My mom is the entertaining queen. When the mister and I arrived on Christmas Eve, we were greeted by a winter wonderland. A perfectly decorated Christmas tree, a beautifully set table, and appetizers set out in holiday dishes. They seemed to smile cheekily, like “Look at us! Don’t we look cute in our festive little bowls”. Angelic music played. All kitchen surfaces gleamed in their cleanliness. Magic sugarplum fairy dust glistened in the air. That is, until I walked in.
My excitement for what I’m creating must override my ability to cook in an organized fashion. There’s a madness to my method, and my mise en place starts under control, then takes on a life of its own. I become so absorbed in the cooking process that I often look at the kitchen in awe once the food is done. Who made this mess?!?
If you’re looking for tips on how to create a flawless dinner party, my mom’s your gal. If you want dinner to be on the table promptly at 6:00, you got it—at my mom’s house. If you want to know how to cook up some delicious hot spinach artichoke bites to bring to mom’s next dinner party, do keep reading! Mom always knows, I may create more chaos than has ever been seen in her kitchen, but the food will be worth it!
These little hot spinach-artichoke bites are one of my favorite appetizers to whip together for a party. They cook up golden on the outside, creamy on the inside. Think creamy spinach-artichoke dip in a portable, dippable little bundle. The edges remind me of the coveted toasty cheese along the edges of a lasagna pan.
If you’ve never made tofu ricotta before, you must give it a try! It makes such a close substitute, not even the cheesiest cheese-loving guests will have the slightest clue that they aren’t eating rich, ricotta-filled goodness. If you know there will be vegans or dairy-intolerant people at the party, you’ll be an instant celebrity.
You can make the mixture a day ahead, so that you can clean up your kitchen shrapnel before your guests come to the door. In fact, I have a batch safely tucked away in the fridge, waiting to be popped in the oven before the New Year’s Eve festivities begin. And speaking of, I wish you a incredibly happy and healthy New Year’s, full of the best and messiest culinary shenanigans!
Spinach-Artichoke “Ricotta” Bites with Marinara Dipping Sauce
Makes 16 mini-muffins
For the Tofu Ricotta:
- 1 (14-ounce) block extra firm tofu, drained, pressed w/ paper towels
- 1 tablespoon hummus (store bought or homemade)
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- Pinch of ground nutmeg
- 1 1/2 teaspoons mellow white miso (soy allergy use chickpea miso)
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 tsp dried Italian herb mix
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, more or less to taste
- 1 1/2 TB arrowroot starch
- 1 TB olive oil
- 1 shallot, minced, about 1/4 cup
- 5 oz spinach (1 clamshell), chopped
- black pepper
- 1 cup canned Artichokes in water (whole, quartered or hearts), drained and chopped
- olive oil or vegan butter for greasing
- Marinara dipping sauce, homemade or store bought (recipe below)
Preheat oven to 400˚F. Generously grease the cups of a nonstick mini muffin tin with the butter or oil. If making marinara, start it now so that it can simmer while you prepare the ricotta bites.
Break the tofu into smaller chunks and place in the bowl of a food processor with all ricotta ingredients. Blend until smooth (the texture of ricotta). Set aside.
Saute the shallot in 1 TB olive oil for about 3 minutes, until soft. Add spinach and season to taste with a couple pinches salt and black pepper. Saute 3 minutes until it softens and shrinks. Stir in the chopped artichokes and Set aside to cool.
Mix the spinach mixture with the tofu ricotta, and season to taste w/ salt and pepper.
Drop the ricotta mixture into the muffin tins by the tablespoonful.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the edges are dark golden, and tops are darkened in places. Allow to cool for 5 minutes. The ricotta bites should lift easily from the pan. If they feel stuck, use a butter knife to coax the edges and bottom out of the tins. Serve hot with Marinara sauce.
Marinara Dipping Sauce
This is a simple, herbed marinara sauce. This recipe will make more than you’ll need for dipping. The leftovers make a great pasta sauce, and can be frozen for later use.
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 24 oz can crushed tomatoes
- 2 teaspoons dried italian herbs
- salt to taste
- crushed red pepper to taste (optional)
Saute garlic 1 min, add tomatoes, herbs, crushed red pepper (if using), and salt to taste. Bring to a boil over med-high heat. Lower to a high simmer, cook for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, and lowering heat if it begins to stick to the bottom of the pan. Taste and adjust seasonings.