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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If any week is screaming for comfort food, it is this one.  In my life, I am facing a grading deadline (I teach high school science when I’m not cooking), parent conferences crammed into any and every spare hour, and a nail-biter of an election.  Yes, the presidential election has my nerves on end, but honestly the biggest concern on my mind is California’s Proposition 30.

As an educator and parent of children in public schools, I know first hand the drastic cuts that California schools have made over the last five years.  The passage of Proposition 30 does not make things much better, but it prevents further cuts to the already ravaged district budgets.  The other day, a few students approached me about the upcoming elections.  They had engaged in spirited mock democracy in their history classes, their faces aglow with hope and pride in our civic opportunities.  We discussed that our district, backed against the wall, may be forced to end the school year three weeks early (among other extreme measures) if Prop 30 does not pass.   No, these kids did not dance and dream at the thought of a longer vacation, they went gray with the realization they may not be able to finish the year.  They want to attend school.  They know they engage in valuable learning and skill-building at school and that 15 days out of each of their classes puts them at a huge disadvantage.  Every district in California is facing some similar extreme measure.   This is the heartbreak of the school funding crisis.  Yes, economies and tax codes are complex, but when funding is denied to schools, it is the students who lose every time.  School children cannot vote.  It is our responsibility to represent their interests!  So Tuesday, get out to vote.  And if you can read this, thank your parents’ generation who approved taxes to fund the public schools that gave you and your peers the opportunity to learn.

Saucy Sausage and Eggplant over Polenta is a simple, comforting dish with fresh, rich flavors from the Roasted Tomato Sauce with Fennel.  Having a batch of the sauce in the freezer makes this dinner come together in no time.  You could certainly make this dish with your own favorite marinara sauce.  To save time, cook the polenta slow on the stove top, while you put together the sausage and eggplant.  Then sit back, pour a glass of wine, and wait for the election results to roll in…

Please share this post with other voters and lovers of comfort food!

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The other night at bedtime, my 4 year old son announced to me that he is a vegetarian.  Never mind the fact that he had just put away three helpings of chicken at dinner.  I nodded and told him he never had to eat anything that he did not want.  He asserted once more that he was a vegetarian, but then went on to tell me that he only eats bacon, hamburgers, and sausage.  Oh, I said, that kind of vegetarian.  I was amused, but also relieved.  Though I am sympathetic to vegetarians, since I refrained from meat and dairy myself for many years, it is so much easier to cook for a household that agrees to eat the same kinds of foods.  Not to mention that my husband and I just filled the freezer with many pounds of homemade sausage.  Now is not the best time to opt out of sausage in our house.

Oh, the Sausage and Kale Dinner Tart.  This is the single most soul satisfying tart I have ever made. Sausage and kale both are iconic winter fare. They dominate this tart with only minor distractions from sauteed onion, garlic, and the slightest addition of ricotta cheese. Served atop the flaky butter crust, this is a winter meal to celebrate.  Both pork and chicken sausage work equally well, as do kale and chard.  You can trade out the egg for egg white, but it really will not put much of a dent in the fat of this dish given the buttery crust.  This is not diet food.  This is late winter though, and our last chance to enjoy the decadence of the cool months before the threats of swimsuit season are upon us.  Enjoy!

Update: My Sausage and Kale Dinner Tart won for Best Dirt Cheap Dinner on food52!

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