Fruit and Couscous Stuffed Winter Squash

Continuing on our journey (a short one so far) to make 2011 healthier and cleaner and a bit more meatless (well, meatless at least three days a week),  I created this sweet and savory acorn squash stuffed with couscous, fruits and nuts.

If you have visited before, you may have read Kicked Up Black-Eyed Peas and Pasta Salad, Strawberry Chipotle Chicken or even Turkey Tzatziki Muffins and know that I am trying to reverse a few bad winter habits, primarily that of too much cooking, baking, eating (of the wrong stuff) and not enough exercise.

We all crave comfort food during those cold winter months and well, it is just too cold to get out for a run.  I know, excuses, excuses, excuses.

We are now craving a return to our 2010 routine of clean eating limiting our use of “the wrong whites”, more fruits and veggies and less meat.  We are also easing back into our fitness routine.

This stuffed squash certainly fits our renewed eating goals.  Whole grain couscous, cranberries, dates, mandarin orange segments, sweet and savory notes from five spice powder, tarragon and a pinch of chives.  Not too sweet, not too savory, a pop of tart from the cranberries…perfect for a weeknight meatless meal.  It was also beautiful on the plate and we couldn’t wait to sit down and enjoy.

Recipe Note:  If your not into meatless meals, adding a bit of sausage to the couscous mixture would be perfect. Earlier this year, I made a simple sausage stuffed version.

Ingredients:

  • 1 acorn or butternut squash, halved lengthwise
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup uncooked couscous
  • 2 tablespoons  dried cranberries
  • 4 dried dates, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon five spice powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon grated orange rind
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons pecan, halved
  • 1 mandarin orange, zested, peeled, segments separated (I have access to beautiful Satsuma mandarins, use a small orange as a substitute)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • pinch of tarragon
  • pinch of chives
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Remove and discard seeds from squash.  Place squash, cut sides down, in a baking pan. Add hot water to pan to a depth of 1/2-inch. Bake at 350 F for 40 minutes or until tender.

Bring water and salt to a boil. Stir in couscous and next 6 ingredients. Remove from heat. Cover and let stand 5 minutes.

Combine couscous mixture, orange segments, oil, pecans, tarragon and chives. Toss gently. Spoon mixture evenly into squash shells.

Place stuffed squash in a baking pan. Bake at 350 F for 20 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

This really was filling…we did not need anything else to complete the meal.  If you feel it needs a bit more, a simple spinach salad would be a great side.

Linked to:

inked to: Real Food Wednesday, What’s On Your Plate, Works for Me Wednesday, Sweet and Savory WednesdayWelcome Wednesday, Wandering WednesdayGold Star Wednesday, What’s Cooking Wednesday, Raising Homemakers, Potluck Wednesday, Let’s Do Brunch, What I Ate Wednesday, At Home with Haley, No Whine Wednesday, What’s For Lunch Wednesday, What’s Cooking Wednesday, Midnight Maniac Meatless Monday

Simple Stuffed Acorn Squash

For this simple and quick dish, you will need 1 sausage link (use your favorite…I used spicy Italian), 4 sage leaves (chiffonade the leaves),  2 thick slices of day old bread (I used a fabulous multi grain bread from Cook’s Fresh Market), 6 dried dates, 1/4 cup chopped pecans, 1/4 cup chicken stock, salt and pepper to taste.  Oh, you also need a squash.  Use butternut squash, I would have had I found one.

Stuffed Squash Ingredients

Preparation:

Clean the  squash, lightly coast the inside and edges of the squash with olive oil and roast at 375 for about 40 minutes or until tender (don’t overcook as they will get another round in the oven).

Brown the sausage (remove casing if using link) until golden but not overcooked.

Cube the bread and place in mixing bowl.  Roughly chops dates and pecans and add to the bowl.  Once sausage is done, drain and add to the bowl with bread, dates and nuts.  Add sage and season with salt and pepper.  Add chicken stock and toss to coat.  Bread should be moist but not overly wet.  Use your judgement when adding the stock.  Stuff squash and place in oiled casserole dish and bake for another 20-25 minutes until golden brown.

Stuffed Squash Ready for Oven

Plate:  I served the simple stuffed squash with a balsamic and olive oil dressed green salad with grape tomatoes.

Plated Stuffed Squash

Enjoy!

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