I’ve been to the grocery store lately, have you? It’s been going on for a few weeks now: the “reserve your turkey” tables set up throughout the store, and the myriad turkey options you can choose from. The day is coming. But not for us. Well, not with turkey, at least.
I admit being unfamiliar with the origins of turkey as the Thanksgiving centerpiece, and I also admit having complicated feelings about the holiday. One reason (though not the only one) is that I grew up in a blended family, and holidays were spent bouncing from place to place instead of sitting cozy by the fire and enjoying the company of friends and family. Things only became more complicated when Ryan and I got married, and I had yet a third family with whom to be thankful! Of course, there are upsides. Not the least of which is, well, food.
Lots of food.
But while I’m happy there have always been healthy options at our Thanksgiving tables, I’ve always wished something a little more interesting than turkey could steal the show. Of course, we eat mainly vegetarian now, but even so, I’ve never felt that turkey was the most elegant, show-stopping entree.
These stuffed acorn squashes, though? Oh, friends. They are show-stoppers.
Roasted golden-brown and brushed with maple syrup, almond extract, and butter or olive oil. Stuffed with a filling of brown rice, cranberries, green peas, kale, and spice. Oh, so good. And definitely beautiful enough to take the place of a turkey at your vegetarian or vegan Thanksgiving table. Would you look at the colors on these?!
I’ve waxed poetic before about my love for squash, so let me just say that I’m not even sure the squash is the star of this show. It might be the stuffing with those ruby cranberries. But then, it might be the squash after all. I mean, maple syrup. You know how it goes.
Maple syrup makes everything better.
Do me a favor and just make these. You won’t be sorry. And they’re not just for Thanksgiving! We try to eat seasonally when we can, and this dish is a great way to work some more autumn foods into your diet. Here in the desert, it still isn’t feeling much like the fall I’m used to back in Pennsylvania or Wisconsin. But at least we can open our windows now, and I can enjoy warmer, cozier foods. Like squash.
If you’re looking for a squash side that’s a little less of an attention hog than this recipe, try my Maple Almond Roasted Delicata Squash.
But please, make some squash.
An easy vegetarian entree for Thanksgiving or delicious fall dinners: roasted acorn squash brushed with maple syrup and almond extract, stuffed with brown rice, cranberries, and veggies.
- 2 medium acorn squash
- 1 teaspoon butter or olive oil
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup
- 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 cup brown rice
- 1/2 cup cranberries, fresh or frozen (in a pinch, dried will work)
- 1/2 cup green peas
- 1/4 cup diced onion
- 2 cloves minced garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 cups water
- 1/2 cup (packed) kale sliced into ribbons
Preheat oven to 400F.
Cut a slice off both ends of the squash so that when you cut them in half, they'll sit evenly. Slice each one in half and scoop out the seeds. Brush the flesh with olive oil and place cut side down on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the flesh is soft with golden-brown edges.
When squash is finished, BEFORE filling, melt the butter (if you're using it) and combine with the maple syrup and almond extract. If you're using olive oil in place of butter, just add it at room temperature. Brush the squash flesh with the maple mixture.
While the squash is roasting, you can get started on the filling. Sautee the onion and garlic in olive oil in a saucepan until fragrant, then add the rinsed rice and toast until it smells nutty and delicious.
Add the rest of the filling ingredients EXCEPT the kale, including the water, and bring to a boil. Place the lid on (I leave it slightly off so the steam can escape and it won't boil over) and simmer about 45 minutes, or until the filling has absorbed all the water.
Fluff with a fork. Add the kale and "fluff it" into the filling until combined.
Scoop the filling into the squash halves. You may have extra!