This is the time of year for entertaining, and sometimes we get a bit tired of the same-old same-old cheese ball, dip, and veggie platter. Here’s a fancy and festive recipe for a hot appetizer spread that’s easy to put together but makes a big impression on guests!

Cranberry and Artichoke Spread

1 Tbsp butter
1 onion, finely chopped
1 green onion (shallot), minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
8-oz. pkg cream cheese
1/2 cup mozarella cheese, grated
2 cups ricotta cheese
4 or 5 sun-dried tomatoes, coarsely hopped
1/2 cup dried cranberries, chopped
19-oz. can artichoke hearts
1 Tbsp each of fresh basil, parsley, and sage

Melt the butter in a large skillet, and saute the onion, shallot, and garlic until golden.
Put the three cheeses into a food processor and process them until they are smoothly blended. Add the tomatoes, cranberries, artichoke hearts, and chopped fresh herbs, and process just until blended.

Place the mixture in an ovenproof bowl or small casserole (this makes about 4 cups of spread) and back at 350°F for 30 minutes. Serve hot with pita bread triangles or lightly-toasted slices of a French baguette.

If the sun-dried tomatoes are quite dry, soak them in hot water for a few minutes before chopping.

You can use either plain or marinated artichoke hearts for this recipe, and light or low-fat ricotta cheese instead of regular. Do use fresh herbs, however, and don’t try to substitute dried herbs here. It makes all the difference!

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