So we had our annual Halloween dinner last night and it was a lot of fun as usual. It started years ago with our niece Sarah and nephew David and was basically a Halloween dinner for the kids with fun foods for them like pumpkin brains (small pumpkin jack o’ lanterns filled with macaroni and cheese), bat wings (buffalo chicken wings), zombie fingers (breaded chicken tenders), mummy toes (mini cocktail hot dogs wrapped with flour tortilla bandages) and some kind of yucky looking drink like swamp water punch…anyhoo – Sarah has been ‘too old’ to join us for the past couple of years (from the ripe old age of 13) but David is with us every year for the tradition.
Last year, our friends Alyse and Edison and their kids Gabriel and Ethan joined us for the annual event and again this year so we had 3 kids and 7 adults…
For the adults, we usually do some finger foods, cocktails and so it’s a fun, relaxed get-together and is always enjoyable for us to do – and we do look forward to doing it every year.
This year, I tried a couple of new recipes for the adult attendees and I think they were pretty good.
Butternut Squash and Double Apple Soup
This recipe makes about 8 quarts and can easily be halved to make 4 quarts. This soup also freezes well.
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 large chopped onion, (I used sweet, but regular yellow or Vidalia is fine)
- 2 tablespoons mild curry powder
- 2 20 ounce packages of precut butternut squash (8 cups of squash)
- 8 sweet apples, such as McIntosh, peeled and chopped
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 4 cups good apple cider or juice
- 1-2 cups of heavy cream, fat-free half & half (optional)
Sauté onions in butter in a large stockpot uncovered over low heat for 10-20 minutes, until the onions are tender. Stir occasionally, and then add curry powder to onions.
Add squash, apple, chicken stock and apple cider and bring to a boil, then cover, and cook over low heat for 30 to 40 minutes, until the squash and apples are very soft.
Puree the soup in batches in a food processor – the texture will be thick but not chunky.
(If you want a smoother soup, use a blender and then strain through a sieve or chinois)
Pour the soup back into the pot and taste for seasoning. It should be slightly sweet and quite thick. If too thick, thin with chicken stock, apple cider or water.
If desired, you can add some heavy cream or fat-free half and half and combine well before serving.
Baked Pumpkin Ziti (Ziti alla Zucca)
- Butter, for greasing
- 1 pound sweet Italian sausage (or 1 pound turkey sausage)
- 1 chopped yellow onion
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 1 (15-ounces) can pumpkin puree
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage leaves (optional)
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 cup heavy cream or fat-free half and half
- 1 pound ziti pasta, cooked
- 1 cup grated Italian cheese mix or Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 1 cup grated Italian cheese mix or Parmigiano-Reggiano for topping (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Lightly butter a 9 x 13 casserole dish
Cook sausage over medium heat until fat is rendered about 8 minutes. If using turkey sausage, there be very little to no fat so you will need to be careful not to burn the sausage.
Remove sausage, drain on paper towels and set aside. Discard any fat from the skillet in excess of 2 tablespoons.
Add onion, garlic, crushed red pepper flakes and oil to the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally until soft; about 3 minutes.
Stir in pumpkin puree, chicken stock and sage. Mix together and add salt.
Bring to a boil then lower the heat and simmer 5 minutes. Stir in cream or half and half and sausage.
Simmer until the sauce comes together and is thickened slightly.
Add cooked pasta to the skillet and gently toss all the ingredients together to coat. Put the rigatoni mixture into the prepared pan.
Bake for 45 minutes