Entertaining this summer, but trying to keep things healthy? Make some crowd-pleasing dips. They are a convenient and delicious way to consume a wide variety of anti-inflammatory vegetables, spices, and healthy fats. While purchased dips like packaged hummus are convenient, many brands contain unnecessary levels of fat and preservatives. Making dips yourself allows you to control the flavor and quality – and it’s easy!
The best dips begin with a creamy base made from foods such as beans, lentils, avocados, edamame, and roasted vegetables [eggplant, carrots, squash, zucchini, peppers, cauliflower] that are blended with oil or another liquid. Add flavor boosters such as tahini, garlic, hot sauce, nut butter, nuts and seeds, lemon or lime juice, and zest to add dimension. Finish by seasoning with fresh and dried herbs, spices, salt, and pepper.
Here are some of my favorite combinations:
- Chickpea (and other beans) hummus - The classic chickpea base is very versatile and can be made with any bean. Add tahini, garlic, lemon, and cumin to chickpeas for a traditional version. Variations include (but are not limited to) roasted red pepper, lemon kale, Moroccan carrot, roasted zucchini, kalamata olive, spicy sriracha, and creamy pesto. Here is a delicious grilled zucchini variety to try!
- Avocado, AKA guacamole! - Avocados are loaded with healthy fats, but the calories can be intimidating for some people. To lighten it up, cut the amount of avocado in half by adding defrosted edamame beans – you will decrease the calories and increase the protein. Win, win. Add in some fresh greens or herbs to keep your dip bright and fresh. Here is a classic version to get you started!
- Roasted vegetables – Baba ganoush is the ultimate example here – a combination of roasted eggplant, tahini, lemon, and garlic. Other roasted vegetables that work well in dips are butternut squash, cauliflower, zucchini, carrots, and peppers. Roasting them brings out the natural sweetness and allows you to process vegetables until creamy. This baba ghanouj recipe is one of my favorites! Give it a try, even if you “think” you don’t like eggplant! You may be surprised.
- Carrot chips or sticks – Pass on the baby carrots and pre-cut varieties (which lack flavor and nutrients) and pick up a bunch of multi-colored ones! The purple is especially eye-catching and delicious! Cut on the bias (angle) to maximize surface area for scooping!
- Cucumber chips – Like carrots, slice the cucumbers on the bias to maximize the surface area for scooping. Added bonus, cucumbers are VERY HYDRATING and COOLING!
- Broccoli or cauliflower – Lightly steam these vegetables to bring out their sweetness - you want them to still have the firmness necessary to dip. If you can find Romanesco, grab it! It is a milder, and usually sweeter, cruciferous option!
- Green beans, snap peas, or asparagus – Remove stems, rinse, and dip. If you prefer, you can lightly steam these as well.
- Peppers – Red, yellow, and orange peppers provide a variety of phytonutrients and are milder than green peppers. Shishito peppers are perfect, too!
- Celery sticks – Firm and crisp, celery is a go-to vehicle. It is also very hydrating and helps balance electrolytes which is important in warm weather.
- Cherry tomatoes – Tomatoes are FULL of sun-protecting lycopene! Tip to make dipping easier: Spear them on toothpicks!
- Finally, go out of your comfort zone and include kohlrabi, turnip, or Daikon Radish.