Butternut squash is a favorite food as the weather turns cold and our bodies crave earthy vegetables. And while I love a butternut squash bisque as much as the next person, this type of squash often steals the spotlight from lesser known winter squashes that are equally as flavorful. While names such as “Delicata,” “Hubbard,” and even Spaghetti squashes might ring a bell, the squash that I feel deserves a bit more recognition is the commonly available but somehow still overlooked acorn squash.
Growing up in rural Minnesota, my parents tended a massive garden. Actually, there were a few garden plots, and one was dedicated solely to squash. Each year, my father planted a few butternuts, a few buttercups, and a whole mess of acorn squashes. It was always a treat to help him twist the ridged green fruits off the vine and watch my mother cut them in half, scoop out the seeds, and roast them in the oven for what seemed like an eternity. And while there was a delicious outcome every time she religiously buttered and drizzled the golden delicacies with maple syrup and brown sugar, I have found myself to be a little more experimental, stuffing the insides with a few other autumn treats.
Acorn squashes have a dark green rind that is often blotched with orange. One end comes to a point, giving it its iconic acorn shape. The golden meat inside is sweet and slightly nutty, pairing well with spices and herbs of the season. The best way to learn about food is to experiment with it, so feel free to substitute the ingredients in this recipe for your own favorite autumn goodies, like wild rice or chestnuts or pears. Use the ingredients as a way to tune in to the earth and her seasons!
Autumn Stuffed Acorn Squash
- 1 acorn squash
- 1 tbsp butter/ghee
- maple syrup (as much as needed)
- salt and pepper to taste
- ¼ cup lentils
- ¼ cup quinoa
- 1 cup water, divided into ½ cup & ½ cup
- 1 small or medium apple
- ¾ - 1 cup mushrooms
- ½ yellow onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- ½ inch knob, about 1 tsp fresh minced ginger
- ½ cup spinach
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp cloves
- ¼ tsp nutmeg
- ¼ tsp allspice
- ¼ tsp ground sage
1. Begin by cutting off the stem end of the squash. It will make a beautiful flower-shaped cap.
2. Next, cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds (you can roast these!). Place in a glass baking dish cut side up and brush with melted butter or ghee.
3. Sprinkle a bit of salt on top to draw out the liquids, which will keep the squash tender, and drizzle with maple syrup. Roast the squash in the oven for 45 minutes or until tender.
4. Meanwhile, cook your lentils. Rinse them and put them in a small pot with ½ cup water. Bring to a boil, then turn down heat to low and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes or until the water is absorbed.
5. Immediately after getting the lentils started, begin your quinoa. Rinse and put in a small pot with the other ½ cup of water. Add a little salt and bring to a boil. Then turn down heat and cook covered for 15-20 minutes or until water is absorbed.
6. Next begin prepping your veggies and fruits. (You can chop them beforehand, but I find that chopping them at this point is good timing.) Heat olive oil in a medium pan over medium-high heat. Add spices (cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice, sage) and let them heat up for about 30 seconds. Add apples, mushrooms, and onions. Next add garlic and ginger. Cook until onions and apples are translucent and everything is cooked through. Add chopped spinach and stir until cooked.
7. When the water is completely absorbed, mix quinoa and lentils into the spiced vegetable mix and stir thoroughly until everything is evenly combined. Add salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle once more with maple syrup and cook another minute longer.
8. Keep the stuffing mix on low heat until the squash is ready. Once the squash is a golden yellow color and is tender enough for a fork to poke through cleanly, remove from oven.
9. Take the lentil-quinoa-vegetable mix off heat and fill squash cavities. Serve immediately.
Amanda Nicklaus is a writer and aspiring urban homesteader based in Minneapolis. She spends her free time trying new recipes, going to farmers markets, and writing about everything she learns. Read all of Amanda’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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