Healthy Appetizers

A few weeks ago for the Super Bowl, I was searching for some healthy, yet entertaining-worthy appetizers. The fiance is on a mission to lose some weight before our wedding, but I still wanted to find some fun finger-foods for our super small Super Bowl gathering.

Nearly a month later, I’m sharing them (I can’t believe Feb is almost over!!) so you can use them for your next get-together – formal or informal!

Goat Cheese Marinara and pita chips: I first stumbled across this type of dip at Bricco, in downtown Cleveland. When my friend Ali told me she’d made a version on her own, I couldn’t wait to try it. I’ve been making it ever since! So simple, and delicious:


  • 1 c. marinara sauce (we just made our own, but if you are fearful of making your own pasta sauce, a store-bought brand may do … don’t tell my Italian mother I told you that!)
  • 1/2 small brick of goat cheese (I love Chevre… I think it comes in 5 oz bricks)
  • Hot pepper flakes, to taste


  • Pre-heat the oven to 350.
  • Take a small custard cup, safe for baking (I used a 3.5 oz rameken / custard cup) and fill nearly all the way with the marinara sauce. Mix in hot pepper flakes.
  • Cut the 5 0z goat cheese brick in half so that it’s about the height of the ramekin. Plop (lightly! or it will splatter) into the center of the marinara filled baking dish.
  • Bake for about 20 minutes, or until goat cheese is melty. Yes, melty is a word.

That’s it! Serve with either homemade pita chips, warm pita bread, or my favorite — Stacy’s Simply Naked. Yum yum!

Spinach & Artichoke Dip: I also served some “healthy” spinach and artichoke dip. The recipe was adopted from a Cooking Light recipe from a few years ago.


  • 10-ounce bag fresh spinach
  • 6 ounces (3/4 block) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
  • 8 ounces (full block) fat-free cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup fat-free sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cups part-skim mozzarella, shredded
  • 1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts (canned in water), drained and chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely diced
  • 6 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese, divided (That’s what the recipe calls for .. I used more because I love me some Parmesan!)


  • Preheat oven to 350°F. (Same temp as the above recipe – you can make them at the same time!)
  • Tear spinach into bite-size pieces, removing any thick stems. Rinse in a colander and then dry. In a large nonstick skillet, sauté the spinach over medium heat until wilted. Drain in the colander, pushing a little of the extra water out. (NOTE – I forgot to tear the spinach before cooking and had to try to chop it when it was hot and cooked…which was more difficult)
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the cream cheeses with a potato masher. Add sour cream and mash more. Add spinach, mozzarella, artichokes, pepper, garlic, and 2 tablespoons of the Parmesan. Stir everything until thoroughly combined.
  • Pour mixture into a 1 1/2 quart baking dish. Sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup of Parmesan on top. I used a little more than 1/4 c because I love Parmesan!
  • Bake 30 minutes, or until Parmesan is melted dip is all bubbly. Remove from oven and give it a minute or two to cool down. Serve with homemade tortilla chips or low-fat/baked version.

And this – I snapped a photo of!

Enjoy!  I’ve just got a crock pot, thanks to my registry, so some recipes for that to come!

A Mid-Winter Escape to a Tropical Paradise – South Pacific

It’s been two weeks since I saw South Pacific at Playhouse Square with the Review Crew, and I feel awful that I haven’t sat down and written a review. Why? It’s not because I was at a loss for words (am I ever?). It’s not because I was simply too busy. No, it’s because I was trying to think of something critical to say. How could I write a review of a musical without critiquing the acting ..or the music … or the dancing? Well, all that and more were incredible and with that, I give you my review.

South Pacific was amazing. As I sat inside the majestic Palace Theater on the freezing winter February evening, I was transported to a tropical island in the South Pacific and forgot about the treacherous ice storm that was building outside. As soon as the curtain rose and the sound of the full orchestra (yes, you read that right — South Pacific is one of the few traveling productions with a full orchestra), I was captivated by the singing and romantic story. It was my first time seeing the production (I hadn’t even seen the movie before) and the music was all that music in a musical should be- memorable, catchy and something that makes you smile. Even the next day I found myself singing a few of my new favorites – There Is Nothing Like a Dame (who wouldn’t like a bunch of military men singing about ladies?!) and I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair. I enjoyed the story itself. While I loved the World War II era setting (especially the costumes .. loved the old bathing suits!), the tale, a timeless love story with underlying tones of racial prejudice, could have taken place in any era.

While it’s too late to buy tickets (sorry, I meant to have this posted sooner!), I highly recommend you keep an eye out for the next time it comes to Playhouse Square. Besides a few technical difficulties (mainly microphone/sound system issues) on Opening Night, the musical was a masterpiece and a must-see for anyone looking to take a mini tropical vacation — without leaving Cleveland.

Don’t take my word for it – see what the rest of the Review Crew had to say: