Thanksgiving is upon us! It is a time to be thankful for the wonderful friends and family that surround us, support us, and love us. I am also thankful for an entire week away from my internship duties. Instead I get to spend time with Dane at our beautiful cabin on the Olympic Peninsula, cozying up next to the woodstove with my favorite cup of chai tea.
The peace and quiet, and the constant drizzle of grey, entices me to get creative in my cozy cabin kitchen. Last time I was here, the sun was out, blazing a wonderful 80 degrees, and all my favorite people surrounded me. It was our wedding day, where 150 family and friends celebrated our union, our friendship, and our future together. The energy of that day still brings a smile to my face. How beautiful it was! However, now in the late days of November, I enjoy the quiet hours I have to myself. Just me, my bag of vibrant veggies, and my beautiful cedar kitchen longing for me to get cooking.
Just recently, I was once again reunited with a long lost vegetable, the squash. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I have eaten squash of all varieties this last month. And you know what, I am not bored! Squash is so amazing because it comes in all different shapes and sizes, all different flavors and textures, and even a variety of different colors. There are so many ways you can cook squash that honestly, its pretty hard to tire of this abundant fall and winter delicacy. Let me share some fun facts and tips about my favorite squash!
Peanut shaped, smooth, and beige in color the butternut is a good choice for recipes calling for a large amount of squash. Their seed cavity is in the small bulb opposite the stem, making the neck a dense portion of flesh. The longer the neck, and the smaller the bulb, the more flesh you get. Most often the rind is peeled, leaving behind only the orange, sweet and slightly nutty flesh, which softens quickly with heat. You will commonly find butternut squash in soups, pies, casseroles, or even as part of a salad.
Cooking Tip: One pound of butternut squash is about 2 cups of peeled and chopped.
My all time favorite fall squash! Delicata has an edible rind that makes it super easy to prepare. Its rich and sweet yellow flesh, makes it a great addition to salads, as a side, or pre-baked and stuffed. However, due to its delicate rind, it cannot be held for long storage. Choose those without scratches or blemishes, to reduce spoilage.
Cooking Tip: You can cut them in half, or into rounds, and stuff them with you favorite stuffing as a hearty fall entrée. Their seeds are also delicious when roasted.
Kabocha (Green or Red)
Kabocha can be both dark green with blue-gray striping, or a deep red-orange, and sometimes is mistaken with Red Kuri squash. They tend to be round with a flattened top. With flesh that is smooth, yellow, and sweet, it is very similar in texture and flavor to a sweet potato. It can be tossed in salads or stir-fries, or even used in soups.
Cooking tip: Steaming kabocha slices is a quick way to cook the flesh and makes it easier to scrape the flesh away from the rind.
Yellow in color, and oblong in shape, spaghetti squash somewhat resembles a football. However, it is most known for its strands of flesh that look and taste similar to spaghetti noodles. This unique trait lends itself perfectly to make grain-free “pasta” tossed in your favorite pesto, tomato, or bolognaise sauce.
Cooking Tip: After baking the squash halves, use a fork to scrape out the spaghetti like flesh strands. Make sure to scrape horizontally to get the longest strands.
Besides being super tasty, squash is also a powerhouse of nutrients filled with high amounts of antioxidants vitamins A and C, as well as fiber. One cup of cooked winter squash contains about 60% of your daily vitamin A, 25% of our daily vitamin C, and 23% of your daily fiber (1)! The fiber helps stabilize your blood sugar, feed your healthy gut bacteria, and increase satiety, while the antioxidants vitamins A and C, help to boost the immune system and relinquish free radicals within our body (2). Squash has also been studied for its anti-inflammatory properties, including its omega-3 ALA content (1). Although its omega-3 content is not as rich as in walnuts, flax, and salmon, it is still a great low-fat, nutrient rich, alternative to add as part of an anti-inflammatory diet.
