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

Smoked Salmon, Pear and Pecan Salad

This is a staple in our house.  I have made this with salmon, trout, sea bass and tilapia.  I also use whatever fruit I happen to have in the house or what is in season…apples, strawberries and blackberries.  This really is a recipe that you can experiement with and always have great results.  I serve this for brunch for my fish loving friends.  The addition of chipotle or other chili powder in the dressing gives it a nice kick and counter to the sweetness of the fruit.

Adapted from Cooking Light.

Recipe Note – In the winter months, I use a Camerons Stovetop Smoker which works very well.  They have both a small and a large size and I own and use both depending on the quantity I need to smoke. The smoker is also great for chicken, meat, veggies and cheese. When I don’t feel like smoking the fish, I use a heavenly Alderwood Smoked Sea Salt from the Savory Spice Shop (they ship) and bake the fish until it flakes.

The Sea Salt is smoked over Northwest alder wood and is a true “smoked” salt. No artificial flavoring has been added and it is 100% natural. For hundreds of years alder wood has been used to smoke salmon and other meats and truly is a Northwest American tradition. {I am not compensated or affiliated with the Savory Spice Shop…I simply love the shop as they have unique spices and grind them weekly for max freshness.}


Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 3 cups salad, 1 fillet, and 1 1/2 teaspoons nuts)

Ingredients:

  • 2  cups  wood chips
  • 3  tablespoons  fresh lemon juice
  • 1  teaspoon  prepared horseradish
  • 4  (6-ounce) rainbow trout fillets
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/2  teaspoon  salt, divided
  • 1/2  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 2  tablespoons  white wine vinegar
  • 1  tablespoon  walnut oil or olive oil
  • 1/4  teaspoon  chili powder
  • 8  cups  mixed salad greens (I used a spinach and arugula)
  • 4 cups  thinly sliced pear
  • 1  cup  thinly sliced red onion
  • 2  tablespoons  chopped pecans, toasted
Preparation:
Soak wood chips in water 30 minutes, and drain well.

Combine lemon juice, horseradish, and fillets in a large zip-top plastic bag. Seal and marinate in refrigerator 20 minutes, turning bag occasionally.

Smoking Fish:

Prepare grill for indirect grilling, heating one side to low and leaving one side with no heat. Maintain temperature at 200° to 225°.

Place wood chips on hot coals. Place a disposable aluminum foil pan on unheated side of grill. Pour 2 cups water in pan. Coat grill rack with cooking spray; place on grill. Remove fillets from bag; discard marinade. Sprinkle fillets with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Place fillets on grill rack over foil pan on unheated side. Close lid; cook 30 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork or until desired degree of doneness.

Combine remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper, vinegar, oil, and chili powder, stirring with a whisk. Combine greens, pears and onion in a large bowl; drizzle with vinaigrette. Toss gently to coat. Remove skin from fillets; discard skin. Break fillets into pieces; serve over salad. Sprinkle with nuts.

Linked to: Miz Helen’s Country Cottage, Tasty TraditionsCooking Thursday, A Little Bit of Spain in Iowa, Frugal FolliesStrut Your Stuff, Recipe Swap Thursday, Let’s Do Brunch, It’s a Keeper, Pennywise Platter, Fantastic FridayTatertots and Jello, I’m Lovin it Friday, Friday Potluck, Family Friendly Friday, Fat Camp Friday, Fun with Food Friday, Food Trip Friday, Foodie Friday, Food on Friday, Saturday Swap, Simply Sweet Home, Katie’s Cucina, Sweet Tooth Friday, Friday Favorites, Feature Yourself Friday, Whipperberry Friday FlairFrugal Friday, Sweet Saturday, Mouthwatering Monday, Decidedly Healthy

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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