Harvest Parties and Holiday Gatherings

After a few hours of lounging around in my pajamas and fuzzy socks, digesting brunch and catching up on my social media, I inevitably become bored. Not being one who likes to squander a gorgeous fall weekend, I start planning a real “party” . . .but one with very little work!

This time of year, if we’re not tailgating at a live game, we’ll typically have family and friends over to watch college football or even get moving ourselves with a little touch football competition in the backyard. Of course, food is in order to fuel all this fun, but I hate being stuck in the kitchen playing chef. I see nothing wrong making the get-together potluck and asking guest to each bring a favorite dish to share. Of course, I’m sharing too – and most recently it was this delicious and easy blender recipe for Baked Butternut Ricotta Dip.

Comforting and ooey-gooey, this warm dish reminds of spinach artichoke dip but with a seasonal veggie spin – butternut squash. This veggie is one of the quintessential flavors of fall and can be seasoned to be sweet or savory. I’ve gone the savory route and used  Homestyle Ranch Dressing by Litehouse Foods to easily add that creamy texture and fresh herb taste America loves. 

 For convenience, this appetizer recipe uses frozen cubed butternut squash, so don’t worry about wrangling and chopping up a whole, huge one. Nobody I know has time for that. Thawed, cubed butternut is pureed with Ranch dressing and ricotta cheese right in the blender. Then grated mozzarella and spinach are stirred in before baking to bubbling, browned goodness. How easy is that?!

 I top with roasted pine nuts and chopped sundried tomatoes before serving with a sliced baguette. Of course, crackers and vegetable sticks always make good dippers. In the rare event I have leftovers, the Hot Ranch Butternut Ricotta Dip used as the filling for the most epic grilled sandwich.

Baked Butternut Squash Ricotta Dip

Serves 12 | Finish in 30
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Dip into the season with this amazing, ooey-gooey, cheesy hot appetizer featuring butternut squash and ranch dressing. So delicious for fall season entertaining including “homegating,” harvest parties and holiday gatherings

Ingredients

1 cup Homestyle Ranch dressing from Litehouse Foods

2 cups cubed frozen butternut squash, thawed

1 cup low-fat ricotta cheese

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground white pepper

½ teaspoon dried red pepper flakes

3 cups fresh baby spinach leaves

1 tablespoon water

1 cup low-fat shredded mozzarella cheese (divided)

Garnish: chopped sun-dried tomato, pine nuts chopped fresh parsley

Directions

Add ranch dressing to blender, top with thawed butternut squash, ricotta cheese, salt, ground pepper and red pepper flakes. Blend until combined and mostly smooth, stopping blender and using a spoon to redistribute ingredients as needed.
Add fresh spinach and water to microwave save container, top loosely with lid to allow steam to escape. Microwave for 30 to 45 seconds or until spinach softened. When cool enough to handle, drain off liquid and squeeze out juices from spinach.
Loosen spinach out of tightly packed ball and add to blender, pulsing in a couple seconds at a time.
Without blending, stir in ¾ cup mozzarella cheese. Scrape this mixture into an 8” diameter pie pan or other 5 to 6 cup capacity baking dish. Top with remaining mozzarella cheese.
Bake at 375 F degrees for approximately 20 minutes until heated through and cheese bubbling and browning on top.
Remove from oven, top with extras like sundried tomatoes, pine nuts and chopped parsley.
Serve with chips, large croutons, bread or veggie sticks.


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