Acorn Stuffing


Happy Thanksgiving Week! Hopefully everyone is feeling the holiday cheer and not the holiday fear. It's unfortunate when the hustle and bustle of Thanksgiving and Christmas brings on more panic than excitement. We worry about getting the house ready for family, having the exact ingredients for mom's dressing and picking out the perfect gift; when really, it's the company that makes the holiday. 

Today I'm headed to St. Johns, Newfoundland, to celebrate Thanksgiving with James. This will be our first Thanksgiving on our own and while I'm anxious about preparing my first full-on Thanksgiving dinner, I'm also joyful for the opportunity. It's been an entire month since I've seen my husband. Yoga training has required me to stay in Houston for a longer bout than usual. As a result, I've strongly craved the comfort flavors of fall; the warmth and the spice.

Holiday meals are notorious for being calorie dense, but with my yoga training in mind I've come up with a recipe that incorporates those festive flavors in a nutritious and pretty package. I wasn't sure what to call this particular recipe, but when I brought it to work for some coworkers to sample, they exclaimed it tasted like Thanksgiving stuffing! 

So here you go. A vegetarian meal that could imitate, though never replicate, mom's carbohydrate and butter loaded stuffing. Which, you should totally indulge in too, because what's better at Thanksgiving alongside your green bean casserole than traditional stuffing? 

After you've picked your perfect acorn squash and lit your favorite holiday candle (pumpkin spice everything), cut your squash vertically through the center and scoop out the seeds. *Note, save the seeds, lay them out to dry overnight and then roast them in your favorite holiday spices for a healthy snack on the go!

Rub down both halves of squash with coconut oil, being sure to cover all sides and crevices. Then sprinkle the inner halves with a little salt and a generous amount of pepper.

Place your squash on a baking sheet, inside facing up, and roast at 425 degrees for 45 minutes to one hour. Most recipes recommend to roast squash for an hour, but mine looked really brown at 45 minutes, so I took it out early and it was perfectly cooked through. *Note, if your squash isn't staying upright, cut a small, flat piece off the bottom (outside edge) so it can balance for even cooking. 

While the acorn squash is roasting away, cook the tricolor quinoa in mushroom broth. This Better Than Bouillon has been a staple in my home since childhood and now comes in a variety of vegetarian and non-vegetarian flavors.

This recipe will make way more quinoa than will fit in one squash, so plan for leftover quinoa or make more squash!

This may seem like a bit of a juggling act, but the timing is actually pretty seamless. 

While the squash is roasting and the quinoa is simmering, saute some white button mushrooms with rosemary, thyme and more black pepper. You can use fresh or dried herbs. I only had dry on-hand at the "thyme." 

The mushrooms only need to saute until they start to seep water, about three minutes. Then you can pull them off the stove and into a mixing bowl. 

While the quinoa is soaking up the mushroom broth, begin de-seeding the pomegranate. If anyone has a suggestion for how to gracefully achieve this, please, please contact me. I popped seeds all over my kitchen, but somehow managed to salvage most of them.

These beauties bring so much life to this dish. They burst with sweet juiciness and give balance to the savory spices in the mushroom quinoa. They also provide a heck of a lot of antioxidants, which is especially beneficial during flu season. 

Depending on how much you struggle with the pomegranate, your quinoa may be ready. Carefully stir together the sauteed mushrooms, quinoa and pomegranate and set aside until your squash is golden brown.

So beautiful! And now it's time to put all the pieces together so you can immediately pull it apart with a fork. I was overcome with pride and delight when this figment of my imagination turned out to be so damn good! 

This dish is triumphantly balanced. The subtle sweetness of the acorn squash, combined with the surge of sugary pomegranate juice, perfectly compliment the deep, savory gusto of the mushrooms and quinoa.

I hope you make this dish and I hope it brings you the same comforts and joy it did me. 

FoodLyndsay CavanaghRecipes