Health benefits of squash and an acorn squash recipe for the holidays

Try this squash with wild rice stuffing as a nutrient-packed dish that will impress vegetarians and satisfy meat-lovers

Julie Daniluk, R.H.N. 0
squash recipe, Julie Daniluk

Julie Daniluk, R.H.N.

Squash may look like a standard veggie, but technically it’s a fruit because its flesh contains seeds. Did you know that it’s in the same food family as watermelon? No surprise when you consider how sweet a squash can taste. Squash makes its way onto most festive plates because it brings us back to the days when cold storage was scarce and the hardy squash could last all winter. I adore the subtle sweetness of this slow-burning carb that helps to curb cravings. It’s perfect for those wanting to balance their blood sugar.

Five amazing and healthy facts about acorn squash

1. Keep acorn squash seeds to ward off parasites. Acorn squash belongs to the family of cucurbita vegetables, which is in the same family as the pumpkin. The seeds of both acorn squash and pumpkins have the amazing ability to specifically target the elimination of tapeworms and other parasites.

2. Cut out synthetic food colouring agents and opt for zeaxanthin, which is what creates the yellow pigment of the acorn squash. Zeaxanthin is a caratenoid that is often used as a natural alternative to man-made food colouring. Keep in mind to always try and avoid products that list ingredients containing a colour and a number.

3. Acorn squash is a great source of dietary fibre in the winter. The holiday season is full of fatty treats and adding more fibre to your diet can aid in proper elimination, guard against heart disease and decrease levels of bad cholesterol (LDL).

4. Acorn squash is high in antioxidants.
Pigments of dark green and orange colours show high levels of chlorophyll and caratenoids, which contain antioxidants. Loading up on antioxidants over the winter time will help build up your immune system and help fend off pesky pathogens.

5. Acorn squash is a great source of potassium. Recent studies have shown that increasing dietary potassium will actually block the body’s excretion of calcium, allowing less bone loss and lower rates of osteoporosis.

Holiday squash with wild rice stuffing recipe

Combine the squash with a wild rice stuffing and you have a delicious super nutrient-dense holiday dish to serve to your loved ones. If you add lentils to the recipe, you have a main dish to serve for any vegetarians you may be entertaining. By using wild rice instead of bread, and olive oil instead of butter, it also becomes gluten and/or dairy free for anyone who is trying an allergy-reduced or vegan diet.

Ingredients

For the squash:
4 medium acorn squash
Olive oil, to brush surface

For the rice:
3/4 cup brown rice
3/4 cup wild rice
3 cups vegetable broth or stock

For the stuffing:
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 cups onion, diced
3 cups celery, chopped finely
1-2 tsp. thyme (use higher amount if adding lentils)
1-2 tsp. sage (use higher amount if adding lentils)
1/2 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. dried rosemary or 2 tsp fresh rosemary chopped
1 cup fresh parsley (chopped)
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1 cup dried cranberries (apple juice sweetened)

Optional ingredient if this is a vegetarian main:
2 cups cooked lentils (a 19 oz can, rinsed and drained)

Directions

For the wild/brown rice:
1. Heat vegetable stock in a large or medium pot until boiling.
2. Add wild/brown rice.
3. Cover and simmer over the lowest heat for 50 minutes.
4. Remove from heat.

For the squash:
1. Cut acorn squash in half lengthwise.
2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
3. Scoop out seeds with a spoon and discard or save for use in Toasted pumpkin seeds.
4. Brush exposed surface of squash with olive oil.
5. Place squash face-down on a cookie sheet and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven.

For the stuffing:
1. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan or wok until hot.
2. Add onions and stir well; sauté and stir four about five minutes.
3. Add chopped celery, thyme, sage, marjoram, and rosemary, stirring well to avoid burning.
4. Sauté until onions and celery are translucent. Add sliced almonds, parsley and dried cranberries and heat through.
5. Stir in cooked wild/brown rice. If adding canned lentils for extra protein, make sure rinse and drain them well and gently stir into stuffing.  

For the stuffed squash:
1. Remove stuffing mixture (now including wild rice) from heat.
2. After 30-40 minutes (depending on size), remove squash from oven. The flesh should still be firm.
3. Fill each acorn squash cavity with the stuffing mixture, mounding the filling slightly.
4. Cover stuffed squash with parchment paper and then a layer of aluminum foil (the paper protects you from ingesting aluminum) and bake an additional 30-40 minutes, until you can easily insert a fork into the squash.

Serves 8-10, depending on size of squash. You should have enough for wild rice stuffing for both the squash and inside the turkey.

Nutritionist Julie Daniluk hosts the Healthy Gourmet, a reality cooking show that looks at the ongoing battle between taste and nutrition. Her soon to be published first book, Meals That Heal Inflammation, advises on allergy-free foods that both taste great and assist the body in the healing process.

For more amazing recipes visit Chatelaine.com’s recipe section.

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