Ok, here we go... confessions of a dietitian. There are many common misconceptions people have of my profession, but for now, we'll focus on one...
"Oh wow you eat meat? I thought all dietitians were vegetarians!"
Nope, not this dietitian! While there may be some vegetarian dietitians out there, and I do LOOOOVE my veggies, I also include meat... in moderation of course :) My 'favorite food' varies by the season, but in the summer I can always go for some good ol' BBQ... nothing will beat my dad's beer butt chicken, my #2 dad's (that's my father in-law) pulled pork BBQ, my Texas dad's (Gary French y'all) brisket, or last but definitely not least, Sonny's grilled fish (that he of course caught himself).
When it comes to meat, I do like to choose carefully. While Sonny and I don't have red meat often, we do have prime selection when we do. That's because we happen to be friends with the Stovers... shout out! Ryan Stover's dad happens to raise cattle on his farm, and we were lucky enough to be able to buy 1/4 of a fresh, organic and locally-raised cow. Now we have a freezer full of awesome steaks, roasts and ground beef (along with the venison and trout that Sonny has brought home after his fishing and hunting endeavors).
Personally, I believe that you can taste the difference between fresh, locally raised meats and that other stuff you buy from the grocery stores. Visit your local farmer's market and try some!
Back to the recipe now... with my delicious ground beef, I made a savory, mouth-watering stuffing for some yummy, locally-grown acorn squash. Winter squash (butternut, acorn, spaghetti, etc.) is a great source of vitamin A and also a good source of vitamin C, fiber and manganese. You can get the squash roasting and then prepare the filling. I used some quinoa, but feel free to substitute with leftover rice (brown rice instead of white to get more nutrition) or barley or wheat berries or any other nutrient-rich whole grain you like. The recipe will make quite a bit of filling, so here's my tip- before you mix in the quinoa, or grain of choice, split your beef mixture in half and refrigerate or freeze half for later use (if you refrigerate, make sure you use within 3-4 days). Stay tuned and I will post another recipe for using the other half of the meat mixture... PROMISE!
Savory Stuffed Squash
1 cup dried quinoa
2 acorn squash
1 lb ground beef (may substitute ground chicken or turkey)
1 onion, diced
1 red pepper, diced (or any color pepper)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tb dried oregano
1 Tb dried thyme
1 tsp ground sage
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
3-4 large handfuls fresh spinach, roughly chopped
1 cup feta cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated parmesan cheese
Cook quinoa according to package instructions- set aside. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cut squash in half crosswise and scoop out the seeds and pulp (if desired, you can save the seeds and roast like you would pumpkin seeds). Trim the bottoms of each half so the squash can stand upright. Coat 2 13x9 baking dish with non-stick spray. Place 2 squash, cut side down, in each baking dish. Pour water in each dish, to fill up about 1/2 in high. Roast the squash in the oven for about 40 minutes, or until squash is tender
Once again, heat skillet over medium, and spray with non-stick spray. Add pepper and onion and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, oregano, thyme, sage, cayenne and nutmeg- cook about 2 more minutes. Add meat back to the mixture, along with chopped spinach, and cook about 2-3 more minutes to let the flavors blend. Remove from heat and stir in feta cheese and salt and pepper to taste. Divide mixture in half and refrigerate or freeze one half for later use- I will post another recipe for this (or you could use 4 acorn squashes instead of 2, and divide mixture among 8 halves). Mix the quinoa into the second half of the meat mixture.
Remove squash from the oven and pour out the water (careful, it will be hot!) Flip the squash over so the cut-side is facing up and fill the hole with the stuffing. Sprinkle each squash with parmesan. Put squash back in the oven for another 10 minutes, or until parmesan starts to brown.
I served mine with a dallop of fat-free greek yogurt and a simple side salad. AMAZING!