When considering squash, it is hard for us to decide which we like the best. We like the slightly crunchy, noodle-like texture of the spaghetti squash, the somewhat ‘nutty’ flavor of the butternut squash, or the sweetness of the sweet dumpling squash (yes we totally realize that we just described butterNUT as ‘nutty’ and SWEET dumpling as sweet…….but they are!). One of our favorites is the Acorn Squash. It tastes delicious, has a texture that we enjoy, and is perfect for stuffing with sweet or savory combinations.
Nutritionally speaking, acorn squash (and other winter squashes) is a great source of carotenoids, which are important antioxidants (cancer-fighters)1. It is also a good source of vitamins A, C, potassium, fiber and manganese.
Another favorite ingredient in this dish, which just happens to be a nutritional ‘powerhouse’, is quinoa. Quinoa is a seed that is either black, red or white (as shown above). The white tends to be a little fluffier and less ‘earthy’ tasting, but the other varieties taste great as well. Quinoa is excellent for vegans in particular because it has a high-quality protein profile. A variety of amino acids make up proteins in the body (they are known as the ‘building-blocks’ of protein) and each protein has a special ‘code’ of different amino acids used to build it. When you eat food, your body breaks down the protein in that food and uses each amino acid from that to build new proteins. This is one reason why it is important to eat a variety of foods so that you are taking in a wide variety of amino acids, specifically ‘essential amino acids’, that your body can’t produce itself. Quinoa is a high-quality protein, which means that it contains a higher level of the essential amino acids that you need2. It also tastes great and can be used in a variety of recipes from breakfast to dinner! While this recipe calls for a small amount of quinoa (1/2 serving), you can also prepare a large amount of it and use it in a variety of dishes throughout the week.
Spicy Stuffed Acorn Squash
– 1 Small Acorn Squash
– 1/2 teaspoon Oil
– 1/4 Onion, chopped
– 1 teaspoon Minced Garlic
– 1 serving Super Firm Tofu, pressed and cut into small squares
– 1 teaspoon Vegetable Broth Powder*, divided
– 1/8 c. Uncooked Quinoa, rinsed
– 1/4 c. Water*
– 1/2 Red Bell Pepper**, roasted
– 1 c. Spinach, chopped
– 1 teaspoon Nutritional Yeast
– Cayenne Pepper
– Garlic Salt
– Malt Vinegar
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds (you can save the seeds and lightly roast them just as you would pumpkin seeds). Spray cooking spray on a tinfoil-lined baking sheet and place the squash halves cut side down. Roast for 30-40 minutes, depending on squash size.
In a small saucepan, heat the oil and add the onion, sauteeing until translucent. Add the garlic and 1/2 t. vegetable broth powder and saute for a couple of minutes longer (until the garlic begins to cook). Next, add the tofu and cook until the edges are firm; transfer to a bowl (it’s okay if some of the onions and garlic remain in the pan) and toss with cayenne pepper, garlic sat, sriracha and malt vinegar to taste. Add 1/2 teaspoon Nutritional Yeast and mix.
Using the same pan, add the quinoa, 1/2 t. broth powder and 1/4 cup water. Add 1/2 of your red pepper and bring this mixture to a boil. Then, reduce to a simmer and cover it for about 15 minutes (or until the water has been soaked up).
Once the squash is done, use a spoon to scrape out the inside,sprinkle some cayenne and garlic salt onto it (to taste), and mix it with the chopped spinach and cooked quinoa.
Divide the mixture between the two shells, top with tofu, remaining nutritional yeast and cayenne to taste. Broil for about 5-6 minutes (until the nutritional yeast turns brown and the spinach is cooked). Top with roasted bell peppers, a splash of malt vinegar, garlic salt and cayenne. Enjoy!
*Alternatively, use 1/4 c. prepared vegetable broth and season the onions with salt and pepper.
*You can also just leave the red peppers raw and put them on top of the acorn squash in the final step.
What is your favorite way to enjoy winter squash? Savory or sweet?