Sweet and Savory Wild Rice Stuffed Squash (Vegan, Gluten-free)


It's so challenging to come up with interesting meals for the family every day. I'm trying to break a years-long cycle of preparing separate meals for everyone. It takes a little creativity to plan dinners that everyone will eat at least some part or variation of, without too much hassle. (It's also very challenging to write anything about it, as between snow-days, constant injuries, and temper tantrums, the kids just won't allow it!)

This week, I picked up some wild rice. Now, nobody in the family is happy about parting with white rice. I've been through this a few times and I am well aware that a package of brown rice in our pantry will eventually expire, sit there for 2 more years past that, and end up in the trash. So this time I purchased a small amount of wild rice sold by weight, from the bulk section of the store. In this mix, hopefully there's enough "white" looking rice with the black and red grains.

I set out to dress this rice up with fun ingredients to make it look pretty and exciting. When in doubt, add fruit and nuts, right? Need a fancy looking main course? Just stuff something inside something else. This is my thinking.

So did the whole family go crazy for this fruity-nutty-rice stuffed squash-bowl? I think the adults enjoyed it very much. Neither of the kids would touch the squash. I don't know why they hate squash so much. I roasted it covered in maple syrup and sugar, but still... not gonna try it! The rice, the picky one ate so he could get dessert. He said it was okay. The one that likes everything, may actually hate cranberries... or may have had an "off" eating day... who knows - so she didn't touch it.


I also made a creamy cucumber salad with cashew yogurt and dill, on the side. Everyone loved that. Cashew yogurt is our new favorite vegan alternative to anything creamy or sour. So the kids pretty much filled up on the fresh multigrain bread from the bakery, cucumbers, toasted nuts and apricots.

This is a fairly time-intensive dish, but takes very little hands-on effort. You'll just need to start the rice and squash cooking a little more than an hour before dinner time. Then, all you have to do is:
- chop a few things and sauté them for 5 minutes
- toast some nuts without forgetting and burning them (super difficult...)
- throw it all in the rice
- squish the squash
- pile on the rice and keep warm until ready to serve

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Sweet and Savory Wild Rice Stuffed Squash

Serves: 4 as a side dish, 2 as a main dish
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Ingredients:

For the squash:
2 small acorn squash, halved, seedy pulp removed
3 tablespoons maple syrup
4 teaspoons coconut palm sugar, or brown sugar
salt and pepper to taste

For boiling the rice:
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2/3 cup wild rice
1 1/3 cup vegetable stock

For mixing into the rice:
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup shallots or red onions, or both, finely chopped
1/4 cup celery, sliced
1/3 cup raw pistachios, toasted
5 dried apricots, soaked in warm water and chopped.
2 tablespoons dried cranberries (preferably fruit-sweetened, no sugar added)
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh mint, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat oven to 400F. Arrange squash cut side up in a lightly oiled baking dish. Drizzle the olive oil and syrup over the squash and sprinkle with sugar, salt and pepper. Bake for 45-60 minutes, until browning and fork-tender.

2. While squash bakes, cook the rice. Bring rice, stock and olive oil to a boil and lower to a simmer for 45 minutes, covered. Stir and remove from heat, and set aside covered for 15 minutes.

3. Toast the nuts on a sheet pan in the oven for 5 minutes, or until lightly browned. Set aside.

4. Sauté shallots or onions and celery in olive oil for 3 minutes.  Stir into the rice. Season with salt and pepper.

5. Add to the rice: half the nuts, all of the apricots, cranberries, and half of the parsley and mint.

6. When the squash is cool enough to touch, scrape and mash the flesh a bit with a fork within each half. Place a bit of rice onto each and keep warm in the oven, if needed. Serve topped with nuts, parsley and mint, and extra rice on the side.














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