It’s autumn, and acorn squash are in season, delicious, versatile, frugal and fabulous!
Some people find preparing squash daunting. I get it — the rind is hard to cut through and there are all those gooey seeds!
I felt the same way until I learned a few tricks. First, for hard-skinned squash, if you pierce them a few times and microwave for two to three minutes, they’re much easier to cut in half.
Second, everything is easier to cut with a sharp knife. If you can upgrade only one thing in your kitchen, invest in a quality chef’s knife.
Third, to easily remove the seeds, use an ice cream scoop. The sharp edge cuts through the stringy stuff, making removal a breeze. Armed with these tricks, preparing squash becomes a treat.
Sweet or savory? Acorn squash can be prepared either way, and both are wonderful. For a sweet squash, rub the exposed surface of the squash with butter and sprinkle with a little salt. Place a 1/2 tablespoon each butter and brown sugar (or more, I won’t tell) in the center and roast, uncovered. You also could add maple syrup, cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice.
For savory squash, brush with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast. Optionally, you can place a little fresh herb (sage, rosemary or oregano) in the center with a pat of butter or splash of oil and roast uncovered.
ROAST ACORN SQUASH
Total Time: 50 minutes
Yield: 1 squash or 2 servings
1 acorn squash
1 tablespoon olive oil or butter, divided
Salt and pepper
Arrange oven rack in the lower-middle position of the oven. Preheat to 400 F. Wash your squash. Working from the tip toward the stem, slice it in half. Scoop out the seeds and place, cut side up, onto a baking sheet or baking dish.
Since the size of squash varies from 2 to 3 pounds, the roasting time will also vary. Check for doneness beginning at 50 minutes. It’s cooked when it’s soft and easily pierced by a fork. When cooked, the squash will have liquid in the center. Let the squash rest to reabsorb that liquid.
To turn a squash into a complete meal, fill the center with stuffing, or stuff the center with filling. I’ll leave that for you to decide. Either way, here’s a master recipe you can vary to your heart’s content to make scrumptious stuffed squash dinners all season long.
MIX AND MATCH STUFFING
1 to 2 cups vegetables
1/2 to 1 cup rice
1/2 to 1 cup cooked protein
1/4 cup optional add-ins
Roast squash according to directions above. While the squash is cooking, prepare your stuffing. Depending on the size of your squash, you’ll want between 2 to 3 cups stuffing. In a skillet, saute 1 to 2 cups mixed diced vegetables, such as onion, garlic, celery, peppers, zucchini, mushrooms, spinach, practically anything. This is a perfect use for leftover veggies.
Add 1/2 to 1 cup cooked white or brown rice. Next, add 1/2 to 1 cup cooked protein to the mix. Examples are any kind of sausage, hamburger, chicken or soy-based vegetable crumbles. Yet another use for leftovers.
Lastly, add optional goodies to customize your dish. You could add cheese (Parmesan, mozzarella, feta, pepper jack), some crunch (nuts, sunflower seeds, pepitas), fresh herbs and dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, apricots). Stir it all together in the skillet. When the squash is cooked, mound the filling into the squash and return to the oven for 10 minutes.
Serve with flourish and devour your ultimate autumn comfort food.
Lifestyle expert Patti Diamond is the penny-pinching, party-planning, recipe developer and content creator of the website Divas On A Dime — Where Frugal, Meets Fabulous! Visit Patti at www.divasonadime.com and join the conversation on Facebook at DivasOnADimeDotCom. Email Patti at firstname.lastname@example.org
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