So, if this Thanksgiving you are not stuffing a turkey, or are wanting a delicious hearty vegetarian side, this stuffed delicata recipe can be a great addition to your holiday. I love this recipe because you can prepare it in advance, and reheat in the oven when needed. You can even bring stuffed squash to work and reheat it in the microwave! If you are serving it as a side, cut each delicate squash into thirds, otherwise, ½ squash is considered a single serving. Stuffed squash is great served alongside a green salad, a cup of soup, or as the highlight to your plant-based Thanksgiving dinner. Even the seeds can be used to top your salad, your morning cereal, or just as a simple snack. No need for Tofurky, the stuffed squash comes to the rescue!
By the way, I have a feature article in the Winter 2014 Chickpea Magazine called "Spiced Drinks for Winter Immunity" which highlights four different vegan winter beverages, including a Thai spiced hot chocolate, to help keep your spirits high. Check it out here, in either a print or digital version.
Stuffed Delicata with Hazelnuts and Chanterelles
Makes 4 servings
For the Delicata Squash:
2 medium delicate squash
4 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil, divided (or ghee)
4 teaspoons maple syrup, divided
For the Delicata Seeds:
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil or ghee
¼ teaspoon turmeric (to add a golden color)
Sea salt and pepper to taste
For the Stuffing:
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (or ghee)
¼ lb chanterelle mushrooms***, peeled (or crimini, finely chopped)
½ yellow onion, minced
2 celery stalks, quartered and finely minced
1 ½ teaspoon dried marjoram
1 ½ teaspoon dried sage
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup whole hazelnuts**, roasted and coarsely chopped
1/3 cup chopped raisins (dried cranberries, cherries, or currants can be used as well)
2 cups cooked quinoa*
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
Squeeze of lemon
Optional: grated asiago/parmesan or crumbled feta.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. If cooking the quinoa, set up the quinoa on the stovetop (see below).
Meanwhile halve the two delicata squash and scrape out the seeds with a spoon into a small bowl. With your hands remove large chunks of squash flesh away from the seeds. A little bit of flesh is fine as it give the seeds a nuttier flavor when roasted. Rub each squash half with 1 teaspoon olive oil, 1 teaspoon maple syrup, and sea salt. Place the halves into a oven safe dish, face down and bake about 30 minutes or until tender to the touch.
Once the squash are in the oven, toss the seeds with oil, turmeric, sea salt, and pepper. The turmeric gives the seeds a nice yellow color when done. Spread onto a parchment covered baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for about 35 minutes or until golden brown and crispy. Save the seeds to toss into a salad, top on yogurt, mix into trail mix, or eat just as is for a snack.
If roasting the hazelnuts, place them into the oven at this point.
As the squash and the seeds are baking, and the nuts are roasting, it is time to start preparing the stuffing. Heat a large pan to medium heat, and add the olive oil. Add the mushrooms, onion, and celery, and reduce the heat to medium-low. Add the sage and marjoram. Sauté until the onions are glassy, and the mushrooms tender.
Then add the garlic, hazelnuts, and raisins. Sauté an additional 5 minutes, or until raisins are plump and tender. Stir in the quinoa (if you want to add cheese do so at this time). Season with sea salt and pepper to taste.
Remove from heat, and stir in the fresh parsley and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Spoon the mixture into the squash halves and top with a fresh parsley leaf as a garnish.
NOTE: You can put the squash back into the oven for 5-10 minutes to reheat the squash and the mixture if the squash has cooled down OR if you added cheese to the mixture, it will melt a bit more.
*How to Cook Quinoa:
1 cup dry quinoa
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 ¾ cup water
In a medium saucepan add the quinoa, water, and sea salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook about 15 minutes. Then turn off the heat, and allow to rest 5 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat, and fluff with fork. Allow to cool until you need to use it for the stuffing.
**How to Roast Hazelnuts:
1/2 cup whole, raw hazelnuts
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and roast for 6-8 minutes, until fragrant. Depending on oven temperature, it make take more or less time.
***How to Peel Chanterelle Mushrooms:
Pull downward starting along the edge of the mushroom top. You will “peel” off strings of mushroom, similar to string cheese.
1. Worlds Healthiest Foods. Squash
2. Fiedor J, Burda K. Potential Role of Carotenoids as Antioxidants in Human Health and Disease. Nutrients. 2014;6:466-488.