There are some fall recipes that I absolutely despise and some that I absolutely love, like egg (soy) nog and the recipe is really simple. Open container of Silk soy nog, add booze and drink away! Then there are ones that I hate hate hate. Like candied yams. Or sweet potato casserole. Which is odd, because I like sweet potatoes. Also, I actually am not a big fan of stuffing, or “dressing,” as it’s called in the south. However, in the past couple of years there has been a change in my taste for stuffing. Whole Foods makes the most incredible chestnut stuffing I’ve ever had. If I could, I’d fill a swimming pool full of it and do laps in it, bathe in it, and eat it, all at the same time. It’s that good to me.
LOL actually stop for a second and imagine a blonde woman, with Thanksgiving stuffing smeared all over herself floating in a swimming pool of said stuffing. My brain is weird sometimes. I can’t stop laughing.
Then, there was me at Trader Joe’s, doing the usual Monday night grocery store shopping trip and I saw the typical fall produce – delicata squashes, all the different decorative pumpkins and pie pumpkins, and then I laid my eyes on the acorn squash. I know these are “stuffable” so I ended up getting my recipe-making juices all inspired and ready to cook and came up with this amazing stuffing recipe. It was so good I kept eating it by itself before even putting it in my squash halves. And I don’t even really like stuffing!
2 large/medium acorn squashes
2 large carrots, peeled
2 stalks celery
1 large bulb of fresh fennel root
1 large granny smith apple
1/2 cup tightly packed, finely chopped fresh sage (you can cut this back, but I really love sage)
2 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp onion powder
1/2 cup vegetable broth
3 cups panko bread crumbs
1 cup vegan mozzarella shreds like Trader Joe’s or Daiya*
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil (divided)
Salt and black pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 450°F. Cut the ends off the acorn squash so they will sit flat on your baking dish. BE CAREFUL to only just cut off the ends so it will sit upright because guess who made the mistake of cutting too much off? Me. And I ended up with a bit of the core coming through on one half, resulting in a giant ring of squash instead of two neat little “bowls.” Half the squash and scoop out the stringy meat and seeds.
Brush each half with the 1/2 tbsp of olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste, bake on a well greased cookie sheet or in a pyrex-type glass baking dish for 25-30 minutes, or until squash is soft all the way through.
While your squash is cookin!….peel carrots, slice them and your celery relatively thin. Chop fennel and apple into medium/small pieces, then finely chop your fresh sage.
Heat the remaining 1 tbsp of olive oil in a medium to large skillet on medium to high heat and add all veggies. Sautee a couple of of minutes until fragrant. Add rosemary, thyme, garlic powder, onion powder, and fresh sage, plus salt and black pepper to taste.
Reduce heat to medium and continue to sautee another 5 minutes or so. I have a secret to making my hard root veggies like carrots cook faster and without using extra oil. Add the half cup of vegetable broth, let it start to simmer, then cover for about 5-7 minutes and let it basically “steam” your veggies. Remove the lid and if they still need to soften, continue to sautee until cooked all the way through. This also allows any extra liquid to steam off.
Remove from heat, add the panko bread crumbs and your vegan cheese. I personally like the Trader Joe’s vegan mozzarella shreds because they actually melt faster than Daiya. Your squash halves should be getting close to finishing.
Once squash halves are done and tender (test with a fork) let cool for 5 minutes, then generously spoon each squash full of your stuffing mixture. Serve immediately
*If you are not vegan or prefer dairy cheese, you can sub parmesan cheese here.