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Maple-glazed acorn squash warms one up for fall

Some days I shouldn't even go near a kitchen because everything I try to cook will turn out badly. A perfect example of that happened this past Sunday.
   My mood that morning had varied between being in a snit to a full-out tantrum. I wasn't exactly pleasant to be with. I thought homemade soup might make things better, and it sounded good for a chilly autumn day. I thawed out some chicken stock I had made a few weeks before.
   I vaguely remembered tasting the stock while I made it and thinking it might be a little salty, but that maybe it was just me.
   My taste buds have been a bit off lately. I froze it anyway, hoping for the best.
   On Sunday, I added some carrots to the stock in question and let them cook, then added leftover chicken and noodles, and went merrily on my way making biscuits to go along with my wonderful soup. Ignorance truly is blessed.
   When the soup was ready to serve, I tasted it and thought, "Boy, that's kind of salty. But maybe it's just me."
   My husband took one taste and said, "Geez, how much salt did you put in this?" His mouth looked a little puckered when he asked me that question.
   I tasted it. And tasted it again. Holy cow, that was the worst soup I'd ever made! We couldn't eat it, it was so salty. I grabbed both bowls and threw all of it down the drain.
   Even my biscuits turned out lousy that day. Do you think that meal improved my mood any? Of course not.
   My poor, sweet husband. Not only did he endure a truly awful meal, he had to put up with my worsening mood. I think he probably earned an express ticket to heaven just for living through that day.
   I also think a direct link exists between my snittiness and my ability to cook. When I'm in a foul mood, I do not need to go near any cooking utensils because disaster surely will follow, especially if I'm trying a new recipe. Those are the times I need to stick with old favorites, something I can make on autopilot that won't be affected by whatever bad karma is hanging over my head.
   Something like Maple-Glazed Acorn Squash comes in handy. It's so easy, even me at my craziest can make it and not mess it up. It's also adaptable. Add some cooked sausage and Stove-Top Stuffing, and it becomes a main dish.
   Picking a winter squash is kind of like picking watermelon or cantaloupe. Since you can't see inside it, how do you know it's ripe enough? My trick with acorn squash is to pick one that has some orange on the skin. That usually indicates the squash has stayed in the field long enough to ripen completely and develop that wonderful squashy flavor.
   Acorn squash is at its best right now, so enjoy it. And if you see me coming at you with a big, dark cloud above my head, madly waving a wooden spoon, head out in the opposite direction as fast as you can. Just be sure to take my poor husband with you.
   
   Sharon Vail lives in Powell Butte. She's thinking of posting a sign at the entrance of their road when she's in a bad mood. "Warning - crazy cook resides here. Stay away!" Readers may contact her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
   
   Maple-Glazed Acorn Squash
   
   2 medium-sized acorn squash
   About 4 tablespoons butter or margarine
   About 4 tablespoons brown sugar
   Maple syrup
   Salt and pepper to taste
   
    Cut each squash in half and remove seeds and strings. Place cut side down in a microwaveable dish, add about & inch of water and cover with plastic wrap. Microwave on high for about 10 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the squash pierces it easily. Carefully, and I emphasize this strongly, remove the plastic wrap. The best way is to start with a corner facing away from you and keep all of your fingers well away from the steam that will come pouring out. This is the voice of experience, and pain, speaking.
   Drain off any liquid in the dish. Turn the squash over so the cut side is facing up. Place about a tablespoon of butter or margarine in the little hollow of each squash half and swish it around. Add about 1 tablespoon brown sugar to the melted butter in each half, sprinkle on salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle some maple syrup over the whole cut side of the squash. Return to microwave and cook on high for about 20 seconds, just until everything is nice and hot. Really good with pork chops.
   Makes 4 servings, if everyone wants an entire half.
   Cook)s note - You can make this a main dish very easily. Cook the squash as above. While the squash is cooking, cook & - 1 pound bulk sausage (I like Jimmy Dean) in a skillet until no longer pink, breaking it up so it)s crumbly. Prepare one package pork-flavor Stove-Top Stuffing mix and add the cooked sausage when the stuffing is done. Mound the sausage/stuffing mixture into the hollow of the cooked squash halves, dividing it up evenly between them. Return to the microwave and cook uncovered for about 2 minutes more, until piping hot. Any leftover sausage/stuffing that doesn)t fit into the squash is good by itself.
   Makes 4 servings