Use Squash as an Edible Bowl and Up Your Nutrition Game!
Most of us are familiar with the idea of a bread bowl or a tortilla bowl, but have you ever eaten a meal out of a squash bowl? Halved acorn squashes naturally form two bowl-shaped, single-serve sections, perfect for filling with whatever toppings your heart desires. The best part is that while bread and tortillas are definitely lacking in the nutrition department, squash is actually one of the healthiest foods you can eat. Acorn squash is rich in antioxidants, potassium, vitamin C, and fiber, all essentials of a properly-functioning, healthy body.1 Its nutty, mildly-sweet flavor and creamy texture pair well with just about anything, from curry to barbeque to Mexican-inspired flavors (as seen in this recipe).
Easy and full of flavor, this dish features caramelized, sautéed onions and peppers, savory ground beef, and quinoa cooked in chicken broth for added umami. Even though it’s a gluten-free and dairy-free dinner, even the most ‘meat and potatoes’ type eaters will feel satisfied and full after enjoying this meal.
Tips for Adapting Recipes to Be Gluten-Free/Dairy-Free
Taking advantage of the inherently gluten-free nature of squash and quinoa, this recipe is free of two of the most major allergens: gluten and dairy. If you are avoiding these foods groups due to allergies or health reasons, mastering the art of adapting recipes can present a major learning curve. Here are my four favorite tips for ridding your favorite dishes of gluten and dairy without sacrificing flavor:
- Make gluten-free grains your best friends. Learn how to cook quinoa, brown rice, white rice, and millet. They’re delicious, easy to cook and freeze, and my favorite gluten-free carb sources.
- Familiarize yourself with flavor-packed dairy-free fats. Without butter and cheese, many cooks feel lost. Instead, buy high-quality olive oil, utilize bacon fat to add salty, crave-worthy flavor, and invest in a few expensive cold-pressed oils like avocado and pumpkin seed too. Nut butters can also be used in savory recipes.
- When in doubt, add more vegetables. Add extra bulk and staying power to meals by doubling or even tripling the vegetables called for in a recipe.
- Rely on nuts and seeds for crunch + healthy fats. Toasted, salted nuts can add that extra “something” that may seem lacking without cheese. Toss them on salads, add toasted sesame seeds to stir-fries, and bread chicken or pork with crushed pecans instead of bread crumbs.
Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free Acorn Squash Burrito ‘Bowl’ (Serves 2 with leftover filling)
Olive oil cooking spray
1 small organic acorn squash, sliced in half lengthwise and deseeded
1 cup white quinoa, rinsed and drained
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 bell peppers, seeded and sliced into thin strips
2 onions, sliced
1 lb. grass-fed organic beef
1 all-natural taco seasoning packet
Salt and pepper, to taste
- Preheat oven to 400º F. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray the foil with baking spray. Spray the cut halves of the squash with baking spray as well and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Place squash cut side down on the pan (if you have any other root veggies you’d like to roast as well, go ahead and throw them on the pan too – I roasted some carrots for a different meal).
- Bake squash for 30 minutes, or until tender when pierced with a knife.
- While squash is roasting, prepare the fillings. Place the quinoa and broth in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to low and cover the pan. Cook for 20 minutes, then remove from heat and leave covered until ready to serve.
- Heat a large nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat. Add olive oil, garlic, peppers, and onions. Sauté until browned and caramelized. Transfer onions and peppers to a bowl, rinse the pan, then brown the beef over medium heat until cooked through. Add taco seasoning packet, following package directions.
- Once the squash is done roasting, place each half cut side up on a plate and fill squash halves with quinoa, sautéed peppers and onions, and taco beef. Enjoy immediately! Leftover toppings can be combined to make quinoa-based burrito bowls – or you can always roast another squash!
- This dish is practically begging for toppings. Fresh or pickled jalapeno slices, fresh cilantro, a squeeze of lime juice, salsa, or cheese and sour cream if dairy isn’t an issue would all make for delicious additions.
- If you don’t have quinoa on hand, white or brown rice work well too.
- Sub ground turkey or chicken for the ground beef for a lower-fat dish.
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