Menu planning for a party can be overwhelming — what dishes to prepare, how much to make and how to get it all done in time — and that's on top of getting the house cleaned and everything else in order before your guests arrive. One tip that can bring the stress level down a notch is to focus on a theme. It narrows the pool of options, and planning within a framework can actually spur creativity.
One of my favorite party themes is south of the border. It brings to mind festive colors and vibrant flavors, like the ones in this spinach cheese dip. Earthy cumin, salty cheeses and herbaceous garnishes — let the fiesta begin!
If you want to incorporate even more flavor, try one of these variations:
- Add a zesty dimension by stirring in 2/3 cup RO*TEL with the spinach and red onion.
- Eat even more veggies! Sauté a total of 1 cup of broccoli, bell peppers and/or tomatoes and add them to the cheese mixture before broiling.
- Replace the cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses with pepper jack for a spicy twist.
South-of-the-border spinach cheese dip
Full of bright, Mexican-inspired flavor, this spinach-and-cheese dip is warm and creamy with refreshing garnishes. To get it to the table even faster, use about 1/2 cup frozen spinach, thawed and roughly chopped.
- 6 cups loosely packed fresh spinach leaves, thoroughly rinsed
- 8 ounces sour cream, room temperature
- 4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
- 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup cheddar cheese, grated
- 1/4 cup Monterey Jack cheese, grated
- 1/4 cup cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoons green onion, finely chopped
- Add the spinach and 1/4 cup water to a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cover and cook until wilted and bright green. While the spinach is cooking, add a handful of ice to a medium bowl and fill it with cold water. Transfer the spinach to the ice bath and, once the leaves are fully cooled, strain out the water and pull out any remaining ice. Squeeze out any excess water and then roughly chop the spinach.
- Preheat the broiler. In a medium bowl, stir together the sour cream, cream cheese and cumin until smooth. Add the red onion and cooked spinach and stir to combine. Press the mixture into a 9-inch pie pan (or similarly sized oven-proof dish), top with the grated cheeses and cook under the broiler until warmed through and the top cheeses bubble.
- Top with the cilantro and green onion just before serving warm with tortilla chips.
More south-of-the-border menu recipes
South-of-the-border chicken skillet