Savory Lentil and Cranberry Stuffed Acorn Squash
I think Thanksgiving is the perfect holiday. We get together with friends and family, share a delicious meal, and have no added stress of going out in the hectic holiday traffic and snow to find the perfect gifts. Thanksgiving dinner generally has some of my favorite foods, and savory herbs. If you love Thanksgiving dinner, and sage this recipe is for you! It combines some fabulous savory herbs of the season with cranberries, squash and lentils. You can enjoy this as a meal, or pair it with some leftover turkey.
First, the health low down. This recipe is loaded with fiber, which has so many health benefits. It helps regulate blood sugars, keeps you feeling full, and keeps your gut microbiome happy. Fiber helps prevent constipation, diverticulosis and irritable bowel syndrome. It can also help you lose weight, so if you are worried about gaining weight this holiday season, remember to fill up on fiber. It will fill you up without all the calories and fat. If your worried about phytates, which naturally occurs in plant foods, don't! It is high in raw legumes, but thankfully we soak and cook our legumes like lentils. Both of which reduce the phytates. Phytates are thought to be "anti-nutrients" because they can interfere with some mineral absorption. This is not enough to be associated with nutrient deficiencies. Additionally, phytates can actually be beneficial! They have been shown to be anti-inflammatory, have anti-cancer properties, and help with blood sugar control by reducing a food's impact on blood sugar.
In addition to fiber this dish is also an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin C, and Iron. It is a good source of calcium, and antioxidant phytonutrients from the cranberries. Research shows that adding cranberries to the diet can increase antioxidant capacity. This is great because it helps us decrease lifestyle related disease risk. The biologically active compounds in cranberries that contribute to their anti-inflammatory properties are twice as high as other plant foods known to contain bio active compounds. (Think pomegranites and grapes). In a review of the scientific literature on cranberries there were many benefits related to weight management, diabetes, cardiovascular disease risk, cancer risk and others! Most human studies reviewed involved cranberry juice supplementation or cranberry powder tablets. Eating the whole fruit is a great way to get those bioactive compounds without the added sugar that is found in commonly available cranberry juice, and you get the fiber too. The fruit is tart, so I recommend cooking them with other sweeter fruits such as strawberries for a sweet and tart combination, or with savory herbs as I did for this recipe.
The Recipe: Savory Lentil and Cranberry Stuffed Acorn Squash
What You Need:
3 acorn squash, halved
1.5 cup fresh cranberries
2 cups cooked beluga lentils
1 tablespoon, olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3 large celery stalks, chopped
1 tbsp. Fresh rosemarey, chopped
1.5 tbsp. Fresh sage, chopped
.5 tsp. salt
.5 tsp black pepper
1.5 cups water
.75 cup crumbled feta cheese
.25 cup pecans, chopped
What you need to do:
1. Rinse and pick through lentils. Soak rinsed lentils in water with a sprig or rosemary and sage for at least 20 minutes. (This removes the phytates).
2. Preheat oven to 400°F
3. Scoop out seeds from halved squash with a spoon. (You can wash the seeds and roast them later once they have dried). Arrange acorn squash halves in baking dish, or on a sheet pan, and lightly oil with olive oil. Salt and pepper the squash halves.
4. When the oven is heated, roast squash for about 35 minutes, or until tender. Time varies depending on the size of your squash. Use a fork to determine if it is tender.
5. While the squash is roasting sautee chopped onion and celery with olive oil in a pot with a fitted lid until tender. Then add salt, pepper, and fresh chopped herbs, lentils and cranberries along with water or stock. I used water, which will keep your sodium in check. If you would like to use stock or broth, choose low sodium.
6. Bring the lentil cranberry mixture to a boil. Then reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer this for about 35 minutes, stirring occasionally. If the lentils look dry you can add more water. You want to cook it until the water is absorbed by the lentils, and the lentils are tender.
7. Stir pecans into the mixture, and spoon the lentil cranberry mixture into squash halves. Top with feta and bake for an additional 12 minutes.
If you want to pair this tasty meal with a wine, the Johnson Estate Dry Riesling was a great pairing.
Fat 10 grams (15%)
Cholesterol 15 grams (5%)
Sodium 422 mg (18%)
Potassium 951 mg (27%)
Carbohydrates 46 g (15%)
Fiber 17 g (67%)
Sugars 6 g
Protein 15 grams
Vitamin A 26 % Vitamin C 49 % Calcium 20 % Iron 20 %
I hope you enjoy this fabulous fall meal. If you are avoiding legumes, ground turkey or quinoa make a great substitute. You can just omit the water and cook the cranberries with the turkey meat. Or you can cook the cranberries separately in a sauce pan with a little water and herbs and stir them into the savory mix once they are done. If you are using quinoa, you can just swap it for the lentils.
Want to read the review I mentioned in the blog? This is the source:
Kowalska K, Olejnik A. Beneficial effects of cranberry in the prevention of obesity and related complications: Metabolic syndrome and diabetes – A review. Journal of Functional Foods. 2016;20:171-181.