I've recently discovered quinoa, and I really, really like it. If you've never heard of quinoa, it's a super-power grain that cooks up like rice and is loaded with tons of nutritious stuff, especially protein. It has the most protein of any grain, and it's the only grain that is a complete protein on it's own, as it supplies all of the essential amino acids. Pretty awesome.
This was inspired by some meat and tomato sauce stuffed zucchini I saw on Pinterest. I know, I don't know how I went from that to this, either, but I'm sure glad I did! I made it up as I went along, and it came together really well and was very delicious. Which was nice. Because it doesn't always work that way.
You can easily make this vegetarian by leaving out the sausage. The quinoa will still give you lots of protein, though I think you would need to add more spices and maybe a splash of Worcestershire sauce to make up for the missing flavor of the sausage.
Quinoa & Sausage Stuffed Acorn Squash
3 acorn squash, halved and seeds removed
1 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 cup uncooked quinoa
12 oz Jimmy Dean 50% less fat sausage (1 tube)
1 medium carrot, scraped, quartered lengthwise and sliced
1 small onion, 1/4-inch diced
1 small red bell pepper, 1/4-inch diced
2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
1 small zucchini, quartered lengthwise and sliced
1 15-oz can petite-diced tomatoes, undrained
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
freshly shredded Parmesan cheese for serving
1. Heat your oven to 425. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Brush the acorn squash halves with olive oil and season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and black pepper to taste. Roast for 40-45 minutes, or until the squash flesh is tender and lightly browned on the top edges.
2. Put the quinoa in a fine mesh strainer and rinse with water. In a medium sauce pan, bring 1 1/4 cup water and 1/4 teaspoon salt to a boil. Add the rinsed quinoa, return to a boil, cover, reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, and cook for 12 minutes, or until the water is absorbed and the quinoa is tender. Let rest, covered, for 5 minutes before fluffing gently with a fork.
3. While the squash is roasting and the quinoa is cooking and resting: Heat a 12-inch, non-stick pan over medium heat. Add the sausage, and cook and crumble it until it's no longer pink. Add the carrot, onion, bell pepper, and garlic, and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes. Add the zucchini, tomatoes, oregano, and basil. Bring it all to a boil over medium-high heat, cover, reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, and cook for 8-10 minutes, or until the veggies are tender. Remove from the heat.
4. Add the cooked quinoa to the pan and stir until well combined. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, if necessary. Spoon 1 cup quinoa mixture into each roasted squash half (my squashes were a little small so I couldn't quite get a cup into each half; I just spooned the extra onto the plates). Return the stuffed squash to the oven for 5 minutes to heat through. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
Makes 6 servings.