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Originally published Tuesday, April 3, 2012 at 1:00 PM

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Recipe: Lighter Spinach and Artichoke Dip

This is a lighter version of the traditional Spinach and Artichoke Dip.

For The Associated Press

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Spinach and artichoke dip sounds like it should be a virtuous treat. After all, it's loaded with vegetables.

Trouble is, it's usually more mayonnaise and cheese than spinach and artichoke. So we decided to see if we could come up with a version that isn't so out of sync with healthy eating.

First order of business was to nix the mayonnaise. But, of course, we wanted something that had a great creamy texture and that could be heated. Greek style yogurt blended with low-fat cream cheese (Neufchatel) worked beautifully. It even added a subtle tang which we enhanced with some lemon zest for a nice spring flavor profile. Some fresh herbs took it ever further.

Next up, dealing with the cheese. We handled the inner gooey-ness with the aforementioned cream cheese. But often there also is a pile of cheese or breadcrumbs (or both) on the top. After it's broiled, we wanted that textural contrast and the toastiness that comes with it.

We found that crushed and seasoned whole-grain crackers worked well. Just note that different varieties of crackers can have widely varying nutrition. So be sure to read the labels carefully to select a whole-grain cracker with modest amounts of fat and calories. Aim for around 100 to 120 calories and 4 grams of fat per serving. You'll also want about 3 to 4 grams each of protein and fiber.

Lastly — and most importantly — was upping the amount of spinach and artichoke. We wentwith canned artichokes for ease. They also are available frozen. Either way, be sure to get the variety in water, not oil. Fresh baby spinach got a quick saute with onion and garlic before being added. Serve the warm dip with whole-wheat pita chips, baked tortilla chips or veggie sticks.

Spinach and Artichoke Dip

Makes 8 servings

1 ounce (1 serving) whole-grain crackers, crushed

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon onion powder

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

6 ounces plain nonfat Greek yogurt

4 ounces low-fat cream cheese (Neufchatel)

1 teaspoon lemon zest

2 teaspoons minced fresh oregano

2 teaspoons minced fresh mint

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small yellow onion, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

5-ounces fresh baby spinach

1 can (14-ounce) artichoke hearts, lightly chopped

1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Coat a small casserole or gratin dish with cooking spray.

2. In a small bowl, combine the cracker crumbs, garlic powder, onion powder and Parmesan. Set aside.

3. In a food processor, combine the yogurt, cream cheese, lemon zest, oregano, mint, salt and pepper. Pulse until smooth.

4. In a large skillet over medium-high, heat the oil. Add the onion and garlic and saute until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the spinach and cook until soft and any liquid has evaporated, about another 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the artichokes and the yogurt mixture. Spoon into the prepared dish.

5. Sprinkle the cracker crumb mixture over the dip and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until hot. Serve warm.

Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 120 calories; 45 calories from fat (37 percent of total calories); 5 g fat (2 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 10 mg cholesterol; 14 g carbohydrate; 6 g protein; 3 g fiber; 560 mg sodium.

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