Stuffed Acorn Squash

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I love acorn squash.

Absolutely love it.

When it starts to appear in the grocery store in late September, I become obsessed. All I want to do is buy it all, cook it, and dig in. And repeat.

While I love simple baked acorn squash, my friend DK actually gave me a recipe for STUFFED acorn squash a few years ago that took my favorite fall side and turned it into a meal. Needless to say I tried it the same night she gave it to me and have been in love with it ever since.

This dish is the perfect combination of fall flavors – squash, apple, and sausage. Basically, it is October in a meal.

It starts with two acorn squashes that have been washed thoroughly, dried, and cut in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and set the halves cut-side up into a deep-sided baking dish (I used my roasting pan) lined with a silicon baking mat or with some parchment paper.

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I brushed the cut-sides of the squash with melted butter and seasoned it with salt and pepper. I popped the roasting pan into a 400 degree oven for about 1 hour until the squash is just tender.

While the squash is roasting in the oven, you have plenty of time to whip up the stuffing.

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In a large high-sided skillet set over medium-high heat, throw in one pound of sweet Italian sausage – I can only find sweet Italian sausage links at my grocery, so I just slit the casing and peel it off before tossing into the skillet. If you can find bulk Italian sausage though, grab that and use it!

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Cook the sausage until it’s all crumbled and brown. Drain the sausage in a colander to remove the excess grease and transfer them to a plate and drain any excess fat from the skillet.

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Place the skillet back on the heat, turn it down to medium, and add in about 2 teaspoons of olive oil, some finely diced onion, and finely diced celery.

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And I threw in a couple sprigs of fresh thyme – it adds a bit of herby freshness to all the rich fall flavors. I cooked the veggies for a couple minutes until they become tender and start to become golden.

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Then I threw in some finely chopped apple (that has been peeled first) – I used one gala apple and one granny smith, but any firm apple works here! Sauté the apples and veggies for another couple minutes until everything is soft and tender. Then turn off the heat.

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And toss in the cooked sausage and some seasoned bread crumbs to the veggie mixture and stir to combine. Taste the filling and add salt and pepper to taste. Then stir in one beaten egg. Set the filling aside until the squash comes out of the oven.

When the squash is tender, pull it out of the oven.

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Fill up the cavity of the squash with the filling. Lightly pack the filling into the cavity, but don’t pack it down too much – if the filling is too compressed, it becomes too dense and doesn’t cook through (raw egg is not awesome). Pop the squash back into the oven and cook the squash until the filling is cooked through and golden brown.

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All that you need to do is plate up and chow down. This is definitely a fall dinner winner (say that three times fast!). I hope you enjoy this recipe, kiddos.

Your acorn squash obsessed friend,

C

Stuffed Acorn Squash

  • Servings: 4 people
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

For the squash:

2 medium-to-large acorn squashes, cut in half and seeded

1 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Salt and pepper to taste

For the filling:

1 pound sweet Italian sausage

2 teaspoons olive oil

½ cup onion, finely diced

1 celery rib, finely diced

3-4 sprigs fresh thyme

2 apples (I like gala or granny smith), finely chopped

1 cup seasoned breadcrumbs

1 egg, beaten

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Steps:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line the bottom of a high-sided roasting pan with a silicon baking mat or with some parchment paper.

For the squash: When the oven is at temperature, place the squash halves in the pan, cut side up. Brush the cut sides of the squash with the melted butter and season them with salt and pepper. Place the pan into the oven and roast the squash for about 1 hour or until the squash just become fork tender.

For the filling:

  1. In a high-sided skillet set over medium-high heat, toss in the sausage and cook until crumbled and browned, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and drain the sausage in a colander. Place the sausage on a plate and set aside. Drain the grease from the skillet.
  2. Place the skillet back onto a burner set to medium heat and add in the olive oil. When the oil become hot, add in the onion, celery, and thyme. Cook the veggies for about 2-3 minutes until they are soft and turning slightly golden brown.
  3. Add in the chopped apples and continue to cook for about 2-3 additional minutes until everything is soft and tender. Remove the skillet from the heat.
  4. Add in the sausage and the breadcrumbs. Stir to combine – taste for seasoning, adding in salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the beaten egg. Set aside until the squash is finished roasting.

Assembly:

  1. Remove the squash from the oven. Fill the cavity of the squash with the stuffing. Place the pan back into the oven and bake for about 20 minutes until the filling is golden brown and cooked through.

Serve immediately to hungry family and friends!

 

Nutrition Information (1 squash half):

522 calories Ÿ• 58gm carbohydrates •Ÿ 7gm fiber Ÿ• 22gm protein •Ÿ 28gm fat Ÿ• 10gm saturated fat Ÿ• 1281mg sodium Ÿ• 101mg cholesterol Ÿ• 4mg iron •Ÿ 161mg calcium

Vegetarianism 3.0 Recap: Weeks 2 & 3

It’s the start of a new week, which means that I am done with Vegetarianism 3.0 Week 3!

