Spinach Bacon Party Dip Becomes Mac-n-Cheese

Kaki!

I made the most amazing discovery this last week.  You can turn leftover sour-cream dip into macaroni and cheese.  And it’s delicious!

This is one of the most improvised dishes I’ve made in a long time.  I certainly used recipes as guides (specifically this dip recipe and this mac-n-cheese recipe), but mostly used what I had on hand and just added ingredients as I went.  Wild, I know.  I hardly knew myself.

I made the dip because Cooper had a casual get-together last week to announce the gender of her baby (it’s a girl!).  And she was getting champagne and cupcakes, so when I offered to bring something, savory was the order of the day.  I raided my pantry: what did I have that I could use?  One lonely, long forgotten packet of Lipton’s Onion and Mushroom Soup Mix was retrieved from the back of the cabinet.  Yes, this and some sour cream on some crackers or a baguette, yes, perfect.  Except surely we can jazz up a dip more than that…  Yup, four pieces of bacon and maybe 4-5 ounces of frozen spinach awaited me in the freezer.  Whipped it all up, brought it to the party, great success.

Then I brought a bit home, though the baguette had long since been eaten.  What to do with the leftover dip?  It’s creamy… cream sauce… cream sauce with pasta… MAC-N-CHEESE!  That was my thought process, almost exactly.

I must say this was delicious, exceeding my expectations by a long shot.  I probably wouldn’t run out and buy some instant soup mix just to make it, in that packets of dried mixes aren’t usually my thing.  But since I already had it, I’m glad it could go to good use!  And it was great fun working through the creative process of putting it together.

And so, from the pantry to my brain to your computer, I bring you:  Spinach Bacon Party Dip and Spinach Bacon Mac-N-Cheese!

Spinach Bacon Party Dip

(makes 2 or so cups of dip)

1 8 oz. container sour cream

2-3 tablespoons plain yogurt

1 packet Onion and Mushroom Soup Mix

4 slices bacon*

2 roma tomatoes, seeded and diced

5 oz frozen spinach (or more, as your freezer and taste dictates)

Baguette or crackers, to serve

*I think you could substitute some kind of seed or nut here to make it vegetarian.  Toasted pine nuts, maybe?  Sunflower kernels?  A roasted, spicy pumpkin seed of some kind?

Directions:

  1. Mix sour cream, yogurt, and soup mix in a medium bowl.
  2. Microwave bacon for 2-3 minutes, until crispy.  (Be watching, as this can burn quickly!)  Drain fat (into the container you keep in your fridge for bacon fat, of course), and set aside to cool slightly.
  3. In a small bowl, microwave the spinach 1-2 minutes, until warmed through.  Transfer spinach to a strainer.  Over the sink, press on the spinach with the back of a spoon or use your hands to squeeze as much water out as possible.  Keep squeezing and pressing, there’s a lot of water in there!
  4. Add the drained spinach to the sour cream mixture, breaking it up with your fingers as you add it to make it easier to incorporate.  Stir.
  5. Add the seeded, diced tomatoes to the sour cream mixture.  Stir.
  6. Dice the bacon (or even just crumble with your fingers) and add to the sour cream mixture.  Stir.
  7. Let flavors meld in the fridge until party time, hopefully an hour to two.
  8. Slice up your baguette or open up your crackers, and you’re good to go!

This was still pretty good a couple of days later, so one could conceivably make this a day or two in advance of a party as well, and just keep it covered in the fridge.

Not bad for having sat in the fridge for four days!

Not bad for having sat in the fridge for four days!

Spinach Bacon Mac-N-Cheese

(Makes 4 servings.  Unless you pick at it with a fork straight from the fridge as a late-night snack.  Then you’ll get 3 1/2 servings.)

(All of these measurements are estimates, since I sort of just threw whatever I had into a casserole dish and baked it.)

1 cup Spinach Bacon Party Dip

1 1/2 – 2 cups white cheddar cheese, shredded

1/2 – 3/4 cup milk

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

6 oz (half a box) of penne pasta, uncooked (We’re going to par-boil it and then bake it.  Just FYI.)

1 tablespoon butter

1/2 – 3/4 cup Panko breadcrumbs

Directions

  1. Pre-heat your over to 375*F.  Grease a 6-cup baking dish or similar (I used a 10-inch round casserole dish).
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the dip, shredded cheese, milk, and cayenne, mixing well to combine.
  3. Bring a pot of water to a boil.  Add the uncooked pasta, stir, and return to a boil, cooking for 6 minutes (of the 10 minutes suggested cooking time).  The outside should feel sort of cooked, but the inside should seem pretty undercooked.  This isn’t al dente, it’s like two steps before al dente.  Okay, that only made sense in my head, but… anyway…
  4. Drain the pasta in the sink, and rinse with cool water to cool the noodles. (We don’t want them melting the cheese just yet, that’s the oven’s job!)
  5. Add the pasta to the cheese mixture.  Stir to combine.
  6. In a small skillet, melt the butter over medium heat.  Once fully melted, add the breadcrumbs and stir to coat with the butter.  Lightly toast the breadcrumbs in the pan until golden-brown.
  7. Pour the cheese and pasta mixture into the greased baking dish.  Top evenly with the buttery breadcrumbs.  Cover dish with aluminum foil and bake for 25-30 minutes.  Remove foil and bake 5-10 minutes more, or until the top is a nice “Mmmm, that looks delicious!” color.
  8. Take the dish out of the oven, and let it cool for 5-10 minutes to let the melty, gooey cheese firm up just a touch.  When I took my first piece out it looked like the sauce had separated a bit, but it was still phenomenally tasty.  However, the rest of the pieces I had didn’t seem like the sauce had broken at all, so I can only think that cooling it just a little more may have helped it gel together.
The melty cheese!  The crunch bread crumbs!  Uh, heaven.

The melty cheese!  The crunchy bread crumbs!  Uh, heaven.

Have a great rest of the week, Kaki.  I hope it entails lots of butter and cheese!

–Caitlin

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