Cooking by Number -- Stuffed Squash

Here on the East Coast, we haven’t had much of a winter. The temps are pretty warm – today’s one of the colder days and we’re in the high 30s – and snow has been in short supply since the freak October 29 snowstorm. Nonetheless, it’s still the perfect season for stuffed winter squash. I just picked up a small kabocha squash that’s the perfect size for two people plus leftovers. My stuffing of choice is made from a whole grain, plus veggies to lower the calorie density a la Volumetrics, dried fruit for sweetness, and nuts to add crunch and healthy fats. For some grains – brown rice, barley, wheat berries, and other hearty grains — you need to plan ahead and cook up the grain in advance. Smaller, softer grains such as whole wheat couscous, bulgur wheat, quinoa, and millet can be cooked right in the squash. I give you directions for both.

Here’s what you need to make Cooking by Number stuffed squash to serve four:
3-4 pounds squash (1 big, 2 medium, or 4 small)
2 cups cooked whole grain or 2/3 cup uncooked + 1 1/3 cups broth
1 cup diced vegetables
1/4 cup coarsely chopped dried fruit
1/4 cup coarsely chopped nuts
Salt, pepper, and seasonings of your choice to taste

Here are some ingredient ideas to get you started. Mix and match to create your own combos.
Squash – Kabocha, butternut, acorn, buttercup
Whole grain – Cooked brown rice, barley, wheat berries, farro, wild rice; uncooked quinoa, millet, bulgur, whole wheat couscous
Vegetables – Carrot, yellow onion, red onion scallion, leek, bell pepper, green peas, cauliflower
Dried fruit – Raisins, cranberries, apricots, apples, dates
Nuts – Almonds, walnuts, pecans, pine nuts, pumpkin seeds
Seasonings – Basil; basil + oregano; herbes de Provence; thyme; cinnamon; ginger

Now that you’ve picked out ingredients, here’s what you do with them:
1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Spray with cooking spray a casserole dish that is large enough to hold the squash.
2. Wash the outside of the squash well. Cut in half and scoop out all the seeds. Trim the bottom of each half, if necessary, so that the squash can rest in the dish without rocking or tipping over. Place the squash in the prepared dish.
3. Combine the grain, broth if using uncooked grain, vegetables, dried fruit, nuts, salt, pepper, and seasonings in a medium bowl. Loosely stuff the filling into the squash halves, creating a small mount on top of each half. Place any leftover filling around the outside of the squash.
4. Tent foil over the squash to cover without touching the filling (otherwise the top of the filling will stick to the foil). Bake for 45 to 60 minutes, until the squash flesh feels soft when pierced with a sharp knife.

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