Which means that we’re HALFWAY THERE!

Goodness gracious, who knew where the time went?!

Since we haven’t had a vegetarianism recap in a while (we missed Weeks 2 and 3), I decided that my thoughts will be better expressed via random list!

 

  1. Despite the signs of spring popping up everywhere (warmer temperatures, the days getting longer, Easter decorations everywhere, etc., etc.), I still crave my favorite Fall flavors… like pumpkin and cinnamon.

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A craving that I satisfied with easy pumpkin pancakes.

 

  1. We have fallen into a slight Asian food rut this past week (not that I’m complaining).

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My mom whipped up Ellie Krieger’s Aromatic Noodles with Lime Peanut Sauce for a spontaneous visit from E.

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And then we continued the Asian food tour with Clinton Kelly’s General Tso Chicken, swapping shrimp for the chicken. But be warned – the recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of red pepper flake (which can be super hot for some)… I used 1 teaspoon and it is still perfectly spicy without burning the roof of your mouth.

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Finally, I had to make Asian sugar snap peas

We definitely like a theme in this house!

 

  1. My final realization for Vegetarianism 3.0 Weeks 2 and 3 is that baked goods are vegetarian.

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Chocolate cupcakes are healthier when they are served at Nutrition Symposiums, right?

 

It has been a delicious two weeks – I can’t see what else we make for the second half of this vegetarian journey!

Your chocolate lovin’ vegetarian friend,

C

The Hello/Goodbye Dinner

It has been over a week of vegetarianism and I am still going strong (relatively). It has been a challenge to come up with vegetarian options for meals but also a welcome way to stretch my brain between writing my thesis and my Master’s competency exam.

A break from all the writing craziness came as a Sunday dinner at our family friends’ home. Mr. and Mrs. S (of the amazing, tahini-less hummus fame) are always fun to visit with and having dinner at mid-afternoon with a glass of wine was a treat (and so very European – it made me feel very chic!).

This dinner was not just a normal dinner – it was a welcome home for Spring Break for me and a bon voyage dinner for my grandmother (who is living it up in Las Vegas with her BFF) and for the S’s (who are leaving for Greece). So prosecco was poured, toasts given, hummus to be eaten, and good times to be had by all.

I was in for a treat because Mr. S let me be underfoot and help him pull together dinner (and snap photos which distracted me from stirring the pasta as it was cooking… whoops!). The pasta was simple and delicious… here are the cast of characters:

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Butter, good olive oil, broccoli, chopped green beans, sliced grape tomatoes, garlic, and red pepper flake.

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The pasta and the broccoli are cooked together, drained, and then tossed in a pan with heated olive oil and butter.

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Grape tomatoes and the green beans add extra color and a sprinkling of cheese adds saltiness and a sharp bite.

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Place in a breathtaking bowl and serve to your family and friends.

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Be sure to include thick slices of country bread.

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Because you do not want the glorious mixture of olive oil, butter, garlic, and red pepper flake to go to waste.

 

It was the best “Hello/Goodbye Dinner” I have ever had… good food, good wine, and even better company.

Your pasta lovin’ friend,

C

You Say ToMAYto, I Say ToMAHto

Actually, I say toMAYto but that is beside the point. So summer also seems like a time where I TOTALLY slack off on the blogging duties. To my defense, I really didn’t cook this summer – I tried to entice my sister and dad into trying the awesome lentil sloppy joes (featured here), but they were not having it. The one meal (which is all about tomatoes) that I did orchestrate was a success though! And here is a post about it… six weeks later.

We have a teeny-tiny farmer’s market in my hometown; it is comprised of approximately two farmers, a sweet lady selling organic honey, a man with jam (and jelly), a person selling pickles, an awesome baker (whose crumb cake is more crumb than cake – to die for), and the crown jewel – the guys in a truck making fresh mozzarella (and it’s always still warm!!). It totally inspires my inner foodie. My mother had to restrain me from marching into each tent and declaring that I wish to buy their entire stock… okay, that might be a little over dramatic, but when I go I need to buy everything.

This buying trip featured gorgeous basil, fresh mozzarella, and beautiful, ruby-red tomatoes. So I decided that I was going to cook and it was going to be Italian night paying homage to the great tomato. The menu of greatness consisted of homemade pizza with tomato-mozzarella salad on the side. And beer. Needless to say, I was super excited.

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Dinner prep started with making the pizza dough (find my foolproof recipe here) and making pesto. I have to say that I go off of a Food Network recipe for my pesto, but I make a few key changes. For the best pesto in the world, you need:

5 cups of fresh, washed basil

¾ cup of good olive oil

6 garlic cloves (leave out a couple cloves if raw garlic isn’t your thing)

1 cup fresh grated parmesan

½ cup walnuts

Salt and pepper to taste

Throw everything (but the olive oil) into a food processor and pulse until everything is chopped really small. Then put the food processor on and drizzle the olive oil into the mixture until the pesto is smooth. Taste (because you don’t want to serve bad pesto, right?). My mom divides up the pesto into plastic containers and stashes them in the freezer – then dinner is always at her fingertips! I want to try this by freezing pesto in ice cube trays and then placing the cubes into big plastic bags – perfect for frantic grad school nights.

