Do you ever find yourself just a wee bit obsessed with a particular recipe or method of cooking? I have a confession to make: as soon as I created my Acorn Squash Cheese Spread with Spinach and Artichokes a short time ago, I was hooked. Oh so very hooked. As much as I adore that recipe, the fact of the matter is that creating it in those perfect and beautiful acorn squash cups is not something I want to do for a crowd of people. Enter: an individual cheesy squash fondue.
You’re still going to get those same cheesy, comforting, wonderful flavors from the original recipe, but with these individual portions, you’re set to feed a dinner party…or have some leftovers to pop in the oven for yourself the next day. Hey – I’m just being honest. And it’s totally ok if you do that…because I sure did.
One of my biggest downfalls when it comes to appetizers is a spinach and artichoke dip, so I am glad to now have a version that is indulgent…but has the added benefit of the squash involved in the recipe. I like how the squash adds an extra bit of thick and creamy texture so I don’t have to fully load my appetizer with cream cheese and other heavy dairy. Of course, there is still fat free half and half, a touch of Neufchatel cheese, and a healthy dose of Gruyere…but hey, it could be worse! You could take this to the next level of indulgence and substitute heavy cream for the half and half – I imagine that would have some very rich and tasty results. And if you would rather go for regular cream cheese in place of the Neufchatel, that will also work! Options – you have them!
And speaking of options…if you don’t want these to be individual in size, you could bake all of these ingredients in a larger casserole dish (a 9×9 inch would probably be the best size). It would be great for a party atmosphere or get together as well. In fact, I did happen to serve it that way at a family meal this past week and it went over very well!
I paired this particular dish with one of our newest go-to red wine blends: the Kitchen Sink Red Reserve. It is a blend of Zinfandel, Syrah, Merlot, and Petite Sirah from California, and it is a crowd pleaser that only costs about $10.99. Score! So – will you be whipping up a batch of fondue and uncorking a bottle in the near future? I sure hope so…
- 10 ounces frozen cubed butternut squash
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 8 ounces fresh spinach, chopped
- 7 ounces canned artichoke heats, drained and chopped
- 2 ounces Neufchatel cheese
- 1 cup fat free half and half
- 2 cups Gruyere cheese, freshly grated
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Fresh baguette, sliced
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- Distribute the cubed butternut squash in the bottom of 6-8 small ramekins and season lightly with salt and pepper.
- Next, melt the butter in a large pan over medium heat. Add the spinach leaves and allow them to wilt for about 2 minutes. Add the artichoke hearts and saute for an additional 3-4 minutes. Remove pan from the heat and set aside.
- In a large bowl, mix together the Neufchatel cheese and the half and half. Add in the spinach and artichoke mixture and stir until incorporated. Ladle this mixture evenly into the ramekins.
- Add the freshly grated Gruyere cheese to the top of each ramekin.
- Place the ramekins on a large baking sheet, cover lightly with a piece of aluminum foil, and place in the oven to bake for one hour. If you'd like your baguette to be warm, place it in the oven wrapped in aluminum foil in the last few minutes of baking.
- Finally, remove the aluminum foil from the top of the baking pan (and remove the bread if it is being warmed), turn the broiler to high, and cook for an additional 5 minutes, until cheese is golden brown and bubbling.
- Remove from oven and carefully place the ramekins on serving plates alongside baguette. Allow to rest for about 3-4 minutes before serving (so you won't burn yourself!). Dip, spread, and enjoy!