Stuffed Acorn Squash

Fall weather is approaching soon, and with it comes all the delicious produce from autumn harvest. One of my personal favorites, which is often overlooked, is acorn squash! When you cut it in half and scoop out the seeds, it’s just asking to be stuffed.

As I was visiting our local produce stand, I saw a huge basket full of these beautiful squash. A lady was picking through them with me, commenting on how she was looking for the biggest, most brightly-colored one. I told her that I was doing the same, and she asked, “where do you plan on putting yours?” I replied, “… in the oven?” She laughed, assuming I was joking, and then said, “wait, are you serious? You can cook these?!” The farmer that ran the stand and I then proceeded to explain how to cook the squash, season it, and stuff it with whatever your heart desires. This woman was absolutely blown away. As she was leaving, she passed by me and said, “now when I cook this tonight, I’ll be thinking of you!”

This little incident made me realize that many people have never experienced the joy of a stuffed acorn squash! It truly is the best meal to welcome fall into your kitchen. So, next time you’re at your local produce stand or grocery store, grab two acorn squash- one for the front porch and one for the oven!

Ingredients (serves 2):

- 1 acorn squash (cut in half and seeds removed)

- 1 cup cooked lentils

- 1 cup cooked quinoa

- 1 cup kale

- 1 cup crimini mushrooms

- a couple handfuls of crushed walnuts

- 2 tbsp maple syrup

- drizzle of tahini

- smoked gouda cheese (optional- but I used Follow Your Heart, a non-dairy cheese alternative)

- a dash of paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, thyme, rosemary, and any other fall spices!

Method:

For the squash, cut in half and scoop out the middle seeds. On the side with the skin, puncture a few times with a sharp knife. Place both halves, flesh facing up, on a baking sheet or microwave-safe plate. Add a splash of water (the steam helps it cook faster), and your desired seasonings. If using an oven, cook the squash at 400 degrees for 45-50 minutes, until fork-tender. If using a microwave, turn the squash flesh facing down and cook for about 12 minutes. The oven leaves you with a more gourmet squash, but sometimes you only have 12 minutes. I won’t judge.

For the candied walnuts, add the walnuts, maple syrup, and a dash of salt to a non-stick pan over medium heat. Cook for 2-5 minutes, stirring constantly until the syrup caramelizes. As you let them cool off, the syrup will harden on the walnuts.

For the stuffing, cook the mushrooms and kale in a pan over medium heat- I like to add all my spices and maybe a splash of liquid aminos for flavor. Once cooked, add the lentils, quinoa, cheese if using, and additional spices to taste. Since the ingredients are already cooked, you really only want to stir them together long enough for them to become well incorporated, and for the cheese to melt a bit.

Scoop out the stuffing into the middle of the squash, then top with the candied walnuts and drizzle of tahini. Serve warm and enjoy!