Fall Fiesta

October 30, 2009 at 5:43 pm Leave a comment

stuffed baked squash 001   When a mostly cloudy week starts to dribble over into the weekend, then gets blasted aside by a burst of midday sunshine beaming down onto vibrant late-turning leaves, it’s time for a celebration.  We invite our Hispanic friends over for dinner, set up a centerpiece of gathered cattails, and put some Corona Extras on ice.  While I am not about to compete with the marvelous cooking skills of our El Salvadoran and Mexican acquaintances, a touch of spiciness does seem in order for this spread.  

Thus, a menu of Baked Chicken, Chorizo Stuffed Acorn Squash, our old standby Roasted Potato Wedges (see 8/28/09), crispy golden Corn Sticks, Tossed Vegetable Salad, and a colorful, glistening bowl of Cubed Fruit.  For a sweet finish, I found a lovely Creme de Menthe Cheesecake on the Land O’ Lakes website, which I of course tweaked just a tiny bit and which was a perfect way to end the evening on a high note.  No clouds over this fiesta night.   

The stuffed squash is a result of some ideas swimming around in my head for several days.  I rescued them from drowning in that sea of chaos, and came up with:

3 acorn squash                         1 Tb melted butter                1 TB maple syrup

12 oz chorizo sausage             3/4 C chopped onion              3/4 C chopped red pepper

3/4 C chopped green pepper    

Preheat oven to 350°.  Wash and dry the squash and cut each in half from stem end to base.  Remove all seeds and strings and place, cut side up, on a foil-lined cookie sheet.  In a small bowl, mix the maple syrup and butter well, then brush mixture over the squash flesh liberally, being sure to coat the lip of the cut surface as well as the hollowed out portion.  Bake for 45 minutes.  Before serving, cut each squash half in two for individual servings. 

Remove any outer casing from chorizo and chop the sausage into small pieces.  (I got a nice package, on sale, of “all natural, no preservatives, minimally processed” Garrett County™ chorizo, which was gluten-free and lower in fat, and it worked out very nicely in this application.) 

Sauté the sausage in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat for 4 minutes, or until nicely browned around the edges, than add the chopped onion and peppers to the pan and cook an addition 4 minutes, until the onion is softened a bit.  Spoon the sausage mixture into the baked squash halves, cover the pan loosely with foil, and bake an additional 30 minutes. 

The baked chicken is very simple: 

1 whole, cut-up frying chicken               2 TB Good Seasons Italian Dressing™*

1/2-3/4 C finely ground wheat crackers            salt and pepper to taste 

Remove the skin from the chicken breasts and most of the skin from the thighs and legs.  Place parts in a large bowl and drizzle with dressing.  Cover bowl and set in refrigerator for 2-6 hours, turning chicken pieces several times.  Line a baking pan with aluminum foil and heat oven to 350°.   Place cracker crumbs on a large plate and season with salt and pepper.  Lift chicken pieces out of marinade and let excess drip off, roll each piece in seasoned crumbs, and arrange on foil-lined pan.  Bake for 45-60 minutes, testing for doneness. 

For the corn sticks, I use aluminum pans I got at a garage sale for about a buck and the recipe on the package of Quaker™ corn meal – a nice, light version of corn bread (skim milk, one egg, 1/4 C sugar, some canola oil) which results in a corn stick that has a nice crispy outside all around.  Serve them hot from the oven (they bake for about 20 minutes) with some room-temperature butter or honey-butter.  Mmm-mm, good.  But wait, that’s a different product isn’t it… 

My salad was composed of: 

3 C baby spinach leaves            2 C hearts of romaine                        4 cubed Roma tomatoes

1/4 thin-sliced red onion            1 med cubed avocado                    2 small  zucchini, sliced  

I dressed this with the same Good Seasons Italian Dressing™ I used on the chicken, and I whipped up the packet of dressing using cider vinegar and olive oil. 

My fruit bowl was: 

2 sliced bananas                        3 cubed kiwi                    1 C water-packed canned pineapple                         2 medium apples, cubed 

And then – but you may want to do this the day before or early in the morning – the minty cheesecake:

2 C crushed chocolate graham crackers            1/2 C butter, melted

1 C sugar                                                                           8 oz. softened cream cheese

4 eggs                                                                                2 TB green creme de menthe

4 oz Andes® mints                                                      1 tsp flour 

Heat oven to 325°F.  Blend butter and graham crumbs together in a bowl until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Press onto bottom and 1 inch up side of lightly greased 9-inch springform pan; set aside.  

Combine sugar and cream cheese in large bowl and beat on medium speed, scraping bowl often, until creamy.  Add eggs one at a time, until well mixed. but being careful not to overbeat.  Gently stir in liqueur by hand.   Chop mints and stir together 1/2 cup with flour in small bowl then fold dusted mint pieces gently into cream cheese mixture. Pour filling onto crust. Sprinkle with remaining chopped mints.

Bake for 80 to 95 minutes or until firm to touch. Run a knife around the edge of the pan and allow cake to cool on a wire rack for one hour then cover and refrigerate it for at least 3 hours.  

Feliz comida!

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Recipe. According to Encarta, "a list of ingredients and instructions for making something." The thesaurus offers the alternate terms, "formula, guidelines, directions, steps, technique."

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