Is there a chip dip in the world that isn't wonderful? No matter what the flavor, at heart most are tubs of sour cream or melted cheese. Few foods are more satisfying.

Of course, most dips also are notoriously heavy with fat and calories. Indeed, that's why we love them. Still, I figured there must be ways to lighten them up while retaining their luxurious texture.

I started by bulking up on the vegetables, in this case, artichokes and spinach. All these veggies and cheese cried out for some heat. I ended up using red pepper flakes and Peppadews, which are pickled red peppers from South Africa, hot and sweet and about the size of cherry tomatoes. You can swap in pickled cherry peppers or even roasted red peppers instead.

The finishing touches? Caramelized onions and garlic. Take the time to cook the onions slowly, which brings out their natural sugar. It adds a nice depth of flavor to the mix.

Hot and Spicy Artichoke Spinach Dip

Makes about 4 cups

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil

11/2 cups finely chopped yellow onion

1 tablespoon minced garlic

13.75-ounce can artichoke hearts, drained

10-ounce box frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry

4 ounces Neufchatel (low-fat cream cheese)

1/2 cup low-fat sour cream

2 tablespoons low-fat mayonnaise

1 ounce freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (about 3/4 cup grated using a wand-style grater)

1/2 cup medium chopped mild Peppadew peppers (about 2 ounces), or medium chopped roasted red peppers

1/2 to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste

Kosher salt

Crackers or low-fat pita crisps, to serve

Directions

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Coat an 8-inch square baking pan with cooking spray.

In a medium skillet over medium-low, heat the oil. Add the onion and saute, covered, stirring occasionally, for 8 minutes. Uncover the pan and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the onions are golden brown, about another 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.

In a food processor, pulse the artichokes until they are medium chopped, then transfer them to the skillet.

In the food processor combine the spinach, cream cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise and half of the Parmigiano-Reggiano, then process until mixed. Add the mixture to the skillet, along with the peppers and pepper flakes. Stir well, then season with salt.

Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan, sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top and bake on the oven's middle shelf for 15 to 20 minutes, or until it is bubbling at the edges. Serve immediately with crackers or low-fat pita crisps.

Nutrition information per 1/2 cup: 150 calories; 80 calories from fat (53 percent of total calories); 9g fat (4g saturated; 0g trans fats); 20mg cholesterol; 13g carbohydrate; 4g fiber; 2g sugar; 7g protein; 540mg sodium.