I don’t want to clutter up this post with a ton of text because really I just want you to read this recipe and then try it. Immediately.
I made this one up on the spot after a holiday craving hit me hard. See, I kind of have a thing for stuffing. Some might say that it’s even a mild love affair.
I’ve never attempted to make it myself though. Real holiday stuffing is always a treat that I look forward to eating at other people’s houses but once a year. A cousin of ours makes the most perfect stuffing involving sausage and holiday spices and I crave it the whole year long. She even goes as far as forming it into balls, and frying them up to serve as a cocktail appetizer. A-mazing.
I don’t think I could ever top that, but I think I may have come close this time. As close as a healthy vegetarian version can get, that is.
The other night, as dreams of holiday deliciousness were floating around in my head just days before Christmas, an idea came to me. I figured there had to be a way to bring together the flavors of holiday stuffing and the vegetarian ingredients that I knew I had in my kitchen.
And so, quinoa stuffing with roasted butternut squash came to be.
I will definitely be making this all year round to satisfy my love affair as I wait for the treat of ‘the real thing’ during the holidays.
But this version comes with zero guilt and no need to unbutton your pants at the end of the meal. That is strictly reserved for once-a-year gluttony.
Roasted Butternut Squash with Quinoa Stuffing
1 butternut squash, halved lengthwise (seeds and pulp removed)
1 cup red quinoa
2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1 large shallot, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
Handful of dried porcini mushrooms, reconstituted in hot water, water reserved
Handful of fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
Handful of dried cranberries
Handful of pine nuts
Fresh or frozen spinach
Panko bread crumbs (or regular bread crumbs if you don’t have panko, or no breadcrumbs if you want to keep it vegan)
Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 375F (190C).
Brush olive oil all over the flesh side of the squash and place the halves flesh-side down on a baking sheet or into a glass baking dish. Bake for 40 minutes, or until tender.
Meanwhile, bring the quinoa and vegetable broth to a boil. Reduce heat and let the quinoa simmer for about 15 minutes or until all the water is absorbed. Set aside.
Toast the pine nuts in a small pan over medium low heat until browned and fragrant. Remove from heat, place in a bowl to cool and set aside.
When the butternut squash comes out of the oven, the hollowed-out ends of each half may fall apart. Cut the ends off and scoop the flesh out into a bowl. Scoop out some flesh from the remaining squash halves to form a cavity in each.
In a large pan, sauté the garlic and shallot in a good amount of olive oil. Add rosemary, cook for a few minutes.
Roughly chop the reconstituted mushrooms and add them to the shallot and garlic mixture. Cook for a few minutes and then add half the mushroom water. Cook until liquid is absorbed.
Add spinach and mix.
Add the cooked quinoa and squash that was scooped out and set aside. Mix and mash squash into the mixture.
Season with salt and pepper. Add the rest of the mushroom liquid and mix.
I drizzled a little bit more good quality olive oil into the mixture to add richness.
Add toasted pine nuts and cranberries. Mix well and let the stuffing heat through.
Spoon quinoa stuffing into the cavity of each squash half. Sprinkle with panko bread crumbs.
Put them back into the oven for approx 15 minutes or until the panko is lightly browned and everything warms through.
Serve with a lightly-dressed leafy salad.
Serves 2 really hungry people as a meal (with leftover stuffing to be enjoyed the next day!) or 4-5 as a side dish.