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Quinoa and vegetable-stuffed acorn squash

Simply Food

October 23, 2012
By Wendy Monro , The Journal

"Every leaf speaks bliss to me, fluttering from the autumn tree." Emily Bronte

Here in Las Vegas, the weather is hovering in the 80s still. This is really irritating me. I want to experience the seasons again. We don't have the beautiful colorful leaves falling from the trees. I can never walk through a crunchy leave filled lawn here. We have palm trees and they don't ever seem to change.

This might be OK if I were near the beach but we are land locked here which makes it all the more terrible. If we were near the sea we could at least say, "Yeah, we don't have the seasons, but we live near the beautiful ocean. We can't have it all." I used to say that. Now, I don't know what to say.

Article Photos

Acorn squash stuffed with vegetables and quinoa

People are still wearing shorts, skirts, tank tops and sandals. I'm finished painting my toenails. I'm not doing it any more. I dusted off my favorite boots and found my best sweater and started wearing them in protest. I have to keep my air conditioner up high in the car and stand in the shade when I am outside because these clothes are for another type of season. Well, they are for this season in another place. I have to admit, I am happy just to be wearing my boots. I'm pretty sure it will start cooling off here soon. Please say it will.

In addition to dressing like autumn, I am cooking like it is as well. This week, I found some amazing acorn squash at the market. It was yellow. I didn't even know acorn squash came in yellow. I thought it was always green. I found some yellow acorn squash and took it home to make some type of fall dish. I love their acorn shape. Although acorn squash is a winter squash, it is in season during October to November and this is the best time to eat them. Growing up, my mom always baked acorn squash and then filled them with butter, applesauce and cinnamon. I loved these. It was sweet and hot and so delicious and buttery.

Acorn squash is a good source of vitamin C, antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory properties. Eating them is an excellent way to keep those autumn flu and colds away. Make sure to keep the seeds to roast and eat for a nutritious snack, too.

Fact Box

Acorn squash stuffed with vegetables and quinoa

Time: 1 hour

Serves: 4

2 acorn squash, cut in half, pulp and seeds removed

2 cups quinoa (follow instructions on package)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 leek, chopped

1 cup mushrooms, chopped

1 tablespoon garlic, chopped

2 large chard leaves, ripped into small pieces

1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced

cup pistachios, chopped

juice of two lemons

salt and pepper to taste

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut acorn squash in half. Place in an oven safe dish with inch of water. Bake for 50 minutes (or until easily pierced with a fork and flesh is easy to eat). While these bake, prepare the quinoa according to the instructions on the package. In a large wok or saut pan, heat the oil. Add the leeks and mushrooms and saut for ten minutes. Add garlic, chard, tomatoes and pistachios. Saut for another ten minutes. Add lemon juice, salt and pepper and thyme. Pour the quinoa into the vegetables. Once the squash is finished, cut off the bottom so it sits flat. Fill the quinoa and vegetables into the cavity of the squash. Enjoy.

Since I am not so much a fan of sweet foods any more, I wanted to stuff this squash with something savory. I decided on vegetables and quinoa. Quinoa is one of my favorite foods. I try to have either brown rice or quinoa in my fridge at all times. It's so easy to throw something together with these two staples. I made this stuffing especially nutritious by adding chard, leeks, pistachios, garlic, tomatoes, lemon juice, thyme, and mushrooms to the quinoa.

Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is native to South America. In pre-Columbian times, the Incas considered this a sacred food and called it "chisaya mama," meaning mother grain. It is actually a seed and not a grain. The seed comes from the goosewort plant. The goosewort plant is a relative of spinach and chard. Quinoa is a complete protein. This is an important food for anyone who is eating less or no meat. One cup of quinoa has nine grams of protein, which is more protein than found in one egg. Quinoa has a nutty flavor and tastes similar to wild rice. Also, it is fast and easy to make. You just boil it as you would boil rice. In fact, it cooks faster than rice.

For this dish, I added quinoa to the vegetables and stuffed it all into each half of the acorn squash. I wasn't sure if it would be as good as the sweet buttery version I was used to. Once it was all finished I dove right in and was pleased to discover that this combination was just as delicious as my childhood favorite. The smooth earthy squash was a perfect complement to the citrus vegetable-laden quinoa. I loved this mixture. Also, it looked so pretty and made me feel like it is actually fall, even if it isn't cooling off outside. If I cannot find bliss in the autumn leaves, at least I can find it in the amazing fall dishes we can enjoy this time of year. Ideally, and I hope this is true for you, I'd prefer to be enjoying both.



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