I have been wanting to have a dinner party with my former colleagues from Common Cause and Public Campaign for quite some time. One my biggest struggles when deciding to leave about Common Cause (my home for 2 years) was leaving the sense of community and wonderful friends that I had made at the organization and our partner organization, Public Campaign. Despite my departure, I have remained close with my colleagues and it was a wonderful evening filled with laughter, political banter, and of course good food.

I wanted a fall inspired meal because it’s probably my favorite season in DC (and the East Coast) and so many great fruits and vegetables are in season like apples, cranberries, brussels sprouts and an assortment of squash. My co-workers brought some great additions to the main course.

I was really excited about using my new dinnerware, an early Christmas present from my parents.

Steve made a fantastic baked brie with apricot that had everyone coming back for seconds:
Marilyn made dates that were filled with blue cheese and wrapped in bacon (two of the best things in the world):

Liz kept us warm and toasty with Spiked Apple Cider:

Aaron and his wife Elizabeth made a tangy quinoa salad that nicely complimented the main course:

And Cecilia made mouth watering pumpkin cupcakes to finish the meal:
The main event was stuffed acorn squash with lots of autumn inspired flavor.

Autumn Stuffed Acorn Squash
Ingredients
1 pound ground pork sausage
2 tablespoons butter, melted
4 large acorn squash, halved and seeded
1 cup yellow onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, pressed
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 cups cooked rice
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup carrots, chopped
1 cup walnut halves, coarsely chopped
1 cup garbanzo beans, drained
4 Tablespoons parsley, chopped
2 Tablespoons dried sage
1 teaspoon all spice
1 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 8 oz package crumbled feta cheese
Sea salt, to taste
Ground pepper, to taste

Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour
Calories: 410
Servings: 8

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Place squash in roasting pan or jelly roll. Melt butter and brush on squash. Place in oven and cook until squash is tender (about 30-45 minutes). When ready scoop out majority of flesh portion of the squash and set aside.

Halfway through roasting the squash, brown sausage. In a separate pan sauté onion and garlic in olive oil over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add carrots and cook another 3 minutes. Stir in sage, all spice, coriander, cumin, salt, and pepper. Mix in rice and beans and cook until warmed. Add sausage, squash, feta, walnuts, and parsley and mix well.

Fill squash skin with filling and put back into oven for 15 minutes. Garnish with parsley and serve.

Food for Thought:
-Since I had vegetarians, I stuffed those squash first before adding the sausage to the filling.
-You can add more cumin if you like, but since it’s flavor can overpower others, I decided for a smaller portion to feature the flavor of the coriander and all spice. Like usual, I sampled throughout and added more spices if needed (a little more coriander and all spice).
-I recommend getting a sausage with sage because the flavor fits in with the autumn flavor profiles.
-Liz made the cider with a gallon of cider brought to a boil and added a box of tea bags filled with mulled spices and let them seep for about 10-15 minutes. She then topped off with Apple Jack and served with a cinnamon stick.
-Steve’s baked brie was made by cutting a brie wheel in half and filling it with apricot jam and covering the brie with crescent rolls. He baked it in the oven until the bread turned golden brown.
-There were three versions of dates from Marilyn: vegetarian (no bacon just blue cheese filling), turkey-bacon wrapped, and Ron Swanson approved bacon wrapped. She seared the bacon wrapped dates on a pan to seal before baking in the oven.
-This was my first attempt to have a large dinner party in my small one bedroom basement apartment. I was worried that there wouldn’t be enough space, but we all fit nicely.
-Instead of rice, you could use quinoa or cous cous. I used rice since I knew there was going to be a quinoa salad. You could leave out the rice and just add the sausage.

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