Monday, March 5, 2012

Dinner Party for My Man and a Baked Acorn Squash with Maple Orange Glaze

This past Friday marked my husband Randy's 49th birthday. We're not a big consumer gift giving couple, and he always says that he doesn't need anything, so I stopped asking a long time ago. What do you do for the birthday of a wonderful guy who doesn't have wants? You cook for him, and invite his oldest an bestest friends over to share the bounty.

It's a risk, because the friends aren't Vegan or even Plant-strong. But I'm a risk taker when it comes to entertaining, so our menu went as follows:

Challah bread with dips:
  • From Clean Start by Terry Walters, Cashew Carrot Miso Spread. I've made this so many times I've lost count.
  • My simple new Mock Chopped Liver. Without a doubt, a winner.
  • Trader Joe's Horseradish Hummus. You must try this, it's unbelievable.

Sweet-n-sour Cabbage Soup. My business partner, Chris-Anna, and I have been eating this soup at our local famous deli for years and years. I know there's a ton of sugar in it, and I suspect there's some cow in there too (needless to say, there's not many foods on their menu that I would touch anymore with a ten foot pole). Chris-Anna set out to no-oil-veganize it after this soup came up in conversation in our Pilates class a few weeks ago. I think she nailed it.

Chef Aj's Disappearing Lasagna Truth be told, I screwed it up. I never thought that leaving this it in the oven on warm after it had cooked was going to be a bad thing, but it was. It overcooked.

A riff on this Paula Deen recipe: Aunt Peggy's Cucumber Tomato Onion Salad
Ironic, right? I found it on Pinterest. I heart Pinterest!

I simply eliminated the oil, doubled the vinegar, and used 1/2 cup parsley instead of 2 tablespoons. Oh, and I only had red onion in the house, so I used that instead of Vidalia onion. I guess it's my recipe now! I thought it was super easy, refreshing and just fantastic. It's likely to reappear at my dinner parties.

Jane Esselstyn's Superfood Salad. It's a recipe that's been circulating around Cleveland for a few months. An incredible amalgamation of greens, cabbage, fruits and nuts all topped off with a tasty dressing. I'm not sure if this one is available for publication yet, so I'll take the safe road and just tell you how wonderful it is. Sorry!

And last but not least, my new Baked Acorn Squash with Maple Orange Glaze. I had a lot of acorn squash hanging around and I wanted one more dish to round out the menu. So without really knowing what the results would be, I put it together. I took a last minute risk and it totally paid off. This recipe is a repeater! (Unlike a lot of my experiments that have failed lately. I don't blog about all of the recipe fails--you might hear about them on my Facebook page.)

But like I have to constantly remind myself, it's about the friends and not the food. It was a great evening. Fun was had by all. And a dinner party was a great gift for a great guy who doesn't need anything, except for the love of family and friends.

Baked Acorn Squash with Maple Orange Glaze
serves 8

Print me!

3 acorn squashes, medium sized
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup frozen orange juice concentrate
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp pepper
2 tbsp dried cranberries

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Prepare two cookie sheets by lining them with aluminum foil and spraying that lightly with cooking oil spray.

Carefully cut the stem end and the pointy bottom end off of each acorn squash. Lay the squashes on their stem end, which is now flat, and cut each squash in half vertically. Remove seeds with a metal spoon. Lay squashes on their cut side (which now looks like a big "O") and slice squash into half circles, approximately 1/4"-1/2" thick. Place cut squash in a large bowl.

In a small bowl, combine maple syrup, water, orange juice concentrate, salt, thyme and pepper. Whisk marinade until orange juice concentrate is melted.

Pour marinade over squash and gently toss. Place all rings onto prepared baking sheets (pack em in like puzzle pieces). Reserve extra marinade for later. Bake for 45 minutes to one hour, rotating cookie sheets a few times throughout the baking to ensure both sheets bake evenly). Squash are ready for the next step when you touch them with your finger and they are very soft but not mushy.

Lower your oven temperature to 225 degrees. Transfer all squash to a small baking dish (approximately 8" by 8" or 9" by 9") in layers. Pour reserved marinade over squash and sprinkle with dried cranberries. Cover with aluminum foil and put back into your oven until you are ready to serve, but at least 30 minutes.

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