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Thanksgiving is never at our home.  Each year we alternate between my and my husband’s parents’ homes.  This holiday is decidedly my favorite.  I love the cool weather, the rustling of leaves, the family crammed into the kitchen to gossip, stir, and sip.   And of course the food.  Each of the homes we visit have special dishes that we love, but since each year we miss one of the homes, I like to make our favorites ahead of time so we do not miss out.

Stuffed Winter Squash with Rice and Sausage recipe is a take on my family’s traditional Thanksgiving stuffing.  My parents have hosted Thanksgiving every year for my entire life (and longer). Each year they put on an impressive spread with many mouth-watering dishes, but my favorite is by far the rice stuffing.   Inspired by their once neighbors and long-time friends, my parents early on shunned the bread stuffings they were raised on and adopted a rice version of the dish.  Wild rice baked along with flavorful Italian sausage, fresh vegetables and herbs to make a tasty, toothsome (not to mention gluten-free) side dish.  This stuffing is delicious baked in the bird or baked in a greased casserole dish, but love the look and taste of baking it in delicata squash halves.  It also makes for very tidy serving.  The stuffing can be made ahead a day or two and kept covered in the refrigerator or a couple of weeks ahead and kept in the freezer.  Wait to stuff the squash halves until the day of baking.  One of the squash boats is a generous serving, perfect if it is your main side dish. If you are serving it with many side dishes, such as on Thanksgiving, they neatly cut in half.

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Last weekend I was fortunate enough to gather for a potluck with a fantastic group of fellow food lovers.  We are all part of Food52, a fabulous online community of inspired home cooks and knew each virtually through viewing, cooking, and commenting on each other’s recipes.  The gathering celebrated  the publication of the first Food52 cookbook, in which many of the party-goers had their own amazing recipes published.  The cookbook is beautiful and I can not wait to cook my way through it!

Not surprisingly, we all had a lot in common, most notably our love of good food.  The table was brimming with amazing dishes, most of them made from recipes found on Food52. It was difficult to decide what to bring, but I opted for fresh baked bread.

Forbidden Rice and Green Onion Hearth Bread is based on a recipe from Montana Culinary Students on Food52.  The contrast in texture and color that the black rice brings the bread drew me in.  Wild rice works as well, but Forbidden Rice sounds irresistibly tempting!  The onion adds a deep savory quality and works beautifully with the aromatic rosemary.  A hint of lemon zest adds a pleasant brightness to this hearty loaf. This bread will definitely become a regular in my baking rotation.  I imagine that it would make great croutons as well, if you are able to resist the bread while fresh.  This bread would also be a tremendous addition to the Thanksgiving table!

Check out what some of the fabulous cooks I met are doing on their own sites!  TasteFood, Still Simmering, The Year in Food, The Wimpy Vegetarian, The Beet Goes On, My Kitchen Solo.

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Dolmas are a food that I had never considered making.  I have always enjoyed eating them, but truth be told, most of my experience with ones that come out of a can,  hardly a claim to fame.   So while staring out at some of the many vineyards that surround us, it occurred to me that I should make my own.  It started with picking the grape leaves and preserving them.  Then I set out to find a recipe for reference.  The difficulty I had in locating an acceptable recipe tells me that I am not the only one who is not making these at home.  Well folks, it is time. These dolmas are really not difficult to make and they taste very good.

At our local library, I came across The New Book of Middle Eastern Food, by Claudia Roden, which guided me through the process.  (Libraries are a great source of cookbooks!) I learned that there are both hot and cold dolmas.  Traditionally the hot contain ground beef or lamb and the cold are rice based.  I opted for the rice filling, as I intended to serve them with grilled lamb.

The recipe below is adapted from the one provided by Roden.  I opted for use my preserved grape leaves, add in fresh herbs from the garden instead of dried, and use the lemon solution from the preserved grape leaves.  I also threw in some golden raisins.  All in all the process is pretty simple- parboil the rice, mix it up with fresh herbs and spices, roll them up and cook.  As the dolmas cook, they absorb the lemony, olive oil and water, plump up and become incredibly aromatic.  I love the snap of the grape leaves as I bite into a roll.  This is a very satisfying side dish or appetizer.  Definitely worth the minimal trouble of putting them together.

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