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Dorothy Dean presents: Stuffed acorn squash is a hearty and versatile all-in-one meal

UPDATED: Mon., Nov. 16, 2020

By Audrey Alfaro For The Spokesman-Review

One of fall’s most popular vegetables, winter squash, is here in abundance. Colorfully lining carts, tables and displays at farmers markets and grocery stores, squash is just waiting to be transformed into a delicious dish at your table.

Squash has a subtle sweet and buttery flavor, so it pairs well with just about anything. It can be baked, sautéed, grilled, mashed, puréed or, my favorite way, stuffed.

This versatile recipe turns acorn squash into an all-in-one meal, stuffing it with a hearty mixture of nutty quinoa, pork sausage, spinach, dried cranberries, feta cheese, pumpkin seeds and fresh parsley.

It’s full of fall flavors, both sweet and savory, and wonderful texture, from crunchy to creamy.

It can be served as a side dish or main course, and it is definitely holiday-worthy with its festive flavors and beautiful presentation.

You can easily customize the filling to your tastes. Additional veggies, cheeses or nuts can be mixed in or swapped out, and the pork sausage can be replaced with ground chorizo, chicken or turkey.

Or you can skip the sausage and make it vegetarian.

Another plus to this dish is that it can be made in advance. Just roast the squash, prepare your filling, stuff and refrigerate them until ready to bake.

Quinoa and Sausage Stuffed Acorn Squash

2 acorn squash, halved and seeds removed

1 tablespoon olive oil

½ teaspoon kosher salt, divided

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided

½ pound ground pork sausage

2 cups fresh spinach, chopped

1 cup quinoa, cooked

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

½ cup dried cranberries

¼ cup pumpkin seeds (pepitas)

½ cup feta cheese, crumbled, plus more for serving

1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped, plus more for serving

Balsamic glaze, optional for serving

Preheat an oven to 400 degrees.

Trim the bottom of the halves of squash to create a flat edge so that the squash doesn’t roll. Brush the insides of the squash with the olive oil and sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Place the cut side down, on a silpat or parchment-lined baking sheet, and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until just tender. Flip the squash halves over and set aside to cool.

While the squash is roasting, brown the sausage in a large skillet over medium-high heat, breaking it apart as it cooks. Add in the spinach and remove from the heat, tossing until the spinach is wilted.

In a large bowl, combine the quinoa, sausage mixture, remaining salt and pepper, garlic powder, dried cranberries, pumpkin seeds, feta and parsley. Toss to combine, then spoon the mixture into the roasted halves of squash.

Return to the oven for 15-20 minutes to warm everything through together.

Serve sprinkled with feta, parsley and a drizzle of balsamic glaze, if desired.

Audrey Alfaro can be reached at spoonandswallow@yahoo.com.

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