Create Your Own Baked Acorn Squash

I have many friends with varying degrees of food allergies, food intolerance and food dislikes. Some are vegetarians, others are vegans, there are a few with gluten intolerance, others who are lactose intolerant, some have nut allergies and some are plain ole picky eaters. It’s hard to plan a dinner party without cooking an array of dishes to accommodate everyone.

I usually try to streamline things. If I’m inviting a vegetarian, I see which of my other veggie friends I can invite. If I’m cooking a delicious piece of meat, I comb through my contacts and invite the people who I feel will particularly enjoy it. It’s a bit of a juggling act.

The other alternative is to cook to the lowest common denominator. One vegetarian, we all eat vegetarian. One gluten-free diner, we have a Thai or Mexican night.

Vegans are harder. It’s almost impossible for me not to add a little butter or top something with cheese. I can do it, but I don’t like to.

We recently have a friend who stumped us. She’s allergic to garlic. I can’t think of the last dish I made without garlic that wasn’t for breakfast. In planning for the dinner, I suggested to my husband that maybe we just not use garlic for the dinner. He looked at me as if I asked him to have a radish for dessert. It’s just not something we do in this household.

In the vain of Cold Stone Creamery and Build-a-Bear, I came up with a solution: “create your own baked acorn squash.” Start off with a blank base, the acorn squash, and let people fill it to their liking. You can take orders beforehand and prepare each yourself, but I think it is more fun to have people fill their own. I like to put people to work for me whenever I can.

The trick is to remember whose squash is whose. For four people, you’ll probably be able to keep it straight. For more than four, consider writing peoples names on a Popsicle stick and poke it into the squash.

The people who don’t like acorn squash will just have to eat the filling and politely push the squash around their plate a bit to make it look like they ate some. There is only so much a hostess can do!

Create Your Own Baked Acorn Squash
Ingredients:
2 acorn squash

Filling suggestions:
Rice or quinoa (plan on 1/4 cup of cooked rice/quinoa per acorn squash half)
Onions
Garlic
Butter
Sausage
Cheese
Nuts
Dried Fruit
Kale
Mushrooms
Peppers
Spices, herbs
Olives
Salt/Pepper

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 375ºF.
  • Wash the acorn squash well and cut in half, from stem to end.
  • Scrape out the seeds (save to roast) with a spoon. Score the insides of each half several times with a sharp knife, be careful not to pierce the skin.
  • Place the squash half cut side up in baking dish.
  • Bake at 375ºF for about 40-50 minutes or until the squash is very tender.
  • Meanwhile prepare your stuffing ingredients as you see fit. For instance sauté the onions, fry up the sausage, shred or crumble the cheese or chop the herbs.
  • Set up your stuffing station. Line up your ingredients in bowls. Give each guest a small bowl and let them have at it. If necessary, mark the bowl with the person’s name (popsicle sticks will work well).
  • Remove squash from the oven. Stuff each squash with the custom ingredients. Since the squash will be hot, the cook may want to do the stuffing. Hand your guest a drink and shoo them out of the kitchen.
  • Return squash to the oven and cook for 10 more minutes.

Serve half of a squash per person.
Serves four.
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