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Winter squash is one of those wonderful, healthful items that start to pop up at grocery stores and farmer’s markets sometime around September, coloring our world with rich, deep autumn hues.  I used to think they were decorations when I was a child, since they were usually stacked up somewhere between the giant cardboard box of jack-o-lantern pumpkins and the cinnamon scented brooms.  Little did I know that those oddly shaped “decorations” are autumn superstars, low in calories, high in fiber, versatile, filling, and an excellent source of vitamin A and C. It has the added bonus of being its very own bowl that can be stuffed with an endless variety of grains and veggies or ladled full of creamy soup. Another bonus is that winter squash is inexpensive and has an extremely long shelf life if stored correctly, meaning you can throw it in your pantry and expect it to last a few months.  It is a true comfort food: warm, nourishing, and filling on a chilly day. Really though, my favorite detail about winter squash is that it can be made into a savory main course, a spicy or sweet side dish or even a delectable dessert (pies aren’t just for pumpkins).  Around my house, we have been enjoying winter squash in some form or another every few days since we have been getting a different kind in our organic share every week.  The following recipe seems to be the family’s favorite so far:

Stuffed Winter Squash

3 Winter Squash of your choice – I used Delicata Squash – it has a mild flavor and the skin is thin and edible.

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 tablespoon earth balance

4 cups cooked wild rice (Lundberg’s Organic Wild Rice is a good choice)

1 medium onion, diced

1 small leek, thinly sliced

1 rib of celery, diced

1 carrot, diced

1 small red bell pepper, diced

1 cup of mushrooms

½ cup frozen peas

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 to 2 tablespoons soy sauce

Salt and pepper to taste

Optional topping:

½ cup seasoned bread crumbs

½ cup grated mozzarella cheese

Prepare squash:  wash outside thoroughly, cut in half, clean out insides with a spoon (save and roast those seeds!), and sprinkle the flesh with salt and pepper.  Place in a baking dish, flesh side down, with a small amount of water.  Cover with foil and bake in a 350 degree oven until it can be easily pierced with a knife or fork (about 20 -30 minutes for delicata, probably longer for thicker squash).  Do not overcook or the squash will fall apart when stuffed.

For the stuffing:  Heat oil in a large skillet.  Add onion and leek, sautéing until translucent.  Add celery, carrot, and red pepper, cooking until tender.  Add Earth Balance, mushrooms, peas, and garlic.  Cook for about 3 minutes or until peas are warm.  Mix wild rice and soy sauce into the cooked vegetables, heating thoroughly.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon stuffing into squash.  Sprinkle with bread crumbs and cheese, if using, then bake in 350 degree oven until cheese is melted and bread crumbs are browned.  If you are keeping it vegan, no need to put it back in the oven, unless it is not heated through.

What is your favorite way to prepare winter squash?

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