Quinoa Stuffed Squash

TAW81574-1Quinoa is a funny sort of grain. First of all, there’s the way it looks. It starts off pretty normal looking, kind of like chopped-up uncooked rice, but as it simmers away in the pot it begins to morph into tiny, semi-transparent ovals that are reminiscent of some sort of insect egg. I realize this description might not be the most appetizing, but I honestly can’t think of a better way to describe it. As it changes from a solid to an opaque the germ separates and leaves behind a thin spiral-like strand that wraps around the grain. The whole thing is very science fictiony, but the result is quite tasty. TAW71505-1Quinoa (by the way its pronounced keen-wah)  is best known for its exceptional nutritional qualities. Its claim to fame seems to be that it is considered a ‘complete protein’. Essentially this means that quinoa is both high in protein and contains all nine of the amino acids that humans need. This is pretty rare to find in a plant and helps explain why, along with corn and potatoes, it was considered one of the three staple foods of the Inca civilization. That is until the 15th and 16th centuries when the Spanish began to conquer, um..I mean colonize, South America and they banished the cultivation of quinoa for a time due to its use in non-Christian religious ceremonies. Luckily these days quinoa cultivation is alive and well in countries such as Peru, Bolivia, and Chile. There is even a farm in the mountains of Colorado that has been growing quinoa since 1987. Check out these links to read more about this fascinating and wildly successful experiment. http://www.whitemountainfarm.com/

The other strange thing about quinoa is that while its often placed in the same category as rice and other grains, it is not actually a grain. Instead it is actually a relative of some leafy green vegetables and is closely related to plants such as beets, spinach, and tumbleweeds? Tumbleweeds!

I could keep feeding you interesting tidbits about this super healthy, non-grain grain all day, but I suppose before you all stop reading and refuse to ever come back here again I should get to the recipe. TAW71467TAW71466
Stuffed squash is really a pretty basic dish. Generally you cook up a mixture of rice and veggies, stuff it in a hollowed out squash, throw it in the oven, and bamm…you have stuffed squash. In this recipe, the biggest variation from what I just outlined above is that the squash is partially cooked beforehand in the microwave (thank you Cooking Light for this excellent idea). This accomplishes two things. First it cuts the baking time down by more than half, and second because the baking time is shorter it allows the grain, or in this case the quinoa, to retain some of its nutty texture instead of turning to mush while it hangs out in the oven for an hour waiting for the squash to cook. For this recipe I used the beautiful Amber Cup squash pictured above. You could use a variety of different squashes in the is dish. Golden Nugget, Acorn, Buttercup, Autumn Cup, Carnival, Turban. Basically any winter squash with a shape that allows you to hollow it out and stuff it will work just fine. TAW71521-1

These are some of the goodies I put in the squash. The original recipe only called for onion, garlic, and sausage, but I decided to throw in some carrots, fresh Italian parsley and a portabella mushroom for extra flavor and texture. This last minute addition was so tasty that I am pretty sure I will be making a vegetarian version with just the portabellas in the near future. If you decide to go this route I would suggest using at least three mushrooms to replace the 8-ounces of sausage. On the subject of sausage, any kind will do but I used Al Fresco brand Chicken Apple sausage with Vermont Maple syrup- wow! That’s good stuff. TAW71549
Here is the squash stuffed and ready to bake- Yummm!TAW71559-1

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  • very interesting recipe. I love the bright, crisp colors in your pictures also.

  • How do you know so much about quinoa. Your history was as interesting as the recipe. I think I will pass it along to my friend who uses quinoa often. Yum! What are you bringing for Thanksgiving!

  • Hi Amanda,
    I love reading your recipes and your luscious verbiage to describe and teach me something new. After I read, I want to go the market and start cooking toute suite (SP?). Thanks for the inspiring changes in my pre-winter bla recipe mood without any effort on my part except for the cooking. I am going to try the squash for guests on Friday.

  • Like Carol, your history of quinoa is amazing. Tumbleweeds?! At any rate, I am gluten-free (GF) by way of Celiac Disease and find this recipe fantastic. Thank you for bringing something so delicious and so easily GF. I also LOVE your pictures – I’m very visual and I never buy a cookbook without lots of photos…let me know when you publish a cookbook!

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