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Every shape, every size, every color - squash holds plethora of possibilities. (Linda Smith / For the Enterprise)

What's cookin' : Gourd-ous meals to be enjoyed

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It has certainly been a bountiful year for winter squash, one of my favorite fall foods. My go-to squash meal is to simply half or quarter the squash, whether it be acorn, butternut, buttercup or similar varieties. Place the pieces on aluminum foil in a cake pan or jellyroll pan if you're making several squash, grind fresh pepper and kosher salt all over the inside of the squash halves and drizzle real maple syrup into the cavity. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 1 hour or until fork tender. A grilled pork tenderloin, a leafy green salad, homemade chunky applesauce with lots of fragrant cinnamon, a warmed loaf of crusty bread and the squash make up the perfect fall meal in our house.

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Gingered Acorn Squash

2 medium acorn squash, quartered, seeds removed

1/4 c. butter or margarine

2 T. maple syrup

1 t. grated fresh gingerroot or 1/2 t. ground ginger

1/4 c. flaked coconut, toasted

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Place squash, cut side up, in a 9-x13-inch baking pan. Add water to pan to a depth of 1/4 inch. Cover with aluminum foil; bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until fork tender. Place squash on serving platter. Meanwhile, in a 1-qt. saucepan combine butter, maple syrup and gingerroot or ground ginger. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until butter is melted (1 to 2 minutes). Pour hot syrup mixture into each quartered squash; sprinkle with toasted coconut. Makes 8 servings.

Harvest Honey Thyme Squash

2 c. water

1 1/2 lbs. butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed, cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks

1/4 c. butter or margarine

2 T. chopped fresh parsley

1/4 t. salt

1/8 t. dried thyme leaves

1/8 t. pepper

1 T. honey

In a 3-qt. saucepan, bring 2 c. water to a full boil. Add squash. Cover; cook over medium heat until squash is fork tender (12 to 15 minutes). Drain. Mash; set aside. In same saucepan, melt butter. Stir in squash and all remaining ingredients. Cover; cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until heated through (5 to 7 minutes).

Butternut Squash and Apple Soup

2 T. butter

2 T. olive oil

4 c. chopped yellow onions

2 T. curry powder

2 large butternut squash (about 5 lbs.)

4 sweet apples (about 1 1/2 lbs.)

2 t. kosher salt

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

2 c. good-quality apple juice or cider

In a large soup pot, heat the butter and oil. Add the onions and curry powder. Cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 15 to 20 minutes or until the onions are tender. Peel and seed the squash; cut into chunks. Peel, core and chunk the apples. Add the squash, apples, salt, pepper and 2 c. of water to the pot. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to low and cook for 30 to 40 minutes, until the squash and apples are very soft. Puree the soup coarsely in a food processor or blender. Pour the soup back into the pot. Add the juice or cider and enough water to make soup the desired consistency. It should be slightly sweet and quite thick. Adjust seasonings and serve hot.

Apple Praline Squash

2 medium acorn squash

1 c. water

1/2 c. butter

2 large apples, peeled and chopped

2/3 c. brown sugar

1 T. vanilla

1/2 t. cinnamon

4 T. chopped pecans

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Cut squash in half lengthwise and remove seeds. Lay squash halves, cut-side up, in a 9-x13-inch pan. Pour water in bottom of pan and cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until tender. Cool slightly and spoon out squash from shell into a greased 2-qt. casserole dish. Spread evenly. In large skillet, melt butter and stir in apples, brown sugar, vanilla and cinnamon. Cook over medium heat until apples are crisp-tender. Spoon over squash and sprinkle with pecans. Bake at 350 degrees until heated through (20 to 30 minutes).

Best Spaghetti Squash Ever

1 spaghetti squash

2 large cloves, pressed

2 T. olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 365 degrees. Line a large metal baking tray with heavy aluminum foil. Cut spaghetti squash in half and scoop out seeds. Put a tablespoon of olive oil in each half of the spaghetti squash and use a pastry brush to brush the squash pieces with the olive oil until covered. Press one clove of garlic into each cavity of the squash and then salt and pepper the squash halves. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the threads of the squash come out easily. Remove squash from oven and let it sit for about 20 minutes in a cool place, and then remove the squash strands with a fork from the shell. Serve with your favorite pasta sauce. This may be made up a day or two ahead and stored in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Butternut Squash Casserole

4 c. sliced tart apples

2 T. sugar

4 T. butter, divided

2 c. mashed cooked butternut squash

2 t. brown sugar

1/4 t. salt

1/8 t. white pepper

Topping:

1 c. frosted cornflakes, coarsely crushed

4 T. chopped pecans

4 T. brown sugar

4 t. butter, melted

In a large skillet, sauté apples and sugar in 2 T. butter for 4-5 minutes or until crisp-tender. Place in a 2-qt. baking dish coated with cooking spray and set aside. In a small bowl, combine the squash, brown sugar, salt, pepper and remaining butter; spoon over apples. Combine topping ingredients and sprinkle over casserole. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until heated through and the topping is browned. Yields 6 servings.

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