Sunday, September 14, 2008

Stuffed Acorn Squash

Yesterday was Part 2 of the cyclocross clinic I am attending. While being frustrated at my inability to dismount and remount my bike in anything close to a graceful manner, I rolled over some crunchy leaves in the field we were practicing in. A wave of excitement ran through me as I had the realization - it's almost autumn! During my moment of glee, I nearly forgot how appalling I looked getting off and on my bike, and how fearful I am of trying this in an actual race situation. But no matter what the outcome of my performance, I'm pretty sure I'll enjoy 'cross as it has at least one hugely redeeming quality since it happens in the Fall.

Fall is one of the primary benefits of living in New England, and I know it ranks up there as many people's favorite season. Let's take a moment to consider what it is that makes Fall so great. The weather in early Fall is perfect. It's warm and sunny and dry, not hot and humid. We can start pulling out our sweaters as the nights become cooler. It's perfect running weather. It smells good as the air gets a bit crisp and the leaves start falling to the ground. The scene of cheery orange, red and yellow leaves against the backdrop of a blue, or even a grey sky is quite beautiful. There's lots of yummy things associated with Fall. It's apple and maple syrup season. The squashes harvested this time of year are colorful and delicious. Kale and swiss chard are still abound. Basically, Fall appeals to all the senses. It feels, looks, tastes, and smells good. Hmm. I missed one - hearing. There must be something about fall that sounds good too. Marching bands at football games?

Anyway, this stimuli is probably what makes me feel so alive in the Fall. I think there's also present for me an element of nostalgia. It's reminiscent of the days of being young when all these things were signs of the beginning of the school year. I always enjoyed school so I associate the sights and smells of fall with the first couple of months of meeting new teachers, being reunited with friends and starting new classes.

So, when I got up this morning, I knew it was time. I went straight to Whole Foods and bought an acorn squash. On the menu tonight: Acorn squash stuffed with a cous cous and vegetable mixture; a salad with mesclun greens, toasted walnuts and raisins with a Maple dijon vinaigrette; whole wheat crackers with cranberry pepper jelly and cheddar cheese; and, Field Roast brand Veggie Artisan smoked apple sage "sausages".

The stuff squash came out pretty bland, but I know what I did wrong. I forgot the salt and pepper on the squash itself when I baked it, and I added WAY too much cous cous (It's just like making pasta. I always make too much even though I know I am making too much. I can't seem to stop myself.)

The veggie sausages were good. They were pretty expensive relative to some of the brands (i.e. Tofurkey, St. Iyves), but the texture and flavor were very good. They had a couple other flavors I'd like to try. The jelly was by New England Cranberry and very tasty. I also put it on my Tofurkey sandwich I had for lunch. I'm not sure what else I'd do with it besides the cheese and cracker combo, but I'll try to think of something.

You can stuff and acorn squash with so many different rice or cous cous and veggie mixtures. I plan to mess around with it, but a basic recipe follows:

Stuffed Acorn Squash
1. In an oven preheated to 350 degrees, bake the acorn squashes. The squash should be cut in half (cut them horizontally which is opposite of the natural lines found on the squash). Scoop out the seeds and flesh with a spoon. These can be discarded. Rub the surface of the squash with some olive oil and sprinkle some salt and pepper on them. If they are fresh they will be soft in about 30 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, cook some rice or cous cous. I cooked the cous cous in veg broth instead of water to give it a bit of flavor. Sautee some veggies chopped up small: onions, yellow pepper, carrots, corn, kale or spinach. Chickpeas would be a good add in for some protein. You could also mix in a crumbled up veggie sausage. It just depends on weather you want the squash to be a main dish or a side dish. When the rice or cous cous is done and the veggies are cooked, mix them together.
3. Take the acorn squash out, stuff them, and put them back into the oven for a few more minutes to let it all heat up together.

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