Rush Hour

Several times a week, my husband and I enjoy a vegetarian meal ... whether it's pasta with a special sauce, a vegetable curry or tofu stir-fry. We like the variety that such meals add to our menus and most are relatively simple to put together.

One of our favorites is a roasted squash dish that's stuffed. However, it can take a while to put together. So, one week, I tried to simplify the dish without sacrificing flavor. I started by roasting the squash ahead of time. It's easy to do and I often am roasting a chicken or a roast over the weekend, so adding an acorn squash to the mix is easy and adds little time to my efforts.

Then I tackled the stuffing. The original recipe called for a brown and wild rice stuffing. These two ingredients are wonderful, but time consuming to make. Instead, I opted for couscous, which can be ready to eat in as little as 5 minutes. The time I saved by using couscous gave me an opportunity to boost the flavor in the dish with some sautéed onions and garlic and a bevy of fragrant spices. The result is a highly aromatic stuffing that's studded with dried fruit and nuts and is wonderful when nestled in a roasted squash half. Pop the whole thing in a hot oven for a little while and you have enough time to throw together a quick green salad and pour the wine. Dinner is served ... and delicious!

As always, I encourage you to share your recipe ideas and comments. You can always post comments in the discussion board using the forms provided in the articles or email me directly at .

Make-Ahead Stuffed Squash

  • 1 acorn squash
  • 1 tsp. southwestern seasoning -- or your favorite seasoning blend
  • Butter-flavored cooking spray
  • 1 tsp. butter
  • 1/4 c. minced onion
  • 1/2 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/8 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 1/2 c. plain couscous
  • 2/3 c. vegetable stock
  • 2 T. dried apricots, chopped fine
  • 1 T. dried cranberries
  • 2 T. toasted pecans, chopped (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp. lemon juice
  • Salt and ground black pepper

Before you want to serve this meal, preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Cut the acorn squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Sprinkle the insides of the squash with the seasoning and lightly spray with the butter-flavored cooking spray. Roast the squash halves cut side down on a baking sheet for 25 minutes. Remove the squash from the oven and allow it to cool. Place in a resealable plastic bag and refrigerate until ready for use.

When you are ready to serve this meal, melt the butter over medium heat in a medium saucepan. Add the onions, garlic, cinnamon, ginger, and turmeric; sauté until the onion soften, 3 to 4 minutes.

Add the couscous; stir until well-coated, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the vegetable stock, bring to a simmer, and remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the dried fruit, nuts, and parsley and lemon juice. Season the dish to taste with salt and pepper.

Spoon the couscous mixture into the roasted squash halves and bake in a 400 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Serve immediately.

  • Yields: 2 servings
  • Preparation Time: About an hour total