Lamb-stuffed Whole Roasted Acorn Squash [Recipe] [Kitchen Hack]

As you might know from previous posts, I love a good winter squash recipe. My best friend in high school had a gourmet chef for a mother, and she would make butternut squash soup with sage and heavy cream — I’d sneak seconds out of the fridge when I’d go over there for dinner. And my first memory of biting into a winter squash was life changing — roasted acorn squash topped with a sesame soy glaze at a locally sourced restaurant in Austin, TX sometime in the early 2000’s. I was hooked.

While I loved these starchy veggies, I found them unwieldy and downright frightening to prepare myself. I’ll admit to buying the pre-cut, pre-peeled butternut squash at Whole Foods in the produce section and paying an arm and a leg to have someone else risk their fingertips to cut that thing apart for me. They roll all over the place!lamb-stuffed whole roasted acorn squash recipe

Life-Changing Kitchen Hack: Roasting a Whole Squash

A few weeks back, I learned an amazing trick to save time AND my fingers, and guarantee excellence each and every time I make winter squash. And that trick is to do NOTHING to it before sticking it in the oven. Nothing. Turn on the oven, stick it in whole, let it roast from the inside; and then slice it open, scoop the seeds, and do as you please. It’s amazing! And today’s recipe will feature an acorn squash roasted like this. It’s literally the easiest way to cook winter squash while avoiding the emergency room! 

Time-Saving Tip

Roasting this way is also a great way to multi-task in the kitchen — or even prepare extra for the rest of the week. Depending on how many squashes you’re cooking (yes, that’s a plural form of squash, I just looked it up), the time in the oven will shift slightly, but this is a set-it-and-forget-it way of preparing a base for your dinner. Tossing a squash in the oven gives you time to focus on the rest of your meal. And if you’re preparing for the whole week, why not mix it up? Throw a spaghetti squash in there too and get the base for this recipe started for later in the week.

For this dish, I started some ground lamb and cabbage going on a skillet while my squash did it’s thing in the oven. If you’re shooting for a vegetarian dinner, you could work up some quinoa and veggies, or make it super easy by pulling out a BPA-free can of veggie chili (affiliate link) for the easiest healthy dinner on earth. Or you could stick with my recipe below. lamb-stuffed whole roasted acorn squash recipe

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Lamb-Stuffed Roasted Acorn Squash
Serves 4
Makes 4 very generous servings -- unless you're really hungry, prepare for some leftovers for lunch tomorrow!
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Ingredients
  1. 2 whole acorn squash (small to medium in size)
  2. 1.5 lbs ground lamb
  3. 1/2 a red cabbage, chopped
  4. 1 red bell pepper, diced
  5. 1 cloves fresh garlic, chopped or pressed
  6. 4 tbs fresh rosemary
  7. 1 tbs fresh sage
  8. 2 tsp REAL salt + more (CWB Favorite Pick)
  9. Black pepper
Instructions
  1. Roast 2 whole acorn squash on 400 for 40 minutes, let sit for at least 10 minutes before slicing to avoid a steam burn
  2. While the squash is in the oven, start browning ground lamb on a hot skillet
  3. When the meat's about halfway cooked, sprinkle in 2 tsp salt and add chopped red cabbage and bell pepper
  4. When the meat's about 3/4 of the way browned with 1/4 still red and uncooked, stir in garlic, sage and 1/2 the rosemary.
  5. There should be lots of juices sizzling and bubbling at this point, and the cabbage should be pretty close to done.
  6. Once it's all cooked, add 2 more tbs fresh rosemary and cook for another 5-7 minutes
  7. Slice the top off the acorn squash and cut them in half
  8. Scoop out the innards and seeds, saving the seeds for toasting later
  9. Sprinkle all 4 halves with salt and black pepper
  10. Plate the squash and fill each center with the ground lamb cabbage mixture
Optional but Awesome Toppings
  1. cashew cream
  2. OR
  3. Greek yogurt
  4. OR
  5. sour cream
  6. AND
  7. fresh sprouts
  8. AND
  9. raw sunflower seeds
Cultivated Wellbeing http://cultivatedwellbeing.com/

 


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Black Sesame Cabbage Cups

Poor Loren (my husband) spent his entire 33rd birthday traveling. We started the morning with a drive to the airport, had a layover in LA, arrived at the airport shuttle, which took us to a train, which dropped us at a bus stop so that we could walk 4 blocks home from there.

