Mexican Seven-Layer Dip from the AICR

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The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) supports research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk. They interpret the scientific literature and educate the public about those risks. Every other week, the AICR test kitchen publishes a carefully prepared recipe for a dish designed to encourage healthier lifestyle choices among the public.

This week's dish is a Mexican seven-layer dip.

Sinful dishes associated with watching football can be modified to reduce their calories, like making brownies using less butter and sugar or replacing fatty beef in chili with lean ground turkey. Happily, a properly planned seven-layer dip does not need this tweaking.

Talking deliciousness plus good nutrition, I cannot think of a comfort food combining as many smart choices as this dip. Everything in it is good, starting with fiber-rich beans topped by layers including lycopene-loaded tomatoes, phytonutrient-rich onion, creamy avocado with good fat, plus vitamin C-rich spinach, which is my creative way to add a fresh, leafy green. The jalapenos, lime juice, cilantro and cumin that add flavor bring health benefits, too. Even the sour cream dolloped on top provides some calcium. In fact, your biggest challenge with this colorful, sloppy, slurpy dip – since calories do count – is not eating too much of it. And dare to serve it with crisp, whole-grain pita chips rather than scooping it up with corn chips whose calories (even the baked kind) quickly add up.

For best flavors, I urge you to make everything from scratch. But you can buy canned refried beans low in sodium and fat and guacamole made with ingredients you would use if you cannot find a properly ripe avocado to mash up for your dip.

Finally, if stopping after a couple of scoops is impossible, go ahead and make this dip the main dish. Shared with a few friends, it is filling and eye-filling enough to star front and center on the coffee table while watching the game, at a tailgate picnic, or to anchor a holiday buffet. Just add a green salad, a fruit platter, and – let’s be real – a batch of those healthier brownies!

Mexican Seven-Layer Dip

  • 1 very ripe large avocado or 2 small avocados
  • 1 tsp. fresh lime juice
  • 3/4 tsp. salt, divided
  • 2 tsp. canola oil
  • 1 can (15 oz.) no salt added black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup firmly packed baby spinach, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped scallions, green part only
  • 1 cup bottled salsa, mild or medium hot
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed cilantro leaves
  • 1 cup chopped seeded plum tomatoes (2 large tomatoes)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped white onion
  • 2-4 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh jalapeño pepper, seeded
  • 1/2 cup light sour cream

Instructions

Lightly coat 8-inch x 8-inch x 2-inch glass baking dish or 2 quart bowl with cooking spray and set aside.

Halve and pit avocado. Scoop flesh into small bowl and mash with fork until lumpy. Add lime juice, 1/4 teaspoon salt and mash until avocado is almost smooth. Set aside.

In medium skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add beans, cumin, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 4 grinds pepper. With a sturdy fork, mash and mix beans until chunky and hot, 3 minutes. Spoon beans into prepared dish, smoothing them to an even layer. Immediately, cover hot beans with spinach and scallions.

Dollop avocado over spinach layer, then using back of spoon, gently spread it to cover greens. Spoon salsa over avocado, and then sprinkle cilantro over salsa. Distribute chopped tomatoes over cilantro. Sprinkle onions, and jalapeño, if using, over tomatoes. To complete dip, drop sour cream in 6 dollops over tomatoes and with back of spoon slightly flatten each into a swirl.

Serve immediately, accompanied by baked tortilla chips or whole-wheat pita, split, cut into wedges and toasted.

Makes 6 servings.

Per serving: 173 calories, 8 g total fat (2 g saturated fat), 21 g carbohydrate, 6 g protein, 6 g dietary fiber, 576 mg sodium.

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