Yes, you…and this dish!
If there’s anything that makes me feel fed, both body and soul, it’s healthy beautiful food. Have I mentioned that I love this time of year and it’s bounty of produce? Fall is the ripe pinnacle of a variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds that are all ready to be eaten. Harvesting the summer’s spoils and getting our first taste of the winter crop too.
Instead of the traditional brown sugar and butter baked into my acorn squash, I used a less refined sugar option of real maple syrup to make a sweet and tangy balsamic reduction baked into the squash. Then I topped it with some sauteed kale, onion, uncured bacon Orange Spiced Pecans, and raw sunflower seeds. Drizzle a little more of the sweet reduction over everything and…so satisfying. Just omit the bacon to keep it vegan and plant-based.
My kids poured extra balsamic reduction on theirs. It’s always fun to let them try something new and watch them discover that they actually like it. Of course, my philosophy is anything drizzled with balsamic reduction is going to be fabulous. Period. It’s nice that my kids agree. Well…other than my 2 year old. He was not as open to the idea of something new and strange on his plate. However, if it came off my plate it tasted good. Haha! Oh well, whatever works, right? (P.S. you may want to double the balsamic reduction recipe in case you want extra too.)
- 2 medium acorn squash, cut in half and seeds scraped out
- 1 bunch kale, stems trimmed and roughly chopped
- ½ cup red onion, minced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- ½ lb. uncured bacon (opt.)
- handful Orange Spiced Pecans
- raw sunflower seeds
- Balsamic reduction
- sea salt and black pepper to taste
- ½ cup balsamic vinegar
- 3 tbsp. pure maple syrup (or honey)
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- Handful shelled pecans halves
- 1 tbsp. freshly squeezed orange juice + ½ tsp. zest
- a dash of each or to taste: ground nutmeg, ginger, clove, and cinnamon
- In a small sauce pan bring all the ingredients for the reduction to a boil, reduce to a simmer and allow to simmer for about 10 minutes until reduced and thicken to a syrup consistency. (You can make this ahead of time and store in the fridge for 2 weeks or more. It will thicken more as it cools, so if it gets too thick simply heat it on low with a splash of water if necessary.)
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Place squash halves in a glass baking dish cut side up.
- Drizzle half the balsamic reduction sauce. Reserve remaining for later.
- Bake the squash for about 25 - 30 minutes.
- While that bakes, cook the bacon until crisp, drain most of the grease then saute the onions, garlic, and kale. (if making vegan, use olive oil to saute.) Salt and pepper to taste.
- In a small skillet dry roast the pecans until fragrant, drizzle the orange juice in. Let it sizzle until most of the moisture is gone. Dust the pecans with spices to your liking and sprinkle with orange zest. Set aside to cool.
- Remove the squash from the oven and spoon a big scoop of the kale stuffing into each half. Sprinkle spiced pecans and raw sunflower seeds over top. Drizzle remaining reduction sauce over top everything.