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Stuffed Butternut Squash with Kale, Cranberries, Quinoa, and Chickpeas

When the weather turns cool, our hunger for hearty, cozy meals returns. Stuffed butternut squash is a classic warming autumn food that is full of flavor. This recipe includes a medley of bright colours and textures that range from creamy roasted butternut squash to the crunch of pumpkin seeds. It's not only delicious and satisfying but also healthy, with nourishing ingredients such as kale, cranberries, and quinoa. All these flavors come together to create a bright and filling main dish for vegetarians or vegans or a stunning side for the carnivores among us. It would make a special addition to holiday meals, but it's also simple enough to cook for a weeknight dinner.

Ingredients

  • 1 medium butternut squash
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 15 ounce can of chickpeas
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried sage
  • One bunch raw kale
  • 3 cups cooked quinoa
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 2 tablespoons of fresh orange juice (Be sure to zest the orange before juicing it, to save yourself some trouble.)
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup roasted pumpkin seeds
  • Orange slices for garnish, if desired

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F) Cut several slits into the butternut squash, then microwave it on high for 3-5 minutes. Let it sit for two minutes, so it is cool enough to handle. This will soften it up a bit to make it easier to cut through. Slice in half and scoop out the seeds.
  2. Place the halves cut side down in a baking dish with about one generous cup of water, to help keep the butternut squash moist as it bakes. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the squash is fork tender.
  3. Remove the butternut squash from the pan and set it aside to cool. Reduce the oven temperature to 190°C (375°F).
  4. While the butternut squash bakes, wash the kale and remove the stems. Chop the leaves roughly and set them aside. You should have about 4 cups.
  5. Drain and rinse the chickpeas and set aside.
  6. Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat until it shimmers. Add the drained, rinsed chickpeas and saute until they are golden, for about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, oregano, thyme, and sage and cook for a few minutes until fragrant.
  7. Stir in the chopped kale and cook until it is wilted, 2-4 minutes, stirring the whole time. Reduce the heat to medium-low.
  8. Stir in the cooked quinoa, orange zest and juice, and dried cranberries. Cook for a few minutes to warm through and let the flavors meld. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the roasted pumpkin seeds.
  9. When the butternut squash is cool enough to handle, scoop out a little of the flesh to make room for the stuffing. Set the extra butternut squash aside for another use. 
  10. Spoon the stuffing into the squash halves. Place on a baking sheet and return to oven for 10 minutes, or until slightly browned on top. Remove and let cool slightly, then transfer to a serving dish. Garnish with orange slices and serve.


This hearty dish provides the kind of cozy and warm meal that is a delight when the weather turns cool. It also showcases the vibrant colours and rich flavors of the season. Serve it to your friends and family as a celebration of the change in the air and all the wonderful foods of the season. Autumn is a delicious time to rediscover the joy of cooking -- and eating!


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