Monday, 10 December 2012

Nuts for Acorns

Acorn squash, that is. This little number was literally something that I threw together in 30 minutes and the results were Delicious with a capital "D." I had been out for a walk in the cold rain, the kind of rain that isn't little drops that fall straight down but a freezing cold mist that surrounds your entire body, making your umbrella an entirely useless fashion accessary. Needless to say, by the time I got home I was a soggy icicle. What I really wanted was warm pumpkin pie but since I didn't have the makings for that (and eating an entire pie for dinner is never a good idea anyway) I opted for baked acorn squash stuffed with quinoa. I flavoured the quinoa with the same spices as pumpkin pie and the end result was the food equivalent of stepping out of the shower and having a dryer-warmed towel waiting for you. Ahhhhhhhhh . . . . . .

It's funny the reaction I get from people when I tell them that I can't have gluten or dairy. They inevitably sigh and tell me how sorry they are and how they could never eat that way because they either don't have the time or they love food too much. To which I respond, I ADORE food! I love growing it, harvesting it, buying it, preparing it, eating and sharing it, and now, writing about it. And good, healthy food doesn't have to take hours to prepare. This meal is proof. I simply looked in my pantry, pulled out a few things that I thought might go well together and was sitting down to eat a half hour later.

It's the little acorn squash that makes this meal magical. Acorn squash is deliciously sweet and creamy in its taste and texture and one half is the perfect portion size for one person. High in vitamins A and C and the complex B's, it also contains iron, calcium and some protein. And it's pretty.

We've already discussed the beauty that is quinoa (protein!), the other star ingredient at work here. But the bits and pieces that got tossed in the pot also have their nutritional merits. Pepita seeds and walnuts for good fats and omegas, cinnamon to stabilize blood sugar and ginger to aid digestion and diminish inflammation. All that and the entire thing tastes really good too!

Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash
Serves 4

2 acorn squash, cut in half and the seeds scraped out
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
2 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup pepita seeds
1/4 cup currants
2 tsp cinnamon
1-2 inches ginger, finely minced
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
salt and pepper
nutmeg and maple syrup for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line a tray with parchment paper.
2. Drizzle squash halves with a little olive oil, season with salt and pepper and place on tray hollow side down. Roast for 30 minutes or until caramelized and soft all the way through.
3. Meanwhile, heat a saucepan on medium high heat, add a splash of olive oil and saute onions until golden.
4. Add ginger, cinnamon, cloves and cardamom and stir until heated through and fragrant.
5. Add quinoa, walnuts, cranberries, pepita seeds, currants and water. Season with salt and pepper and bring to the boil. Cover and reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes. The idea is that the quinoa and the  squash will be done around the same time.
6. Remove squash from oven, scoop a quarter of the quinoa mixture into each of the four halves. Grate a little fresh nutmeg on top and drizzle with maple syrup.
7. Eat while watching a Christmas movie for the full effect.


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