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Last week, I decided to tackle another cooking challenge:
stuffed butternut squash.
The story behind this recipe
My mom had already made stuffed butternut squash quite a few times before I got to try it. Every time, she had sent me beautiful and appetizing pictures of that dish, even told me how to make it, but I always felt it was too time-consuming and way too much work for just two people. Little did I know that I was depriving us from a delicious picture-perfect meal…
During our visit over the Holidays, my mom decided to prepare a few vegan dishes for us (and yes, we are not 100% vegan, which I will soon explain in another post), including her famous butternut, and she had me convinced as soon as she took her gorgeous dish out of the oven!
This dish smells good, looks great, is super healthy, and tastes amazing!
So back in the US and since I cannot possibly steal Mom’s Famous Butternut Recipe, I decided that I would come up with my own. A recipe that would be easy, fairly cheap, and that would fit our lifestyle: our dietary restrictions and allergies, our usually-vegan regimen, what we like, what we can find here in our grocery store, and a recipe that would make good use of what is on the verge of rotting in our fridge…
Et voilà !
The health benefits of this recipe
One thing I never consider when planning my meals is the health benefit of the ingredients. I always take into account their color, texture, taste, and the allergy factor; and if I happen to buy slightly-processed food, I do however check the nutritional facts to make sure it is not going to make me overdose on fat and sugar. Other than that, I go with what appeals to me.
Nevertheless, it is always pleasing and very satisfying to fall in love with a dish and later realize that it is actually really nutritious and healthy!
So here is what I found out about my Stuffed Butternut Squash recipe:
Beside the fact that it is essential to this recipe (you can’t possibly have stuffed butternut without butternut), while butternut squash is both low in fat and calories, a cup of it also provides a little over 6 grams of your dietary fiber and a great amount of much-needed vitamins, such as vitamins A, B-6, C, and E. Those key nutrients and antioxidants contribute to healthier hair and skin, and help with digestion, asthma, and high blood pressure. So who wouldn’t want to eat more squash?!
I used red quinoa principally for its color and fluffiness. However, the health benefits of eating quinoa are quite high, which makes it one of the most popular healthy foods. Quinoa is among the few plant-based ingredients that are considered a complete protein. It has about 8 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber per serving. It also contains magnesium, manganese, folate, iron, B vitamins, and antioxidants. And to make it all better, it comes in different colors (the most common and famous are white, red, and black), which is perfect if you like to make your dishes visually appealing, and it is ready in just 15 minutes!
I decided to add a whole pound of mushrooms because, back home, we ate a lot of mushrooms growing up and I really love the huge variety of shape, taste, and texture you can get from them. But since we are talking about health benefits, here you go! Mushrooms are what one could call a lean protein as they have no fat or cholesterol, so they are perfect for weight loss. They also contain a good amount of calcium, which is detrimental to improve bone health. They are also a great source of calcium, potassium, and minerals and vitamins in general, and contribute to boosting your immune system. Finally, you can use them in so many recipes from soup, salads, pasta, etc. that I always make sure to have some in my fridge.
As for my figs and sun dried tomatoes, although they have great nutritional value of their own, they were simply added to the mix because they were leftover from a previous dinner and my breakfast yogurt.
A few tips for this recipe
Cutting a butternut squash in half
Now, I had never attempted to cut a butternut squash in half before. This is not that easy since the squash is rounded and its skin fairly slippery, and truth be told, fibromyalgia is not helping, and I probably need to start lifting weights instead of spending my gym time between my yoga mat and the elliptical…
To halve my squash lengthwise, I used my longest chef’s knife (it is the most common kitchen knife). I laid the squash on my cutting board and started from the middle of the squash, turning it upside down to restart the cut from the other side when my knife would not go all the way through. Let’s just say that I struggled and I wish we had practiced cutting weirdly-shaped squash in culinary school.
Since I wasted most of my preparation time on cutting the butternut and removing its seeds, I feel you would better benefit from YouTube tutorials. So here are two techniques you can use when halving your butternut:
Version 1 with the butternut squash on its side
Version 2 with the butternut squash standing
Removing the seeds from a butternut squash
Here again, the internet made it look really easy as I watched videos of people using a large spoon. MY butternut squash had no intention whatsoever to make this task easy for me, so after struggling with a spoon for a few minutes, I went with an ice cream scoop instead. Its sharper edge made it much quicker and easier.
Now that you are butternut squash experts, let’s get cooking!
Stuffed Butternut Squash
- 1 butternut squash medium
- 1/2 cup red quinoa
- 1 leek
- 1 lb mushrooms
- 1 cup sun dried tomatoes
- 4 figs
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 tbsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
- salt and pepper
- Preheat your oven at 400F (200C).
- Wash your butternut squash, cut it in half lengthwise, and use an ice cream scoop to remove the seeds (How-to videos available in this post).
- Brush the flesh and skin of the squash with 2 tbsp of olive oil.
- Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper, place both halves of the squash face down, and bake for 15 minutes.
- Turn the squash upside down and bake for another 40 to 45 minutes until the squash is cooked and its flesh tender. Then set your butternut squash aside to cool down.
- Meanwhile, cook the quinoa in 1 cup of water until it appears fluffy and all the water has been absorbed. Then set aside.
- Wash and slice the leek.
- Wash and dice the mushrooms and figs.
- Slice the sun dried tomatoes.
- Cook the mushrooms and leek in a wok with the remainder 2 tbsp of olive oil.
- Once they have lost most of their water and it has evaporated, add the quinoa.
- Scoop the flesh out of the butternut squash, leaving 1 inch of flesh on every side. It should make a pear shaped recipient for the stuffing.
- Add the butternut’s flesh, tomatoes and figs to the wok, and mix well.
- Add the spices and balsamic vinegar to the mixture, stir well, and let cook for another 5 minutes.
- Divide the stuffing equally between both halves of the butternut squash, and bake them for another 15 minutes.