Last night was my first time cooking with acorn squash. My mom used to make it for us all the time stuffed with breadcrumbs. It was always one of my favorites because I loved the breadcrumbs so much. I still remember eating all of the breadcrumbs out and leaving the squash behind :). This recipe was my attempt at a grain-free version of a childhood favorite. My kids loved it and they ate the squash too, with some help. I had to help them scoop it because it was a new concept to them, but they figured it out by the end of the meal. Acorn squash is very mild, so it is a good vegetable for kids.
The original recipe comes from Paleo Comfort Foods by Julie & Charles Mayfield. The only changes I made were to the oil and the meat. The recipe called for olive oil or coconut oil, I used avocado oil. The smoke point of various fats needs to be taken into consideration when cooking because a fat is no longer good for consumption after it has exceeded its smoke point and has begun to break down. It is believed that fats that have gone past their smoke points contain a large quantity of free radicals which contribute to risk of cancer. Refining oils (taking out impurities) tends to increase the smoke point. Extra Virgin Olive Oil has a ballpark smoke point of 325°F – 375°F, depending on the quality of the oil. Thus, I do not like to cook with olive oil when the temperature is raised past 325°F. Avocado oil has a ballpark smoke point of 520°F and is similar in composition to olive oil, which makes it a great choice for this dish.
The original recipe called for ground turkey, but we chose to use ground chicken instead because I am not a huge fan of ground turkey. The taste doesn’t do much for me. This dish is very versatile, in that you can use ground chicken, ground turkey, ground turkey sausage, ground beef, ground bison or even chopped-up chicken breasts. We used fresh salsa and guacamole for toppings.
Here are some good reasons to eat acorn squash:
Acorn squash contains vitamin A, niacin, folate, thiamine and vitamin B-6, but it is an especially good source of vitamin C. A 1/2-cup serving of cooked, cubed acorn squash provides approximately 20 percent of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C for healthy adults following a 2,000-calorie diet. Adequate vitamin C intake promotes the health of the immune and skeletal systems and may help prevent hypertension, heart disease, cancer and osteoarthritis. The vitamin C content of foods is degraded by exposure to air, light, heat and water. To maximize the amount of vitamin C you receive from acorn squash, use the vegetable three to four days after purchase and cut it only right before cooking. Steam or bake the squash instead of boiling it to keep vitamin C from being lost in the cooking water.
Each 1/2-cup serving of acorn squash contains 13 percent of the recommended daily allowance of potassium and 11 percent of the RDA of magnesium. As both a mineral and an electrolyte, potassium plays a vital role in muscle contraction and in maintaining the body’s water balance. Magnesium regulates potassium levels, strengthens bones and teeth and aids in proper energy metabolism. Regularly eating potassium- and magnesium-rich foods like acorn squash can lessen your chance of stroke, osteoporosis, depression and diabetes. Acorn squash also contains small amounts of iron, calcium, zinc and phosphorus.
Acorn squash provides 5 grams of dietary fiber in every 1/2-cup serving, an amount that fulfills 18 percent of the recommended daily intake of fiber. The majority of acorn squash’s fiber is soluble fiber. According to Mayo Clinic.com, this type of fiber helps regulate blood levels of both glucose and cholesterol. In 2009, an article published in “Nutrition Reviews” summarized current dietary fiber research and concluded that a diet containing fiber-rich foods like acorn squash could help prevent stroke, heart disease, diabetes, obesity and gastrointestinal disorders.
The American Dietetic Association lists winter squash as one of the best sources of the antioxidant beta carotene. Antioxidants are compounds that can prevent cellular and DNA damage by inhibiting the activity of unstable free radicals. A high intake of antioxidant-rich foods is linked to a lower risk of cancer, neurological disorders, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Beta-carotene is a carotenoid that may specifically support eye health and prevent the development of age-related macular degeneration. (Source)
South of the Border Stuffed Acorn Squash
- 2 acorn squash
- 1 tbsp avocado or coconut oil
- 1 onion, minced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 red pepper, chopped
- 1 pound ground chicken
- 2 tbsp chili powder
- 1 tbsp cumin
- 1/2 cup tomatoes, chopped
- Himalayan pink salt to taste (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 400°F (205°C).
2. Cut the acorn squash in half lengthwise, removing the seeds and pulp. Place facedown in a baking pan, with about 1/4 inch water.
3. Bake for 30-45 minutes.
4. Heat a large skillet over medium heat, add oil. When hot stir in onions and garlic. Cook until onions are translucent, being careful not to burn the garlic.
5. Stir in peppers and cook for 3-4 minutes loungers.
6. Add in chicken and spices and brown until chicken is cooked through.
7. Strain off any excess liquid from the chicken, and still in tomatoes, heating through.
8. Pour out any of the water in the pan with the squash, and place face up. Fill with chicken mixture and sere, topped with your favorite salsa.
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