Stuffed acorn squash

Thanksgiving dinner means a lot of autumn flavors, roasted vegetables with earthy spices, jazzed up potatoes, cranberries in everything and the challenge of finding one side dish brand new to the family table.

Robert King

Desert Passage resident Robert King, a former butler and estate manager, whips up goodies and dishes for colleagues and friends from time to time. He learned to cook from the age of 13 at his mother’s side and puts his own stamp on learned recipes.

Butternut squash and sweet potato soup has chicken or vegetable stock as it base, with main ingredients plus carrots, onion, thyme, olive oil and cumin, and is topped with raw pumpkin seeds and a dollop of sour cream or Greek yogurt and croutons.

Sweet rolls include pumpkin puree, flour, milk, yeast, sugar, eggs, butter and salt. The rolls are sliced on the sides before baking to create a pumpkin design in the finished product. After baking, it is topped with a cashew as a “stem” and served with cinnamon butter.

Here, he shares a Thanksgiving recipe for stuffed acorn squash and other side dishes. He said he likes the recipe because the grain can be changed and paired with other flavors.

“You can use rice or quinoa or couscous and match them with different nuts or seeds,” he said.

Sausage cranberry apple pecan stuffed acorn squash

4 acorn squash (softball size single serve portion)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Pinch of salt
Pepper to taste
1 box wild rice (optional couscous, quinoa, farro or panko breadcrumbs)
1 pound ground sausage
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 large celery stalks, finely chopped
1 cup cauliflower chopped (optional)
2 large honey crisp apples, diced
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup toasted pecans chopped (optional walnuts or cashews)
¼ cup pumpkin seeds (optional sunflower)
½ teaspoon sage (optional thyme)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (divided)


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Using a sharp knife, cut off bottom end of acorn to give it a stable bottom to stand on. For a single-acorn, single-serving portion, you can cut the top off and use as a decorative element.

Spoon out seeds.

Brush olive oil inside and on top of acorn squash.

Sprinkle salt and pepper over acorn squash to taste.

Bake for 40 minutes to an hour depending on size of your squash until tender and you can pierce with a fork, but still hold its shape.


In a separate pot, cook rice/quinoa according to directions.

While the squash is baking, sauté the sausage for about 5 minutes, drain but don’t discard grease in the pan.

Using the grease from the sausage add your onions and celery to the pan and sauté for another 2-3 minutes until it starts to brown (add olive oil if necessary).

Combine rice once cooked with meat mixture

Add apples and cauliflower and sauté for another 2 minutes or until softened.

Stir in sage, nuts, seeds and cranberries.

Add ¾ cup Parmesan cheese and stir until cheese begins to melt. Set aside.


Once squash has finished baking and reached desired tenderness, spoon in meat mixture with a large scoop until the squash is filled, leaving an overflowing mound on the top. Top with some grated Parmesan cheese.

Return to oven and bake an additional 15-20 minutes, depending on size of squash.

Remove from oven and top with remaining Parmesan cheese.

Pumpkin Rolls

For rolls (yield 15)
1 packet (2 1/4 teaspoons) instant yeast
1 cup whole milk, scalded and cooled to lukewarm
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
2 large eggs, divided
1 teaspoon salt
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
Whole cashews, raw or honey roasted

For cinnamon butter
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup honey
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

For rolls
With an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, stir the yeast, milk, sugar, butter, pumpkin, one egg and salt until well combined. Gradually add the flour and knead on medium-low speed until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Let the dough rest for 3 to 5 minutes. Knead the dough on medium-low speed for another 5 minutes or until the dough is soft and smooth. If it seems too sticky, add more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time.

Transfer the dough to a large greased bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise until doubled, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Punch the dough down and turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough into 15 equal pieces and shape into balls.

Using the palm of your hand to flatten each ball slightly. With a paring knife or culinary scissors, cut 8 slices around each ball, being careful not to slice all the way into the center, to make the pumpkin shape. Cover and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Poke an indentation using a rounded edge of a dowel in the center of each roll to create a space for the “stem.” In a small bowl beat the remaining egg with 2 teaspoons of water and brush over the rolls.

Bake rolls 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from oven. Place a whole cashew into the indentation of each roll.


For cinnamon butter
With an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the butter for 30 seconds, or until pale in color. Add the powdered sugar, honey, and cinnamon and beat until well combined, light and fluffy, about 1 to 2 minutes. Serve immediately or store, covered, in refrigerator for up to 1 week. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Serve the rolls warm with the cinnamon butter.

Roasted Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Soup

Yield 4 servings
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 butternut squash, skinned and cubed
1 large (1 pound) sweet potato, peeled and cubed
2 large carrots, peeled and cubed
1 medium yellow onion, cut into small chunks
2 teaspoon thyme leaves
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 teaspoon ground cumin (leaves optional)
Garnish (toppings of your choice: Croutons, dollop of Greek yogurt or sour cream, raw pumpkin seeds

Preheat oven to 400°F and line baking tray with baking/parchment paper.

Place butternut squash, sweet potato, carrot and onion pieces on the tray. Coat all sides with oil. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of thyme evenly over the entire squash mix, stir and repeat with the remaining portion of thyme.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until the vegetables are browned and soft. Let cool, then transfer to a blender and puree the roasted vegetables and transfer them into a large pot or crockpot. Add stock. If using large pot, cook on stove for 5-10 minutes, stirring often. If using crockpot, heat on low setting to allow flavors to develop. Top with garnishes and serve.

This item appears in part in the November issue of InMaricopa.


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