Curry Spiced Quinoa + Kale Stuffed Acorn Squash

Minimalist Cooking: Curry Spiced Quinoa + Kale Stuffed Acorn SquashEver since becoming a vegetarian, well a lacto-ovo-pescatarian {in simpler terms, I don’t eat any meat – fish, eggs, cheese, and milk are part of my diet}, it’s been a journey to not view my food choices as part of a “diet”, but rather adapting to a new eating lifestyle. Coming from a family of farmers in Portugal I grew up learning to pick our own fruits and vegetables, baking bread, and using our homemade olive oil for everything. I learned at a young age that where your food comes from is important, but that eating fresh and what’s in season will be the best for you too.Curry Spiced Quinoa + Kale Stuffed Acorn Squash People often have a misconception that I am picky or don’t eat anything, on the contrary, I love food, and will eat and try anything, of course not made with meat. They often assume I live off salads, but that isn’t the case, I make sure to eat a variety of vegetables under the sun, whole hearty grains, and superfood ingredients that give me the protein my body requires, like fish, hemp seeds, lentils or nutritional yeast. I often am labeled picky, and honestly take offense to it, is it because I simply don’t enjoy meals covered in heavy sauces or use an endless amount of ingredients in order to make it?

I will admit I prefer my dishes simple. If the ingredients are their best, they don’t need all the extras just to make it delicious. I am a foodie, and I will use this trendy word, because it’s not just about having a love for eating or making food, I enjoy learning about it. Last month, I was reading a few articles on eating habits, or shall I say ways of cooking, that banish the “diet” word, but teach people to adapt to new ways of viewing food and all the good it can do for your body, and mind. Minimalist Cooking: Curry Spiced Quinoa + Kale Stuffed Acorn SquashThe first was the anti-inflammatory diet, one I’ve heard of before, but never fully understood. Unlike its name, it’s not just about preventing bloat, it’s about the overall inflammation in your body that causes your immune system to weaken, meaning frequent illnesses, allergies, stomach problems, diseases and even speed aging! These issues are problems many face and are caused more commonly by a diet consisting of processed foods, too many animal products, trans and saturated fats, excess alcohol, as well as health issues, food allergies, chronic infections, and of course stress and exhaustion – common problems most Americans face. 

But how do you turn all these problems around, it’s quite simple actually. Aside from getting checked and making sure major stomach and health issues aren’t at work, ridding your home of toxic products, relaxing more, and simply removing processed foods from your diet while eating more plant based should make your body snap back into a healthy working state. If you want to read up more on the anti-inflammatory diet, you can find this article very informative. When I read this, I totally agreed, because sticking to whole clean eating is the reason my body feels overall great. Minimalist Cooking: Curry Spiced Quinoa + Kale Stuffed Acorn SquashThe next isn’t really a diet, but a cooking way of life, one I’ve been following for years, and didn’t even know, so thanks A Couple Cooks for giving me the low down. With minamalist cooking, you focus on cooking with high quality ingredients, preferably produce in season, and simple flavoring – because sometimes good olive oil and a sprinkling of salt is all you need to make asparagus taste delectable. It’s about cooking with what you already have on hand, and replacing it with whatever vegetables you can during that season. And your kitchen is kept minimal too; dry ingredients and spices neatly stored in clear jars, and only the necessary kitchen gadgets on hand, because do you really need a garlic press or egg slicer, a knife works just as great and is much easier to clean. Minimalist Cooking: Curry Spiced Quinoa + Kale Stuffed Acorn SquashSo that is my rant about my cooking style, it’s more to inform you of these great ways of cooking that are healthy, but not forcefully healthy that you feel like you are missing out on food. Because eating well and fueling your body and mind shouldn’t be a chore, it should be enjoyable. Hopefully this can inspire you to look at the way you view food and cook some great wholesome meals. 

