Squash is unquestionably one of my favorite veggies. In the summertime, there’s nothing quite as good as freshly grilled zucchini and more recently I have become a big fan of using my spiralizer to make zoodles, but as soon as the weather starts to become a little bit crisper, it’s all about the butternut squash. Honestly, it’s hard to go wrong with this lightly sweet, golden-fleshed veggie. You can roast it, puree it into soup, add it to chili, stews, or casseroles, but one of my favorite things to do with butternut squash is to stuff it.
Because the meat of the squash has such a delicate flavor, it plays well with a variety of ingredients. I often experiment with different combos of fillings from black beans, corn, and lots of southwestern seasonings to spicy sausage, pine nuts, coconut, and cranberries. Last night I decided to try meaty portobello mushrooms, fragrant yellow onions, nutty quinoa, sweet dates, and tangy goat cheese, and the results were absolutely delicious!
- 1 medium to large butternut squash (you can also use 2-3 smaller butternuts if you want to create smaller serving sizes and/or serve as a side dish to 4-6 people)
- 1 medium sized yellow onion, roughly chopped into small pieces
- 2 large portobello mushrooms, roughly chopped into small pieces
- 6-10 dates (depending on how much sweetness you like), dried and pitted, roughly chopped into small pieces
- 1 cup of quinoa, cooked (1/3 cup dry makes about 1 cup cooked)
- olive oil
- sea salt
- black pepper
- garlic powder
- 4 oz goat cheese (omit if vegan)
- Majestic Garlic Creamy Garlic (optional)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut butternut squash in half and coat the fleshy side with olive oil. Bake for about 30-45 minutes or until flesh is tender when pierced with a fork. Remove from oven and set aside. While squash halves are roasting, prepare stuffing by doing the following.
If your quinoa is not already cooked, rinse it thoroughly, and then add it to a pot with 2/3 cup of water. (Quinoa is always cooked in a 1:2 quinoa:water or broth ratio and usually triples in volume, so 1/3 cup dry will make 1 cup of cooked quinoa.) Bring water with quinoa in it to a boil, stir and reduce to a low simmer, cover the pot, and allow to cook for about 10-15 minutes, checking and stirring occasionally to avoid burning. Once quinoa is cooked, fluff it with a fork and set aside. (Leftover cooked quinoa works great for this recipe as well and saves you a step!)
Next, add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil to a large sauté pan and heat on your stove’s medium-high heat setting. Add chopped onions and a couple of pinches of sea salt and allow the onions to cook, while stirring, for 3-4 minutes until softened. Then, add the chopped mushrooms and continue to cook, while stirring for another 10 minutes or until mushrooms have reduced in volume. Add another pinch of sea salt, as well as thyme, garlic powder, and black pepper to taste. (I am horrible about measuring seasonings, but I recommend roughly 3 pinches of coarsely ground black pepper and a few sprinkles of both thyme and garlic powder until there is a light coating of both on the onions and mushrooms.) Continue to sauté while stirring for another few minutes and then transfer mixture to a mixing bowl.
Add chopped dates and cooked quinoa to the mixture and stir until well incorporated. If you have Majestic Garlic Creamy Garlic, you can add 1 tablespoon of that into the mixture as well. I LOVE garlic, so this really amps up the flavor for me, but if you’re not a huge garlic fan, then you can leave this out. If you are a huge garlic fan, but you can’t get Majestic Garlic spread in your local stores (I get mine from natural food stores like Whole Foods or Rainbow Acres), you can always just add fresh garlic (minced or pureed) and a little more olive oil or some additional garlic powder.
Now, carefully scoop out the flesh of the baked butternut squash halves, making sure to leave the squash skin in tact. You don’t have to get every bit of the flesh out, juts enough to make a nice little receptacle for your stuffing. Place the scooped out squash flesh on a chopping board or in another mixing bowl and either chop or mash until it is in small chunks or is smooth in texture.
Add squash flesh to the mushroom, onion, quinoa, and date mixture and stir until incorporated. Scoop the mixture in small spoonfuls back into the squash skins. Feel free to mound the mixture up a little above the level of the squash skins so they look quite full.
Crumble your desired amount of goat cheese and sprinkle over the tops of the stuffing. This recipe can easily be made vegan by omitting the goat cheese. It would be great as is without the cheese or with a light topping of bread crumbs or chopped walnuts or pecans.
Place stuffed squash back into the oven (still at 400 degrees) and heat for another 5-10 minutes or until stuffing is warm and the goat cheese is softened and beginning to lightly brown. You may want to turn your oven all the way up to 475 degrees or broil just for a minute or two at the end to get that nice toasted effect on the goat cheese, but be sure to watch closely as things go from nicely cooked to totally burned very quickly at this heat.
Remove your stuffed squash from the oven, use a spatula and fork or tongs to carefully move squash halves to plates, and enjoy!