Back to pizza-ville – I decided that I was going to make three different pizzas. Traditional cheese for my more-picky sister, traditional cheese with onion, and pesto. The first two types of pizza are easy to prepare. Take the risen focaccia dough and spread it into a greased cookie sheet. I let it rest for 15 minutes in the pan, so that the dough can rise a bit more. I then put on sauce (leaving a 1” border on the edges) and heaps of mozzarella cheese. The onion pizza is identical except I place thinly sliced onion on top of the mozzarella.

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Here is the plain pizza in all its brown, cheesy awesomeness.

The pesto pizza proved to be the challenge. I hate that pesto turns brown when heat is added to it. But pizza needs to be baked. To get around this issue, I decided to let the focaccia bake halfway before putting on a generous slather of pesto and mounds of cheese. And it worked! No brown anywhere on my pie! It was a food engineering success.

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Look Mom, no brown pesto!

Needless to say, everything was devoured (including my mom’s beautiful tomato-mozzarella salad – it was super yummy!).

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It was a farmer’s market bounty dinner that encompassed all the food ideals I learned in Italy. First, use fresh, local, and seasonal products. Second, use them the same day you bought them. Third, share your bounty with family and friends. My dinner wasn’t just about the tomato (or the pesto, mozzarella, or pizza), it was about all of the connections we made around the dinner table. It was the perfect meal indeed.

Your philosophical tomato lover,

C

Perfect Pesto

  • Servings: 2cups
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

5 cups of fresh, washed basil

¾ cup of good olive oil

6 garlic cloves (leave out a couple cloves if raw garlic isn’t your thing)

1 cup fresh grated parmesan

½ cup walnuts

Salt and pepper to taste

Steps:

Throw everything (but the olive oil) into a food processor and pulse until everything is chopped really small. Then put the food processor on and drizzle the olive oil into the mixture until the pesto is smooth. Taste (because you don’t want to serve bad pesto, right?). My mom divides up the pesto into plastic containers and stashes them in the freezer – then dinner is always at her fingertips! I want to try this by freezing pesto in ice cube trays and then placing the cubes into big plastic bags – perfect for frantic grad school nights.

Farro

As a graduate student, I have a limited budget and limited time to create wonderful, healthy meals. Thus, my eating routine is centered on family-sized portions of easy meals that can sit in the fridge for a week. After 4 weeks of eating chili, roasted chicken breasts, and rice and beans, I was bored. I longed for holiday break were my mom made wonderful, diverse meals every night. I needed to get out of my food funk, and fast!

While strolling through Wegman’s at an obscenely early hour on Saturday, I came across a product that I thought existed in Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and Fairway markets. It was the mythical grain, FARRO!

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I love farro because when combined with beans/lentils, it becomes a complete protein (hooray for Meatless Monday options!). It also has a very pleasing texture and structure, which is perfect for use as a cold salad base. Since cold salads can hang out in the fridge and require minimal reheating, they are a perfect dinner option for this busy grad student. My find allowed me to dump the chili fixings for the produce and Asian aisles of the store – it was time to get out of my dinnertime rut.

My mother has two signature farro salad recipes – one is a riff on a basic pasta salad and the other is a take on the classic wheatberry salad with dried cranberries. I love the “pasta salad” farro recipe (with its shredded bell pepper and green beans), but I decided to take my dish to the Far East and put an Asian spin on my dinner.

My Asian Farro Salad starts with a package of farro cooked according to the box (or the bag, whichever kind you have at your local store) directions.

While that was cooking, I cut up and steamed a ½ pound of broccoli (cut into small pieces) and a ¼ pound of green beans (I cut them in half). When they were cooked slightly and bright green, I dumped them into the biggest bowl I possessed.

A small side note – I recommend using a HUGE bowl for this. I have a small problem with underestimating the volume of farro when it is done cooking (it puffs up slightly), so it is better to have more room than less. And we continue on…

I julienned two bell peppers (minus a bit… cooking makes me hungry) and two carrots, tossing them into the bowl alongside the broccoli and the green beans. When the farro was done, I dumped that into the bowl too. The dressing is super simple and can be altered to your tastes. I do a ¼ of a cup of olive oil, a ⅛ of a cup of low-sodium soy sauce, 2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard, 1 clove of finely minced garlic, and 1 teaspoon of grated fresh ginger. Whisk vigorously and pour over the salad and toss thoroughly. I garnished my salad with some chopped scallions – chopped, roasted peanuts would also work well too!

 

Here is a picture (or several) of the final result!

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A close-up!

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Ready to eat!

 

Enjoy, everyone!

C