Now onto this curry spiced quinoa and kale stuffed acorn squash. This dish is definitely not a minimalist dish I grew up eating during summers in Portugal, but my father loves the taste of curry. It reminds him of the African dishes he enjoyed eating while growing up in Angola, and since I was cooking for just the two of us this Sunday, I knew I had to make this stuff acorn squash’s standout flavor, curry. With curry, you don’t need much else, a few fresh herbs and it does wonders in infusing immense flavor into any dish. So with the beautiful voice and traditional fado melodies of Mariza playing in the background, I spent one of the first Sundays of the new year cooking for a few hours…  Minimalist Cooking: Curry Spiced Quinoa + Kale Stuffed Acorn SquashFeel free to save those squash seeds. They make for a delicious snack roasted any of these three ways!Curry Spiced Quinoa + Kale Stuffed Acorn SquashThe touch of tangerine zest and juice, helps to bring out all the flavors in this dish. It’s unexpected, but the tangerine compliments the curry beautifully. I had never eaten this combination, and was pleasantly surprised. It was exotically sweet, yet fresh. If you don’t like the taste of curry, try it with tangerine or orange, it sweetens and mellows the curry’s distinct taste. 

Curry Spiced Quinoa + Kale Stuffed Acorn SquashI made this as a main dish for myself, with but of course a fried runny egg atop, and served it as a side alongside grilled chicken for my father. But seriously serve it with the egg, it adds another delicious depth of flavor. The quinoa mixture can easily be sautéed with cooked lentils for added protein for vegetarians and vegans too. If you are able to find small acorn squashes, it would make a hearty vegetable dish for a crowd on winter nights.

And you can prepare this in advance too – cook the quinoa a few days ahead, then simply sauté it with the other filling ingredients, and the squash can be roasted halfway the day before, then finished off when ready to eat.Minimalist Cooking: Curry Spiced Quinoa + Kale Stuffed Acorn Squash This dish was inspired by one from the Sprouted Kitchen cookbook but I replaced with different spices, and added some vegetables. So you can easily do the same, and make a dish you and others will enjoy too. I’m looking forward to sharing more savory recipes like this one with you this year!  

Curry Spiced Quinoa + Kale Stuffed Acorn Squash

Ingredients {Serves 4}

2 medium – Acorn Squash

3 tablespoons – Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Sea Salt + Fresh Ground Black Pepper, to taste

1 cup – Dry Quinoa

1 1/2 cups – Water or Vegetable Stock

1 teaspoon – Smoked Paprika

1/2 teaspoon – Curry Powder

1/4 teaspoon – Dried Oregano

2 tablespoons – Tangerine Zest {2 fruits}

2 tablespoons – Fresh Tangerine Juice {2 fruits}

4 tablespoons – Fresh Cilantro {chopped}

1 small – Garlic Clove {peeled + smashed}

3 cups – Kale {washed + chopped}

2 cups – Baby Portobella Mushrooms {about 5 large baby bellas}

1/4 cup – Pomegranate Seeds

1/4 cup – Pine Nuts {or nut of choice}

Recipe

Preheat your oven to 425*F, and line a baking dish with foil. Cut the acorn squashes in half, lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds. Rub the flesh with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Place the squash onto the baking sheet, cut side down, and pierce the skin with a fork a few times. Roast the squash for 20 minutes, then flip the squash over, and cook until a knife can easily go through the thickest part the squash {about 20 minutes – depending on the size of the squashes}. Remove from oven, and allow to cool slightly. 

In the meantime, while the squashes roast, rinse the quinoa and strain. Bing the water or stock to a boil in a small sauce pot, and season with salt and pepper. Add the quinoa, cover and cook on medium-low until the liquid has been absorbed, and quinoa has been almost cooked through {about 15 to 20 minutes}. Let the quinoa sit in the covered pot for another 5 minutes, allowing to finish cooking, then fluff with a fork. 

Heat a sauté pan over high heat, add the remaining olive oil, garlic, and mushrooms cooking until crispy {about 8 to 10 minutes}. Reduce the heat to medium, add the kale and sauté until wilted {about 3 to 4 minutes}, then remove from heat. Add the quinoa {I only used 1 1/2 cups of cooked quinoa and stored the rest}, paprika, oregano, curry, and stir to combine. Add the tangerine zest and juice, fresh cilantro, and toss to combine. Seasons with salt and pepper, as desired. 

Divide the quinoa mixture between the halved squashes, garnish with pine nuts. Place under the broiler, to lightly toast the nuts. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and serve immediately. 


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