As you may or may not know, I recently had to go on medical leave from grad school to get my Interstitial Cystitis under control. (I know I bring up IC in pretty much every post, but the condition has literally taken over my life, so it’s hard not to relate everything back to my experiences with it.) As a result of my medical leave, I’ve had to back in with my mom and step-dad in California.
While ideally I wouldn’t have moved back in with my parents at 23, I am incredibly lucky to have family members who are willing to help and support me while I get healthy again. I cannot express how grateful I am for their love and support. I want to do everything I can to show them just how much I appreciate them. So, the other night, I decided to cook them this acorn squash dinner dinner.
Seasonal ingredients such as acorn squash and brussel sprouts are super important to me so I wanted to incorporate them into the meal. I also wanted to use some of the walnuts we’ve harvested from our trees so far this fall. I tried to keep the dish relatively simple simple because, in my opinion, simple recipes are the best (and also much easier to recreate!).
So, with all of this in mind, I decided on a quinoa stuffed acorn squash with brussel sprouts and poultry sausage. I am a huge fan of fall and winter produce, especially squashes, so any time I can incorporate them into a meal, I do. Acorn squash makes the perfect vessel for (quasi)grains like quinoa and adds a bit of sweetness as well. Cutting the squash in half and roasting it with olive oil, sea salt, and black pepper makes it the perfect base for this meal.
Even though it’s not technically a grain but a pseudo-cereal, I love including quinoa as a “grain” in a lot of meals. It has more protein than most grains and has a relatively low glycemic index score (more info here). I generally cook my quinoa in chicken broth to add some extra flavor, and for this recipe, I also added sprigs of fresh thyme to the broth while the quinoa cooked to infuse the flavor of the herb into the dish (game changer!).
Brussel sprouts are probably one of my favorite greens. Not only do they add color to any meal, but they also add a little bitterness that really balances out the acorn squash. The ones I used for this dish were from the local farmer’s market and were smaller and sweeter than other brussel sprouts I’ve had. However, I loved this flavor profile because it provided a good balance of bitter and sweet. A little cooking tip for this meal: don’t overcook the brussel sprouts! Leave them a little crispy for better texture.
The poultry sausage used in this meal was from the local farmer’s market. It’s a combination of turkey and chicken mixed with sweet peppers and other spices. The sausage has a sweet, almost tangy flavor and cooks up really nicely in just a little olive oil. I love this sausage not only for the flavor, but for the fact that it does not contain any nitrates or nitrites, something I have to keep an eye out for with my IC. Another pro tip for this meal: cook the sausage first, then sauté the brussel sprouts in the same pan to get some additional flavor for the greens!
Once all thrown together, this dish was a hit with my family! Give it a try with your and let me know what you think!
Quinoa-Stuffed Acorn Squash with Brussel Sprouts & Walnuts
Total Prep/Cook Time: 45 Minutes
- 1 acorn squash
- 1 cup quinoa
- 2 cup chicken broth (or broth of choice)
- 12 oz poultry sausage (I used a turkey/chicken combo without the casing)
- 1 1/2 cup chopped/shredded brussel sprouts
- 1/4 medium yellow onion, diced
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- 1 cup chopped walnuts
- 5-7 sprigs fresh thyme
- Olive oil
- Salt and black pepper
- Crumbled feta for topping
- Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a small baking sheet with aluminum foil.
- Cut acorn squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Place inside-up on baking sheet and coat with olive oil. Using a brush, make sure olive oil is coating the entire face of each half of the acorn squash. Season with a few pinches of salt and a pinch of pepper.
- Bake acorn squash for 45 minutes.
- While the acorn squash is roasting, prep the stuffing. Bring broth to a boil in a medium pot, then add quinoa and 2 springs of fresh thyme. Stir, then cover and let simmer.
- As the quinoa cooks, heat about a tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan. Add in sausage and cook over medium heat. If using sausage without the casing as I did, break up sausage into small pieces. Cook sausage until some of the edges are slightly crispy. Once cooked, remove the sausage from pan and set aside.
- In the same pan that the sausage was cooked in, add about a teaspoon more of olive oil, the diced onions and the garlic. Season with a pinch of salt and sauté over medium heat for about three minutes. Add brussel sprouts to the pan and continue to cook for 8-10 minutes. After about 8 minutes, add in chopped walnuts and the leaves of 3 sprigs of thyme. Sauté for an additional 3-5 minutes.
- When both the quinoa and the brussel sprout mix are finished cooking, add the brussel sprout mix with the quinoa and the sausage. Stir until evenly combined.
- Once the squash is finished roasting, spoon stuffing into the hole of the squash until full (or heaping, if you’re like me!). Sprinkle with crumbled feta and garnish with thyme sprigs.
- Serve immediately and enjoy!