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A dish to enjoy the flavors of Fall – Acorn Squash Stuffed with Chicken Sausage, Quinoa and Peppers.
I love the foods of Fall – apples, pumpkin, and squash to name a few. I am especially partial to squash – spaghetti, butternut, kabocha, acorn . . . pretty much all of them! Pretty acorn squash is the perfect size and shape for stuffing – not too big, and once you remove the seeds and stringy pulp, there is a nice space to fill. In addition, there is lots of color on the plate, with its dark green skin and contrasting orange-y colored flesh. For this main dish recipe, I created a healthy stuffing of chicken-apple sausage, quinoa, bell peppers, celery, and cilantro. The squash is cooked, flesh removed from the shell and mixed with the stuffing, then put back in the shell and topped with Cheddar cheese, nuts and breadcrumbs. The result is a hearty, scrumptious dish that’s full of flavor, pretty on the plate – easy enough for every day and elegant enough for entertaining!
Note: I cut the squash stem to pole rather in half horizontally; the recipe will work either way, but I prefer the way the resulting stuffed squash looks slicing it my way.
- 2 medium to large acorn squash, halved stem to base, seeds and stringy pulp removed
- 2 tablespoons chipotle-flavored or regular olive oil
- Kosher salt, to taste
- Fresh ground pepper, to taste
- 1 cup vegetable or chicken stock
- ½ cup dry quinoa, rinsed if needed*
- 2 chicken-apple sausages, chopped into ¼-inch pieces
- ⅓ cup chopped red or orange bell peppers
- ⅓ cup chopped celery
- 2 teaspoons garlic (or chopped shallot)
- ground cumin, to taste
- onion powder, to taste
- ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
- ½ cup grated sharp Cheddar cheese
- ¼ cup pine nuts or pecans
- 2 tablespoons fresh or Panko breadcrumbs (regular or whole wheat)
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil.
- Shave a small piece (around 1-inch) off the bottom of each squash half so it will sit and not roll around.
- Brush the inside and top edge of the squash shells with some of the olive oil (enough to coat the flesh); season with salt and pepper. Place, cut side down, on the prepared cookie sheet and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until tender when poked with a fork.
- Remove from oven (leave oven on), flip over, put back on same pan and set aside. When cool enough to handle, using a spoon scrape out the squash flesh, leaving a ½-inch shell. Set both the shells and the flesh aside.
- In a medium saucepan, stir together broth and quinoa. Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until the broth has evaporated. Remove from heat and let sit covered for 5 minutes. Remove cover and set aside.
- Heat remaining olive oil in a large nonstick sauté pan or skillet. Sauté chopped sausage for 3 minutes; add chopped peppers, celery and garlic and cook for another 3 minutes. Stir in squash flesh. Sprinkle with a coating of cumin and onion powder and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are soft and heated through. Remove from heat and stir in cooked quinoa and cilantro. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add additional cumin and/or onion powder as needed. Divide evenly between the squash shells.
- In a small mixing bowl, stir together the cheese, breadcrumbs and nuts. Sprinkle over the squash filling and bake until heated through and the cheese melts, around 15 minutes. Watch carefully as the nuts can burn. Serve immediately.
Make ahead: shells can be prepared and filled earlier in the day, cooled, covered and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before sprinkling on cheese topping and baking.