Spread some six-layer dip (bottom left

Spread some six-layer dip (bottom left

FOOD FEATURE: Dip into these fresh summer choices

Recipes for appetizers and/or dips, great for summer lunches and entertaining.

Appetizers and/or dips are great for summer lunches and entertaining. For the most part, they can be prepared ahead of time, freeing you to spend time with your family and guests.

Whether you’re hanging around the lake, pool, or backyard, dips and appetizers can fill the void for any meal.

Today I have three appetizer choices and one dessert-style dip for you to try.

The first is a Moroccan carrot dip which can also be used thinned out as a salad dressing. It’s vegan as is the red lentil recipe.

If you like taco seasonings, the six-layer dip will suit your favour and is always a hit with the teens.

The last recipe is for all chocolate lovers out there (and children) and is the finishing touch for a meal of appies, hors d’oeuvres, and delicious dips.

Moroccan Carrot Dip

(vegan, gluten-free, oil-free)

1 cup raw carrot, cut in discs or small chunks (roughly 4 – 4 1/2 oz.)

1/3 cup raw cashews

2 – 2 ½ tsp. apple cider vinegar or coconut vinegar

1 small clove garlic (or ½ medium clove)

½ – 1 tsp. fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped

1/8 tsp. cinnamon (little scant)

½ tsp. ground cumin

½ tsp. ground coriander

¼ tsp. ground fennel

¼ tsp. (rounded) sea salt (plus more to taste if needed)

Freshly ground black pepper (use conservatively)

½ cup water (or more to thin as needed, see note)

1 tbsp. olive oil (completely optional, omit for oil-free)

Using a standing blender (high-powered works best to smooth), purée all the ingredients (starting with 2 teaspoons of the vinegar) until very smooth. Taste and add extra vinegar if you wish, and season with additional salt and pepper, if desired. For a thinner dip, add more water (plus another 2 to 3 tablespoons more, if desired, to thin out a little more for use as a salad dressing). Makes about 1-1/4 cups.

Serving Suggestions: Surprise your guests with this uniquely flavored and colored dip—try serving as a centerpiece dip for crudités or with raw dipping breads. Also try tossing it into a salad, for a more substantial lunch salad.

SIX-Layer Dip

1  fully ripe avocado, cut in half, divided

1 pkg. (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened

1 cup  sour cream

2 tbsp. taco seasoning mix

3 tbsp. thick and chunky salsa

1 small tomato, chopped

3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

2  green onions, sliced

Mash half the avocado with cream cheese until well blended; spread onto bottom of pie plate. Mix sour cream and seasoning mix; spread over cream cheese mixture. Chop remaining avocado; mix with salsa. Spread over sour cream layer; cover with remaining ingredients.

Refrigerate several hours or until chilled.

Red Lentil & Sweet Potato Paté


1 tbsp. olive oil, plus extra for drizzling

1/2 onion, finely chopped

1 tsp. smoked paprika, plus a little extra

1 small sweet potato, peeled and diced (yam is fine too)

5 ounces red lentils

3 fresh thyme sprigs, leaves chopped, plus a little extra to decorate (optional)

2 cups low sodium vegetable broth

1 tsp. red wine vinegar

Pita bread and vegetable sticks, to serve

Heat the oil in a large pan, add the onion and cook slowly until soft and golden. Tip in the paprika and cook for a further 2 minutes, then add the sweet potato, lentils, thyme and stock.

Bring to a simmer, then cook for 20 minutes or until the potato and lentils are tender.

Add the vinegar and some seasoning, and roughly mash the mixture until you get a texture you like. Chill for one hour, then drizzle with olive oil, dust with the extra paprika and sprinkle with thyme sprigs, if you like. Serve with pita bread and vegetable sticks.

Brownie Batter Dip

8 oz. cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup butter, softened

2- 1/2 cups powdered sugar

5 tbsp. all purpose flour

5 tbsp. cocoa powder

3 tbsp. brown sugar

2-3 tbsp. milk

1 tsp. vanilla

1 tsp sea salt

1 cup mini chocolate chips

In a stand mixer, beat together the cream cheese and the butter until smooth. Add the brown sugar, cocoa powder, flour, vanilla, salt, and one tablespoon of milk. Mix until mostly smooth. (May stay a little lumpy until all the other ingredients are added.) Add the powdered sugar and another tablespoon of milk. Beat until smooth.

Add another tablespoon of milk if the dip is too thick for your liking, but I usually stop at two tablespoons.

Mix in the chocolate chips.

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator until serving. Serves 8-12 .Our favourite dippers are twisted pretzels, or serve with graham crackers, apples, and/or strawberries.

Cathi Litzenberger is the longtime food columnist with The Morning Star,.