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The Sailaway Gourmet

It’s fall and the colors outside are beautiful. I’m headed for a cruise up the Hudson this month and am looking forward to seeing the fall foliage from the water. For me that’s an ideal way to spend a day.
And I love cooking in the fall. It’s not so hot in the kitchen and there are so many delicious dishes to be made with the vegetables in season. I was at my brothers’ house and he recently painted his front door orange – his favorite color. So, my crazy mind thought of all the recipes I could cook now and during the holidays using orange vegetables.
It’s prime time for pumpkins, sweet potatoes, butternut and acorn squashes. I’ll roast any of them to have as a side dish but love to make soups, sauces and casseroles that give me leftovers for another day. An added bonus is that they are a hearty addition in the currently popular “grain bowls” for vegetarian and plant-based meals. I eat them often as they fill me up and I’m not craving something else to eat an hour later.

My favorite places to shop in the fall are at the farm stands here in the North Shore of Long Island. The produce is local and fresh. One never knows where the grocery store is getting our fruits and vegetables from. When shopping for pumpkins and fall squashes, look for hard skins and a hollow sound when you tap on it. It’s best to use them within a reasonable amount of time after purchasing, but if you wish to keep them for weeks, there’s a “curing method”. Info for that can be found on the web.
Here are some of my favorite, simple to make recipes – hard to pick from-there are so many I love!

Acorn Squash with Wild Rice Stuffing
2/3 cup uncooked wild rice
1 tsp. olive oil, divided
4-1lb acorn squashes, halved lengthwise and seeded
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
2-3oz. sweet Italian turkey sausage links, casings removed
1 cup chopped yellow onion
3 oz. fresh shitake mushrooms, chopped
1 Tb. minced garlic
1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
1-6oz. package of fresh spinach
2 Tb. chopped flat leafed parsley
1 Tb. fresh lemon juice
½ tsp. black pepper

Cook rice according to the package directions. Preheat the oven to 425º.
Brush 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil on cut sides of squashes and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Place cut side down on a parchment paper- lined baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes or until almost tender.
Heat remaining 1/2 teaspoon of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the sausage and cook 3 minutes stirring to crumble it up. Add the onion and celery and cook 5 minutes. Add mushrooms for 4 minutes, then add the garlic and thyme. Add spinach and stir until wilted. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cooked rice, remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt, parsley, lemon juice and pepper.
Spoon about 1/2 cup of the mixture into each squash half. Bake at 425º for 10 minutes or until squash is fork tender and lightly browned. Serves 8.

Autumn Pumpkin and Pear Soup
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup of water
2 tsp. of instant chicken bouillon granules
1-16oz. can or 2 cups fresh pumpkin
2-1/2 cups half and half or light cream
1-3/4 cups of pear nectar
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. white pepper
Pear slices for garnish

In a large saucepan combine the onion, water and bouillon. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered for about 10 minutes or until the onion is very tender. Cool slightly.
Transfer the mixture to a blender or food processor container. Add the pumpkin. Cover and blend until smooth. Return mixture to the saucepan and stir in the half and half, pear nectar, ginger and pepper. Cook, stirring until heated through. Ladle into bowls and garnish with pear slices. Serves 6.

Sweet Potato Toasts (an unusual favorite breakfast item)
8 slices of whole wheat bread
1 lb. of sweet potatoes, baked, peeled & mashed*
2-3 bananas, sliced to yield about 40 pieces
1/4-1/2 cups of raisins
Pure Maple syrup
Chia seeds
Ground cinnamon

Toast the bread. Spread the toasts with the sweet potato mash. Top with bananas, then add raisins, pressing them into the mash so they don’t fall off. Drizzle with maple syrup and sprinkle on the chia seeds and cinnamon to taste. Serves 4-8 depending on how many slices you’re hungry for…
*You can bake and mash the sweet potatoes the night before, refrigerate and then just warm slightly before spreading on the toasts.