Thursday, September 30

Quinoa and sausage stuffed acorn squash

Woohoo!  It's Fall!!  Around here, Fall is more of an attitude than an actual season because significantly cooler temperatures don't arrive here until November.  Normally, I'm not so excited about Fall, but this year, I've already put some mini pumpkins on display and I've started transitioning from lighter summer recipes  to the heartier fall recipes.  This past weekend, I had a marathon session in my kitchen where, among other things, I roasted butternut squash and a pumpkin and made this very fall-inspired dish.

I actually attempted this dish once before, but it did not turn out very well at all.  I chalk it up more to user-error than anything else: I over-peppered and underseasoned at the same time, I tried to make it vegetarian while missing some of the key ingredients like celery and fresh herbs, and I used a butternut squash as the base, which made it squash heavy.  I'd like to try vegetarian-izing it again, but, honestly, this version is so darn good, I'm not sure that I need to.  

This recipe makes a lot of stuffing - probably enough for 8 servings - especially since I upped the quinoa amount.  So, either scale down the recipe or save the stuffing for leftovers.  I've already had the stuffing heated up plain, wrapped in a burrito with scrambled eggs, and microwaved with an egg mixed in and topped with salsa (most successful version, IMO).   You could also put it in a small baking dish and top it with the cheese Panko mixture.  I plan on doing this next time because I'm not sure how much the acorn squash adds to the flavor.

Quinoa and sausage stuffed acorn squash
Adapted from The Other Side of Fifty

  • 1 acorn or other small squash (mini pumpkins might work well, too)

Cut squash in half and remove seeds and any stringy pulp. Brush squash halves with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place squash halves, cut side up, on a baking sheet and add 1/4" of water to pan. Roast squash in 375 degree oven for 45-50 minutes, or until fork tender.

I used red quinoa from the bulk bin at Whole Foods.  If you buy your quinoa in bulk, use the directions below, otherwise follow the directions on the package.  Also, I doubled this recipe, not realizing just how much it made.

  • 1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed thoroughly
  • 3/4 cup vegetable or chicken broth (I used homemade mushroom broth)

Bring the broth to a boil in a medium saucepan; pour in the quinoa and bring back to a boil.  Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed.

Sausage stuffing:

  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries, no sulfur added
  • 1/2 lb. chicken sausage (I used 2 1/2 links, casings removed)
  • 1 TBSP olive oil (or cooking fat from sausage)
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 TBSP all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup vegetable or chicken broth
  • 2 tsp fresh sage, chopped
  • 1 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped (you could also use thyme)
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin or sunflower seed kernels (I used pumpkin seeds)
  • 1/4 cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 TBSP parmesan cheese,grated

Brown sausage in large skillet. Remove from pan, leaving the cooking fat in the pan if you are using it, and set aside.

Return skillet to stove and add olive oil (if using). Add onion and celery and season with salt and pepper. Saute until onion is softened and translucent then add the garlic and saute for another minute or two. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and cook for a few minutes to ensure that flour loses its raw taste. Whisk in the broth and cook/stir until smooth and bubbly. Stir in fresh herbs and remove pan from heat. Add the pumpkin or sunflower seeds, quinoa, cranberries, and sausage to the skillet, stirring to combine well.

Stir Panko and parmesan together in a small bowl.

Stuff each half of the acorn squash with the sausage/quinoa mixture. Sprinkle the tops with the Panko crumbs. Place squash back into oven for 10-15 minutes to heat through and brown the breadcrumbs.


  1. YUM, this looks amazing! I love using acorn squash as the serving bowl! What lovely fall flavors-- I will definitely try this! PS- I'm a dietitian and have had to care for patients with an AIP flare-up. I'm only aware of how to deal with acute phases of the disease-- do you follow any kind of diet to help reduce the risk of a flare-up? Just curious! You can e-mail me at

  2. TheFoodHound - Thanks for the reply! I was shocked at how yummy it was - all the flavors combined to create some crazy deliciousness! Please let me know how it works out for you.

    (I'll e-mail my response below to you, but I figured I'd put it up here for anyone else interested.)

    Regarding avoiding flare-ups, let me say first that you should probably check with the APF as their website is pretty extensive. Also, several of the individuals are very approachable. They have a very active Facebook group.

    That said, here's what I know: Generally, folks with AIP will want to maintain a high percentage of carbs; I've seen it quoted at 60-70% of the daily intake (and, conversely, the fat and protein should be kept lower). Also, there are several foods to avoid or keep at a minimum. (Check my Restricted Foods page for lists of commonly known food contraindicators.) The big one to avoid is soy and high-sulfur foods from the cabbage family.

    Now, to add more complexity to the issue, it seems that each individual is different and responds to foods differently. So, certain foods that trigger one person might not trigger another person. I heard from several people that they are not bothered by soy (although, I question the wisdom of ingesting a known major trigger, but to each their own, right?). We're taking the "avoid all known triggers" approach for right now and will continue this until Tara's health improves significantly.

    A person should also look at what sort of supplements and medications they are taking as these play a major role in contributing to AIP flare-ups.

    My, I didn't realize this was going to be such a long response! Thanks for you interest and I hope to see you, and your patients, here again!

  3. Oops, meant to add, check out the links under the "Porphyria Resources" section. They're very informative.

  4. What a beautiful dish! I too love the idea of using the acorn dish as a serving dish, and the flavors all seem to combine so nicely. Thanks for the great recipe.

  5. City Share - Thanks for the comment! Glad you liked it!

  6. Thank you for sharing this fabulous quinoa recipe.
    I love quinoa so I'm always delighted when a I come across another quinoa fan:)

  7. @Quinoa Diet - Absolutely! I'm still coming around to quinoa, mostly because I haven't had good success with it. I have another recipe coming down the pike, so check back soon.


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