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Then he got in his car to drive 30 minutes away to take a test for his new certification at work. He didn’t get home until late. What a day! Feeling terrible for him, I decided to make something special for dinner the following evening. And in declaring this week his birthday week, I opened up a nice bottle of wine from our new wine club at Truett Hurst. This 2011 Zinfandel was delicious and the perfect complement to the lamb in our meal.

For dinner, unless we’ve had a particularly grueling day at the gym, I try to keep our meals limited to meat, veggies, and fat, leaving out complex carbs, since it’s so close to bed time and we won’t have time to use them up. When I make dinner this way, the only way Loren will stay full is if I load up on the fats. For this meal, I didn’t drain off the lamb fat before throwing in the veggies, but that’s up to you. I also used high quality palm oil (sustainably harvested), a healthy saturated fat, to sauté the onions before adding in the meat. (This is the palm oil I like.)

As for the black sesame seeds, these little nutrition powerhouses boast a healthy dose of calcium and magnesium, as well as a lot of other valuable trace minerals (check out more at Livestrong.com). I added these in mostly for flavor, but also for the relaxing quality that magnesium can have on our muscles and our minds. The wine helped with that too. 🙂

We’re really lucky to live where we do with access to wonderful farmers’ markets that feature local ranchers selling the meat of happy animals. I say “happy animals” as a tribute to my favorite high school teacher in Houston, TX. She was a lacto ovo vegetarian (not an easy thing to be in Texas back then) who insisted that she only ate eggs from happy chickens, which, at 18, we all thought was equally hilarious and ridiculous.

14 years later, I know what that means — do the animals roam freely? Are they given a diet they were meant to eat? Are they healthy and vibrant? Are they free of hormones and antibiotics? Do they spend time in the sun every day?

This meal is made with ground meat from a happy lamb, and that makes me happy too. It’s full of plenty of healthy fats, as pastured animals have the proper ratio of omega 6 to omega 3s in their body fat (feedlot animals have far too much inflammatory omega 6).

Black Sesame Cabbage Cups

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Ingredients (serves 4)
  • 2 lbs ground lamb
  • 2 tbs red palm oil or ghee for sautéing
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 big bunch of broccolini, chopped
  • 3 small bunches tatsoi or a few fistsful baby spinach
  • 12 large raw leaves green cabbage (for the cups)
  • 1/4 cup black sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp – 1 tbs lemon pepper to taste
  • red pepper flake to taste
  • REAL or sea salt to taste
  • OPTIONAL 1/2 tsp sesame oil (for drizzling)
  • OPTIONAL hard cheese for grating over the top
Directions
  1. Warm your skillet over medium heat
  2. Once hot, add 2 tbs palm oil or ghee
  3. Add in diced onions and let them sweat for about 5 minutes, stirring regularly (you don’t want them to get brown, just translucent. Turn down the fire if you need to to avoid burning them)
  4. Once the onions are translucent, add in ground lamb and the minced garlic
  5. brown the meat completely, allowing the water to evaporate before adding veggies
  6. Add broccolini only, and cook until it softens slightly
  7. Add in salt, spices, and black sesame seeds
  8. Once the broccolini is just about as tender as you like it, add in the tatsoi just to wilt it. You want all the veggies to retain their vibrant green color.
  9. To serve, place 3 large cabbage cups on your plate and fill to the brim with the mixture from the pan. Drizzle a bit of sesame oil and top with your favorite dry cheese (we used Pecorino Romano)

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