butternut squash + caramelized onion cheese dip.

There is a crisp chill in the air that says the holidays are right around the corner, and you need this addicting, nuanced, insanely flavorful dip for all of your upcoming events! Roasted butternut squash gets mixed with sweet caramelized onions, sage (sensing a theme here at PTL?) cream cheese and cheddar to make one ridiculous dip. Bonus? It’s even better the second day.

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I found this recipe over on Serious Eats, and had it bookmarked for eons. I finally made it a few weeks ago for a party, and while absolutely delicious, it was almost too rich. Say what? It may sound sacrilegious, but I found the combination of butter, cream cheese, cheese, AND sour cream (omitted for my version below) was so incredibly rich that is overpowered the sweetness of the squash and onions. In my adaptation, we’re using neufchâtel cheese, or the 1/3 less fat cream cheese, skipping over the sour cream completely, and upping the flavor by using half sharp cheddar and half fontina.

I made it this way for a Friendsgiving, and it was a total rave. I was able to snap a few photos quickly before I left my house, but I didn’t take any of the dip at the dinner — I was too entranced by wonderful friends and a sensational table setting!  P.S. – I am so, so thankful for wonderful friends! They are absolutely the family I got to choose. ❤

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Now, I’m not going to lie. This is dip is time intensive, although the steps are simple enough, this is not something you can whip together in 20 minutes. I suggest you roast the roast while you fry the sage and then caramelize the onions. Once that’s done, you toss the vegetables in a food processor, give it a whirl, and then add in the cream cheese, cheddar, fontina, and season it up. You can store it this way in the fridge for up to 3 days before you bake it off – amazing for entertaining!

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butternut squash cheese dip.
adapted from Serious Eats. 

ingredients
3.5 pound butternut squash, peeled, cored, and cut into 1 inch cubes
1 sweet onion, sliced
3 garlic cloves, separated but not peeled
4 tablespoons butter
20 sage leaves
1 block neufchâtel cheese
1 cup cheddar cheese
1 cup fontina cheese
sea salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil

directions
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss the butternut squash with the oil and season with salt and pepper. Nestle garlic cloves in between the squash. Roast on a baking sheet sprayed with nonstick cooking spray or additional oil for 15-20 minutes, tossing halfway through. Once tender, remove from the oven and set aside.

While the squash is cooking, heat the butter in a skillet over medium heat and add the sage leaves. Cook for 3-5 minutes, or until the butter is melted and the sage leaves are crispy. Remove the sage with a slotted spoon and set aside. Lower the heat to low and add the sliced onions. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently for 35-40 minutes, until the onions are tender, golden brown and caramelized but not crisp, and are very fragrant. If they start to stick to the pan, add a splash of water. Once they are finished, remove from heat and set aside.

In a food processor fitted with the mixing blade, add the squash, garlic (squeeze the cloves out of their paper ‘jackets’ once cool enough to handle), onions and about 2/3 of the crispy sage leaves and process until well combined. Next add in the cream cheese and process again until well combined. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper if desired.

Transfer the dip mixture into a small baking dish (I used an 8×8 pan here) that was sprayed with nonstick cooking spray and mix in half the fontina and cheddar into the dip and sprinkle the rest of the cheeses on top. *The dip can be stored for up to 3 days at this point*

To serve: bake in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes until the dip is warmed through and bubbly on top. Serve warm with wheat crackers, tortilla or pita chips.

Serves 8-10.

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arugula walnut pesto (vegan!).

Sometimes you have lightbulb moments in cooking. Whether it’s realizing that you can freeze pasta or rice and it’ll still taste great when thawed and reheated, or finding out that bacon drippings make devilishly delicious salad dressings, I love those ‘ah ha!’ moments. One that happened recently to me is the realization that you can make pesto out of pretty much anything. I love classic basil pesto, but always hesitated because pine nuts are just so freaking expensive. Once I learned that you can use pretty much any nut you want, well, it was the starting point of my pesto revolution. Walnuts, hazelnuts, brazil nuts, even sunflower seeds work in pesto!

Revolution might sound crazy, but it’s true! What happens when you are craving bright, fresh pesto and all the fresh basil at your store looks, well, not so fresh in the middle of January? Swap in any green you like! My love for arugula is well documented on this site, it’s peppery flavor is just perfection, especially since we want a strong punch of flavor in this pesto, as it’s vegan!

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That’s right – no parmesan cheese here! Trust me, you won’t even miss it. Peppery arugula, rich walnuts packed full of anti-inflammatory nutrients, garlic and lemon zest make for an incredibly delicious spread. Make sure to use very good extra-virgin olive oil, and ice cold water. Season with salt and pepper to taste. This is delicious mixed into pasta, spread on toast topped blistered cherry tomatoes, or mixed into plain Greek yogurt and served as a dip alongside crudite. The possibilities are endless.

arugula walnut pesto.

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ingredients

1 cup (packed) baby arugula, washed and dried
1/3 cup parsley, leaves and stems
1/4 cup walnuts
1 garlic clove
1 teaspoon lemon zest
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons cold water
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

directions

In a food processor fitted with the blade, add the arugula, parsley, walnuts, garlic lemon zest, cold water, salt and pepper (if desired). Process for 30 seconds or until chopped and combined, stopping and scraping the sides of the bowl as needed.

While the food processor is running, slowly drizzle in olive oil until well combined. If too thick, add more cold water by the tablespoon until you’ve reached your desired consistency.

Makes about 1 cup. Use immediately or store in an air tight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.

**Please use organic ingredients wherever possible** 

white bean dip with roasted red peppers and rosemary.

I love dips. Hummus, eggplant, spinach artichoke…. all good. They’re easy to prepare and always a hit at parties. Now that football season is in full swing, you don’t even need an excuse for preparing a spread of snacks for you and your friends in the middle of the afternoon!

For your next party, you should try this white bean dip. Growing up, I hated beans. My mom never cooked with them, so the only bean I would go near was of the string variety. As I’ve gotten older, my tastes have expanded, and I’ve come to love several kinds of legumes. White beans (also known as cannellini or white kidney) and I are still kind of frenemies, except when it comes to this dip. It’s similar in texture to hummus. The roasted red peppers add a nice kick, and fresh rosemary is necessary in this dish. I normally hate to say that an ingredient is mandatory, but I tried it with both dried and fresh rosemary, and you definitely need that woody fresh flavor from the fresh herb.

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I love this dip because it’s inherently healthy, and you can up the health factor even more by serving it alongside some cut up veggies at your next get together. I like to serve it up with a mix of veggies and homemade pita chips (so simple, just cup up some fresh pita, drizzle with a touch of olive oil and salt and cook for 15 minutes at 350, turning over once halfway through cooking).

Next time you have a dip craving, try this one out! It’s a great alternative to hummus, and it’ll convince any bean hater in your life!

white bean dip with roasted red peppers and rosemary.
inspired by smitten kitchen.

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ingredients

1 12 oz. jar of roasted red peppers (I like the ones from Trader Joe’s)
2 14 oz. cans of white (cannellini) beans, drained
3 garlic cloves
1.5 tablespoons fresh rosemary
juice of one small lemon
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

directions

Add garlic to the blender and pulse a few times. Add drained beans, roasted red peppers and puree until combined. Open and add rosemary, lemon juice, red pepper, salt and black pepper and puree for additional 1-2 minutes until smooth. Chill and serve with vegetables and pita chips.