Connie Page, of the Holland Sentinel, wrote an article about acorn squash and its fit for stuffing. She mentioned that the markets are full of colorful squash and gourds. Beautiful yellows, oranges, reds, browns, and greens are in abundance as cooler weather has arrived. Acorn squash comes in white, dark blue-green, and yellow varieties. Its acorn shape lends its name. Its orange-colored flesh offers a mildly sweet flavor. The heavy outer peel has deep ridges with a splash of yellow-gold, which shows a sign of maturity.
Information from specialty produce indicates that its natural round shape is perfect for stuffing. The most common stuffing types are a sausage and apple combination. Simply steam halves in the shell until tender, fill with your choice of stuffing, and bake. The acorn squash can also be peeled, cooked, and mashed and served with cinnamon, honey, and brown sugar. Add cooked squash to casseroles, soups, stews, and stir-fries for extra flavor. Cook chunks in soup or stew until tender, remove, mash, and return to cooking pot for a thicker broth.
But here in our recipe, we will spice it up with the flavors of the winter season.
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Botanically, it belongs to the Cucurbitaceae or gourd family of vegetables and is closely related to other winter squash varieties such as pumpkin, delicata, butternut squash, hubbard, spaghetti, Japanese kuri hokkaido, calabaza, etc.
Here is a list of the health benefits you can obtain from consuming acorn squash as enumerated by Nutrition and You:
- Acorn squash has relatively higher calories compared to pumpkin and pattypan. 100 grams of raw fruit holds 40 calories, almost the same as for butternut squash (45 cals). Besides, it carries no saturated fats or cholesterol. Its peel is a good source of dietary fiber.
- Acorn squash is a gluten-free food item.
- Fresh fruits carry relatively modest amounts of vitamin A than pumpkin, providing about 367 IU per 100 g. Vitamin A is important for cell growth and development, and for good vision.
- Unlike other winter squash types like pumpkin and butternut squash, the acorn is a modest source of flavonoid poly-phenolic antioxidants such as carotenes, lutein, and zeaxanthin.
- Together with vitamin A, pigment compounds help scavenge harmful oxygen-derived free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) from the body that play a role in aging and various disease processes. Buy supplements containing nutrients to prevent cellular damage from free radicals.
- Fresh acorn squash holds relatively higher amounts of vitamin C (18% of RDA /100 g), pyridoxine, and thiamin than pumpkin. Vitamin C is essential for collagen synthesis in bones, cartilage, and blood vessels, and aids in the absorption of iron.
- Acorn squash provides 17 µg or 4% of RDA per 100 gm of folates. Folate is a necessary element for cell division and DNA synthesis. When taken adequately during early pregnancy, it may help prevent neural-tube defects in the newborn.
- Like other winter squash varieties, acorn fruit also has less sodium (1 mg/100 g) but good amounts of potassium (347 mg/100 g), an important intra-cellular electrolyte. Potassium is a heart friendly electrolyte and helps reduce blood pressure and heart rates by countering the pressing effects of sodium.
- Further, acorn squash carries modest levels of other B-complex groups of vitamins like pantothenic acid, riboflavin, and minerals like calcium, iron, manganese, phosphorus, and zinc.
So before moving on with our recipe, let us discuss another unique in-season ingredient for this recipe – chestnuts.
Chestnuts: A Food Ingredient for the Season
A farm called Virginia Chestnuts markets chestnuts commercially grown in Virginia and today includes five young orchards of blight resistant trees. They describe the history of chestnuts as follows:
Legend has it that chestnuts once kept alive an entire army for almost two years. In 401 BC, a group of ten thousand Greek mercenaries was stranded behind enemy lines in Asia minor after the death of their leader, Cyrus the Younger. Left without a leader, the army had no choice but to retreat back to their homeland in Greece through the hostile Persian empire. Having no allies or trading partners, the army is reputed to have survived largely on vast stores of chestnuts.
Subsequently, the farm shared that there are also health benefits from eating chestnuts:
Aside from being delicious, chestnuts are extremely healthy. They are low fat, low calorie, full of fiber, loaded with beneficial vitamins and minerals, as well as being gluten free. In fact, health is one of the biggest reasons behind the upsurge in popularity of the chestnut. Each nut also contains a great deal of potassium that can be used by the body to lower heart rate, control blood pressure, and promote good cardiovascular health.
Moreover, Natalie Stein, in her article in Livestrong, elaborated the key benefits of consuming chestnuts:
Roasted chestnuts have 69 calories per ounce. Most nuts, such as almonds, macadamias, or cashews, have 160 to 200 calories per ounce. Therefore, chestnuts may be beneficial if you are trying to restrict your calorie intake. However, regular nuts have about 4 to 7 grams of protein per ounce, while chestnuts have just 1 gram. Protein is a hunger-suppressing nutrient that may help you lose weight.
Each ounce of roasted chestnuts has 15 grams of total carbohydrates, including 3 grams of natural sugars. They have 1.4 grams of dietary fiber, or 6 percent of the daily value. Dietary fiber is a nutrient in plant-based foods that can lower your cholesterol and reduce your risk for heart disease, according to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Chestnuts have less than 1 gram of total fat. Most kinds of regular nuts have about 14 to 21 grams of total fat, with most of it coming from heart-healthy unsaturated fats.
A benefit of roasted chestnuts is that they are nearly sodium-free, with only 1 mg per ounce. You may be able to maintain a healthy blood pressure or lower your blood pressure by reducing the sodium in your diet. Healthy individuals should take in no more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day. A limit of 1,500 mg per day is the recommendation if you already have high blood pressure or diabetes, if you are over age 50, or if you are of African-American descent.
- Other Nutrients
Roasted chestnuts provide 168 mg of potassium. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommend consuming at least 4,700 mg potassium per day. Potassium is essential for regulating blood pressure. Chestnuts have 20 mcg of folate, or 5 percent of the daily value, and 7 mg of vitamin C, or 12 percent of the daily value. Adequate folate intake may lower your risk for heart disease, and vitamin C is necessary for your immune system and for proper wound healing.
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Now that you are familiar with the two main ingredients, check out the recipe below.
Stuffed Acorn Squash3 tablespoons olive oil, add more based on preference
Black pepper, freshly ground
4 acorn squash, medium-sized, halved lengthwise, deseeded
1/4 cup butter, unsalted
2 pieces Granny Smith apples, peeled and diced into 1/4-inch thick pieces
1 cup celery, diced
2 onion leeks, halved lengthwise
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
6 cups of diced one-day old bread
1 cup chestnuts, cooked
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
1 scoop Momental MIND
1/2 cup vegetable stock
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
- Preheat oven to 350F. Brush the squash with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
- Position the squash open side down on baking sheets and bake for 25 minutes or until tender.
- In a skillet, melt butter in 3 tablespoons of olive oil.
- Add leeks and celery, and salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat, stirring continuously, until soft or about 8 minutes.
- Add apples and thyme, until apples are soft.
- Transfer the mixture into a large bowl. Toss the bread, chestnuts, parsley, Nootropic Meal Replacement, vegetable stock, and heavy cream. Season with salt and pepper.
- Turn the squash side up. Transfer stuffing into each squash and bring back to the oven until squash are tender and stuffing is brown, approximately 20 minutes.
- Transfer to serving plates and serve.