Healthy & Hearty Southwestern Stuffed Acorn Squash
Upon encountering the gorgeous parade of Fall colors out in front of our favorite market, we had no choice but to seize a few armloads of this Autumn's best and brightest produce. Out of the dozen bins of various apples we picked through, our favorite that we took home was the Autumn Crisp. And there were countless shapes and sizes of squash...of which, we grabbed our favorite Butternut...and a couple perfectly ripe Acorn Squash, whose fate was decided maybe a week ago when we had written down a shopping list for this very recipe that you're seeing here. Ok, it turns out that our flavor intuition was right on the money. Acorn Squash has a sweet, creamy, and nutty flavor when roasted, and it pairs perfectly with these savory fillings and spices. The squash is so mild and pleasant tasting...it's the perfect backdrop for the southwest style flavor combination.
Since it's a Fall recipe, we wanted it to be filling and comforting...but knew we could achieve both of these things while keeping it healthy and vegetarian. You could even add an extra kick of protein and nutrition by using quinoa in place of the brown rice. For us the brown rice and black beans work so well with the southwest flavor theme...and to make the brown rice even tastier we prepared it with vegetable broth in place of water. Also, we've seen recipes similar to this that include meat, and we know a lot of peeps (usually dudes) who feel like the addition of meat really rounds out a dish. So in the case this recipe you'll see that we sautee some onions and spices at one point...well, this would be the perfect opportunity to brown some of the meat of your choice (ok dudes?)
Overall, this is a hearty Fall dish that you can feel really good about eating. It's one of those dishes where it feels like every category is satisfied...every box is checked...and each ingredient fully serves it's purpose. And jeez...there's even some sharp cheddar melted on top!
Here is what you will need:
2 Acorn Squash
salt & pepper
1/2 onion diced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of chili powder (optional)
2 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro
1 green onion sliced
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
1 heaping tablespoon sunflower seeds (unsalted)
1/2 cup black beans (drained and rinsed)
1 cup cooked brown rice (we used vegetable broth in place of water )
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes (quartered)
1/2 cup shredded sharp white cheddar cheese
Other possible additions:
chopped red or green peppers
chopped peppers in adobo sauce
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
Prepare a cookie sheet by lining it with parchment paper or tin foil
Prepare your acorn squash by leveling it so that it can sit flat on the cookie sheet. To do this just slice a little off the bottom, not too much, just enough to give you a flat surface. Then slice off the top part with the stem, again, just enough to give you a flat surface. Then cut each squash in half, a horizontal cut, and scoop out all of the seeds and stringy stuff.
Now lightly brush your squash with olive oil, and sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper.
Place your squash halves on your prepared baking sheet with the cavity side face down. Put into your preheated 400 degree oven for about 35- 40 mins. Until your squash is fork tender. While the squash is roasting, take this time to prepare the filling...this is a good time to prepare your rice...just keep it covered and warm on the stovetop until everything is ready to be combined.
So, after 35-40 minutes remove the squash from the oven but be sure to keep your oven on since you'll be popping them back in once they're stuffed.
In a skillet or pan, warm some olive oil over medium heat, add your chopped onion with a sprinkling of cumin, salt, pepper, and a pinch of chili powder (chili powder optional). These are just additional pinches of spices...not part of the above ingredient measurements. Stir occasionally until they're translucent and they're beginning to brown...about 5-7 minutes. Then put aside.
*Our recipe is vegetarian, but as I said above, during this step you could brown the meat of your choice.
Now prep your other filling ingredients. The orange zest really brings a brightness to the overall flavor, and compliments all of the other ingredients. Just a tiny bit makes such a difference.
We love prepping. Our Mise En Place is our own personal moment of zen.
In a large bowl, combine your cooked brown rice, beans, tomatoes, cilantro, green onion (save a bit of the cilantro and green onion for garnish) sunflower seeds, orange zest, spices, and mix very well. Keep the cheese set aside because that's your topping.
Be sure to stir everything up well...you want to get those spices and the zest fully combined throughout. Take a taste test, you may want to add a pinch of salt to the mix.
Now, spoon your filling into your squash, filling them all the way up, really pack it in there. Top with your cheddar cheese. (We had a bit of the filling left over, which Aaron just heated and ate later on.) Pop the tray of stuffed squash back in your oven for about 12-15 mins, or until your cheese is totally melted, and your filling is hot.
Plate and garnish with a tiny bit more cilantro and green onion. Enjoy!
We loved this meal so much. Great flavor, not heavy, but filling. It feels healthy and good for you. It's hard to say what the standout flavor is. You can taste each ingredient, but maybe the squash itself is the star of the show.
These are perfect little bowls, and when eating you should do yourself a favor and try to get some squash on every fork full. It just marries all the ingredients perfectly. You can also turn it all out onto your plate and scrape out the entire squash.
We already have our next stuffed Acorn Squash ideas written down...with all new flavors that we cannot wait to try. We're thinking some dried cranberries, and toasted pecans...going in that direction. Of course we'll be sure to share any future adventures with you guys!
We hope you'll not only pick up some Acorn Squash as Fall decor, but to make a fab meal that will become a Fall classic in your home.
Thanks for popping in!
Happy Cooking & Eating!
xo Jenny & Aaron
*adapted from The Cozy Apron