If it hasn’t become totally obvious by now, here’s the deal: I LOVE fall. Love it! Maybe it’s because most fall days in Sac feel like the lovely San Jose weather I grew up with; maybe it’s because it’s the season of Halloween and Thanksgiving and really cute sweaters & boots. One thing’s for certain, though: the food has a lot to do with my love for this time of year.
Fall is the season that brings us warm things that are filled with deliciously aromatic spices; new apple harvests and the resulting pies and tarts; and all those squashes. Those other squashes – you know, the bigger ones that are slightly more funky looking than the elegant summer zucchini. The pumpkins, the butternuts and the lumpy, bumpy gourds of these cooler months are all over the place, and I couldn’t be happier! That means it’s time for pies, for soup – and for stuffing those little (or big) guys with all sorts of yummy goodness.
On my last $25 Shopping Cart trip, I picked up a beautiful acorn squash that inspired all sorts of serving ideas. I’d originally planned to do a nice orzo stuffing, then remembered the orzo I’d purchased wasn’t 100% whole grain, so it would have to wait in my cupboard until November (when Unprocessed month ends). Frustrated, I just decided to scrap the original plan go in a different direction with the aid of my beloved quinoa.
While I love the more traditional stuffings that tend fill the small hollows of acorn squash during the autumn months, I couldn’t help but explore the more savory side of this particular squash. A lot of fillings go in a slightly sweet direction, accented by rich spices like nutmeg and allspice. Since it’s still a little on the warm side, I thought it would be nice to keep the filling a little lighter, with plenty of vegetables and a more garlicky flavor profile.
The result was fantastic! The quinoa & veggies in their garlic & herb ”sauce” played off the slight nutty sweetness of the acorn squash beautifully, something that’s usually overwhelmed by sweeter fillings. You can use the vegetables I mention in the recipe, or toss in your own favorite veggies. If I’d had some pepitas or almonds handy, I would have tossed those in there for extra texture, so if you have ‘em, use ‘em! It’s also quite lovely in presentation, with the acorn squash making the perfect serving “bowl”.
The best part about this recipe, of course, is the low, low price tag. This is quite a filling meal and even though I list this as yielding two servings, you could probably serve four for the same price if the squash you have is large enough. There’s definitely more than enough filling to go around, which you can also serve on its own the next day. Trust me, I did that this week and it made for a fabulous work lunch!). Not a fan of quinoa? Swap it out for some couscous like I did in this dish, and you’re good to go. Let’s check out the recipe!
Veggie Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash (makes 2 servings; total cost per serving: $2.50)
1 large acorn squash
1 c cooked quinoa
1 c frozen peas & carrots
½ c frozen corn
1 small red bell pepper, diced
2 T olive oil, divided
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 T diced yellow onion
1/4 c vegetable broth
½ t sea salt
¼ t thyme
¼ t tarragon
¼ t ground black pepper
2-3 T grated parmesan cheese (optional)Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 375°. Lightly grease a shallow baking dish and set aside. Cut the squash in half cross-wise and remove the seeds. Brush the squash with the olive oil, sprinkle with salt & pepper, and place cut-side down in the baking dish. Bake for about 35 minutes, until tender.
2. While the squash is baking, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium skillet. Add the garlic and onion, and saute for about 1-2 minutes, until they become fragrant and the onion becomes slightly translucent. Add the diced pepper and cook for about 1 minute, then add the rest of the veggies. Cook for another minute or so, just enough to start thawing out the frozen veggies. Add the quinoa and the broth and mix together until well combined.
3. When the squash is finished baking, remove from oven and carefully turn the squash halves over. Stuff with a generous amount of the quinoa & vegetable mixture, sprinkle with a bit of parmesan cheese, and return to the oven for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
4. Serve each squash half on its own or with a nice salad, and enjoy!