This tastes like Thanksgiving dinner all piled in to one delicious forkful! Savoury, healthy, mouth watering with a little crunch from the roasted hazelnuts.
Okay, this one might be a new favourite of mine. I came up with this recipe when I harvested my acorn squash that I’d grown in the garden. Squash aren’t expensive to buy, but winter squash might be one of my preferred things to plant in the garden and watch grow. They start as these cute little thumb sized squash, then go through what I call the awkward teenage phase around August. By October, they’re ready to pluck off the vine, and I just want to do something a little more special with them than roast them in the oven. A lot of love went in to them!
We had Thanksgiving dinner all to ourselves this year, for the first time ever. We wanted to celebrate together, but neither of us felt we need an entire roast turkey with all the sides and fixings. I came up with this instead!
I used sausage when I made this recipe, because I had some in the freezer I wanted to use up. The rest of the stuffing just evolved out of what I thought would be a delicious fall combo! This kind of reminds me of a whole thanksgiving dinner in one squash. You can fit a bit of every thanksgiving platter in each forkful! Ground turkey of course is the healthier alternative to sausage. Turkey is very lean and full of protein. Pork sausage was delicious too, of course! My neighbour got us in to wild rice. It’s extremely healthy, has a nuttier flavour than brown rice. It also has more of a bounce when you chew it, as opposed to normal rice which is more mushy. The dried cranberry adds a surprising note of sweetness in each bite, which puts a smile on my face. If you don’t have dried cranberries, a diced up apple would be a great substitute. The hazelnuts and mushrooms go so well with the rice; they add this woody flavour that makes me think of fall in the forest.
Here's how to make it
Start by cooking your rice in the chicken broth and water. Wild rice takes about 45 minutes to cook, so you definitely want to start this first, but it will just boil away on the stove while everything else comes together. Get your squash roasting away in the oven after that. It might sound like a lot of elements, but the squash and rice just do their thing, and everything else comes together in one pan. Next, I toast my hazelnuts, then put them aside until the end. I use the same pan to cook the turkey. Once it’s browned, I put it aside in a bowl and use the juices in the pan to start caramelizing my onion. While it’s nice and brown, while I slice up the rest of my ingredients, adding the mushrooms, herbs, garlic and some salt and pepper to the pan once the onion is caramelized. Once the rice and squash are cooked, I add the hazelnuts, turkey/sausage, celery, and dried cranberry to the pan. Make sure to taste the mixture, and add salt and pepper until it makes you smile.
Finally, the fun part! Stuff the squash with some wild rice, and then the mixture from the pan until it’s heaping full. Sprinkle your grated cheese over the top, and put it back in the oven until it’s melted and mouth watering!
Loaded Acorn Squash with Ground Turkey, Toasted Hazelnuts and Wild Rice
Calories per serving: 424 kcal
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 45 hour
Total time: 1 hour 15 minutes
3 acorn squash
½ cup wild rice
3/4 cup chicken broth
¾ cup water
1lb ground turkey or spicy sausage
½ cup hazelnuts or pecans
8 cremini mushrooms
3 sticks chopped celery
5 leaves sage
1 sprig rosemary
3 cloves garlic
½ cup dried cranberries or diced apple
1 cup grated cheddar or parmesan
Salt and pepper
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Cook your rice in the chicken broth and water, according to the package directions. Cook time may differ per wild rice brand, but mine takes 45 minutes.
Slice your squash in half and remove the innards. Rub them with olive oil, salt and pepper, then put them in the oven to roast for 35-45 minutes, or until a fork pierce them easily.
Next, toast your hazelnuts in the pan. Keep an eye on these, as nuts can turn from toasted to burnt really quickly! You’ll know they’re done when you can hear them popping or smell the nutty flavour. I know toasting is an extra step, but trust me, it’s so worth it! It releases the oils in the nuts, and makes their flavour come alive. Once they’re toasted, set them aside in a bowl.
Add your turkey or sausage to the same pan and start it browning. While the turkey browns, you can slice up your onion. When the turkey is cooked through, scoop it out of the pan in to a separate bowl. Add your onions to the same pan with the turkey juices to start them caramelizing.
While the onions caramelize, slice up your mushrooms, herbs and garlic. Once the onions have some colour, add the mushrooms and continue cooking until they are soft. Finally, throw in the herbs and garlic, and cook them for another two minutes or so, stirring frequently. You can turn the heat off under the pan until your rice and squash have finished cooking.
Once the rice and squash are cooked, I add the hazelnuts, turkey/sausage, celery, and dried cranberry to the pan with the caramelized onion mix. Make sure to taste the mixture, and add salt and pepper until it makes you smile.
Now the fun part! Stuff the squash with some wild rice, and then the mixture from the pan until it’s heaping full. Sprinkle your grated cheese over the top, and put it back in the oven until it’s melted and mouth watering!
I love to serve this with roasted brussel sprouts, just to add to the fall/thanksgiving theme. It's easy to throw them in the oven to roast while I'm stuffing my squash. Of course, you could do any side! Green beans would be great too. Ryan and I typically also have a salad at every meal, but since this one is admittedly a bit more labour intensive than some of my other recipes, I put Ryan on salad duty! I'll eat a loaded squash half all to myself, and Ryan managed a whole squash (he's a big fan of thanksgiving dinner!).