Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash

So I promised this recipe last night...didn't happen, but the final episode of season 2 House of Cards did.  Love binge watching, but so sad when we run out of episodes!

Anyway, the inspiration for this dish was a yummy concoction hubby and I had on an anniversary trip to Williamsburg two years ago.  It was a special at one of the restaurants where we had dinner.  Hubby ordered it, I couldn't stop eating it.  They stuffed it with barley, sausage, some veggies and topped it with what we deduced was a creamy balsamic syrup.  The savory stuffing was a nice contrast to the sweet squash and syrup.

If you have read my book (thank you), you know we usually make acorn squash with butter and brown sugar (and Grand Marnier for hubby). I grew up eating it that way--you cook the squash then put a pat of butter and a couple tablespoons brown sugar in the cavity (and brush some Grand Marnier around the rim for the hubby).  We got our kids eating it by calling it candy squash.  Whatever it takes, right?

We tried to recall everything that was in the dish from Williamsburg, but neither one of us could truly remember.  Back in the fall, I tried two different combinations in the filing, this spinach / mushroom / goat cheese was the hubby's favorite.  It might be because we are putting goat cheese on everything right now.  Even at restaurants, we'll look at each other "you know what this needs...goat cheese."

Cut squash in half and scoop out the seeds.  Try to make sure that your two halves will sit up straight.  If not, slice a tiny sliver off the bottoms to make a level bottom.

Brush cut sides with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Roast cut side up in a shallow dish at 350 about 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook quinoa according to your package directions.  Mine said to rinse, then cook with a 2 parts liquid to 1 part quinoa.  I made double what I needed for the recipe and I used vegetable broth.  I will portion and freeze the remainder for another use.

Cook sausage over medium-high heat until brown and cooked through, remove from pan.  I've used a roll of breakfast sausage in the past.  This time, I used a mix of hot and sweet Italian sausage.

Add pepper and onions and cook until slightly tender, about 5 minutes.  Then remove from pan--add to sausage in a bowl.

This is the sausage, peppers and onions waiting for me.  I made enough for four servings, but I only had one acorn squash.  (Bonus...I used half of this sausage and pepper mixture with a small can of mushrooms in half a jar of Ragu.  Poured that over some al dente penne mixed with ricotta cheese, topped it all with a handful of mozzarella and baked it for about 20 minutes.  Easy weeknight dinner last night).

Saute mushrooms.

Add spinach and toss to wilt.

Well, that was fast.  And look how much that spinach cooks down.

Add sausage / peppers back to pan.  Stir in quinoa.

Stir in goat cheese.

Brush cut side of cooked squash with maple syrup.  Fill cavities with the sausage / quinoa filling.  Bake at 350 til golden and hot through, about 20 minutes.

Sometimes we top it with an extra drizzle of syrup.

Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash
2 Acorn squash, halved and seeded.
1 Tbs olive oil
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup quinoa, uncooked
1 cup water, chicken stock or vegetable stock
1 lb sausage (breakfast or Italian)
1 red pepper, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
8 oz mushrooms, diced
8 oz baby spinach, chopped
4 oz crumbled goat cheese
1 Tbs pure maple syrup

Preheat oven to 350.  Place squash in a shallow dish and brush cut edge and cavity with olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast 40 minutes in the oven.
Meanwhile, place quinoa and liquid of choice in a covered saucepan.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes until liquid is absorbed.
Cook sausage in a skillet over medium-high heat until cooked through.  Remove sausage from pan and place in a bowl.  Place peppers and onions in skillet and cook over medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes.  Place peppers and onions in bowl with sausage.  Cook mushrooms in skillet over medium heat (add extra olive oil if necessary) about 5 minutes.  Add spinach and toss until wilted.  Add sausage and peppers back to skillet with spinach and mushrooms.  Stir in quinoa and goat cheese.
Brush cooked squash with syrup and fill cavities with sausage / quinoa mixture.
Bake in oven about 20 minutes until browned a bit and heated through.

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