The grocery is full of beautiful pumpkins, squash and gourds. Aside from using them for decor, they’re wonderful to cook with and have so much flavor! One of my favorite fall time meals is this stuffed squash. Before hopping to it, I find that for this meal’s prep, Halloween pumpkin carving tools are essential. Usually during the post-Halloween sales, I (my bargain hunter Dad) search for kits that are on mark-down just for their extreme aid in hallowing out, cutting, splitting and cubing squash or gourds.
This is a great make ahead meal. I decided to prep everything the night before to bake off the next day for a gal pal lunch.
Give this recipe a whirl! It’s rather dietetic (a low carb yet robust meal) and for those looking for ideas, it’s also gluten-free. With very few ingredients, this is packed with flavor and great for a cool fall evening.
Baked Stuffed Acorn Squash
2-3 Acorn squash
1 Pound extra lean ground beef
1 Sweet onion
1 Red bell pepper
2 Cloves garlic
2 TB butter
2 TB brown sugar
Red pepper flakes (if desired)
With carving tools and a good grip, half each acorn squash lengthwise. Lightly season the insides with salt and pepper. Place face down on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake at 350* for 20 minutes. Watch the squash closely. You’ll want them to be just fork tender. Set aside.
In a large skillet, heat just enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Sauté diced onion and bell pepper with salt and pepper until translucent. Add the ground beef, garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook thoroughly until meat is completely cooked through. If not using extra lean ground beef, drain any remaining grease.
Place a small pat of butter and 1 1/2 tsp brown sugar in the bottom of each squash. Fill the squash with the meat mixture baking at 350* for 30 minutes or until the tops have browned.
Let stand and serve. Be sure to enjoy all the squash and beef with forkful! Does this meal have the potential to make it on your table to fill up your trick-or-treaters before heading out?
With this week’s family dinner, I felt inspired to create a hearty vegetable dish alongside the meal’s protein. Eggplant stood out as I cruised the aisles of Costco (you’ll soon learn about my Costco addiction).
I don’t claim to be well versed in Italian cooking, however, eggplant parmesan seemed to fit the bill for this meal. After browsing the standard formulas online, I felt confident enough to create my own dish. Give it a try and I can guarantee a crowd-pleasing success!
/A/MY’s Un-Official Eggplant Parmesan
- 4 baby eggplant
- 2 TB salt
- 2 TB pepper
- 2 TB dehydrated onion
- 2 garlic cloves (minced)
- 1 TB chili infused olive oil
- 3 TB olive oil
- 4 C panko breadcrumbs
- 2 C baby spinach
- 1 Jar pasta sauce
- 1 C parmesan
- 1 C grated mozzarella
Preheat oven to 425゜(375゜ for convection)
Slice eggplant into 1/4 inch rounds and place into mixing bowl. Mix together with salt, pepper, onion, garlic and olive oils. Dredge each seasoned eggplant round in panko breadcrumbs to coat. Line a cookie sheet with a cooling rack. As each round is dipped through the breadcumbs place onto the rack.
Bake the seasoned and breaded eggplant slices for 20-30 minutes. Let stand.
Cover the bottom of a 9×13 glass baking dish with 1/3 C of store-bought pasta sauce. Begin the laying process by placing 1 C of fresh baby spinach atop sauce. Follow with half of the oven fried eggplant. Top with 1/2 C of both parmesan and mozzarella. Repeat with sauce, spinach, eggplant and cheese. Finish with the remaining 1/3 C of sauce.
Eggplant & Spinach Parmesan
Bake uncovered for 25-30 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. Bon appétit!
After flying the nest, my friends and I began an almost weekly tradition of, what we like to call, Family Dinner. So what does this consist of? A crowd (of at least 5), good food (home-cooked of course), my antique dining room table, laughs, and wine.
Debates over the menu, day, time and availability all ensue over group text. After the dust settles, I proudly announce the menu with bated breath.
Drumroll please … today’s evening consists of a freshly prepared caprese (with blanched asparagus) salad to start. We’ll follow up with the main course of marinated flank steak, “eggplant parmesan” (recipe to follow in a separate post), and broccolini.
Caprese Salad With Asparagus
Grilled Flank Steak
How does a young professional pull it all off?
/A/MY Rules of Entertaining:
- Plan the menu!
- Shop the day before
- Prep as much as you can
- Don’t bite off more than you can chew
- Not every part of the meal has to start from scratch
- Take some help where you can; accept a hand
- Clean up as you go
- Don’t skimp on tools and equipment
- Have a glass of wine while cooking
What’s the verdict? Full tummies, memories shared & created, and a tradition that’s only to grow for many years to come.