We could offer to party-throwers a menu of heart-healthy recipes, but let’s be honest: Party-goers crave something they know isn’t especially good for them.
Here’s the challenge: You want your food to be so delicious-looking that it makes everyone’s mouth water, but healthful enough that no one feels guilty about eating a ton.
Both can be assembled beforehand and then refrigerated, ready to be popped into the oven just before your guests arrive.
Warm butternut squash
and cheddar dip
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling and greasing
1 large butternut squash (about 3 1/2 pounds)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/2 stick), more if needed
20 sage leaves
1 large onion, thinly sliced
4 medium cloves garlic, minced
8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream
8 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded
Crackers or pita chips, to dip
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil. Grease a small baking dish with olive oil and set aside.
Peel, seed, and dice the squash into 1-inch cubes. Alternatively, use the microwave: Poke holes all over the squash with a fork or make shallow slits in the skin with a knife. Microwave squash for 3 minutes or until the skin and flesh have softened slightly. Peel squash and cut into cubes. Discard seeds.
Place squash cubes on the prepared sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Toss to coat. Season generously with salt and pepper. Roast squash until fork-tender and lightly browned, about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, melt butter in a large pan over medium heat. Add sage leaves and fry in butter until lightly crisped and beginning to darken slightly. Remove pan from heat and remove sage leaves using a slotted spoon. Set aside.
Return pan to heat, add onion, and season with salt and pepper. Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until onion has caramelized, about 30 minutes. Add more butter if onion begins to stick to pan. Stir in garlic at the very end and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Place roasted squash, caramelized onion mixture, and about 2/3 of the crispy sage leaves into the bowl of a food processor. Process until well combined. Add cream cheese and sour cream and process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper, if necessary. Transfer squash mixture to prepared baking dish and mix in half of the cheddar cheese throughout. Top with remaining half of cheese. (At this point, the dip can be covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days before baking and serving.)
When ready to serve, bake dip at 400 degrees until cheese is entirely melted and browned in spots, about 20 minutes. Top with remaining crispy sage leaves and serve warm with pita chips or crackers for dipping.
Sausage bean spinach dip
Yield: about 6 cups
1 medium-sized sweet onion, peeled and diced
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and diced
1 pound hot ground sausage
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 (6-ounce) bag fresh baby spinach, coarsely chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded Parmesan cheese
Corn chip scoops, red bell peppers, pita chips and/or pretzels
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Cook diced onions, bell pepper and sausage in a large skillet over medium-high heat, stirring often, 8 to 10 minutes or until meat crumbles and is no longer pink. Drain.
Stir in garlic and thyme; cook 1 minute.
Stir in wine; cook for 2 minutes or until liquid has almost completely evaporated.
Add cream cheese, and cook, stirring constantly, 2 minutes or until cream cheese is melted. Stir in spinach and salt, and cook, stirring constantly, 2 minutes or until spinach is wilted.
Gently stir in beans.
Pour mixture into a shallow 2-quart baking dish. (If skillet is ovenproof, bake dip in the skillet, if desired.) Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with chips, pepper strips, pita chips or pretzels.
From “The Southern Living Community Cookbook,” by Sheri Castle (Oxmoor House, 2014)