will never have to know you are using low-calorie and low-sodium snacks and watching their health for them.

  • Use disposable goods to avoid having to do a million dishes after the game. Post-game clean-up is definitely a party foul.

    Super Bowl XLI

    Chicago Bears vs. Indianapolis Colts,
    Sunday, 5 p.m., CBS

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