Have you ever eaten acorn squash? It's not the most popular of winter squashes. Butternut would probably win in any contest. Sure, butternut squash is perfect for sweet, fall flavors, but acorn squashes really shine in savory dishes, especially when they're stuffed with all kinds of yummy fillings.
The last several times I've eaten acorn squash, it's been my Chorizo, Rice & Black Bean recipe. That dish is amazing. The chorizo has tons of flavor. Still, the southwestern spices and ingredients really remind me of summertime. Nothing wrong with that, especially since it's vacillated between 50 and 80 degree weather here in Dallas.
When it occasionally cools down here, though (like it did last week), I crave fall/winter themed foods. This dish is perfect, healthy way to satisfy a fall craving. Squash, apple and thyme are a wonderful combo. Add in lean ground beef and whole grain rice for added protein and fiber. Then saute the filling in virgin coconut oil to give it a light buttery/coconut essence.
Oh my gosh...the thyme and coconut oil together...it's aaahhhhmazing!
My boyfriend was slightly underwhelmed by it after he found out the filling had squash mashed in (he dislikes all squashes and I somehow thought I could hide it from him), but I fell in love and ate numerous spoonfuls of the filling while waiting for the squash to bake.
It was highly addicting, yet healthy at the same time. Hard to find that in your everyday life!
Beef, Apple & Rice Stuffed Acorn Squash
Roasted acorn squash halves stuffed with a savory mixture of lean ground beef, diced apples and onions, and cooked brown rice that's been sautéed in virgin coconut oil and seasoned with thyme, oregano and garlic. Healthy and satisfying with fall-inspired flavors.
Slightly adapted from Whole9Life.com's Steal This Meal: Stuffed Sweet Acorn Squash
Serves: 2 + a goodly amount of leftover filling (cook two squashes if you want to use up all the filling at once). I like to eat the filling a few hours later with a spoon!
1 acorn squash, cut in half and deseeded
1/4 cup + 2 teaspoons of water
1 cup of organic brown rice, cooked separately
1 tablespoon of virgin coconut oil
1 yellow onion, peeled and diced
1/2 lb grassfed ground beef (90-95% percent)
1/2 an apple, cored and diced
1 tablespoon of ground thyme
2 teaspoons of ground oregano
2 teaspoons of garlic powder
Sea salt, to taste
Cracked Black Pepper, to taste
1/4 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese, for garnish (optional)
Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. If you're cooking the rice from scratch, begin it now and make it according to the packaged instructions. Brown rice usually takes 45+ minutes to cook on the stovetop.
Slice the squash in half and scoop out the insides (seeds & guts). Line a roasting pan with foil and place each half cut side on on the tray. Spray the squash with non-stick cooking spray or rub lightly with cooking oil. Sprinkle with a tiny bit of salt & pepper. Pour a tablespoon of water into the middle of each half, then an additional 1/4 cup into the pan. Bake for 35-45 minutes (adding more water to the squash if necessary) or until the squash is fork tender.
Meanwhile, peel and dice the onion, and core and dice the apple. Heat a skillet to medium and add the virgin coconut oil. When that's melted and the skillet's hot enough, add the onion and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the ground beef, apple chunks, thyme, oregano, garlic powder, sea salt and pepper. Saute the mixture until the beef is cooked completely and the apples have softened a bit (they don't need to be as soft as a potato). This may take anywhere from 10-20 minutes, depending on the temperature of your stove. If this finishes before the squash, turn off the heat but leave it in the pan with a lid on to keep it warm.
When the squash has cooked, remove from the oven and using mitts or a towel to keep your fingers safe (it's hot), scoop out the acorn squash filling, but make sure to keep the shell (skin) intact. Spoon the squash into the beef & apple mixture, add the cooked brown rice and mix everything around. Taste and add more seasoning if necessary. Keep the shells in the same roasting pan and stuff them with heaping spoonfuls of filling, then sprinkle with shredded mozzarella cheese. Place back in the oven for 5-10 minutes so the cheese melts and the innards heat back through. Enjoy!
Notes & Tips
The original recipe called for 1/2 tsp sage, but I didn't have any so left it out. If you make the recipe and add sage, let me know!
If you don't want to scoop out the cooked squash, you can simply spoon the filling on top. I've tried it both ways and prefer having the squash mixed with the filling so I get a bit in every bite. Do it however you like!
Question for Discussion: What's your favorite filling for baked winter squashes? Answer in the comments section below.