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November, 2008

Spiced Apple Squash Cups

By Dennis Linden

Here’s something fun for the kids to make that has dessert qualities in a delicious side dish recipe utilizing some of the fall season’s most popular fresh items, apples and hard squash. This recipe uses Acorn Squash because when cut in half it, makes two fairly uniform "cups"
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Cookin with the Kids Image
While the competing schedules of today’s busy modern family make it difficult to share a home cooked meal together, it is not impossible. With a little planning, it can even be fun! Melissa's encourages parents to find the time to gather as a family once a week for a dinner that everyone pitches in to prepare. It’s a great way to teach your children some basic cooking skills and, more importantly, cooking with your children will build memories that will remain in your hearts forever.

Each COOKIN’ with the KIDS feature will offer a simple, healthy and delicious recipe that can be prepared by a child or a group of children working together, under the supervision of an adult. Parents should always read through each recipe carefully to decide the division of labor based on age and ability as well as where help will be especially needed. Since the recipes are the kids’ contribution to a family meal, each article will include suggested complementary dishes from Melissa’s recipe archives for the adults
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Spiced Apple Squash Cups
However, another way to go is to use other small, round, hard squash varieties like Buttercup, Carnival, Gold Nugget or Sweet Dumpling. Any of these options, which are all about the same size and shape as Acorn Squash, have the same cooking time; just follow the instructions on the labels found on all of Melissa’s hard squash varieties. Using several varieties, or even different colors of Acorn Squash (green, orange or white) will not only keep your young chefs interested in the project, but will expose them to the subtle taste differences that each variety offers. You say that your children’s noses do a collective wrinkle at the mere mention of the word “squash”? Then focus their efforts on preparing the stuffing mixture. No child can resist the promise of baked apples, cinnamon, dried cranberries, pine nuts and melted butter! The results will be a pile of empty squash shells and your kids asking for seconds.

It would be worth the effort to begin this recipe by taking your young sous chefs on a fun trip to the grocery store for the ingredient hunt, as there are a lot of apple choices as well as the aforementioned list of squash varieties that they could pick out themselves. Do not worry about whether they choose a traditional “baking apple” or not; all apples will bake up nicely for this recipe. While most children are probably not familiar with the various hard squash options, the visual assortment of colors and shapes will inspire their choices. Frankly, a taste difference between hard squashes is relatively subtle, ranging from sweet to nutty-sweet, so you really can’t go wrong.

This dish goes wonderfully with a pork entrée accompanied by a simple salad. No dessert is necessary, since the fruit filling really does have that old-fashioned apple pie taste to it, and the squash itself replaces the sugary, fattening dough. We have included a pork recipe suggestion from the Melissa’s archives to inspire the adults’ contribution to the meal.

Thanksgiving dinner suggestion:

While you probably do not need your children slicing and dicing in the middle of your very busy holiday kitchen, consider upgrading this recipe from single serving squash halves to a centerpiece tureen using the much larger and very colorful Turban Squash filled with the same apple filling. Add to the apple mixture some of the squash meat scrapped from the stem end of the Turban that was cut off to make the serving bowl. If you would like to include your kids in the holiday meal preparations, the filling can still be made by them and the dish cooked in advance. Just heat it up while your turkey is cooling; in fact, this adds a little extra flavor that always comes with leftovers, capturing the spirit of the long Thanksgiving weekend from the get go!

KIDS’ RECIPE: Spiced Apple Squash Cups

ADULT RECIPE: Pan-Seared Pepper-Crusted Pork Tenderloins with a Cabernet Sauvignon Reduction Sauce