Well Dined


Quinoa-Stuffed Acorn Squash

When my friend Melissa and I get together it is usually to bake, or cook, or go out to eat - which is fitting for two food bloggers. We wanted to get together recently and cook up something satisfying and healthy. Melissa, who is a vegetarian, came up with a wonderful recipe for Quinoa-Stuffed Acorn Squash - and you can read all about her take on her blog, Smells like Brownies.

This recipe is full of delicious veggies, packed with flavor and texture, and super healthy! Quinoa is not quite in the popular lingo yet, so for those of you who are unfamiliar with it, here is a brief rundown. Quinoa is a grain, similar in use to rice or couscous, but it is better than either of those because it is both a whole grain and a protein! It's basically a super food.

So, to start off this recipe - cut the squash in half and de-seed it (you can save the seeds to roast if you want). Rub it with oil, and season with salt and pepper. Roast until it is fork tender. Melissa had the genius idea to slice a sliver off of the bottom of the halves so that they sit flat and don't roll around.

Next, saute up some veggies - onions, carrots, garlic and mushrooms. Add in some walnuts for crunch and fresh herbs - sage pairs wonderfully with squash, and thyme is perfect for mushrooms. Melissa wanted to add in a hot pepper, but me being the wuss that I am protested and asked her to saute is separately and add it just to hers. That is what I have to do for Jasper so that he can enjoy spicy food at home.

Meanwhile, boil your quinoa, then add in spinach so that it wilts. Add this mixture to the vegetables along with some lemon juice and zest and the stuffing is ready! Then all you have to do is spoon it into the baked squash and sprinkle with Parmesan if you are feeling fancy.

Quinoa-Stuffed Acorn Squash

created by Smells like Brownies
serves 4

2 acorn squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
3 tbsp. olive oil, divided
fine sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
2 cups water
1 cup dry quinoa
1 medium red onion, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 serrano or jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped
4 oz. baby bella mushrooms, roughly chopped
fresh chopped sage (about 4 or 5 large leaves)
fresh thyme (about 2 or 3 large sprigs)
¼ cup broken walnuts or pecans
2 large handfuls fresh baby spinach, roughly chopped
juice and zest of 1 lemon
grated parmesan or parmiggiano-reggiano (optional)

Preheat oven to 375°.

Rub the insides of the squash with 1 tbsp. olive oil, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Set into a glass baking dish. Bake 45 minutes, or until tender.
Meanwhile, boil the water. Stir in the quinoa and reduce heat to low. Simmer, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, for 15 minutes, or until all of the liquid is absorbed.

While the quinoa cooks, sauté the chopped onion in the remaining 2 tbsp. olive oil over medium heat. When the onion is tender and nearly translucent, stir in the carrots, garlic, and jalapeño. Cook another 3–4 minutes, then add the mushrooms, fresh herbs, and nuts.

When very fragrant, remove the sautéed vegetables from the heat. As soon as the quinoa is completely cooked, stir in the fresh spinach, the sautéed veggies, and the lemon zest and juice. When the spinach has wilted completely, taste and season with salt and pepper. Remove the quinoa stuffing from the heat.

Once the squash is completely roasted, remove from the oven and fill with stuffing. Garnish with extra herbs, a drizzle of olive oil, and cheese if desired.

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