by Christiana Langenberg
Here we are in the season of pumpkin mania and winter squash abundance. So here’s a ghoulish confession: I don’t love pumpkin, never have. I could go the rest of my days without ever eating pumpkin pie and certainly I don’t steer my cart deliberately toward the winter squash piles in the grocery store. Nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon and allspice I believe are best when not inextricably linked to pumpkin. I feel about winter squash (yes, rich in vitamin A, C, niacin, folate) the way I do about quinoa (helloooo protein, fiber, iron). I know these foods are good for me, but whenever I eat them (um, rarely) my taste buds provide me with all sorts of alternative facts, the main ones being that I find their mouth feel odd and their flavors boring. There it is. I’m not a pumpkin hater, just not a squash lover.
So imagine my chagrin when I was recently gifted a 3 lb. bag of quinoa and half a dozen acorn squash. I’m not ashamed of regifting, but this time I felt compelled to wrestle them into something I’d actually want to eat. And with Halloween just hours away, why not try something fun and pseudo-gory in case I have to feed children, who are endlessly fascinated by fake-scary food such as small cakes in the shapes of coffins or a Jack-o-lantern carved so that the seeds spilling out of it’s mouth are pumpkin barf.
On the same day that I got the quinoa/squash heap, I’d also harvested all the remaining peppers, kale and tomatoes from my garden in advance of a hard freeze, so I had those to contend with as well.
The orange bell peppers were smallish – perfect size for kids – and if I cut them in half and stuffed them and included quinoa, I could sacrifice the peppers to the quinoa, or rather, invite homely quinoa to the orange pepper party.
Halloween Stuffed Peppers (aka Brains on the Half-skull with Blood Sauce)
4-5 medium to small orange or red peppers
1 lb. ground turkey (omit for vegan, just use more quinoa)
1/2 C cooked quinoa (or brown rice or both)
3 green onions, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
¼ C fresh parsley or cilantro or basil
1 small tomato, chopped
1 egg (omit for vegan)
2 tsp. dried mint
salt and pepper to taste
1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
I believe it’s impossible to mess up a stuffed pepper recipe. Just wash and halve the peppers, mix together your stuffing, fill the peppers, sauté them pepper-side-down in 1 T olive oil in a skillet for about 5 minutes. Then top with plain canned crushed tomato sauce, or make your own by chopping up some fresh tomatoes in a food processor. Cook over a low simmer for 30 minutes and you’re ready to eat.
It was a cold windy morning today as I stared down the acorn squash. I checked my produce drawer in the fridge for any veggies that might be waving their arms at me to let me know they need to be eaten soon: half a lemon and a thumb-sized piece of ginger and one lonely red onion. Perfect. I like things simple. And also intuitive. Unlike the directions for a small console table I recently ordered that came with “instructions” andg zero words included. Only pictures. After I unintentionally put the legs on backwards, I dismantled it and started over to get it right.
This recipe is not like that. In fact, it’s so simple, let’s try looking at the steps for preparation in pictures only:
Zombie-free (so simple the Walking Dead can make it) Roasted Acorn Squash Soup
In other words – or rather with words – here’s what you do. Cut apart the rib-like sections of the acorn squash length-wise so that they’re easier to peel. Then cube up the ribs and put them on a cookie sheet with just 1 T olive oil. Rub them around, sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast at 425 for about 20 minutes or until sweet-smelling and golden brown. Sauté the onion and ginger in 1 T olive oil over low heat. Add the roasted cubed squash, cover with veggie broth or water, cook over medium heat for 20-30 minutes or until soft. Add lemon juice and puree. Not going to lie, I was ready to be bored when I tasted this, but considering the brightness of the ginger and lemon, in contrast with the sweetness of the roasted squash, and I might have to admit I no longer don’t love squash.