The holidays can be rough when you are the only vegan at mealtime. Most of the time there are not many food options, or you have to deal with lots of questions about being vegan. For me, I’ve been vegan for two years now, but for 25 years prior, I celebrated Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, etc. as a non-vegan with my family. The don’t quite seem to get it yet.
“What do you mean you don’t eat baked brie? You used to eat it!”
“Yes I know, but now I don’t.”
In order to help alleviate some of the holiday pressure, I’ve come up with a really delicious vegan holiday recipe that can be served as a main dish: quinoa, kale, and tempeh stuffed acorn squash.
This recipe satisfies my craving for warm holiday comfort food. The acorn squash has a smooth and nutty taste. The quinoa and tempeh provide protein to rebuild muscles after my morning turkey trot. Kale rounds out the dish with a nice pop of color. This stuffed acorn squash is absolutely delicious and often gets complements from non-vegan guests.
This recipe has a few different components: the quinoa, tempeh and squash. They each require preparation separately before combining; pro tip: multi-task. While one part is marinating or cooking, prep the other parts.
Here are the cooking times for each ingredient:
Squash = 35 minutes
Quinoa = 20 minutes
Tempeh= 30 minutes to marinate, 10 minutes to cook
Mixing quinoa, kale and tempeh= 5 minutes
Here’s how I handle the process
First soak the tempeh in the marinade. Then pop the squash in the oven. Then cook the quinoa. When you reach the “sitting” stage of the quinoa, you can start heating the oil to being cooking the tempeh. Everything will eventually end up in the skillet (except the squash). That order works for me in terms of keeping my total “Kitchen Time” to about 45 minutes for the whole dish. Let me know if you have other suggestions!
Quinoa, Kale and Tempeh Stuffed Acorn Squash
First preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Then prepare your tempeh marinade by whisking together 1/4 cups soy sauce, 3/4 cup vegetable broth, and 1/4 tsp pepper. **PRO TIP: Wrap the tempeh in a paper towel, spritz some drops of water on it, and steam for 30 seconds. Steaming the tempeh removes some bitterness and allows the marinade to absorb better.
Crumble tempeh into roughly 1 inch chunks and place in marinade. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
While the tempeh is getting all juicy, prepare the acorn squash. Slice in half horizontally and place upside down on a baking dish. Add about 1/2 inch of water to the dish. The water ensures that the acorn squash doesn’t dry out or burn. Cook for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, flip the squash and lightly brush the flesh with some olive oil. Sprinkle on some salt and pepper and any other spices you like (again, I like heat in my dishes, so I love to add some spicy curry or red pepper flakes). Cook flesh-side up for 5 minutes so the squash is browned.
While the squash is cooking, prepare the quinoa. Bring 1 cup of water to a boil. Add 1/2 cup of quinoa (any variety of quinoa works) and return to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until the water absorbs. Remove from heat, fluff with a fork and cover. Taste it; you may want to add some more pepper or additional spices like cumin, curry, or red pepper flakes (all optional!). Let it sit, covered, for 5 minutes. This makes the quinoa nice and fluffy.
While the quinoa is fluffing, begin cooking the tempeh. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a skillet. Add the chopped onion and garlic and cook until slightly browned. Add in the tempeh.
Once you’ve cooked the tempeh until it browns, add in your chopped kale and remaining 1/4 cup of vegetable broth. Cook until wilted and then stir in your quinoa so all the flavors get a chance to blend together.
Once you’ve mixed the quinoa, kale and tempeh together, take the squash out of the oven. Time to stuff your squash!
Optional last step: sprinkle some vegan cheese on top and broil it until melted.
The quinoa mixture makes enough for four stuffed acorn squash halves. Depending on the size of your acorn squash, there may even be extra. No problem there! The quinoa mixture can be offered up as a great side dish for the table, or saved for later use. I add it to a roasted vegetable medley, use it as a protein source in salads, or as a side to a different vegan main dish. I love to eat stuffed acorn squash with a serving of pomegranates on the side- they are a perfect sweet and tangy complement to the savory squash dish.
This quinoa, kale and tempeh stuffed acorn squash is a savory, wholesome, protein-packed winter meal. If you only use one acorn squash, you will have plenty of mixture left over. Add it to salads, tacos, or eat as a side dish to another vegan main. The sky’s the limit!